Slow Food Nation report – San Francisco 2008

September 2, 2008

Well there is so much to say, and if I wait until I have time to write more it will never happen, so I’ll give a quick raw summary from my point of view and then compile some links of whatever I can find.  First and foremost I must express thanks to those who poured a piece of their life into making this happen.  Andrew Barnett, Tony Konecny and Eileen Hassi.  Also to Brent Fortune who just as Aaron De Lazzar told me, has every barista in the world one button away on his iphone.  And finally on a more personal note Andy Newbom for bringing me to California and welcoming me in his home for the weekend.

First you should know this event over labor day weekend at Fort Mason – SF was marketed as the largest food celebration in American history. I didn’t really have time to visit all taste pavilions as an attendee, but I can say that the coffee pavilion was out of this world!

We had a few dozen of the finest coffees in the world from over a dozen of the finest roasters in the United States. CEO’s, roasters, baristas, trainers, green buyers, growers, freelance coffee people all working side by side packing 4 hall ways approximately 40 feet long.

The first is lined with GB5’s and really big grinders with some decent baristas behind them. It reminded me of the first year the DREAM TEAM composed of mostly NBA players went to the olympics.

It was ridiculous! In fact everyone washing dishes, bussing and making coffee runs was part of the Dream Team.The second and third rows had 4 stations each where 3-4 coffees were sampled out to groups of 2-10 people at a time. Each group had anywhere from 4-15 minutes with a taste captain who provided a phenomenal coffee experience that left attendees with raving feedback how eye opening the coffee pavilion was. Taste captains shared the name of the farmer, the farm, elevation, varietal, some taste descriptors and in some instances how terroir or processing impacts the cup.

Then in the back row was the back bone of the entire event. A wall lined with Clovers and Mythos grinders manned by a skilled crew of coffee people which of course included David Latourell of Clover/SBUX and Ben Kaminsky who once asked me to translate to a green exporter “I want to taste the coffee you liked so much it made you cry”.This was truly a gathering of some of coffees finest in retail in north america. Never before have I seen such intense passion for quality in coffee with such synergy crossing over geographic and company boundaries with out being on a farm.

My first shift as a taste captain I recall serving Santa Inez past #1 coe while being able to introduce Andrew Barnett who roasted it and happened to be walking right behind me, Aida Battles rum-y-PASA and have Chris Owens say “I know her”, delicious El Guayabo from Jaimes 3 hectar farm in Huila-probably sourced by Ryan down the hall, blue berry Beloya grown and milled by Mr. Bagersh on my left etc…

On a shift as a Pit Boss I was just following Peter, Doug and Eileen’s lead in welcoming attendees and escorting them to a station. On one occasion while our El Eden microlot was on rotation I had the privilege to tag team with Stephen who’s intimately familiar with many of our microlots and later was asked by Christian who roasted the very coffee that we grow to share to his guests about our terroir and how it and our processing impact cup. All the while Monica who teaches people how to make great coffee is washing thousands… yes thousands of nuova point espresso cups that had each given someone an espresso experience to remember.

I can’t explain the sense of overwhelming pride and humility that comes across when things come around full circle. When I heard that our Edlyna microlot was being pulled for a shift at the espresso barline, I went up to taste it and met Billy Wilson who executed as if he’d been dialing it in for years.

This happened for 10 hours a day, for 2 and a half days! If this was a coffee house and this happened every day, I’m sure we would go through almost a container a month.

I left the event early Sunday night as I didn’t want to be away from my wife for too long. Before heading out of Fort Mason I was notified of the following mention in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (the last few paragraphs under GOURMET EMPORIUM) and this was a REPORT ON SLOW FOOD DAY 2 also with mention of FVH.


2.  tonx

3.  List of some but not all people and companies involved via ritual website.

4.  San Francisco Chronicle mobile.

5.  Brief mention of interaction at entrance of coffee pavilion.

6.  Word gets around the globe quickly.

7.  Liz who writes will probably post something soon.

8.  PART 1 on slow food at and PART 2, Look for PART3.

9.  Ryan Flinn’s portrays coffee for what it is, FRUIT!

10.  Ryans post titled FVH

11.  Good summary of slow food with great pictures.  Scroll to bottom for coffee mention/pic.

12.  Here’s an article from slow food the presidio in Huehue.

13.  Foodie blogger I was fortunate enough to welcome who tasted one of our brewed microlots served by Andy Newbom another microlot espresso by Billy Wilson a.k.a. Bobby in this post.

Thanks to all who made this possible.  If you know of any other relevant links, let me know and I’ll add them above.


Edwin Martinez


12 Responses to “Slow Food Nation report – San Francisco 2008”

  1. Renee Martin Says:


    Thank you so much for a great presentation of the coffees at your station. My son George was so excited when we rejoined his brother and father that he had to tell them in great detail what he tasted, where your farm was and what he thought about the whole experience.

    Kind regards,
    Renee Martin

  2. Klaus Says:

    Really cool to hear how you guys have spread the word. It sounds like an awesome event and I really hope to see it next year. And what a line-up of people!!! Looks like everyone was there!

  3. . Says:

    Thank you Renee – I’m glad George enjoyed it so much. This is truly rewarding to hear. Maybe he would like to visit a coffee farm some day!

  4. . Says:

    Klaus, I’m it would be worth coming to next year. Regardless you should at least explore the bigger and original event in Italy where it all started. Will take place in under 2 months! October 23-27, 2008.

  5. sf'er Says:

    Oh wow, you were in the Coffee pavilion? Maybe you didn’t have too much control over the organization, but your pavilion was one of the reasons I thought the event was a total ripoff.

    My wife and I went to SFN on Sunday night, and we would have totally loved to have visited the Coffee pavilion. But with super-long lines we didn’t have a chance. Oh, and the fact that they SHUT DOWN the line at five-minutes-til-closing-time didn’t help. I know you guys were tired, but really, you guys couldn’t stay open until the end? I mean, who wants coffee at the end of a night? Especially a couple idiots like us who had to stretch to put together $120 for the evening and had to park our beat-up Toyota a mile away because we couldn’t afford to park at Fort Mason?

    Next time I’ll keep my money and do something less insulting and more sustainable.

  6. . Says:

    sf’er – I’m sorry to hear you felt ripped off and insulted.

    There were a few times I was able to sneak away and I heard some standing in lines comment “This truly is SLOW FOOD”.

    Maybe in the future there should be a lower number of people allowed at a time or a faster way to move people through be it more staff or less time spent per person in each pavilion. I left mid day Sunday, but was there Fri night, all day Sat and Sun a.m. We had the shortest line by far and more often than not didn’t even have a line due to the fact that we had 8 taste stations and 8 espresso stations running simultaneously with at least a dozen more people to facilitate this. By my calculation we had more people go through the coffee taste pavilion than any other pavilion there. I’m sure being cut off 5 minutes early must have been a frustrating way to end the night because the coffee was soooo good.

    Please email me and let me know where home is for you. My email is on the contact page of our website

    I will gladly recommend a place close to you that will offer the same educational and taste experience at no cost just for you and your wife. If there isn’t a suitable match nearby for this than I’ll see if I can get one of the roasters nearest you to ship you a bag to your door. Thank you for your feedback.

    Nothing wrong with a beat up Toyota.

  7. Andy Says:

    the coffee pavillion was pretty damned busy for sure. we could have had another 25 volunteers doing tastings and not done it justice. But it was awesome and fun and exhausting. I have not been that physically destroyed in many years. I talked to so many thousands of people that I lost my voice by sunday night.

    amazing coffee, great people and I got to hang out with Edwin till 2 am every day. What not to love!?

  8. Ryan Flinn Says:

    Edwin – Thanks so much for showing up at Slow Food – I know it must have been a long, tiresome trip, but I think the benefit of giving drinkers a chance to interact with you was great (at least for me). I really enjoyed hearing about your farm firsthand, and getting to taste some coffees with you as well (that Beloya was incredible). Please keep up the good work!

  9. […] so beautifully: edwin martinez describes it in loving detail on the finca vista hermosa blog here; a two-and-a-half-day frenzy of excited, talented people from roasters to baristas to green buyers […]

  10. Hey Edwin, it was a real pleasure to talk to you too. Good luck and keep up the good coffee!

  11. javaj Says:


    Sorry I missed you, I was hoping to say hi. I was just kind of in and out, as there was so much to see and taste! At least I got to try El Eden, which was so lovely I was surprised when Dan told me it wasn’t the new crop. Everyone did such an amazing job, it was truly great to witness. Since I live in San Francisco again, it will be easier for our paths to cross IRL. Cheers! -J.

  12. […] between drinks I was able to continue my conversation with Edwin Martinez (who has a great list of blog coverage in his coverage of the event) and Peter Giuliano who I had heard from a couple of hours before. […]

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