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Now you’ve got more reasons than ever to sign up for George Howell’s tasting seminar at CoffeeCon on July 26 in San Francisco. Our keynote tasting presenter George Howell just won the top ten roasters in America. It doesn’t surprise me, but it might surprise a few people who counted him down a few years ago. George’s first roastery, Boston’s The Coffee Connection was purchased by Starbucks after they beat him in a Gettysburg-like retail battle. I knew George then and I couldn’t help but root for him, although the corporate Goliath Starbucks couldn’t help but win by continually outspending him. Plus, public taste was on their side as they marketed their dark roast coffee effectively. By comparison, Coffee Connection coffee was perceived simply too light, though it was generally darker than George Howell roasts today. What seemed the nail in the coffin was George’s being forced to take a ten year non-compete vacation following the Starbucks’ takeover. .

Fast forward to the past few years, George opened back up in a suburb of Boston. Really a tiny roaster, even by his past standards, he began to slowly build up his clientele again. This time, he used weekly email blasts to a small but devoted batch of Howell loyalists, including yours truly. In fact, when creating my video Coffee Brewing Secrets, I made a pilgrimage to visit and capture an interview and a chance to see Sir George make a batch of coffee exactly as he would like it brewed in one of his Technivorm machines.

George is truly coffee’s Renaissance Man. While known first as a roaster, he is one of those rare savants whose knowledge extends to other aspects such as brewing and storage. He’s got those snooty Boston taste buds that can positively devastate a green coffee broker. I’ve attended cuppings with George and he doesn’t suffer fools gently. He created the Cup of Excellence, then gave it away when he realized he didn’t have time to actually run it. He pursued a brewing strength software and detection system that will no doubt resurface in the future when the industry finally discovers how much it’s needed. He also pioneered freezing green (unroasted) coffee beans, finally making it possible to some day roast and brew the vintage ’08 Sumatra Mandheling, something we still don’t have anywhere else commercially. Did someone say Tesla?

He’s stubbornly resisted urging from many of his colleagues and writers such as me to go a shade darker. At first I honestly thought he was roasting as a statement to his former competition, but as he’s improved his technique, and I my taste buds, I’ve come to admire his foresight, and I admit I’ve had some absolutely perfect cups that virtually define specialty coffee for me.

The Thrillist accolade he won is well deserved, but it’s going to mean he’s sold out more quickly at CoffeeCon then usual. Be sure to get your ticket to his tasting seminar. Your taste buds will be forever changed. We are limited in seats and he does not allow me to sneak in one extra person as we need three glasses for each attendee, and enough of his precious coffee to go around.

Congratulations, George Howell.

See George live at CoffeeCon San Francisco on July 26th where he will be presenting his For The Love of Coffee lab.