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Everyone should drive across the United States at least once in their lifetime. Vigilante Coffee founder Chris Vigilante, and the coffee company’s roaster Franklin Ventura, are hitting the road to do exactly that on April 13. Their starting point is their Hyattsville, Maryland roastery and their destination is the U.S. Coffee Championships in Seattle, Washington where they’ll be competing in the the roaster championship for the first time.
“Hopefully we’ll bring back a trophy, because we did well in the qualifier in Knoxville, Tennessee back in February,” Vigilante says. They took second place in taste and sixth in performance. “I think I got crushed because I played a song.” Vigilante presented to the tune of Norman Greenbaum‘s”Spirit in the Sky.” Based on Vigilante’s decision to use music to pace himself, the U.S. Coffee Championships banned music for the finals.
So what exactly does a coffee roasting competition look like? For the semi-finals, the U.S. Coffee Championships sent Vigilante Coffee 20 pounds of coffee from Kenya. “We have to narrow in on the best flavor profile and roasting profile,” Vigilante explains. “Then we have to present it to four judges over the course of five minutes.”
Their presentation must include a description of the farm and origin of the beans, and how that impacts the roast; what tricks they used in the roasting process to get the best expression out of the beans; and tasting notes. “They’ll taste and sniff, and if the tasting notes are accurate and they think you’re representing the coffee well as a roaster—that’s how you will do well there.”
The finals are a little different. Competition organizers mail one compulsory coffee just like the semi-finals, but competitors are also allowed to present one of their own coffees. Vigilante selected a Kenyan coffee because he was just in the country in February and is excited to talk about the coffee culture he discovered there. Vigilante often travels to see the farms from he buys beans from, including several in Latin America.
The competition runs from April 21-23, but Vigilante Coffee will be making the most of its trip. Vigilante and Ventura will cram into a van full of beans and make stops along the way. They’re planning to introduce their coffee to new cities and visit Glacier National Park.
There’s a second piece to their mission: “We’ll share the story of speciality coffee and talk about climate change and how it affects the coffee everyone drinks, especially at a time when people closing the blinds on climate change,” Vigilante says.
Fans of the brand founded in 2012 can follow the adventure on Vigilante Coffee’s social media streams. They’ll also be rolling tape the whole way.
Those looking for a taste of Vigilante Coffee can go visit their roastery, where they often teach classes on brewing methods and latte art. Otherwise, some restaurants that pour Vigilante Coffee include Maketto on H Street NE, Bakers & Baristas in Penn Quarter, and the 9:30 Club where Vigilante recommends adding whiskey to your cup. Vigilante Coffee beans are also available at Glen’s Garden Market.
Vigilante Coffee, 4327 Gallatin St., Hyattsville, MD; (301) 200- 3110; vigilantecoffee.com