Behind the Scenes: Coffee Production

Behind the Scenes: Coffee Production

March 04, 2021
Brittany Viar

You stumble out of bed in the a.m., heading straight toward the kitchen to brew a pot. The pleasant aroma fills the air around you as your tired eyes begin to widen and adjust to the light shining through the window. You wrap your hand around the freshly-poured cup and take that first sip. There’s nothing quite like the warm sensation that hits your lips. Caught somewhere between contentment and determination, you’re ready to begin the day, thanks to your cup of liquid gold.

We know how much you adore your coffee; that’s why we’re here. You may not often think about its journey from seed to cup, or the quality benchmarks that must be met before you can enjoy the most important beverage of the day (ok, second most important after water), but our production team is key in moving that process along.

Jack Renna is Cartel’s Production Manager and Green Coffee Buyer. He began working at a coffee shop in New Haven at the age of 19. While it was something he enjoyed, it wasn’t until he attended a coffee event in Providence that he learned how interesting the industry actually was. 

“I really like the industry as a whole. The industry is really based on these kinds of international partnerships and there's also a really strong need to be sustainable or the industry will fail,” said Jack. “There’s not as much harsh competition or cutthroat profit, like kind of these shortcuts that a lot of industries take to make more profit. It's not perfect. I'm not going to pretend like it's holier than now or anything, but I do like that this industry in particular is one that I think is really cool to work in because of those (reasons).” 

Not long after he began working at the coffee shop, Jack started a roasting position within the same company and was able to embark on his first origin trip to Honduras in 2017. If you aren’t familiar with what an origin trip is, it’s essentially a tour buyers take to see and observe regions in which coffee is produced. During these travels, buyers are acquainted with farmers, learn about agriculture and experience the culture of the area – all very exciting things!

“It was a pretty big deal for me because I'd been roasting for over two years at that point. So it was like a big milestone for me to actually go. I mean, the whole experience was really incredible,” Jack said. “I went to a cooperative called COMSA (Café Orgánico Marcala Sociedad Anónima) and I think what I really loved about it is this kind of cooperative business model that they have where it's kind of democratically run. I think what was really amazing, is a lot of the cooperative has done really well over the past 15 years and they put a lot of their money that they made back into the community.”

Jack also shared what a dream origin trip would entail for him.

“It would be really cool to be able to go on an origin trip with a lot of my coworkers, because usually only one or two people per job gets to go,” Jack said. “I’ve always had to go by myself and then sort of try to bring the whole experience back to the company, but it wouldn't be a lot for me. It would be really fun to be able to take my whole production team to origin, which would be really costly. And then I don't know who would roast the coffee here, but I guess that's the dream.”

Jack’s been with Cartel since October of 2018. His job has a wide range of responsibilities that align with the company’s goals and aspirations.

“The first (responsibility) is order fulfillment. Every single day we have store orders, wholesale orders, (and) online orders. And so every single day, our kind of main responsibility is to fulfill all those orders for the day by roasting coffee or brewing cold brew,” Jack said. “Second is really quality control of these products. I do like to have kind of a team effort involved in this. We're not just clocking in roasting the coffee and clocking out, we're also tasting every single coffee and cold brew, making adjustments, as well as making plans for the future.”

When you’re part of Cartel’s production team, you’re continuously collaborating on future coffees and ensuring products are the best they can be. It’s an incredibly important position to be in.

Jack wears many hats in his role. He’s in charge of inventory management, projecting green coffee needs, checking in with his roasting and cold brew team to see what must be completed, and working on new coffee launches or a new type of cold brew to serve our customers. Oh, and we can’t forget: repairing equipment to get it back up and running smoothly.

Recently, Jack has been strategizing ways in which he’d like to better the current coffee categorizing system Cartel utilizes.

“Right now we have a handful of blends, and we offer five different single origins, which we refer to as different tier numbers,” Jack said. “What works about this is we can offer a variety of single origins at different price points so we kind of always have multiple interesting coffees available. Where I’d like to improve on it is to move away from the tier language and try to define these offerings better so it's a little more translatable to baristas and the customers and to give myself a little more direction in buying for the future.”

Speaking of the future, Jack shared that he’s excited about some Tanzania coffee samples he’ll be getting. Though nothing is set in stone quite yet, we’ll all be on our toes, ready for the incredible things that’ll roll out on the Cartel coffee conveyor belt.