Coffee, Cupping, and Consulting: Foster’s Catalyst for Love and Coffee Education

Editor’s note: The following was written by guest contributor, Lindsay Beeson. We’re excited for Lindsay to join the FosterPowellPDX team, and look forward to sharing her talent and love for the neighborhood in the coming months. Today she introduces us to Catalyst Coffee Consulting, Foster’s steward of all things coffee.
Updated: 10/13

CJ Speelman, of Tanager Coffee Roasters in Portland, attends a cupping at Catalyst Co-Laborative.

CJ Speelman, of Tanager Coffee Roasters in Portland, attends a cupping at Catalyst Co-Laborative.

When you walk past Catalyst Co-Laborative—nestled in Foster Row next to Darling Press—you’ll see handbuilt tasting tables along the wall, maybe lined with little white vessels and glass tumblers. Emily and Michael McIntyre might be leading a coffee cupping, or doing research in the Co-Lab.

The space is modest and inviting—it shares a vestibule with Darling Press and, perhaps by extension, that hand-hewn sensibility. It’s easy to assume the Co-Lab is a space where care is given to every little thing that has to do with coffee.

In fact, that’s exactly right.

The Co-Laborative is only a small part of what the McIntyres are doing with Catalyst Coffee Consulting. If it were metaphysically possible to walk through the Co-Lab into the rest of their Catalyst world, you would find yourself in conversation with roasters and importers based across the United States, dissecting flavor profiles; on farms in Peru and Colombia and Ethiopia, analyzing beans at the source; or hunkered down at a desk helping craft the story for a grower or roaster.

Portland Barista Delia Perez evaluates dry fragrance during a cupping at Catalyst.

Portland Barista Delia Perez evaluates dry fragrance during a cupping at Catalyst.

The many arms of their business are wrapped around education, quality, storytelling, and a passion for direct trade—and not least, the responsibility that comes with it. This has them traveling the globe (Michael had a notable trip to Ethiopia earlier this year; Emily headed to Colombia on Oct. 10, and folks can follow her travels on Catalyst’s instagram account); and training everyone from growers to roasters to importers.

Their space in Foster Row is a hub. “We want to create one of the best training centers in the world for coffee people,” Emily says. That means cuppings and education for coffee professionals—roasters, cupping technicians, and importers. The McIntyres also have ambitions to reach out to governments across the world and secure grants that would allow them to bring growers and Q-graders (think coffee sommelier) to Foster Road.

Get yourself in the Co-Lab

Emily and Michael are proud of the Co-Lab’s handbuilt tables.

Emily and Michael are proud of the Co-Lab’s handbuilt tables.

What the Co-Lab also means for them is being able to “talk coffee with normal people.” Emily and Michael both started as baristas, and they miss that particular coffee conversation. So they’re also using their space on Foster to host public cuppings; you may have already spied a few of those through their window.

And Emily is finalizing details for a coffee 101 series—to be held over four weeks in January/February of 2016. There’ll be cupping 101 (what do coffee professionals do in the lab?); coffee brewing 101; coffee tasting terminology; and origins 101.

Until the next public cupping or the Co-Lab’s learning series early next year, you might want to get over to Foster Row for their Oct. 24 building-wide masquerade party. Emily’s working on cold brew batch cocktails (and no worries if you don’t have your own mask: the folks at Darling Press will help you letterpress print your own).

Let’s leave you with a bonus how-cool-are-these-people story

Emily and Michael McIntyre during a trip to Peru earlier this year. In their own words: “Well, here we are, opposite each other, picking red caturra cherries together, deep in the heart of northern Peru. We took an excruciating drive on one-lane roads through the foothills of the Andes for ten hours or so and finally landed in the beautiful town of Valle de Guayabomba where we visited Finca El Timbuyacu and have had several cuppings in the quality control lab for Monteverde Cafe. We are happy and content.”

Emily and Michael McIntyre during a trip to Peru earlier this year. In their own words: “Well, here we are, opposite each other, picking red caturra cherries together, deep in the heart of northern Peru. We took an excruciating drive on one-lane roads through the foothills of the Andes for ten hours or so and finally landed in the beautiful town of Valle de Guayabomba where we visited Finca El Timbuyacu and have had several cuppings in the quality control lab for Monteverde Cafe. We are happy and content.”

During his aforementioned trip to Ethiopia, Michael was visiting a mill deep within the valley of  Yirgacheffe when he was met by a man on horseback. This man is named Abebayehu, and he had just ridden eight hours from Harar (on a horse) to bring Michael a sample of the coffee he grows on his farm.

You see, Abebayehu has a cousin, Garadew, who works with the American company, Dominion Trading Coffee. And Catalyst partners with Dominion to import Ethiopian beans. So Abebayehu heard about Michael.

Abebayehu has been committed to growing the highest quality beans he can, but his neighbors haven’t produced to the same standard. That’s meant he can’t compete with their prices, and his eight-hour ride was a last effort to get his beans into the market before he gave up on his farm completely.

So Catalyst? They were moved. Dominion Trading bought 50 bags of beans (that’s 132 pounds per bag), and Catalyst helped find a roaster in Sacramento to buy them and commit to the long-term relationship with Abebayehu as he continues to coax more quality from his beans.

Catalyst will help with that, of course. Michael heads back to Ethiopia in December, and he plans to visit Abebayehu when he goes.

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2 Responses to Coffee, Cupping, and Consulting: Foster’s Catalyst for Love and Coffee Education

  1. Pingback: Happy Weekend, Foster People! | Foster-Powell. A neighborhood blog.

  2. Nick says:

    Wow, what a great post! I was searching for more information about Catalysts’ new Co Laborative and came across this. I was touched to see the part in there about Abebayehu, I am the Sacramento roaster who buys his coffee. Catalyst is great people working with great people, I’m happy to know them.

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