For a coffee roaster to be honored as Roast Magazine's Roaster of the Year, the roastery in question, of course, has to produce exceptional coffee — but that's not all. They also have to make significant investments within their community, to their employees and the coffee industry, as well. This year, Roast awarded Little Waves Coffee Roasters as its Micro Roaster of the Year and Huckleberry Roasters as its Macro Roaster of the Year.
A little backstory: for the past 18 years, Roast has held its annual Roaster of the Year awards, which gives recognition to two coffee roasters in the US: a micro roaster, which roasts less than 100,000 pounds of coffee each year; and a micro roaster, which roasts over 100,000 pounds of coffee each year. The two roasters are awarded $500 each and receive a feature in Roast's November/December magazine.
Little Waves Coffee Roasters, founded by Areli Barrera Grodski and Leon Grodski Barrera, started up in 2010 before opening its roastery in 2017. Based out of North Carolina, Little Waves roasted over 58,000 pounds of coffee in 2021, and it currently has three cafes in Durham.
As Barrera Grodski told Roast, Little Waves is committed to having a workforce that is representative of the greater community. The roaster is also focused on fostering deep connections with its green coffee producers, which means Little Waves can provide good coffee to its consumers at accessible price points.
Huckleberry Roasters, affectionally known as Huck, has been around since 2011, and in 20202, the roastery put out 240,000 pounds of coffee. Its co-owners, Koan Goedman and Jason Farrar, have committed to a people-first approach at Huck. That means the people who produce the coffee, the people who roast the coffee and the people who drink the coffee should all benefit from whatever Huck does.
"For me it’s not coffee, it’s people," Goedman told Roast. "One thing that I’ve learned a lot—and I’m learning a lot from Jason—is that it’s really about people and relationships. What’s important are the people we meet, the people we work with, and the people we do business with that we support financially."
You can read the full features on Little Waves and Huck on Roast's website. And if you want to get a taste of their coffees, try Little Waves' Río de Estrellas and Huck's Guatemala Atitlán El Grano to see why they won this year's Roaster of the Year award.