Who are we speaking with?
My name is Darrin Daniel and I am the Executive Director at the Alliance for Coffee Excellence & Cup of Excellence. I previously was the Director of Souring for Allegro Coffee, a subsidiary of Whole Foods Market based in the USA. Before that I spent a spell at Stumptown Coffee Roasters as their Head Green Coffee Buyer. I’ve been involved with specialty coffee since the mid-80s as a barista, trainer, QC manager, and, lastly, procurement.
What’s your favourite hobby that’s not coffee?
My favourite hobby is mountain biking in the mountains near Boulder, Colorado, where I live now. The Rocky Mountains are home to some of the finest single track biking as well as road riding. I love bikes. I began biking in Oregon when I was in college and have tried to keep that passion going throughout my life.
What do you do?
I manage ACE (Alliance for Coffee Excellence), overseeing our Portland staff and coordinating with our in-country partners throughout Latin America and East Africa. My role is to advocate on behalf of farmers in all the countries we work with to ensure they are identified for excellence in quality and commitment. My mission is to continue to grow the Cup of Excellence program to countries that are committed to producing the very best coffees for the marketplace.
What trend in coffee annoys you the most?
I’ve seen it all, so I tend not to be annoyed by much. Anything that tends to move the conversation too far away from origin does get me a bit peeved. Without the farmers, there’s no coffee sector. If we spent more time working on premium raising to ensure the viability of the supply chain, the better I’d feel from where I sit.
What do you read when you’re not reading Standart?
I am a big current affairs and history fan. I love non-fiction, culinary books, biographies, travelogues — Paul Theroux, Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table is a big influence. I’m a big poetry fan and studied literature at Naropa University. My biggest influences were Charles Olson, Lorine Niedecker, Louis Zukofsky, Mina Loy, Emily Dickinson, Lew Welch, Ted Berrigan, and Frank O’Hara. I studied with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, so they were living influences and those whom I read most (probably everything).
'Without the farmers, there’s no coffee sector.'
Is there a country of origin that you tend to favour coffee from?
I should be non-partisan on this one, but I tend to get blown away by Ethiopian coffees. I love the diversity of flavours and the miracle that occurs in a country with so many hurdles to quality, and yet, every year something jumps off the table. But every time I answer a question like this, I start thinking about that crazy Kenya I had, or the amazing Colombian, or an insane honey from El Salvador, or … there’s no right answer for this one!
Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than just coffee? When did coffee become important to you?
It was in 1985 in Eugene, Oregon. It was a Sulawesi Kalosi on my first day as a barista. It tasted like some herbal, mushroom truffle bomb. It was hand-brewed on a Melitta … I was sold.
Espresso or filter?
Filter. I love a bit of volume over intensity to mull over.
Too cold or too warm?
Both. I like coffee at a hot brew temperature then seeing it cool, especially when cupping coffees like Kenya and Ethiopia washed. As they cool down, they get really expansive and their intrinsic flavours open up — like a red wine in reverse. Hot and cold are linked in so much of sensory.
Painting or photography?
Painting. There’s nothing more amazing then standing in front of a painting that has been worked and finished before your eyes.
First date: museum or movie?
Movie. That’s how my future wife and I first connected. Reservoir Dogs. Not the most romantic film, but Tarantino brought us together.
French press or moka pot?
French press. Chewy coffee in a different way!
City or Countryside?
Countryside. Solitude is harder to come by.
Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?