Coffee & Chat with Charlie Cortellini, Head of Purchasing, R&D, Quality Assurance, and Food Safety at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA

Charlie Cortellini, a 46-year industry veteran and the current Vice President of R&D and Food Safety at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA

One of the greatest benefits of being a “Next Gen-er” in the coffee business is rooted in the fact that we have so many colleagues who bring with them more experience and time in the industry than we can fathom! Everett Brown, Coffee Trader at Westfeldt Brothers, Inc. and Next Gen Communications Committee Member, had the opportunity to sit down with Charlie Cortellini, a 46-year industry veteran and the current Vice President of R&D and Food Safety at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA.

Everett Brown: Do you mind explaining a bit about who you are and exactly what you do in the coffee industry?

Charlie Cortellini: As of September 7th, I will have been in the industry for 46 years. I started with Hills Bros. Coffee in quality control and have done everything there is to do in a manufacturing plant throughout those 46 years. At one point in time, I was running 7 plants for Nestle Beverage. I left Hills Bros. Coffee after they were acquired by Nestle and became Vice President of Operations at Chock Full o’Nuts. I then left there and became a part owner of a small gourmet coffee company called First Colony Coffee & Tea in Norfolk, VA. I ultimately left there and came back into a plant I built for Hills Bros. back in the 80s. It is now owned by Massimo Zanetti where I head up Quality Assurance, R&D, Purchasing, and Food Safety. I like to tell people I do everything that nobody else wants to do.

EB: You have family ties to the industry; your son Jason works in the industry. It seems as if the coffee industry is so big yet so small… What does the coffee industry being a “family business” mean to you?

Charlie early in his coffee career at Hills Bros. Coffee

CC: Just as an anecdote, I remember when my son, Jason Cortellini, was “Charlie’s Kid” and now I am referred to as “Jason’s Dad”.

You know, it’s funny because when I got into the coffee industry, I didn’t want to be in the coffee industry, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was looking for a company that would pay for continued education. So, I got hired by Hills Brothers, and the deeper I got the more I realized how entrenched you get. I tell people it’s like the mafia. Once you’re in coffee, you’re in, and you never really get out.

But I think the greatest thing about the coffee business is the relationships. While it’s one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world, it’s a small industry. I’ve known people for 40-45 years and have built lasting relationships. It’s like a family, and you know, sometimes families fight.

EB: How do you see the industry changing for you specifically? For your position? For your age group? For the next gen?

CC: I like to tell people that it was my generation that gave way to the specialty coffee industry. When I started in coffee, the 16 oz. can of coffee was a decent product. Some of the blends that we used, like the 1/3 blend, was a palatable cup of coffee. Of course, you still had your 100% origin-specific coffees, but the main blended commercial coffees were a good cup of coffee.

I joined the industry before the first frost. After that frost hit, the large spike in coffee prices was the first time people really started to meddle with the product. They were adding higher percentages of Robusta, higher moisture coffees, and reducing the packaging size from 16 oz to 11-13 oz servings. Companies tried to get more out of less coffee. I think that this led to the birth of the specialty coffee industry.

I do believe that back then and today are similar in that people want to get a higher-end product. Customers are willing to pay more for better quality. The way to win today is by putting out something better than just your standard commercial coffees. If you’re growing your business on a low-quality product, then you’re building it on quicksand.

EB: In terms of opportunities for next gen members, do you see any markets growing or have any forecast for what trends could be big job growth markets next?

CC: I have a son in the industry and when he was starting, I was pushing him more into the commodity and finance side of the business. In addition to Jason, my son-in-law also just started in a commodities-related role at MZB.

If I am talking to a youngster about getting into the business, you want to have a strong finance/business base. To me, the commodity side of this business is the biggest growth sector of this industry. Where can we go with it? What can we do with blends? How can you get creative and put new coffees together? I am probably the crazy uncle that nobody wants to talk to about this, but I think Robusta has a place in this business that needs to be explored further. There is the potential for growth there that we need to pay attention to.

I think jobs are already and will continue to be created to look at yield, to improve water quality, to become less at the mercy of the weather, to produce a more disease-resistant product, and the list goes on. So, in addition to the finance and commodity side, I think the R&D-related agricultural side of the business will also see big job growth.

EB: The National Coffee Association obviously has a large impact on the industry. What are some interactions you’ve had with the NCA and what are some resources you think people might not know about that could be helpful?

CC: The Scientific Advisory Council is one area that everyone doesn’t truly appreciate and understand. I’ve known Mark (Corey) for a long time and the work they are doing is amazing. I think the NCA has even greater potential to share all the work that the Scientific Advisory Council is doing to develop and research new ways to change the industry.

The NCA has been a great resource for me. Going to an NCA event is like going to a high school reunion. The events are amazing and a great way to reconnect with old friends and network with new ones.

EB: Did you ever have a mentor in your career?

CC: Did I ever have a mentor? Probably hundreds of them. And I think the best mentors for me were the ones I met on a plant floor. It’s amazing how willing people were to teach and train me because I was willing to shut up and listen. A lot of what I know today is because I was trained, not by management people at my job, but by union and non-union workers showing me how everything works and what to do in a roasting plant.

A now retired George Kneisel was another person that, when he talked, I shut up and listened. He taught me so much about the green coffee side of the industry.

And then, down to origin, meeting producers and listening to them and what their plight is and what they go through had a tremendous impact.

EB: I want to end on a lighthearted note… I’m sure you travel a lot. Any wild stories from origin worth sharing? If not, can you share about your favorite origin country to visit and explain why?

CC: There was one trip that stands out in particular as I traveled to Colombia with my son; that experience was a bit more personal than others and carried a lot of meaning for me.

That being said, I will tell you the truth, I have enjoyed every single one of my origin trips. Some of them were nightmares due to weather and logistics, but to me, they all stand out in retrospect as great trips. Being able to be at origin, talking with farmers, and hearing their passion, has always been a true pleasure.

For those of you who don’t already know Charlie, we encourage you to seek him out at the next NCA event to meet him yourself! The coffee industry, particularly those of us developing our careers within the Next Gen segment, are fortunate to have Charlie and his wisdom and experience to look towards for guidance.

And for those of you who do already know Charlie, you are likely aware of how he always has a quote at the bottom of his email signature. As if this interview didn’t capture Charlie’s persona already, his current quote from Will Rogers certainly does: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Meet and Greet with Rob Menos, NCA Board Chair

“I consider working for the coffee industry a privilege. Having been part of the industry for as long as I have, it gives you such a deep appreciation for your colleagues, others in the business, and the business as a whole. You appreciate it more and more the longer you work in coffee.”

– Rob Menos

Approaching 30 years in the coffee industry, Rob Menos, Director of Business Development at Sucafina, is no stranger to coffee and all that comes with it. In addition to his role at Sucafina, Rob is the current Chair of the National Coffee Association (NCA) Board of Directors.

Nora Johnson, Commodities Manager at MZB-USA and Next Gen Council Member, had the opportunity to chat with Rob about his background in the industry and his current outlook on the NCA. The statement quoted at the start of the article was made by Rob during his interview, and while it not only reflects Rob’s character and passion for the trade, it truly represents the extraordinary qualities of our industry and the many, many individuals behind it.


Tell us about your background and career development. How did you get your start in coffee?

Rob Menos

In 1993, I started my coffee career working for Wechsler Coffee Corporation out of Moonachie, New Jersey in a green coffee procurement role. A very good friend of mine at the time was working for Wechsler in a sales role in the city, and he set me up for the interview. Initially, I interviewed for an accounts receivable job, but the HR manager felt that I was overqualified and suggested that I may be a better fit for a green coffee procurement role that they hadn’t even posted yet! After 7 years with Wechsler, I joined Rothfos Corporation as a trader, and after 7 years with Rothfos, I went to Coex where I spent 13 years. Now I am with Sucafina where I have been for 2 years.

Before this role in coffee, I was going to school and working in collections at a medical office, dealing with insurance companies. Talk about a way to develop thick skin in life! The amount of times that I have had people hang up on me…It prepared me very well to learn how to work with other people; it was truly a life lesson!

What did you think of working for a roaster versus a trade house?

Going from roaster to trade house worked well for me as I had a good appreciation of the challenges that roasters deal with because I lived through those challenges myself. I was able to communicate this internally when needed, and it provided me with a strong foundation.

However, making the transition over to importing opened up a totally different side of the world. Suddenly, you have this direct exposure to origin. Having the ability to connect those dots and developing relationships with exporters, cooperatives, and producers – it completes the picture in a way.  Living and breathing manufacturing as a roaster and then working as an importer and in trading gave me an understanding of the whole spectrum, which I appreciated.

What made you want to stay working in coffee as opposed to moving to another commodity or industry?

For me, its two-fold. First off, it’s the complexity of the coffee business itself. Think about all of the work that goes into the supply chain from tree to cup; think about all of the players who are involved and all of the hands who touch it. Secondly, and this was important to me personally, it’s the comradery and the sense of community. I have many friends outside of coffee who have met many of my industry friends over the years, and the one comment that I have consistently heard is how amazing it is that you can have competitors in a room enjoying each other! You don’t see that anywhere else! Early on, I saw the relationships had by others in the industry, and I found it so impressive; it made me want to stay!

Tell us about your current role as Director of Business Development at Sucafina.

Aside from the trading aspect and the day-to-day roaster interaction, I am responsible for coordinating supply chains and trading opportunities for Sucafina’s global network and bringing them to the North American roaster community. For example, let’s say that a roaster has a new customer, and to service them, you will need to develop a new supply chain out of Papua New Guinea (PNG) that meets certain requirements. I will work with our team out of PNG to get the supply chain off the ground and to guarantee that it will fulfill the roaster’s needs as our customer. In doing this, we utilize Sucafina’s global network to see how we can incorporate it into our existing customer base organically or to potentially develop it with new customers.

What is your most memorable coffee experience?

It had to be my first origin trip which was to Guatemala. Once again, it really helped me to connect the dots and develop a better understanding. There is a big difference between what you hear versus what you experience for yourself and visualize. You take that personal experience and later apply it to other origin countries in comparison. It gave me such a high level of appreciation for what we do as an industry and as a business and of course, a great understanding for the high level of work that is done at origin. It really helped me in my career development.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had told you early on in your career? Is there anything that you would do differently if you went back and could do it over again?

I consider myself very fortunate because I had two mentors very early on in my career. Mentorship is such an important point to highlight. In this case, both of my mentors were in coffee, but they help me on so many different levels, not just related to coffee, but to life in general. To have people who are genuinely looking out for you, and who can provide you with that kind of guidance, is priceless.

Looking back, if I were to do it over again, I would spend some time working in origin on the export side to have exposure to that part of the supply chain. I certainly would have benefited from that experience.

What is your favorite origin for coffee-drinking purposes and for travel purposes?

For travel, Guatemala. Guatemala was my first origin trip, so I have always had this emotional connection to it, and I have lots of good relationships there. I also love Colombia – Colombia has so many different producers, yet it is amazing to see the consistency in the quality that they export as a country in addition to the different profiles that they can offer as well.

How did you first get involved in the NCA?

Apart from attending the conventions over the years, I really was more engaged once I joined the NCA Board around 7 years ago. Looking at it now, there are so many great opportunities that the NCA offers today. A perfect example is the Next Gen Council – I wish I had that in my day, to be honest with you! Talk about a great platform for younger professionals to not only meet and network, but to develop for a future role on the NCA Board down the road. It is a huge benefit for a young professional to have that opportunity. The NCA Annual Conventions also provided me with great opportunities in terms of networking and the chance to meet with customers, attend different sessions, and participate in the Day of Service, but my involvement level really changed when I joined the Board.

For anyone who might not know, what is the role of the NCA and can you share some of the benefits of NCA membership for both companies and individuals? Are there any “hidden gems” in terms of benefits?

For companies, the NCA acts as a leading voice for the industry in terms of regulatory and industry matters in addition to providing market research and a platform for coffee education. The NCA keeps the membership well informed of anything important that is occurring at the time and impacting the industry in any way. There is also tremendous work done by the Scientific Leadership Council. This is a group of very smart people – 100 times smarter than me! – but they do such great work to benefit the membership and us as an industry.

From an individual perspective, there are many opportunities on the education side, from webinars to other on demand resources, in addition to great networking. As far as “hidden gems,” I think that in many companies, not all employees have a good understanding of what is available as a member. From webinars to market research to other data, distribution of the availability of information to employees is critical.

If you had to describe the NCA in one word, what would it be and why?

Advocate.

In my mind, the NCA is an advocate in many different ways. The NCA highlights the many positive benefits of coffee, and it tackles all kinds of issues from labeling laws to tariffs and beyond. The NCA takes the lead role in that, acting as the leading voice for the industry and advocating for its members. Frankly, at this stage, because Bill Murray and his staff have done such a great job, they have set the level of expectation so high that the industry automatically looks to the NCA to deal with an issue or for guidance and education.

On behalf of the Next Gen Council, we extend our sincere thanks to Rob for his time and dedication to not only this interview, but to the NCA and the industry at large. Rob emphasized the importance of comradery and relationships in coffee several times throughout the interview, and this environment that we all cherish throughout the industry would not be the case without so many strong, established industry leaders such as himself and many others who are willing to support the industry and the “Next Gen” of coffee leaders.

If you are interested in learning more about the NCA Next Gen Council, check us out here!

Keeping cold hot: 3 things every cold brewer should know about food safety

By William “Bill” Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association USA


While not a new format by any means, cold brew has shot up in popularity in recent years and is expected to keep growing. About 16% of coffee drinkers reported having had cold brew in the past week, according to the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends report – up from only 8% in 2016.  What hasn’t kept pace, however, are clear food safety best practices, guidance, and regulations to help keep this massively popular product – and the customers who demand it – safe. It is crucial to stress that cold brew coffee, like traditionally prepared coffee, is generally safe – but changing times and evolving brew methods call for food safety vigilance – despite coffee’s long, safe track record.

That’s why, with help from our team of scientists on the NCA Science Leadership Council (and support from our cold brew partner BUNN), NCA has created the all-new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers along with several other new resources to help coffee retailers safely brew, store, and serve cold brew – one of the hottest drinks in coffee today.

Here are three key things every cold brew retailer should know to help keep their cold brew coffee food-safe:

1. The “danger zone” for cold brew where bacteria can grow is 41-140˚F. 

Brew, store, and serve your cold brew at a temperature of 40˚ F or below to minimize the risk of pathogens like botulism that could cause foodborne illness. Above 140˚F, most toxin-producing bacteria are killed. However, while cold brew doesn’t technically have to be served cold, it may lose some of the smooth taste and flavor your customers have come to expect from cold brew if heated above this temperature. 

2. Retail dispensed cold brew (i.e., made on-premises in a coffee shop) and RTD cold brew are not created equal – and each requires special safety considerations.

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RTD packaged cold brew is cold brew that is manufactured and bottled under aseptic conditions in a manufacturing facility following FDA’s low-acid food regulations (21 CFR Part 113), whereas dispensed cold brew is often prepared and served on-site at a retail location and is regulated by a local health inspector following FDA’s Food Code

Dispensed cold brew is generally prepared at 40-70˚F overnight at a retail location using roasted coffee and filtered water and can be infused with nitrogen to make nitro cold brew. The cold brew can be stored in airtight or covered (non-airtight) containers.

Health inspectors examining a retail dispensed cold brew operation may require a HACCP Plan – see more on HACCP Plans below. 

NCA’s 2018 Cold Brew Toolkit for Industry dives into RTD cold brew safety considerations, while dispensed retail cold brew (and its potential food safety risks) are covered extensively in the just-released NCA Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers (2022). Both are available here

 3. You might need a HACCP Plan.

Every retail cold brew operation should determine whether a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan is necessary. This seven-step framework is critical in reducing hazards in food to acceptable levels, and consists of:

  • Hazard analysis.
  • Critical Control Point (CCP) identification.
  • Establishing critical limits.
  • Establishing monitoring procedures.
  • Setting corrective actions.
  • Setting verification procedures.
  • Establishing record-keeping and documentation.

A HACCP Plan is generally not required in retail locations unless the cold brew is brewed, held, and served above 41˚F, or if it is held in a container with an airtight lid for over 48 hours.  NCA offers a model HACCP Plan that our Members can refer to when developing food safety protocols for their own retail cold brew business.  

You can learn more about NCA’s Cold Brew safety resources in our NCA Cold Brew Toolkit, which includes our new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers, our 2018 Toolkit for Industry, a model Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan, answers to frequently asked questions about cold brew and a compliance checklist to ensure you’re ready when the health inspector comes knocking. 

NCA: We serve coffee (and want the cold brew coffee YOU serve to continue its long record of food safety.)

Coffee & Chat with Mary Petit, Global Coffee Platform

Bent Dietrich, Coffee Trader at American Coffee Corporation and NCA Next Gen Council Member, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Petit, Senior Advisor for Global Coffee Platform (GCP). Formed in 2016, Global Coffee Platform has evolved into a widely-recognized multistakeholder association with members united around the vision of creating “a thriving and sustainable coffee sector for generations to come.”

[Bent]: Before getting into the Global Coffee Platform and your work with the organization, can you tell our readers about yourself? How did you get your start in coffee and what has brought you to where you are today?

[Mary]: Well, I got into coffee totally by chance. After graduating from college in Minnesota, I went to work for Cargill as a trader trainee. Unsure of what commodity I wanted to be in, they assigned me to a coffee company they had just purchased, Scholz & Company, in 1983. I started in the coffee sample room and was very lucky to be mentored by some outstanding coffee mentors. It was very important to me; at that time, there were hardly any women in the green coffee trade, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Notably, they always encouraged me to stand up for my ideas and speak out on issues.

[Bent]: What is the Global Coffee Platform and what does it stand for?

[Mary]: Overall, the GCP is dedicated to creating a thriving sustainable coffee world for generations to come. However, the way we are going about it is quite innovative. GCP is a multistakeholder membership organization solely dedicated to the advancement of coffee sustainability through the collaborative efforts of producers, roasters, traders, NGOs, government and others. The concept is centered around the idea that by working together, we can multiply our efforts and collectively act on local issues and then scale our efforts across the sector. Fundamentally, GCP believes that sustainability is a shared responsibility, and we must work together to improve farmer prosperity, wellbeing and the conservation of nature. The GCP is the first formally structured organization to adopt a facilitating role amongst the industry.

[Bent]: Who founded the GCP, and how did the original idea come to be?

[Mary]: The GCP was founded in March 2016 by the board of the 4C Association and participants in the Sustainable Coffee Program’s activities in producing countries; it started with the idea of forming neutral country platforms and then combining these platforms with consumer facing global members. Together, they formed the Global Coffee Platform as a pre-competitive initiative to create sustainable solutions to advance coffee sustainability. The GCP has an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] with the ICO, and the idea is to have a structural approach where stakeholders from the sector can come together to identify issues and form solutions.

[Bent]: How does the GCP differ from other organizations tackling sustainability in coffee?

[Mary]: The pre-competitive aspect creates a unique opportunity for companies of any size to learn from each other, leverage collective knowledge, and work to expand the sustainable coffee industry. It makes economic sense.

[Bent]: What is your role specifically within the GCP?

[Mary]: My role is as Senior Advisor. I work with our secretariat team to help members and partners develop solutions that will advance coffee sustainability. This can include things from championing new members, helping develop collective action initiatives, working to sharpen communications, and more importantly, helping to shape goals, strategies and tactics to keep us focused on achieving the high level of impact to which we are dedicated. 

[Bent]: This interview is targeted towards NCA ‘Next Geners.’ Considering your wealth of experience, what advice would you give to young industry members looking to accelerate their careers?

[Mary]: I feel very lucky to have worked in many different areas of the coffee industry. I would say, always be on the lookout for opportunity. Beyond just that, get out there, meet people, and learn as much as you can from them, especially when their perspectives and experiences are different than your own. Don’t think of it as social networking, but rather as working to develop real, solid, true, mutually respectful relationships. Coffee is an industry of relationships. We stand on the shoulders of family farmers. This causes it to be an industry of family values, and this will be your bedrock in challenging times.

My second piece of advice is to set goals for yourself and to earn as many industry credentials as possible in order to help you become a more rounded and more developed professional. Keep looking for innovative ways to improve your professional capacities. I still do it, and I’ve been in the business since 1983. It never stops!

Lastly – be honest, be kind, and approach challenges with a good sense of humor!

[Bent]: To that effect, we all know sustainability continues to be the leading issue in our industry. How would you recommend new members of the industry get involved, make a difference, or have an impact?

[Mary]: My challenge to everyone is to figure out a way to contribute towards sustainability within their own role and to learn as much as you can about the issues you are working with. What choices can you make to create a more sustainable coffee sector? Talk to colleagues and find out what other people are doing. Being a company with clear sustainable advancement goals is fundamental to our sector. Cooperate with others on pre-competitive levels to accomplish mutually beneficial goals for coffee farmers and their families.

Thank you to Mary Petit for her generous time and participation in our latest NCA Next Gen interview piece. For more information on Global Coffee Platform, be sure to check out their website: https://www.globalcoffeeplatform.org/

As a parting note from the Next Gen Council, may we all keep “Mary’s mantra” in mind as we continue on in the face of new opportunities and challenges:

“Be honest, be kind, and approach challenges with a good sense of humor!” – Mary Petit

More than a mood booster: Coffee’s role in supporting mental health


By William “Bill” Murray, NCA President & CEO


May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, an important time to recognize that nearly 20% of Americans are believed to experience mental illness. Offering care, empathy, and support to ourselves, and others – and openly discussing mental health issues – are all important for our wellbeing.

There’s no substitute for seeking help from professional healthcare providers and finding support from family and friends, but there are small steps we can take to support our mental health. For example, there is a growing body of literature that recognizes the positive effects exercise has on anxiety, stress, and depression. And yes, your daily cup of coffee can play a mood-boosting role in the short term.

The 66% of Americans who drink coffee each day probably already appreciate the mood boosting benefits of our favorite brew. In fact, evidence shows that coffee’s mental health benefits go beyond that warm and fuzzy first-cup feeling.

Studies have found that drinking coffee is associated with up to ⅓ lower risk of depression. An analysis of multiple third party, independent scientific studies conducted by former NCA Science Advisor and Harvard University neurologist Alan Leviton found that not only is drinking coffee associated with decreased depression risk, but that the greatest mental health benefits come from drinking at least two cups of coffee per day. 

Of almost 10,000 adults studied in the fifth Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, those who drank at least 2 cups of coffee per day experienced a 32% lower prevalence of self-reported depression than people who did not drink coffee.

In a study of 14,000 university students in Spain who continue to be followed, those who drank at least four cups of coffee per day were more than 20% less likely to be diagnosed with clinically-significant depression.

While further research is necessary to determine the exact relationship between mental health and the more than 1,000 natural compounds found in coffee, the positive impact it has on mental health may be related to certain anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and microbiome-promoting properties – properties that are also associated with coffee drinkers’ significantly reduced risk of developing certain cancers and chronic diseases.

Scientists think that some of coffee’s natural compounds called phenols and melanoidins may have “prebiotic” effects – that is, they may help healthy gut bacteria produce fatty acids and neurotransmitters that benefit mental health.

Whatever your moments of self-care look like, take time to check in on your own mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, please know you are not alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to 741741.

In the meantime, call a friend, connect with family, find some quiet time away from all the devices, and enjoy a simple cup of coffee – which, it turns out, is more “amazing” than “simple.” After all, while you care about coffee – coffee cares for you, too. What other beverage does that?

NCA: We Serve Coffee.

 Not sure if you’re an NCA Member? Check our Membership list. If you’re not a member but could benefit from access to this research or other key industry resources, explore your Membership options.

Words of Wisdom from NCA Board Members: Part II

Back in February, we launched a new series, “Words of Wisdom,” bringing career development stories and top-notch advice from industry leaders right to your inbox! For this second edition of “Words of Wisdom,” Michelle Dunaway, Sales Executive at Mercon Specialty, spoke with Jonathan White (White Coffee Corporation), John DeMuria (Volcafe USA LLC), and Michael Gaviña (F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.). White, DeMuria, and Gaviña are all current NCA Board Members and long-time leaders of both the National Coffee Association and the industry overall.

Jonathan White

Executive Vice President / White Coffee Corporation

An attorney by trade and lifelong New York resident, Jonathan White, Executive Vice President of White Coffee Corporation, was born into the coffee business. White Coffee Corporation was founded by Jonathan’s grandfather in 1939, and his father carried on the legacy, spending over 40 years in the business, advocating for and developing the specialty coffee trade long before there were a plethora of chain and microroasters.  

Jonathan explains, “I grew up with the smell of coffee in my father’s station wagon; there was never a time he would not help a customer with their emergency needs and he would be sure to not only meet but to exceed their expectations. After practicing law and gaining experience in helping to run a variety of organizations, I joined the company in 1990. It is very rewarding to see our company’s growth and to serve our customers for many years – multi-generational in many cases – and to have many of our team members with White Coffee for 10, 15, and 20 years or more. “

“Our business has continued to evolve and grow, from the independent local stores and delis to national chains of club stores, supermarkets, hotel chains, and online retailers.  We also have worked with many licensors and private label retailers to develop proprietary brands.” In his role, Jonathan is involved in many aspects of the business, including oversight on commodity purchases, major account sales, financial oversight, team management/building, strategic direction, and day-to-day management.

Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry:

  • Diversify both your business channels and your skill sets.
  • Embrace change and flexibility as the world will continue to evolve. Expect the unexpected!
  • Ask lots of questions, and don’t always accept the first answer you get – assume nothing.
  • Think ahead and consider various scenarios and how you would best respond.
  • Always be selling! Create a unique selling proposition (for either yourself or for your product).
  • Develop lifetime relationships. Appreciate varying perspectives.
  • Aim for constant learning, improvement, and giving back to your community.

Favorite pastimes: Jonathan loves baseball (especially the NY Mets!), all kinds of music, travel, and reading all kinds of non-fiction books (especially those about current events/politics).

John DeMuria

Managing Partner / Volcafe USA LLC

Prior to joining the coffee industry, John DeMuria (JD), worked in banking on Wall Street, with a focus on coffee, cocoa, sugar, and grains. Volcafe, formerly known as Volkart Brothers, recruited JD, initially to work in finance, but he later transitioned into trading. In his first two years trading, JD worked to learn and absorb as much information as possible; at this time, differential prices were gaining prominence and the futures contract was evolving. From there, JD went on to manage the Colombia and Central America books.

Reflecting back on the start of his time trading, it brings to light just how much trading has evolved over time. Back when JD started in the business, trading was done by a telex machine and all documentation was done by hand. JD explains, “You had your telephone, telex, and a calculator. The telex operator was probably the best trader on the floor; every offer, every bid, went through their hands!”

Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry: “Be determined & dedicated.  Hard work always pays off. Live your dream and have a passion for what you do. Getting involved in Next Gen is a great opportunity to engage at an earlier age and early stage in your career.”

Favorite past NCA memory: “Being invited by your boss to the NCA Convention was the highest achievement; you said to yourself, ‘I made the inner circle.’”  JD has served on the NCA board since 2007.

Michael Gaviña

Managing Director of Financing and Accounting / F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.

Michael was born into the business, meeting and networking with others across the coffee industry since an early age. Previously serving as the Purchasing Director at F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc., his current role is now that of Managing Director of Finance and Accounting. Michael explains that despite the formal titles, in a family business, you wear many hats; his experience ranges from sales to sustainability to equipment servicing.  

Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry: “Be of service.” [Publisher’s note: As you will observe through his favorite past NCA memory below, Michael certainly exemplifies the phrase, “practice what you preach,” and we are very appreciative of the role that Michael had in the development of the NCA Next Gen Council!]

Favorite past NCA memory: Michael played an integral role in the creation and development of the NCA Next Gen Council with the mission of nurturing, building, and developing the next generation of industry leaders.

Recommended reading: “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek

Many thanks to Jonathan, JD, and Michael for sharing their stories and advice for this edition of “Words of Wisdom!” Their leadership and service to the NCA is admirable and tremendously appreciated! 

Four Revealing Coffee Trends You Need to Know

By William “Bill” Murray, National Coffee Association President & CEO


The world of coffee has never been more complex – which is why having consistent, transparent data about coffee drinkers is crucial for your coffee business. 

We’ve just released the Spring 2022 survey of U.S. coffee drinkers, the latest addition to NCA’s legendary coffee trends research, the NCDT – National Coffee Data Trends – with important findings about the rapidly changing consumer landscape.

But it isn’t only the data that is new: Last year we also introduced a new online interactive data and visualization platform, which allows subscribers to NCA research to run custom reports on the vast datasets contained in the NCDT report.

The Spring 2022 NCDT report is now available for purchase, and key highlights include:

1. Nationwide coffee consumption is at a two-decade high. 66% of Americans reported that they had consumed coffee within the past day. This is up a staggering 14% since January 2021 – the largest year-on-year increase we have seen since we began gathering data.

2. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Americans’ coffee drinking habits. While 27% of coffee lovers (up 8% from January 2021) are venturing out of home for their brew more frequently, out of home coffee consumption still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. In addition, we found that at-home coffee consumption remains elevated; 84% of Americans had coffee at home in the past day, up from 4% in January 2020.

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3. The popularity of specialty coffee is at a five-year high. 43% of American coffee drinkers chose a specialty brew in the last day – up by 20% from January 2021. Learn more about specialty coffee in our new, free-to-download specialty coffee breakout report, produced with the support of the Specialty Coffee Association.

4. Americans love espresso-based beverages. Cappuccinos and lattes are tied for the most popular espresso-based drinks nationally, followed closely by plain espresso and café mocha.

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As the country begins to emerge from the worst public health crisis in recent memory, it is only fitting that coffee — backed by decades of independent scientific evidence showing its unique health benefits — is more popular than ever.

 Industry leaders are telling me, over and again, that they have never seen a more complicated, challenging business environment. Our motto here at NCA is “We Serve Coffee” – whether by providing accurate market data, championing fact-based regulation, or celebrating the science of coffee and health. I invite you to acquire our latest market research, as well as learn how joining the NCA can support the strength and success of your coffee business.

 NCA: We Serve Coffee.

 Not sure if you’re an NCA Member? Check our Membership list. If you’re not a member but could benefit from access to this research or other key industry resources, explore your Membership options.

Coffee & Chat with Vern Long, World Coffee Research

By Danielle Woods, Manager, ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) with Inspire Brands, Inc.

In honor of Earth month, we are featuring one of the most prominent organizations in the coffee industry that is using global agricultural R&D to address and mitigate climate change for coffee: World Coffee Research (WCR).

Vern Long is CEO of World Coffee Research, the only industry-driven organization advancing agricultural innovation for coffee, formed to help the industry secure the long-term supply of quality coffee.

Vern, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

I started my academic life in plant breeding, with an interest in genetic diversity and how to mobilize that diversity to address challenges. Variety development was always something I was excited about. When I was 16, my family was driving cross-country, and my mom brought a big stack of National Geographic magazines. I began reading a story about genetic diversity and how it can address the world’s biggest challenges, and from that moment I was hooked.

How did you end up in coffee?

I was doing research in Senegal and Zimbabwe, looking at food systems and how we use agricultural systems to deliver on those goals. I wanted to move from direct research to managing partnerships so joined USAID to help launch the Feed the Future Initiative. This was a broad interagency effort where we developed an agricultural research strategy to enable agriculture to drive economic growth and be a lever for reducing poverty. Over 9 years I managed agricultural research collaborations focused on developing new varieties in many crops, trying to better develop collaborative research to enable scientists to accomplish more together rather than going it alone. I realized there was an opportunity in coffee. The countries producing coffee are very competitive with one another, and have insufficient budgets given the challenges they face. I believed I could bring a lot of experience from working on global research collaborations to support coffee. As an avid coffee drinker, when I understood all of the challenges, it seemed even more urgent to get into coffee at a personal level. [HN1] 

What are some of the challenges within the coffee sector today?

Varieties are a technology that farmers rely on, whether they are tomato growers or coffee farmers. The last time the world had a truly global collaborative research program to produce real innovation in coffee varieties was in 1967, when the Timor Hybrid was mobilized to create coffee leaf rust resistant arabica varieties that are now growing all over the world. So many other crops continued making progress over the years, while coffee did not at a global scale. Mobilizing diversity is critical to our ability to survive with the climate challenges ahead of us. Plant populations across the world are crossed to create new genetic combinations —they can do things that their parents cannot. There are real gaps in coffee, and it is important to develop greater interaction among scientists and the plants themselves which we will achieve by supporting a global coffee breeding network.

What are some of WCR’s strategic priorities?

We are launching a global breeding network that is aligned with the importance of our crop. Coffee drives economic opportunity in many producing countries; it is important to millions of people for a variety of reasons. We are developing varieties to support that need, while preserving the quality that consumers and coffee companies want and identifying the characteristics for farmers to enable their success.

Breeding is critical but it also takes decades, and farmers are planting trees today that will be in the ground for the next twenty years. We know that if they plant the wrong tree, there are consequences. At scale, this poses tremendous risk in terms of supply. So, in addition to variety development, we need to provide tools to support farmer decision-making with the varieties we have available today. WCR has created technical tools to help farmers determine the right variety for them, to have access to healthier plants, and to feel sure the seeds are using are genetically pure. Farmers need to know going in what type of tree they are producing so they can manage it successfully.

How do you reach farmers with your technologies and tools?

What we do drives change, but research and development happens upstream of farmers. We partner with national coffee institutes and organizations like Technoserve to make the connection between new varieties, nurseries, and farmers. At WCR, we want to make sure we have a relevant portfolio of technologies to share with farmers through our partnerships.

How can organizations get involved with WCR?

We believe that every company in the coffee sector should invest in agricultural research and development for coffee’s long-term existence, whether that’s via WCR or another mechanism. There is a huge gap in the funding of coffee agriculture research and development. If you look at investment levels for other crops with similar economic value as coffee—there is a profound gap. We need to acknowledge the gap and recognize that if we want to have coffee in the years ahead, we need investment. To put it bluntly: the alternative is that our children will all be drinking synthetic coffee – which is more than simply a shift for consumers, it removes an important source of revenue for farmers and producing countries. When you are a member of WCR, you drive the agenda. Companies that are not participating do not get a seat at the table to weigh in on the varieties of the future.

What is something you want the coffee sector to be aware of?

We need to make sure the industry understands the risks facing the coffee industry but recognize the opportunity as well. If you look at the success of other crops, we can bring those tools and technologies into coffee. If we want to continue sourcing coffee from diverse origins, we need to understand we have a choice in the matter and a collective responsibility to drive investment to support our collective goals. But protecting coffee is bigger than just our industry. Coffee produces revenue for lower income countries and contributes significantly to human welfare.

Now it is Earth Month, what does Earth Day mean to you?

Things are pretty grim around the world and there is a lot going on that can make you feel powerless in the face of large planetary challenges. We need to sequester more carbon in biomass on the planet. We need more trees to help reduce emissions. Those of us involved in tree agriculture—i.e., the entire coffee industry—can play a role. There is a unique opportunity for coffee to do something for the entire global community. We are in the tree business, and trees are a technology that if deployed well and thoughtfully can help us sequester a tremendous amount of carbon. Farmers need more productive coffee trees. Young growing trees absorb a lot of carbon dioxide. Renovating coffee farms at scale has the potential to solve two problems at once. If your organization has a priority to reduce emissions or a commitment to net zero, trees are a very promising place to start and investment in agricultural research and development can deliver.

To learn more about WCR’s efforts visit https://worldcoffeeresearch.org/.


 [HN1]If we need space, could cut this line

The Gender Equity Index: An Innovative Tool to Benefit Coffee’s Hidden Workforce (Guest post from Equal Origins)

By Kimberly Easson, Founder and CEO, Equal Origins (formerly The Partnership for Gender Equity)

Women play a crucial role in producing coffee, contributing anywhere between 40-80% of the labor it takes to get coffee beans from the farm to your final cup. 

However, coffee is generally thought of as a “man’s crop.” In some coffee-producing countries, a man’s identity as a coffee producer is essential to defining their self-worth and position within the community. 

Women’s roles are often undervalued, impacting their ability to gain new skills and seize the same opportunities available to men. Even though the coffee industry invests more than $500 million per year in farmer education and technical support for global producers, much of that investment doesn’t reach or benefit women. 

The Gender Equity Index (GEI) is an exciting new tool to ensure women can access the services they need to be successful. At Equal Origins (formerly The Partnership for Gender Equity), we developed the GEI for companies that provide sustainability education and technical support to farmers and farmer organizations. 

The GEI is a tool for coffee traders like ECOM, EFICO and Caravela; development organizations like Lutheran World Relief and Technoserve; and government agencies like the Colombian Coffee Federation and ANACAFE. The GEI tool helps ensure that these organizations’ programs reach women equally to men and gives them targeted recommendations to improve their efforts.

A Collaboration for Change 

The Gender Equity Index is a 67 question diagnostic tool that focuses on five pillars of gender equity: 

  • Organizational Capacity
  • Strategy and Analysis
  • Reach Women
  • Benefit Women
  • Empower and Transform 

Equal Origins returns a report with a score and targeted recommendations for each user who takes the diagnostic test. From this report, the user can develop an action plan to improve their performance on gender equity, and share their progress with industry partners, investors, and internal stakeholders.  

We developed the GEI with a number of partners and experts. In 2021, ten companies invested $127,000 to help develop the tool: Lavazza, Barrie House Coffee, Allegro, Paulig, ECOM, Caravela, 4C, EFICO, Jot, and Lutheran World Relief (MOCCA). Leaders within each organization also provided their expertise and knowledge to ensure the tool was relevant and addressed their organization’s needs. 

In addition, we invited experts from a wide range of backgrounds to ensure the tool relies on current best practices in gender and development. We also relied heavily on the work done by a research team at Yale University’s Jackson School of Global Affairs. With funding from Women Forward International, we asked them to identify the gaps in existing services. They compiled their findings in a report entitled: “Gender Equitable Service Provision in Coffee and Cocoa: The State of the Industry.”

We’ve tested the tool with a dozen partners so far. So far, our testing group reports increased awareness about how their current programming impacts women and many plan to redesign internal systems with gender equity as a goal. “Going through the GEI diagnostic sparked necessary conversations between two of our field teams about what we need to do to integrate gender equity into all our projects and programs,” says Pam Schreier, Global Sustainability Senior Manager for Cocoa at ECOM. (You can read more about how ECOM and Caravela have benefitted from using the GEI below).  

However, the GEI isn’t just an internal diagnostic tool. Roasters can ask their trade partners to use the tool. From there, they can assess how equitable their sustainability programs are and brainstorm specific efforts to promote gender equity applicable to their position within the industry. 

“From a roaster standpoint, the GEI tool is a great way to engage our business partners and begin the necessary discussions on gender equity,” says Craig James, NCA member and CEO of Barrie House Coffee in Elmsford, New York. “Barrie House has numerous sustainability programs that we’re actively involved in, but how do we start to truly raise our own expectations to maximize our support of these important programs? One approach is embracing the need to establish gender equity as a recurring budget item within our organization’s annual planning cycle.”

Fostering a More Equitable Coffee Future

For several years now, the coffee sector has invested in initiatives to support women’s entrepreneurship and leadership — often through sourcing “women’s coffees” or coffee grown by women.

These are essential efforts that must continue, and now with the GEI, the industry also can reach women working behind the scenes. 

We’re referring to coffee’s hidden workforce or the women working on farms where the titled landowner might be their father or their spouse. Their significant labor often goes unseen. By recognizing that gender equity is a sustainability issue, we can work to embed targeted and specific initiatives to ensure capacity building programs also reach and benefit this vast hidden workforce. 

With the GEI, the industry can begin to understand the issue of gender equity using a shared language. Much like the language of coffee tasting, building a shared understanding can facilitate conversations for action and impact among partners globally. 

“The GEI is an empowerment tool,” says Kimberly Easson, Founder and CEO of Equal Origins. “It’s difficult to know how effective any one action is, and the GEI is a simple tool that gives people the language to assess their gender equity capacity. Not only does the GEI provide essential context, but it also offers companies who want to do more or do better a launching pad to start. It’s a tool that empowers people to take action now to promote gender equity.” 

No coffee is grown without the help of women. It’s time they are offered the same opportunities as men to learn, grow, and prosper.

How can I get involved? 

  • Learn more about Equal Origins and our mission to build a more equitable coffee future here: http://www.equalorigins.org/GEI
  • If your company wants to learn more, adopt the tool, or support our work, we encourage you to contact Equal Origins at kimberly@equalorigins.org. 
  • We encourage roasters to ask their supply chain partners to publicly report their efforts toward building gender equity aligned with the Gender Equity Index. 
  • If you are a coffee lover, we encourage you to learn more about your favorite brands’ efforts to address gender equity.
  • Share these facts about women in coffee and get people talking! We’ve created a few social media graphics you’re free to use (find them at http://www.equalrigins.org/GEI_graphics) — tag @equalorigins in your post! 
  • Even though the coffee industry invests more than $500 million per year in farmer education and technical support for global producers, much of that investment doesn’t reach or benefit women. #GenderEquityIndex
  • The GEI is an innovative tool meant to ensure that women can access the services they need and are recognized equally for the work that they do. #GenderEquityIndex
  • “Coffee can’t grow without women, and it’s time they are offered the same opportunities as men to learn, grow, and prosper.” See how Equal Origins’ new Gender Equity Index is helping to make change possible. #GenderEquityIndex

What Others Are Saying About the GEI: 

“Using the GEI was a great learning experience for our team. It helped us quantify what we know and don’t know about gender equity. The GEI will help us to write a technical assistance program that puts gender equity at the forefront. We have already learned so much through using this tool.” Alejandro Cadena, Caravela Coffee

“Going through the GEI diagnostic process sparked necessary conversations between two of our field teams about what we need to do to integrate gender equity into all our projects and programs. Both field teams work in countries with ongoing projects that focus on women but don’t really expand outward. The GEI helped both teams see what they could do to impact the entire coffee supply chain and address equity on a larger scale. We’re happy to see what happens when we use the tool in other coffee- and cocoa-producing countries.” Pam Schreier, Global Sustainability Senior Manager for Cocoa at ECOM.

NCA 2022 Preview: Behind the Scenes with Scott Clemons

Each year, the National Coffee Association Annual Convention presents a full program, filled with dynamic speakers and sessions covering an array of topics from coffee data trends, to logistics, to coffee and health, and so much more. Among those sessions is one that is so well received that it returns year after year and continues to be a highly anticipated keynote session at the NCA Annual Convention: the economic outlook with Scott Clemons, Chief Investment Strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

Michelle Dunaway, Sales Executive at Mercon Specialty and NCA Next Gen Council member, spoke with Scott to learn more about his background and career and to give you a sneak peek at what is to come in his session at #NCA2022. (Scott will be presenting his session, “2022 Vision: The New Normal,” on Wednesday, March 9, from 10:10 – 11:00am EST at the National Coffee Association Virtual Convention.)


Upon graduating from Princeton in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics – a rather unusual degree for Wall Street – Scott joined Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. [BBH], where he still works today, 32 years later, and now holds the position of Chief Investment Strategist.

Early on in his career, Scott earned the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation, to not only learn the skills and practical applications of financial analysis, but to also demonstrate his dedication in investing to both his clients and his firm, BBH.

Scott credits much of his professional success with skills learned on the job. He began his career with BBH in London in the early 1990s as an Analyst & Portfolio Manager. This was an exciting time for European economics; the European rate mechanism had come into play – a precursor of the Euro – and the world saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the iron curtain which led to the introduction of the market-based economy in Eastern Europe.

After five years of working in Europe and traveling all over the world asking questions, he came to a fork in the road: to commit to life in London or to return to the United States. In the late 1990s, Scott made the United States his permanent home, and he switched his attention to domestic markets in the role of Portfolio Manager, U.S. Equities for BBH. Come 2005, Scott took advantage of an opportunity to be on the client-facing side of the business, transitioning to the role of Relationship Manager for the NY office location of BBH.  

Along the way, Scott has always been curious about how things work, what motivates and drives decisions, why something is the way it is, and what such things can tell us about the past and the future.

Today, Scott holds the position of Chief Investment Strategist. In his own words, Scott described his role as, “the guy that gets to look around at everything going on in the world and try to make sense of it.” So, what does this mean for his clients? Scott explained that the clients of BBH are running businesses, so they appreciate the guidance and advice on everything they need to know that will benefit their operations.

Scott does not think of himself as an economist – economics is not his academic background – but rather as a curious guy who likes to know how things work, who takes the time to read, analyze, study, and then synthesize information so that he can convey the explanation to an audience allowing them too to make better sense of the world economy.  

Question: What is the secret to success in investing… and to life in general?

Scott: “Read voraciously.

There is a rationale for this: success is a question of pattern recognition. For example, if you are a professional athlete, you can recognize the play in front of you. You think, “I’ve been here before and know exactly what to do.” The challenge is how to develop good pattern recognition. Experience is gained a day at a time, but there is an out to that; you can get more than one day’s experience at a time by borrowing from the experiences of others. That, is how reading comes into play.

[Author’s note: Scott reads The Financial Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.]

In order to develop a differentiated insight, you need to read very broadly. Markets are just the intersection of human emotion. Markets, the economy, and businesses are a collision of human emotions – fear, greed, anxiety, lust, excitement, aversion, regret – and these all these get measured by the S&P 500, through GDP, or through corporate profitability terms. At the end of the day, it comes down to understanding people.”

The single best analyst of human emotion was William Shakespeare. Some of the best investors Scott has ever worked with play with uncertainty and doubt; the single best explication of the psychology of doubt is Hamlet – the whole play is about the perils of indecision.

On the other side of the equation, some of the best investors Scott has ever worked with have such courage in their convictions; it’s the opposite extreme. Once again, the single best psychological analysis on the perils of certainty is William Shakespeare’s King Lear.

The challenge is to identify the psychological extremes in our own thinking and to react to that. In short, what makes you a better investor is anything and everything, because it all adds to your ability as a thinker to identify patterns more readily and more originally.

Question: Are there any opportunities that those of us in coffee should be looking for?

Scott: “They way in which consumer behavior has shifted during the pandemic is fascinating. What is the role of coffee outside of the home? Are coffee shops a delivery mechanism for caffeine? Do coffee shops need a mobile app to serve more quickly? Or are coffee shops a gathering place for entrepreneurs and solo workers to come and sit for a long period of time?”

Sneak peek! What can we expect at Scott’s upcoming lecture, “2022 Vision: The New Normal,” during the NCA Virtual Convention?

Scott shared that there are four big transitions underway that will dominate conversation in the United States and in the global economy:

  1. A transition in economic leadership away from government spending and emergency support
  2. Inflation/deflation – inflation is a price we pay for monetary support
  3. Interest rates – history has taught us that the “why” the Fed is raising rates is important. If the Fed is raising interest rates in response to more confidence in economic activity, then markets and businesses see this as necessary for the economy to continue to flourish. If, on the other hand, the markets decides that the Fed has lost their grasp on inflation and they are scrambling to catch up, this can be disruptive. Which narrative wins out?
  4. A surge in productivity – the silver lining as we are doing more with less

Throughout the course of the conversation, Scott mentioned how Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. is renovating their NY office and adding in an upscale coffer bar. As exciting at this already sounds for all of us coffee lovers, Scott made a noteworthy comment. He explained that in the past, they [BBH] have thought of coffee as a caffeine delivery mechanism, but now they have changed their thinking; they recognize that coffee is what brings people together, so now they see coffee as a connector.

Although we will not be sharing coffee with each other in person at NCA this year, don’t miss out on these connections! Be sure to register for #NCA2022 and check out Scott’s session, “2022 Vision: The New Normal,” on Wednesday, March 9, from 10:10 – 11:00am EST at the National Coffee Association Virtual Convention.