WINNERS: A Shot in the Dark 2020 comes to a celebratory end!

Friday, 31 July, 2020

After an intense 4 day long reveal process, the winner of South Africa's premiere coffee roasting competition, Coffee Magazine's A Shot in the Dark presented by Genio Roasters, was finally announced to a live audience yesterday, and racked up to just under 1000 views on IGTV within a few hours.

48 Coffee Roasteries from around Southern Africa began the competition in April 2020, each receiving the exact same specialty coffee, a Guatemalan micro-lot from Vulcan estates, courtesy of Sevenoaks Trading. Each Roastery then roasted the coffee in many different ways and submitted their best roast to the judges. These were cupped and scored and left 10 Finalists.

The Top 10 Finalists were then given another 2 tasks: To roast another specialty coffee, this time a Rwandan single origin from Baho coffee, courtesy of Specialty Coffee Exchange, as well as creating a blend for espresso from their first round coffee, the new specialty coffee and a third coffee from Uganda.

Remember all the Judging was done BLIND. None of the judges knew which roasteries were connected to the coffees they were tasting!

In the end it was Father Coffee from Johannesburg that most impressed the judges and claimed the title of A Shot in the Dark Champion for 2020, over Quaffee (Cape Town) as runner-up and Rosetta Roastery (Cape Town) in third position.

"We are so happy to be in first position!" says Tapuwa Gwandure from Father Coffee, the roaster responsible for the winning entry. Tapuwa's roast was voted the best internally by the team at Father Coffee, under the guidance of Chad Goddard, who said: "We have roasted quite a lot of the Rwandan Buguoyi coffee so it was a relief to get it as the Finals coffee. We don't roast a lot of Guatemalan. It was harder to find nuance in that coffee and of course, blending is always a challenge, but the bulk of what we sell is blended coffee, so the goal is to find what extracts at the same rate and also to find a place for the Ugandan and you need to use it quite sparingly and use what it has to offer."

The Winners of A Shot in the Dark presented by Genio Roasters win An Origin Trip with Coffee Magazine, 60kgs of specialty coffee from Sevenoaks Trading, a R4000 Genio Roasters hamper and tool set as well as the floating A Shot in the Dark winners shield.

The Final Top 10 positions for A Shot in the Dark 2020:

Father Coffee

Quaffee

Rosetta Roastery

Favour & Grace

Highland Coffee Roastery

Bottomless Blessings

Roast Wolff

Truth Coffee

Gansbaai Coffee Co

Scuro Coffee Crafts

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: 5th & 4th Places

Wednesday, 29 July, 2020

On Day 3 of the big reveal we chatted to the incredible team from Sevenoaks Trading. 

When asked how they decided on the beautiful Guatemalan coffee (from Jesus Recinos of Vulcan Coffee) the roasters received in the Preliminary Round, Carol Corlett, head of the team, answered simply, "Because it's my favourite coffee!". From a woman who tastes amazing coffees from around the world on a daily basis, that is high praise indeed. Apart from the wonderful coffees, Guatemala proved the best origin country to visit because of the people and hospitality, "I lost my heart in Guatemala." (Don't you want to try this amazing coffee!!!)

Sevenoaks have got some exciting new Ethiopian coffees that have just arrived and some delicious offerings from Nicaragua are set to arrive in October, so get in touch with them ASAP!

We also chatted to Mike MacDonald who heads up the Cap Town branch of Sevenoaks Trading and has been part of the ASITD Judging Team since year One. He explained the evolution of the scoresheet and how his mind is constantly blown at what the roasters get out of these coffees!

Congratulations to the roasters who placed 4th and 5th!

4th: Favour & Grace - Werner Gous

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it?

10 months. I was a silent partner in an 'on the side' roastery where I observed the craft and later learned the craft through literature and other sources available. 

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark?

There were nice prizes, haha. We took a shot 'in the dark' at competing against the best, and trusted that favour, grace would be displayed in our successes. 

What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees?

Challenging; with only a limited number of roasts, all variables could not be tested - so good planning, variable elimination and many cuppings was our go to solution. 

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

Our biggest challenge was blending for an espresso and tasting 5 to 10 shots a session. Our biggest lesson was that you can't test all variables, so eliminate some early.  (Ed's Note: Favour & Grace scored the highest in the Espresso Blending round!)

5th: Highland Coffee Roastery - Chris Pefanis

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it?

I started late in 2009, after buying a bakery in Clarens and realising freshly roasted coffee would be a perfect compliment to fresh bread. 

I thought to myself, "I love coffee, so hard hard could this be?".

Little did I know that that would be the beginning of a continual learning experience, and that it was quite a bit more difficult than I initially suspected!

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark?

Entering a competition is kind of a test of my abilities as a roaster. One can get a bit caught up in one's bubble, and it's helpful having an impartial test of your abilities.

What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees?

It's tricky to have a very limited quantity to work with. The pressure to get a good roast almost right from the first batch is high, especially when roasting on a larger roaster. My smallest batch I am comfortable roasting in my 5kg machine is 2kg, so the 10kg batch  gave me 4 test batches and 1 final to submit.

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

The biggest challenge I think was the limited amount of greens supplied. Getting used to a new coffee is a trial and error process, so the margin of error is narrow. Light roasts are also always a bit of a challenge, especially when they're being judged! Refining my ability to roast a great light roast is my most important lesson learned.

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: 7th & 6th Places

Tuesday, 28 July, 2020

On Day 2, Instagram quit in the middle of us saving the Live Broadcast, but we had an awesome time chatting to Grant of Specialty Coffee Exchange who sponsored the Finals Round Coffee. Grant has been with us on this journey from year one and always brings in an exciting coffee for the roasters to play with.

"We love bringing in new, exciting coffees to the South African market. We're always looking to find something special and to keep pushing the quality that the farmers are working so hard at and rewarding them for it." says Grant 

This is a sentiment echoed by the producer himself of the Rwandan Coffee used in ASITD competition, Emmanual Rusatira: of Baho Coffee, Rwanda:  "Support for the coffee farmer is easy. Just pay a fair price for the coffee, we will show you the change!"  

We also chatted to the legendary Cuth Bland (Bean There Coffee Company) who competed in the first year and switched to the judging panel from year two, before revealing the 6th and 7th places!

6th Place: Bottomless Blessings - Andre Vermuelen

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it?

I’ve been roasting for almost 2 years now. After dreaming about a coffee shop for many years I very impulsively bought a second hand Genio and started roasting. 

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark? It was the right thing to do, if you know what I mean! (Ed's note: Andre was defending his 2019 A Shot in the Dark Title!!!)

What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees?

It was just huge excitement to open the bags and have a look at the beans in the first place. And then to wish you ordered more.  And then the tension to know you got only one shot at it. But to eventually smell and see the beans developing into its full potential. That was the ultimate. 

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

My biggest challenge was to know the right time to release the beans into the cooling tray. I guess for me personally it was also important to learn that you can get so technical about the process that you forget to enjoy the art of roasting. Then to do it all over again and remember why you started roasting in the first place. And most of the time the roast turns out to be much better. 

7th Place: Roast Wolff - Albert & Marius Schroeder

Finally it has arrived! Coffees from Rwanda & Uganda for the final round of Shot In The Dark 2020. Thank you to all the...

Posted by Roast Wolff on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it?

We have been roasting for about 2 1/2 years, we got into it being curious. We used and then modified our moms popcorn popper and got some nice results, until it blew up and then decided it was safer to get a coffee roaster instead.

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark?

We saw that it could be a great vehicle to get our name out there more and gain some credibility in the coffee sphere. What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees? It was challenging because our production roaster is also our sample roaster. We find that roasting quantities smaller than 2kg at a time yields inferior results on our Genio 6, so in reality we didn’t get many chances to get the best out of the coffees.

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

The biggest challenge was timing the roasting. We had to send our samples from CT which meant there was little time to test the sample we wanted to send because we wanted it as fresh as possible on the cupping table. Also creating a three coffee blend with limited time, limited coffee and no sample roaster is a challenge in itself. The biggest lesson was that win or lose at the end of the day we are all doing what we love.

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: 10th, 9th & 8th Places

Monday, 27 July, 2020

In the times of COVID-19 we had to get creative with how we presented the Top 10 which would normally have happened at Creative Coffee Week!

This format meant that we could chat to the amazing judges and sponsors that pulled off this world class competition as well as get to know the roasters.

Day One we spoke to Matt Carter, one of our esteemed Judges, the espresso queen, Tintswalo 'Tiny' Tshabalala who pulled the espresso shots according to the roasters specifications and Sinjon Wicks of Equipment Cafe who educated us on the beautiful Mahlkonig E65 grinder used in the competition.

Then we began the countdown of the positions in the Top 10!

8th Place: Truth Coffee - Oliver Rollinson

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it?

I've been roasting since 2016. I really got into coffee roasting when I visited Vancouver. I took myself on a tour of over 80 of the city's coffee shops and was amazed by the quality and diversity of the coffee. I realised that almost 50% of coffee shops were roasting their own beans, so the coffee was always fresh and exciting. I then took a trip to Guatemala and did my first roasting course in Antigua and haven't looked back since.

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark?

I'd always wanted to test my skills as a roaster and so when the opportunity to take part in a roasting competition I jumped at the chance.

What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees?

I love working with small quantities of coffee, although clearly there is always a challenge as you are limited with the number of roasts you can do!

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

A couple of challenges I experienced. Firstly it was the first time for me working on the 6kg Genio roaster. Although it's fairly intuitive I have always found that each roaster has it's own personality and takes a little while to get used to. Secondly, knowing you have limited coffee to perfect your roast. Deciding on the right batch size and deciding what aspects of the roast to tweak, in order to optimize the roast was a challenge

9th Place: Gansbaai Coffee Co. - Henk van Zyl

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it? 

I have always found coffee interesting, I took up roasting , as a hobby,  six years ago and am happy to inform that the interest has turned into a slightly unhealthy obsession. 

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark?

Competition has a fabulous way of enabling growth. Its not something that is easy to measure, but I relish in the opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge. 

What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees?

Very stressful! Working with these great coffees makes it easier. 

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

Working with lovingly produced , quality coffees , trying to get the full potential, to what makes these coffees so special ..getting that right. The biggest lesson learned was to trust my palate a bit more and willingness to always be open to learn. 

10th Place: Scuro Coffee Crafts - Dwain Fiorita 

Name of Roaster: 

6kg Scuro Coffee Roaster. Coffee roasted by Dwain Fiorita.

How long have you been roasting coffee and how did you get into it?

I have been roasting for approximately 2 years. In 2016 we tasted FRESH coffee for the first time at a roastery in Johannesburg and was hooked. We started experimenting with home roasting in different ways until we came to a point where we designed and built our very own 6kg roaster.

Why did you enter A Shot in the Dark?

To test our "roast-ability" of the machines we manufacture and for marketing purposes.

What was it like to work with small quantities of these delicious coffees?

It was difficult for me because we do not have a sample roaster and I had to do all my sample roasting of 500g each on my 6kg coffee roaster. I roasted a total of 39 times for the entire competition to produce the best coffee I could and I wanted to stretch the coffee as far as possible.

I learned a lot through roasting these coffees because I have never roasted these coffees before. What an experience!

What was your biggest challenge and biggest lesson from this process?

The biggest challenge was the espresso blend. To blend three coffees and to get the correct balance was a challenge. And for us not having an espresso machine made the challenge even more challenging. But we had some great help.

The biggest lesson was that there is always more potential in coffee even if you think you've nailed it. And how to blend three coffees.

Headline Sponsor: Genio Roasters

Prelim Round Coffee and Venue Sponsor: Sevenoaks Trading

Finals Round Coffee Sponsor: Specialty Coffee Exchange

Brewing equipment partner: Equipment Cafe

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: The Final Countdown

Monday, 15 June, 2020

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: Preliminary Round Coffee Focus

Friday, 5 June, 2020

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: Finalist Coffee Focus

Thursday, 4 June, 2020

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A Shot in the Dark 2020: Top 10 Announced

Thursday, 28 May, 2020

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