Brian Clemens (newbie roaster) and Mitch Montgomery (owner and roaster) of Relevant Coffee competed in this year’s Cascadia Roaster’s Competition on Nov. 3 at Buckman Coffee Factory in Portland. Montgomery explained, “We had a friendly competition. We were talking smack the whole time, but in my heart of hearts he’s my student and I wanted him to succeed.”
After Montgomery placed in the Judge’s Choice competition at last year’s Cascadia Roaster’s Competition, Clemens became serious about learning how to roast coffee. Clemens said, “When Mitch won last year, I had just started roasting, and I said to him that within a year I want to have the confidence to compete in Cascadia Cup and to beat a few roasters and maybe even him. That was the goal — just friendly competition.”
Part Yoda and part Burgess Meredith in the “Rocky” movies, Montgomery treats his students with a mix of high expectations and compassion. His goal is to empower them to excel and become independent.
“Nobody ever taught me how to roast coffee, and it took me a lot of work to get where I am,” he said, “but I want to teach because you don’t have to go through the crap I went through to figure it out. I want to show Brian: Here’s everything I learned.”
At this year’s Cascadia Roaster’s Competition, Montgomery and Clemens competed against 49 other roasters from Washington, Oregon and California. The majority of these roasters had years of experience and came from well-known coffee shops, such as Water Avenue and Barista.