It’s a sunny spring morning. Beautiful, really. You’re about to leave for work and you’re surprised to discover you’re actually running a bit ahead of schedule for once. Excellent, you think. I have just enough time to stop by Cups before I head to the office!

Every traffic light between you and your closest cafe is green. You arrive between morning rushes, say hello to your favorite barista (you know the one) and order a cup of Guatemalan roast. The aroma hits your nostrils, and right as you take your first sip, you think, Now if only everything today could be this easy!

Want to know a secret? A whole lotta work went into making it that easy. That’s where Shawn Rogers comes in.

Shawn wears two hats at Cups—he’s both our Vice President of Operations and our coffee roaster. If that sounds like a lot of responsibility for one person, well…it is. He’s been with us for about 25 years now, so it’s safe to say he’s proven himself up to the challenge many times over.

Shawn began his Cups journey by working with us part-time while still in college. He began roasting in 1999 and later formalized his training through a series of certifications ranging from purchasing and buying to thermodynamics and heat transfer. “I am not a scientist,” says Shawn, laughing, “but I listen to the scientists who tell me how it works.”

In short? Shawn knows coffee.

It’s a good thing too. It’s no secret that COVID-19 has done a number on the global supply chain. Because of the lead time involved—coffee takes months to source, sample, and transport—our industry didn’t feel the full effects of the pandemic in the beginning, but that’s since changed.

“We’ve been buying (our Guatemalan roast) primarily from the Oriflama plantation for a very long time, which is a plantation owned by a couple of sisters,” says Shawn. “It’s really well done, great quality coffee. But we provide coffee for a dozen coffee shops, plus an online store, wholesale accounts, and so on. So, when I purchase a coffee, it has to be enough to meet that volume.”

With supply chain issues hitting the plantation, Shawn has had to get creative. He’s been working with the same importer for 20 years, and she recommended another source for Cups’ Guatemalan roast. However, Cups’ commitment to sourcing quality beans means Shawn needs to try the coffee himself.

So how does that work? For our new Guatemalan roast, Guatemala Huehuetenango, the process looked something like this:

First, promising batches of Guatemalan roast were shipped to a warehouse in Houston. Once they it arrived, samples of each batch were sent to Shawn—about a pot of coffee’s worth of beans—which he then roasted up to see if they met his exacting standards.

Photo of Roaster

Our warehouse roaster prepares a new batch of fresh coffee

“If it’s something I approve,” says Shawn, “then they’ll move it to our warehouses in New Orleans where I store all my coffee. I have hundreds and hundreds of bags of coffee in New Orleans because I can’t store them up here. And about once a month, I get a truck brought up from New Orleans with all the coffee I need.”

So, just to recap: The sample needs to be shipped, roasted, tasted, and approved before the “real” work even begins.

Warehouse Photo 2

Roastery expert preparing shipping labels

After a few samples were tested for quality and taste, Guatemala Huehuetenango was chosen as our new Guatemala origin coffee. An order was shipped to Cups’ warehouses, where it was then prepared for packaging and distribution–a process that is just as meticulous and exact as our quality testing.

Warehouse Photo

Grounds are added carefully before shipping

Remember that the next time you take a sip of a brew that hits just right. Give yourself a mental high five for your discriminating taste and raise your mug to Shawn. Goodness knows he’s earned it.