90+ Profiles: Getting to Know Jason Long, Café Imports

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Who are you and what do you do in coffee?

I’m Jason Long and I’m a co-owner of Café Imports. I oversee our sourcing around the world.

How and when did you get started in the coffee business?

How? I walked in the door of Café Imports in the summer of 2001, just wanting to see a coffee importer after years of home-roasting green beans from Tom Owen and Sweet Maria’s. I never left.

What jobs have you held in the industry?

All my jobs in coffee have been at Café Imports. I’ve sample-roasted coffee, cupped coffee, bought coffee, sold coffee, carried our booths to The SCAA Event, carried them home from The SCAA Event, worked on our website, worked on strategy, and other odds and ends. I’m also a former chair of the SCAA Sustainability Council and current Chair of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the group that runs the Cup of Excellence (COE) programs.

What people and/or things inspire you, coffee-wise?

Everyone, everywhere. This is not the lame answer that it appears to be, but rather the realization that as I have travelled around the globe and met everyone from subsistence farmers in Africa, to wealthy coffee “barons” in Latin America, to baristas in Europe, to roasters in the States—everyone, while appearing very different, is really the same. I feel lucky to be immersed in an industry filled with people that care.

What would you like to see change in the coffee industry?

I guess I’d say less hype and more just being about the coffee. Also, more cooperation amongst everyone. I feel like many people have the “look at me” syndrome, and try to always reinvent the wheel. I understand that unique people are drawn to this business, but a little cooperation could go a long way.

What is your favorite coffee beverage and/or brewing method?

I love single-origin espresso, and if not pulling a shot, the Clever or other pourover comes in second for me. Hate to say it, but French Press ain’t my thing. I think it clips acidity and high tones and has too much sediment.

What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to coffee?

Hopefully, pushing the envelope on high-end coffee by finding smaller producers who have the altitude, the varieties, the interest, and the passion in their coffee and helping them to improve their coffee by supporting them. I’d like to help them believe that their coffee is special and has a place in the world as specialty coffee. We’ve never been a “find-a-brand-name-coffee-and-just-import-it” type of company. Sourcing and development is what motivates us. It is the discovery and invention, if you will.

What do you think others would say is your greatest contribution to coffee?

I have no idea. Hopefully I’ve helped the coffee world overall, I guess that is all I can say.

What’s next for you?

This. There’s no place in coffee I’d rather be.

Who’s the person you’d most like to see us interview next?

Norbert Niederhauser of Cropster. I think he’s adding science and precision so roasters can focus on the art of roasting.

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