A Chat with Mike Mazulo
“Retreat means a lot to me. It’s the time where I can meet up with like-minded folk and industry people, as well as people who support coffee roasters.”
In preparation for this year’s CRG Retreat, we’ve been chatting with some of the many volunteers who make events like this possible. Today, we’d like you to meet MIKE MAZULO, a three-year CRG Retreat volunteer.
Who is Mike Mazulo?
Mike Mazulo: Head roaster, production manager, coffee nerd, coffee science geek, cupper, father, and husband.
How many Retreats have you attended/volunteered?
MM: I have attended six and volunteered at three Retreats.
What does CRG Retreat mean to you?
MM: Retreat means a lot to me. It’s the time where I can meet up with like-minded folk and industry people, as well as people who support coffee roasters. It’s the time I can actually hang out with people who do the same thing is as me which is burning ourselves, lifting heavy bags of coffee, putting green in and watching coffee beans come out with the manipulation of airflow and heat!
What’s the best thing about attending Retreat?
MM: Being able to be around roasters, learning more about the new sciences, going to the symposiums and seminars available to everybody. It’s nice to be able to work in teams during the team challenges; meeting people and accomplishing something together. You really get to know one another on the teams.
What’s the best thing about volunteer at Retreat?
MM: Being a bigger part of the events, whether it’s the guild or SCA. It’s being able to know that you’re serving a purpose to help to support something that always needs all the help that it could possibly get. Also meeting all the other folks who give up their own time to help out to get these events together and make it a great success for everybody.
How has volunteering helped you as a coffee professional?
MM: Oh wow! First and foremost, it’s the people you get to work with; everybody comes together and shares ideas. As a group, minus the team activities, working together towards a goal. As far as a coffee professional goes, it’s put me in touch with a lot of folks and opportunities to do bigger, grander things within the coffee community and Coffee Roasters Guild.
What’s your favorite volunteer role?
MM: Being a station instructor, that’s always been my favorite thing to do – it’s funny and awesome to work with bunch of folks in these classes. Watching their eyes light up and have these “aha moments” as you’re going through some of the things you’re teaching. That gives me a lot of hope and inspiration that I can carry back and be proud of, it’s keeps me going.
“When roasting you do the same thing over and over again but when you have a chance to talk about it as you’re doing it, it’s another thing that brings back excitement and keeps you driving to want to do more. It’s the type of feeling I get when I go to the Retreats.”
Is there anything you learned from Retreat that you took back to work with you?
MM: Oh yes, I brought back a lot of stuff, not just the stuff that I’ve learned from the educational classes but things that I have learned from other roasters. I have my own assistant and apprentice roasters here and it’s knowledge that I can share with them. Again, it’s all about the inspiration and drive to come back and get everyone excited, just from me being excited about what I’ve learned and done. When roasting you do the same thing over and over again but when you have a chance to talk about it as you’re doing it, it’s another thing that brings back excitement and keeps you driving to want to do more. It’s the type of feeling I get when I go to the Retreats.
Are there any conversations from Retreat that have stuck with you?
MM: One of the biggest conversations I’ve had that was actually a conversation I fell in to. There was a moment where a couple of folks were talking and said that when they’re roasting it’s like being on a desert island; you’re by yourself and no one comes to interrupt you, a lot of the time you’re totally focused on the work and you’re very diligent about what’s going on – there are times where you just feel alone out there. I couldn’t help but stop and saying, “you too?” That conversation went off from there. I had many conversations throughout the night about theories and heat applications. One night we were up in my hotel room, drinking coffee, talking about different processes. Come to find out the next morning, that the person next in the room next to us said she couldn’t sleep because of what we were talking about – we had some cool conversations, but she just couldn’t sleep. We get excited and start talking really loud – I’m Italian so my voice raises and my hands flail. It was a really good night so that next year she said she brought ear plugs!
What’s your fondest memory of Retreat?
MM: Thinking about this, I’ve had a lot of fondest memories. The fondest memories come back year on year when you see the same folks you worked with or volunteered beside. It’s really good to see old friends year after year who are still as excited, if not more so, as when you first met them. To be a part of everything at Retreat. I’ve been a part of teams that have won the team challenge over the past couple of years and those are very fond memories. It’s really just working with everybody as a team to do something.
Are your lifelong friends from retreat based across the states?
MM: They’re definitely scattered across the states – in fact not a single one is based near me. We keep in touch by email, I do “Marco Polo” with a couple of roasters, we talk about coffee. During the holidays we send each other coffee; we get bored of our own because we roast, drink and cup the same coffees all the time, so we share coffees and we have something different; it strikes up conversation. I do randomly send out coffee without telling folks – I usually get a text, email or even call from people getting excited saying “thanks, I was just thinking about coffee” or “I saw you had that coffee and I wondered what it tasted like!”, I get that from time to time. The same goes back, I’ll receive coffee from a friend randomly – it’s always fun to get new coffees and know that they’re still thinking about you.
Why would you recommend volunteering at Retreat?
MM: I would personally recommend volunteering because without volunteers this event couldn’t really happen. I know that volunteering is some of the hardest work but it has to be done to make all this happen. I still feel like I’m just a small drop in the bucket of what it takes to make these things happen. Though it might be just a drop, I’m still glad to know that I can put my time in somewhere to be an assistance, to help out to achieve these things to happen. I know so many volunteers that I have to give mad props to, who do so well, I see them run around from morning to night, not participating in anything else other than just working. There’s a couple who are so amazing in what they do, and I have to highly commend them. Cait McGehee, she is always working, I’ve never seen her stop to take a drink, she’s always waiting until everyone else finishes eating dinner before she eats, she’s one that a lot of people have noticed and pointed out how much of a hard working person she is. There are some folks who give up their time to help teach education, Brent Patton and Jim Brady – both of them have inspired me to volunteer, get more involved, and start working towards being an instructor for the Roasters Guild.
I know that a lot of people ask if the Coffee Roasters Guild and Retreat is still relevant, and I say yes! It’s only as relevant as you make it – if you put yourself out there, to learn and be a part of everything at Retreat, you’re going to get a lot out of it. I thoroughly think that it is relevant!
Join Mike at CRG Retreat August 15-18, where he will be volunteering! For more information and to book your place visit the CRG Retreat website here.