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Q&A with Open Eye Cafe Owner Scott Conary

Scott Conary, president of Carrboro Coffee Roasters and owner of Open Eye Cafe, will be the head judge for all coffee submissions in this year's Cup of Excellence Awards. Photo courtesy of Scott Conary. 

Scott Conary, president of Carrboro Coffee Roasters and owner of Open Eye Cafe, will be the head judge for all coffee submissions in this year's Cup of Excellence Awards. Photo courtesy of Scott Conary. 

Carrboro Coffee Roasters president and Open Eye Cafe owner Scott Conary will serve as head judge for the Cup of Excellence Awards. Conary will taste 200 types of coffee and judge each on their flavor, body and sustainability. Senior writer Lindsey Hoover spoke to Conary about his experiences in the coffee industry.

The Daily Tar Heel: What made you want to get involved in the coffee industry?

Scott Conary: I’ve always liked coffee and I think as a kid that’s unusual ... Throughout the years I sort of dug in and started learning, so I guess you could say it’s a passion-hobby and it eventually became a business.

DTH: What do you love most about coffee?

SC: It’s always hard to pick one thing, but if I had to, I would say that the people are the most amazing part of coffee. As much as we love coffee and can’t do without it, it’s obviously what drives us to do what we do.

This is one of the few industries where people really choose to come to the industry. You find people who have had other professions and have had other jobs, but then they choose to be involved in coffee and they end up being the happiest people because they came to the profession with open arms.

I go everywhere in the world and every country I go to, you can go to a coffee farm and the people are just amazing.

DTH: What is it like judging competitions like the Cup of Excellence Awards and how long have you been doing it?

SC: I’ve been judging various coffee competitions for the last 14 years. I came to it from the point of view of what kind of things are going to help us as an industry become better ... You get this huge array of expertise and cultural dynamic all centered around coffee.

People use these competitions as ways to learn about coffee and get better at coffee. It’s also a community thing — we come together as a community in the industry, and we interact and share ideas and best practices.

Everyone gets excited and gets better at what we’re doing — and I don’t see that in any other industry ... I can stand here today and tell you that we have changed the face of coffee and how it’s viewed and how it’s served.

DTH: Can you describe your favorite aspect of participating and judging competitions?

SC: I mean, one of the downsides of being a small company — your impact is only so big. It’s as big as you can grow, but you don’t want to grow too fast kind of thing — you don’t want to lose control of your quality.

With the competitions, the impact can be even larger and we’re able to affect more people’s lives.

DTH: Do you, and have you always, drink your coffee black?

SC: Yes and no — I think like every kid starts out with it being a little doctored up ... You know, as you grow, you sort of change that ratio.

I try to find nice ways to get people to try coffee without anything extra to it, just so they understand what coffee should taste like ...

The real key is to make sure the quality is there and then you can appreciate that the coffee doesn’t need anything.

@lmh0987

city@dailytarheel.com

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