Congratulations are in order for Peter, Cindy and the gang at Counter Culture Coffee for infiltrating the CIA — no, not that one, the Culinary Institute of America.

Counter Culture Coffee has announced an exciting new partnership with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, to develop a cutting-edge coffee curriculum for the world’s premier culinary college’s baking and pastry arts program. Initial components of the partnership include the launch of a new espresso and single-origin French press program for the CIA’s Apple Pie Bakery Café; a coffee lecture series featuring Counter Culture and specialty coffee industry experts; and the implementation of a new, intensive coffee education curriculum for the school.

“We offer our students the most comprehensive and advanced culinary education in the world, and we recognize coffee as an increasingly important, dynamic aspect of today’s culinary landscape,” said Denise Hall, maître d’ instructor of the CIA’s baking and pastry arts program. “Counter Culture’s quality and innovative leadership in direct trade coffee sourcing, craft roasting, coffee education, and advocacy for sustainable business practices make it an ideal partner to help develop our new coffee program.”

The partnership joins Counter Culture Coffee—a progressive boutique coffee roaster devoted to authentic quality, fair and direct relationships with farmers, sustainability, and coffee education—with the CIA, the standard bearer for excellence in culinary education. The relationship took shape in the early months of 2007 and quickly evolved into a multi-faceted educational partnership focused on the overarching goal of developing a CIA coffee curriculum and service standard on par with the school’s other world-renowned programs of study.

Counter Culture Director of Development Cindy Chang worked directly with Hall to develop a new coffee program for the Apple Pie Bakery Café, which serves as both a testing ground and showcase for Hall’s students in the baking and pastry arts program. The new program includes the introduction of a French press menu with a focus on farm-specific, single-origin coffees and an espresso menu consisting of only classic Italian-inspired espresso drinks. In addition to training café instructors and teaching assistants on proper brewing and espresso techniques, Counter Culture installed a state-of-the-art grinder and espresso machine at the café’s espresso bar.

Chang says Counter Culture is enthusiastic about the partnership. “The Culinary Institute of America is second to none in culinary education, and we are honored with the opportunity to help them develop a coffee program that reflects the institution’s tradition of excellence,” said Chang. “We are also excited about the positive ripple effect this partnership will have on the quality of coffee and coffee education programs at restaurants and other foodservice businesses managed by CIA graduates. Unfortunately, even many three- and four-star fine dining restaurants still regard coffee as an afterthought, use low-grade commodity coffee, and miss the opportunity to integrate a quality coffee program into their menus. This partnership is a signal that things are changing for the better.”
The Counter Culture-designed expert lecture series kicked off to a standing-room-only audience on January 30, 2008, at CIA’s Anheuser-Busch Theater. At the talk, Counter Culture Director of Coffee and co-owner Peter Giuliano gave an overview of the international coffee trade, his life as a coffee buyer, and Counter Culture’s unique, direct trade model of building long-term, sustainable relationships with coffee farmers.

“We are thrilled that the world’s most talented and dedicated culinary students are truly interested in the people, relationships, and cultures behind great coffee,” said Giuliano. “Perhaps most exciting is the reality that coffee education at this level can have a far-reaching impact beyond the restaurant and café. As the influential culinary leaders and tastemakers of tomorrow, CIA graduates who have experienced great coffee will be able to affect positive change in the lives of coffee farmers around the world,” said Giuliano.

Chang, who was recently elected chair of the World Barista Championship’s board of directors, will deliver the second lecture on February 20. Her talk, entitled “Better Brewing: Profiles of Coffee Excellence,” will spotlight quality-focused coffee businesses and the emerging role of barista competitions in recognizing excellence and promoting specialty coffee. The third and final lecture of this initial series will be delivered by reigning British and World Barista Champion James Hoffmann, who will discuss coffee as cuisine and his approach to concocting world championship-winning signature espresso drinks.

Moving forward, Counter Culture and the CIA plan to add more facets to the partnership, including coffee service and training programs for additional campus restaurants; additional expert lectures on topics such as roasting, café management, and advanced barista skills; as well the development of an accredited coffee curriculum available to students in all CIA program tracks.