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Growing Sustainability with Afficionado Coffee's Peter Turso

Growing Sustainability with Afficionado Coffee's Peter Turso

Jul 22nd 2022 Written by Ragan LaTour-Kelley

*Some quotes have been shortened for clarity and length.

Hiking through the dense, emerald sea of the Amazon rainforest, trekking up the steep, misted slopes of the Andes mountains, the team at Afficionado Coffee journeys to the remote regions of the world in search of exceptional coffee while striving to build lasting relationships with coffee farmers and their communities. Since 2012, they have been dedicated to direct trade, aiming to ensure a sustainable future for farmers in coffee-growing regions across the globe.

Beyond the remote regions of the world, Afficionado brings their passion for coffee to the bustling streets of New York City, actively working to roast coffee that captures the story of its origin, and highlight the delicate flavors that lie within. The man behind these roasts is Peter Turso.

PeruPhoto by Joe Bailey of Afficionado Coffee


Born with a passion for cooking and baking, Turso pursued a career in culinary arts, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. From there he spent nearly 2 decades in fine dining until 2015 when he joined the Afficionado team at the invitation of Adam Bossie, CEO of Afficionado. His culinary background brings a unique perspective to the world of roasting while presenting many similiarities as well.

“There are certain attributes that coffees have,
and I was able to use my experience to short-cut the equations for the right amount of time and heat to apply,”

“Most coffee roasters, or people first getting into roasting, don't understand the principles of coffee roasting, namely thermodynamics,” Turso said. When you're cooking so many different types of food for two decades, you're roasting hazelnuts, pine nuts and getting a feel for the way these things react to heat. I was already exposed to time and temperature applications from a fine dining perspective. Seeing how the flavor changes with a sauce or ice-cream base, all of this information was cataloged in my repertoire as a chef. There are certain attributes that coffees have, and I was able to use my experience to short-cut the equations for the right amount of time and heat to apply, bringing the coffees' best natural characteristics out.”

Turso’s culinary drive has given him a piqued interest in coffees that offer up a bit more challenge, those that are harder to perfect. For example, coffees like Afficionado's Rwanda Fugi, a red bourbon varietal that's processed by anaerobic fermentation, offers up a bit more of a challenge, producing a funky and delicious profile with notes of candied lemon, concord grape jelly, and pound cake.

“I like roasting varietals that are more temperamental, harder to perfect, but rewarding to get a nice roast," he said. "Red Bourbon comes to mind because it's such a well established, "legacy" varietal. It's such a known quantity and is very tempermental, requiring high elevations and a narrow climate range. When you get a really nice red bourbon, you know at origin they really took care of the coffee all the way through the process. It's got good bean density and is very consistent, unlike other varietals with large beans (Marigogipe, and Pacamara). Those are hard to roast. For instance our Rwandan coffees, the Red Bourbon offers a wide variety of profiles.”

Peter and EmmaPhoto by Joe Bailey of Afficionado Coffee


Beyond the realm of roasting coffee, Afficionado stepped up to the challenge of experimenting with other parts of the coffee plant such as cascara, the dried skin of the coffee cherry, and pergamino, the parchment, or dried mucilage of the cherry. These have been developed into ready-to-drink beverages, allowing people to experience the flavor and uniqueness that comes with pairing these parts of the coffee plant with other natural ingredients.

“As soon as I saw this opportunity I had an epiphany -
the concept of creating a series of drinks that allow people to experience all of the elements of the coffee plant at all of the modalities of its life cycle.”

"Initially I was perplexed, but I fell back on my culinary career, remembering the flowering parts of vegetables like broccoli, or the seeds of carrots and how those could be used in surprising new ways," he said. "I would see plants go through their entire life cycle on a farm, and I realized most consumers only see these things at a certain, specific stage of their lives. As soon as I saw this opportunity I had an epiphany - the concept of creating a series of drinks that allow people to experience all of the elements of the coffee plant at all of the modalities of its life cycle. From there it was just mapping the profile of each ingredient and pairing it with complimentary natural ingredients.”

Their passion for the coffee plant and all it produces spans beyond the final product. That’s why the team at Afficionado spends time exploring the rugged terrain of the coffee-growing world, building friendships and pursuing knowledge of the people and process it takes to grow exceptional coffee. In 2018, they took a trip to South America to do just that.

reflection in airplane windowPhoto by Joe Bailey of Afficionado Coffee


“We spent twelve days on the trip. We flew into Bolivia and traveled all over to remote areas in the Amazon jungle, before flying to Lima and traveling north into the Andes mountains,” he said. We tried many amazing coffees and experienced the ruggedness of the places where these great coffees grow.”

As self proclaimed “black sheep of the coffee industry” aiming to “disrupt the status quo,” they have gone far beyond becoming acquainted with farmers and producers. Through their efforts they have helped build a women’s center for adult education and purchased tools and alpacas in Peru, helped farmers create new revenue streams through the harvest of coffee by-products like coffee blossoms and cascara in Bolivia, worked with local authorities to distribute nutritional formula to infants and children in need in Guatemala, and built the first school house with computers in Marcala, Honduras. However, it’s through shared knowledge and mutually beneficial relationships that Afficionado hopes to create a lasting impact in these communities.

“The most operative scenario is to form partnerships that will last a very long, long time -
so that we can grow together with these communities in order to enrich their local economy,”

“We want a couple of things. The most operative scenario is to form partnerships that will last a very long, long time - so that we can grow together with these communities in order to enrich their local economy,” he said. “We also want to increase their production repertoire, sharing knowledge that we've gained throughout our travels to other countries. Their ability to create great coffees for us will help secure the future of both our business and theirs. It's about creating that feedback loop where we're constantly feeding off of each other - a symbiotic relationship between businesses.”

Peter, Joe and childrenPhoto by Joe Bailey of Afficionado Coffee


Afficionado plans to continue down a path of success, pushing the limits, cultivating sustainability, and growing in knowledge, while, of course, roasting incredible coffee.

“I think in the next 5 years at Afficionado, we are going to see a decent amount of growth accompanied by this accrued wisdom that we have as a team, that wisdom will continue to be more cultured as we grow as professionals. All of our relationships will continue growing - with clients here in the States and the communities at origin. We'll grow in our knowledge and efficiency in the application of principles that we've learned. We're always looking for a better way to do things in coffee roasting, and we're only going to get more informed. Having these networks down at origin is great, because they will always be there for us - we're all in this together.”

Jul 22nd 2022 Ragan LaTour-Kelley

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