Meet Gabe: Portrait of a Coffee Buyer

Gabriel Boscana is Bellwether’s Green Coffee Buyer (and first full-time employee). He started as a barista in Ithaca, NY, and now has close to 20 years of experience working in the coffee industry. Gabe has been on more origin trips than he can count and believes that every coffee professional should travel to origin — to a real-deal family farm — and spend a few days with producers to truly understand the full story of how coffee is produced. We asked Gabe a few questions about his life in green coffee. Check out his answers below!

What do you look for when buying coffees?
It’s changed. When I first started, it was completely based on flavor. I wanted really nuanced and different flavors. As I got older (and wiser), people came into play. Now, I look at interesting projects and where we can have the most positive impact. At Bellwether, we are looking for sweet and clean coffees that are grown by good people doing good things in the world.

A photo of Gabe Boscana, Bellwether's green coffee buyer, sorting through green coffee samples.
Photo by Bryan Clifton

What do you think would surprise coffee drinkers the most about the coffee buying process?
Three things:

  1. How incredibly difficult, in most places, it is to get to the coffee farm and the physical labor it takes to produce a really good, specialty coffee.
  2. I don’t think most people know that coffee is a cherry that grows on a tree.
  3. You have to cup a lot of mediocre coffee before finding a really nice coffee that you feel good about purchasing.

What’s your favorite way to prepare coffee?
I’m not picky. I like V60 or Chemex — whatever is the most forgiving way to make coffee is the way I prefer.

What are your top 3 favorite coffee producing countries?
Ethiopia, Colombia, and this is controversial, but Ecuador. Really good Ecuadorian coffee is like no other.

Why is that controversial?
Well, controversial in the sense that it’s from a little-known coffee-growing region. It has one of the lowest production numbers in the world and one of the highest costs. They export very little coffee, have little infrastructure in place even though they are neighbors to Colombia and Peru, which are two of the most productive coffee countries on the planet. Also, they have an extremely unique flavor profile that not many people are familiar with.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you traveling at origin?
We were traveling in Ethiopia and got a flat tire on this old Land Cruiser. We were delayed by 8 hours and weren’t going to make it to our next destination. Our driver reluctantly received permission from the local tribe and we ended up camping out in the middle of nowhere. We took turns sleeping in the car and outside by a fire, while one of us stayed awake to keep watch. For a second, I forgot where I was until I heard hyenas and I knew I wasn’t in a Northern California state park!

What’s one thing you would change about the coffee industry?
One thing?? I would get rid of the C-market and educate communities on really basic and sustainable business practices to empower producers — basic business acumen like the cost of production and profit margins. If we could do those two things, we would see major change.

Photo of a green coffee farm in Colombia.
Photo by Bryan Clifton

Gabe vets every coffee Bellwether offers. We’ve put his knowledge and experience into our Marketplace, so you can purchase curated beautiful coffees, all of which have a positive impact on the communities that produced them.