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People of the Year


It’s December, the time of year when Tea & Coffee Trade Journal’s editorial board chooses its People of the Year. After much thought, we’ve decided that the following three individuals have greatly contributed to the industries that we and you, our readers, care so much about.

Our editorial board considers candidates based on various criteria, including length of time in the industry, contributions to the industry, and integrity as a business person.

We are proud to announce our 2003 People of the Year. They are Antonio Fernandez Espinosa of Casa Fuentes, Argentina and Michael Sivetz of Sivetz Coffee Company.

These people exemplify all the best qualities that a coffee or tea industry person has to offer. They collectively and individually have improved the coffee and tea industries. We wholeheartedly congratulate them on their much-deserved awards.

Tea Person of the Year: Antonio Fernández Espinosa

When one thinks of Argentinean tea, one person comes to mind: Antonio Fernández Espinosa. Antonio is president and c.e.o. of Casa Fuentes S.A.C.I.F.I, the largest tea producer and exporter in Argentina.

Casa Fuentes, originally a small importer of coffee and tea, was founded by Antonio’s family in 1936. At that time Argentina was not a tea producing country.

In 1951, the government banned tea imports. Tea production had already begun - but only as an experiment in isolated areas of the Province of Misiones, close to the borders of Brazil and Paraguay. A slow but steady demand for locally grown tea came from the local market and the family saw this as an opportunity to expand into the tea industry.

Antonio’s father, Jose Fernandez Garcia, along with his uncles, Rogelio de la Fuente and Luis Gonzalez Arroyo, went to Misiones and starting buying black tea manufactured by local farmers. It was then that Antonio, a very young man, began working with his family company. The quality of the country’s tea at the time was poor and inconsistent, which prompted the family to start planting new tea in 1952. They built their first factory in the small village of 25 de Mayo, and began buying and processing green leaf from small holders in the region. Tea production became more attractive and more people began planting tea, resulting in production that was sufficiently abundant to export tea to Chile by the end of the 1950s.

After helping establish the company in Misiones, Antonio became more involved in the marketing side of the business and in selling to local clients. He made his first international trip, to Chile, in 1958 to promote their tea, which prompted the beginning of Casa Fuentes international trading. In the early 1960s, interest in Argentinean teas came from the U.K., Netherlands, and Germany. Casa Fuentes responded by planting even more tea. Two additional factories were built; each equipped with modern tea-making equipment and technologies.

In 1968, Antonio took his first trip to the U.S. to meet with importers, and realized the vast potential this new market could have for Argentinean Tea; since that first trip he has returned every year to further Casa Fuentes’ presence in the U.S.

An untiring traveler and explorer of new horizons, Antonio has visited different producers in Africa, India and Sri Lanka, to increase his knowledge of new production and growing techniques. He has also hosted several international delegates visiting his own farms, from tea buyers to owners of tea estates in different producing countries.

Antonio is president of the Chambre of Argentine Tea and has assisted many international tea organizations to clarify Argentina’s position in tea’s world economy. He can always be counted on for his unwavering support of tea.

Today, Casa Fuentes has 300 employees, and is the leading tea company in Argentina. It is a vast operation and has the continued support of customers both locally and in many different countries throughout the world. That new tea is still being planted, after more than 50 years of Antonio’s work for the tea industry, is proof that he is a fine example of perseverance and commitment.

Coffee Person of the Year: Michael Sivetz

Michael Sivetz knows coffee. He’s done it all: engineering, roasting, analyzing, teaching, and authoring many books.

In the past 50 years Mike Sivetz has seen and been a part of some of the major coffee industry transitions - especially the enlightenment that comes with greater technical knowledge about the composition and other properties of coffee.

Mike received a Chemical Engineering degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic and from Northwestern University. In 1953 no technical books on coffee existed. Always ready to share his knowledge, he decided that such a compilation would help everyone, as well as consolidate the facts required in industrial processing. His two books: Coffee Technology (1963) and Coffee Origins & Use (1975) resulted, and later, Coffee Quality (1983), an abstract mainly for the newcomers to the coffee industry.

Mike had begun his coffee career in 1943 with G.F. at the Hoboken, N.J, Central Research Lab where his work was mostly on sorghum starch and the caffeine purification and recovery process. Later, a job with the Coca-Cola Export Corp in New York City led Mike to an 18-month assignment in Rio in Brazil. He continued on with Coca-Cola in Hawaii, where he was in charge of the manufacture of its syrup, and solved a long existing quality problem with locally prepared carbon dioxide.

In 1953, after five years at Argonne National Lab (AEC) near Chicago, working in the engineering of the demineralized water cooling system for the Materials Testing Nuclear Reactor (MTR), Mike felt the urge to get back into private industry. G.F. re-hired Mike to work exclusively on the variables that controlled industrial columnar extraction of R&G coffees.

In 1956 Mike was named technical director of the Folger instant coffee plant operations in Houston, Texas. Ten years later, he was in charge of the design, purchasing, engineering and training of all personnel for an instant coffee plant in Managua, Nicaragua.

In 1970 Mike was advisor to Horace Smith in Virginia, who had invented and built a pressurized continuous rotary roasting system, which was much too complicated to be accepted by trade.

A few years later, Mike returned to one of his areas of expertise: building soluble coffee plants. He was hired by Cia Cacique in Brazil as their industrial manager, and started up a large Niro-built instant coffee plant in Londrina. After Cacique Mike worked for Brasilia and did advisory work for Dominium (Bank of Brasil), Vigor, Cocam, and many others.

A combination of the Kaiser and Smith fluid bed experiences resulted in a new style of fluid bed roaster, patented in 1975, and subsequently licensed to Neuhaus Neotec in Germany. Since 1980, Sivetz has manufactured various sizes of smaller electric and larger gas fired roasters.

Today, over 300 such Sivetz roasters have been sold and are operating every day all over the world. This system has been growing quickly and is now an important part of all coffee roasting systems.

Sivetz has helped educate many newcomers to the coffee industry, especially SCAA members. Last February, Mike received his third U.S.Patent, which deals with more effective preservation of fresh roast coffee taste.

Sivetz will undoubtedly continue to be recognized as a major contributor to the past, present and future of the coffee industry world wide.

Tea & Coffee - December/January, 2004


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