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Industry pays its respects to Erna Knutsen

One of the United State's original green bean traders, Erna Knutsen, has passed away at age 97.

Erna is credited as one of the early pioneers to coin the term “specialty coffee”, one of the original founders of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and was honoured with the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991, then again honoured as a Founder of the specialty coffee industry in 2014.

She retired at age 93 after speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the SCAA in 2014.

“What a wonderful life, thank you very much. It’s been a thrill,” Erna said in her 2014 SCAA address. “Even though I was kept out of the cupping room and the roaster because I was a woman, they didn’t call me a woman either. They were all men and they didn’t think women deserved the break. But I fooled them."

Erna emigrated as a child with her family from Norway to New York.

In the late 1970s, Era worked as a secretary in a coffee trading firm where she become intrigued by the “special” coffees that were trade alongside more commercial “commodity” coffees, the Specialty Coffee Association reports.

Erna was the only woman green coffee broker in the United States and eventually established her own customer base and trading company called Knutsen Coffees.

Erna is remembered for giving a language to the specialty coffee moment, and deeper understanding of the coffee origin movement.

She won many accolades for her work and industry contribution as a leader and innovator in specialty coffee, including the Golden Bean Coffee Award from her country of birth, Norway.

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