Erna Knutsen was born above the arctic circle in Norway, and came to the United States with her mother and sisters when she was a young girl. Growing up in New York City, she took jobs on Wall Street and as a model before moving to California to raise her daughter.
After several years in the bay area Erna took a part time job as an executive secretary at a coffee and spice company. In addition to keeping the extensive "position book", taking dictation, and handling correspondence for the president of the company, she was called upon to deal with odd lots of coffee, and sell to the "small trade".
Soon she discovered a love for exotic coffees and for those superb quality single origins which became the start of the specialty coffee
industry. Erna has spent years educating fledgling roasters and nurturing their dedication to quality, and has a loyal following who are as unwilling to compromise the quality and integrity of the cup as she is.
|Over the ensuing years she earned a reputation for devotion to quality and a willingness to go to great lengths to find and import the very best coffees from all over the world. Erna has traveled to many coffee producing countries, and established lasting relationships of trust with growers and exporters worldwide.|
In 1985 she founded Knutsen Coffees, Ltd., and was able to take advantage of her skills and experience in coffee with her own company. Since then, business has been better each year, and she and her small staff are constantly overwhelmed by requests for information and for the very finest of coffees from all origins.
Erna was one of the early members and organizers of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, serving on its Board of Directors twice, and has also served on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Coast Coffee Association. She has twice been the only woman invited to address the International Coffee Symposium, once in Switzerland and once in Bali. She serves on the International Relations Committee of the SCAA, and continues her efforts to educate roasters, retailers, and the public about the joys of fine coffee. Erna received the first award ever given by the SCAA for lifetime contribution to the industry.
Her greatest concern is that lines between quality coffees and ordinary coffees not be allowed to blur as the industry expands. Erna says, "It is wonderful and fulfilling to work with more and more roasters who share my devotion to the best coffees in the world. They and I are willing to pay the premium required to reward the farmers who make the extra effort which quality coffees demand at every step."