Sometime in the next 365 days, I’ll hit my decade mark of being in the coffee industry. I’m not really sure what this says about me as a person, perhaps I’m resilient and dedicated, perhaps I simply lack any practical skills to elevate me to a career type level of employment, and perhaps that’s okay.
I really like coffee. It fills so many of the niches and crannies that occupy my headspace. I’ll start with one of the big one’s today: a sense of empowerment and self determination.
Specialty coffee navigates the channels leading from the craft care required for the perfect cup that runs counterintuitive to the notion of the picture “perfect” products made (and often consumed) with factory precision. Every step, from seed, to bean, to bar, requires a level of specialization, patience, and precision. It requires that an individual be bad at something, before they are good, and in the age of products designed explicitly for ease of use at the expense of functionality and reliability, coffee continues to swim against the current.
“Never have I worked so hard for such a useless skill” is my oft-repeated statement regarding latte art, and it’s kind of true. I tossed gallons and gallons of milk down the drain, and now I can make hearts, tulips and rosettas in your espresso beverages. This may seem silly.
On the other hand, now the proof is no longer in the pudding, so to speak.
Larger companies like Intelligentisa have helped push the agenda of ‘it looks good: it will taste good,’ which I would argue, is generally the case. As you (the barista-in-training) are steaming all this milk, trying your darndest to make that little heart appear and pouring it down the drain, you’re also going through shot after shot of espresso, practicing consistency and drinkability, you’re sipping every single one just to make sure the taste and texture are what they should be, and you’re hoping that this next one will be the one, and you can finally stop being this black hole sucking up time and resources into the infinite density of your failures, until one day it just clicks, and you suddenly can just do it, and you reason to yourself that some fluke has occurred, and whatever minor adjustment you just made to your pour couldn’t be enough to overcome that hurdle you’ve been tripping over for the last several weeks/months.
But it’s happened, you’ve learned the silliest, most useless skill, and now you can “prove” to someone, before they even take a sip, that this is a worthwhile beverage to enjoy.
Suddenly you’ve learned a ‘craft’ of sorts. It lacks the danger of welding, or the grit of being a blacksmith, or universal usefulness of a handyman, but you’ve learned a craft. You have a skill that other people do not have, and that a contingency of people rely on to get them through their day.
You don’t work off of a script, you work off of your routine, and there’s something empowering about that. The shift is your own, and with the right knowledge, you have a lot of control over your domain. How many grams of ground espresso makes that shot most palatable to you?
All that aside.
This summer is going to be great. We have some great events on the horizon, specifically, this coming Friday - June 13th @2PM. We’ll be hosting a cupping (tasting) featuring our good buddy Mike Horgan from Stumptown Roasters. It’s a great way to figure out what you (the customer you, soon to be the home barista you) like, what you don’t like, and what inspires you toward your own sense of self determination within the world of coffee.
Thanks for reading,