Haiti finalized its independence from France on January 1st, 1804. It was the first successful slave revolt in the New World and was ripe with potential as sugarcane and coffee were exported at record levels. Over 50% of the world’s supply of coffee came from the small Caribbean island. Oh, how the times have changed.
The nation of Haiti has been beaten and battered by a variety of economic pressures and natural disasters. While the situation is bleaker now than it was 200 years ago, there are many great people and organizations working towards empowering Haitians in distress. One of these people is Eric English, Director of 1804 Coffee.
Eric and I have been in contact for several months. At first, it was to exchange coffee for feedback. A couple months later we met at the Dallas, TX Coffee Fest event. When he emailed me with an update on his work in Haiti last week, the news was not so positive.
Hurricane Matthew caused serious damage to many of Haiti’s coffee growers. Some face a 20-30% loss of crops. Others face a barren farm.
For those without a large enough crop to repay the year’s loans and press on, only a few options remain:
- Seek funds for a full regeneration program, which could take years to yield results.
- Clear the land and grow vegetables.
- Sell the land and look for work in Port Au Prince.
If the Hurricane didn’t discourage coffee farming, the economic climate of the last one hundred years has. Capital to maintain cash-flow throughout the year is not easily found, and poor infrastructure makes getting from the mountains to the export markets difficult. Furthermore, many farmers never learned to read or write and learning about newer and better farming practices is a challenge.
Eric and the 1804 Coffee team are currently developing plans for their first farm regeneration project in response to Matthew. The goals are to increase coffee production and reforest the Creole Garden, a multi-crop growing area designed to feed locals. They also plan to help the farm adopt practices that are better for the plants and more efficient in general.
We are a small start-up company and resources are limited, so raising awareness is key through our social media platforms. But our farm regeneration project couldn’t have come at a better time We believe this investment in our first farm will help to raise the hope of the community. As we are on the ground in Haiti, talking to farmers, they see us working, they know we will be around for the long term and able to provide more assistance in the future.
Eric is a very hands-on, in the field person. When I met him at Coffee Fest, his strong listening skills and compassion were immediately apparent to me. I have no doubt those attributes will be the catalyst for many relationships and developments in Haiti. Coffee farmers of the island nation don’t need someone who demands change. They need someone who will listen and empower them to make their own change, someone like Eric.’
Gimme The Coffee
Eric and his crew are able to invest in the Haitian coffee community through the success of their coffee roasting venture, 1804 Coffee. Several months ago I was able to try some of their Pine Fore offering. I had never tasted coffee from Haiti before, and I wasn’t disappointed.
A gentle citrus flavor characterizes the first stage of the experience, followed by a rounded nuttiness. As you swallow the coffee, a rich honey sweetness fills your mouth and waits around for a while, causing you to want more. It’s a very well-rounded coffee and will likely appeal to all types of coffee drinkers.
If you want to try some of Haiti’s best coffee and encourage a business that supports the island’s farmers, definitely check out 1804 Coffee and buy a bag (or three) of their coffee.
Brianna from Wisconson won the giveaway! Thank you all for participating!
The good people over at Atlas Coffee Club have been upping their game when it comes to sourcing and roasting amazing coffee. To celebrate National Coffee Day, and to share their success, they’ve offered to give away a 3-month subscription to a lucky random reader!
I’ve tasted their coffee and only had good things to say. This is a giveaway you don’t want to pass up.
Who is Atlas?
Atlas Coffee Club is the business child of entrepreneurs and storytellers Michael Shewmake and Jon Miller. They wanted to share the diverse world of coffee with regular people (like you and me) through a subscription service that highlights the unique flavors and experiences provided by different regions around the world.
On an even deeper level, Atlas is a community of coffee lovers and wanderlusters. Maybe you’ll fit in.
I asked Jordan Rosenacker, ACC’s creative director, about the current state of the business and community, and he responded with the following:
We’re partnering with some incredibly talented writers and creative brands to bring some exciting opportunities and resources to our club members and we have a number of delicious coffees lined up for our subscription only customers.
We want to be a one stop shop for people to learn about coffee and cooking trends, have brewing resources readily available, provide travel guides and tips for the global citizen, and create opportunities for more people to learn more about our “neighbors” and community.
I am confident in ACC’s ability to share the incredible coffees of the world with average Joes like myself and believe in their mission.
Do You Want Free Coffee?
To celebrate the continued success of the business and the release of new coffee bags that are regionally themed, Atlas Coffee Club and I have partnered to give away a 3-month subscription to a lucky winner.
This guest post is written by one of my coworkers, Kelci Merrick. Kelci lives in Lubbock, Tx with her husband Luke and their mind-blowingly adorable son Amos. She works as a barista at Yellow House Coffee, enjoying every bit of caffeine the job provides. You can find her at livezealous.com.
Gone are the days of the sixteen year old high school student having the privilege of making your precious cup of coffee every morning whilst getting paid minimum wage. Barista as a career may sound like a joke to many a patron who went to college, then back to college, then back once more to pursue a “real career”, but for people like me, a career is exactly what it is.
Coffee is what I do.
Thousands of passionate, creative, and innovative people from every walk of life have made this same career choice and it is because of their dedication to that choice that coffee has earned the respect it so deserves in the beverage world.
Ryan Jarboe is one of these people. After 5 years of working his way up, Jarboe has secured a position as Director of Coffee at Palace Coffee Co in Amarillo, Texas. By investing time and money into Barista Camp as well as the Barista Guild certifications and getting involved with his local and national coffee community, Jarboe was able to position himself at the right time for the position he holds now.
Coffee is boundless, complex, and sensitive. This is why it requires extreme attention to detail paired with intimate knowledge of coffee in order to brew a superb cup (that’s not to say great coffee can’t be brewed at home by someone of a different career choice). This knowledge and experience is not something that can be attained in a short orientation, nor perfected in a mere month or two on the job though. I have been working in specialty coffee for three years and have yet to capture that elusive espresso.
If you have earned the title “regular” at any one of your local shops, I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to witness the vigor with which many baristas tackle each drink order, especially in the heat of a rush. It’s much like watching an artist, sure of his brush strokes, which come naturally to her. Or like a chemist who measures each variable with the utmost care and precision, taking note of even the slightest variations.
Take your observation a step further to really please your barista and ask them about their work. Watch their face light up when you ask them to explain the difference between a Chemex and a French Press, or which single origin coffee they recommend on any one brew method. This is where you will see the spark. It is in this moment that you become more than a customer, you become a kindred soul interested in more than just your daily caffeine fix.
Coffee has always bred community, which I believe remains the blood pumping heart that keeps it alive.
It’s this aspect of coffee as a career that is so appealing and addicting. I’m sure that community can be found in just about any work place, but I have yet to find one so pure and fulfilling as the one found in coffee. From the hard working, calloused handed farmers who so lovingly care for the coffee from the ground up – to the roasters who spend countless hours carefully roasting the personality to the surface of the beans – to the meticulous barista who proudly brews the cup and hands it to you with a smile – to you, the customer, who keeps coming back for more – a community is nurtured. No other career offers this. This is why I so willingly have dedicated my energies to making barista a title to be proud of.
Though I feel very strongly about the commitment one makes to coffee when one becomes a barista, I’m also a realist. Every shop has those barista’s who simply needed a job to get them through college on their way to their decided career. I don’t disrespect these individuals in the least. I’m more than happy to have them on my team.
All I ask is that they put forth the same fervor in their pursuit of the perfect cup and respect the standards that specialty coffee has come to be known for. In return I believe that they will develop a love and appreciation for coffee that will follow them into whatever career path they choose.
This being said, I believe the percentage of those who have forsaken other career paths to pursue coffee would surprise most customers.
With millennials opting for jobs that they find fulfilling, rather than enduring the office and corporate life, the average baristas has become far more educated, and these baristas are looking to move up the coffee ladder. To do this one must invest in some coffee education and training, but the opportunities exist.
“I can’t stress how important education is to a career in coffee. That includes the formal learning programs, like the SCAA Pathways, or the self-taught route using resources like the Barista Hustle,” recommends Jarboe.
An entry level position may pay around $8.00 p/h depending on where you live, but in a full fledged career, some positions can pay out as much as $50,000 a year. Sprudge, a leading industry online publication, reports that the average wage for US baristas with more than one year of experience sits at $15.00 p/h, well above the living wage in most states.
Being a barista is the best job in the world. I encourage anyone with a passion for coffee and a love for people to look into the opportunities it provides. It’s more than just a job. Who knows, maybe it’s the career you’ve been looking for.
What happens when you mix engineering and coffee? You get Nick Terzulli, a mechanical engineer turned barista. The coffee world is filled with multi-skilled professionals, many of whom are leading innovation in their fields, but there’s something special about a coffee-engineer. From espresso grinders to automatic vacuum pots, engineers run the show when it comes to applying difficult science to practical equipment.
Kicking It Off with Kickstarter
Nick’s first tool, the Portakey, combines style and effectiveness to shift the way baristas maintain and clean their espresso machines. Though the design is simple, it is ripe with functionality. I believe the harmony of these two characteristics will set Nick and his business, Science Coffee, apart from other equipment creators in the near future.
While any wrench or screwdriver will enable routine cleaning of the espresso machine, they have their drawbacks. Screwdrivers often position your hand directly below the grouphead, nearly guaranteeing droplets of boiling hot water will find their way to your precious skin; and wrenches are bulky and inefficient for dismantling steam wants. The Portakey solves these problems with its minimal design that puts your hand out of the danger zone and gets the job done with a single, simple tool.
Nick reached out to me about his Kickstarter campaign last week. After some emails back and forth, I decided to send over some interview questions so we could get a better look into his hopes and dreams for Science Coffee. His responses made me even more excited about the cross between engineering and coffee.
Meet Nick Terzulli.
Tell us about your approach to developing products for baristas. How is it different?
Everything I’m doing with Science Coffee is something that I was looking for and couldn’t find. I think one of the major differences between Science Coffee and other companies is that I am both a barista AND an engineer. I’m not a barista telling an engineer to design something, and I’m not an engineer guessing as to what a barista might want. I get a full 360 degree view of the products as the designer, as a manufacturer, and as an end-user. Every single thing I’m trying to do solves some type of problem I’ve found during one of my shifts actually preparing and serving coffee.
What’s your ultimate goal with the Portakey? What makes it different from other similar tools?
I want people to make and drink better coffee, and I really believe that the Portakey will help people do that. Any shop owner can go out and buy a screwdriver and a wrench, but most of the time they get thrown in a drawer somewhere or get lost. The Portakey is more than a tool. It’s something that baristas can wear and use every single day. Fashion meets function. It’s no longer something that gets tossed aside; it’s something that looks slick hanging off of your belt loop that gives you the utility you need when it’s time to clean your machine.
In addition to that, I really just got tired of burning my hands every time I removed a shower screen with a traditional screwdriver. I knew there had to be a better way, so I just decided to design the solution myself.
Can you give away any secrets about upcoming products?
I’m currently working on a really interesting precision tamper. Some baristas are inseparable from their tampers, and I had more than one come to me and say, “I just spent almost $200 on this piece of equipment, someone accidentally mishandled it, and now it’s dinged and dented.” So I said, “I can fix that”.
I’m combining a lot of knowledge I’ve gained in the biomedical industry to develop the world’s most precise, durable tamper. They’re currently being used by some baristas I trust, and feedback so far has been great. If you live in San Francisco there’s a chance you’ve already had espresso made with my prototype design. I hope to launch full production on them within the next few months. I really think that this product will put me on the map.
I noticed you’re also doing some product development consulting. How’s that going?
It’s going great! I really love to stay busy, and I’m working day and night, 7 days a week to make my dreams come true. Right now I have a full-time job as a mechanical engineer in Silicon Valley, I’m running and designing for Science Coffee, I’m working as a barista, and I’m also helping other companies get off the ground by turning their design ideas into real life items. A lot of people have a cool idea but no way to turn it from a thought into something you can hold. I love helping make that happen. There’s something so gratifying about showing a client that their napkin sketch can become a real product.
What’s the future of Science Coffee?
Ideally, people will catch on to the products I am creating, and I can grow the business enough so I can reinvest in the company and tackle bigger problems. There are a few things on my list that I’ll need to hire a team for, and I know if I keep working my hardest I’ll be able to make them happen. At the end of the day, all I want to do is help people make and drink better coffee. Long term, I’d love to open my own multi-roaster cafe, showcasing incredible coffees that most people don’t get to experience very often. I’m on a mission to elevate the coffee drinking experience in whatever way possible.
Make sure you check out Science Coffee’s website and the Portakey Kickstarter campaign for a wealth of great information on Nick’s work.
I find myself in the car for about 45 minutes each day between work, home, and other various destinations. To make the most of this time, I began listening to podcasts about six months ago, a move I didn’t realize would be so rewarding. Podcasts keep you engaged mentally on the road and give you an avenue to learn passively.
As a coffee shop manager and enthusiast, I naturally gravitated toward coffee related podcasts and found a several I’ve really enjoyed. From humble home enthusiasts to importers of the world’s finest coffees, these podcasts are hosted by coffee people in every part of the supply chain, meaning there’s a wealth of information to gain from these podcasts that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
There are many great websites and blogs for continued coffee education, but podcasts offer a different, equally valuable experience. You don’t want to miss these opportunities for learning and growth.
Brian Beyke and Bryan Schiele talk coffee brewing and the industry in an approachable way that leaves no man behind. Their combined coffee knowledge and connections make this an excellent podcast for the esteemed home brewer.
Episode 22 – Populace Coffee Projects with Andrew Heppne
Levi Anderson has quite a coffee history and shares it gladly through his podcast. This one is particularly insightful for anyone curious about what it takes to open a shop, provide excellent service, and enable great experiences around coffee.
Episode 35 – Gordie Bufton, Lessons from a Valet
Brought to you by Jared Truby and Chris Baca, the Cat and Cloud Coffee Podcast covers topics from all over the industry, from innovative brew methods to espresso recipes to service styles. They are hilarious, informed, and are an excellent resource for insights into the specialty coffee industry.
Truby and Baca Talk About Espresso Brewing Philosophy and Scales
Drew Pond and Christian Ott the esteemed Stone Creek Coffee in Milwaukee, WI reveal all their secrets in this podcast for professionals and consumers alike. Learn about coffee science, sourcing, and service in this great podcast.
Tasting Notes: Acidity
This podcast is the handiwork of Bjørg Brend Laird, co-founder of Supersonic Coffee in Berkley, CA. Her travels cause her to meet some interesting people with interesting jobs in the coffee world. Though sometimes a bit formal, the podcast has much to offer anyone curious about the origin side of coffee in particular.
Tim Wendlebow – Part 1
There is enough content within the archives of these five podcasts to last you all year, but that doesn’t mean these are the only podcasts you should explore. If you find any others that stick out to you, drop a comment down below!
Never stop learning.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America and World Coffee Research decided to reveal the results of tireless research today, January 19th. It is also my birthday. Coincidence? I think not.
World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon
The first of two documents, the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon, is the attempt of over 70 researchers to categorize and standardize coffee flavor attributes. By comparing coffee flavors to real-life products that the common man has access to, these researchers have developed a system of determining coffee flavor usable by seasoned professionals and novices alike to achieve a common language for describing coffee.
Skeptics, calm down. The bright people behind this immense, three year long project understand that “the project is, by nature, an evolving document”. As the research develops, entrees to the lexicon may be adapted and others may be added. I highly suggest checking out the Sensory Lexicon yourself so you can see how it works.
The New Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel
In light of this development in sensory analysis, the SCAA decided it was time to update the Coffee Flavor Wheel, a document that had been untouched for nearly twenty years. This update to the wheel brings the Sensory Lexicon’s possible flavors for coffee to a simple, user-friendly graphic designed to empower drinkers of all stages to begin the journey of tasting coffee well.
These developments will have significant impact down the road for the global coffee industry as it learns to communicate flavor and quality in new, accessible ways.