Coffee – that black nectar that nourishes thought, fuels creative neurons to fire, gets you “going” in the morning and keeps you thinking and writing and composing into the late evening.
But perhaps it’s the COFFEEHOUSE not the COFFEE that sparks that creativity?
Eric Weiner, author of the book “The Geography of Genius” says that “The coffeehouse is good for genius, and the Viennese coffeehouse is a classic case. Freud had his favorite coffee shop, and so did Gustav Klimt. If you walked into a coffee shop in 1903 Vienna, you might find at the same table the artist Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky…”
But why would the Coffeehouse be a breeding ground for new and creative thoughts?
I am a roaster….
I am a roaster.
There….I said it…..
I AM A ROASTER!
What joy I experience as I try to coax the flavors from these green nuggets. Flavors that were lying dormant; flavors that the caring hands of farmers and their families from around the world have charged me to extract.
I am a Roaster.
My alarm wakes me out of deep sleep; the echoing tune of “Coffee” by Sylvan Esso beckons me to make that first step out of bed. My first thought, “Why do I do this?” Eventually I drag my feet up to the bathroom and gaze at my hair all askew while I brush my teeth - it's just going to have to do. I throw on a t-shirt, pants, and my shop shoes (a black pair of All-star Converse) on. I check my clock again; it’s 4:36 am. I quickly pour some cereal in a bowl and awaken my home espresso machine – hoping that its moans don’t wake the other sleeping beauties in the apartment. I shove some food in my mouth and hurry out the door. I check my phone again, its 5:01 am. The question again comes to my head, “Why do I do this?”
I scurry to my car as the frigid air chases after me – the morning is eerie and all too quiet for northern Virginia. As soon as I’m in my car, I turn on the Indie Dance Pandora station my old co-worker, DJ, and I used to jam to in the mornings. My eyes hardly open at the wee hour of 5 am, I pull up to the shop, settled in on historic Church St. Behind its doors lies a Hometown Roaster shop that will see familiar, old, and new faces today – and every other day of the year.
Sitting at the roaster, my desk or behind the counter, I get asked all sorts of questions by our inquisitive customers. Here are a few:
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THAT BIG YELLOW GRINDER?
I smile and explain that it is actually not a grinder, but a coffee roaster and what we do with it is profile roast every bean that we sell.
DO YOU ROAST ONLY BY SMELL?
I love that roasting is a total sensory experience. We use sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. We carefully watch the beans waiting for the first sign of yellowing (the beginning of the chemical reaction that starts to develop flavors). We smell for that point the beans smell grassy. We listen – minutes after yellowing we hear “first crack” – that exothermic reaction when the beans fully release moisture…. we smell again…. we look at the beans…. a bit wrinkly as they begin to expand. Understanding the chemistry behind flavor development is important, but utilizing our 5 senses makes it an incredibly satisfying personal experience.
HOW SHOULD I STORE MY BEANS? IN THE FREEZER?
T’was the night before Christmas and we had to decide
What coffee to put out for Santa’s big ride
The cookies are baked, all ready to eat,
But we need a great coffee to be Santa’s treat
For Santa want treats not just to eat,
but to take along to complete his great feat
What we don’t want, no definitely not
Is a coffee that tastes like it’s burned in the pot.
We need a REAL coffee, rich, mellow and hot
Let’s check Santa’s route, and see what we’ve got
You thank your barista and return to your sunlit seat by the window. You exhale. With serene anticipation you draw the heated ceramic mug to your lips and, to make this feeling last– even if only for a stolen moment– you allow yourself to pause the worries that swirl furiously through your over-worked, under-stimulated, partially-dysfunctional, mostly-out-to-get-you mind. Finally.
Steam from your cup curls around you and swaddles your face. It beckons you closer to take a sip, rolling fierce and calmly over chin to cheek, leaking warmth as precious as the humming rays pushing lazily through the window at your side. You lean in slightly. You inhale. As you do so the coffee-borne wisps burst tempestuously to life beneath your nose: sticky red honey licked from your fingers long after the baklava had gone; mandarin-soaked shirt and forearms at the pick-your-own Floridian orchard; blueberries that grew wild in your grandmother’s back yard.