A Place


I’ve been struggling to figure out how to bunch some words together to mean anything to anyone out there so I could blog. And now I’m remembering that this blog is for me, and you’re invited to read it.

One of my daily struggles is in the concept of a “third place.” I’m pretty sure most of us are familiar with the term. My struggle is finding a damn “fourth place.” Being so obsessed and infatuated with coffee leaves me no place to relax around this city. Everytime I go into a coffee shop I see what’s new and impulsively order it, even if it’s tasty SOE shots from Victrola at 10.45pm. So the problem is, when my work is coffee and my entire house is filled with coffee and coffee related paraphernalia then I’m stuck always thinking about coffee. “Stuck” isn’t a good word. I find myself constantly stimulated by coffee. It’s easy for myself to become over-worked and over-stressed because there really is no definition to work for me. If work is coffee, and coffee is my love and hobby, then I’m doomed to a confusing marriage.

I found Portland to be my third, err… “fourth place.”

I went to Portland for various reasons. For me, nothing is ever good enough; and yes, I am OCD. The journey of constantly raising quality, consistency, and answering the “why’s” and “why not’s”  keeps me pretty intrigued in Seattle and in my life. Portland seems to have all the answers that Seattle has never provided for me. I think part of the problem in Seattle is that there are a lot of baristas, including myself at some points, who think they always know the answers. It’s easily done and I can’t hold that against anyone. Knowing when to turn that on and off is part of being professional. When I’m on bar, it’s time to be professional and show what we do and talk about why we do it. The issue comes when passionate coffee people who complain about issues we all talk about, fail to act or improve the situation by providing a solution. This year at NWRBC, there was one (1) other judge in all of the Oh-So-Knowing-Amazing-Coffee-Centric Seattle that was willing to volunteer a small amount of his/her time to give back and be a part building a stronger PNW community. As a company owner, that’s just a good decision. An employee/owner has an opportunity to connect and network with a group of people all collaborating and calibrating to use their EXPERTISE to build up their local specialty coffee community ( and of course, the SCAA).  The BGA, for what it’s worth, decided to throw together their Coffee Fest “meet and greet”  just days before. Last minute plans always seem like a good way to effictively reach out and help build up the coffee community, right? But we’re coffee people, and I’m not someone to point out someone’s flaws. I’d just like to see more happening around Seattle with the BGA. Anyways, I feel Seattle is running around taking itself too seriously. I feel almost as if the majority of shops are running full speed ahead with no direction or goal. Is it just me? We’ll leave it at, Seattle has it’s flaws.

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

Working 65 bar shift hours the week prior, I jumped into a jam packed weekend for myself.

Kasey Klimes from PTs Coffee (and also a MWRBC Finalist the weekend before) was going to be in town visiting and crashing with me.  The weekend was a coffee, of course. Grand Opening of Cortona Cafe in the morning, Stumptown by noon

, and then down to Trabant Coffee & Chai for a Candlelight Cupping. The cupping was interesting and I love the intimate experience with the coffee you can have in such a setting.Kasey had, naturally, brought a bunch of coffee from Topeka, KS.

By the time I got to the airport, I was starting to remember why I was there.. I don’t really remember much from the flight. I’m pretty sure I was still under the of influence and there were smelly people in the small plane. So, passed out and took a nap. I woke up when the plane landed. Good flight. I decided to take the mini-“vacation” as a time to reflect on my current life and how I wanted to improve it. It gets overwhelming. So I like to try and appreciate experiences as much as possible. I’m constantly too enthusiastic about learning from other people’s experiences and creating my own, that I don’t have time to reflect on myself. I felt like it was time for a mental break.

My first time in Portland was when I was on a layover while moving to Seattle. It was a weird place at first. (I later learned it’s the charm  of the PNW). As soon as I got into Portland I ran around the airport looking for a train that I was trying to miss. And lucky me, I missed it. At this point I’m craving a cigarette, and of course there’s no place to buy them except for the closed carts and terminals I just left. No coffee except Starbucks, no sleep, no train, and no cigarette. I met up with Stephen Vick and we went to Stumptown. We both ordered our much needed espressos and a cup of Guatemala Finca El Injerto- Pacamara. We grabbed our bags and were went to BARISTA. We get into the shop and to my surprise, the Synesso was gone. Oh well, there’s a sexy 2 group paddle Linea instead. I had to snap some photos. I’m pretty sure I managed to snap a picture of my barista SLAMMING back a shot behind the counter. Awesome! I ordered a SOE of a El Salvador Mauritania from Counter Culture. I was tempted by a syphon, but there was no time. One thing I love about BARISTA is it’s relationship and role to the community around it. Of course, that could just be the view of a Seattle-ite. The appealing thing is that BARISTA sells a coffee experience. It’s not a big hoo-rah to the average consumer except that they always have something interesting going on with their coffee selection and it’s a very nice place. It’s compact and to the point.  I don’t know of a smarter way to survive opening up a coffee company without being a roaster. It enables customers to be intrigued and allows a more coffee centric dialogue. Always a stop for me while I’m in Portland.After leaving BARISTA, I was off to the Coffee Fair. At this point, I’m heavily caffeinated, under fed, and wandering around Portland with Stephen. We get out to the Coffee Fair and that’s when I knew it was going to be a long day. 2 La Marzocco GS/3s plus pounds of Direct Trade SOE Guatemala Santa Cruz roasted by Stumptown. Wow! The coffee was amazing. I had an absolutely spectacular time with Wes and Christine. It was almost like a dream-shift. I was serving a DT SOE coffee as only espressos and macchiatos for 5 hours. Since I was only serving espressos I was constantly checking my shots, plus I was working with an amazing coffee. I felt connected with the coffee and I wanted to show my enthusiasm to the people getting served. It’s hard to explain Direct Trade coffee to someone who just took the Starbucks VIA Taste Challenge and enjoyed the Instant Italian.

(On a side note, I have to congratulate Wes and Christine on signing their lease for their soon-to-be coffeeshop! Congratulations, guys!)

There was a fair mix of coffee people to oblivious people. Batdorf & Bronson, Portland Coffee Roasting Co. and Starbucks VIA were all there. Interesting conversations all day. I now see the value in dialogues like conferences, but remain aggravated by the execution. I’d like to see the BGA get a booth full of passionate coffee people who are only about coffee. Not trying to sell anything, only showcasing what coffee shows for itself. Too many people in Seattle only want to promote their coffee, not specialty coffee. It’s a shame.

Moving On:

I later met up at the Fresh Pot and managed to just miss Alex Pond on bar. Bummer for me. So I sat there, drinking glasses of water trying to overcome the copious amounts of espresso I had just indulged on the little sleep I’d had. Interesting the way things work. I think the rest of my night consisted of food at Red Fox, a night out, and some sleep. The next day I slept in and crawled around Portland. Mostly I was aimlessly walking and reflecting. I think I was trying to make sense of this former frustration I had with Portland.I managed to cross a bridge at some point and then ended up at the ECOTRUST building where Sustainable Harvest is based in Portland. I ran inside and had the pleasure of pulling SOE shots of Wondo Worka from 49th Parallel and the same Guatemala SOE from Stumptown for the Sustainable staff. We ran on down to Clyde Common after that.This place was almost the highlight of my trip, Heart Coffee stole my…heart. Everything was great; the food, the environment, the service, everything. Plus, when all was said and done, we ran over to Stumptown and had us some Hairbender.

Always tasty at Stumptown. I’m starting to realize how much Stumptown Coffee I’ve been having lately. Not that it’s a problem, of course.

Stephen had planned to meet up with a co-worker later that afternoon to do some sample roasting, but first, he had to show me a cafe. When he was in Seattle for his “Sustainable Truth” presentation at the Coffee Enhancement Lounge (CEL), Stephen had told me about this amazing cafe that had just opened. The way he had described made me fall in love with just the idea of such a place existing. So when he told me we were going to Heart Coffee and Roasting right after lunch, I was excited. I more than likely would’ve been lost on some train taking me out to some ghetto instead of an amazing cafe. I was glad to have good company going to this amazing cafe. The white-walled Synesso and the wood paneled paddle Mistral were both jaw droppers. Being attracted to bright and shiny objects, I caught myself paying a lot of attention to the syphon bar. The SOE Mordecofe  (roasted in store) I had was the shot that topped them all. Go there, order a syphon and check out the amazing cups they have too! I need to order some. The menu was simple, the delivery was stunning. There’s so much I could type about this place, but pictures are worth a thousand words, and I don’t even know how many words it would take to describe the truly excellent experience. To all you Portlanders, I’m f*cking jealous you get a cafe like this…

This was the best shot of the weekend.

I’m really not sure how I’m suppose to end this. I arrived in Portland seeking answers to questions, but when I arrived back in Seattle, all I had was more questions without answers. I found out that if I ever stop asking, “why” and “why not” then maybe it’s time for a career change. People are always telling me to slow down because I’m young. Slow down because I have tons of time to get to know myself and the world. I get that. Call it wanderlust. My eagerness to travel and learn drives me crazy each morning I wake up in the same bed. I find myself craving experiences not for the story or the picture, but for the knowledge. I enjoy pushing myself to the limits and I thoroughly enjoy the insanity it sometimes brings out of me.

I’m not a photographer and I probably will never claim to be one but I do consider myself a “moment capturing enthusiast.”

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Categories: Grind

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2 Comments on “A Place”

  1. 11/17/2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Hey man, I found your blog through other coffee stuff. I am in specialty coffee out in Minneapolis (but grew up in Portland and went to college in Seattle)

    I was really interested in what you had to say about finding a ‘Fourth Place’. I often feel the same. Out here in MPLS, there are only two specialty coffee shops (two more opening soon!), and since I work at one of them I never want to hang out there, and I get bored of the other one. I also get really frustrated when I go to independent coffee shops, which there are tons of around here, but can’t really find anything on the menu worth ordering except bottled juice.

    Basically, I have found specialty cocktails to be a fourth place for me. There are two great places to get cocktails out here, and though expensive, my mind is being blown. These are the bartenders that basically do what we do with coffee, but with liquors. It has been a lot of fun, because it is not only great palate training, but there is a clear respect (at least out here) between the industries.

    I did a quick search and it looks like in Seattle Vessel and Urbane are good places to go for mixology. It might be worth checking out, if you haven’t already.

    Granted, if you don’t like liquor then disregard everything I have said.

    (Also, I am coming home for the few weeks around Christmas, and will certainly be in Seattle for a little bit. Be great to meet up for…well…coffee or something)

    Michael.

    • 11/29/2009 at 2:26 pm #

      That sounds great! I’d love to get together when you’re in town.

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