Archive for the ‘ Culture ’ Category

A Visit to Chestnut Hill

I am sitting in the dining room of Chestnut Hill Coffee Co., and I am basking in the soft sun lit window looking out on a cobble stone street lined with trolley tracks and lackadaisical pedestrians in the upscale Germantown, Chestnut Hill district along Philadelphia’s Main Line. A parking spot opened up about a block up, and I could smell the familiar aroma of coffee roasting somewhere. I knew I was in the right place.

I ordered a double espresso, which barely filled a LaMarzocco brand demitasse half way. It was wonderful.

Sorry for the blurry picture with bad color. Ever since my camera was stolen I am reduced to the phone camera. Not visible in this photo is a great deal of dark “chestnut” brown flecking. I have not had a truly satisfying ristretto style shot since I left North Carolina, and it was damn refreshing.

I complemented the short drink with mug of “aged” Sumatra. Even through a paper filter it was full of the musty shroominess of distant lands, and hinting at the street market transactions of the Betel Nut chewing ladies of the bazaar. It comes with one free refill.

My experience was made complete with very good and friendly service. From start to finish, this is a great place to drink coffee and enjoy cafe life.

The Wooden Bikes

What do you do when you have several hundred pounds of hand picked coffee cherries and only a few hours to get it to the mill before it starts to turn?  Do you load it up in your beat up Toyota pick up?  Do you pack it up on the back of your Buro?  Do you send it UPS?  Not if you live in Rwanda.  You carry it by bicycle, but not just any bicycle; by wooden bicycle.


If you are handy and you are willing to put out the human resources you can build your own.

Tim Hill, Head Roaster of Counter Culture Coffee, (and a friend of his who’s name is not known to me), built this crazy American version with rubber wheels.

 If you want to learn more and help support the manufacture of steel framed bikes for the farmers, you can get up with the people at BikesToRwanda.

Don’t be a ‘Spro, Bro

     I don’t know…..    Maybe I am too old to be hip anymore, if I ever was.   Maybe I am just not on the cutting edge of cool.  The kids like their lingo, and the lingo morphs from one generation to the next.  Hell, it changes from one graduating class to the next for that matter.  Everything has been shortened or abstracted.  If you are in the know you will get it, otherwise you just some old geezer, or at least over 35 years old. 

     Peeps, scrilla, the shizzzz, tat, the ‘Tane;  almost anything can be shortened, abrieviated, or altered for added hip value.  With the exception of the timeless “cool”, the relavence of any given piece of slang is restricted to a period in history that lasts about as long as adolesence.   You will easily be spoted as an older poser if you try to whip out an expression you think is cool, but has already gone out of style.

“Yo G, slap me some skin, ’cause you look crazy stoopid in all the Bling!”   You get the gist.


 Maybe I am just to old to appreciate creative language.  Am I a stick in the mud, or is the term “‘Spro” just the most juvinille sounding thing?  Do you walk into a sophisticated establishment and turn to the Somallier and say “Dude, pour me some Vino!”  So why would you walk into cutting edge modern day specialty coffee bar and say, “Gimme a ‘Spro, Bro!”  Maybe the torn and un-laundered jeans and ratty T-shirt with a Kitchy silk screen allows you to let down the guard you normally reserve for interaction with civilized and cultured individuals.

     The long and short of it is, wheather I am too old to be cool or not, I just think it sounds bad.  It is not that I think it gives the coffee industry a bad image, or that the Barista community needs to clean up it’s act.  I am not advocating any sort of social correction.  The expresion istelf is just crude and awkward.   And besides, it is very reminiscent of the term “Spooge”.

This is What it’s all About

I found this on  This doodle represents everything we are trying to do in the specialty coffee industry.  One should look forward to, and think fondly of one’s coffee break.  One should dream and fantisize about it.  Coffee should creep into the frontal lobe via the reptilian stem, touching all memories real and ancestral.  The welling up of coffee from the subconscious should cause the limbs to move, tracing the outlines and causing to take shape the image on one’s self reliving the moment when that beverage was transporting.  The added bonus is the feeling of being enveloped in a shroud of love.


 This was doodled and originally posted by lebonbonmulticolre, also known as Izzy from the street style blog Mtl Street.  BTW, Montreal is my hometown too.

Update Nibblets

A long and grueling weekend of Coffee Fest in Atlanta has left me depleted of the energy to write up something long-winded and socially insightful at the moment. You can use these nibblets to snack down and be satisfied, (I say that as though I have a reading public clambering for more material, but you know what they say, built it and they will come).

Octane Coffee Bar & Lounge is pulling off the balancing act of being coffee bar, liquor bar, Internet bar, art hub, haven of house music, social gathering point, shining star of coffee excellence, and high crime location all at the same time. Nice Job.

-Laptop and camera stolen, life is meaningless when disconnected from the outside world. We are accused of creating a “Crime of Opportunity” by parking a locked vehicle on the street, under the street light, next to a busy location, while “security guards” patrol the area.

-Creating a big atrium inside of a hotel with a restaurant, reception hall, and liquor bar is a bad and noisy idea.

Intelligentsia‘s Sarah and Alex are lovely and dynamic, Jay Cunningham’s hair is very curly, and the rest of the crew are great folks (sorry for forgetting the other names) and made me some great coffee. Ellie was also nice and hospitable.

-Phillip Search is a cornucopia of technical knowledge, and works a fine looking copper clad lever machine. Dan Griffin was also working the 49th Parallel booth; I thought he was from NYC.??

– The coffee consuming public wants to participate in cuppings, but they just need a little tug in the right direction.

Chemically Imbalanced‘s Ben Szobody is surprisingly calm in person.

-Dan Griffin wins $157 dollars on the spot in the spontaneous Latte Art smack down at the Dirty Dirty South CCC party.

-Most of  Peter Giuliano’s stories about sourcing coffee in remote locations of the world go something like this:

-I was cupping many coffees in ______________, and it turned out that all the coffees I liked came from the same place, the village of _____________.

-I asked them to take me there, and we began our long and arduous journey crossing the __________ in a makeshift ___________,  and were in real danger of being _________ by the __________.

-All the villagers knew we were coming, so when we got there all the people were in the street to greet us with their hands in the air, cheering and signing while someone wearing a _____________ began the ______________, which is the local custom.

-That night they served roasted ______________ which I ate anyway, and it was delicious.  Then they poured me some _____________, which is a fermented ale made from ______________.

-They threw the big party because it was the first time since the ___________ that they now have the ability to sell their crop for good price, and now they can afford to feed their children.

Another Job Change


OK, OK, I swear this will be the last change of jobs for me, hopefully for ever. After four jobs in the last four years, my wife and I have decided to get her back up to her large, touchy-feely, Italian family in Philadelphia. For years it has been a source of stress for me to even consider trying to relocate and find a house, a job for both of us, a good school for Anna, a swim club (for those nostalgic moments created), and the stuff that needs to happen at the right time and in the right way to make a big move like that happen. Well they all happened.

After spending the summer training for my new job here in the Triangle, I will be off to Philly to open the not-yet-existing Counter Culture Coffee training center. I was offered a roasting apprenticeship by CCC in 1994, before they ever opened their doors, but the planets just would not line up at the time. Had I taken it, Daryn Berlin would probably be selling insurance right now. Good thing I didn’t, because he is going back and forth right now building the nest for me in Pennsylvania.

The good folks at Stockton Graham & Co. gave me their blessing to make the shift form one roaster to the other, and I thank them for that. Hopefully everyone will be happy with way it all turns out. I will always be grateful to them for giving me my first full time professional coffee position that did not involve working behind the counter all day.

I will be staying at my parents house through out the summer while my wife and daughter proceed without me for the time being. That is sure to be fun time. Really. No I mean it.

See you at the Rocky Ballboa statue.

To Clear the Air

Your list of life-long achievements will not be complete until you have seen this deliciously short and sweet YouTube video. I do, however, wish to clear the air and firmly establish my view on Decaffeinated Coffee. I do not look down upon decaf or decaf drinkers. There have been many occasions when a well prepared cup of properly decaffeinated coffee has provided me with a much needed boost in my morale and spirits at the end of a long day. I understand that decaf drinkers just want a cup coffee that tastes good.

My only point of contention is when the combination of coffee with no caffeine, milk with no fat, and sweetener with no sugar is poured into a large cup of warm nothingness. Would it not be infinitely more desirable to drink a very small cup of rich whole milk, real cane sugar, and pristine coffee? Just keep it all in sensible quantities. Let us put aside the fact that diabetics will want to use artificial sweeteners and some people with sensitive constitutions will want to stay away from caffeine.

I do remember making similar statements to the “why bother” comment to customers on occasion, but it was not strictly in relation to decaf. I would have been referring only to the aforementioned type of beverage, which I normally call The Hollow Log. I like to make fun banter with customers and I do not wish to be taken out of context.

It is a fun video, and well made too. Thanks to Nick for bringing it to my attention (I think he scours the video sites for this kind of thing). I do wish now that I had posted a nicer picture of myself, so I will leave with this photo. This is how I would like to be remembered.