Coffee has had a way of bringing magical experience into my life for some time. From my trip to the the lower Nepalese Himalaya's in 2012, where I stayed with a coffee growing and roasting family, eventually persuading them to give me a chance to roast over live fire myself (pictured below).
Or the Lao Coffeehouse where I first visited a cafe that served coffee grown on the hills right outside its doors. Drinking that fresh roasted and perfectly brewed cup, from locally grown beans, put me into an ecstatic yet calm state for the entirety of the day to follow.
And perhaps my most recent traveling to the country known for having "a whole lotta coffee", and sipping ristretto's straight from my then girlfriend's (now wife's) hometown of Sao Paulo. with the delicious pao de queijo (cheese bread) paired on the side.
Yes, I have been inspired to investigate the magic of coffee again and again throughout my life. Coffeehouses, cafes, new beans and devices for grinding or brewing have captured my attention for some time. But just last year, I began to feel an new level of gratitude grow in me for the mere availability of coffee in a region of the world so far from its origins. One specific experience really captured me.
I was driving from my home in southern Arizona up to Tucson, about an hour north. I had stopped at a drive through coffee shop hidden on the backroads of a small town en route, and picked up a cup of their drip coffee that was made from Brazilian beans. The aroma drifted into my car as soon as the barista opened the sliding window and greeted me. I could smell good coffee! The smell did not deceive me either. It was a flavorful, dark roast that did not overpower me with any single quality, but filled my palate with sensation, and my mind with curiosity.
I pulled out from the coffee shack with my mood already elevated, and took notice to the scrappy, yet strong, Santa Rita mountains (see picture) to my west and the golden stretching grasslands to my east. They were the perfect backdrop to send me wondering how it is even possible that I was experiencing the culmination of a highly prized fruit, grown in some distant land on the other side of the world, right there in the arid highlands of southern Arizona....(Photo: The Santa Rita Mountains just north of my former home in Patagonia, Arizona.)
Those specific coffee beans were brought to southern Arizona to be roasted by an artisan small batch roaster, and then brewed in a small drive through coffee shack remotely placed, before finally landing into a cup and into my hand. As I sipped and smiled, I imagined how many people had been involved with those several hundred beans or so that made my cup; to take them from the beginning of their life all the way to the experience I was having in my car that day. I was filled with gratitude, not just for the coffee bean and the coffee plant, but just as much for all the human involvement to bring that bean to me.
For some time actually, I had been aware of the magic of the coffee bean, and the delightful feeling which consistently ensued after metabolizing its nature into my own nature. But it was that day that the Story of Coffee grew for me, into a larger, more encompassing story - one that included the people connected to the plant as just as integral to the experience as the plant itself.
It would not be more than a year later, and I would find myself moving across the country to begin working much closer with coffee. The cafe is of course is Fika Coffee, based in Lutsen Minnesota, and the position I accepted was to be the first manager. That is the first year-round, full-time employee of this small, yet enterprising coffee roaster and cafe. Joshua has introduced me to his corner of the coffee world warmly and generously... and we are off and running, dancing, working, roasting, and sometimes scheming, about the future we are dreaming for Fika Coffee.
And so, for you reading this, perhaps you have already met me holding down the bar in the cafe. Or perhaps you have tasted some of the beans that I packaged and dropped in the mail for you. Or perhaps we are yet to interact in anyway. Well, actually that is not quite true. You just read a little bit of my coffee story, and so our interaction has begun. Still, I hope to meet you, or see you again, in the cozy Fika Coffee cafe sometime in 2018! Stop in, and share a little of your story. I would love to hear.