Last week, the relationship between me and a five-pound bag of light roast I bought ended. It was bittersweet, literally, and a tad acidic of a breakup, but I think it was for the best. We had grown too familiar with one another, and after drinking one flavor profile for two months, it was time to move on.
I’d say I’m about a year through my dive into taking coffee brewing seriously at home. Up until then, I’d been drinking coffee almost daily for three years, I’d occasionally brew a Moka pot at home haphazardly or make an espresso drink. Whenever I’d get the chance to go get coffee out on my own, I’d spend maybe half that energy being focused on the cup I was drinking and half on where I’d find the nearest outlet at the coffee shop. I knew when I’d drink great coffee and when I’d drink something subpar, but I never let that be the determining factor in how I approached interacting with this personal favorite beverage.
That was, however, until we were all sent back home and stuck inside for the first few months of the pandemic. Without a coffee shop to work at and experiment, I did what any other person bored in quarantine would do: watch youtube videos to endlessly reminisce about pre-pandemic times. I initially began watching random coffee shop videos, and then, I stumbled across specialty coffee youtube. This is the one corner of the platform where (almost exclusively white men) baristas and former baristas would recommend different brewing recipes, review different homebrewing techniques, and help you learn how to develop a coffee palette. Aside from the awkward (and I’ll get into this later) whiteness and elitism of these platforms, the one thing I appreciated was that I could expose myself to a world of a hobby that I can share with others.
After pooling together some extra funds, I started my mini barista setup when I came back to Chicago in the fall. All of the pour-over techniques I’d been watching throughout the summer finally were getting put to the test as I began my coffee journey. I started off working on some different beans from across the country, different roasters and blends, single origins, and everything in between. The coffee jargon though honestly doesn’t mean much, and for me, the most important part was drinking coffee. Once, twice, or even three times a day, I’d brew a different way just to chase some sort of dream flavor. It is one of those things that I don’t think will ever achieve, but it’s the journey that I admire as an ever-evolving process.
I think what’s been lingering for me, however, as I continue to dive into learning more about coffee is not just the whiteness, but the exploitative nature of the coffee industry as a whole. In reflecting on where I see the ramifications of capitalism and neocolonialism in coffee, it just becomes awfully eery but predictable when the tech bros of the world get all in touch with coffee and create speciality brands that do not build cooperative economic models that give farmers a substantive stake (and not just a decent rate) for the coffee cherries they produce. That isn’t to say that I don’t recognize that there are exceptions to this of course, but it wouldn’t be me or this blog for me to at least recognize the remnants of colonialism and its impact on the development of the third-wave, specialty coffee movement.
Now, slowly as things begin to open back up and folks become vaccinated, I think the single activity that I am excited about is just sharing coffee with my friends. I don’t know how to describe the joy of brewing some coffee for someone you care about, but it’s a combination of both warmth and also serious anticipation that you hope they enjoy the similar flavors you do. That exciting moment to get someone’s reaction to something you want to share with them has been perhaps the experience I’ve longed for the most, and I’m just looking forward to that being our new reality. It’s just around the corner.
Being Noah Tesfaye #181: Something about Brewing at Home
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