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What it means to love and serve coffee

I don’t have much reason to post on this blog anymore, and blogs themselves have arguably become the eight track cassettes of the internet in our age of Twitter-attenuated attention spans, but I didn’t want this remarkable (for being 30 years overdue!) tribute to an old friend and mentor to go unacknowledged. If it ends up being the last post on this rancorous blog I’ll be very happy.

This article in today’s Washington Post captures a little of the visionary approach to coffee of my old friend and mentor Kent Bakke, but it honestly only scratches the surface. What I love about the piece is that it does capture in its own modest way the pure bhakti (to use the Hindu yoga term) energy of Kent’s relationship with coffee. That he has had success in the business almost seems like a happy accident given the palpably obvious fact that for him coffee is a devotional practice, a form of service and a source of joy.

When I rejoined Starbucks in 1987, having previously worked there in the pre-Howard Schultz era (1984-1985),  one of my responsibilities as the company’s Coffee Specialist was to choose commercial brewing equipment for our impending rapid growth. I’d seen Mr. Bakke here and there at the old wooden aircraft hangars of the original Starbucks roastery at 2010 Airport Way South where I myself roasted coffee but never had the pleasure of spending extended time with him.

All of that changed in 1989 when Kent was my guide during my first trip to Italy, during which I visited not just the La Marzocco factory but the far larger one of arch-rival Rancilio as I did a deep dive into espresso technology, culture and lore. These were the heady early days of espresso being offered in the 12 extant Starbucks stores, and I vividly remember taking a prototype 16 oz, paper cup with me to reluctantly show to La Marzocco founder Pierro Bambi in order to explain to him that we needed not only unprecedented (by Italian standards) milk-steaming capability but also to be able to fit one of these obscenely gigantic paper cups under the espresso machine’s portafilter. To my amazement instead of having me thrown into an Italian jail Mr. Bambi only asked me to promise that we would use at least 5 shots of espresso in that gigantic cup so that customers could still taste the coffee.

Far more important than the education in coffee Kent and Mr. Bambi provided was the education in its cultural context, and here the memorable lessons are beyond counting. Among those that come to mind: a “typical” two hour business lunch in the hills of Tuscany at a restaurant that used to be Leonardo da Vinci’s grandmother’s house. Tasting homemade prosciutto, olive oil made within sight of us and Brunello de Montalcino made with zero regard for the tastes of international critics – a crash course in terroir that would inform everything I did in coffee.  Visiting the craft roaster Piansa in Florence, hearing how they buy and blend and realizing we Seattle upstarts still had everything to learn about Italian coffee. I could write a book about this, but Kent is the one who ought to. 

During those heady early days of the Starbucks expansion Kent and La Marzocco not only moved heaven and earth in order to accommodate our growth but also served, increasingly, as a reality check for and sorely-needed reminder of the prototypically Italian values and passions that had made most of us fall in love with coffee in the first place. 

I knew several people at Starbucks in the late 80’s and early 90’s who went literally years without a day off in order to get stores built. 90 hour weeks were not uncommon. “We exist to provide a retail experience for our customers which is the exact opposite of the lives we ourselves lead in order to make it possible” became an in-house middle-management ironic lament. 

My frequent visits to see Kent, John Blackwell, Brenna Worthen, Pat Loraas and other members of La Marzocco’s astonishingly talented crew provided me with healing (and indeed probably life-saving) reconnection with the values I had learned from Kent on our first trip to Italy together. What became clear then was that greatness in coffee comes from taking the time to relish it with one’s senses fully engaged – that the world of the coffee roaster and barista are not far removed at all from those of the great chefs, painters and sculptors whose creativity is so emblematic of Italy. A great espresso, like one’s first taste of real Genovese pesto in its native context in Genoa, or first spoonful of hazelnut gelato at Vivoli in Florence, should simply stop discursive mind in its tracks and leave one awash in gratitude for just that moment of being alive. Kent Bakke has provided me (and so many others) with more such moments than I ever believed possible. 

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Ask an Expert Webinar: Mental Health and Stress

Ask the Expert: Food Safety and COVID-19

Join us on Friday, March 27, at 8 am PDT / 3 pm GMT for a webinar with licensed marriage and family therapist and self-care coach Courtney Muir and representatives of all three guilds.

Register here.

In this webinar, she will discuss why COVID-19 is bringing up intense emotions, how we can work with those emotions to move forward in uncertain times, and what specific strategies and tools are particularly useful for “keeping calm and carrying on” right now. Courtney will be joined by members of the Barista Guild, Roasters Guild, and Coffee Technicians Guild leadership, who will lead a Q&A with questions collected from their communities.

As the situation continues to rapidly evolve, we are still waiting to understand the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry. This is an unprecedented situation for all of us, but we are heartened by the way communities are coming together to support each other and to make their voices heard. 

Panelists:

Courtney Muir, MA is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT 97006) and Self-Care Coach based in San Diego, CA. She has extensive training in DBT and gender therapy. As a coach, she helps nurses heal from burnout to regain their sense of purpose and energy for the work that they do. In this webinar, she will discuss why COVID-19 is bringing up intense emotions, how we can work with those emotions to move forward in uncertain times, and what specific strategies and tools are particularly useful for “keeping calm and carrying on” right now.

Bailey Arnold, Barista Guild

O.M. Miles, Coffee Roasters Guild

Hylan Joseph, Coffee Technicians Guild

Related Links

Find the latest updates about COVID-19 at sca.coffee/covid19.

National Restaurant Association (US) – COVID-19 Resources & Information by State

CDC Symptoms of Coronavirus 2019

CDC What to do if You are Sick with COVID-19

WHO Getting Workplace Ready for COVID-19

Questions or Comments?

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch via email at bglc@sca.coffee, crgac@sca.coffee, and ctglc@sca.coffee.

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3 Healthy Coffee Recipes to Kick-Start Your Morning

Are you looking for a coffee recipe that is not fully packed with sugar? If so, you have come up on the right page. Here, we have listed some healthy coffee recipes that will kick-start your morning in a healthy and refreshing way.

  1. Iced Vanilla Latte

The first recipe on our list is refreshing and sweet iced vanilla latte. Here, you can go with vanilla syrup to sweeten your cup of coffee. Meanwhile, you can use whatever goes well with your taste buds. It is a healthy and refreshing way to get your daily cup of morning coffee.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Firstly, divide the coffee between two glasses. Before that, fill your glasses of ice.
  • Fill half of the glass with milk and the other half with the syrup. Stir your coffee and cool off the summer.
  1. Zero-Net Carb Café Mocha

Certainly, it is not a true coffee recipe. It is low carb, easy, fast, and incredibly tasty for coffee lovers. Hence, it does not make a bad deal for you if you admire mochas from the heart. If you fancy peppermint mochas, you can add a few drops of mint extract. So, let’s know how to make this zero-net carb café mocha!

Ingredients

  • Brewed coffee (1 cup)
  • Unsweetened chocolate almond milk (½ cup)
  • Stevia or low carb sweetener

Instructions

  • Put in all the ingredients in a cup and stir all.
  • Take a sip and enjoy your mocha.
  1. Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte

Last but not the least; we have come up with a vegan and very healthy latte. It is surely going to brighten up your daily coffee cup. To make it dairy-free and guilt-free, you can use cashew milk. Here, the real pumpkin will spice up the coffee. So, let’s begin with our recipe.

Ingredients

  • Raw cashews (1 cup)
  • Water (1 liter)
  • Pumpkin purée
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Freshly brewed coffee
  • Maple syrup
  • Vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions

  • Grind cashews to make cashew milk in a grinder. Add water to it to make a paste.
  • Mix all the other ingredients in a saucepan keeping ½ cup of cashew milk. Stir and heat them over average heat.
  • Now, take the rest of the cashew milk and whip it using a whisk until foamy. Best the coffee with whipped milk and sprinkle some cinnamon powder. Enjoy your vegan pumpkin spice latte!

Now, you are all set to enjoy your coffee like never before. Make your morning cup of coffee healthier with these innovative coffee recipes. Iced vanilla latte is a great choice to opt this summer. Other two options are perfect for enthusiasts who love coffee and their health. Go with these cool recipes and enjoy your cup of coffee in a healthy and exciting way.

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