Several months ago I was approached by Jason Dominy from Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters about participating in a locally organized TedTalk event in Atlanta, Georgia. He said that there would be ten other baristas from around the United States helping talk to people about Direct Trade, sustainable farming practices, various brew methods, and the importance of fresh coffee. Among these baristas were Mallory Roth from Askinosie Chocolate and the Coffee Ethic in Springfield, Michael Fernandez from Espresso Parts in Olympia, and Tammie Johnson from the Coffee Cup in Cameron, OK.
One of the things I love about the coffee industry is the people and the open conversations about ways to improve not just our own companies, but the industry and environment as a whole. There are very few secrets among coffee professionals, we are proud of what we do and want the world to know about it! This is partly what makes an event like TedX the perfect venue to discuss coffee with the public; it is an event designed to share ideas and learn not just from experts, but also from each other.
The Tedx Peachtree event was held in the Buckhead Theater in Atlanta. On the first floor, Jason Dominy and Michael Fernandez were brewing Nicaragua Finca San Jose using five different brew methods to show the effect that the brew method has on a coffee. We used Siphon, Clever Brewer, Aeropress, Chemex, and Hario V60, this way attendees were able to taste the same coffee all five ways and evaluate the differences. The response was incredible, people were being exposed to methods they had never seen before and were starting to think about coffee in a new light, as a diverse agricultural product rather than a tin can of powder they purchased from the grocery store. On the second level of the theater, Mallory Roth, Tammie Johnson and I were brewing Guatemala finca El Valle. We were serving two incarnations of the same coffee: one had been roasted, ground, and exposed to air for 8 weeks, the other had been freshly roasted and ground. We talked about the importance of fresh coffee, as well as the impact of pre-grinding and air exposure to simulate what you might find in the grocery store. The difference was clear, the fresh coffee was dynamic, full bodied and had light citrus notes to complement the deeper chocolate notes. The older coffee was flat, thin, and lacking sweetness. I explained that when you grind your coffee ahead of time, it ages more quickly and the natural oils that are packed with flavor get dried out from air exposure. I didn’t have to tell patrons which coffee was which, even the most inexperienced coffee drinker could tell that fresher is better. What surprised me was the few people that preferred the aged coffee, which made me realize an interesting point: it wasn’t that the old coffee was better, it was what certain people were used to and to some, comfort and familiarity are part of the coffee experience. It reminded me of when we introduced pour-over to the PT’s Café, many people loved the idea of made-to-order coffee that was bright and interesting and different. Others still wanted their usual dark roast drip coffee from an air pot; change was not something they were interested in and that’s OK. For some people, coffee is less of a product and more of an experience connected to memory and habit.
Overall, I think most people went home with new knowledge about coffee and that was the goal we set to accomplish. I was thrilled to be part of this great event and hope that other baristas will get involved with Tedx events in their area, using it as a venue to spread the word about great coffee and how to care for the product, environment, and people involved in producing it.