CI sometimes doesn’t know what to say to people about coffee

September 7, 2011 – 9:58 pm

a bartop is conceived.

you don’t get very far in the previous thoughtstream on how we serve our coffee without coming to that vexing question of what you should, you know, say to people about it — and what you shouldn’t.

the newly incorporated Handsome Coffee guys seem to be making a point in media interviews of saying that they serve fine coffees without the lecture — unless you ask for it. this seems an admirable attempt at business with normal people in mind. but then, the previous post is an attempt by this blog to wrestle with the idea that knowledge about your beverage increases one’s satisfaction of it. it’s the route to pleasure.

so how much do we tell people? this blog’s first-ever public brew bar this weekend will be (partly) an experiment into this question.

we were arranging a wedding espresso gig with a woman who happened to also be the organizer of the indie craft parade — a juried expo of head-turning handmade art and goods that began last year at a true grassroots level, then met immediate and extraordinary success (the lines were insane). it made sense to suggest a “craft” coffee bar that showcased manual brew methods (no espresso) and stellar coffees. an ad hoc sponsorship was born.

we dragged coffee and crema into it. then the notorious ben helfen. the sum is that we plan to brew three coffees — two from counter culture, one roasted in this blog’s laundry room — via syphon, one-hole bonmac and kone-filtered chemex. three types of filtration. three very different baristas. three radically different visual cues that this is unusually good coffee.

one of the most personal and “handmade” aspects of the bar is la armonia hermosa, the guatemalan coffee some friends in cincinnati have helped develop in a nurturing relationship that invigorates a struggling village. six years in, it’s quite good and this blog has roasted a limited run of 10 pounds of the stuff.

still, i end up wondering: is this enough? will the mode of dress and carefully managed visuals, with eye-catching glass vessels and unmissable sensory inputs, be enough to tell friday’s VIP crowd a meaningful story? or, at some point, do you have to say things with words?

there are derivative questions: what about the predictable skepticism toward a bar without cream and sugar? will we serve much of anything on a friday night with a craft beer table adjacent?

we’ll report back on the experience. tellingly, this question doesn’t get any easier in this blog’s own house, no matter how many people walk up to the home bar for the first time and ask what it is that emanates from the devices that sit there. it’s my house, for crying out loud. this blog can say what it wants. and yet, we always hesitate a bit in trying to decide how to broach the massive subject of what makes special coffee special.

in any case, the bartop has been assembled from antique doors and panes of glass. the techniques polished. the particulars debated. and so, with a breathtaking amount of aid from both shannon’s shop and ben’s spacious honda, we’ll give it a go.