Seattle – the Coffee

Ahhh, finally I get to sit and write about the reason I went to Seattle in the first place!  Getting the grounds from the Mazzer

I first had the idea of a non-profit coffeehouse a few years ago.  About a year later I looked up “non-profit coffeehouses” and came across Q Cafe in a Google search.  Since then I have followed Eugene Cho’s blog and have been interested in the Q.  So this past spring, as I decided to give the coffeehouse a serious look, I decided to try to spend part of my summer at the Q to get a feel for the non-profit cafe and coffee in general (Seattle is, after all, the Mecca of coffee).  I shot Eugene an email asking to be able to come up there and if you watched the interview from a couple posts back you’ll realize that I was pretty persistent!  It wasn’t until late May that I got the thumbs up and it wasn’t until June that I found a place to stay (the whole time my wife had family there!).  So on July 15th I hopped on Alaska Airlines headed for three weeks of coffee, public transportation, and unexpectedly hot weather!

So my goal for the internship was to learn as much about the coffee industry as possible and to figure out the hardships of doing it all as a non-profit.  I was disappointed as the guys at Q and some other friends at The Green Bean, another non-profit, were very open about ANY questions and what made business difficult for each of their unique situations.  But that is kind of getting ahead of myself at this point…

The first few days I was there was just focusing on the coffee world.  Jake, the Q manager, gave me a packet from Stumptown, their supplier, full of great info on each of the farms that they have relationships with around the world.  It was also an intro to different espresso drinks, basic maintenance, and fair and direct trade practices.  Jake and Matt gave me a whole list of coffeehouses to check out while I was there (here is the Google Map I created with each of them and some comments) and it wasn’t uncommon for me to take off early to go check them out.  La Marzocca

After a couple of days Jake taught me how to pull shots out of their La Marzocco 3 group (Eugene told me that for the longest time it was the most valuable asset Quest owned!).  The first few were terrible, of course, as they came out either too fast or way to slow, trickling out of the portafilter.  But eventually I nailed a few between 25-28 seconds!  After I mastered pulling shots as well as can be expected in only a couple of days I was on to steaming milk, a much harder process.  Jake, Matt, and Josh helped me to learn to steam whole, 2%, skim, and soy milk.  Stayed mostly with the whole but I tried a soy latte for the first time, a little sweeter and thinner than what I am use too.  The hard part about steaming milk is hitting the right temperature and getting the microfoam that is critical for a good latte all at the same time.  Usually if I got the right temperature then I would have large bubbled foam that was no good or if I got the foam right the temp wouldn’t be quite right.  But when I nailed it I was pretty proud of myself!  So by the second week I was able to come in and make my own lattes in the morning!  I was also trying to make cappuccinos (the Italian way 2 oz. espresso, 2 oz. steamed milk, 2 oz. foam), mochas, and breves.

Stumptown's Hairbender flowing from the portafilter.I helped out with a few other things at the cafe, like putting lights together and helping with live shows.  But I also learned the struggles of the cafe as well as some of the hopes and dreams of their employees and patrons – which isn’t that the point of working at a coffeehouse!  As you can tell from the video I learned the importance of knowing your product, equipment, market, a business plan, and everything else that goes with running a business involved in the service industry.

My best day outside of Q was spent at Stumptown up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  Everyday Stumptown does a cupping (like a tasting) at 3 pm.  I showed up early one day and was able to just hang out with the roaster until things got started.  He filled me in on the roasting process and I was able to watch him go through about 3 batches.  During the cupping we smelled, sipped, and swished about 6 or 7 different coffees from around the world, all single origins.  It was amazing having an Ethiopian side-by-side with a Honduran aStumptown's roasting machinend actually tasting the uniqueness of each!  The Africans were clearly more fruity than that others while the Central American coffees differed from each other but as a whole were more mellow and balanced.  The staff at Stumptown was great and if you ever are in Seattle visiting you should definitely stop by around 3 pm!

One other experience that can’t forget to mention is the slow bar at Seattle Coffee Works.  I had met one of the baristas, Eric, who had invited to come by for a vacuum pot of a Kenyan coffee they had just received.  Seattle Coffee Works had just opened a new store right off of Pike Place Market and installed a 20 or so foot man sipping a cup of coffee above their front marquee.  The store is great but I really loved the slow bar counter.  It was made of a map that highlighted the coffee growing region of the world.  The slow bar is really an educational experience as you get one-on-one with a barista who tells you about the coffee s/he is preparing.  If you are ever at Pikes Place Market skip the original Starbucks and head over to Seattle Coffee Works.  I guarantee you will get a greeting from Sebastian, the owner, and enjoy a much better experience!

Seattle Coffee Works - the arm actually moves up and down!I really enjoyed my time in the Emerald City but I was glad to finally be back with Amber!  I gained invaluable information that will continue to help me and challenge me in this mission.  If you have any questions about my trip then please let me know or leave a comment.

Follow the link to see more of my Seattle coffee pics.

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Seattle – the City

Seattle from the ferry

This will be my first post in a series of three on my trip (not including the last post where I included the video).  This one is obviously about the city of Seattle, the next one will be about coffee, and my last post will be on Mt. Rainier.

I spent a total of three weeks in the Seattle area.  I say area because I did not stay “in” Seattle but in a suburb south of the city.  My wife has family in Des Moines, about a 45 minute drive down I-5.  That said, I spent the majority of my awake hours in the city.  My days would begin at 6 am and I would get on my one and half hour bus ride around 6:50 (shout out to the 194!).  Every morning I would walk in between Safeco and Qwest on my way to my second bus stop (that was an hour and a half total).  I usually would arrive at Q Cafe around 8:30 and immediately make my self a latte or an americano (even when it was sweltering outside).  At the cafe I would spend the morning and early afternoon learning how to make coffee drinks, writing, picking their coffee brains, and hanging out with the regulars (typical coffeehouse day right?).  I would typically leave Q in the mid to late afternoon and either check out either coffee shops or spend a couple hours at my favorite Best book store in Seattle - Elliot Bay Booksbookstore, Elliot Bay Books.  Then I would work my way back to the stadium area for the long, and always packed, ride home.  I would usually be hungy and exhausted and always prayed my hosts wouldn’t think me rude when all I did was eat and then crash (and they didn’t).

The first saturday that I was there, before my stint at Q began, I headed to the city to jump on a ferry and explore one of the islands.  I wanted to go as far north as possible.  I had in mind a remote island clouded in fog with whales popping up everywhere.  Unfortunately the downtown Seattle ferries to not go that far north, so I went to Bainbridge Island instead.  But first I should mention that on that day the Seattle Sounders Football Club (soccer for my friends in the south) was playing Chelsea Football Club (a soccer team from the English Premier League, again for my friends in the south).  I arrived at the stadium area around 9 am and the place was already swarming with green jerseys 3 hours before the game.  For a second I almost decided to abandon my ferry trip and go to the game but I soon found out the match was sold out!  As I made my way through the Pioneer Square district there was a constant stream of green jersey making their way to Qwest field.  Then again when I was waiting for the ferry I would say approximately 80-90% of the passengers from Vashon and Bainbridge were decked out in Sounders gear.  I eventually learned that the crowd, 64,000+, was the third largest ever recorded at Qwest!  Back to Bainbridge Island…the ferry ride to the island was beautiful.  The ride alone is worth the price just to get a full view of the city!  We traveled west and just as the city was growing smaller behind us the Olympic range was looming larger and larger in front of us.  I had a map for the island but when we got off I just followed the flood of people to whereever everyone seemed to be going and eventually found myself in Winslow, the small harbor community on the southeast side of the island.  I had a great time walking the streets down to the harbor and exploring Eagle Harbor Bookstore and drinking coffee at Pegasus Coffee.  My only complaint about the day was the fact that there was nowhere to rent scooters!  I mention the idea on Twitter and a few local Bainbridgers responded with surprise that there wasn’t a rental spot.

Outside the original Starbucks.  Know how you can tell?  Spot the difference in the logo!Of course, like any other Seattle visitor I spent plenty of time exploring Pike Place Market, made my pilgrimage to the first Starbucks location, and took a picture of the Pike Place Fish guys doing there fish-throwing-thing.  The market was a fun place to explore and you could always tell if there was a cruise ship in town by how packed the market was.  But most days I would skip the market area so I could hang out at Elliot Bay Books and explore other parts of the city.  Part of my explorations took me to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the East Village section of Seattle.  It was an interesting mix of affluent, hippy, and trendy culture all running together.  These three ingredients also make for an excellent coffee culture as this is the area that I was told to check out for the best coffeehouses (of course there are exceptions to this which I will get into in my next post).  There were plenty of boutique shops, luxury vehicle dealerships (Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes), and even bakery shops that specialized in cupcakes!

I spent my final day in the city exploring sections of downtown I hadn’t gotten to yet.  In particular I was in search of one building that had a unique architectual exterior.  I had been talking about architecture quite a bit with Matt at Q Cafe and knew from our converstations that my trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete withoutSeattle Public Library spending some time in this building.  It was the Seattle Public Library and it lived up to its billing!  The SPL is a beautiful, angular glass building surrounded by towers two to three times its height (even though it was about 15 stories).  I was certainly impressed by the outside, but the inside took my breath away!  My two favorite spots was the computer area all they way at the top and the third floor which was full of couches because of the expansive glass that provided such a unique scene and plenty of natural light.  I can 3rd floor of the Seattle Public Librarysay that I am truly jealous of Seattle-ites, who should be proud of such a building!

That was quite a bit more that I had planned to write.  Other highlights include being in town for the Sea Fair, Bite of Seattle, the opening of light rail in Seattle, and the opening of a pretty controversial coffeehouse.  But the biggest news has to be that I was there for the hottest day on record, 103 degrees!  Which normally for me isn’t a big deal, except for nobody in Seattle has AC!!!  But I made it and can now add that to my list of big events that I was a part of!

Follow the link below to see my pictures of Seattle.

Seattle – the City

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Seattle, Coffee, and the Interview

It has been a long time….sorry.  I didn’t intend to not write while I was in Seattle but I didn’t have a card reader and wanted to incorporate pictures into my posts. (Is that a good excuse for my laziness?).  Anyways, almost a month later and I finally have time to sit down and write a little.

So as most of you know I went to Seattle to get my feet wet and learn a little bit more about both the coffee industry and, more specifically, the non-profit cafe.  As far as the coffee aspect goes, my head is still buzzing from more than just the caffiene!  I learned more than I could have imagined.  The guys at Q were able to answer a lot of my questions and just give me more info on the coffee world in general.  I got a chance to talk to each one of them pretty in depth about different subjects -with Jake about the business end, with Matt about more of the supply end as he has a history in that area, and with Josh about latte art and the east coast scene.  Each one of them really helped to teach me how to make the drinks too.  It was kind of a process when it came to the drinks to!  Jake taught me the grind, tamp, and most of the stuff with the espresso.  I spent most of my time with Matt practicing steaming milk (whole, skim, soy, half & half, etc…).  Finally, Josh attempted to give me a crash course in latte art – which was not about to happen in only a couple weeks!

Latte Art - Josh did this, not me!

On the non-profit side of things, I have to give a special thanks to Jake and Eugene at Q Cafe and Summer at the Green Bean Coffeehouse for all their help.  They were really open about some really tough questions and because of that I am much more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of this type of business as I go forward.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting more on my trip.  I will probably split them into three posts:  one on Seattle itself, one on coffee, and one on Mt. Rainer.

Until then, enjoy this video that I was able to do with Eugene, the pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, while I was up there (yeah, I know, I look like a dork!).  Again, thanks to everyone at Q for allowing me to follow them around for a couple of weeks – especially Jake, Matt, and Josh!

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Seattle, Prayer, and My Amazing Wife

I am sitting here at a desk in the Hyatt Grand Tampa typing this post thanks to my amazing wife!  After she got off work she came home and blindfolded me and put me in the car for a surprise.  After waiting about five minutes in the car we took off and eventually ended up in the Hyatt Grand parking lot right next to the airport!  She is so wonderful!!!  So instead of spending our last night at home we ate dinner at Maggiano’s, swam in the pool, relaxed in the hot tub, had some beer and desert in the bar during the first two innings of the all star game, and now I am typing this post!

So instead of waking up at 4 am we will not have to get until about 5:15 and I am already checked into my flights for tomorrow.  Amber actually got on earlier and reserved me a window seat for my Miami-Seattle flight – she is so awesome!!!

While we were having dinner Amber gave an appropriate toast to what we hope this trip symbolizes for us.  She said that this trip represented the beginning of our journey to start this coffee house.  So we toasted and I added my amen!

Please pray for my wife and I over the next three weeks.  For me, that God will further burn this passion into my heart and that I will gain wisdom and knowledge.  For Amber and I that our relationship will continue to grow regardless of physical distance.

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Sessions vs. Sotomayor or Modern vs. Postmodern Perspectives on Objectivity

The discussion going on between Senator Sessions and Judge Sotomayor is fascinating!  Without going into to much detail the argument is about objectivity/subjectivity.

Sessions believes, from a modernist perspective, that objectivity is possible (indeed he is not even questioning it) and all judges must adhere to objectivity.

Judge Sotomayor, from more of a postmodern perspective, admits that we are all, including judges, subjective beings and only when we admit that can we strive for objectivity.

Simply because Sotomayor admits to being a subjective being does not mean she will not be an objective judge.  If fact, I would argue and agree that only when we admit our subjectivity, when we know and critically examine what events, facts, and experiences have influenced our lives, only then can we begin to try to strive for objectivity.

I think a judge admitting they are a subjective being striving for objectivity is similar to a pastor admitting they are a sinner but stiving to be like Christ.  But like a church who wants a perfect leader, Senator Sessions is not comfortable with a judge admitting who they are.

I don’t mean this post to be political, rather I am just interested in the modern vs. postmodern view of objectivity that seems to be on trial in this hearing.

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Seattle Update & Stuff I’m Lovin’

I am going to Seattle in a week!!!  Since I last posted I have found a place to stay and bought my non-refundable plain ticket.  Turns out my wife has had family there this whole time!  So I will be in Seattle from July 15th – August 6th, during which I will be doing a short term internship at Q Cafe.  I am really pumped to learn how the cafe is run and just be able to get help and encouragement with some of my ideas.  I am also going a few days before and staying a few days later than the internship so I am hoping to get around Seattle to a few more coffee houses, museums, a Mariners game, and maybe even one of the parks outside the city.

That is all the good stuff about the trip, now here is the negative stuff – my wife and I will be apart the longest we have ever been since we started dating in 2003!  I will be gone for those three weeks, get back, and two days later my wife leaves for a business seminar in Atlanta for four days.  Which doesn’t sound too bad but less than 24 hours after that she is flying back to AR to stay with family for a week.  We figure we will see each other for only about 72 hours in a 5 week period.  The thought hadn’t really hit us until this week.  Probably because we have had a lot going on between going back to AR in June and moving last week – oh yeah, we moved into a house last week!  So anyways, just the act of sitting here writing this is making me feel sad and a bit lonely.

STUFF I’M LOVIN’!

MUSIC – Two of my favorite artists/bands have just released new albums that really take their art in a new direction.  I have always been impressed with Mewithoutyou’s and Derek Webb’s incredible writing ability and therefore will always follow them regardless of their sound.  I say that because, at least in the case of mewithoutyou, many people will find the new sound remarkably different, but I welcome the changes!

  • mewithoutyouIt’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All a Dream, It’s Alright! –It's All Crazy!... Everyone knows that mewithoutyou’s music is always passionate.  Often, in the past, that has come in the form of hard crescendos and screaming, but the band takes a turn in this album, mellowing the sound into more of a hornsy folk album rather than post-hardcore.  Ok, that sounds way to reviewish.  Suffice it to say this album is awesome!  As usual Aaron and the guys explore deep spiritual issues that are more than often lacking in any other form of music, “Christian” or not.  “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie” show cases Aaron’s amazing story telling ability (which I have actually heard is adapted from Suffi folklore but am not sure).  “A  Stick, a Carrot & String” and “The King Beetle On a Coconut Estate” are incredible, deep songs exploring the incarnation and the mystery of God.  As always, mewithoutyou pushes the limits of Christian music and this album does not dissappoint.  With songs like “A Fig With a Bellyache” and “Allah, Allah, Allah”, I wouldn’t doubt if this album earns a ban from Lifeway!
  • Derek WebbStockholm Syndrome – Derek just released his controversialStockholmSyndrome new album on his website Tuesday; however, right now you can only buy it on his website as it will not be available anywhere else until sometime around September 1st.  Anyways, this new album falls more in line with his One Zero Remix album and Moby that his acoustic albums as he has teemed up with Joshua Moore on the new record. So, if you are a fan of Derek’s acoustic and more traditional sounding work then this new album may not have much appeal.  That said, if you are a fan of Derek Webb then I can assure you it does not disappoint as this may be the best produced of all Derek’s work thus far and, as always, the lyrics are always on target.  Derek has a knack for offensive, incredible lyrics that expose the darkness of organized Christianity and the darkness of our hearts.  This tradition can be traced from the beginning in “Wedding Dress” to “T-Shirts” in his sophmore album and on through too many songs to name in his previous two releases.  Well, Derek has continued to strip his language bare to earn him a ridiculous explicit warning for dropping the *shit* bomb in one of the songs.  In context the language is completely appropriate and I am thankful that Derek fought so hard to keep it in there.  The song in question is “What Matters More” and is full of a righteous anger at the gap between what we say we believe and the way we actually live.  He continues to explore certain themes from his previous two albums, including our relationship with the government in “The State” and our seeming need to substitute God for lovers less wild in “The Spirit Vs. The Kick Drum”.  Unfortunately I have had the album for less than 24 hours and have not explored many of the other songs much more that listening to them a couple times.  Other exciting news, Derek will be playing in Florida three times in October!  Unfortunate news, I may only be able to go to one of the shows!

BOOKS

  • Peter RollinsThe Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales – This book is incredible!!!  It is both remarkable and unfortunate how absent parables are in today’s Christian writing and teaching, especially in light of how prevelant it was in Jesus’ teaching.  So with this book Rollins offers us 30+ parables to chew on, wrestle with, or any other metaphor you want to use to describe book that requires a lot of openness and reflection.  Rollins rightly comments that the reason parables are not used today is because they do not make faith easy or turn it into three bullet points that the mind can understand.  Rather than challenging and changing your mind, parables challenge and change your heart.  GREAT book that should be read slowly, carefully, and openly!The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales

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Going to Seattle!!!

Remember that post I wrote a couple weeks back titled “My Dream”?  Well its about time I get serious and start working on it!!!  So in addition to starting the business plan this summer I am also going to Seattle.  I have been in contact with Eugene Cho for a couple months now trying to work out a short term internship at a non-profit cafe that he runs in Seattle called Q Cafe.  Q is very similar to what I want to eventually create and so I am going to spend a

Q Cafe
Q Cafe

couple of weeks with his cafe manager and arts director to see how they run things.  Along with being a great place to build community, have great coffee, and listen to music, they also donate 10% of their profits to non-profit groups doing great things all over the world. 

The official time that I will be with the cafe is July 20 – August 3, but I am going to go a week early so I can explore Seattle and get a feel for the great coffee culture there.  So I say all of this to ask a favor of you…does anybody know anyone in Seattle that I could stay with from approximately July 13 – August 3?!?  Just a minor detail that still needs to be worked out!

So this summer is the beginning of a big journey for Amber and I.  We are looking forward to the adventure ahead and praying for God’s will in all of this (so please pray too!).  If you would like to receive a copy of the business plan, that will be ready by the end of the summer, please leave a comment and let me know (this will help me stay accountable too). 

Here’s to a great summer!!!

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