Ready For the Next Adventure…

Well, I’ve been home from my Spring Coffee Tour for a little over a week now. And I have to say, I’m already wishing I could get back out on the road again.

A few days ago, I thought I would try to recreate the adventure of looking for New Coffee Places and went to Nordaggio’s in South Tulsa. I hadn’t been there in years, and I thought I should start trying out coffee in my own town if I can’t get out on the road.
It was a rainy Saturday morning, and I went by myself and ordered a latte. Based on the look I got when I asked how many ounces their lattes were, I guess they thought I was either ignorant or a noob. Or probably both. But if there’s one thing I learned, it’s find out the size of the drinks before you order, because there’s more variation out there than you’d think (or than there should be).
I sat with my latte and watched the rain outside and the 3 other people in the shop. I realized early on I had chosen a seat too close to the stereo speakers but I was too lazy to move.
As I nursed my drink (and I will say, it was the most unusual latte I’ve had in recent memory… They roast their own beans and I don’t know what they DO to them exactly – there was no “nuttiness” in the flavor but there was instead a whole lot of caramel flavor. It was a little disconcerting… but not bad…), I thought about my trip some more. I realized that most of the coffee I drank on the trip, I had by myself. I think only twice did I have a friend with me. And I also realized – that I enjoyed being alone.
I could always go talk to the barista or the owner or the roaster and ask questions and say hi, and learn from them. I love watching the look on someone’s face when they talk about something they’re passionate about – and I saw that a lot. So I could always find people to talk to, but when it came down to the act of experiencing the atmosphere and the sights and sounds and using all the senses involved in the experience of drinking a coffee – I experienced all that by myself.
There are two things I love about coffee besides the taste – the aspect of ritual and the aspect of social interaction. I enjoy the ritual of making coffee at home. And I enjoy the civility that comes with sitting down with someone and having a conversation over a great espresso drink. But on the trip, having a latte by myself became a new sort of ritual, and a new way of relating to the whole experience. I was fully in the Present Moment. And it was great. With no conversation as distraction, I could pay more attention to everything around me and I was able to notice more how the environment contributes to the level of enjoyment of the beverage. Because it’s true – the circumstances under which you drink coffee will contribute to your impression of the drink itself.
I hope all this makes sense. Because I’m not sure I’m managing to explain what I’m thinking very well.
The short version is: the trip was great because it was the perfect combination of spending time with other people and spending time alone. And being in complete control of how I spent my time was priceless.

So now that I’m home, with dishes to wash and bills to pay, and some gardening to do and unfortunately a termite inspection on the agenda, I find myself wishing for another Coffee Adventure. I’d love to pick a city and go there and order a bunch of lattes and meet new people and learn more about coffee. I guess I’ll start saving for the next Coffee Tour.

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2015 SCT – Day 12 – The Last Day.

The last day… So I was about to run out of Q-Tips so I decided that I may as well head home. But seriously… Time to go home and get back to it.
The thing was – what would I be getting back to? I’m currently between writing assignments, and while there are some really exciting projects to get started on, there is nothing that I have to get back and “do,” save a dentist appointment. And I managed to reschedule that for another month out…
On the last day of my Day Job, I received my first freelance assignment. I worked towards the deadline of finishing that project, and then I worked towards going on my business / research trip to Texas. Now both of those are done and I don’t know what comes next…
So I realized I had probably some sort of unconscious block towards heading home.
Right before I woke up Tuesday morning, I had a dream about my Grandma’s house, on the beach. It’s a recurring dream, where huge storms of strong winds and high waves pummel the house, and the house always stays intact, the large living room windows never yielding. I am always safe inside. This time, though, a storm blew through and the house flooded. And eventually collapsed. I tried to go through what was left in the house (in the sunshine, because the rain stopped and the clouds disappeared as soon as the house fell), but I realized that I didn’t really need to take anything with me. It turns out you don’t need much stuff.
I woke up. I packed, had breakfast, and started home.
IMG_3594I did make one detour though – back to Coffee Slingers in OKC. I had to make sure the great latte I’d had on the way down wasn’t a fluke, you know? And by jove, it wasn’t. It was in the Top 3 of the entire trip. The Boss chick was there again and she was roasting beans! I had to talk to her. So we chatted for a while and it turns out her name is Melody, and she owns the shop. A woman! Owns the shop! And roasts her own beans! I had been lamenting the seeming lack of women involved in the coffee culture. She said that yes, women were definitely in the minority and she thought maybe this was because women were intimidated by the machinery. Well, she isn’t. She is Boss. I actually hope to interview her one day soon…

I’ll probably post a few more observations from the trip over the next few days – I drank a lot of coffee and met a lot of cool people, and the whole thing was so much fun. I hope to do more coffee tours in the future, too.

But for now – I am back home. What is next?

 

cslastday

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2015 SCT Day 11 – Davis Street Espresso, FTW!!

Monday, April 6 – my last full day of “vacation.”

I drove over to Love Field and had lunch with Dayl. She works for Southwest, and she signed me into the Compound so I could check it out and eat lunch with her in their cafeteria. Southwest seems like a pretty cool place to work! If I had worked for a company that had a “People Department” and encouraged everyone to treat everyone else as part of a big family, and had common areas for employees to interact or just “hang out” with each other, instead of tracking everywhere I went on the internet (and then sending the list to my managers) and only allowing “7 pieces of flare” on people’s desks – I might have enjoyed Korporate Amerika a little more. I experienced the same thing when I was in Austin, and went to visit the company I’d been contracted to write for. It’s nice to see that some companies encourage a little actual diversity and creativity. So nice job, Southwest!

dayl and ace at southwest
dayl and ace at southwest

After lunch, I drove over to visit my last stop on the Texas leg of the Spring Coffee Tour. I had read a few articles, and tried to choose my location wisely… I chose Davis Street Espresso on – you guessed it – Davis Street, in what seems to be referred to as the Tyler-Davis neighborhood. The shop is the retail space for Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. Their main business is roasting beans, but the Davis Street space is amazing and a great stand-alone coffee shop. As soon as I walked in I got chills and that semi-giddy feeling knowing I was about to have a great cup of coffee…
Two very pleasant people helped me with ordering a latte and picking out some freshly roasted beans to take home with me. Then I watched the barista make my latte on their super fancy Bosco espresso machine. Boscos are lever espresso machines – you pull a shot by literally pulling a long lever. There are no automatic functions on the machine – it’s completely manual. Meaning of course, you really need to know what you’re doing to make a good espresso. Bosco machines are made in Italy and this one looked beautiful! And so did my latte, when it arrived, completely filled to the brim of a lovely blue cup on a lovely blue saucer. I was in heaven already.

oooooooooohhhhh
oooooooooohhhhh

I did the obligatory photo taking, then sat down and stared at my coffee for a few minutes. Again – savoring the anticipation. I really enjoy that feeling… I took a sip. It did not disappoint. At all.

oooooooooohhhhh some more
oooooooooohhhhh some more

I did a little people-watching and note-taking while I slowly drank my latte. It was So. Freakin. Good. Nice and smooth, a little nutty, no sour or bitter aftertaste. OMG. After I finished, I went to talk to the barista. I asked him about the machine, and I asked him how many grams of coffee they dosed for their shots. He said about 18 (and oh dear I can’t remember how many grams he said the resulting shot was). I couldn’t believe it! It was the same amount of coffee that Shift used but the taste was completely different. Of course some of this was because of the beans but I’ll wager a good deal of the difference was the machine. I am somewhat curious about those things but in the end – a fantastic cup of coffee is a fantastic cup of coffee. I’d wager to say that this was the best latte I had in the DFW area. I cursed all the way back to Dayl’s house. Goddam, that was effing fantastic!

The afternoon was spent writing and jumping on a business call, and the evening was spent with my wonderful Fort Worth hostess Dayl. She is a super generous person and makes everyone feel welcome in her home. Thank you Dayl!

The last full day of the trip: a success.

did i mention they also had a custom kees van der westen??
did i mention they also had a custom kees van der westen??
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2015 SCT, Day 10 – Easter in Forth Worth

Easter Sunday – April 5, 2015
I spent the day in Fort Worth with a bunch of Australians. I’m finally getting used to the accent and can, for the most part, understand almost everything everyone is saying. Almost.
After a delicious Easter Breakfast of Dayls’ now famous Eggs Benedict, some of the Aussies went off for some sightseeing while Dayl, Cheryl and I stayed behind. We did, however, make it out for a quick trip to World Market. I know, I know, shopping on Easter? Well, none of us are particularly religious. We did watch Oprah interview Pema Chodron though, so I think that counts…
I had to go to World Market. I’m on a limited budget on this trip, but I had gotten requests to purchase a few things:

  • 3 beachwood spatulas
  • Austrian-made Manner wafer cookies, lemon and hazelnut flavors
  • Ritter Sport dark chocolate covered Marzipan

I was in luck that they had all 3 requests! Plus so much more. Usually I find at least a few interesting coffee paraphenalia at World Market, and today was no exception. As I got closer to the area in the store where they keep that stuff, I could feel the anticipation building… and I turned the corner and saw… a display of Aeropresses! Oh yes, I could so totally rationalize buying one of those…
You really can rationalize anything, for or against, positive or negative, yes or no… it’s really pretty easy. And one thing I’ve learned over the years that if you need a little extra nudge in trying to rationalize something, just call Dayl. I showed her the display. An Aeropress landed in my basket.
Of course I had to try it out right after lunch (the purpose of which was simply to get some food in my stomach so I could have a coffee).
Now, since I’m not at home, I was lacking some necessary equipment for making proper pour over coffee – like a scale and a conical burr grinder. I love Dayl but all she has is a blade grinder, and those don’t cut the mustard, so to speak. You don’t get even-sized pieces of beans. They just keep “grinding” beans finer and finer, and you get some larger chunks and some very fine particles (known as “fines”). This produces an uneven extraction which can make the coffee bitter. You won’t get the proper flavors from the coffee beans. A burr grinder gives you a better chance of having evenly-ground coffee. Also I’d prefer to weigh my beans and water, so I can (re)produce consistently good coffee. So sorry Dayl, if I sound like an ungrateful house guest… I used the scoop to measure out the beans, and did the best I could with the blade grinder.
I made everyone a cup of Aeropress coffee with the Cuvee coffee beans I’d brought from Austin. Each cup tasted different, and since the brewing method was essentially the same (with some variation, as the Aeropress is COMPLICATED at first, sheesh!), I can only guess that the inconsistency came from grinding the beans. I think there’s real potential with the Aeropress, as people really rave about them, but I’ll have to wait until I get home to try it out with the Proper Equipment. Even so, it was fun!
IMG_3570             IMG_3574
That evening, Dayl made sure Cheryl caught her plane back to Sydney (which she had missed the day before, hence her stopping by for a day). Nice to meet you, Cheryl!
The rest of us watched Chef – a “cute” movie that was fairly predictable but nicely done. It left me feeling really hungry.

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2015 SCT, Day 9 – Fort Worth / Denton / Australians / Improv

Saturday, April 4. I had some time to myself this morning. I guess I could have gone on more of an adventure, and gone into Dallas for coffee, but I opted for the known quantity and headed to Avoca with my laptop. No sign of Peter, but eventually he did roll in on his skateboard for an espresso but wasn’t actually working. I sat and people-watched and had a latte. I also bought some beans to take home with me – a bag of “Don Roberto,” Columbian single-origin. I can’t wait to try them!
Around mid-day I discovered I had some time to myself in the afternoon, as well. So I figured – what the heck! I texted my friend Kristina, who lives in Denton (about 30 minutes north of Fort Worth). She had time to meet… for a coffee! She suggested a place to try, so I drove up to Denton and we met at a place called Shift.
As soon as I walked in, I noticed that they served Avoca beans! This would be interesting. I would be able to see what another machine / barista would do with the same beans I’d had that morning. I also noticed that they were also having a tasting – I missed another one! Darnit…
I was informed by a very upbeat counter person that I had my choice of an 8-ounce, 12-ounce, or 16-ounce latte (at least I think those were the 3 choices – I didn’t write them down, sorry. Maybe it was 6, 8, and 12?). I chose the 8. Kristina hadn’t gotten there yet so I chatted with the counter guy and the barista. It turns out the barista was one of the owners, Angelo. He was a very personable guy, and very knowledgeable. I asked him how many grams of coffee he was dosing in their super-cute La Marzocco, and he told me about 18 grams of coffee went into every shot. By current “third wave” standards, that’s not very much! A traditional Italian double shot of espresso is 14 grams and these days you’ll find American shops going to 21-22g. So 18 is on the lighter side.

IMG_3546
Angelo at Shift, Denton TX

Angelo personifies all the good things a coffee shop should be. You could tell by talking to him that he was passionate about coffee, enthusiastic about sharing his passion, knowledgeable about beans and the act of making espresso, and concerned about finding good sources of beans for his shop. It was a stark difference to some of the people I ran into down in Austin, who seemed to be a little put out about having to serve me coffee.
In hindsight, had I known that Shift doses less coffee, I would have opted for a cappuccino or 6-ounce latte – if the espresso is a little “weaker,” it needs less milk. Overall it was quite good, but a little too mild for my taste.

 

 

I had a nice visit with Kristina, and got back on the highway to get back to Fort Worth. I had a dinner date with 4 Australians…
Dayl is Australian. And I think she knows half of the population of Australia. So when Aussies come to visit DFW, they stay with Dayl. They wanted to go eat ribs at Texas Roadhouse, and then come with Dayl and me to the Improv show we were planning to attend. So – ribs it was. Or rather, grilled shrimp. It was kind of a surreal dinner, sitting in a Texas steak house with a bunch of Australians. I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying.
After dinner we headed to downtown Fort Worth and caught Four Day Weekend, a super cool Improv Troupe. It was really clever – a whole different level of performers than anything I’d seen before. Sadly, their troupe contained no women. I thought that was a real shame.

Downtown Fort Worth
Downtown Fort Worth

When we got home, I discovered I’d forgotten to close the door to the bedroom I was staying in, and while we were away, Dayl’s dog discovered I had coffee beans in my book bag. I don’t think she ate any, but she ripped the bag wide open and there were beans everywhere. I salvaged most of them but let’s just say my room smelled nice and coffee-y that night.
It was an action-packed day, to be sure. It was great!

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