The great coffee rodeo of 2008

My nearly three weeks in Durham are winding down, and I think that by the end of it I will be sufficiently orientated in the ways of Counter Culture Coffee to start (hopefully) doing good work for the company. At least, that's everybody's idea, and I am crossing fingers and toes that I'm able to hit the ground if not running, at least at a steady trot.

Coffee -- Not a Sonogram
I haven't bothered to remember to bring or take out an actual camera over this time, because my hands are so often occupied taking notes, good Virgo that I am. Please pardon this poor excuse for a cell-phone photo of a beanful cooling tray.

It's an interesting place to be in for me right now: professionally somewhat vulnerable, having left a job that I truly liked and was fairly good at for a completely different one that I already love but of which I'm admittedly a little intimidated. I'm not trying to be falsely humble by saying that -- if you were to add up the extent of my experience, it'd prove me to be someone who is utterly passionate about and enamored of coffee and always eager to learn more, but who has seen the industry through essentially two lenses: journalism and retail.

My job now is to be the liaison between a growing roasting company that handles more pounds of coffee in one week than I have heretofore been able to conjure in my mind's eye and coffeeshop owners and restaurateurs whose dreams of quality, efficiency, profit, sustainability, reputation, growth and success are on the line. I am now a part of that roasting company, part of the mythic "we." That is wild and intimidating and exciting. I want so much to be good at this, and to do well by these incredible new partners I've found myself among, on all sides.

Writing this strikes me as strange and perhaps too personal; it might be the product of staying alone in a hotel room night after night (and now that the Olympics are over...), or it might be a sea change. While this is arguably a "personal" blog, I think it's rarely been very telling about my emotions, opinions or fears (though I may see it differently than you, the beloved reader, does). Is this how they get you to reveal your deepest secrets on reality programs? Is this my barista confessional? Oh man. I feel like I'm on The Real World: New York... by way of Durham.

Regardless, I have learned so much about coffee in the past two and a half weeks, it's exhilerating and awesome. I have learned how to make myself a cup of something on a Clover right after cupping it to see how the processes compare; what a solenoid valve is and what its purpose is in a coffee brewer; how much I love the smell of jute bags first thing on a muggy morning; what an Agtron machine looks like and how it works; how much of an effect water temperature truly has on brewed coffee; and that North Carolina barbecue is vinegary and delicious.

That last one is really important.

Thank you, Mary Schroeder!

So here's to coffee, to coffee people, and to barbecue. And New York, I will see you on Friday night, you lucky sonofa...