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“A Coffee to Go”

Sep 22, 2021

That phrase is spoken countless times across the country on a daily basis. But did you ever stop to think, where did this coffee come from?

About seven years ago I started paying more attention to my coffee. It helped that I passed a new coffee shop, Strange Matter, on the way to work. Cara, the owner, was willing to share some of her knowledge, including recommending two classic books on coffee. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman and Coffee with Tim Wendbelboe. While I preferred the lab portion of class each day in Cara’s shop, I highly recommend both books if you’re interested to learn more about coffee.

One of the first things I learned about drinking better coffee, go to a third wave shop and do NOT order by saying light, medium or dark roast. At this type of shop, you read the menu for the day, review the tasting notes, and place your order by bean type. The tasting notes description may remind you of doing the same with wine, chocolate, or bourbon. The first time I took my wife to Strange Matter, despite preparing her for the new ordering process, old habits die hard, and she ordered a medium roast. After the barista gave her a look of disdain, and a little coaching from me, she successfully placed her order!

We continued our coffee journey and sought out a more formal coffee education opportunity. So, my wife and I spent five days at the Espresso Academy in Florence, Italy. Class was from 8:30am to 6pm, an immersion program if you will, with a different curriculum each day. Let’s just say if this lobbying career doesn’t work out, my certification as a barista is my back up plan!

We learned a lot about the coffee bean, extraction, how to properly taste (cupping) and evaluate coffee as done in competition, how to roast, brewing methods, and barista duties. Of the 30 people who came through the school that week, most attended for a day or two, and we were the only people from the United States. There were six of us who attended the full week. We became fast friends and have stayed connected on a group chat. Participants were from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Cambodia, Ukraine, South Korea, Italy, Columbia, China, and Japan. Coffee truly is a worldwide drink. It was a life lesson that when people focus on what they have in common, our differences really disappear.

In case you don’t have time to read the books or spend a vacation at coffee school, here’s a few insights to get you started:

    • Hit the globe and sample coffee beans from different parts of the world. There are many countries that grow coffee beans, and within each country there are distinct growing regions that help shape the uniqueness of each regions’ beans. And within each region the soils of each crop can also affect a final product. Again, much like grapes in the production of wine.
    • Beans from Brazil and Columbia are easy to find as the countries are the world’s largest and third largest coffee producers, respectively. Despite being large producers, both countries grow some fine beans.
    • Ethiopia is the homeland of coffee, and is one of my favorite beans, especially those from the Sidama and Yirgacheffe regions. A natural processed bean from these regions will give you wonderful fruit flavors of blueberries, strawberries, and stone fruit. Yes, those flavors really do appear in quality coffee.
    • Kenyan coffee is another one I really enjoy. It has intense acidity and flavors of blackcurrants, citrus, or cherries.
    • Be sure to try some coffee beans from Yemen. This country has been producing coffee commercially longer than any other country, starting in the 15th and 16th However, its production has not been commoditized, rather it is a country of thousands of farmers growing small amounts of beans.
    • There are a lot of variables to making an excellent cup of coffee, but a high-quality bean is the key and can help overcome some minor problems with other issues that can come up in through the rest of the coffee making process.
    • Buy beans that provide the roast date and come in a sealed bag with a valve in it. I only buy beans with a roast date, otherwise I could be buying beans that are old. The valve releases the gases in the beans that exist after the roasting process.
    • Oxygen is the enemy of a roasted coffee bean, keep your beans sealed until ready to use. And only grind what you need for that espresso, pour over, or batch coffee.

Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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