Those of you who know me well probably know Sterling. You know him or you know about him or you’ve met him or heard about him. And so it’s with a heavy heart that I must tell you that he died yesterday.
His full name was General Sterling Price. He was named after John Wayne’s cat in the movie “True Grit.” I adopted him when he was 2 months old. That was 17 years and 2 weeks ago today. I decided I wanted a cat and I walked into Companion Animal Hospital on Harvard and he was there in a cage. He was so tiny that he sat on my shoulder and walked back and forth across my neck from shoulder to shoulder. I remember that I told the person who worked there that I would look around and let them know if I decided to take him. So I drove to a big box animal store and looked at all the various cats and I couldn’t stop thinking about that little black-and-white at Companion. And I started to panic thinking that someone else might adopt him before I got back there and I ran out and jumped in my car and drove back as fast as I could and ran inside. And then I acted nonchalant and said I didn’t feel like looking any more so I would just take this little guy. And from that moment forward we were best friends. I watched him grow from a tiny kitten with too much energy into a peaceful adult who loved just sitting with me and holding my hand.
I could go on and on, like any pet owner I guess, but suffice it to say that Sterling was a very unique creature. I would often look at him in amazement that he was animated. How could an animal like him be real? He seemed like a human, contentedly trapped in the body of a cat. His face always told me what he was thinking - his expressions were obvious. His eyes were full of life every time he opened them. He loved life and looked forward to our rituals each day. And he was with me through the years that I was learning to be a man. I was only 26 years old when Sterling and I met. He has been a huge force in the changes I have made in myself the past 17 years, and in the creation and evolution of the DoubleShot. You may think that I’m exaggerating, but I am not. He was the behind-the-scenes entity that kept me going every day, gave me a listening ear no matter what I had to say, and showed me a peaceful and forgiving way to approach any situation in life. The love and companionship he gave me was perhaps one of the most important things in my life that has allowed me to keep going day after day. It was as if we were one. And now that he is gone, I feel like I lost a section of my heart. An entire portion of my life and personality was buried yesterday in an oak casket under shovelful after shovelful of Oklahoma dirt.
That isn’t to say that life won’t continue. Of course it will. But it will be different. I will have to learn to adapt in different ways to the daily routine and find an outlet for my stress and emotions. And the DoubleShot? It will be fine. It won’t be the same. My desire to make coffee was born with Sterling at my side. He loved the smell of it and licked the residue from the bottom of an empty americano cup.
I know this doesn’t mean a lot to many of you, but if you enjoy DoubleShot Coffee, you should know that the source of my inspiration for creating it and for persevering and improving it was General Sterling Price. His death is a major setback to me and to the DoubleShot. I will likely reevaluate my priorities in the coming months, and make some important decisions about the direction of this business. That’s how important he was.
Please enjoy the coffee and all that Sterling and I have created here at the DoubleShot, with the help of so many people through the years. Enjoy it today and tomorrow and the next day. Because life is uncertain. Thank you for helping our dreams become a reality. I hope the future holds unexpected pleasures and more delicious treats.
The pin-pricks of coffee’s tiny guardian mosquitos remind me that in the dense, diminutive forest of it’s mountainsides I am a guest, and its harvesters are armored with long sleeves and t-shirts around their heads appearing like so many muslim women, faces protruding from a habit of Hanes. Like soldiers waiting to be called upon to defend the coffee. I skirt amongst outstretched branches, a turnstile of spindly sticks and corrugated leaves, the smallest of which have a thick, rubbery texture that seem to transmit to me the health and wellbeing of the plant when I caress its surfaces as one in love.
They ask me why I touch the leaves that way.
I like to feel them.
They ask if I have children.
The coffee trees are my children.
They say I have a lot of children.
I love coffee. It’s fruit is a life-force I pluck with earnestness and purpose. I select the ripe cherries intently and pop them in my mouth for a chew on the fibrous skin and I tuck the twin seeds in my cheek to taste its slimy fructose-covered shell, like a chipmunk storing up for winter. Or I pop them in my blue jeans pocket, filling with seeds of the Maragogipe or cherry of the Yellow Caturra. Amongst millions of trees, each bearing over a thousand cherries, they ask why I put several in my pockets.
These are magical beans.
They think I am crazy.
I look into the eyes of the coffee picker and I ask her name and she says Claudia. She tells me she is thirty years old. I ask her how long she has been picking coffee and she tells me, “All of my life.” I tell her she is beautiful.
I examine the strong yet delicate hands of the farmer whose skin is creased with a lifeline that parallels the family tree of his coffee. The sticky stains of coffee juice show upon his clothes and the knowing way he manages the harvest.
And the processing of our coffee crisscrosses cultures and interweaves several centuries of rudimentary practices. I ask, when was the contemporary machine invented that removes the skins of the cherry and which is so pervasive across the coffee washing stations throughout the world. They tell me around 1650, when the Dutch took coffee from the arid mountains of Yemen and planted it in the island rainforests of Indonesia. An enduring method and machine, invented of necessity by interlopers.
The history of the process is the history of the cup. From the port of Mocha in Yemen to Java, Indonesia, the world’s oldest blend was born. The traditional dry process of Yemen and Ethiopia yields distinctly different flavors than the wet process that enabled coffee cultivation to be spread throughout the world. The colors and fragrances of these unroasted, processed coffees trickle through my fingers and into my nose as I sift through my burlap meditation garden.
Coffee is the history of bondage and freedom. Of the slavery once predominant in plantations of French and English and Dutch colonies and of the uprising of the suppressed. In roasting coffee, as the color changes from green to straw to tan and the aromas evolve, the coffee is absorbing the heat from its environment in the roasting drum. But at a certain time and temperature in the cycle, our coffee begins to rise up exothermically, audibly snapping and releasing energy in a vibrant celebration of life and liberty.
I snoop around a coffee mill and I feel the tears in the plastic mesh flooring of a raised bed built for a special project of naturals just for me. A European roaster inquires curiously but conservatively, and I ask if he is interested in the natural.
NO, he snaps.
They tell me someday my palate will mature and I won’t like those coffees any more.
I think, maybe my respect for mankind will mature someday and I won’t like freedom or diversity any more. And I’ll take my elite cupping spoon to Costa Rica to subdue the coffees under one standard profile. Should we not question the status quo and ride away in container ships back to San Francisco, our bland, unwavering coffees barely allowed to reach that exothermic crack before being put down, hushed.
In Costa Rica, coffee transformed from ornamental garden plant into the chief export in the mid-1800s.
Seeing a weakness in the recently-independent states of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, a privateer named William Walker gathered a small army and set sail from San Francisco to make slave states of those emerging countries. His success in Nicaragua was quelled by an uprising of meager but impassioned farmers from the rolling countryside of northern Costa Rica. The impromptu civil defense drove the pirates back into Nicaragua, trapped in a hostel in the town of Rivas. One young farm boy-turned-drummer boy from the town of Alajuela charged the hostel and set fire to its foundations, laying waste to the fortress and sending Walker and his cohorts fleeing to Honduras where they were summarily executed by firing squad.
Inspired by the young Alajuelan, Juan Santamaria, whose nickname was El Erizo, we pay homage to his bravery and forthrightness. Our first special coffee for this holiday season, El Erizo, is a departure from the pent-up standards espoused by San Franciscans, where they roast only washed coffees and only until they begin to hear the coffee cry out, whereas the voices of the past make them nervous and the emerging uniqueness of flavors, of freedom, are dismissed, enslaved. And we burn down those walls and release the sweetness and amazing flavors within the coffee, within the farm boy who planted and picked the coffee. With Thanksgiving we offer this rare treat - a Honey Process from Alajuela that tastes, in all my experience, like a beautiful natural.
They ask me why I love the coffee.
It personifies freedom.
There is a story written and lived by John Muir (A Wind-Storm in the Forests) in which he decides one day to climb a tall Douglas Spruce tree in the Sierra Nevadas. He climbs all the way to the top. But he climbs during a strong wind storm. He climbs despite the fact that the tree is listing and bending and swaying heavily. In his words, “The slender tops fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a bobo-link on a reed.” Muir describes the things he sees as he sways in ellipses about the top of the forest; and of the beautiful sounds he experiences with the wind moaning and rustling through the canyons and trees; and of the fragrances of the woods and of the sea. His exuberance is remarkable in the midst of a situation that might seem irritable or troublesome to most people. He purposely puts himself out on the exposed limbs of life so he can experience the unfiltered, unexpected and unknown.
Several months ago I entered a lottery to participate in a 50 mile foot race called the San Juan Solstice. And I was one of the 250 people selected to run on June 27 in Lake City, Colorado. In the weeks and days leading up to the race, reports began accumulating about late snowfall in the mountains. Info from the race director as well as trail reports from mountain climbers around the state indicated fast-melting but persistent snow above 12,000 feet and very high creeks and rivers. This being my first time in this race, coupled with all the excitement, speculation, and uncertainty about the conditions on the course (“He reports shamelessly resorting to crawling across the snowfields in places.”) made for a bit of nervousness on my part. That feeling didn’t subside when I got to Lake City and saw my fellow competitors, most of them elite ultra-runners.
I work a lot. Which means I don’t train much. But I trained a little, and I had a plan. I’ve been an athlete all my life, an endurance athlete since I was 21, and an ultra-endurance athlete since 2006. All these years of training and learning about how my body responds to different stimuli have helped me understand and shape my fitness at will. And I long to be the type of person who can perform whatever task is needed or desired at any moment without the cumbersome burden of specific training. So I drove to Colorado and arrived at a primitive campsite outside the town of Leadville on a Tuesday. Leadville’s towering mountains greeted me with the same enticement as usual and as I gazed up at their white flanks, my desire to summit began to swell. The desire to climb. Because I’m a good climber.
It’s fun to do something you’re good at. So at 315p* on Tuesday afternoon, I double-knotted my running shoes and hit the trail to see how I felt. The looming mountain above me, the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains, disappeared as I entered its pine forested skirt. I knew I would suffer with the changes in elevation, having been at 740 feet above sea level 24 hours before and beginning my climb at 10,500 feet. And it was hard, but I climbed with as much forward, upward pace as I could muster. Up until the trees became shorter and sparse and then ceased to grow. I continued upward, leaving the effervescent forest for the airy open space above treeline. And I continued until the wind grew cold. The hard work of ascending kept the fire burning inside but the air became colder and colder, and I put on my jacket and hat and gloves. Each ascent of a knoll which seemed like the last, revealed another above, and eventually the trail gave way to rock stacked and scattered randomly like petrified leaves raked into a pile on a blustery Autumn day. The summit was biting and unprotected and tempestuous. But all at once, I could turn and see in every direction, and at 14,433 feet, the world around soared with the majesty of the greatest painting to ever adorn the walls of Gilcrease Museum. And my lungs, as wheezy as they were on the climb to the top, began to learn what I wanted them to do and my body started transforming itself into an oxygen-extracting machine. (*On an aside here, 315p is NOT an appropriate time to start a mountain climb. I usually start early in the morning so that I am off the summit by noon. On this occasion it worked out because of luck and speed. But don't try it.)
Nicaragua has long been on my radar because of the tasty coffees we’ve had from that country, and because my novice and infrequent cigar-smoking has led me to prefer Nicaraguan tobacco. A couple of months ago, I was invited to visit for the first time with the assistance and direction of a woman named Leslie Penrose, who runs a foundation called Just Hope. Just Hope seems to be the type of foundation that visits with individuals and communities and asks what they need, and then tries to figure out ways to help them get those things, mostly through micro-loans and sharing of information and resources. Not particularly knowing Leslie or having any idea where I would be going or what I would be seeing, I stepped onto a plane, sat in the window seat, and watched as a page turned and the world presented me with a new space to explore and learn. The drive out of the capital city of Managua could’ve easily been on the plains of Northern Tanzania, the earth dry and parched with savannah grasses bent with thirst. Large, thorny trees stretched out over the horizon and unseen residents built cinder- and mud-block houses with corrugated tin roofs. We rolled through the lowlands and ascended into still-thirsty, but highly vegetated mountainsides. This road brought us into the region called Matagalpa and to a town called Santa Emilia. My impression was more of a mood than an actual observation, but the country felt dingy and depressed, uncared-for, and troubled. A side-road in Santa Emilia led us to a farm of the same name, where we waited for an armed guard to open the gate to let us in.
Our living quarters for the next few days were primitive, but interesting. A series of bamboo-and-wood huts with grass roofs stood in rows, and within each were two sets of bunk beds and two full-size beds, complete with mosquito nets. The mosquitoes in Nicaragua carry malaria and dengue fever and a disease called chikungunya, which lasts a few months and causes terrible pain in the joints. Our small huts were spartan. There was no running water and we took something called a “Russian Shower” in which one pours cold water over their body using a bowl floating in a 55 gallon drum. And they fed us, rice and beans, three times a day. This is how the locals live. All the time.
In this region of Nicaragua, we visited coffee farms of different magnitudes. We toured the farm we were staying on, Finca Santa Emilia. It is a large, corporate, well-organized production farm “owned by a Turkish-American.” We visited a medium-sized farm called La Esmeralda, which is owned by an American couple who discovered Nicaragua on a mission trip and decided to buy a farm and “retire” in the tropical countryside. Though the work of managing a farm and the difficulty keeping good labor has worn on them, their farm was diverse and teeming with the multitudes of plants found on a 21st Century Central American mountain. The farm seemed a bit disheveled and wild, while the owners, Debra and Roy were as neat and hospitable and friendly as could be.
We drove just outside of that small town and parked on the side of the road. Here we disembarked and walked up a wide dirt-and-rock trail for a mile or so to a community called La Flor. A public forum ensued and we met a few farmers, sitting around a large circle in their community center, who told of their farming practices and the challenges they face as small landholders. The culture of over-spending in bumper crop years leads to over-borrowing in lean and underproductive years, and the cycle of a cash-poor farmer needing and promising never ends. The “coyote” lends money for fertilizer and buys the coffee 9 months later during harvest. The sloppy wet-milling performed at each little farm results in a volatile, fermenting coffee being sold to the dry mill. And the urgency with which the coffee must change hands in this fragile condition constrains the farmers to the market prices of the day. Or less, because they have no idea WHAT the market prices are. (Everyone seems to think they're getting ripped off, and maybe they are, but it's complicated.) And these people really are living a very simple life. We meandered around the community after our meeting and visited a few of the farms in La Flor. We climbed the hillsides and walked amongst the coffee. We knelt next to the small nursery where they grow seedlings for new coffee plants. We saw new water lines and pit toilets that were funded by loans through Just Hope. And we saw pride in the beaming countenance of a man named Geronimo as he showed us the beautiful, shiny new house he built with more assistance from Just Hope. Our main guide over the land was a young man named Freddy. He had earned a scholarship to go to the university and study agronomy, and so he was a wealth of information and experience, and his farm was the most healthy and pristine of them all.
All along our walk, as I hung back to take in all the little details, Geronimo would pluck an 18 inch seed pod or a red shell with horns like a bull and crack them open for a snack. He would always offer up a pea or something that looked like a slimy caterpillar, and much to my surprise they were all edible and some were even pretty tasty.
As I processed all the information about the people of La Flor and thought about the ways in which their lives could be made easier by working together, collaborating, and improving their coffee processing, pooling their purchases and maybe even their sales, my mind spun through the possibilities, not just to acquire coffee for the DoubleShot, but to walk away knowing these people had more opportunities than when I met them.
The San Juan Solstice 50 began in the early morning darkness with 249 runners trotting up a dirt road carrying water and snacks and clothing for unexpected changes in weather. We turned off onto singletrack that crossed a waist-deep, frigid stream several times, each crossing making my feet numb. That track persisted up and over a mountain pass and down into a valley where the sweltering temperatures had me dripping sweat. The second long climb of the day led up onto the Continental Divide, where we ran on trail and off-trail, through fragile, slippery snow, and tufted, patchy grasses, an ankle-sprain-in-waiting.
As expected, I was climbing well, especially for a flat-lander, chit-chatting and laughing at the suffering I sensed in the runners around me (and inside myself). I laughed about cold, numb feet; and about falling through a snowfield and post-holing for a few steps until I could regain my footing on solid snow. I told myself, "The higher I go, the stronger I get." And when a competitor asked me, "Are you enjoying the views?", I looked up from my feet and observed the barren sliver of land we were running on and how it fell away to both my left and right and on both sides of me were...
No. Not really. But I did notice after I arrived in Lake City that the place has a fondness for a fellow named Alferd Packer. In the winter which began in 1873, Packer and five other men ventured out into the Rocky Mountain wilderness in search of gold. ("There's gold in them thar hills.") They struck out from Montrose headed for Gunnison during an especially difficult season and got terribly lost. Nowadays, all you'd have to do is drive east on Highway 50, watch the road signs if that makes you feel better, and check the GPS on your phone occasionally to see how many miles are left. But in 1874 there was no highway and barely even a town at either end of that journey. So they got tremendously lost. (You should look at a map if you don't know how lost they got.) So lost that they ended up near the townsite of Lake City. (It wasn't officially a town until later that year.) Once the lost party ran out of food, they apparently began to eat each other. And Packer was the only one to survive the trip. Sustained by human flesh, he showed up alone in Gunnison a couple months later. While in Lake City, I ate most of my meals at the Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grill. Running through the same mountains where Packer ate his friends, I munched on a Cannibal Burger, which tasted like beef and was fairly delicious and sustaining slathered with ketchup.
Yes, I eat hamburgers during long runs. Ground beef is an amazing source of energy. I also drink coffee. The DoubleShot Coffee Concentrate went down so smooth at the 21.5 mile aid station and gave me the spark to get on up to the Divide. (If you've never stood on the Continental Divide, you should find a way to get yourself there. It's breathtaking.)
One thing led to another and I actually felt really good throughout the race. The final climb up a steep mountain called Slumgullion (which apparently is primitive Hamburger Helper) was brutal, and climbing through the only aspen forest of the day, the mosquitoes feasted on my human flesh. Swatting and laboring uphill, I finally came to the peak and ran down to the last aid station. The next 3 miles were very steep to my weary legs, and the loose shale singletrack trail tested my balance and braking. And finally I could no longer trust my legs to run down the ceaselessly steep terrain. So I walked it in, finishing in 14 hours and 10 minutes, exhausted. (The 122nd person across the line.)
I've always hoped that the things I have a knack for and enjoy doing could be useful at some point for the greater good of society. At what point will I be needed to throw on a pack and run up into the mountains to help some inaccessible population? For now, I feel like the traveling I've done and the information I've learned over the years about coffee farming could possibly be put to good use for more than the acquisition of delicious coffee for the DoubleShot (though that is good use). And that makes me hopeful. It's the result of climbing a tree during a windstorm in order to see what transpires. Now I just have to make something happen.
The DoubleShot has been pretty busy over the past few months. We’ve been steadily making changes to accommodate more customers, to serve you more efficiently and help you with more questions about coffee drinks, coffee beans, and coffee equipment. Our pastry chef has been in the kitchen churning out the most delicious muffins and scones in town. It’s exciting to see so many new faces, and friends who have been coming every day for years, on this path of discovery and experimentation to find out how to make a better cup of coffee.
Last month I spent a few days in Nicaragua. It was my first trip there and I went in not knowing where I would be or who I would meet. My goal was to make the most of every day and learn as much about the local culture and the people as possible. To begin to understand how farms of different sizes operate. How they plant and fertilize and pick and process and sell their coffee. What varieties do they grow? How do the mills operate and what is the structure to get the coffee from the farm to the mill? So many questions, because everywhere I go, things are different. People often ask me if I go to the farm and buy the coffee. No, that’s not what it’s about for me.
The DoubleShot is a subculture that embraces quality and curiosity. In coffee, and in business in general, we are an outlier. There is a tendency for people to see companies that appear successful and want to emulate what they do. And in fact, there is an entire business philosophy about imitating the behaviors and decision-making of role models in order to achieve a similar modicum of success. But that’s not what we do. That’s not what the DoubleShot is founded on and not how we make decisions. Yes, we do research and try to keep up with the latest trends and ideas and science in coffee, but we do so with a skeptical eye. We learn and we question what we learn and we test ideas to see how they play out with our coffee. We brainstorm a lot and look for problems so that we can come up with solutions that could change the entire course of brewing or drinking coffee. To me, it’s not about copying or trying to reach some golden standard set out by some bland corporate association. We WANT to be an outlier. Copy copy copy and no one will ever find something different or better. Standardization is a slow death.
Progress happens very slowly around here. If you could hear us in the back and in our private meetings, discussing the ways in which we are going to make coffee on Mars or our invention for new ways of turning whole bean coffee into coffee particles in order to brew, you’d think we were re-inventing the wheel - a martian wheel, at that. And we might! Why wheels? Why hinges? Hinges are the starbucks of the movement world! But I digress. It’s big ideas that turn into small changes. Many of the inventions we’ve created you will never see because they don’t make great coffee. Failure is very exciting around here because we do it with a lot of flare and illumination of new possibilities. [You should’ve seen my black cat (the firecracker, not the espresso blend) coffee bean smasher.]
How do you drink your coffee? We just finished an experiment in which we asked you to drink a single-origin espresso while listening to a sound and staring at an image. Each of seven days we pulled shots of the same coffee (Brazil Daterra Peaberry Pearl) and switched up the sound and image. The idea for this comes from the myriad of studies on the effects of our senses on the complete experience. Indeed, we have been fiddling with this idea, though a bit more subtly, over the past few years as we’ve sold box sets of coffee and particularly-shaped cups, and asked you to listen to a certain song as you drank the coffee at home, or paired the coffee with a story or a food of texture and taste that would transform your drinking experience. The results of our latest foray were interesting and poetic and sparked your general appreciation for letting go of the present and the particular and allowing your minds to wander through the prairies of aroma and primal thought. The responses were fantastic. And we will learn and further mold our presentation of coffee to make your experiences more wonderful.
Why should I care how they grow coffee in Nicaragua? My desire to know more about the details of coffee from the ground up is all about cause and effect. What makes coffee taste good? What makes coffee taste bad? What makes it taste fruity? What makes it taste chocolatey? And who are these people that toil in the tropical mountains, supplying the grains that feed our commodity markets? Most of the coffee we drink at the DoubleShot comes to us through one of a few small brokers with whom I’ve developed a nice working relationship. I love working with these people, as they’ve really acquired a sense for the types of coffee we enjoy, and they take a lot of the preliminary guess-work and risk out of purchasing. Much can go wrong from farm-level to your kitchen table, and brokers take that risk out of my hands, helping us more consistently bring you great coffees. But sometimes I do make deals with farmers and arrange to buy coffee of a particular type from a particular farmer, as you know. And when that happens, I don’t put it on my mule and wander up through the Darien Gap with the booty. It’s the job of millers and exporters and shippers and importers and freight carriers to get coffee from there to here - much of that being beyond my understanding. So I leave the technical work to the technicians and stick to what I know - roasting and brewing. You’re welcome.
This weekend is Tulsa Tough. You may have never heard of it, but it’s sort of a big deal. Pro and amateur cyclists come from all around the country to ride and race in three days of high-speed criterium circuits. Three courses in and near downtown are set up on short loops in which the peloton trickles around corners and motors straight-aways like a freight train. It’s inspiring to see elite athletes do what they do best. One of those athletes is a guy named Doug Zell. Doug is the founder and CEO of Intelligentsia Coffee, which is the leading company in the specialty coffee industry. Intelligentsia has been very successful over the years, spearheading new ideas in coffee, and opening cafes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Intelli is the company that many emulate, but as I’ve always said, if you’re doing what Intelligentsia is doing, it’s too late - they already did it. They are a leader. An outlier like us, except the rest of the industry follows them. While Doug is coming to Tulsa to race his bike with the Intelligentsia cycling team, he will be spending some time hanging out drinking coffee at the DoubleShot, and has agreed to be our guest speaker on Saturday morning. From 10-11a Doug will talk about his company and about coffee. This is an outstanding opportunity to hear from someone who has been doing this for 20 years. So I hope we will pack the house and give him the DoubleShot welcome he deserves.
As spring turns to summer, look for more innovations here at the DoubleShot. I predict that the remainder of 2015 will find us with more enjoyable and unexpected coffees and ways of drinking coffee. We will see new Colombian coffees and likely a very exciting crop from Nicaragua. More experiments and strange occurrences are almost guaranteed. And a new type of coffee brewer will likely be born in the DoubleShot Coffee Laboratory. We shall not be bored.
Put this on your calendar:
Doug Zell, Intelligentsia Coffee
Saturday, June 13 from 10-11a
at DoubleShot Coffee Company
For the first time in my life I consecutively summited a pair of mountains over 14,000 feet, retracing my path back over the first peak feeling triumphant and emotional as the distant bugles from a swarm of elk receded from sight and sound. As pikas squeaked like ubiquitous dog toys and the shrill whistle of the marmot completed the mountain symphony begun by the wind and my crunching, percussive footsteps. As I descended to treeline around 12,000 feet, above which no trees were growing and the bald, Rocky Mountain exposed itself and me to the driving gale and baking sun, increasingly taller pines began to join the winding dirt trail.
My day on the trail began in the early morning darkness which obscures all but contrast and beyond that, imagination. And so in the midday light of this previously-trodden path, all things became new and vibrant, and my awareness stretched beyond these things freshly revealed into the the still-unseen, searching vigilantly for animals and flowers and interesting rocks and the elusive bear. Movement guided my focus, and above, two mule deer browsing on tall grasses and thick, green brush quickly disappeared into the mountain foliage. A million other rocks and insects and tiny purple flowers passed and I approached what was left of a 19th Century log cabin, deep into this range and a fair hike up from the nearest abandoned mining town. History and curiosity pulled me in to inspect the remaining few, monstrous logs of this primitive dwelling. And the stumps surrounding it were hardened into a mummified fossil history of the ancient trees that some similarly-hardened, brave pioneers hand-cut from the mountainside. What a stunningly impressive act that must've been as these girthy arbors fell through the forest and exploded onto the thudding, quaking earth and all snapped and cracked around.
The DoubleShot did not begin all at once on March 5, 2004. It began with a pioneering dream and the spirit of youth, to go out and create an experience for the masses which I had discovered in my kitchen 7 years prior. Five years of learning and experimenting and a hopeful but naive belief in the dream that hard work and an excellent product will certainly drive people to believe in me and ultimately bring success, led me to that decision to go forth and create. Cultivating the basis of my understanding of coffee began with a simple fluid-bed roaster, a book about coffee and a lot of extremely small batches of various types of beans from around the world. Though not ideal, I roasted and brewed every morning at 4am and took notes on each one. But the main thing I learned from this experience was that, prior to the first cup I roasted and brewed at home, I had never tasted coffee that wasn't stale. And thus was born the idea that the DoubleShot is founded upon: Freshness. The building blocks were felled one by one with a lot of hard work and trial and each one gave me a better foundation for what I believe about coffee, steering me further up the road of better and better tasting cups. Today those pillars of quality are the things that make the DoubleShot excellent and we stand on these principles as they are what sets us apart and makes us unique.
On the eve of my 40th birthday, I chose to go to one of the most amazing and magical places in the country. From the town of Three Rivers, a winding, 2-lane road climbs up through the hot, high-desert landscape of scrub oak and twisted, stunted trees surrounded by scorched brown rock and dun-colored grasses. Upward until suddenly the trees are taller and lodgepole-straight, the ground covered in pine needles and moss-covered boulders. Upward still until, around a bend in the road, the most exquisite moment of the trip, which repeated itself over and over and over again, found me standing wide-eyed, looking up in disbelief at the utterly inconceivable size of the Sequoia reaching up into the canopy, its rounded-point top difficult to see because of its enormous girth. The size of these trees is startling and I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single one of them made me feel like it was impossible that a tree could be that big - as if my brain weren't big enough to wrap around the idea of such an immense version of a familiar object. The Giant Sequoia is a redwood, sister to the tallest trees on earth, cousin to the little Cypress I planted in my yard a couple years ago. And thus, as conifers, Giant Sequoia produce cones which fall to the ground all around the forest floor, but apparently only open up to drop their seeds after forest fires or with the assistance of squirrels and beetles. Despite the size of the giants, their cones are quite small, which is also remarkable to think about. This little, tough-scaled seed pod contains the potential to produce the largest living thing on the planet, slowly. The oldest known Sequoia is 3,500 years old, based on ring count. I actually stood in front of a section of a fallen tree, which had been sliced to reveal its rings, contrasting lighter summer growth with the darker rings of winter's dormancy that scored its life through the seasons from the tiniest Charlie Brown Christmas tree all the way to a diameter of up to 56 feet!
The DoubleShot is growing, season by season, slowly weathering the storms and putting out fires daily. At times we've been misunderstood, misconstrued, misbelieved, mistrusted, even misguided. But we've also been heralded and mimicked and liked in real life and people have come from near and far to taste and see. We owe our success to the consistent, growing list of DoubleShot Regulars and those who trumpet their love for what we do to anyone who will listen. The slow, plodding growth of business has allowed us to steadily change and adapt in order to serve more loyal fans better coffee as we continually learn about this magical bean and improve the processes that put fresh, delicious coffee in your hands more efficiently. When you're a sapling, it feels like any harsh wind or wisp of flame could be fatal, and I'm happy to say that after 11 years, our bark is thick and the threat of fire only indicates the likelihood that the seeds of our success will be scattered. If you've been with us over the long-haul, you know the dark times that are our growth rings and you know the light times in which we celebrate coffee.
Pedaling my mountain bike uphill for two hours is at the same time a challenge I will conquer and the most beautiful way to gain potential energy. And at the pinnacle, I will unleash the power in my wheels and the finesse in my legs, rolling across mountainsides through fields of shoulder-high wildflowers, over pine tree roots scrolling across the trail, skipping through rock gardens, and bunny-hopping streams of clear mountain water. The twisting, meandering singletrack of my dreams flows care-free with unexpected thrills and obstacles and the ever-changing color spectrum and smells emitted by who-knows-what as I glide through a forest of rugged, old Pine and emerge into a pristine white-trunked stand of Aspens. It's a different feeling, riding through Aspens with their shimmering, quaking leaves flitting in the breeze and my peripheral dominated by the absence of color. Aspen trees are interesting because when you find yourself in a stand of them, you're actually within one living organism. Each tree is a stem from a singular, huge root system, a clone of its neighbor. And one particular grove of Aspens in Utah is speculated to be the heaviest and potentially the oldest living organism on the planet. While amazing and beautiful, Aspens lack the ability to stir the wonder that erupts when I see a Sequoia. You've seen one, you've seen them all. It might be interesting to walk through a grove and look for the distinguishing characteristics from one tree to the next, but it also might be absurd.
People often ask me about opening a second location. Or franchising. Growing the business by replication. That's how you do it, right? You replicate yourself and then you replicate the process. But not me. I don't say never, but I'm not in business to create a grove of Aspens; I'm here to create a Sequoia. The decisions I've made through these 11 years have not foremost centered on how to make more money. My decisions are first based on quality and freshness. Could I maintain the quality and show even more people how good coffee can be by opening another store? Perhaps. But as of right now, that's not in the works. Why don't we sell our coffee beans at the grocery store like every other small, specialty roaster? Because I have very high and strict quality and freshness standards that could not be upheld in that environment. I refuse to compromise my standards and sell you coffee that I wouldn't drink. That's just not the way we do business. Sure, beautifully-designed shops and sleek marketing are amazing, and I'm jealous of rich, pristine interiors, but the DoubleShot, even after all these years, is about honesty and reality, and what you see is our creative expression of who we are. We may be often imitated but we will never be replicated.
Bumping along in the back of a diesel four wheel drive truck, lining the road and the hillsides as far as the eye can see, are coffee trees. As the truck rolls to a stop and I step out into the Colombian sunshine, I want to feel the leaves of the tree that brings us so much joy every day. The thick, waxy leaf, between my fingers caressing its lines like the fingerprint of an alien, this healthy plants feel happy, if a plant can feel happy. Coffee trees are native to Ethiopia, immigrants throughout the tropics around the world everywhere there is a high place and fertile soil. The tree requires a lot of care, from the nursery to the field where it is fertilized and pruned, and the fungi and beetles which plague coffee must be held at bay. About five years into its life, a coffee tree will enter full production and bear the weight of around five pounds of coffee cherries as they ripen and are hand picked by meticulous harvesters, eventually yielding around 1 pound of roasted coffee. So you could think of a pound of coffee beans that you buy at the DoubleShot as the annual production of one coffee tree. This little tree with a mighty destiny touches your life in the simplest way. And in a sense, you become it as the seeds of its fruit are made into your morning beverage and its cells nourish and transform yours. Just as you become the DoubleShot every time you come to our little store or drink our coffee or speak our name.
Help us celebrate the 11th birthday of the DoubleShot on Thursday, March 5. We will be serving some special selections during our normal hours of coffee, and I encourage you to come back in the evening from 7-10p for more festivities. Hang out with other DoubleShot Regulars who you may or may not know; enjoy some delicious food and beverages; hear Noni Dressler, my cousin who’s coming all the way from St. Louis to sing and play the piano; and celebrate with us what the DoubleShot has become. Thank you for your continued support of our mission. Drink more coffee; it becomes you.
DoubleShot 11th Birthday
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Hours of Coffee 7a-530p
Yellow has never been my favorite color. I look around and see it non-intrusively accenting the room, a powerful, though scant slice of the color spectrum. Most of life is muted earth-tones and yellow is celestial. A yellow flower in a field of green and brown is a paragon of uniqueness, leadership, or outstanding beauty. Our yellow star provides warmth and happiness, though in extremes, misery. And the yellow in our urban society warns us to be cautious. Yellow, in moderation, is fantastic.
As an incautious kid, I roamed the woods and fields, first of the corn and soy prairies of Illinois, and then of the cross timbers in southern Oklahoma. Days and nights were spent building tree forts, fishing for mud cats, exploring every hill and dale, and of course playing "war" with my cousins. Like the kids of "Lord of the Flies," our free time was spent dividing and conquering one another. On my Uncle's 80-acre pastureland were two ponds, sparse woods, a hay barn, and a pair of combines - an immense battlefield with adequate relief and cover.
On a sunny Summer Sunday, after lunch all the boys of my extended (and extensive) family grabbed a broomstick or some other janitorial representation of a weapon and we split into 2 groups. We fled in separate directions into the wilds, avoiding cows and their excrement. Our troop ranged the ponds and pastures looking for the enemy, with occasional contact and shouts of "BANG BANG BANG! I GOT YOU!" Invariably if one cousin got the jump on another cousin, the surprise attack would win out and no matter how much negotiation, the surprised party would succumb to their slow reactions and relent to lie on the ground, close their eyes, and count to 100 while the ambush team scampered off looking for another tactical position.
My team crossed a dike containing one end of a cow pond, and descended the grassy slope where we climbed over a huge tree which had died and fallen like Gulliver on Lilliput. I, being the younger of my cousins, hung back and waited for each one to crest the horizontal trunk and leap to the ground. When my turn came, I stepped down onto a lower part of the trunk and suddenly, having fallen through rotten wood, found myself engulfed in a nest of angry, swarming, stinging yellow jackets. My older cousin pulled me out and carried me back to the house, as, from shock or venom, I couldn't stand.*
Way back in the hills, up a long dirt road is another farm called La Pastora. This farm, far from the rolling plains of Oklahoma, has steep fields upon the mountainsides of Costa Rica's Tarrazu, planted not in hay and cattle, but short, spindly coffee trees. The owner of La Pastora, Minor Esquival Picado, is the epitome of a happy, paradisiacal homeowner. You'd almost think his every-present grin was the product of having seen our lifestyle and then reverting back to his leisurely customs. But I suspect Minor has never been far from home.
Unusually, Minor built a small but pristine mill out of concrete and a mishmash of ceramic tile remnants, many broken into pieces. He uses this mill to process small lots of coffee that he thinks will be special and worth more than the regular coffee he sells to the regional mill in San Marcos. After Minor built his micro- wet mill, he began experimenting with Naturals and Honey coffees. Laying the coffee to dry in the sun on raised, African-style beds, which Minor built on the flat, dry ground between the mill and storage barn, he produced three different styles of Honey coffee. They are called Black Honey, Yellow Honey, and White Honey, derived from the color of each bean as it dries in the sun. Had Goldilocks the privilege of sampling the Three Bears' coffee stash, I don't think she would've done a better job than I of picking out the one that is just right.
I have two pictures hanging in my house that mean something extra-special to me. One, a bluish-hued lithograph of "Lone Wolf" by Alfred Kowalski, which hung in the back room of my Grandpa's house above an old sewing machine. In it, the foreground is of a wolf, his tracks visible in the snow, looking down a precipitous hillside onto a house - a very small village, maybe - what could be, except for the snow, Minor's farm. The other picture is a yellowed print of a painting of James Earle Frasier's "End of the Trail." This picture I got from my dad, who acquired it when he was a kid. Only recently did I realize that both of these pictures have the same origin. They were printed at a place in Chicago called Borin Mfg Co, both in 1925. They're both in the original frames. Borin printed dozens of paintings, and it appears that they maybe avoided paying royalties to the original artists by printing them all backward. So I have two backward prints, one of a famous painting that seems to correspond to my M.O., and the other of a famous statue which now resides, forward-facing, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The story of Frasier's statue is a fascinating one, and it just so happens that Mark Brown wrote about it in the current issue of This Land magazine. I stumbled into this history from a coin my dad gave me: the Buffalo Nickel. It's a keepsake. An antique. And originally designed and modeled by the same artist, James Earle Frasier, as a tribute to the American West.
I learned something at La Pastora that I probably could've learned at my Uncle's when I was carried back to my mom at HQ, a wounded soldier. The skin of the coffee cherry, much like the wood of a hollow tree, is a protective coating. When left intact, nature can take its course, the coffee cherries can dry into a sweet, fruity Natural; and the yellow jackets can work as a biological pest control by hunting other pests, reproduce into a seasonal colony of a few thousand, and no one would be the wiser. But once that fragile shell is punctured, what's inside is volatile. Honey Process coffees involve removing the protective skin of the cherry and exposing the sticky pulp to environmental forces of oxygen, bacteria, and yeast. What Minor figured out is that falling into a nest of yellow jackets can leave a bad taste in your mouth. He removed some of the pulp from the coffee beans. Not all of it, but just the right amount. And what he came up with is a smooth, delicious, sweet-tasting coffee that has all the fullness of flavor I look for in a special Thanksgiving offering.
La Pastora Yellow Honey, though grown in Costa Rica, came to fulfill its purpose here in Oklahoma, in my roaster, and ultimately in your cup. Frasier's Indian found its end of the trail here too, but you'll have to read about that while drinking the Yellow.
Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all.
* The yellow jacket incident could explain how I acquired super powers.
“How did you get into coffee?”, people ask me. It’s kind of a long story.
I was riding my bike down Riverside Drive, on the river trail, for what felt like the millionth time, and my mind sort of hit this pothole and it was deep and red and depressing, and I felt like I couldn’t ride that path any more.
I started out, like everyone else, sipping the last, cold remnant of Folgers out of my parents’ squat, heavy, ceramic cups. I can still remember the taste. And the smell. But it wasn’t until I was a big boy that I started actually drinking coffee. It occurred to me one day, and I distinctly remember this, that I was completely independent and that I could do anything I wanted. Anything. (Not true, but an enticing thought nonetheless.) That feeling of freedom was liberating. I had freedom and responsibility. I had my own apartment, all by myself, and I was responsible for paying the bills. I owned my own business and was responsible for making the money to pay those bills. With freedom comes diversity. Decision-making. Discovery. I did all sorts of things and tried all sorts of coffee. And I learned that coffee tasted better without sugar. I found out that french press was a good way to brew coffee. But not with a blade grinder. I made “espresso” and pourover coffee, and moka pot. And then one day, much to my surprise, I learned that coffee didn’t have to come to me already roasted. It didn’t have to be roasted in a factory or in a large, industrial roaster. I could buy a very small coffee roaster and learn how to do it myself.
I’ve told this story over and over again through the years, and you’ve probably heard it before, but it’s the core of the very beginning and the true essence of the DoubleShot. I bought a small home roaster and various green coffees, and I read a book about coffee and roasting. I roasted and brewed and tasted coffee for the first time. The explosion of flavors in my mouth was startling. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I knew coffee had changed forever for me. It was the first time in my life that I’d ever tasted coffee that wasn’t stale. And thus, the foundations of DoubleShot Coffee Company were conceived. After a few years roasting in my apartment kitchen and riding my bike down the river trail, I decided to strike out, take my bike and roaster to Colorado, and open a coffeeshop in the Rocky Mountains. To share fresh, delicious coffee with the masses!
As you know, that didn’t work out. And after two years slumming it in pristine mountain country, I returned to Tulsa, where this taste for fine beverage began.
There are endless details to this excursion: trials, hurdles, victories, mistakes, discoveries, everything. Just about anything I can imagine; it’s happened here at the DoubleShot. I remember some things, and a lot I don’t.
The beginning of life in this long, skinny strip mall space at 18th and Boston was difficult. I was younger and much fitter and so I guess I had a lot more energy to work more and still play a little in the night. Everything I had went into the creation of this concept, and so each night I would go home to an apartment that was really more a storage unit for my sleeping body. For three-and-a-half years I lived without gas or electricity in a run-down habitation, in order to skimp on the bills. And truthfully, it’s likely the DoubleShot wouldn’t have made it with that extra burden. And so I suffered for my craft. It was cold in winter and hot in summer, and the shower was always a little warmer or cooler than the air. And then one day I upgraded, beneath the smog of mold-infested lungs. My lungs! Possibly my biggest asset, my lungs have carried me far throughout my life. And taken the biggest punishment.
One December day, as I find myself every December now, I decided I was fat and out of shape, and I needed to do something drastic. So I signed up for an ultra-marathon. My first one. I started taking one day off on the weekends and I implemented a training regimen that was based on 9’s. I’d run 9 miles the first weekend. Then 18 miles the next. 27 miles the next, and so on until I got to a distance that was unrealistic. I finished that first 100, but it took a lot of caffeine and perseverance. (They don’t call it “running a business” for nothing.)
Running has been a parallel to life for me, ever since I realized the liberation that running gave me. Just like in life, you can’t choose your natural ability, but you can decide the effort you put in and your willingness to persevere. And, as I’ve coached aspiring entrepreneurs through the years, it’s that unwillingness to quit that makes all the difference. My high school football coach, Chris Stiles, used to say, “Men,” (he was the first person in our lives to call us men)… “Men, we’re all going to face adversity, but you have to keep on giving 110%. You’re going to get knocked down, but you have to get right back up.” He was right, and I’ve tried to live some version of that doctrine.
As I reminisce about the history of the DoubleShot, there are two times in my life that I can’t really remember. For ten months, I worked the DoubleShot all by myself. With no employees, I barista’d all day and then roasted and ran the business (poorly) at night. I was sleeping ~5 hours per night, sometimes lying down on the floor by the sink or napping on the sofa when I was just too exhausted to finish the dishes. And I was exhausted, fighting TMJ and sleep deprivation. But that was one turning-point in the life of the DoubleShot. I proved I could go it alone, found some extremely supportive friends, and made a statement about how important it is that coffee quality be foremost at the DoubleShot. But, like I said, most of that time is a blur. I was a robot. An exhausted robot.
Most people don’t know this, but the DoubleShot almost didn’t come into existence, because I came near to death just a couple months prior to its opening. I was staying with my parents in their new house, and my dad was working in Chicago. My mom went to visit him, and while she was gone, I began to feel sick. After a couple days, I woke up early in the morning and realized I was about to die. So I went to put the dishes away, so my mom wouldn’t find the dishwasher full when she got home. (I didn’t want to be remembered for that.) But I couldn’t do it. So I sat down to think. And it occurred to me that I had carbon monoxide poisoning. I can’t remember all the details, but I remember driving to Lowe’s with terrible tunnel vision to buy a carbon monoxide detector. I remember the look on my mom’s face when I picked her up at the airport. I remember not being able to stand any more because lactic acid had built up in every muscle in my body. I remember the doctor telling me I should be dead. And that I also had the flu and meningitis. And I remember the pain. But I survived.
And so did the DoubleShot. It has survived the downturned economy, employee turnover, crazy neighbors, debilitating thefts, a car through the window, threats from Starbucks, twitter, myriad disappointments and failures, and the tragic loss of a few friends. And it has continuously grown, and seen even more daily successes. We’ve developed new coffees and relationships in Colombia, and seen the real face of coffee in many farms throughout Central and South America. We’ve doubled the size of our store, employed professional bakers, and trained the most talented and passionate baristas around. We’ve been featured in a documentary (The Perfect Cappuccino) and a story in Wine Spectator, and inspired an episode of Portlandia. (We even got to serve coffee to Kevin Bacon.) And we’ve seen the delighted faces of countless customers throughout the years who experienced that same amazement I felt all those years ago after my first home roast, my first taste of fresh coffee. And that was the goal. So for all of you who enjoy our coffee and appreciate the effort we put in to always make it fresh and delicious, we count each of you as part of our success over the past 10 years. Thank you.
This week, we will be celebrating with a few delicious coffees. Online, we are offering The Decade Collection, a set of 3 coffees that I think encapsulates the DoubleShot at 10 years old. You can buy that set here starting at midnight on the morning of our birthday. Mark Brown and I discussed the Decade Collection and what it means to be 10 on our podcast, AA Cafe #87. In-store on this Wednesday, we will institute a new brewing method for the DoubleShot. And in that brew, we will be drinking the new Ethiopian natural, Beloya, as well as the amazing Perci Red - a natural Gesha, and probably the most interesting coffee we’ve ever sold. Perci Red, as you’ll remember, is from Ninety Plus Gesha Estates in Panama.
The first time I visited Panama, I walked up the mountain at NPGE, skirted by tall, thin Gesha trees, and at the top, where the rainforest crested the other side of the mountain, I waded through tall grass into what seemed like a paradisiacal scene. Valleys swept away all around, hawks floated on mountain breezes, wild flowers colored the otherwise-green landscape, and trees laden with huge, ripe, orange fruit guarded the entrance to this eden. These oranges enticed my palate, and so I plucked and peeled one bright, textured orb. And upon biting into the first dripping slice, I was shocked. Absolutely shocked. As this was the most sour thing I’d ever tasted. It turned out not to be an orange, but some sort of orange-looking lemon. But this is as it should be with life and with coffee. The unexpected is what makes it exciting and memorable. You think you know what coffee tastes like until that one day you taste fresh, DoubleShot Coffee.
And the story continues.
Celebrate with us Wednesday, March 5 with amazing coffees all day and a party from 7-9p that evening.
What a wonderful gift of coffee Ethiopia has bestowed upon us during the past month. From Kemgin to Nekisse and now onto the so-smooth Tchembe, we’ve definitely been enjoying the best coffees on the planet right here at the DoubleShot.
As promised, I want to publish a couple of recipes for the suggested food pairings with Tchembe. The apricot-strawberry crisp is just a huge compliment to the natural flavors present in the Tchembe, and all of that combines to make for a harmonious duet. Great choice for dessert, when coffee is a must, but I also love to eat fruit crisp for breakfast. The second pairing is my girlfriend, Julie’s french toast. I’ve never been very good at making french toast, but it’s my favorite breakfast. Pair it with my favorite coffee, and I’m set. Check it out.
Strawberry Apricot Crisp
½ c. hazelnuts
½ c. rolled oats
1/8 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. cold, salted butter, cut into chunks (cold coconut oil works well, too)
1/3 c. honey (or maple syrup)
6 apricots, pitted and quartered
8 oz. strawberries, hulled and quartered
Preheat oven to 400°. To make the crisp topping, combine the hazelnuts with 1-2 tbsp. of the oats in a food processor and process until they reach the consistency of coarse flour. Keep an eye on it to make sure you don’t process it into a paste. Add the remaining oats, salt, cold butter, and honey, and pulse just until a chunky mixture forms. Combine the quartered apricots and strawberries in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a thick layer. Drop spoonfuls of the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 30 minutes. (Recipe from food52.com)
Julie’s French Toast
Preheat the skillet with tons of butter. If you have a cast iron skillet, that’s the way to go. If you don’t have one, you should go buy one. Use one egg per slice of bread. Julie insists on challah, which is an egg bread, and we also love Whole Foods Birdland multi-seed bread. Add a splash of milk to the eggs. Beat the eggs and milk together for about one minute. Soak the bread until saturated. Flip it over and soak it on the other side until saturated also. Cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Use real maple syrup, heated for just a few seconds in the microwave.
With Christmas less than one week away, we’re making sure to keep our supplies up so you don’t get stuck without coffee or some other important coffee supply you need. If you’re scrambling to figure out what gifts to buy for the people on your list, I’m here to help. This is my annual list of top coffee gifts. This year I’m breaking it down into top 5 gifts for local patrons and top 5 gifts for online customers.
Top 5 Coffee Gifts for Local DoubleShot Customers
5. DoubleShot Gift Card. Have you seen the new gift cards? Stylish. Do you want to look cool? Then you should probably give a stylish gift card for the tastiest coffee place in town.
4. Thermos Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler. Sometimes you just don’t know if people drink coffee (what kind of friends do you have?!) or tea or maybe just sip on some hot water with a little lemon squeezed into it because it makes their voice sound real nice. With this gift, it doesn’t matter. They can put whatever they want in it. They’d be smart to put DoubleShot Coffee in it, but hey, you’re the one who chose these “friends.” Anyway, once they start using the cup and see how amazing it works to keep the hot beverage hot and sealed up, they’ll think you’re a genius. And you basically are.
3. Baratza Virtuoso Grinder. This is what I would like to have. I’m still using the Baratza Maestro Plus, which is a great grinder, don’t get me wrong, But the Virtuoso has a nice brushed zinc exterior and a heavy duty motor and burrs that grind coffee twice as fast as mine. So if I were married, and I wasn’t sure what to get for my wife, I’d probably buy her a new Virtuoso. Know what I mean?
2. A Bottle of DoubleShot Cold Brew Concentrate (not available online). People keep telling me they were out in blah blah blah on the such and such coast and so and so coffee place had some way cool cold coffee in a bottle and they thought it was awesome and whatever. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing those people go on and on just as much as I am, so you should come down here and get them a bottle of our cold brew coffee concentrate and give it to them and they’ll realize that the greatest cold coffee on the planet is right here in Tulsa, under their nose and they just didn’t look for it. Take that!
1. Tchembe. You knew I was going to say that. All of that other stuff is great, but Tchembe is only here for a short time and when it’s gone we’ll miss it so much and remember how smooth and delicious it was. So you should definitely get this for yourself, but while you’re at it, get some for a person who has refined tastes, a foodie, someone you like a lot. Someone who doesn’t know that coffee can be this good. Or someone who knows it and appreciates it a lot.
Top 5 Coffee Gifts for Online DoubleShot Customers
5. DoubleShot Proprietary Coffee Travel Kit. I came up with this setup after traveling to Tanzania, because it’s always hard to pack the necessary gear for making great coffee. I’ve taken this with me all over the place and I really like it. The kicker with this whole kit, and what makes it uniquely ours, is that I hand-pour every single plastic connector ring right here at the DoubleShot in the basement where we have the whiskey. The ring makes the glass jar for the grinder unnecessary because it allows you to screw the grinder onto the bottle, where you brew the coffee. This kit was recently featured on a website called itstactical.com, where it made the list for 55 gifts fort the adventurer in your life. Awesome.
4. Coffee Subscription. 6 or 12 shipments of a pound of our freshest coffee either monthly, weekly or bi-weekly. People don’t want a fruit basket. They want coffee!
3. Thermos Work Thermos. Or whatever the heck it’s called. My dad used to carry one of these bad boys with him to the job every day, and it would roll around on the floor of his van getting beat to hell and I still have it, and it’s awesome. But the new Thermos that just came in is like the dang stealth bomber of thermoses. The new color is awesome. And the DoubleShot logo sits on it just right where you kind of feel like you’re a covert DoubleShot Coffee drinker. So if you know someone who doesn’t want everyone to know how cool they are, this would be a great gift.
2. Bonavita Stainless Steel Coffeemaker. It seems like everyone has an auto-drip coffeemaker at home and most of them suck. Seriously. If you bought someone a coffeemaker that actually works right and looks cool, they will probably feel obligated to buy you a bottle of 1978 Glenrothes or something. And that would be really great.
1. Tchembe. Just in case you missed it, we’re really all about the coffee. Super coffee. Fresh coffee. And this is the king of coffee. Buy it, drink it, gift it… buy it intending to gift it and then drink it instead.
One last thing. We usually only offer USPS Priority Mail as a shipping option, because we like to keep it simple. But starting right now, up until I leave the store at noon on December 24, you can have your DoubleShot order shipped Express Mail. Get it there fast so you don’t panic. Merry Christmas.
This is an official Nekisse update, current as of the date and time of this posting.
Things are really heating up around here. Much like Kemgin, the Nekisse is not loitering around the DoubleShot. In fact, we suddenly find ourselves in short supply. In fact, as of right now, I only have 17 gold 12-ounce bags of Nekisse left and available for sale! In a vain attempt to be fair to our online customers as well as our local customers, I'm going to put an online limit of 7 bags in the website inventory. Once they're gone, that's it. The remaining 10 bags are for sale in-house.
If you have bought the Nekisse, or you're planning on it, you'll want to pay special attention to the suggested food pairings on the label. The blueberry lemon-drizzle bread is a great breakfast loaf that will pull you in with its citrus notes that play on the fruity tones of Nekisse, bringing our some of that berry flavor as well as the chocolatey sweetness in the coffee.
Our chocolate lava cake recipe is so rich. With Nekisse, the brightness of the coffee comes in to cleanse your palate between each super chocolate bite with citrus and strawberry flavors. Here are the recipes. Hope you enjoy.
Blueberry Lemon-Drizzle Bread
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g.) plus 1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g.) granulated sugar
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) whole milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 oz./125 g.) fresh blueberries
For the syrup:
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
For the glaze:
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g.) confectioners’ sugar
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350° F (180° C). Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm.) loaf pan.
In a bowl, sift together the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest on medium-high speed until lightened. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla and stir until blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the 1 teaspoon flour. Gently stir into the batter.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the bread to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto the rack.
While the bread is baking, make the syrup: In a small saucepan, boil the lemon juice and granulated sugar over medium heat until syrupy, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a wooden skewer, pierce the sides and bottom of the bread all over. Brush the bread generously with the syrup.
To make the glaze, in a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. When the bread is completely cool, drizzle the glaze over the top. Makes 1 large loaf.
Chocolate Lava Cakes (or Molten Chocolate Cakes) - courtesy of my mom
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
8 oz. bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, diced
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Butter and flour 5 custard cups. Whisk sugar and cornstarch in large bowl to combine. Melt chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool 10 minutes. Add sugar mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, then whisk in yolks. Divide batter between pans. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cakes until puffed, dry and cracked on top and tester inserted into center comes out with some wet batter attached, about 25 minutes (28 minutes if batter has been chilled). Cool cakes 10 minutes. Cut around cakes to loosen. Turn out onto plates. Serve cakes warm with whipped crème or ice cream.
I like to drizzle raspberry sauce on the plate before plating.
Keep an eye out for an opportunity to purchase a bit of my personal stash of coffee. (Tchembe is about to take the stage for the last run up to Christmas.)
My dad* has always been the key influence in my life when it comes to work. He installs floor covering. And the man is a workhorse. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would lift a huge roll of carpet onto his shoulder and walk up stairs. He seemed to work interminably, sweating, breathing hard, and moving things in ways I couldn’t budge. Not only that, he makes extremely precise cuts, very rapidly. He measures in ways I don’t understand, makes calculations in his head, and cuts things upside down and backward, perfectly. His patterns are uniform and square, and somehow bend around curves. He wields a carpet knife, with its reversible razor blade, penetrating to the exact depth needed, ripping down a row of yarn, so square that his trimming is minimal and his waste almost nil.
He has the patience to work on cars. Completely disassembling and reassembling three in my memory: a Model A Ford, a Model T Ford, and a Falcon Knight Speedster. These came apart rusted with friction that breaks and busts even calloused knuckles. But they went back together smooth and lubricated, painted and polished, pinstriped, upholstered, and running like they did off the early 1900s showroom floor.
The man can fix almost anything. So much so that he took to collecting antiques, some of them relinquished to the junk pile, because he could see the beauty in a worn out, beat up cabinet or dresser. I grew up using restored antique furniture with names like “hall tree” and “pie safe.” The patience and precision and vision that he has can transform wood and marble and brass. And boy can he swing a hammer.
The peak of his antique restoration came in the form of a run-down, dirty, two-story Victorian house with a carriage barn and, once completed, a round brick patio. Layers of paint and wallpaper and old newspaper came off with sweat and toil, and beneath it all he found the wood that once again brought class and refinement throughout their home.
His product is meticulous.
And he drinks a lot of coffee.
Coffee is a curious thing. Like corn, it’s a huge commodity. Coffee trees grow and produce fruit, while the farmer toils in the equatorial sun to keep them healthy and productive. Margins fluctuate but the work is constant. During harvest, hand picking is followed by milling (sometimes by hand) and drying (oftentimes on patios where people rake the coffee to ensure consistency) and sorting (sometimes performed by women who pick through every coffee bean to remove defects) and bagging (almost always controlled by men who dispense the coffee into a bag and then sew it shut). And amongst these commodity beans, occasionally an experienced cupper will pull out a specific lot because they recognize that it surpasses the quality and flavor profile of its peers. But true exceptional coffees are not the result of luck or happenstance, rather the product of concerted effort, focused methodology, and fastidious performance. People produce high quality coffees on purpose.
I roasted a batch of Nekisse a few days ago and it was one of those roasts where I just knew I nailed it. It was beautiful. I set the damper on par to restrict the airflow just right, bringing the temperature of the coffee up at the precise timing I intended. I felt like the temperature profile of this roast should be recorded on canvas and placed in the Philbrook. The coffee coalesced at first crack and became one mass of popping, drumming, hip-shaking rhythm to the drone of the roaster purring like a huge metal lion. And I manipulated the intake and outflow until those precious few seconds arrived at the end of the roast where the coffee and I speak to one another.
Because I’ve worked with coffee a lot and I care about coffee a lot, something happens between the coffee and me. There is a personification of the coffee beans. They become a living entity, the embodiment of all those who toiled on the their behalf. The coffee is like the star of the show, who couldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for so many people behind the scenes who worked hard to propel it to greatness. And all those people who had a hand in the coffee come with it to the DoubleShot, from the ones who nurture the coffee trees from seedlings to transplanted mature adults, to those who fertilize and prune and pick and carry the coffee cherry down the mountain. The people who process the coffee and turn the coffee over on its drying bed. Those who manage its production and sort out the premium quality beans for us. The baggers, the shippers, the cargo ship captain who delivered our coffee in port. They’re all in there with the coffee, because this coffee couldn’t have become what it is without all those people striving on its behalf. And their spirits cry out in those final moments of the roast and I can feel it. And they are happy, proud, excited.
The entire life of this coffee has come to this. All that came before was for this moment in time. Everything that has happened to this coffee along the way allowed us to fulfill Nekisse’s mission by roasting it properly and delivering it to you for your ultimate enjoyment. That’s what this coffee was made for.
And at the moment I dropped that Nekisse from the roasting drum into the oversized stainless cooling bin, all of my life had led to this. All the hours of roasting and learning and listening and reading and hauling bags of coffee on my shoulder. All the lessons my dad taught me through his actions about working hard and doing my best, about learning a craft and becoming good at it, about the value of transforming raw materials to make something beautiful. All of that work by my father carried forward in me, like the work of the coffee producers which carried forward in the Nekisse. And it all came together for one purpose: To make delicious coffee.
Nekisse is moving fast. (get it here: DoubleShotCoffee.com/nekisse) The response to this coffee has been outstanding, and we love the appreciation you’ve shown to our efforts in providing coffees of this caliber. With fantastic fruity aromas of strawberry and peach, the brightness of Nekisse glows through in the cup past a sea of milk chocolate that will linger on your palate.
Two more exciting things will happen this Tuesday. We will prepare two food pairings that accentuate the amazing qualities of Nekisse: a blueberry-lemon drizzle bread and a chocolate lava cake. You will have the opportunity to let us make you a pourover of Nekisse and purchase one or both of the food pairings with it. This is a one-time offering, happening Tuesday, December 10.
The second thing you need to know about this Tuesday is that we will be releasing a new chocolate bar. I’ve once again collaborated with the chocolatier who produces our MADURO bars to create a new bar featuring our NEKISSE coffee in a darker chocolate from the Ivory Coast. It really makes a rich melange of bright, fruity, coffee flavors in that bed of amazing, silky dark chocolate. A great gift for the holidays and a special treat for you.
Tuesday will be a great day at the DoubleShot.
* If you look around the DoubleShot, most of what you see was made by or restored by or at least inspired by my dad, Steve Franklin.