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