You know, I still sort of feel nineteen. Well … maybe twenty-nine*. I read somewhere that big changes usually come at the end of decades. The eclipse of our teens or twenties … or forties signals something in our brains that causes us to self-reflect, to search for existential meaning, and to make changes in our lives. It can be a time for increasing your fitness, divorcing your spouse, committing suicide, changing careers … trading in for that midlife-crisis sports car or trophy husband (oh stop it!). For the DoubleShot, it seems, approaching a new decade has brought about a restlessness that has us thinking in ways that might surprise you.
Finally, we’re back to traveling and rekindling relationships with coffee growers, exporters and foreign friends we haven’t seen in three years. Our foray into farming is a departure that will hopefully reap rewards as we enter our early twenties. We’re ending relationships that felt old and were bringing us negative energy, while striking up new relationships that brim with promise and positivity. The research-and-design arm of our business has been busy fabricating and iterating and planning for the launch of a few new products in the coming weeks and months. We’re starting to realize that nineteen years has brought us a certain maturity not found in a lot of coffee people. All the experience and experiments, listening and viewing the world with a skeptical eye has given us a unique perspective on coffee. I want to spend the next few years sharing what we’ve learned to encourage kids and aspiring coffee entrepreneurs and to show everyone who is curious what coffee really is so that we can all make better coffee. Just like a nineteen-year-old to think he knows it all, right? Well we don’t, but we sure want to.
Anyway, here we are, nineteen years old. Nineteen because of you. Come help celebrate us Saturday and Sunday at The Rookery, and Sunday evening from 5-8p at The Bowstring (see your barista for a ticket with all the info you need to know).
While you’re at it, we’d love it if you would call in and share birthday wishes with us. Tell us a story, touching or funny, about an experience you’ve had at the DoubleShot. Tell us what it was like the first time you came in. Or about your favorite DoubleShot memory. We want to hear your voice. This birthday is for you. Thank you for supporting us through thick and thin, through India and Panama, so to speak. Here’s the number: (539) 664-7220 (leave a message).
* For years, anytime anyone ever asked my Grandpa Franklin how old he was, he would say, “Twenty-nine.” At some point, probably as he entered his seventies or eighties, at each birthday he would say he was “thirty-nine again.” Maybe he knew something I didn’t know about the power of nines, of change, and how to stay young mentally. I got you Papa.
So there’s this girl… (All my stories used to start out like that.) But seriously, there’s this girl who sells enamel pins, and she sort of reminds me of this girl named McKenzie who always answered the phone when I’d call in to order Cruzin Caps, and if she didn’t answer I would ask for her. Because I could just tell by her voice that she was the sweetest girl on the planet and it made me happy to order more Cruzin Caps from her. Not to mention the fact that they allowed our logo to cover the hole on your to-go cup and then ended up stuck in patterns all over your dashboard or computer screen and that red front door over at 18th & Boston. So this is an evolution in setting the DoubleShot logo onto our merchandise. If you don’t know what enamel pins are, they are like lapel pins, only swankier because these have the DoubleShot icon on them. Oh yes they do. We’re really excited to start selling these, and I think you’ll be very impressed with the quality. Pin one to your messenger bag (or your fanny pack if you’re a hipster). It’s cool, it’s subtle, and it signals your loyalty to the DoubleShot lifestyle. Get yours at the DoubleShot or online at DoubleShotCoffee.com. (They’re only $5 each)
Order your own custom pins from that girl at Champion-Pins.com. I’ll trade you.
Costa Rica is an easy place to take staff for their first experience at origin, and this year I took Wiley. He’s been on staff for just over a year and has taken over the role of wholesale sales for the DoubleShot. Yes, if you didn’t know, we sell our coffee to certain restaurants, offices, coffee shops, etc. (more at www.DoubleShotWholesale.com)
The most interesting things in coffee for me happen on coffee farms. It’s where I’ve learned the most over the past several years, so now that we’re traveling again it’s fun to see new developments and get some insight into what other people are doing in coffee.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen my friends at La Minita, so it was good to catch up with Jhonny, Jose, Lindsey, and Rosio. There were folks from four other coffee businesses visiting the farm with us, mostly longstanding coffee people but a pair of newbies as well. Throughout our three days together we got to know each other, telling personal stories, gossiping about characters in the industry, and talking shop. It’s funny to find myself in the position of being a veteran, having worked in coffee longer than anyone else, but I guess that’s what time and perseverance earns you.
We cupped coffees, first to demonstrate the difference between quality separations (labeled from “first” to “third”), and then the lowest grade which is used only for domestic consumption. Then we got down to business with a cupping table full of interesting micro-lots. This is a departure for La Minita, as they’ve made their mark on the industry by producing nearly the same, top-quality washed coffees year after year. This was a basic tenet set out by Bill McAlpin from the time he purchased the farm in the late 1970s. And that consistency has only been possible because of the skill and abilities of their professional cuppers, Sergio and Jorge, who grade every single lot of coffee by taste. It wasn’t until Bill sold the company that La Minita felt the freedom to begin experimenting with different varieties and processes, which has yielded really interesting aromatics in some of their coffees. We’ll be purchasing some innovative micro-lots in the coming months, so keep an eye out for those.
Throughout this trip I found a common thread that separates what we do from almost every other coffee company on the planet. Like McAlpin, I have some staunch beliefs about how I want to run my company, and that starts with the way we source coffee and doesn’t end until you’ve swirled the last sip around your mouth and exhaled the retronasal aromatics through your nose. We’re old school. We believe that there is value in hard work and attention to detail. And while we enjoy the conveniences of the latest technologies, we know that true mastery comes when you understand how to use technology and when not to. It’s easy to go online and buy green coffee. But that’s not the same as showing up in Concordia, Colombia hoping to find someone who still grows the Caturra variety, knowing I’d still have to figure out how to buy and import it. The personal relationships make the coffee uniquely ours. Just as our manual roasting process differentiates the DoubleShot from all those pushing a button on a computerized roaster. There are a lot of ways to make coffee, and we just happen to do it the hard way. On purpose.
That’s what you taste when you drink a cup of DoubleShot coffee. That’s what you feel when you walk into The Rookery and see all those hand-hewn beams and the custom iron work. It’s in the tactile sensation when you imbibe from one of our hand-thrown cups. There’s just something different about things crafted with hard work and skills earned through years of practice. It’s not just coffee; it’s a lifestyle you and I have chosen to lead. We take the time to do things the way we know they should be done, and to support those who are doing it the hard way. That’s what the DoubleShot lifestyle is all about. You can taste it.
On March 5, the DoubleShot turns 19. Old enough to get an apartment, or go to war. Old, yeah, but full of youthful vigor!
Every year we make a weird poster and have a party. This year’s theme revolves around the moon, so to speak. Every 19 years the patterns of the moon begin to repeat at the same time of year, and the days surrounding the DoubleShot birthday are a full moon that’s known as the Worm Moon. Back in the day it was the point in time that people knew the tundra was warming up enough that earthworms would start coming out of the soil again. In short, the last full moon of winter.
We’re celebrating it as a complete Metonic cycle and we’ll be seeing the same moon we did when the DoubleShot first opened in 2004. The posters are up now. I took a painting [The Poachers (1835) by James Arthur O’Connor] and stuck The Rookery in there in that way I like to do. We’re going to send out an email to 13,000 of our subscribers announcing it. Kelly will start posting on social media. And we’re going to celebrate the weekend with house-made moon pies and I’ll roast a Gesha coffee. We’ll likely have some interactive thing for the customers to send birthday wishes. Lots to do.
Then, on Sunday March 5th, we’re throwing a party at The Bowstring (our warehouse in Crosbie Heights) from 5-8p. You should plan to be there. We’re celebrating our customers and YOU for carrying the DoubleShot to this point, and beyond. At the party we’ll have more coffee, beer and wine, finger foods, hopefully a big chocolate cake with gummy worms coming out of it, and live music (featuring Beau Roberson). It’s always an exciting weekend around here, and the party is loads of fun. Stay tuned. We’ll have postcards to hand out to announce the bday. And the party will be ticketed, so we’ll be handing out tickets to everyone who wants to come to the big shindig.
Anyway, happy birthday to us. And to you, our fans.
I started a company a few years ago called Native Design, hoping to start manufacturing coffee gear. All that stuff we sell and use to make coffee is a little too ubiquitous for my taste and none of it is exactly what I want. I’ve had many ideas, from a battery-powered auto- drip coffeemaker to a grinder and brewer to make coffee in microgravity on the space station. But I started with something a little less astronomical: a pourover kettle. And I learned a lot, but after four iterations I put it on the back burner to focus on a few other projects.
Someone asked me recently why I decided to start making this stuff. And it would be easy to say that I tend to modify all my gear (I’ve recurved the spouts and replaced the handles and knobs on all my kettles, for example). Or to point out the fact that I’m a tinkerer, an inventor. (While having dinner at a nice steakhouse and watching the waiter manhandle a twist-off wine with his meat paws, I came up with the idea to refine that process, which Paul McEntire and I eventually called the capkey.) But the real answer is wackier than that: I’m trying to build all the furniture in my house, fabricate the items I use every day, and to at least understand how to make the consumables in my life. Because I like for the things around me to be uniquely mine. Along the way, I’ve discovered the flaws in items available on the market and with a lot of trial and error (mostly error) I’ve figured out how to fix them in my own unique style.
Our first product on the market, The Launchpad, was born out of my frustrations with having my pourover gear strewn about the counter and cupboards, with no real place to keep anything, and having to track everything down each morning to make coffee. I just wanted one spot where it all lived. A base station, of sorts. After experimenting with various woods and shapes, fits and finishes, I came up with a device that essentially functions like a manual drip coffeemaker. They’re all hand-built in-house and are available in black, white, walnut, or cherry and come with either a black or white ceramic drip tray. The Launchpad is designed to sit securely on your Hario drip scale and fits any of the Hario V60 drippers, Kalita Wave, and most other popular drippers on the market.
It’s Ground Control for your pourover kit. T-minus … All systems are go.
In October I traveled to Nicaragua to see the great but under-represented coffee-growing regions of Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia. The journey there and back is a story unto itself. A story for another time. But in the midst of muddy roads and steep hillsides covered in dense forest yielding to the spindly branches and shiny green leaves of coffee trees, we encountered a one-room schoolhouse built of old, timber boards. Kids walked up and down the narrow road, some asking for a ride in the back of our pickup truck, piling in to save some of the day’s steps. These are the kids who attend that school, if they can afford the supplies.
On a trip to Nicaragua a few years ago, in the same general area, I met a woman who lives in a house made of these same timber boards, with a dirt floor and indoor wood cooking stove made of clay, like most people in rural Nicaragua. She had a densely planted field of coffee trees trailing down from the back of her house into the creek bed below. Her son helped with the picking and pulping of the coffee and the younger daughter likely helped with whatever household chores a small child can perform. The mother told me her son was in school, but she couldn’t afford to send her daughter. I told her I thought school was free in Nicaragua. And she told me that school was free but they couldn’t attend unless they had paper and pencils, and she couldn’t afford to buy these for her girl.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that situation, but it makes you realize that the money you might find in your sofa cushions could change the life of a kid. And that this problem is too wide-spread to start dis-upholstering your furniture.
But here we are, looking at a school down the road from our farm, with the potential to help lots of kids. The school is called Comunidad La Peña and they have 63 students, including 12 pre-school kids.
We partnered with Monte Cassino to gather up the basics and lots of extras, all the things a student might need. Not only that, the fifth- grade Spanish class at Monte wrote a bunch of letters (the snail-mail kind) in Spanish to the Nicaraguan kids, which they hope to get pen-pal replies from. We’re shipping the whole mess down to my friend Luis to take to the schoolhouse in Matagalpa. The teacher is very excited to receive the supplies and says he feels it’s a God blessing.
We have our fingers crossed and have been talking to our contacts in Nicaragua to find out the best way to get these things safely to Luis, but we’re aware there’s a possibility they’ll be confiscated or heavily taxed upon reaching the destination. Godspeed, school supplies. May the spirit of Catholic charity find its way into the hearts of those customs agents responsible for passing the crayons and glue sticks on to our school kids at La Peña.