Caffeinating the Port City, one Coffee Cup at a Time
Yes, they were having a chuckle about me before I walked in the door.
Not specifically me, but those non-coffee-drinking types in general, which includes me. Yes, I did sign up for the coffee tour at Port City Java’s corporate headquarters, and no, I didn’t leave a coffee drinker.
I’ll say it again, in self-defense, I really do love the smell of coffee in the morning. Actually any time. And even though I don’t drink it, I will be the first one to tell you that knowing how to make a really great cup of coffee is a skill that every foodie should have in their repertoire. And besides, I offered to the group, standing there in the lobby of Wilmington’s little coffee empire, I cook with coffee. I mean, I can really cook with it. You should try my chocolate almond cake – with or without a cup of coffee. That cake does a coffee bean proud.
If you want to really appreciate an ingredient, whether it’s asparagus or coffee, you should take a few minutes to learn about where it comes from. The process of getting coffee from the bush into your cup is simple: buy it, roast it, bag it, grind it, brew it.
The key is in the passion that fuels each step in the process, like the passion the good folks at Port City Java have for the coffee bean. The tour at the company headquarters is worth your morning. It starts out with all those corporate feels and a PowerPoint presentation about the coffee industry that underscores ethical buying and quality product. CEO Steve Schnitzler, who has headed up operations since 2009, and Kim Cruse, Director of Roasting/Green Coffee Buyer, shared anecdotes about visiting coffee farms around the world – they’ve climbed vertical inclines planted with coffee, wielded giant wooden rakes to turn thousands of pounds of beans drying in the sun, and sampled brews. Lots of them. Sometimes lots of them – hundreds – in one day. It’s all in the slurp and spit. Unless you like that all hopped up, over-caffeinated, way-too-much coffee place that multiple cups will get you.
I really did have more than a couple aha moments, during my morning in coffee paradise. First, it smells really, really good. Freshly roasted beans have a fragrance that is divine. Then, the coffee bean is the seed from a “cherry,” not edible, or even cook-able, but definitely a cherry. People around the world drink an astounding amount of coffee – it’s #3 after water and tea – and Wilmingtonians are doing their part. Coffee drinkers are serious about how they brew their beverage, whether that’s in a French press or a Chemex pour-over. And about what notes they like in their beverage, with choices like grassy, nutty and flowery.
We did a cupping. It’s like a wine tasting – at which I do really well – but without the wine, and without the wine glass, and with some really hot water poured over freshly roasted, ground coffee beans right in a cup. I didn’t do so well at this thing, the cupping. This is where the slurp and spit comes into play. It would help if you actually liked what you were slurping, I suppose. Let’s leave it with this: I did not leave a coffee drinker. Maybe another time, another year.
Now about that chocolate cake.