Adventures are unique and intimate events, designed to offer our TEDx community unparalleled, behind-the scenes access to the people and places that make the local area so dynamic.
Coffee From Seed to Cup with Central City Coffee
The coffee lab is buzzing with everyone talking, and many of us adventurers have only just met. We drink sublimely delicious coffee out of small, compostable cups, and I immediately think about the half-pot I earlier drank at home. It woke me up, but I know my ten-year-old drip maker and $15 grinder doesn’t produce a “good” cup of coffee.
I also begin to wonder whether the caffeinated groundwork I laid was such a “good” idea. How much coffee is too much? I learn from one attendee that his stomach hurt after spending a day at last year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) convention, and later, the leader of today’s adventure, Marcus Young of Central City Coffee, will tell us that he, in fact, admires decaf drinkers.
“They’re the real coffee lovers,” he says, “because they drink it only for the taste; they drink it without the pharmacological kick.”
On March 23rd you may meet Marcus, a TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) partner for two years running and our resident coffee expert. He’ll be hosting one of several action breaks during the day, and if you attend his action break you’ll learn how to brew coffee the “right way” at home. Marcus absolutely loves coffee, and on this adventure he helped fully immerse us in a world that, earlier that morning, I knew very little about.
Let’s start with taste. Among the substances you encounter daily, coffee might be among the most complex. The layers of flavor in an artfully roasted cup of coffee react with every tasting area on the tongue. Notes of citrus, flowers, grass, or earth might arise when you smell a cup of grounds, metamorphosing as you add hot water.
During the coffee “cupping,” we paid attention to all of this, first smelling then slurping the coffee. Though we were still learning, coffee professionals regularly cup new roasts and blends in order to arrive at the ideal taste.
When the cupping ended and I set down my tasting spoon for the last time, I arrive at one conclusion: coffee is an amazing beverage.
Our adventurous “Velocity” blend was picked from sustainably grown plants in Guatemala and El Salvador, harvested cherry by cherry, processed, dried, shipped, roasted, blended, tasted, and finally delivered—with something to go wrong each step of the way—made me realize just how incredible and rare a “good” cup of coffee really is.
Yet taste isn’t everything. Central City Coffee and the supporter Portland Roasting Coffee also believe the complexity of coffee’s supply chain makes it a powerful instrument for social change. Together they transform the miraculous process of coffee into something more tangible—transferable job skills.
Central City Coffee supports Central City Concern, and provides job-training to Central City Concern’s clients with a focus on transferrable skills like packaging and production, customer service and support, and distribution of coffee.
Portland Roasting Coffee supports the enterprise by donating raw coffee, providing training support, and the use of their roasting facilities. Their way of doing business is “built on integrity and trust,” and the carbon neutral company has received numerous awards—they know what they’re doing.
I left that day with a precious bag of freshly roasted Central City Coffee, and the next morning I ground it up and poured 202 degree water over it, making sure all of the grounds got covered. After a few minutes, I cracked the surface of the grounds with a spoon, inhaled the aroma deeply, plunged the French press, and poured a cup. It still wasn’t quite the same as what I tasted at Central City Coffee’s TEDx Adventure, but it was good. Really good.
Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who will be sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community.