Earth Day ‘015

I can’t say that today was an especially great day at work, though things got done.  Without sounding overly New-Age-y, Wednesdays tend to have a strange energy for me in the flow of the week.  On a positive note, I noticed more of the staff carpooled or came to work by bike today.  At the end of the day, I did remove myself to a nearby forest for a brisk walk characterized by the sound of the wind in the pines and brief encounters with deer and woodpeckers.  I walked along the edge of the forest, where the natural landscape meets the human (albeit rural) one.  A lot of artists find inspiration in the intersection of these realms, recognizing that human activity is increasingly altering the planet in what is referred to as the Anthropocene epoch.  I was thinking about the beauty of both spaces and musing over how we can create amazing technologies, soaring pieces of music, or make tremendous sacrifices for our fellow humans while at the same time being wantonly destructive, murderous, and selfish.  I was going to write a blog along these lines.

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Then, I came home and sat down to my vegetarian dinner (I am not often this disciplined at my evening meal) and began reading a variety of coffee trade publications.  The first article I encountered was about one of the inventors of the K-cup lamenting his invention due to its negative environmental impacts (many cups are not very recyclable and many communities have trouble recycling those that are).  Subsequent articles were focused more on the agricultural side of coffee.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion about climate change, but if you work in the coffee world, there is little debate about its reality, particularly if you are a coffee farmer in Central or South America (or a resident of Hawaii).  We’ve talked about our co-op’s efforts to aid farmers affected by coffee rust (Roya) and nowadays, many scientists and large multinational concerns are actively working to stem the affects of this disease, recognizing that everyone’s future livelihood in this business will likely be touched.  And, given that nearly three quarters of Americans are coffee drinkers at least weekly (recent National Coffee Association study), pretty much everyone could end up tasting the difference in the coming decades, especially specialty coffee drinkers (such as those of you drinking DOMA Coffee).

Back in Portland, a respected friend, who I may not always agree with, had an excellent t-shirt that read “Conservation is Conservative.”  I thought it was very clever and while there will always be plenty of issues that people will be divided over, it seems that preserving some of this amazing world for our children shouldn’t be one of them.  People on both ends of the political spectrum could benefit from broadening their channels of information and taking a step back to examine the true impacts of a project or action, which are often less about “jobs versus the environment” than political perceptions.  The key is a willingness to have a dialogue, I guess.  That people of every stripe have come together to serve our high quality coffees in their homes and places of business is cause for optimism.

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Meanwhile, in the DOMA Coffee Lab, some new residents have appeared inside and outside.  Spring flowers adorn the exterior and some succulents dot the retail area surfaces.  A new bike rack is under construction, too.  Don’t worry, I am not going to catalog the company’s numerous sustainability efforts here.  I just like having these elements from nature spilling over into our human constructions.  I know I have frequently written about the big impact of seemingly small actions.  Even if we are just passing through this world, let us tread carefully, as others will be making this journey after us.

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First Quarter Returns Are In – 4/21/15

Before tomorrow’s Earth Day post, I thought I would take a moment to discuss giving back.  Certainly, DOMA Coffee works actively to support our coffee farmers through our co-op’s programs and through collaboration with a number of environmental and social justice organizations.  Contributing to efforts on a global scale is important as coffee is truly a global commodity and our local decisions have effects that ripple throughout the world.

Of course, we all live in a local community where there are needs, too.  Our small part of the Inland Empire is no exception.  I am happy to report that though DOMA Coffee is a small operation in terms of our physical size, we have been able to donate nearly $1900 to local non-profits in the first quarter of this year alone.  We’ve worked with the Post Falls Food Bank, Fresh Start, the North Idaho College Foundation, and Kootenai Environmental Alliance to name a few.  While my colleagues have donated a great deal, it is the people within these organizations who are doing the social ‘heavy lifting’ in our community, working directly with their fellow citizens in need of help or working actively to preserve our area’s precious resources.

We are grateful for their efforts, just as we are grateful for your support.  I am going to keep this short today, as I should probably go make a donation.

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Catching our Breath (Please Pass the Oxygen) 4.15.15

Spring is indeed a dynamic time and one which demands a longer piece than your average social media nugget.  Most of the DOMA Coffee team returned from SCAA on Sunday night, the DOMA-mobile laden with booty from Seattle.  Your correspondent attended the La Marzocco Partner Summit with Rebecca on Monday, affording us one more day in the Emerald City.

Seattle is still booming.  It had been less than a year since my last visit, but I was not the only one to comment on the rapid changes in Capitol Hill and how different Ballard seemed from not so long ago.  Belltown, too, seemed to be deep in the current of change.  The city remains a coffee capitol.  (I do not advocate the swinging of cats, but if one were to do so, it would certainly strike a well-appointed cafe.)

There were some interesting products at the trade show and it is always a highlight for me to see the representation of producers from around the world.  Individual countries, cooperatives, importers, and NGO’s all had booths highlighting their finest coffees.  In another room, the world came together to participate in the World Barista Championship. It was nice to run into some of our customers and many old friends throughout the weekend.  After a day of meetings and walking an enormous trade show floor, the only logical thing to do is attend a party.  Atlas, Cafe Imports, and Torani were gracious enough to host a number of the DOMA Coffee team on Friday night.  Emergency rations were procured at Cyclops, a Belltown institution.

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Saturday found Scott making Colombia espresso drinks at the La Marzocco Home booth, putting the new Linea Mini through its paces.  Shots were tasting delicious and suffice it to say that home espresso has come a long way.

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After an educational day in a notable setting (Fremont Foundry), Rebecca wisely suggested a drink with one of her Seattle friends at nearby Joule.  Native Northwesterners do enjoy the Great Outdoors year-round, though an outdoor fire pit can help on a rainy evening.  While I am not in the business of giving endorsements, The Whale Wins served an exceptional dinner.  We did make a quick appearance at Schilling Cider House in Fremont to bring back some gifts for colleagues.

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Tuesday morning, a perfect cortado and comfortable environment at The Anchored Ship reminded us how skillful preparation, thoughtful service, good coffee, and an unpretentious approach can embody a positive cafe experience as much or more than a big budget coffee cathedral.  As Rebecca savored a signature drink and the Seattle Times, I downed a double espresso and absorbed the old country tunes on the stereo.  After a walk around a neighborhood full of eye-catching shop windows, we drove back to headquarters and back to daily routines (as well as a backlog of work).

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Springtime: A Genuine Blogpost 04.07.15

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After work today, I took myself for a walk in the forest just north of town at a place called English Point.  I know that the latter part of this week will be spent in one of the largest urban centers on the West Coast, and while I relish the culture and activity of big cities, finding solitude in the outdoors has always been critical to my well-being.  When I visited English Point for the first time last summer, I found myself covered in dust at the end of my hike.  With yesterday’s snow receding, most of the “trail” was mud or standing water today.  It was still a beautiful evening, and it felt like Spring in North Idaho.

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Part I:  Season’s Turning
I know I’ve touched on seasonality before, and while I must confess that deep down I am probably the type of person who would be perfectly content to live in the desert and just enjoy heat and sun year-round, the changes wrought by the seasons are valuable – forcing a certain amount of resilience and an embrace of new things.  Certainly, learning to “let go” is to be a lifelong lesson for me.

At the roastery, we’ve seen a couple much-loved coffees disappear from the menu, to return later in May with fresh crops and new coffees.  We continue to revel in our excellent seasonal release, the organic Rwanda.  This coffee is especially delicious brewed or as pour-over, though it makes a tasty espresso as well.  However, just as we enjoy our present featured coffee, we are making preparations for the arrival of our next Summer Lovin’ release.  And, with the Coffee Lab remodel complete, we resume and expand our regular coffee evaluations to ensure high quality throughout the year in our blends.  Yesterday, Rebecca joined Scott, Jim, and me at the cupping table before heading out to the SCAA Symposium today.

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Part II:  Details
The dramatic difference in the condition of the trail between seasons was readily apparent even to someone who tends to move along at a brisk pace.  However, there was a subtler undercurrent to this change in seasons.  While it was a beautiful evening in a quiet forest, the things that were most striking were very small and could easily be missed were one not looking:  Tiny, delicate blossoms sprout on the forest floor and brightly-hued, miniature mushrooms appear on small stumps.  Sometimes there is beauty in the details, whether through attention to one’s craft, through seemingly simple things done well, or through small moments of levity in an otherwise challenging day.  Sometimes the pace of our life makes it difficult to savor these little details but their power can be greater than you think.

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All Good Things: April 1, 2015

Dear Readers,

Spring is in the air, which means big changes.  It seems an appropriate time to let you know about some significant transactions at the DOMA headquarters.  For all the wonderful, charitable things a company can do in their community, it should be noted that the purpose of a business is to be in business.  DOMA Coffee’s recent purchase by AB-Inbev will allow a broader range of people to enjoy our fantastic, organic and fair trade coffees.  Certainly, a craft-oriented company with a strong social conscience such as DOMA, makes an attractive addition to AB-Inbev’s portfolio.  You will now be able to purchase delicious pre-ground DOMA Coffee in a plastic canister and K-cups at a grocery chain near you.

Terry and Rebecca have worked hard to build DOMA to what it is today.  Any small business owner will understand the long hours that continually go in to a venture.  I exchanged a few quick words with Terry, who is currently enjoying some well-deserved rest on Grand Cayman.  He seems to be enjoying the change of scenery though I know it is difficult for him to take a step back from the day-to-day operations.

“There are always trade-offs in life,” he told me, with an off-shore breeze and the sound of crashing surf in the background.  “But ten million dollars is ten million dollars.”

Sorry, Dear Readers, I can’t keep a straight face anymore while writing this…Happy April Fools Day to you.  A real blog is on its way soon.  I promise.

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Thursday, 1/29: Loose in the Palouse

While most of the DOMA staff conducted an internal tea education session and went about the business of roasting and delivering coffee, your correspondent hit the road again for a quick loop through the Palouse.  This is lovely country; different than the majestic volcanic peaks of the Cascades or the mountain lakes to the North.  This region is like a frozen sea – undulating hills that seem to change more throughout the day, depending on the sun’s angle, than throughout the seasons.  Contours of plow furrows texture these beautiful forms and large birds of prey are abundant.

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I left early and the fog that enshrouded Post Falls and Spokane only grew thicker as I headed South.  It added a deeper element of mystery to the landscape.  The fog remained dense as I rolled into downtown Colfax, which is blessed with many interesting historic buildings.  In one of them, you will find Fonk’s Cafe, named for the Five and Dime store that once resided there.  Aside from a friendly staff and great coffee, there are wonderful elements of history throughout the space, including a gilded mirror from the Davenport Hotel in the bathroom and many lovely antique pieces of furniture.

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My next stop was Cafe Moro in Pullman, where I enjoyed an excellent latte.  Beautiful photographs of the region adorn the walls of this spacious but inviting cafe.  As though serving great coffee were not enough, they offer a great array of Rishi teas and beers from Selkirk Abbey.  If I were a college student in Pullman, I would probably never leave this place.  But, being a forty-something guy with a job, I was forced to travel on.

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Moscow Co-op is the kind of store you wish you had in your town.  If you were to crunch some numbers on its coolness relative to the population of Moscow, it would be disproportionately large. I enjoyed a cup of La Bicicletta while wandering the aisles, visiting with the wonderful staff.  I should add that in true Idaho style, they have a unique selection of potatoes!

After drinking coffee all morning, I needed some nourishment.  I really wanted to hit Nectar, but it doesn’t open until late afternoon, so I visited its sister property, Bloom, in downtown Moscow.  What a great locale:  kind people, good beverages, and delicious food.  Those who know me acknowledge that I often use biscuits and gravy as a breakfast benchmark, and while it is not the most photogenic dish for my obligatory food porn, Bloom’s version is a winner.

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A quick stop at Red Star for a tasty Americano, and I was on my way North.  Some very talented musicians/artists who host a weekly radio show on KRFP Radio Free Moscow live just off the highway.  Their music is not for everyone, but I enjoy what they do and relate to their passion for music and performance.  They are also total coffee junkies, so I left a bag of coffee with them to fuel their evening show and they graciously gave me some beets and cabbage they’d pickled in return – two things that I enjoy.  While many animals have made a home on their property, the peacocks that had appeared there were most interesting to me.

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As I drove North, one thing I realized was not abundant in this area is filling stations.  I don’t think I have come so close to running out of gas in decades.  There is beautiful scenery and wildlife aplenty, but each passing town either had nothing but grain elevators, or the gas pumps were out of commission.  I was seriously white-knuckled and starting to breath heavily, going over the scenarios of walking up the side of the road with only a couple DOMA t-shirts as currency, pondering my explanation to senior management of how I got in this predicament.  After drafting off of a semi and trying to coast as much as possible, I was elated to see the petrol oasis of Plummer appear on the horizon.

The last stretch of the trip was relaxed, the DOMAmobile rattling along, the surrounding mountains growing higher and greener, until I reached the shores of Lake Coeur D’Alene again.

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Tuesday, 1/27: Take a few steps back

Tonight, your correspondent found himself at the same table where just a few weeks ago, a generous anonymous couple kindly purchased a martini for a lone middle-aged man in a crowded lounge.  This evening, I was reading a magazine instead of a book, and paid for my martinis solely from my own wallet.  I guess an article I had been reading in the ‘Middle East and Africa’ section inspired me to make a quick post.  The article was on the violence that continues to plague the Congo from the fallout of the Rwandan genocide over 20 years ago.  Escaped Rwandan genocidaires continue to inspire violence around Lake Kivu.  (For our readers too young to connect with this tragic passage in world history, know that 800,000 Rwandans died in the span of less than a year, many dying in a most gruesome manner while the world, including America, stood idly by.)

My thoughts traveled back to a cupping table at DOMA last week, where Scott, Jim, and I sampled coffees from Brazil, Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya.  I had never tasted Congolese coffee before this moment to be honest, and while I will not be gushing over those particular coffees here, suffice it to say that they were better than I’d expected.  I have however, cupped a number of Rwandan coffees over the years, many of them excellent. Our current seasonal offering from Kigeyo Kivu is no exception to excellence.  It has a more subdued acidity and creamier mouthfeel than one would expect, with the subtle flavors outlined in our tasting notes.

To conclude this evening’s short missive, let’s take a couple steps back.  Here I suppose I should put in some kind of disclaimer, like “the opinions of the author are not necessarily those of his employer” or something like you read before watching a DVD these days.  I sometimes touch on First World problems, such as isolation in a public place.  I bristle when I feel that people use words like ‘terrorist’ outside of their true context just as I recoil at the use of public forums for private grievances.  We have problems in our country and I deeply hope that all of us will seek ways to come together to solve them, rather than splinter.  However, the amazing coffee we are drinking these days comes from parts of the world where genocide has a very real and relatively recent history.  That the people of these regions have managed to come together to create fantastic coffees is a testament to the human spirit.  Have I said this before?  Well, give it a chance.  I promise to lighten things up with some remodel photos next time!

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