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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1/21/15, Just Another Wednesday?

Dear Readers, it is very likely that my colleagues will have a newsletter together for you soon if you are on the DOMA Coffee mailing list.  In the meantime, here are a couple quick updates, as things have certainly not been standing still at HQ.

Your correspondent’s morning was highlighted by a meeting with the ladies at Transitions who run New Leaf Cafe in Spokane.  The abbreviated version of their inspiring work is that they are assisting women and their families in the Spokane area through a variety of services.  New Leaf trains and employs women who confront challenges that many of us have been fortunate not to know.  Aside from helping forge a future for Spokane-area women, they are creating some great coffee and delicious pastries.  We are thankful to have this organization in our community.

After the meeting, I thought it best to visit a few other accounts in Spokane, and as it turned out, it was three of which I am especially fond.  I enjoyed a picturesque and delicious macchiato at Lindaman’s, a delicious double shot of DOMA’s Guatemala as espresso at Revel 77, and…Rocket Market…well, I can never leave there empty-handed.  I am normally wary of the concept of cloning, but this is truly a place I would replicate with abandon (starting with my own neighborhood).

When I returned to HQ, Noah was continuing the Zen Forklift Snow Removal Project.  Maybe you remember that scene from ‘Karate Kid” where Mr. Miyagi catches a fly with chopsticks/hashi?  Well, Noah has been clearing our parking lot in a similar manner, but with the forks that move our coffee palettes.

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And, the Patano family are deep in the finishing touches of the coffee lab and reception remodel.  Things are coming together beautifully.  We’ll close with a blurry image of Terry,  Marco (yes, like the espresso blend), and Rebecca in action.

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Monday, 1/19: From Promised Land to Promised Land

Truthfully, this Salt Lake City trip was pretty spontaneous – as spontaneous as modern airfares would dictate at least.  My exceedingly brief visit meant that my visits were few and focused.  Thankfully, Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day in the valley.  There were a lot of snow pants and ski jackets in the line at The Bagel Project that morning, but my business was to be conducted in lower elevations.

After my coffee and bagel, I visited our friends at nearby Whole Foods SugarHouse and Trolley Square.  Both of these impressive stores offer a great selection of our coffees and we are truly grateful for the loyal support we enjoy in Salt Lake City.  We will certainly try to pay back this loyalty by continuing to roast excellent coffees – and by conducting some promotional sales throughout the year.

The next quick stop was at Liberty Heights Fresh.  How many great markets does one town get?  This place remains a favorite stop for their selection of Amour Spreads, artisan chocolate, cheese, and other unique gourmet items.  I remained disciplined, leaving with only a handful of the aforementioned things.  (Did I mention they sell our coffee, too?) Stacey had just returned from the Fancy Food Show, but through her weariness, we still able to visit briefly before I got back in the rental car and headed South.

I was determined to stop at Copper Kitchen, chef Ryan Lowder’s newest addition to his family of restaurants.  Sarah, the manager, graciously showed me around on short notice.  Not surprisingly, it is a beautiful space in a shiny new development in Holladay.  It retains some of the aesthetic elements of its parent, Copper Onion, in downtown Salt Lake City:  beautiful hammered copper ceiling tiles and an open kitchen, but has soaring ceilings and a beautiful birch tree pattern on the main wall.  Next time, I stay for lunch.

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Next, I drove up into the hills for a quick visit at The Ridge Market and Cafe.  Their owners have dedicated a nice retail section to our coffees.  Look for more DOMA happening here in the future.  In the meantime they have a wood-fired pizza oven and the scenery is grand.    As I began the descent into the valley, the blue skies and snowy peaks forced me to pull over in a gravel parking area and scramble up a hilltop to take in the vistas for a moment.  It was not difficult to see why people elected to stop their wanderings here and put down some roots.

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No moss on this rolling stone, though.  I returned to the city, took a short walk around SugarHouse with my friends, and returned downtown with them for another exceptional dinner at Copper Onion.  Every dish was right on, drinks were as they should be, and I was wishing I hadn’t changed into a fitted shirt for the meal.  My main course of the pork chop with polenta is pictured, though I am still thinking about nearly every course.  Naturally, I closed the evening out with a delicious organic espresso.  IMG_1571IMG_1572

The rest of the trip was a mercifully uneventful journey back to Idaho, which began early Sunday morning.  Since this evening’s blog is a recollection at this point, I should probably take a moment to write something in keeping with the present.  I work for a coffee roaster, and really, this blog is associated with our business.  But I am also a human, and that is at the core of why MLK Day is observed.  I hope that we can move beyond the divisiveness that permeates our media these days.  Regardless of your politics or religion, a little tolerance and understanding will indeed make this world better for everyone.
Jim, our Head Roaster observed that we were releasing a Rwandan coffee on MLK Day.  I think it is wholly fitting.  If a place where one of the most horrifying genocides in the last few decades occurred can heal itself enough to move forward and export amazing coffees again, that should serve as inspiration for us all.

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Friday, January 16 and Saturday morning (1/17): SLC Arrivals and New Beginnings

The are many elements to travel that can feel a little dehumanizing.  However, your humble correspondent was upgraded to first class for the flight to Salt Lake City this past Friday afternoon.  It was by no merit of my own, but it certainly made for a more relaxed start to a busy weekend.  Interestingly, I was seated next to my sales management counterpart from the smoothie industry.  (Speculation on which of us finds easier going in Utah I leave to the reader.)  Upon landing, I secured my luggage, which mostly consisted of a coffee shipment for The Bagel Project’s Grand Opening.  After obtaining a small rental car and tuning in the local classical music station, I was on my way to SugarHouse to stay with an old friend and his family.  It was an enjoyable evening catching up over a delicious meal of salmon, roasted cauliflower, and rice.

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The next morning came quickly and I arrived at The Bagel Project at first light.  The historic building is wonderful, it is a stone’s throw from Liberty Park, and the remodel turned out beautifully.  I found Robb slicing salmon in the kitchen while Victor prepared the next batch of bagels. Dylan and the rest of the staff were occupied with customers; and Kim, Lily, and Jack (Robb’s family) busily set out bagel samples next to the urn of fresh coffee.

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After some warm introductions I set myself to the business of ordering what I had been dreaming about for weeks:  a salt bagel with cream cheese and freshly sliced lox.  Seriously, it was magical.  I can’t remember when I’ve had a bagel this good in my adult life and, as I mentioned on our social media page, I agree with Robb’s assessment that the Urth complements the lox and cream cheese wonderfully.  The blend is just dark enough to cut through the dairy  – and the salmon brought out the subtle fruit tones of the Ethiopian component more than I’d expected while still feeling anchored by the Sumatran elements.

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After a nice visit with the proprietors, I elected to make more room for the steady stream of enthusiastic customers.  I took a few more photos in the growing morning light and was on my way to the next stop.

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Updates and Unlikely Recipients – another overdue blog 01.05.15

First blog post of ‘015, dear readers.  You can feel the dramatic throes of deep midwinter all around, can’t you?  Intense weather, holidays, year-end, health, bills, resolutions, and all the usual things one had to deal with when it didn’t get dark at four in the afternoon (with a foot of snow blanketing the ground).

Thanks to the electric light and other wonders, we are remaining active at DOMA Coffee.  We are working on the next seasonal coffee release and the remodel of the coffee lab thunders along.  There are some great coffee demos and special events this month, too:  The Kitchen Engine in Spokane is offering another Home Barista class with DOMA’s Scott Yost this coming Tuesday at 5:30pm (http://www.thekitchenengine.com/).  He appears next in Sandpoint next Friday (1/16) midday at Winter Ridge and Super 1 that afternoon, with an encore the morning of Saturday, 1/17 at Main Market in Spokane.  There’s more, but we’re also looking forward to a screening of Connected by Coffee at The Well Read Moose in Coeur D’Alene at the end of the month (their FB = https://www.facebook.com/TheWellReadMoose),

I’m embarrassed that I finally got around to watching Connected by Coffee just about a month ago.  I was deeply moved.  It put some faces with people I had heard about and admired from afar, too.  It conjured up a host of emotions that I was not expecting, and a respect and admiration for people in challenging circumstances creating wonderful things – in both agriculture and our society- resonated with me long after the credits.  There will be a number of opportunities for you to screen this in the coming months, thanks to my colleagues.

To bring this short installment in line with its title, I guess I will try to do my usual ‘try to end on a high note’ cliche closing.  I take myself out to dinner with some regularity and welcome being able to walk to the unpretentious pub down the street.  Last weekend, while sitting in a TV-filled lounge rereading a favorite old paperback over a martini, a couple, getting up to leave, came over to my table, smiled, and put some green paper next to my reading glasses.  Perhaps it was coincidence that I was reading a favorite chapter in Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions called “The Green Frog Skins.”  It talks about a lot of things, but money (and drink) certainly figure in.
“We’d noticed you sitting here by yourself.  You can buy yourself another martini with this.”
“You don’t have to do that,” I replied, quite surprised.
“We know.  Just take it.”
And they happily walked out.  Honestly, I’d been enjoying my book, but this warmed my heart.  Regardless of whether or not you find the image of some solitary, middle-aged dude reading in a busy pub pathetic, the point is that these people gave a generous gift to a stranger with no expectations in return.

If there is a common thread to these ramblings, it is that there are lots of ways to do something positive with that green paper, even when you don’t know the ultimate beneficiaries.  The coffee you buy is just one example.

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A Pseudo-Newsletter, 12/16/14

It really is embarrassing that you’ve not gotten a new blog to read in over ten days, dear readers.  Whatever excuses one can make about the holiday season, even though they are likely to be true…well, we hold ourselves to high standards here.  So, I’ll provide a quick and conversational update about goings-on at HQ these days.

The remodel continues with the lab and reception area being rebuilt.  Our beloved walk-in customers are relegated to the less glamorous suite where your correspondent’s desk is hidden.  While they still get to see Mindy and Scott, they must reluctantly enter what in the service industry we refer to as the ‘back of house.’  (Visitors, please bear in mind that it is important to keep your sales team hungry or they will slack off and spend an undue amount of time on the internet.)  You will soon have a more inviting space in which to enjoy your coffee purchases.

We know that a baseline of added stressors this month is real (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).  Even a well-run organization will be buffeted by random challenges such as unexpected illnesses or jury duties during an already hectic time.  You know what I’m talking about.  Know, too, that we are rising to the occasion.  Terry has been roasting a lot of coffee this week.  Matt and Noah have been staying late in production.  Joan will probably be paying in cash for her next purchase from looking at an abundance of credit card receipts.  Rebecca has been overseeing construction.  Young and Scott continue to fulfill their roles in technical support and coffee education.  Mindy, Al, and Mike are making sure you get fresh coffee.  And Shelly and Breanna are making sure it looks right.

Yes, it would’ve been great to have gotten in a couple more holiday gift guides, but really, we’re grateful to be in the ones in which we’re listed.  I’m not going to hex anything one way or the other by talking about winter weather or global political matters.  Instead, let’s focus on the giving that’s carried over from last month.  Generosity is always worthy of continuation.

A happy Hanukkah to those who are celebrating it tomorrow.  May all of us be able to find those bright spots in the turbulence inherent in December.

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