Seattle adventures and more…!

Well, I’m currently situated in the Portland airport, just chillin’, waiting for my flight to board. It’s been an incredible 10 days and I have loved most of it. I’ve also learned something about coffee and about myself. Bottom line, at this point, I am just excited to get back and start to really develop the potential that Kopplin’s has… We just decided to pick up one of the Roburs from this past weekend. So, in a few weeks we’ll be rockin’ that beast… Which makes me extremely happy! I’ve been working with Andrew to make him a rockstar as well… We have a very bright future ahead of us…

So, I spent Saturday in Seattle… I went to visit the Coffee Fest Show, but ended up mostly just chillin’ with the homies… and by homies I mean kids like Scott Lucey, Chris Baca, and Tony Serrano… We did have lunch with Steve Vick as well… Actually, in exchange for some coffee, I gave that fricker a ride up to Seattle. That was fun. We stopped in Olympia for a cup of Clover at Batwicks & Bronsons (Or whatever the name is, sorry, I’m tired)… We both went with the Kenyan. Not bad.

Once in Seattle, I hit the show floor and stopped by the Barista Mag booth… FINALLY, I signed up for my subscription… Apparently now I’m set with issues until 2008. Heck yes… I moved from Barista Mag to Zoka… caught up with Chris Davidson a bit… Big congrats to Zoka’s head roaster… His Paladino Beer is now going to be featured in a local pub… There are even possibilities of it moving beyond there… Someday I’ll get to try it.

Once I was done chatting with the Zoka crew, Chris Baca called me… I ran downstairs to catch up with him, Lucey, Tony, Vick, Justin from Alterra, and Al (Sorry, Al, but your name is entirely too complicated for me to remember it’s full form at this point)… Anyway, the group all piled into Baca’s mom’s Explorer and busted over to Victrola. It was cool to see a Synesso at work in someone else’s shop. I think I may have learned a thing or two from just watching. We left Victrola to get lunch at a place called “The Honey Hole.” Amazing food, great beer, messed up name!

So, my set is now complete. Once out bellies were full of food and beer… ah! Beer… We went over to Vivace… Right before I left for college, I visited Seattle with some very noncoffee people. I explained the significance of Vivace to my friend Mike, to which he replied, “Dude, let’s steal a suvinere…” I told him no at the time, but within 5 minutes after we left we both revealed out booty… demitas spoons… Again, before returning to college the second time, I was in Seattle with Brent Fortune picking up my friend Devin. We visited the new vivace… and when we left, my bag contained a demitas cup… Now, with the help of Lucey, Baca, Serrano, & Co… I have completed the set with a saucer… Hooray. David, if you read this… Don’t hate me. This would not have been done if you were not the “holy grail” of espresso.

From Vivace we bounced back to the show floor. Baca and myself took over a GB5 at the ESI booth and started pouring the latte’s… this would not be the last of our impromptu latte are expositions… We left the show and headed to Casa De Alterra and enjoyed several PBR’s… which do taste better when consumed with a guy from Milwaukee. From there, we bounced to the Visions espresso party… where, when we realized the GS3 was on, the next big latte art exposition began! Before we knew it, everyone was trying to pour the design Chris Baca’s been pouring in competition… you know, the heart with the wreath thing…

Well, I need to get running soon. My plane is being cleaned and we’ll be boarding soon. I head to San Fransisco first. Then I have one hour to chill. Then, I board a plane at midnight to fly into Minneapolis. I land at 6 AM, then I have class at 7:45… but wait, it doesn’t stop at that. I have to run by Kopplin’s to drop off the Hairbender I am bringing back… yes, we will have Hairbender! All Grapefruit infused and shit… It will be available tomorrow too! Yeah! I’m actually carrying it with me to keep it in a pressurized cabin and everything… Well, Portland it’s been great! Billy~ Thanks for the drinks today. If you haven’t heard… Mr. Wilson will be returning to Lava Java to work a guest shift on Nov. 11… wish I could be there. Peace.

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Education Necessary?

This past weekend has been a huge success, but now it’s reminding me of why I moved back to Minnesota… I have so much down time right now that I don’t even know what to do with myself. Monday was spent lounging around the house and just killing time… To some this may seem luxurious, but to me and where I am in life, it felt like a big waste of time. Seriously, the homework and school junk I left behind is going to catch up with me when I get back and for what? To sit around all day…

Which brings me to a long time delema that has been raising new questions in my mind… Why am I in school? And by “why am I in school?” I mean, “Why am I not just pursuing coffee with all my heart?” Every time one of these trade shows or events comes up I find myself questioning why I am in school, dumping much money into an education I care about, mmm… sometimes. Logic tells me this, I’m young (21), I’ve got time (both to finish school and to develop a coffee career), and it would be difficult to raise and support a family on just a cafe income…

I’ve got a sweet situation with a cafe I truly believe in. Kopplin’s, in short, is my dream cafe, just in a way where I don’t see the main profits… which is fine. I just find that the majority of me wants to be there more. There also is that side of me that is partially looking to just find a way out of school. I’m not that great at it and I have never really wanted to be. It stresses me out in a way I don’t appreciate. I mean, coffee, customers, business all stresses me out, but I see the profit and reap many of the benefits from the stress… schooling just sort of pisses me off.

I guess we’ll see where my priorities lie in about 6 months or so… This years USBC runs May 3-7. My finals week is the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before that. I could be screwed…

NWRBC Finals

Well, the results are in and the competition has ended. The finals were tough. I, personally, do not like any situation where 4 of my favorite baristas are up and only one can win… or almost worse, only 3 of the 4 will be recognized with a prize. As you all have probably heard, Billy Wilson is the new reigning Northwest Regional Barista Champion. Jon Lewis, one of the best men I know, not only as a barista but as a human being and father, took second, and Kevin Fuller, owner of the Albina Press took third. Kyle Larson, whose attitude towards coffee I greatly admire, was another finalist, as were the two girls from Zoka…

Billy and I were talking before the announcement and he kept worrying about placing and felt like he had made some mistakes… and this is the point I make then and now… Two years ago, Billy was one of the best baristas I knew. He had passion, drive, and much skill. But he kept competing and making it into the finals to only have his signature drinks shot down for lack of creativity… mainly cause they sucked. Now, with time and maturity, Billy is the best American barista I know… He’s taken his weakness (a lack of signature drink) and become a food scientist. So, with this, I say congratulations Billy Wilson. I’m proud to have my roots in the same place you do. I admire anyone who can target their weakness and work hard to over-come it.

I am so tired right now it’s kinda crazy. Tonight is the Bikes to Rwanda benefit show. Lots of fun there. Oh, and I leave everyone with this… The first round was kind of rediculous… Kevin Fuller actually had the highest score and it was his first run through in competition ever. Billy was #2… Ryan Dixon, also a first timer, finished 7th tieing with Lorrie from Trabant. Congrats Kevin… top score, 2nd anniversary, great party… sounds like a decent weekend to me…

NWRBC Travels Pt. 4


I don’t know how I let it slip my mind last night to update this thing, but here I am now. For the most part, I’m sure you all know who’s in the finals… In case you don’t, let me fill you in…

1. Kevin Fuller- Albina Press
2. Jon Lewis- Bumper Crop Coffee
3. Kyle Larson-Stumptown Coffee Roasters
4. Billy Wilson- Albina Press
5. Maki Campbell- Zoka
6. Lindsay Elliot- Zoka

It’s been an awesome competition with much happening. There are a few people beyond the finalist I feel need mentioning… Kyle from Zoka did an excellent job. He really rocked it steady. Also, Ryan Dixon did a great job and though he made some slightly larger mistakes, he really did well at keeping his cool and really remaining focused.

Last nights party was an great time too. Thanks again Duane for all the great food, beer, and music! Highlights for me here were talking to Klaus and really getting to ask him a lot of questions about coffee. I’ve been wondering a few things lately and he set me straight on some issues. Watching Duane occassionally bust out a dance or two was awesome… Many of my favorite coffee people were there just chilling. It was good to see Ryan Wolf from Crema, Rhiannon, Grady, and of course the Ritual kids. By the way, I have to tell you, Liz from Stumpies is doing an amazing job at just dominating this weekend. She’s been most of the organizational mind behind the competition and she’s a large part of what has made this weekend such a success…

Well, off I go to the finals….

NWRBC Travels Pt. 3 (The Press Party)


So yesterday finished out very well. Competitors were awesome… and then the fun began! I dropped by the Albina Press just a bit after 8 and there still weren’t too many people there… in fact, there were about just as many grinders as there were people. Coffee was everywhere… so much that it was harder to find alcohol compared to coffee…

Coffees present included… and this is just the two hours I was there… Nick Cho’s Competition Blend, Black Cat, Hairbender, Ecco!, Paradise Classico, The New Mutiny Roaster’s Dark Horse Blend, Bumper Crop, Vivace, Altera, and many more I don’t even remember…. It was rediculous…

As you can see, shortly after I got there Phuong arrived and jumped on bar. She and Billy rocked it for a bit. Then Philip Search found his way in there as well. The three rocked the bar for a bit busting out shots… Then I grabbed the Paradise Classico to throw in a grinder and show to people. Next thing I knew I was living the dream, rockin the bar, pulling shots for some of my coffee heroes…

Unfortunately, I had to leave the party early to head to a friends house and catch up with him… but the highlight of my night was definitly being at the party. I also was up way too late… I had to sleep in, so unfortunately I missed the heavy-hitters of the day. Sorry Kyle, Phillip, and Jon… Some how I think I may be seeing each of you tomorrow still…. The last competitor is running through his gig right now, and then soon we’ll be announcing the finalists…

NWRBC Travels Pt. 2


Well, day one is done… almost. In a couple hours we’ll all be at The Albina Press, ready and willing to down 3 kegs of Widmer Brothers beer and 7-8 different espresso blends! Yeah for depresents and stimulants! But seriously, if you ever have the chance to try a Widmer beer, make sure you do so! Incredible.

Anyway, the news of the day Eight competitors have thrown down what they’ve got… Kicking it off was the Zoka-man, Kenji from Japan. He did an excellent job, especially being that the competition wasn’t exactly set to work with translators and all… Not too long after, Albina Press Owner and mighty fine barista, Kevin Fuller took to the stage for the first time in this competition format. Kevin rocked it as he always carries himself… smooth. His drinks looked good, and things felt consistent. Just as the shop presents itself, there was a confident (not cocky) air flowing between Kevin and Billy. They just felt as they were… at home.

The next dude who stands out in my mind from Kevin was Ryan Dixon from Stumpies. He chose a Nicaraguan coffee as his epsresso. He’s the first competitor I’ve seen forget a runner… but in the end, it may have helped as he finished way under time. I haven’t seen the score sheets in a long time, but if forgetting a runner adds that much time, there may be a concept here.

Somewhere in the mix, Ryan from Paradise rocked his gig. He had some microphone issues, which lead to time issues, all kinda generated by nerve issues, but still showed some fine skill in the creating of his espresso.

Finally, the talk of the town, Billy Wilson… Who rocked the crowd in a way I’ve never seen before. Now, keep in mind, O’l William here was throwing judges rose water americano’s two years ago… oh, and the aguave macciato at last years NW regionals… Well, he’s fully redeemed himself with not just the Hairbender Espuma, but now, espresso caviar… WTF? Let me tell ya… I got a taste of these tiny little espresso balls, and wow. There is an awesome concept here… Of course, being that an amazing signature drink isn’t everything he had some minor issues… but played it smart… as a competitor of 5 years should. Part of the suave coolness of Albina today was brought in when they brought in bar stools… A comfy alternative to the judges standing all day. Well, all was going great except Billy forgot to put the stools behind the judges table. So, his first minute was spent moving the stools for the judges and encouraging them to relax and take a load off… That minute is pretty much the amount of time Billy went over… Like I said though, he played it smart. Rather than freak out and rush to get it all done, he gracefully took the 20 point deduction… and then the 40, and with a calm manner, finished his signature drink and aweing us all…

Those are just the highlights of the day. Other little details that were cool would be meeting the ever-so-funny Klaus, seeing the Ritual kids and hearing of their growing success, talking with Philip Search and hearing of his new endeavor (Mutiny’s on the horizon!), Chillin with P-Diddy (AKA Phuong Tran), Hearing Klaus call Brent Fortune young and cute (or something of that caliber), having one of the best burgers ever below the venue while sitting at the bar with Philip and Ryan from Paradise and cathing up a bit with Duane, seeing the smiling face of Jenn Prince, taking advice from Joel Pollock, and (shamefully) having my first true gin martini…

This is day 1! Two more days of craziness! Tomorrow is the big one! Much going on… including the reture of Kyle Larson! Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome!

NWRBC Travels Pt. 1


So, yesterday I was up at about 5:00 AM Central time… Caught a flight from MSP to Boise, ID. Chilled in Boise for about 2 hours (board out of my mind) and then caught my final flight into PDX… Home! Anyway, I got in about 1:45 and it’s been non stop craziness ever since. My afternoon included catching up with Phuong at the Albina Press. Then I moved onto Crema for one of the amazing double chocolate croissants. Finally, the caffeinated portion of my day ended at The Annex, catching up with Jeff and sipping on some amazing pre-production Guatemala Finca El Injerto…

Lot’s been going on since I left. Venues have shut down, bands I love have broken up, friends have moved away. Hell, even Joe Raines is leaving Lava Java! Much change, but coffee is continuing to grow and take over Portland, and that makes me stoked!

My friend Joey and I stumbled downtown last night and wandered by the DT Stumptown. It easily became apparent that this is going to be a fucking radical weekend… The party was very chill… it was a smaller group compared to what we’ll probably see tonight at The Press… but many of my heroes were there… It’s always good to see people like Duane, Steven Vick, Andrew Barnette, Zander, Grady, Liz, John Lewis, and many more… Oh, and major thanks to you Duane for the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale… Such a good beer! It’s great to be back in the NW…

I finally got my ass out bed about 7AM and made my way over to the Wonder Ball Room… Where I am now. Thanks to the wifi here I’ll probably be updating this often while I’m here. Competition starts in about an hour and a half and things are well underway. From where I stand I can see Billy Wilson and Ryan from Paradise rocking their practice times… In fact, I’m thinking it may be a good idea to scam a shot from BW…

Let me first describe the space… Wow. This IS Stumptown. First off, we’re in a music venue. The floor space in front of the stage is where the machines and tables are setup. The sides have curtains thrown up where the competitors tables are hidden. Zander and company have a Clover setup in the back of the room and are brewing coffees left and right. Jen Prince is running around helping out her two Japanese friends… who will be competing out of region today. I really don’t think this weekend’s events could be any more punk rock. Oh, and of course Klaus is in the house! He’s chilling in the balcony right now going over his cards… Yes, that’s right. The World Champion… AKA King of Baristas! Is Emceeing today!

Well, I am gonna go steal of those shots if I can… more later!

Kopplin’s


Once again, epic decisions have been made. When I left home to come out here to the cities, I thought I was settling. I thought I was leaving something temporary to create a new home. I was expecting to get here and just find my niche. Let me tell you, the search for that niche is still going, but we’ve made a new development…

This last week a pretty sweet offer came my way… With some thoughts and advice from friends, I decided to take it. On Thursday I put my ‘two weeks’ into Black Sheep. The cafe is strong. They’ve got a great machine, awesome grinders, some sweet food, and a full bakery. ‘The Sheep’ has some awesome employees and great management. Everything about the Black Sheep Coffee Cafe is cool… but it is not me. The mentality of the customers, the sourounding area, the full-food deal, it’s not my dream or desire. It’s a cafe that I would love to visit, but not work at.

In less than two weeks, I leave for Portland. Home. No, not for good, but it will be a bridge of sorts. I will be there for 10 days to help out at the Northwest regional barista competition as well as Coffee Fest Seattle. When I come back though, I will begin working at Kopplin’s Coffee in St. Paul…

The cafe is small. The space is smaller than Lava Java, but the service is similar. Just coffee… and that is the driving passion of the place. All coffee is brewed by the cup. There are three grinders for Paradise roasters espresso, decaf espresso, and a single origin of some sort. The idea of the place is to be a traditional espresso bar. Latte’s are available in 8 or 12 oz., Cappuccino are available only as double 6 oz, and there are only 3-5 syrups available. Mocha’s are made with a high quality chocolate made by a local chocolatier… available in sweetened of bitter sweet… Iced drinks happen, but there are no blenders. It’s all about the coffee…

Friday and Saturday nights the cafe is open until 10… but it’s all sit down service. You walk in and find a table. Then someone will come and serve you water. You can order all drinks, and then on top of that we bring in deserts to serve. There is also a coffee pairing for each desert. It’s all about the coffeee…

Other perks are that the cafe is about 10 minutes close to where I live… cutting my commute in half. Just found out the other night that there is a bowling alley in the basement. No lie… It’s completely throw back. No digital scoring… just chalk boards. The place is sweet. Next door to the cafe is a little dive bar-esque place called the Nook, “A small place with big burgers.” God knows I’ll probably spend a fair amount of time there… Oh, and 3 to 5 colleges within 10 minutes of the cafe… So, the atmosphere is pretty chill.

I am very excited to be in a new cafe that is all about the coffee. I really think this is going to be an awesome endevour. I actually know what I am getting into and I am happy about it…

The History of a Ghost

Sometimes it just amazes me to think back to my beginning and realize where I have come from. I remember the first time I had a Con Panna… My friends decided to play a little joke on me and bought me one at Starbucks… Just to see my reaction. Then, I decided to start buying them to see my friends reaction. Then I began to drink them to impress people with what I could handle (Mind you, I’m 15 about this time).

Then one day, one of my current band mates, Matt Brown, decided to tell me about a little coffee shop called Lava Java… it was a place where his best friend, Billy worked… I loved the coffee… With a little in from Matt I landed a job at this place where people competed in coffee… knowing nothing. My experience at the time was short… I was young and dumb… but what I learned from that coffee nut, Billy, changed my life. The way he talked about coffee will stick in my brain forever. The first time I tasted straight espresso was with this guy. He walked me through the process as we were hit with flavors of Meyer lemon, sweet cherry, and sweet, rich chocolate… Ah hairbender!

A couple years went by, I remained friends with the owner of the shop… I left for college and took with me the knowledge I had gained from these barista… Through circumstances and the lack of good coffee in Minneapolis, I moved back to Portland… I decided it was time to take a break from school and pursure something I loved. Due to some age and maturity, the owner of that little shop, Phuong, decided to give me another chance. The rest from there is continuing to develop… So far the story included a competition, some hard training, and losing my ego… which is still happening slowly.

I owe so much thanks to some key individuals. Many people have invested time in helping me learn about coffee and customer service. This entry is here to say thank you to some awesome people… First and foremost, Phuong… you gave me many second chances and spent a lot of time training and investing in me. Without you I would not have the career opportunities before me. Joe Raines, you are one of the best day to day barista I know… Your cappuccinos amaze me… your sense of style floors me… Philip Search. You are are a well of knowledge and passion that few compare to. Your eccentricism makes me jealous. Without you I would never have questioned anything… now, I know what I know because it is science, not hear say… Billy Wilson, you inspire me. There is no need to tell you how good you are. Only a need to say thank you for being as passionate as you are. If I had not seen it, I would not be in coffee today. Brent Fortune… You have been an awesome friend and an excellent man to work for. Thank you so much for the time you spent ripping apart my cappuccino and espresso… You helped me out when I really needed it and for that I am greatful. These people have been awesome to me. We all have people who inspire and mentor us a long the way, and I guess I just felt the need to make some of then known…