Coffee is About to Dominate Our 2017

I remember the first time specialty coffee caught my eye.

I was a fresh-off-the-press culinary grad in need of a job, and I answered a Craigslist ad for a baker at a new coffee shop in town. Once hired, I understood right away that this shop wanted little to do with pastries and everything to do with coffee.

Coffee. 

The word was said with hefty weight and reverence, like it meant something. It wasn’t thrown around casually, used to describe cheap fuel to keep the town running. It was spoken of as though a delicacy, a valuable and important asset all its own.

One cappuccino and I was hooked. Silky, velvety, smooth, surprisingly cool. I felt as though I, the recipient of this drink, were consuming skill and knowledge with each greedy sip.

I was also very confused.

When did coffee get this way? I wondered. Has it always been this complex? What are these devices? Where did the science come from? 


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Two years have passed since then. I’ve learned the answers to plenty of these questions, led on by mentors that both encouraged me and dumped my struggling drinks down the drain.

Barista? I learned how to show up early, work hard, take my work seriously. I can make espresso all day and never tire. But stepping outside of the shop, I am looking to explore. My questions have no limits.

When I moved to Portland to further my coffee education, I only found myself feeling trapped and discouraged. Portland is bustling with coffee nerds, events, throwdowns, and cuppings. There are shops on every corner. I live two blocks from a Stumptown and I work for one of the most respected companies in the city.

But I am, truly, blown away at how few people really love what they do here. Coffee hype got the best of the people I met. I remember vividly training a new employee who, when I pressed her for questions about why she loved coffee, responded with, “It’s just so cool. I love everything about it.” And that was the most I ever got out of her.

Coffee is cool. But it has little to do with your hip, tattooed barista and that cool record he’s playing – it has everything to do with the cup in your hand, that finally, against all odds, made it deliciously into your possession.


 

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None of this was quite clear to me until I visited my first farm, in a country I immediately fell in love with – the Philippines. (It helps that I fell in love with a Filipino, too.) All of a sudden, I could see with my own two eyes, and hold in my hands the tiny parchmented seeds that were trying to make it out of the country.

These beans, mishandled, would end up roasted to a dark and oily sheen, blended and bagged and served cheaply.

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But the Philippines has good coffee. Incredible coffee, actually. The climate of these islands allows for even very rare coffee to grow.

Why hasn’t it been showcased? Where does its potential lie? This we aim to find out, and to foster.

2017 is upon us, a year that looks like it will be hard, rewarding, challenging and unexpected. This is the year we will go back to the Philippines and get our hands dirty, on our knees to plant spindly year-old arabica seedlings. We know practically nothing.

And yet somehow, as I sit at a desk lamp late into the evening, booking tickets for our return and reading articles until I can function no longer… this is when I feel the same tickle of curiosity that I felt at the very beginning. It’s the same curious fascination as my first silky cappuccino.

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No collection of articles can prepare me for what we’ll face this year. No online class can ready me for the unexpected turns we’re about to take. I feel like I’m back to square one – a student, embarking upon a quest to become a master, ready for the blows that will surely befall me. Even imagining holding a coffee plant (which will surely outlive me, and the ministry we are planting) makes my heart race.

Coffee is about to dominate my year, in a way that has everything to do with the land, the people, and our stewardship of it.

When I prayed to use my talents to reach people, to make a difference and to spread the gospel, I don’t think I realized how practical it would be. I love coffee. I love the culture. I love Jesus.

To use coffee — brewing, growing, roasting, processing — to reach people? To change lives? To make a difference? Ah. Now we’re talking.

 

Live from the Philippines

I write to you from a house in Baguio City. There are five puppies and one rooster outside that will wake me up in a few short hours at exactly 6:00 with an incessant, obnoxious crow and some subsequent barking. 

  
This is my first trip to the Philippines, and I am surprisingly comfortable and well-adjusted. I think mainly because everyone speaks English here in some form or another, and all of the signs are in English too. The houses are ramshackle and multicolored, where every day is laundry day (until it rains, then everyone puts their clotheslines back inside). 

I am here, in short, to visit the wonderful relatives that feel like family. Isaac and I need their help scouting the land for what will eventually be a self-sustaining missions field. There’s already a lot happening here as far as missions work, and in part we are here to support what is already happening. Our own vision, however, is growing and we need feet on the ground here in the Philippines. 

  
It is a beautiful country. I am surprised at how quickly I fell in love with it. The food is hearty, simple and filling. Rice is the foundation on which everything is built. (I heard one of Isaac’s relatives lean over and whisper to him, “But how does she like rice? She is American!”

  
Because I have been here for only two days (I think– jet lag has me very confused) all I have are photographs. Hopefully soon I will have written out the  stories to go alongside them! 

So far, God has been faithful and given us vision for making these things a reality. 

Coffee growing. Restaurant building. Skate park construction. Ministry using every facet of our skills and passions. 

Tiny dots waiting to be connected. Lives waiting to be affected by what is going to happen here. Send prayers! We are in the earliest stages. 

More to come!
   
    
    
    
 

Morning Coffee Thoughts

Mornings around here are quiet. It’s getting light later in the morning, so my drive to work is silent and drowsy.

When I unlock the market doors and let in the prep cooks waiting outside, I feel the tiniest sense of satisfaction. I always wanted to be a girl that worked in a marketplace, and here I am, propping open the doors with responsibility. The cooks greet me and offer a trade — breakfast for coffee. I always accept.

 
I have a purposeful routine to open. I turn on lights and select music, I heat equipment and run the grinder. The smell of the coffee grounds destined for drip is what kickstarts my brain activity. Like a true addict, my mind knows it’s about to get its fix of washed Ethiopian espresso, which motivates me to keep going.

 
This job is strange. Despite being in the heart and center of America’s coffee Mecca, people still are puzzled by specialty coffee.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” an exasperated prep cook says as I stare into space and inhale excessively into my espresso cup.

In nine million years would he smell this demitasse and think spicy melon? Peppercorn? Cantaloupe? Juicy? 

Probably not. Nor do I expect him to.

There are other factors involved in this job. My coworkers, for instance, who look at me slightly puzzled all the time. Sometimes they ask me questions about Jesus, and we spend our entire shift debating theology. Sometimes we talk about relationships, and I am met with statements like, “You wouldn’t live together before you get married? Sounds dangerous.”

If Portland had a thermometer for the post-Christian climate, it would sit in the center of my workplace and register the pulse of the city, the way it warms and cools to ideas that were once radical and now are the norm.

I love every single person I work with. I have struggled with and finally embraced the atmosphere in which I spend the majority of my time.

Before now, I never had to explain my faith, or explain what I got out of going to church. Portland has stared my lifestyle straight in the eye and asked boldly: why? More importantly: are you sure? 

The only thing in the city that has kept me grounded and guarded is Christ. And to proclaim that with boldness when someone asks me at 7:00 am before I’ve had my first espresso, “do I deserve to go to hell?” is a feat I didn’t know I could respond to.

Don’t mistake me. Portland is not a city of persecution for followers of Jesus. But it does lull them into conformity by soft discrimination and the pressure to just let go and live life based purely off of feelings and instant gratification. This is the city of everything. Amazon Now will deliver your orders to the door. Rare food markets carry obscure ingredients you can’t find anywhere else. Pockets of culture peer from every corner, subcultures unknown to the rest of the states thrive here.

It’s a beautiful city. I’m living in a charming house and working the finest buildout coffee has ever known. God has been good to me, he has shifted my perspective from one of overwhelmed panic (how do I survive here?) to confidence rooted solely in Him. Now I can thrive here, because he is fighting my battles and teaching me to love those that need Him. Even if they laugh at my old fashioned ideas or make my mornings a challenge.

As I sip (somewhat obnoxiously) my first pull of espresso for taste and quality, I get a caffeinated rush of gratitude. Garden City has not always felt like home, it has never carried the sense of being ‘my city.’ But, by the grace of God, it’s His. And He’s going to use me here.

Backyard to Table: A Cooking Reminder

Finding good food in Portland does not seem like a difficult task. Everywhere you turn offers a craft cocktail, a beer brewed up the street, fish fresh from the coast and mushrooms handpicked in the misty wildwood of the Oregon back country.

But after a while, the delicious food scene either numbs your palate to deliciously prepared, well-sourced delicacies or you start to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of restaurants to try.

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Don’t get me wrong– I adore the food scene in PDX. I’ll even give you a list of my handpicked favorites to try should you ever visit.



And believe me when I say the food scene out here is the best in the US. If you think you’ve had good wings, you absolutely haven’t until you’ve tried Whiskey Soda Lounge‘s fish sauce wings. Those would probably be my last meal should I ever leave this place.

Despite all of this goodness, you know what resonates the most with me these days?

The tiny garden in the backyard.

Portland can tell me all day long (and it does) that they ‘source locally’ and ‘pick from the garden’ and establish ‘farm to table’ connections. But despite their best efforts and their tremendous successes, there is nothing that can compare from a fresh red tomato plucked off the vine, still warm from the sun.

Their farm to table and my farm to table are tremendously different. Those were seeds we dug into the wet ground a few months back. (By ‘we,’ I will admit, my green-thumbed roommates did the heavy lifting since they don’t kill plants like I do.) Now they’re vegetables, big and ripe and bursting with wonder.

So, for the past week, I have made all meals at home. Despite one late-night run to the greasy spoon diner in Southeast after a ceiling-splitting worship jam from the talented Matthew Zigenis at Bridgetown Church, there has been no money spent at all on food this week.

I am lucky enough to know — and take advantage of– the wonderful folks at a local bakery who give me their day-old breads in exchange for coffee. I never have a shortage of thick, fresh, crusty loaves within reach. This is the springboard for every wonderful sandwich and toast imaginable.

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Pie, made with the fresh apples from the tree in the backyard. Also, arts and crafts day with the roommate. We are working on floral wreaths.

I am remembering with startling familiarity how wonderful it is to cook, elbow-deep in something crafty, tasty and new.

Plus, it’s cheaper. My wonderful fella and I are trying to hit up some overseas countries for some crazy Jesus-loving missions work in the next few months and are saving every penny possible to get there. Eating deliciously seems an easy way to do so– its hardly a sacrifice at all.

We’ve even gone so far as to build campfires and construct gourmet ramen noodles with one kettle and some random ingredients.

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Gourmet fire ramen. 

Here’s to the friendly reminder that food doesn’t come from grocery stores. Food doesn’t come from restaurants. Food doesn’t come from well-meaning companies that send gift boxes.

Food comes from the earth, and it’s delicious that way.

 

Soft Power City

 

It has been entirely too long since I’ve blogged. My computer broke down, I got busy, I switched jobs… lots of things have happened.

But there is no excuse not to write. At the end of the day, there are few things I love more than reflecting and typing (and sipping a craft coffee drink while I’m at it).

Where have I been? What have I been doing? Days here in Portland pass like a blur. I’m coming to terms with the city I live in, trying to understand it. Having moved around so much and experienced a lot of life before I was even 20, I figured moving to this hip, easygoing city would be a cakewalk.

It has been anything but. Portland, although weird and freeing and full of good restaurants, has been a monumental challenge. It has been a challenge with my faith, my family, my own ideals, my pocketbook… pretty much, it’s been a Challenge with a capitol C.

This is a city that screams, “BE WHOEVER YOU WANT! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!” This is a city that praises individualism, a city that preaches tolerance for every race, sexual identity, religion, lifestyle, background — but only if you keep it to yourself.

The lifestyle here is far more indulgent than I ever imagined it would be. There is no shortage of distractions. I put off deadlines, emails, phone calls from home for the sake of eating somewhere new or grabbing a coffee. It’s such soft compromise, the way that it seductively calls, hang out a little longer, have another drink. 

I can feel it creeping into the way I handle customers in my workplace. I’ve had to build a mental wall between myself and the desire to roll my eyes and explain yet again that a macchiato is not like the Starbucks version of a caramel latte for heaven’s sake.

It’s as though I am an antacid tablet dropped into the fizzing center of a city designed to quietly dissolve my ideals and stir me into compromising.

But if I serve a God that is bigger than violence and hunger and famine and fear, he can equip me to handle soft power, too.

The biggest blessing by far has been the presence of the church. When I say ‘church’ I  don’t mean four walls and a preacher, although those exist. (More or less, anyway, my church takes place in a bar every Sunday morning and you should check it out if you live here, it’s rad. Click here. )

I mean the moving, living, life-giving community of those that serve Christ and are willing to battle compromise in this city. I have found people that love to serve the homeless in our city, people that staunchly oppose the ideals of Portland’s strip-club mentality without having to protest with pickets.

Christ followers here don’t run around lighting courthouses on fire or protesting the gay pride parade. They love and support those around us, but they stand steadfast in their ideals.

The other day, some of our closest friends here in the city met up in one of the many hip, white coffee shops downtown. We drank our craft brew out of handmade mugs and laughed a little, but we were there to pray — for each other, for our church, for the city. As we bowed our heads in this public place, I couldn’t help but glance out the window occasionally. Passersby were doing double takes, the baristas were watching us awkwardly behind their espresso machine.

Believers in the urban core of the city are not faced with persecution or threats. But we are pressured to compromise, to bow to Babylon of our day and not infringe on anything that makes anyone uncomfortable. I wanted, momentarily, to retreat and go back to drinking my coffee and laughing loudly to prove how normal I was.

In the softly dissolving, quietly-whispering city of indulgence and tolerance, we don’t have to fight or attack. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to fold.

And that, ladies and gents, is the most important thing I am learning since I moved to Portland.


If you live here! You should check out Reason Church and Bridgetown: A Jesus Church. Listen to Podcasts as you bike downtown or something. They’re awesome.

Campfire Setup

If you’re in Portland right now, you know. It’s hot outside. It’s 100 degrees, which means coffee shops across town are running low on cold brew and the fan aisle of Walmart looks like the apocalypse struck.

It’s time to leave town and go camping.

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Recently, I made the best purchase of the season. I bought a camping cookstove that hooks up directly to a propane tank. It’s small, durable, travel-friendly and, most importantly, heats evenly.

Hand in hand with its soulmate, a cast iron skillet, camping just took on a whole new level of outdoor cooking confidence.

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By no means should you bail on building a fire or cooking on it, but if speed and efficiency are your game, you should consider a similar hookup. (Any outdoor sports store has ya covered.)

So what did I cook with my new, fancy gear? I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly reach for any stars. I made egg-in-a-hole, and it tasted delicious. Something about that mountain air.

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Step one. Lay out your gear. Never travel without your skillet, some cooking oil and some salt. (Pepper optional.)

The only additions to this truly minimalist setup were a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs.

Step two. Put that pan on the burner and warm it up. Grease thoroughly with oil.

Step three. Use any possible device (I used the lid of my Pam spray) to punch a hole in the bread, cookie-cutter style. Place bread in pan and let toast. If it doesn’t sizzle when it hits the pan, your skillet isn’t hot enough.

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Step four. Crack that egg right in that hole. Please note the (clean) hiking sock used as a pan handle and take my word of advice: buy a pot handle sleeve or bring a towel, those babies get too hot to touch. Or be ghetto, like me, and use a sock or something.

Season with salt and pepper, then flip your toast as gracefully as possible to cook the opposite side. If your yolk breaks or you make a mess, tell your camping party that you are serving a ‘rustic-style’ breakfast and that they have no other choice but to eat it and marvel at your authenticity.

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Remove from pan and serve.

Eat, enjoy, and pack up your things for a hike. You’re in the great outdoors! Go enjoy them.

 

Greek Orzo Summer Wedding Salad

For Luke and Val.

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I have been to so many weddings this past month my head is spinning. They’ve all been completely lovely.

There’s one last wedding to complete this season of matrimony, and by an unfortunate twist of fate, I can’t even make it. I’m bummed.

But the good news is, even though I can’t make it, I can send food! One of the more creative touches the happy couple added? Recipe cards for a potluck reception. Super creative, guys!

Also, I’ve never actually met the couple. (Hi, Luke, hi Valerie!) I’ve heard awesome things about them. I can’t wait to hang out with them after they’re married. But in the meanwhile, to conclude this season of holy matrimony, here’s my potluck contribution. It’s one of those make-ahead dishes that travels well and can be as versatile and summery as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • lots of fresh dill
  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 container feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook 8-10 minutes until pasta is thoroughly cooked and al dente.

2. In the meanwhile, quarter the cucumber into bite sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes and roughly chop the dill.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together Dijon and vinegar for dressing. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add the dill, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water. (The goal is to cool down the pasta, since this is a chilled pasta salad. Nothing is worse than warm cucumbers.) In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, feta, dressing and orzo.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings. Feel free to brighten with lemon juice, or add your own touch — green onions, shallots, shrimp or anything else!

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Finally, eat, drink and be merry! Or married. Whichever is applicable.