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.

 

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.

 

Hop the Fence, Have Adventures

We got outside the other day. Phones down, boots laced, we headed towards the coast where the misty sunshine called. Part of an attempt to step away from social media and live like hermits, adventures have begun to feature more prominently in our daily lives.

It’s true, what they say. Stopping the car to jump out and take a picture of a mountain for Instagram isn’t the same as climbing the mountain. The adventures you hear on the internet aren’t nearly as intriguing as the ones people keep to themselves.

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I invested in a pair of Danner hiking boots (and proceeded to dye, treat and lace my own shoelaces thanks to my very invested leatherworking boyfriend) and have since found it’s impossible to stick to the trail. One of our favorite things to do is hop the fence entirely and go where we aren’t allowed.

I don’t recommend this on the most professional level, but let’s be honest. How many adventures happen when you stick to the beaten path?

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The inaugural boot break-in trip went swimmingly, we hiked Mount Hood and found a gigantic swamp near a breathtaking clearwater lake. Of course, this being spring, we found ourselves in the middle of frog mating season. I’ve never heard croaking so loud! The whole forest was ringing with the creaks and groans of frogs, and the still-snowy ground was littered in clear, gelatinous eggs. Each egg had a tiny tadpole forming in the center. It was disgustingly fascinating.

But I must admit, Cannon Beach is my favorite spot to escape to. The big volcanic rocks are beautiful and rugged. The mist wraps around them like a dame’s fur coat and are gorgeously foreboding. Every picture I’ve taken is flawless; it’s as though the coastline doesn’t have a bad angle.

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Anyway, since summer is around the corner, why not try lacing up your hiking boots, too, and seeing where you end up?

I recommend the following:

  • Bring snacks
  • Bring a camera (if you want)
  • Dare yourself not to post any proof of your miraculous adventures online (be old school and write it down in a notebook if you think you’ll forget details)
  • Keep your adventure boots in the car so you’re always ready
  • Ignore most fences, don’t be afraid to take risky routes
  • Pack water and first aid
  • Climb things
  • Use common sense
  • Collect cool objects
  • Just get out there. And make it a habit!
  • Share your best adventures around a campfire
  • (Learn how to start a campfire)

 

Coffee Tours: Slate Coffee Roasters, Seattle, WA

Slate Coffee Roasters is every barista’s dream.

“Open 7 – Close.” reads the sign propped in front of its tiny, 6th Ave location. The space inside is small, minimalist, appropriately slate grey.

The heart, soul and center of the shop is gleaming Slayer espresso machine, sparkling like a new Christmas toy.

“Hello!” the friendly barista for the afternoon with her perfectly rimmed glasses, crisp white button-up tucked into black high-waisted shorts, smiles with confident professionalism. She knows where she is and what she is serving. She is the master of her profession. “Drinking here?”

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Following immediately are glasses of water and menus, as table-service coffee materializes. The menu, although plain and simple, black and white, needs explaining. Familiar terms like ‘latte’ and ‘cappuccino’ are nowhere to be found.

“Everyone has a different idea of what a latte is,” she explains without prompting. “Here, we keep it simple and refer to it as what it is. Espresso plus milk. We offer four ounces, six ounces or eight ounces of milk with each double shot.”

Skimming the menu further, she continues, “We do not have any drip coffee at this particular location, but will happily do a pourover for you should you prefer.”

After placing an order, returning the menu and waiting momentarily, the coffee appears. It is as it should be: an artistic centerpiece.

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Were I to have any detrimental coffee comment to add to this experience, it would be the mound of foam atop the final macchiato. I was disappointed that there was no creamy microfoam to do the milk justice (but will attribute it to the fact our barista probably milk-shared to make two orders and I assume I received the tail-end of the pour.)

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The most popular item at Slate Coffee is a deconstructed milk drink. Served in small flutes, a single shot of espresso and a scant few ounces of steamed milk sit separately, side-by-side. The last flute holds the two together in what would technically be referred to as a macchiato.

The hope is to show the drinker the importance of each component before enjoying them together in a tiny symphony of thick, vanilla-cream milk and rich espresso.

The milk, of course, is local and non-homogenized. Buttery, rich and fatty, it results in creamy texture that has the natural viscosity of a melted vanilla shake. This milk is pure and sweet and heavenly. Matt Perger would beam with pride.

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I will warn you that if you’re looking for an in-and-out coffee experience, Slate is not for you. Slate is for savoring and appreciating coffee as culture, not for slugging 16-oz lattes as fuel. Any other shop in the world will offer that experience; Slate politely declines.

(They will, however, happily explain their menu in detail. Please ask them questions, they live for it.)

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My personal experience featured the Chelbasa Ethiopian espresso, a natural processed coffee from the Gideo region of Ethiopia. It tasted like bakers chocolate and cherry cordial with a lingering aftertaste reminiscent of licking the bowl after making chocolate covered strawberries. In short, it was one of the best espressos I have ever encountered. It had me re-evaluating my life choices to better center them around better coffee stewardship.

Of course, in a shop with a shiny gold EK43 and a Slayer at the helm, anything less would be underwhelming. It is certainly good to know, however, that some barista in Washington State is living my dream.

The myths are true: coffee here is nothing short of perfection.


Check them out HERE or give them a visit!

5413 6th Ave NW, Seattle, WA

1309 NE 45th St, Seattle, WA

602 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA


Side note: Seattle is awesome. See adventures below.

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Coffee Tours: Either/Or Coffee, Sellwood

The winter drizzle is ceaseless.

It would seem to be perfect coffee drinking, book reading, curl up with a cup of tea kind of weather, and it is. Yet there are only so many perfect cappuccinos that can be downed before the caffeine has kicked in, awakening the urge to do something.

The product of too many cappuccinos? Adventures.

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It was during a coffee crawl that I finally stumbled into Sellwood. I’d been itching to check out Either/Or for a while.

I’m a sucker for tiny, intimate, less-than-ten-seat kind of places. This particular location, however, felt a little too far to travel and had been pushed down on my list for ‘a rainy day.’

That rainy day had arrived! 

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Either/Or didn’t disappoint. It feels a little as though an untouched corner of your grandma’s attic somehow acquired a La Marzoco Strada MP and opened to the public.

I was charmed.

With a little vintage refrigerator to house the milk and a tiny sink skirted with a dusty curtain to cover the no doubt rusting pipes underneath, Either/Or was comfortable and small, welcoming and warm.

Pleasantly, they also rotate their espresso selections and offer an espresso flight, in case you’re ready try them all.

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Its retro charm suits the Sellwood area well. This tiny little neighborhood in Southeast Portland is brimming with antique stores and strange holes in the wall. A particularly scenic view graces the river over a steep drop-off.

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The streets are sleepy and quiet. There’s a vague, small-town air of mystery here aided by the gloomy skies and endless antique shops.

Shops with bright, twinkling lights catch the eye. The rest fade into the grey.

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My only takeaway for this post is this: regardless of the weather or location, strange and wonderful things are waiting to be discovered.

Make your Thursday an adventurous one!


 

Portlanders! Check out Either/Or here or pay them a visit at 8235 SE 13th Ave. 

In Search of Wild Places

Oregon is known for its mysterious, misty woods and the beautiful Cascade Range that cuts across the landscape. Portland and the surrounding area are neatly located between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, giving the pine trees a lush jungle feel and dotting the landscape with rivers and waterfalls.

When I moved to Oregon, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to get my boots damp. I was prepared to hike through the drizzle, explore the deep and wild places the way Lewis and Clark did long before me.

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From my childhood, I recalled a pleasant visit to Multnomah Falls, one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks. It had been a decade since my last visit, but I was eager to see it again and explore its mossy old bridge. I wanted to stand in front of the falls and feel the spray of this massive, tall, beautiful natural wonder.

I prepped, packing warm clothes and wearing my adventure boots. I made hiking granola bars, jam-packed with energy-sustaining deliciousness. I was ready to face the wild.

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Instead, to my deep disappointment, I was met with crowds upon crowds of people in rainjackets, braving the 35 degree foggy weather with lattes clutched to their chests. It was a sea of neon windbreakers, families clustered near the scenic photo spots posing with selfie cameras, ignoring the imposing, thundering falls behind them in favor of their photographs.

I was disappointed and let down. I stared up at the falls, feeling myself get jostled among the tourists who were looking at Multnomah Falls as a checkmark on their list, an Instagram post trending #waterfall.

Is anyone looking? I thought, staring up at the 600 foot wall of churning water. Flashbulbs were going off around me. Somehow, the crowds made the falls feel small. I was frustrated.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

Wholeheartedly, Isaac agreed. We had a backpack full of hiking food – homemade granola bars, fresh coconut water. We had no appetite to eat it here. There was no hike, no exploring, just crowds clutching balloons.

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We drove away, leaving families and strollers in our wake.

Driving aimlessly, looking only for a lone backroad or forgotten trail, we lost ourselves deep in a state park. It was the opposite of the falls – completely deserted and cold. The wind had picked up, the temperature had dropped to near freezing.

Still, determined not to be deterred, we left the car and hiked out onto a jetty that stuck out into a huge body of water. White-capped waves splashed up against icy black stones. This was the polar opposite of our last encounter.

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“Shall we?” I asked. It was freezing out. Our faces were chapped and fingers going numb. Almost out of spite, as if to prove this was really what nature was like, we spread out a blanket on a fallen log. We pulled out our provisions, the homemade granola bar of gargantuan size and a young, white coconut.

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I hadn’t split the granola bar into individual pieces. In the cold weather, it resisted separating in my hands. Isaac hacked at the coconut with a large hunting knife, yielding sweet, fresh coconut water unaffected by the cold.

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And so we sat as the wind howled, eating our granola bar, drinking coconut water, laughing at how ridiculous the scene must look. There were no latte stands around. There were no gift shops selling ponchos or postcards. In fact, I’m fairly certain hardly anyone has ever stood in the spot we found ourselves.

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I felt a little hypocritical as I snapped pictures of our setup. I had just been lamenting everyone who went to beautiful places for the sake of photographs.

But there was something coldly beautiful about the scene. It was deserted, the conditions uninhabitable. Still, we were there, picnicking in midwinter weather along an empty jetty. I had no intention of hashtagging it online to check off of my list. I wanted to live it, full and real and raw. The photographs were a reminder to myself – you sometimes have to seek adventures of your own, abandoning the footsteps of others. The wild places are the ones least photographed. That’s where the adventure begins, when you leave the trail.

 

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We rolled up the blanket with numb hands. Piling back into the car with rosy faces, we cranked the heat up and breathed in the still air of the car.

“Worth it?” I asked.

“Worth it.”


 

Wholesome Adventure Bars:

Ingredients:

¼ c peanut butterIMG_8298 - Copy

1 c oats

½ c honey (preferably local)

¼ c cranberries

½ c chocolate chips

Nuts optional – almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc.

 

Directions:

  1. In a pot over medium heat, melt peanut butter, stirring well.
  2. Stir in oats, honey, nuts, cranberries and/or ¼ c chocolate chips. Stir until the mix clumps together – there should be no dry oats. If necessary, add more honey. The mix should be damp and able to cling together.
  3. Remove from heat, let cool until just warm enough to handle. Form into a large rectangle.
  4. Let cool. To speed the process, use a refrigerator.
  5. Melt ¼ c chocolate chips. Spread over the bar. (This acts as a “glue” for crumbly parts of the bar as well as making it delicious.) Stud with nuts, extra chocolate or berries.
  6. Let cool completely, allowing chocolate to harden. Refrigerate if necessary.
  7. Cut into smaller squares if desired. Pack on your next hike and enjoy!

Pacific Coast

Because we apparently can’t get enough of long car drives, yesterday the Hummer made its way as far west as it possibly could go. We drove until bumping into the Pacific, nose-to-nose with gulls, faced with a long jetty extending into salty sea spray.

The stunning Oregon coastline faded in and out of view, veiled by thick fog that beaded along our rainjackets. (The previous day Isaac made the comment, “I hope it rains tomorrow so we can go to the beach!” which seemed so backwards we laughed.)

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It was a combination of sea spray and raindrops that left us damp and shivering, but the view was worth it. Mysterious, vague and vivid, so many blues danced against the ocean there couldn’t possibly be a name for all the shifting shades.

Matthew 8 kept returning to my thoughts as I took in the view. I have struggled and battled and endured some rough seas this past month, especially the past few weeks, making the decision to follow a call I wasn’t even sure I was hearing clearly.

But if I know the creator and calmer of even the roughest seas, I will be more than fine.

We climbed out to the end of the jetty, breathing in the damp, refreshing, salted air. A reminder that just because we arrived doesn’t mean the adventure is even close to over. It’s just beginning.

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Matthew 8: 25 – 27

They went to him and woke him up. “Lord!” they cried, “Save us! We are going to die.” He asked them, “Why are you afraid, ye of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and sea, and there was a great calm. The men were amazed. “What kind of man is this?” the asked “That even the winds and sea obey him?”