Last year, I visited my parents’ house for Labor Day. While I was there, a local coffee company held an AIDS benefit at their coffee-roasting facility. Part of the benefit included a roasting demonstration, followed by a cupping. I have always been curious about the process of coffee-roasting but in terms of logistics, I didn’t have my car with me and I wanted to spend some time with my mother.
So my mother came with me. I asked her a couple times if she was sure she wanted to come; she just looked at me and smiled a little, assuring me that she was happy to accompany me. The day was bright and sunny, with just a hint of the on-coming fall chill. There was a folk band playing in the background. Inside the factory a woman with cropped bleach-blonde hair was holding a roasting demonstration. My mother and I listened as she provided the background on the batch of beans she was about to roast. The beans were from a micro-lot in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. The roaster explained about the different environmental conditions that contribute to the flavor profiles of coffee. Then she walked us through the roasting process, explaining the “first crack” and “second crack” stages. I had always thought coffee-roasting was a multi-hour process; as it turns out, the process only takes about fifteen minutes. The beans were tumbling around in the gas-powered roaster, making a merry crackling sound. The roaster took out beans at different intervals to demonstrate the different stages of coffee roasting. The beans were passed around the crowd. When the beans reached my mother, I saw her pick them up and hold them in her hands, sniffing the light-brown beans with interest.
Afterwards the cupping began. I sampled the different coffees; my favorite was one from Panama that was smooth and balanced. I chatted with the baristas about different brewing methods. They urged me to try a new method of brewing called the Clever, which produces a coffee that is an intermediate between the full body of French press and the clean taste of a drip coffee. I also sampled some of the espressos. Espresso tends to be too strong for my tastebuds but these samples were bright and fruity.
Meanwhile, my mother waved off the coffee samples, heading over to the brownies and lemonade that stood by the side. She liked the brownies, which had been baked in the small shop next to the roasting factory. After chatting with some of the locals, my mother and I left; we had plans to go to the farmers market. We headed down to the farmer’s market and ate Thai food on the dock by the lake, as the boats went by.
We never did tell my father what we did that morning.