As the saying goes, you can tell a lot about a person from their bookshelf. By looking at the books they read, you can get an idea of their interests, passions, hobbies, and even the kind of life they now live. A bookshelf can be many things. It can be a conversation opener. It can be a window that reveals some aspects of the person of which you were not aware before. A bookshelf is also very much a personal space you rarely share with anyone else but yourself. Letting others see your bookshelf is like letting them into the privacy of your life, and it somehow makes you self-conscious.
Like books, a person’s favorite coffee can tell a lot about who they are. However, drinking coffee isn’t as much of a personal activity as reading. Coffee is something more casual and informal. It’s a tool that brings people together, a medium that sparks and conveys stories.
Our Meet the Roasters weekly series shines a spotlight on roasters dedicated to their craft. But before they are professionals, they are humans. Some of them get the biggest pleasure from a cup of ordinary coffee they have on a day off with their family. Others prefer a coffee someone else makes for them because it lets them take their focus away from its flavor and concentrate on the experience itself. In this year-end special edition, we look back on 16 roasters’ favorite coffee moments to highlight their humanity and personality.
I like the coffee my wife makes for me at the beginning of the day. I drink it with my family. My wife always complains, “You are the coffee champion, aren’t you? Why am I making coffee for you?” For me, my first coffee of the day carries the message, “This is the start of another beautiful day.”
I like the coffee I drink with my father in the morning, when I return home to Colombia. My father relies on my mother for everything else around the house. But when it comes to coffee, he wakes up early and brews it for me, with a truly happy face. The quality of coffee itself may not necessarily be exceptionally good. But drinking it with my father as we watch the sunrise, it becomes the best coffee for me.
Eric: The most delicious coffee is one that I drink with my loved ones, looking at beautiful scenery together. There is a famous saying from Meng Zi, which reads “tiān hí de lì rén hé.” It means harmony between humans is more important than good timing and favorable geographic conditions. That’s something I believe in, too.
Chris: Same as Eric. It’s boring to drink coffee alone. If I have company, we can talk about coffee.
I feel the happiest when cupping samples of new coffees. I enjoy the pleasure all by myself, or sometimes share it with staff and guests. It is a privilege of roasters to be able to feel the diversity of coffees before anyone else.
Let’s say I cup coffees with friends who work in coffee. Ideally, out of 10 coffees on the table, there is only one that everyone likes and wants to talk about because that’s the prime opportunity to bring coffee lovers together.
When I drink coffee, I tend to analyze and evaluate it. It’s an occupational hazard. So it’s really a comforting change to go to a close friend’s shop and have coffee there with nothing on my mind. Though I say I want people to think of producers when they come to my shop, I also cherish moments like that.
When I get home from work, my wife always asks me for a coffee. Sometimes, I can’t be bothered. But drinking coffee with her at the end of the day makes me feel warm and fuzzy. That coffee tastes the most delicious. Of course, I use beans from Fritz Coffee. My favorite is Villa Sarchi honey from the Herbaz farm in Costa Rica. It seems to convey the core of the producer Antonio’s heart.
Norie and Sayuri: Nothing beats the time when we’re finally able to make a blend beyond our ideal after making many prototypes. Moments like that fill our hearts with the excitement of new discovery and a sense of accomplishment that out of countless possible combinations, we’ve finally found the perfect one. That’s when we feel the desire to serve it to our customers as soon as possible.
Nobuto: The best coffee I’ve ever had was when I climbed all the way up a mountain on a touring bike with friends and had a cup of mocha at the summit. It was at the height of summer, and I was so thirsty. But somehow the hot and bitter mocha tasted so good that I remember it to this day.
Humans are complicated animals. It can be difficult to stay happy every day. But it’s pure bliss when I drink an amazing coffee beyond my expectation, regardless of whether I brewed it or someone else did.
My favorite coffee is one that I can drink with nothing on my mind and makes me go, “This tastes good.” Like the coffee I have during a break after working on a farm. Roasters, including myself, should appreciate that simplicity of coffee because we tend to always use our head to evaluate coffee at work or at someone else’s coffee shops in our day-to-day lives.
I go around drinking coffee at various places. Every now and then, I finish drinking my coffee before I realize, no matter how big the cup. Although there are quite a few delicious coffees out there, that kind of coffee is rare. And I think it’s what every person needs, and that’s my ideal coffee.
Nowadays, we have so many coffees made with crazy processing methods. It almost seems that things are getting out of hand. It’s always interesting to drink those coffees to expand my palate and see how they taste. But I always come back to washed. That’s because washed has the taste of the terroir, the taste of the origin. Maybe I’m old school.
I like the first coffee I drink in the morning. It’s better to ingest something good when my senses are sharper. Also, deliciousness is all the more comforting when I drink coffee when I want to. For the same reason, I have huge respect for coffee shops that are open from early in the morning.
My favorite coffee is one that my staff makes for me. Before they brew, they consider many different varieties and brewing methods. When I drink it, I try and imagine their intentions, why they choose the coffee, and why they brew it the way they did. Of course, sometimes my guess is way off the mark, but that’s the fun. Moments like that remind me that coffee is a hub that can bring people together.
Josh: When one of the roasters and I were cupping, we looked at each other without saying anything and broke into a smile because it was just so delicious. We were so happy with how good it tasted, how the roast went well and what the farmer had done and achieved. It was quite nice to share that moment with someone without expressing that with words.
Claye and Nina: I think our favorite coffee experience is when we personally brewed coffees for the producers in Myanmar and Thailand. We brought them coffee from their farm that we roasted in Amsterdam. They were really surprised to taste their coffee for the first time. Being able to see the smile on their faces, it made us really happy and appreciative of the work that we do. That’s the best moment for Nina and I.
In South Korea, we have the word “namtaka.” It means a coffee brewed by someone else. I drink a lot of coffee at work, and I tend to evaluate if the beans are roasted well and how the coffee tastes. It’s an occupational hazard. So my favorite coffee would be namtaka because I can focus on the experience without considering its taste. I like the namtaka I have at a café on a day off with my wife or friends.