It was 8:50AM on September 2nd, 2016. My Uber driver was at parked at the wrong side of my hotel, I had a 9AM meeting with James Tooill, La Colombe's Roastery Manager (who is also a National Coffee Champion), and there was one major problem - La Colombe's Coffee Roastery at Tioga was a little further away from their HQ in Fishtown than I realized. All I could think about in the car was "shit shit shit I'm going to be late!!!"
Could things get any worse on a Monday morning?
"Text me know when you're here and I'll meet you in the lobby", James said. "I'm getting ready to make you a cup of coffee."
So he did when I arrived.
And suddenly, everything became okay.
Coffee has a way of making my mornings better whether I'm having a good day or a bad day. In college, it was the only reason I managed to make it through midterms and finals. During my brief stunt in the corporate fashion world after I graduated, it was the only way I managed to drag myself out of bed every morning.
There are people with ordinary relationships with coffee, and then there are people, like Todd Carmichael and James Tooill, with an extraordinary relationship with coffee. Over the last two decades, Todd Carmichael and JP Iberti have built a kind coffee empire that is incredibly different from the ordinary. If you've watched Todd and his coffee adventures on Dangerous Grounds and Uncommon Grounds on the Travel Channel, you would have gotten a peek on the story behind the journey of sourcing the best coffee beans from the most beautiful and dangerous places in the world. But it's not just about where the coffee is grown. For La Colombe, caring for the health and wellbeing of coffee farmers is just as important. With fair trade and sustainable sourcing practices and a Coffee Academy in Haiti established in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation to support, educate and revive the coffee farming industry in Haiti, these are just a few of the many things that make La Colombe Coffee stand out - because there are so few companies that genuinely care.
Back to coffee with James!
By way of introduction - James Stooil was the winner of the 2015 US Cup Tasters Championship hosted by the Speciaty Coffee Association. It's a national competition that awards the professional cofee cupper who demonstrates speed, skill and accuracy in distinguishing the taste differences in specialty coffees. And James came FIRST place out of the entire country!
We started off the morning brewing a jar of Kenya Kiriti on the chemex, one of La Colombe's amazing Workshop Single Origins. We chatted about coffee, Philly and La Colombe, and James even agreed to let me play with some coffee beans on the table (he also turned out to be an excellent hand model).
If I have to be completely honest, I didn't really know very much about coffee before I moved to New York 6 years ago. Growing up surrounded by adults drinking terrible instant coffee, I didn't get what all the fuss was about when stumbled first on the coffee culture in NYC. But La Colombe changed all that for me from the very first sip of coffee I took at my favourite cafe in Soho at 400 Lafayette. And now I am a complete fanatic.
A cup of coffee seems simple enough to make, but the beauty is in the process and I'm always curious to know where things come from and how they are made. In my next post, I will take you behind the scenes at La Colombe's coffee roastery to take a peek at the art of roasting the perfect beans from the brand that makes America's best coffee!