Behind the Cup |January 5, 2021

7 Coffee Resolutions To Expand My Specialty Coffee Knowledge

Happy New Year! We raise our coffee mug to you and wish you health and joy in 2021 and hope your year is blessed. 

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions long ago, but the end of the year is a great time to look back, reassess, evaluate, and see what went well and what needs modification. It’s also a great time to plan for the upcoming year and consider what things you’d like to see manifest in your life.

When I was a teacher, I was involved primarily with alternative education programs for over 20 years. During that time, I learned firsthand that there are infinite roads to understanding. I came to know that you can create deep outcomes of learning, memorable life experiences, and face increasingly difficult challenges by designing the situations and allowing learning to occur naturally, rather than trying to force a particular set of information into a brain.

It is one of the reasons that “nature” based programs are so popular. Humans interacting with the forces of nature is a universal “learning” situation.

Over the years, the word “Intention” came to hold special meaning for me. It is a way that we step into the world that we desire, become the person we visualize through our intention to move in that direction. This is driven by putting ourselves in situations known to create outcomes of growth. Rather than focusing on one result, we can learn on multiple levels and make connections to things we already know by repeated navigation of real experiences. 

So, for example, instead of saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds”, you might say, “I intend to walk 30 minutes a day while enjoying the sunset, I intend to eat sugar just once a week, I intend to join the 5K walkathon next Spring with my friend.”

Although the discipline to carry out these intents is required, how much more enjoyable is the process when you are focused on watching the beautiful sunsets while walking, looking forward to your sugar treat,  spending time with a friend, and joining a community event. If you follow through, the result will manifest as a by-product of engaging in those situations.

Another Hawaiian example is surfing. In ancient Hawaii, surfing wasn’t a mere sport. Protocols before entering the water, the evoking of gods, the selection of the board, and the internal exercising of balance, timing, courage, and patience were considered sacred acts. You were able, with each new wave, to hone your skills, to grow your bravery, to challenge your limits.

Many historians point out that because the royals had the best beaches and the best access to good waves, they were the most advanced surfers. It was well understood by the Hawaiians that these royal surfers were better leaders because of the lessons learned while surfing (balance, timing, patience, courage, strength). They paddled from the shore “intending” to catch a wave and came back with many invisible treasures.

So, this year I have decided I’d like to expand my coffee knowledge in a few new ways. Rather than specific outcomes, there are some situations I’d like to enter and see what knowledge and wisdom come my way. My intention here is to improve my coffee knowledge. What specifically I will learn and how it will come to me I can not answer, but that excites me even more. So many unknown experiences and realizations await inside each of these scenarios.

1. I intend to attend a specialty coffee event.

I was slated to go to Portland in 2020 for the SCA event which was canceled. If there are any events I can attend in 2021, I will be there. Who is there? What is the average age? Who are the superstars of that world and what are they talking about? What modern technology is emerging and how do the farmers, roasters, and baristas fit together?

All of these questions excite me and I’d like to absorb some of the passion and purpose of the industry. Kona Coffee is a very small percentage of the larger coffee world, I’d like to see how we are viewed, what is the image of Kona in the real world, and what misconceptions exist.

In the end, just being there, seeing new things, and talking to new people, I am sure great benefit awaits.

2. I intend to demonstrate roasting in a public place.

I have done this before, but it has been a while. People love to watch coffee roasting in a cast iron pan. For me, when I am required to demonstrate to others, it means I will have to practice many times prior to dial it in. I have found small-batch pan roasting to be very satisfying, and I always come away with more appreciation for the process.

This upcoming year will be the 50th anniversary of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival and so it may be the right venue. Or maybe here on the farm? Maybe we can roast coffee for our guests.

The thing is, once I decide that roasting for the public is my goal, it causes me to seek out and consider those places where I might be able to do it. People watching these roastings always have great questions so again my knowledge will be put to the test. The intention to roast coffee in front of others puts the pressure on me to be better.

3. I intend to taste and compare coffee from 10 global locations.

My wife and I receive regular coffee subscriptions from all over the world. Although we enjoy some more than others, this year I’d like to make 2 cups at a time and side by side compare different regions and roasts.

This year, as I have been a part of many cuppings on the farm through our private tours, I have come to see side by side comparison as the best way to really distinguish flavor notes.

On my list, I’d like to compare Ethiopian, Columbian, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Nicaragua, Kenya, Sumatra, Costa Rica, Kona, and Kau. I will keep a log of my impressions and I’d like to be able to know them without labels, so I may ask my wife to make a random cup and see if I can tell which I might be drinking.

The enjoyment of getting to sample different coffees from all over the world and the idea that at the end of this year, I will be able to say I have tasted the fruits of multiple regions and can distinguish certain characteristics is exciting.

4. I intend to read 3 industry blogs per week.

There are some amazing coffee blog writers out there and I will seek the best, brightest, and most insightful ones and read at least three blogs every week.

When I think about it logically, if I can put aside just 30 minutes a week, I can fill my brain with 150 blog articles in a year, and that info should help to reinforce what I know and also add to the gaps in my brain. I can get new ideas and inspiration that will further lead me to ask new questions and help my curiosity expand.

The simple commitment to just 30 minutes of reading a week will deeply change what I know.  I can already tell you that the 30 minutes will become much more as I look into concepts that interest me, even though at this present moment I don’t know what they are.

5. I intend to watch 3 coffee videos every Wednesday night.

What I said about the blogs also goes for the videos. YouTube is loaded with amazing coffee content and I already know that 3 videos a week will turn into more.

The unique part of this intention is to bond it to a specific time. I know that Wednesday is the day I usually have an hour or so in the evening to do this. By scheduling it, I can write it down and know exactly where I will be for an hour every Wednesday eve.

This gives it weight, makes it real and it becomes a natural part of my routine. At the same time, each video gives me things to talk about with my guests on the farm, helps me answer questions, and might reinforce what I read on the blogs.

6. I intend to try a new coffee recipe every month.

I love to make coffee drinks and I’d like to expand my repertoire. Once a month, I will research and prepare ingredients for a new recipe for a coffee drink.

Since I can’t drink very sweet coffee, maybe I can make them for friends or colleagues. How these recipes combine and how coffee changes with various additions will all be part of the learning.

Perhaps these recipes can be developed into cold brews or simple drinks we can serve at the farm or can teach people to make through YouTube videos. Where will it take us?

If I come across some really good ones I will be sure to share them with you.

7. I intend to experiment with side-by-side brewing methods.

In addition to side-by-side drinking of coffee, I have recently learned several of the differing results the brewing systems create. While I have used many of the brew methods (Espresso machine, French press, Moka pot, percolator, pour-over, drip maker, Chemex) I haven’t made 2 cups at the same time with all other variables being equal and compared. Just for fun, I’d like to try.

I imagine it will help me be better at making coffee and lead me to a new understanding of how extraction works. My hope is that the more I am able to do this, the more I can share with you all the nuances of revealing the best flavors.

So, there you have it. Seven situations I will place myself in with the intention of expanding my coffee knowledge. Does anyone out there care to join me? Compare notes?

Enjoy the New Year and happy sipping.

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