Barista Magazine

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 102 of 107

much coffee as I could in the basket, and fi lling the espresso cup to the rim. The occasional person would have a fi t, though. So I tried to learn more about coffee and preparation. There was one paperback book just called Coffee and Tea that had some information about growing coffee and then, of course, many pages of coffee-drink recipes. But the focus was so different then. A café was as much about the lighted cheesecake display as the coffee. Does anyone make café au lait anymore? Because we sold more of those than cappuccinos, I think. Later I worked at the [University of California at] San Diego Grove Caffe. (If it has two fs, it's Italian!) We had an ice chest fi lled with frozen, ground coffee from Pannikin. The special fancy drink was a latte made in a glass with the espresso suspended between hot milk and dry foam. Sprinkles if you like. So as you can see, my experience in the café scene runs deep. Ha! I started roasting in New Orleans at a shop called Kaldi's. I don't know what the real backstory was on that place. Money laundering? Something was a little off. I don't think we collected sales tax. Or I mean I don't think we paid it. It was an ambitious business in a beauti- ful space though, and we had a very small and very old Gothot roaster. The guy roasting at night was turning out French roast for all the blends, and I was roasting lighter in the day. We realized it was because I could see better. We put a light over the roaster, and it was amazing! Consistency went through the roof—well, sort of. We also had this bizarre on-tap coffee-milk beverage that must have foreshadowed the Frappuccino, made by some inventor in his house or something. He would show up with these soda kegs of it, but we fi gured the main ingredient was some sort of shelf-stable half-and-half, plus coffee and corn syrup and vanilla-maple fl avor. People loved it. BMag: What inspired you to start Sweet Maria's? TO: I started Sweet Maria's because I had no job and was getting nutty having little to do. I made feeble attempts to show work as an artist or teach in art after getting my M.F.A. in Chicago. But I was really, really not good at it. I couldn't do the art business, socialize, connect, promote. It's hard work, and not art work at all. So I didn't know what to do. I had a few hours of work a week hand-stitching a giant quilt for a famous artist. She paid $5 an hour and complained we drank too much of her bottled water. Awful. That was in Columbus, Ohio, since Maria had a job at Ohio State University. I wanted to roast coffee, like I had on our air sample roaster in New Orleans. I knew about roasting in popcorn poppers, and I had managed coffeehouses and worked in coffee counters for like 10 years at that point. So I looked for a source for green coffee. There was a local roaster in Columbus who would sell me the green coffee, but he wanted to sell it to me for 10 percent off their roasted price. With the weight loss from roasting, that would mean I was pay- ing more for them to not roast my coffee, which was nuts. I found some business online through a bulletin board called Island Coffee Tea and Spice. [The owner] seemed like a nice guy and had a printed newsletter he would send you. Then you would send him a check in the mail, and he would eventually send you your coffee. It was a weekend job for him, so it took a long time. Since I had made websites for myself using basically Microsoft Word writing HTML, I thought I could do a little better. I found someone in New York who would sell me green coffee in half bags and set up shop in the basement of my house. The great thing about Columbus was the rents were so cheap. I found a retail space,—well, a well-hidden retail space—that was only about $300 a month. I found a used Diedrich coffee roaster, and thought I could set up a roasting shop and ship my green-coffee orders from the website. I found out that I sucked at having a café. But the online business was really 103

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