Drinking Values: Warm, Inviting, Synergistic

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Drinking Values: Warm, Inviting, Synergistic

One of my friends said something really encouraging to me the other day. He said, “I wonder if you know, Nate, that every time I grind your coffee in the morning, there’s this amazing smell that brings back all kinds of good memories. And I wonder if you know that people associate that experience with you. So whenever I grind coffee, I have this impulse to call you.”


It reminded me of the power of association. I’m not just out there selling coffee. In a sense, I’m selling myself, my values, my ethos. Most of my sales are not blind transactions. They carry some kind of relational context and I like it that way. So how people experience me as the roaster is important. Who I am comes out in the coffee: from the roasting philosophy to the packaging to the business structures.


What is the experience I’m trying to give people when I deliver a pound of coffee, and when they drink it the next morning. What are the values I want to convey?


I want everything associated with my brand, from the relationship with the roaster to the bean freshness, to the atmosphere in any coffee shop I may open in the future to convey an inviting warmth, a “y’all come on in” hospitality, and an invigorating synergy. I want my coffee to be both warm and lively. That’s why I gravitate towards coffees with a refreshing brightness and roast them to a medium full city roast. The flavor carries a natural sweetness and a beautiful balance between the grassy brightness of a light roast and the roasty burnt flavor of certain big franchise roasters. At that level, there tends to be this big warm aroma “pop” that makes you want to bury your nose in the beans. One of my favorite things is getting comments from people like, “I opened my mailbox today and it smelled SOOO good!”


That’s why I chose kraft brown coffee bags hand-stamped with our logo over glossy printed bags. That’s why I love the name “Love Nomads”. Yes, our whole business was created to show practical love through good works to a marginalized nomadic tribe in northern Ghana. But also, the name just feels warm. It makes me think of someone coming in out of the rain, plopping down their backpack and curling up next to the fire.


These are the best elements of the home I grew up in. An inviting “revolving door” house where individuality was encouraged within the connected context of a big bustling community. My parents are warm, inviting, energetic people and there were always different people at our dinner table. As I’ve pursued ministry, business, and friendships. I realize that so much of what I do seeks to promote and reproduce the best elements of this warm and vibrant culture.


These are the values I’d like to capitalize on. How are we doing so far? What comes to mind when you think about “warm, hospitable, synergistic?”

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Ethiopia: Coffee done right

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Ethiopia: Coffee done right

Buna. Macchiato. Latte. When you are in Ethiopia, coffee abounds. And with a variety of coffee-friendly growing regions, your average man on the street can tell you the difference between Harrar and Yirgacheffe, and he would never dream of drinking month-old stale coffee! A pound of green beans is under $3 a pound and Ethiopians roast it in simple tin pans over a coal fire and drink it fresh from a traditional clay pot. Sound good? It is! Even modest snack shops have large manual espresso machines that pull creamy espresso shots into glasses of frothed milk for a truly beautiful macchiato that costs only pocket change.

This girl is doing it all! Roasting, sorting, brewing, and serving simultaneously. And she makes it look easy!

This girl is doing it all! Roasting, sorting, brewing, and serving simultaneously. And she makes it look easy!

 

As I return from the land of milk and buna (black coffee), I’m again inspired by the simplicity, the attention to detail, and the humble artistry that goes into each teensy little cup of coffee. You don’t need industrial equipment to make great coffee. Just a good palette and lots of practice!

Lakeside macchiato on Lake Tana! These beans were likely sourced locally from the great farms around the lake.

Lakeside macchiato on Lake Tana! These beans were likely sourced locally from the great farms around the lake.

 

My imagination was ignited this trip by the coffee grown around Ethiopia’s giant Lake Tana. Shade grown on peninsulas and islands around the lake, it grows next to the ancient Coptic monasteries that have stood there for centuries. When I visited one of these monastaries 2 years ago, a young girl served us coffee roasted from her family’s private coffee garden. It was some of the best I’ve ever had. Rich, chocolaty, creamy. But for all my research, this coffee hasn’t been exported to the west in nearly a century. In a back-alley market I found a woman selling green coffee from Dek, the largest island in the middle of Lake Tana. Dek is where the Ark of the Covenant was once rumored to be kept. Though I joyfully bought 6 kilos from her to test roast, a frowning guard at airport security informed me that I could not take green coffee out of the country with me. URGH!! Next time, I’ll have to bring something for test roasting with me and then properly import this stuff!

Overlooking Lake Tana. The large lake sits at a high elevation and is a great climate for shade-grown coffee on the Zegie peninsula, Dek island, or one of the many monastery islands on the lake!

Overlooking Lake Tana. The large lake sits at a high elevation and is a great climate for shade-grown coffee on the Zegie peninsula, Dek island, or one of the many monastery islands on the lake!

 

There’s a startling knowledge gap with Americans when it comes to their coffee. For as much as we drink the stuff, it’s curious that we often have no idea who farms it, how it’s roasted, what makes it unique. That gap doesn’t exist in Ethiopia. I’m inspired to continue in my passion to close that gap for my American friends, to serve amazing fresh-roasted coffee that makes you want to learn more about what you’re drinking. I’m inspired to keep refining my roasting techniques and find creative ways to bring the best flavor out of each variety.

 

As we wait for the new crop of Yirgacheffe to come in, let me recommend the Tanzanian to you. It’s becoming a favorite for us and our customers as the roast profile has evolved into a juicy medium light coffee with a great mouthfeel and crisp (but not overpowering) acidity. Enjoy!

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