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Archive for March, 2008

People of the Internet: I need you all to clap your hands and say “Yay Sara!” for on March 9th, 2008 Sara Rose mastered the art of bike riding and her life will be forever changed! But that comes later in the story, first come all the wake up, get dressed eat breakfast kind of things.

The two of us were sharing a bed when Kate came in and pounced us awake! We three lay around for a while chatting and laughing; basking in the glory of our trio united. We rolled out of bed and began breakfast preparations. Lightly sautéed vegetables laid on a bed of fresh baby spinach; half a sweet and juicy grapefruit; eggs-in-a-basket; with homemade cappuccinos. Close friends gathered around a sunshine soaked table on Sunday morning. Thank you world for this moment.

The Plate.Spring sun.

Chris and his roommate Matt live in a house with 10 bikes. 4 people, 10 bikes. Being cycle enthusiasts, She’s a natural!they proposed we bike into Ft. Collins to get our mid-morning cup o’joe, and we were all gung-hoe about it….well….almost all. Sara was psyched but she had her reservations, she had only been on a bike two times before in her life, each time involved a fearful fall. But she was confidant and ready to try again. Along the bike bath, under bridges, past puppies and strollers, hang a right on to the street, cruise in the bike lane (that means next to traffic), hop on to the side walk and lock up the bike. Sara was a rockstar! When we got to the Beancycle, a bicycle themed coffee shop, we were all so excited about Sara’s accomplishment that the barista treated her to coffee on the house! Thanks Beancycle! (I promise to cut back on the “!”s from now on)

The sun was still shining brightly so we decided to stroll the streets of Fort Collins.Nosey Bear! Once we had posed with statues and explored nature and toy stores for a while it was time to eat again! We moseyed on over to the Ft. Collins Food Coop for more fresh produce and other organic snacks. With our tummies sufficiently satiated we hopped back on the bikes and rolled home. A pleasant pedestrian called out to us, as our clan cycled by “Yeah! You go, get some spring!” Thank you stranger! (So I lied about the “!”, but hey, there fun!)

It was time for us three ladies to head to Boulder so we snapped a family photo, exchanged bear hugs and headed south.

Say “Cheese”

Seeing as we didn’t really eat lunch, low blood sugar hit us as we arrived in Boulder. Unable to make cooking decisions we headed down to a Tibetan restaurant where we were joined by a fellow Clark Alum, Brian.

A bright exciting day melted into a warm cozy night and we all drifted happily out of one dream world into the next.

-Melanie and Sara Rose

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March 8th, 2008
First Day in Colorado!

Driving out of New Mexico into the breaking dawn; the inky midnight sky evolved into deep hazy blue. A slight glow cresting in the distance beckoned us on, “sunshine is coming, this will be a good day”. The horizon brightened in the East and Melanie drifted in and out of dreamy sleep as Sara drove on.

Switch.

big sky country

Big skies and bold mountains held Melanie’s attention.woah!

Sara slept. And slept. And slept. sleeeeeeeping
…and then…
We finally arrived in Denver. We went straight to see Kate and Rachel. Laughter and loving ensued. We were only able to hug Rachel before she flew away back to Northampton. Since the supposed 9 hour drive only took us 6, we had a few hours to relax. What do people on a coffee tour do? Go to coffee shops of course. Kate’s friend directed us over to St. Marks Coffeehouse. Once again, our coffee was paired with excellent conversation while sitting outside in the sunshine. 300 days of sun in Colorado seemed to be coming true for us.

 

Kate took over driving up to Fort Collins since our clutch muscles were cramped. The sunshine continued as we unloaded at our friend Chris’ house.

The evening took us over to a business that enlightened our environmental minds. The New Belgium Brewing Company, besides making some incredibly tasty beer, focuses on the same things that CoffeeInAction does: environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and community; the three seeds. Their website, which is also pretty cool, lists what they are doing to be more conscious on a day to day basis. Check out their sustainability practices:

  1. Increased efficiencies in the brewing process
  2. Utilized green design throughout our building
  3. Implemented a process for treating our wastewater
  4. On-site energy production
  5. Wind-powered electricity since 1999
  6. Employ a High Involvement Culture
  7. Sustainable Eventing
  8. Actionable Advocacy
  9. Constant benchmarking
  10. Partnering to support innovative technology

We learned a lot at the brewery in Fort Collins and while exploring the website. According to our host Chris jobs at New Belgium are hard to come by because they provide ownership into the company after a year and support riding your bike to work by giving each employee/owner a new bike!

p3080188.jpg Chris and Kate

p3080201.jpg three united!

– Sara Rose and Melanie

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Friday, March 7th, 2008

Logs and Figures:
Coffee/Espresso drinks: 131
Related Bathroom Breaks: 126
Suzie gets an Oil change
Our most Western point!

The Santa Fe adventure didn’t end with the portal, oh no it didn’t. We had a lazy morning at the Brubaker’s with Coffee from the local shop. Oh sweet nectar. There is nothing like getting a good nights rest and being able to fully enjoy your coffee for its unique profile instead of for the caffeine.

Downtown Santa Fe was a break from our normal routine as we had no intentions to imbibe coffee. Admittedly, we were thrown off. What is a city without hours of conversation about coffee? Who exists besides coffee enthusiasts and couch surfers? This was our day to find out! This was “our ode to the tourist” day.
Hi Brumbaugh!It a Burrow, not a donkey - obviously.
We window shopped. We bought some stationary on sale.We found out about some kick-ass chili at The Shed. Our recommenders could not have been more on. One of the hosts guided us through the menu by quickly handing over amazing garlic bread and a sample of red and green chili. HEAVEN! A sunny spot on the plaza proved perfect for our green chili enchilada picnic.

We wiled away the afternoon in the halls of the Institute of American Indian Art. Beautiful silverwork, modern film and multi-media displays captivated us for hours and hours. They were showing a special exhibit on Valjean McCarty Hessing. My goodness, deep expression in simple colors. On a bench in the middle of the room we sat in silence. Sitting. Thinking. Absorbing all that had been poured into her canvas.

AIAI

We had planned to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe but the hours had flown and our aesthetic selves were satiated.

Denali gets her cowgirl on.Walking towards our car some strong, unimaginable force led us into a thrift-store. A bold magnetic pull wound us through the isles, shelves and rows upon rows of assorted cowboy accoutrements. In the back corner of the room we found what had beckoned us in from the street. A dress of sheer beauty and style. Its a mid-1900’s hand sewn silk dress and it fits Sara like it was made for her. Gorgeous.

Sunset in Santa FeClimbing the mountains out of Santa Fe, the day bid us adieu with a stunning sunset. Denali made us step out onto the Portal so he could get a better view. Desert was a smorgas board of chocolate and ice cream then we hunkered down in a cozy bed for a short night of sleep. The next day would bring us to our better third: the queen of the cuddle, the connoisseur of deep conversation, the apple of our eye, Kate in Colorado.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Logs and Figures
10:06 am or 9:06 am (at some point we crossed a time zone) – Welcome to New Mexico :). We see snow 😦.
12:24 am – First view of the Rockies

 

Thank you Albuquerque for your sunshine; helpful men in hard hats; long-walks (but not on the beach) and interesting tourist attractions. We GPS-ed the city center and found a cozy spot for Suzie. The aforementioned hard hats pointed us in the direction of “Old-Town” and the bus to take us there. We decided to walk (according to Atlanta-ites, that’s because we are from New York). Seeing snow earlier in the day had made us so sad, but the sun helped us quickly warm up so we removed our jackets and sweaters.  Yay! We wandered the streets of the old city for a while, admiring turquoise, hot peppers and blankets – then we needed coffee. 

On our friend Kerry’s recommendation we headed over to R B Winning coffee next to the University of New Mexico. Our overextended former student selves felt a little bit at home around all those students. The mix of community: hippy to hipster, baby to professor, and student to professional, was welcoming and comforting. The barista’s knew almost everyone in the store and our travel mugs got us an automatic discount (good for our wallet AND good for the environment – sweet)!

Our last stop that evening was the Brubaker’s of Santa Fe. Lauren, Lida, and Kate live in the mountains. We spent the evening relaxing and chatting. We were even taken to the portal.

– Sara Rose and Melanie

 

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Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Logs and Figures
1:34 pm – Welcome to Oklahoma
3:58 pm – We see snow for the first time in 4 weeks. Sad faces all around.

Making the left turn onto a familiar street in Tulsa Melanie consults the GPS again, and then takes out a map. “We are in the right place, but it looks all wrong.” The neighborhood which Melanie remembers looking like a quaint English town with tree-lined streets and green, softly rolling lawns looks more like ice storm disaster zone. Branches strewn all over the place, entire trees cut into large pieces on people’s lawns, and the trees in the medians trimmed to about 4 feet in height.

Melanie:

I met the Stanbaughs back in October. The youth programs I work on have a two week long home-stay component for the students. In October we brought a group of Serbian students to Tulsa and I had the option to stay in a hotel or with a host family of my own. Easy choice – host family, of course! What better way to get to know a city then through people who live there (which is also a major premise behind Couch Surfing)? I lucked out, man. Being with the Stanbaughs felt natural, fun, loving, comfortable (the list goes on). Basically, they are the best you could ask for. When Sara and I decided to take this roadtrip I knew I had to see them again; they feel like family now and I really want Sara to meet them.

The story continues…..

We cooked dinner and played board games with the family all night long. People of the Internet: you must play Ticket to Ride some day, it’s the best game ever. Not too much happened on the coffee front but the Stanbaugh’s home was good for the soul.

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

FIRE!

Yes, today was the day we had long been waiting for. We learned to WELD. Metal and Sparks and Big Helmets! It was fun. We are women who like power tools and big machines. Ok, you need context:

We spent all day Tuesday with Dan Joliff and the awesome dudes of the US Roaster Corps. Our day with Dan was full of experiential learning opportunities, the best kind. The Roasters Exchange is a building and repair facility for coffee roasters. Side note: the person who roasts coffee, the machine that does the roasting, and the facility that holds the machine and the person are all called ROASTERS.

Our first flame of the day came from the test roaster. Dan coached us a bit and then let us run a roast or two under his watchful gaze. TutoringThe company tests all of their machines before they send them ouSample Roastert to customers so they have a wide variety of green beans available to test the machines on. Neither of us had seen low grade Robusta beans before; it was an incredible learning experience. High quality green beans are well washed, well sorted and even in color. These low quality beans had sticks and pebbles in the sack with them, were littered with black rotted beans as well as unripe tan/white beans. Holding the dirty beans really gave us an appreciation for the effort and attention that goes into creating a well made bag of coffee seeds.

 

Bad Beans!

Once he trusted us not to destroy the good coffee beans, Dan moved us up to a larger machine. We liked the BIG MACHINE. One of the highlights from the day was walking around the factory looking at all the machines in pieces. There were a few antique roasters around (and we mean the machines this time), it was fascinating to look into the old machines and really learn the mechanics of it all.

Roaster face

Body

Cooling tray

 

 

Drum
Antique Roaster survived Katrina
Peek-a-boo

For Me? Thanks!

Continuing our day of hands-on learning we moved to the metal wPower Ranger!orking section of the factory. If you ever want to feel powerful, learn to weld. FIRE, harnessed, is awesome! Here you have two pieces of steel, STEEL – superman is made of steel, this stuff is strong. With just a few moments of effort these two pieces of metal were stuck together. And we did it! We stuck the metal together! That’s power. Heh-heh-heh.

view from inside the helmet Melting Metal

 

Banana Curls, Puffy sleeves, BIG METAL HEAD???????

 

We did it!Thanks Guys!

 

The HopperWe played with metal for half-an-hour then Dan had some roasting orders he needed filled for the factory shop. He let us roast the rest of the beans that day – about 10 batches in all. We took turns operating the machine until our stomachs were rumbling as loud as the roaster.
Go, Roaster, Go!

 

Hee-Tee!!

Our learning cycle was complete during dinner at Toby Keiths. A few months back Dan told us via e-mail that we “could not come to Oklahoma City and not go to Toby Keith’s”, to which Sara replied “What’s a Toby Keiths”? Toby Keith, for those of you who don’t know, is a country singer and he also has a string of restaurants. We dined at one of his establishments that evening. The dish was so big we shared it and still couldn’t finish. A hard days work earned a great meal.

The night ended at the home of our Couch Surfing hosts, Matt and Amanda. Matt works as the Director of a Kayak Center in the middle of Oklahoma City. Who knew there was Kayaking in Oklahoma? Matt, that’s who knew.

We ended the day significantly smarter then we started. Thanks OKC!

Melanie and Sara Rose

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March 2nd, 2008.
Logs and Figures

Coffee/espresso drinks: 113
Bathroom stops: 104
12:41 pm: Suzie hits 3000 miles

Our time in Austin had to be short since we had a date with fire in Oklahoma City. Arriving around 2 pm, our goal was to hit up at least 3 coffee shops before night fall. Our first caffeination destination was Progress Coffee where clean white walls, a hip, modern feel and bright accents greet you as you walk in the door.

Tyler, the adorable and scruffy red-headed manager, told us about the environmentally friendly practices of Progress. They use bio-degradable to-go containers and utensils made from potato starch. We were both really impressed to hear that none of the products at Progress have corn syrup or hydrogenated oils and that all of the cleaning products are eco-friendly. Love it! Icing on the cake? The employees benefit from the socially responsible policies of the store; all staff is paid a minimum of $9.00 per hour, plus have an option for health insurance.

The owner, Josh Bingaman, was not around so Tyler handed us a copy of L Style/G Style magazine where Progress is featured in the March/April 2008 issue. G Style describes Josh as “Open-minded, enlightened and welcoming…” and highlights the environmental sustainability of his store and the way he welcomes all members of Austin’s community into the café. Progress pairs their fair trade organic coffee with the use organic food sourced from local farms. To extend that connection, Josh joined the board of the Sustainable Food Center and hosts fundraisers for a variety of charities in the Progress space, including an event for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Progress’s progress was made clear in both the article and from our experience inside the café. As you cozy up to the counter to order your drink, you find yourself next to fire-engine red bike (its an awesome cruiser!) with a sign advertising the Hill Country Ride For Aids. According to G Style, this is the first bike out of 13 to advertise the event in Austin. Progress will sponsor several riders from the Progress Cycling Community Club in this year’s event. Community in Austin ran (er…wheeled) right into us!

On the way to our next fix we stopped to meet Trevor, our Couch Surfing host for the evening. Trevor needed a place to do some work and was intrigued by CoffeeInAction, so he came with us to our second caffeination. Meeting with Sharla Megilligan, the founder of Dominican Joe on the sun-soaked patio was a relishable experience. The bright rays warmed our cheeks while the espresso tingled our taste buds.

The concept of Dominican Joe’s captivated us, and we had lots of questions for Sharla. First, Sharla and her business parter Mehul Patel founded Makarios, “a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities and vocational training for the impoverished in the Dominican Republic and Haiti”. A while later they decided they wanted to be able to have an even greater positive impact in the DR. They wanted employ another type of business model in order generate greater returns on the coffee the farmers produce. Their website explains that by “…Skipping the large corporate middle-man, Makarios works directly with farmers in the region and pays them higher wages and supports their communities in an effort to develop self-sustaining skills for the future.” The money earned though this trading system is used to support educational programs in the farming communities.

Sharla had to run, so we went back inside and took some pictures. Behind the counter stands a big sign that reads

sweet signage The t-shirts sport the motto “drink coffee, change the world”. We like that!

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Proudly displayed throughout the store are pieces of pottery and art from the Dominican Republic as well as many recycling bins.

 

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Kristin, one of the managers, sat with us and told us about her experience working at Dominican Joe’s while Sara sipped on fresh squeesed limeade (an incredibly refreshing comfort food after living on an island for a year). Kristin explained that employees are encouraged to learn more about the Dominican Republic through Sharla’s first hand accounts and are given opportunities to travel with Makarios to origin. We found out that Dominican Joe’s is involved with the Texas School for the Deaf: a high school student interns four days a week.

This interesting pairing of non-profit organization and for-profit coffee shop fosters the education of coffee consumers about the farming regions as well as education for farmers in their communities. Education for all, and we support it!

After picking up our travel mugs from Caffe Medici we met up with Emma, a Clark U friend and fellow Couch surfer, at Trevor’s house and drank wine, cooked yummy veggies and tofu, reminisced and rejuvenated our minds.

whose that? p3020462.jpg action shot

Sara missed Majuro when the palm tree outside Trevor’s apartment swished in the wind during the night.

The next morning we needed some coffee on the way out so we stopped at Jo’s. Attached to a hotel on South Congress St, a hip commuting crowd patronizes the walk-up only window. Then we settled into Suzie the Saab for our long drive to Tulsa.

– Sara Rose and Melanie

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Feb. 28, 2008

We roll into Houston late Thursday night and are welcomed to Texas with a good old fashioned Craw boil. Sara’s cousin, Danielle, had crawfish, spices, potatoes, and sweet corn ready to go when we walked in the door. Man, those things are delicious. This was just the beginning of what we called our “Texas Texas” weekend (italics to be read with the thickest Texan accent you can muster).

Feb. 29, 2008

I don’t know how you mark the occasion, but we celebrated the leap year by sleeping in. The rest of the morning was spent taking care of essentials; reorganizing the car, washing our dishes and doing some very necessary laundry.

Medici staff in HoustonAround three in the afternoon we made it out to Spring, Texas to meet with Mike McKimm at Cuvee Coffee. Three barista’s from Caffe Medici in Austin, TX were visiting Mike and we walked in just in time to snag some Rwandan coffee from Mike’s clover. Rather then wasting paper cups we lent them a few of our travel mugs, knowing we would see them again in Austin.

Denali and Clover

 

Mike started Cuvee Coffee almost ten years ago, but like many other small roasters we have met, maintained a separate full time job while he built up the company. In 2007 he made the transition to running Cuvee full time and has now brought in a second roaster, Clancy Rose (is that not a GREAT name?). Since going full time Mike has decided that he wants to offer greater support to the farms he knows produce great coffee and are more environmentally aware. With this in mind he has cut down on the number of origin countries he buys from in order to be able to purchase a larger quantity of coffee Mike and Sarafrom the farms he does work with. Mike told us he thinks its “important to try to make a substantive difference”. Mike had to leave soon after we arrived to take his son to soccer practice, but we stayed to talk with Clancy about coffee roasting. Shortly into the conversation Clancy delivered one of our favorite lines on the trip: “Asking a roaster which coffee is his favorite is like asking a parent which child is their favorite”.

 

Clancy and Denali

Pema and FluffyThat night Danielle and her fiancé David took us to The World Championship BBQ Competition where we met up with Melanie’s former housemate Sam and his partner Scott. The World Championship BBQ night is considered the Mardi Gras of Houston.

Remember!

 

David had a connection with one of the competition tents for free all you can eat BBQ and drinks. The six of us ate our fill and then wandered around the hundreds of Competition tents lined up to create a mini-town of BBQ and dancing. We even went to the Alamo –

 

March 1, 2008

Saturday morning Danielle came with us to Taft Street coffee. Taft street coffee was opened by a church in Houston, but the people who run it are not Taft Chairsnecessarily affiliated with the church. The lofty, industrial space was well designed; split into three rooms. Each room had its own feel with soft touches to warm up the environment. The entrance is through the café/bookstore with well arranged seating and meeting areas. Through a door on the left you can enter the large room which serves as the church sanctuary and doubles as an event/meeting place. In the Chairs and Tablesrear is an art gallery which at that time was holding a well curated collection of inquisitive, religiously oriented contemporary art. The café is known in the community as a place of social activity and community building. That morning a group of young Obama supporters were gathered outside to prepare for canvassing, while a personal support group met indoors. Stopping to smell the flowers on our way out, we headed for our next adventure of the day.

Not Roses, but smells nice!

Danielle asked Sara to be her maid of honor so we spent the afternoon dress shopping. Sara sampled some beautiful gowns while Melanie went on the hunt for the worst dresses ever. Much to our surprise, any of the dresses would make a beautiful bride. Pictures forth coming (oh, just you wait and see!)

Danielle and Sara headed home while Melanie took off to spend the afternoon on a poolside patio with Sam. That night Scott and Sam took us out to the Brazos River Bottom for cowboys, line dancing and two-stepping. Fan-Texas-tastic!

– Melanie and Sara Rose

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2/26 Logs and Figures

Coffee/espresso drinks: 90
Bathroom stops: 79
4:30 pm: 2000 miles

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

2/28 New Orleans Roasters

In a city that is a major port for coffee importing, there was a fairly small amount of independent coffee roasters pre-Katrina. Post Katrina there are even fewer. Bob Arceneaux and the Coffee Roasters of New Orleans was the first roasting facility to re-open post-storm. Knowing that a storm was approaching Bob and other employees has lined the entrances to the building and the parameters of the coffee roasters with sand bags. In the end the sandbags mostly served to keep the water in after the storm. Their first day back in the building was spent scooping mud and crawfish out of their machines.

Coffee Roasters of New Orleans quickly sent their bright yellow roaster off to the US Roaster Exchange to be refurbished. They borrowed a roaster, rented some space at higher elevation and got right back to work.

Here are their beautiful borrowed San Franciscans!
roaster roaster! p2280310.jpg

 

Bob gave us a tour of the facilities and even let us have a rare glance at the only items that remain from the old location:

spoon, bowl, Bob

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We spent the last hour of our time with them cupping two different Sumatran coffees. Roasters cup for a number of reasons, in this case we were cupping to decide which bean they liked better, in order to start carrying and selling that selection. Each coffee was roasted medium and dark. As coffee is roasted the flavors change and develop. In order to give each coffee a “fair chance” its roasted both ways, some coffees will taste better as a medium and some as a dark roast.

The glamorous side of cupping:
spoon…slurp…spit.

 

We could not leave New Orleans with out at least seeing the French Quarter. Strolling the old city streets in the mid-day sunshine was a perfect pleasure. We sampled some of Café Du Monde’s chicory au lait and beignets, watched adorable street performers, and saw a door Sara’s mom would adore. While we ate Po’boys at Brangelina’s favorite dive, Denali had some fun of his own.

who did that?

adorable doors

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denali and the beads p2280353.jpg

Driving through Louisiana, a little red sign stating “Coffee House” drew us a little further off the highway then we normally would go. We found a collection of old houses selling coffee and pottery, and offering a sense of nostalgia. Denali bonded with the chef and we saw a real live alligator!

 

p2280379.jpg nostalgic

be carefull Denali alligator!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Logs and Figures:

– We ponder Geaux Green signs in Baton Rouge…Go Green!
-6:15 pm we cross into Mississippi
-8:51 pm enter Texas at exit 877 (possibly the highest exit # we will ever see).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Driving into the Texas night we see the dim glow of city lights. Our curiosity aroused we consult the atlas to determine our location. Curiouser and curiouser, there is no city marked for miles. We crest a hill to see the orange lights splaying out far into the northern darkness and muting the stars. What is this space? What necessitates apartment buildings and football fields of orange electricity? Something unnatural is occurring here. Approaching the sci-fi city, a strange concoction of awe, fear and foreboding dominate the conversation. Deep into the monochrome maze a small white lights shines on blue writing “Goodyear”. Passing though the factory, the sound of our wheels rings loud and clear, guilt and compliance.

We are silenced.

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p2270261.jpgNew Orleans was a whirlwind of coffee, community, and collecting new knowledge. After a night of dorm-life (Melanie’s brother let us crash on the floor of his freshman room) we headed over to a coffee shop that takes supporting the local community, especially post-Katrina, deeply to heart.

Fair Grinds is located near the Fair Grounds race track. Before opening Robert removed 5 layers of wall covering until they found the original beaded board with paintings from the 1930’s.

 

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In 2002 Robert, the owner, opened the doors of a business he felt provided “a service that was applicable to, and gave back to, the local community.” He asked himself what the local community needed and wanted. He recounted a story for us which he said embodied what it meant to be part of the community.

The thing that happened in our 1st months that was so sweet…one Saturday night the only fridge in the shop went out. Word spread that the store was going to have to close until the problem could be fixed. All the customers brought the milk home and kept it in their fridges. They even brought it back the next day! That brought home the power of ownership for me.

Many of Robert’s business practices were inspired by customers and by his own experiences as a customer. Instead of opening the doors exactly at 6am, Robert lets in the few folks who arrive early. They can sit inside the warm coffee shop (especially when it is cold or raining, etc) instead of being left in the cold. He said taking ideas from the customers empowers them and helps them have a sense of ownership in their local coffee shop.

Robert has created a space where the community can come together to support one another after the storm. He also explained that time in New Orleans is separated into two periods: “before the storm” and “after the storm”. Above the busy and bustling space where coffee is prepared and served is a space used for community organized events. Two large rooms and a bathroom are filled with bookshelves, yoga mats, chairs designed by local artists and tables. The front room has two large windows that let in beautiful afternoon light.  

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While we were chatting with Robert a woman approached him about using the space for an art class. Robert explained that he charges no rent for the space. He only asks that his staff are able to attend the meetings and classes if they are interested.

Robert also facilitates connection between community members. He introduced us to a local activist and told us about the food map that developed post-Katrina to ensure access to safe, nutritious, and enjoyable food: NOFFN.ORG. During our meeting a friend of Robert’s pointed out a woman from a local apartment building who was struggling to remain in her home. Robert immediately called a lawyer who lived in the local area and a few minutes later they were sitting together just a few tables away.

Fair Grinds employs a number of environmentally friendly practices: the to-go cups for cold drinks are made from biodegradable corn starch and the baked items come from numerous local bakers, and coffee grounds are given to community gardens right near the store. When municipal recycling disappeared post-storm, Robert found a place that would recycle cardboard and newspapers.

The icing on the cake of Fair Grounds was chocolate. All the chocolate sold in the store comes from Ghana, through two different companies. Fair Grinds gets their chocolate syrups and powders from The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, which creates the finished chocolate product in-country (which is rare). We encourage you to read about the amazing work of this company by clicking on the link above; we were really impressed. Also, the chocolate bars sold in store come from Divine Chocolate: A Farmer-Owned Fair Trade Company.

Our morning at Fair Grinds was a stupendous introduction to New Orleans. We spent the afternoon with our friend Farhad talking about the struggles and successes of community building and local education post-Katrina.

– Sara Rose and Melanie

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Dear People of the Internet,

We have some other people we would like you to meet: The Class on Fire.  You may have noticed their comments already, but we felt it was time for a formal introduction.  These are some students from Ms. Brubaker’s class in Hong Kong.  We are able to connect with these dynamic and eloquent students because Ms. Brubaker (Heather) is also Melanie’s big sister. Their questions have encouraged us to focus our ideas and to sit-down and write about what we are learning.  We love getting their comments and being able to participate in cross-continental curiosity!

We  are proud to present some questions from the Class on Fire.  There are more wonderful questions in the comments sections on other pages.

CoF Qs:

Hi! I’m Joseph from Oh My Gosh! The totally cool supercalifragilistic expealicdocious dociousaliexpilistic fragicalisuper class! As you can see I’m quite a person that bursts into a million smiles. But even I get into fights with my family members (yup…especially my sister(although Now she’s really nice to me)) Just like I often get into fights with my friends and families I would just like to ask you if you get into fights with each other. And since I know you’re obviously going to say you do, I’ll also ask you what kind of fights you get into and how do you make up to each other ^^

Ok, now that I’ve given you my question…Please reply…or else I’m going to cry all alone in my lonely, lonley class while everyone else gets a reply from you guys…): and I bet Ms. Brubaker won’t be so happy about that.

BYE! I’ve got to go to my crazy special, weird, funny, cool and the best class I have so far! (no actually that’s music) hahahaha just joking I LOVE …ENGLISH!!!!!

From the…
totally weird energetic guy.

Joseph, I hope we have not left you crying alone in your room! 
The simple answer is Sara and I don’t really fight anymore.  After 10 years of friendship, during the tumultuous years of “teen-hood” and into our mid-twenties, we have had a long time to work out the kinks of our relationship. 

We are talkers. When something comes up that bothers or upsets us we talk about it.  We really enjoy analyzing our behaviors and trying to understand what causes our emotions.  Sometimes, when we are hungry or tired, we get a little bit grumpy.  Since we spend all day, every day with one another, we can get cranky with each other, but are able to acknowledge that we need food or sleep.  We have learned to recognize that we are not actually upset with the other person.  

Hi Melanie and Sara,
I am another student from Ms Brubaker’s class. I think that the blog is very impressive although I don’t share the interests with you( I do not like coffee at all!). I know that you guys are now going on the trip but what are you guys think going to do after the trip? Have you guys thought of it yet?
Keep up the good work!
Kristie

 

Both of us have jobs that were kind enough to give us the time off to take this trip.  Upon returning to NY and Vermont we will get right back to work and our lives at home.  We both have friends and family we are eager to see. As far as our newly acquired coffee knowledge we are not sure what will happen.  Our relationship with coffee and with each other will be different for the rest of our lives.  We both are really interested in doing more research on the coffee industry and continuing to be part of the coffee community.  Part of the fun of this adventure is not knowing what will happen next. We love learning for the sake of learning.

 

Hi! I’m Matthew the Shadowkid from Ms.Brubakers english class. During your journey, i’ve noticed that you guys taste and study the coffee. So i have a question: Is coffee addictive? Or do adults just drink it to keep them awake because their jobs are too boring?
From the Shadowkid,

Matthew.

Matthew?  I can’t see you!  Where did you go?  All I see is a shadow!

Yes.  Coffee is addictive and we are hooked. 

Some adults drink coffee for the caffeine, while others drink it for the enjoyment of the beverage.   A well made cup of coffee can be as delicious as chocolate or any other supper-yummy-incredibly-tasty food or drink.  Coffee can have hints of fruits and flowers, nuts and berries, citrus and spices and many, many other flavors.  For example, the espresso we just sipped at OZO Coffee left our mouths with the taste of sun-dried raisins.

We both need a cup of coffee within a few hours of waking up or we get cranky (see answer above).  Sara and I both LOVE our jobs and they are not boring at all, but we still need a cup of coffee.  Because yes, coffee is addictive and we are hooked.

 

Hi!
My name is Ashley Wong. I am a student from Ms Brubaker’s English class who sits at the back of the classroom with Alexandra (the hyper girl), Matthew (the shadow kid), Beatrice (the random girl), Christopher (the genius) and Kristie (the sweet girl). As for me, I’m am…Ms Giggles. I love smiling and laughing! Even if something really bad happens, you would still see a smile on my face, it’s just…ME!
Anyway, this blog is so cool, I’ve learned A LOT from reading it. I would like to ask you a question: Is coffee bad for our health?

Ashley

 

Ashley, you sound a lot like us when we are together.  Sometimes in the car we won’t say anything, just laugh for hours on end.  Melanie cries EVERYTIME she laughs, tears streaming down her checks.  Sara likes to egg her on making her laugh and cry even more.

There are many studies on the affects of coffee. Some say coffee increases heart attacks and risk of certain cancers. Others say coffee can reduce the risk of diabetes and certain cancers.  It makes a really interesting research activity to spend half an hour (or in our case up to 8 hours) finding articles that agree with and contradict each other on the matter. (Ms. Brubaker, this is us handing you a homework assignment. We’ll let you make the grading rubric on that one.)

 

Hello Sara and Melanie,
I am a student from Ms. Brubaker’s class.
I am not really interested in coffee but I would want to know if there are another way to make coffee? And what are the process of that method?

There are many wonderful, exciting, delicious ways to make coffee! On this trip we have had: french press, chemex, espresso, clover, auto-drip and percolator coffee.  These are all ways of extracting the coffee from the coffee grinds.  After extraction there are, again, many ways to prepare the coffee for drinking; some people drink it black, some with milk and sugar or flavored syrups. 

 

‘Ello gals,
I am the most privileged student in Ms. Blueberry’s class because  the only person who gets to call her Ms. Blueberry, ’tis I, but only as long as she gets to call me Bug.  I think your idea of broadening the use of environmentally friendly coffee is great, but i was wondering: why people would go for environmentally friendly coffee, when the good old non-environmental friendly coffee is cheaper?
Zai Jian

Hi Bug! (That makes Melanie want to call you “Bug-a-boo”).

This is a question we have been thinking and talking about a lot on this trip.   

As we became aware of the impact of purchasing coffee was came to understand the benefit and importance of paying the extra cents for fairly traded, great tasting coffee.  We hope that knowing that the coffee a person buys: preserves wildlife, helps families that work on coffee farms afford food, and can help provide educational opportunities for coffee farming communities will encourage that individual to go for environmentally friendly coffee.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Now, we have some questions for you:  

How did you come up with all these names?  Did you name yourselves or did Ms Blueberry, oops, I mean, Heather, I mean Ms. Brubaker dub you with the pseudonyms?

How do most people prepare coffee in Hong Kong?  Is coffee drinking increasing in a country where tea is king?

We offer a challenge to the class on fire: to create the longest list you can of ways to prepare coffee, we have given you a good start.  Let us know what you come up with!

 

Thanks for your participation in our trip!

Melanie and Sara Rose

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