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Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

2/26 Logs and Figures

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

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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!!!

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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).

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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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