With the crispness in the fall air finally settling in this week, my mind turns toward warmer drinks. I know some thrive off coffee day in and day out, but mine is more of a seasonal affair.
Great coffee has always been a memory marker for me. The smell of great coffee beans, whether they are whole, ground or brewed, always take to a certain time and space where I am able to escape the dregs that sometimes come with reality. A coffee that has been roasted properly holds an abundance of smells and flavors that no other drink can.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit 1000 faces Coffee in Athens and was taken around town with one of its best coffee purveyors to sit in on a lecture in Food Geography, visit the roasting facility and check out some of the educational followups that comes with being a coffee professional.
Hams+Yams What is the story behind 1000 faces and how did you get into the roasting business? Where can people find your coffee?
Ben Myers Seven years ago, 1000 faces began in a secluded hideout in the middle of a dense gathering of Georgia pines. The forest grounds were said to be that of an old elder Cherokee woman who practiced shamanism. At the first crack of the steel drum in the roaster, a barn howl took flight from a surrounding tree. I took it as an omen of good luck.
I began slowly, working long days perfecting the craft outside the influence of others in the industry. I began by living with my work, dreaming dreams the dreamers dream in a small farm house outside of Athens. Isolated and roasting coffee in a garage, I was doing everything myself and beginning to steadily toss small kindling on the embers of the business.
I started making militant humoristic posters and stickers. I was slapping them on public works buildings and dreaming of throwing bricks through our neighborhood Starbucks, the way Carlo Petrini drove a tractor through a McDonald's in Italy.
What began with a small project working with producers in Ecuador started to take us to the furthest edges of the world. I lost my home and became a gyspy of the coffee world. I was sleeping in big metropolises drinking coffee in royal restaurants and small villages with humbled peasants. I became a new spirit via travel; ruffled in the corners of hotel rooms, scribbling notes in journals while the original drum in Athens kept circling and new members came into the family.
People can find our coffee at many wonderful establishments around the South. Our newest account is District Donuts.Sliders.Brew in New Orleans; our oldest account is Walkers' in downtown Athens.
H+Y Describe what it's like to experience a great cup of coffee.
BM The experience of a great cup of coffee teleports me. Time ceases to move in a linear progression. Memory and imagination take center stage. The symphony of every note coming together in perfect harmony is ecstatic. A great cup of coffee is pure bliss, the David Lynchian sort.
H+Y Where do you source your beans from and how do you feel the regions differ as far as farming culture and production once the crop leaves the farm?
BM 1000 Faces sources coffee from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Honduras, Mexico, and Ethiopia currently. Regions differ by micro-climate, producer, varietal, altitude, and processing tools & techniques. We celebrate the complexity of each roast. Season, altitude, temperature, time, water composition, brew technique, dose are just some of the components that direct the variables of the coffee experience.
H+Y How do you research and scout out new coffee sources?
BM We directly source samples from producers. We do 100 gram sample roasts & do a blind cupping based on SCAA standards. We search from cup quality to the project's alignment with our values of sustainability, story, and opportunity for developing a solid working relationship.
H+Y What are the nuances in a drink you look for when cupping?
BM Coffee should be clean and sweet to start. A well produced coffee should have these qualities present. From there, we look for unique characteristics that are only found at particular micro-regions. A uniform and rare coffee, which is both a contradiction and a composition. For example, our newest coffee, from Finca Las Mecedes in the borderlands of Jinotega and Matagalpa. This coffee is grown by a gentleman whom we refer to as "Don" Roger. His full name is Roger Mairena, but he has earned his 'Don' mark through being a craftsman of agronomy. For us, he isolated a micro-lot of 100% Pachi varietal on one small plot on his farm. This coffee isolated is the epitome of creamy umami. Delicate cacao laden with Indian spices. It's something that will blow your mind and represents the best of speciality coffee. All of our coffees have similar stories, rich and unique. The hope of being almost mythic.
Ben's Chemex Coffee Recipe
My favorite recipe for a brewing coffee on a Chemex.
Start with 42 grams of fresh coffee. Grind the beans to a medium/coarse particle size. Pre-wet the filter. Start a 4 minute timer. First just cover the coffee bed with 150 grams of water. Allow for the bed of coffee to bloom (wait one minute). Then gently circle 450 grams of water over the coffee in 15 seconds. Then after another minute has passed circle the water weight up to 700 grams. When the brewed coffee in the glass bottom reaches the nipple. Remove the filter and excess water from top. You get 20 ounces of brewed coffee, enough for sharing a 10 ounce cup with a friend. This is a great method for getting a good look at what flavors the coffee has. It is a very clean presentation and the body is refined so that it doesn't obscure the cup or make you feel like a herd of wild elephants just stampeded through your gut (see the French Press.)