A few weekends ago, NYC was buzzing a little more than usual as the annual New York Coffee Festival took over the floor of the Metropolitan Pavilion. Thousands of thirsty and caffeine craving attendees bombarded vendors looking for the coolest new grinders and gadgets and getting a taste for some stellar brews. Unfortunately, the Boxwood Gang wasn't able to take up a lot of time checking out this year's digs, as we've been having the time of our lives dealing with a water main break in our building and every hurdle that comes along with it (woo). Not to fret, however! We've busted our butts and pulled a lot of strings to ensure we delivered hot java to our lovely and patient customers, and we even found a few hours one night to catch a spin-off event of the festival!
On Friday evening we piled our tired and coffee-stained bodies into a few cars and trundled on over to Brooklyn where we found ourselves in the incredibly chic shop that is the Extraction Lab by Alpha Dominche. The crazy manufacturers of the Steampunk brewer and altogether mad team of coffee creators were hosting an event called Extracts! with the forces of Standart Magazine and Comandante pulling resources from Toby' Estate and Ally Coffee. We were welcomed to the floor with a selection of incredible African and South American coffees brewed on a super long and intimidating line of Steampunks, an overwhelming spread of charcuterie, cheese, and veggies waiting to be devoured, and some delicious complimentary wine to boot. After getting cozy and snapping a million pictures of every aesthetic of the shop, we huddled up to see what the night was really about.
It was an evening of community. We heard readings from the magazine, we listened to entrepreneurs share their stories of personal and professional growth in the industry, and we even partook in some friendly brewing competing. Folks from Comandante walked us through their story as a company and how through competitions they have tapped into a fantastic community of coffee lovers and competitors both professional and amateur. Displaying their own incredible product, a hand grinder that proves to be one of the easiest and most consistent in its current range, they pumped up the crowd and put on a pour over competition, the first ever Comandante Cup to be held in New York. Due to overwhelming peer pressure, yours truly as well as beloved Boxwood barista and shift leader Shiva Kiani stormed the floor to prove what we knew about pour overs. By some miraculous lining of the stars, I actually found myself brewing a pour over with professionals much more adequate than I in the final round of competition. I came in 4th overall, just shy of placing, but it was an incredibly fun and humbling experience to hang out with some amazing and talented coffee hotshots.
U.S Barista Champs Lem Butler and Kyle Ramage took to the mics and fed us even more coffee as they shared their own stories of struggle and success. Through a tangled web of stubbornness, trailblazing relationships and a lot of luck, the two barista celebrities have found themselves in a promising and energetic partnership in the form of Black & White Coffee Roasters, a venture that is allowing them to achieve much more than they ever expected when they first stepped into the coffee industry. Independence and experimentation are the freedoms most coffee folks dream of achieving, and these humble two have found themselves doing just that at an exceptional level of quality. The casual discussion and open Q&A was a great illustration at how accommodating, motivating and friendly the coffee community is. Even during competition, businesses urge each other to succeed, innovate and bring new ideas to customers and to the industry.
I usually count on customer interaction to give me gratification in my work, but it's moments like these that show me that a great deal of energy comes from my peers in industry that help me strive for success on a personal and professional level. Everyone is part of a big family, and there is a lot of love to go around. We ask questions, and when we find answers we share them with each other and the world. We love coffee, and our common goal is to spread that love for coffee, it's that simple.
Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.