koffee talk with karlysue--> Portland Edition


Water Ave

So, the secret's out. Actually, it's never been a secret, but I guess a lot of people just didn't know about it. I want to open a coffee shop. Here are the SparkNotes of the story on how we got here:

Opening a coffee shop has been a dream of mine since about 2009, when I started to really get into coffee. That probably doesn't sound like a very long time, but what's funny is that I didn't even start drinking coffee until after college, really. I didn't think caffeine affected me, and I didn't love the taste, so I just didn't drink it. I was more of a tea drinker to be honest, and I'd sweeten it up plenty. See, I was a kinesiology major at Wheaton, so I was big into fitness and nutrition and enjoyed experimenting with different training programs to try and get cut...(key word.. TRY!).. haha. But one thing I came across in my studies was that black coffee can actually give you an extra boost of energy before a workout and can help you burn more fat. After I read that, of course my workouts from then on out inevitably always included a cup or 2 of black coffee with a little ice in it to cool it down so I could take it down fast, not caring to taste any of it. It was my routine, and there really was not any enjoyment involved in it at all. I didn't hate it, but I learned quickly that caffeine DID affect me after all. I loved the effect! Why hadn't I started drinking this earlier?? My grades could have been a whole lot better had I introduced this into my life while I was in school! I would have been able to stay awake during class (or even wake up for class for that matter), but better late than never I guess! Anyways, I graduated college, by God's grace, and then decided I wanted to go back for more. I knew I wanted to coach tennis, which was where the kinesiology came in, but I decided I wanted to become an art teacher too. This meant essentially 2.5 more years of school, including summer school... brutal. But because I grew up in Wheaton, went to Wheaton College, and was now pursuing a 2nd degree while still living in Wheaton, I did all I could to escape Wheaton as much as I could. So my second summer of taking art and education classes, I had the opportunity to take classes in Colorado. This was my first time in the Rockies, and I fell in LOVE. My heart felt so alive in the mountains. While I was living out there, I invested in my first French Press. We didn't have a coffee maker in my apartment, and my older brother mentioned that he liked French Press, so I bought one. I went to Starbucks and was trying to figure out which blend to buy, and the barista asked me if I wanted to make a custom bag of beans with a mix of Sumatra and Komodo Dragon! I thought I was really cool because I was drinking the dark extra strong coffee, the coffee only really tough coffee drinkers could handle. She made me a French Press with my new blend, and I took the bag home. This is when I actually started to pay attention to the taste of my coffee and form an opinion. My relationship with coffee began to evolve. I began to enjoy the experience of coffee more as well. While I was still living in Colorado, one of my roommates friends mentioned that she worked at the Village Roaster, a local coffee shop down the road and that they roasted their own beans. She saw that I was drinking Starbucks and she told me they over roast their beans, which is why they taste burned. Huh??? But Starbucks is so big time and famous... why would they do that?! Because they can. Thanks to Starbucks, they have started this trendy coffee culture that probably won't ever go away, because we need our coffee and we want to be cool while holding our cup of coffee! This made me want to go against the grain and begin seeking out privately owned coffee shops to see if I could notice the difference in taste. I also began brewing my own coffee at home via Chemex, V60, Aeropress, and French Press, invested in a quality burr grinder, and bought a craft coffee subscription to Blue Bottle coffee out of Oakland, California and would start receiving a new bag of coffee every 2 weeks that was sourced from different regions around the world. In doing so, I was able to refine my taste for coffee from various regions, figure out what brewing method I preferred, and also figure out what type of coffee I REALLY loved.

Fast forward a couple of years, I finished my art degree in December of 2010, got hired to teach high school art in 2011, and used my summers, Christmas breaks, and spring breaks to travel as much as I could while I had the freedom to do so. I had some epic adventures in Colorado, Park City, Utah, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Seattle, Washington, Whitefish, Montana, Bend, Oregon, Nashville, Tennessee, and pretty much all of Southern California from San Diego all the way up to San Francisco. All of these trips were not necessarily centered around coffee, but on all of these trips I would try to visit as many local coffee shops as I possibly could, and take note of what I liked and what I didn't.

The other piece of the story is that my grandma who is an artist, always encouraged me to keep pursuing art. When I was younger, she would invite me to her art shows which were held at her teacher's house. The teacher had an art studio in the basement and the classes took place there. I've always remembered that setup, and thought someday I'd like to have a studio of my own to teach classes out of. So somewhere in the middle of teaching ceramics at the high school, making my own coffee mugs, and falling in love with coffee shops, birthed a dream of having my own coffee shop and my own pottery studio where I could teach pottery classes, have the mugs that were made in the studio used and sold in the coffee shop, serve craft coffee, and create a place where the community can gather and enjoy each other's company. I would want it to be a place where musicians can play, where college students can study or come after a basketball game, where local businessmen or mom's dropping their kids off at school can stop in, and where Young Life leaders can have meetings, the list goes on. And since it doesn’t look like I’m going to be living in the mountains anytime soon, I want my shop to feel like the mountains; a combination of rustic, cozy, and industrial.

During my time in California in 2013, I got to talking with a coffee shop owner in Santa Barbara, called the Handlebar. They had recently opened their shop at that time and their business was growing like crazy. The owner told me that if I ever wanted to open my own shop, I needed to get trained at the American Barista and Coffee School in Portland. He told me that I would learn everything I needed to know about opening a shop, all the way from the business side, bargaining a lease, setting up your space, learning the ins and outs of coffee, being a barista, roasting beans, how to hire and train your employees, etc. So I kept that in my pocket until I felt like it was time. In the meantime, I've been teaching for 6 years now, doing my best to grow as an art teacher and as an artist, really trying to find my niché. Learning how to run even just a small pottery business has taught me so much. This year I really do feel like I've found my sweet spot as an artist and the quality of my work has improved to a point where it is consistent and I've figured out my style. It hit me right around Christmas time this year that I was ready to go to coffee school. With my birthday being in January, my generous parents offered to fund my trip to coffee school, which happened to align with my spring break.

Coffee school was an intensive 6 day workshop from 8-5 everyday. It was the perfect combination of lectures on origins of coffee and the business, hands on work in creating all the coffee and espresso drinks, latte art, roasting, menu building, observing in the coffee shop, and dreaming with the others in my class. There were 9 of us total from all over the world. We had people represented from Fresno, St. Louis, Dallas, Tampa, London, Chicago, and even Kuwait. On my first day, while I was loading up my car to head to school, I literally spilled my entire cup of coffee all over the front seat of my rental car. I was learning about coffee even before I got to class! Step one: How to put a lid on your coffee :) No, but I knew that by the end of the week, I’d either feel juiced about opening a shop, or feel uninspired and pulled in a different direction. I definitely felt inspired to get going on the next steps in making this dream a reality. I am so much m