Sometimes I feel like my brain is like pancake batter on a cold cast iron pan.
The type of batter that takes forever to bubble because you decided you were craving pancakes at 2am, but were too impatient to heat up the pan, so you’re just standing in front of your stove in your underwear, rotating your wrist and swirling the concoction — you know what I’m talking about.
Lately I’ve been haunted by thoughts of running a coffee business (again), volunteering as a fishmonger with my friends at Pura Vida, or learning the pained art of dimsum. These siren songs often drop-in when my mind is too tired to allocate capacity to anything else: fleeting minutes between meetings and late-night subway rides… all the moments where it feels unproductive (or a bit sad) to pull down the spinning wheel on Gmail or LinkedIn.
It’s been difficult to find time to write about coffee, because I’ve been focused on growing my agency business, which ironically came about because I started writing about coffee on LinkedIn (and failed everywhere else).
They say service businesses are a lot of work, but that they’re the fastest way to cashflow. The experts are definitely right about the former — and if it’s true, I’ll tell you about the latter.
Call it business “prioritization” or simply scarcity instincts developed from years of immigrant upbringing — it’s been so hard to justify opening the coffeeshop at 7am on weekends or the hours it takes to write this newsletter. I’m damn tired and truthfully, coffee has not yet made me any money… directly, at least.
And so, my pancake stack of thoughts on building a decaf coffee brand, observing the growing trend of rude baristas, and helping coffee entrepreneurs grow their businesses piles on.
I originally wanted to title this post “Peruvian Coffee — Art, Money, and the Pursuit of Inner Rings”. I also wanted to publish this post 2 months ago. 🤷🏻♂️
Below are my coffee recommendations for this summer and a recent essay I read about authenticity, and the “inner rings” of society. I’ll get to the part about art and money at another time.
If you want any of these coffees shipped to you, just reply to this email with your address.
Thanks for sticking around.
It’s Peru season on the East Coast and this year’s coffee harvest has felt particularly fruit-forward.
Peruvian coffees are usually washed and described with nutty flavor notes (I’ve seen walnut, peanut, caramel, biscotti), so they tend to be overlooked by the super snobs in specialty coffee.
But lately, it seems like producers have been experimenting with sweeter varieties and roasters have been doing an exceptional job at highlighting the fruit characteristics of a traditionally legume-y coffee.
I recommend the following:
🍑 Peru washed microlot* by East Iceland Coffee (Hoboken, NJ)
- A luxurious, yet balanced every-day coffee for folks with elevated coffee sense.
- A microlot is a small plot of coffee. Microlots were originally thought to be distinctive, isolated batches of coffee plants, meant to highlight the flavors of specific soil and altitude. By definition, microlots are smaller and therefore rarer, which cased pricing to go up. Importers and roasters caught onto this and the term has now been over-marketed of its meaning.
- This is an off-menu coffee reserved for subscribers to East Iceland Coffee. I have very little left, but am willing to share :)
- Sweet, yet approachable. Reminds me of fleshy green table grapes in late summer.
- This is a washed microlot made of a few plant varieties: caturra, catimor, bourbon, and pache.
- Pache is a natural mutation of Typica, the original and most common variety in specialty coffee.
- In Peru, most specialty coffee is grown between 900–1,950 masl. Pache tends to grow best above 1500 masl (really, really high in the mountains; One World Trade is ~400 masl).
- The higher altitude causes coffee cherries to ripen more slowly and is thought to contribute to the development of sugars and acids that result in fruity flavors.
🍫 Peru washed by 95 RPM (Bushwick, Brooklyn)
- When I had this cup at Brooklyn Ball Factory, it reminded me a lot of chocolate cake. No kidding.
- Though not explicitly listed on the bag, I suspect this is a roast of this village lot.
- If you’ve never had Peruvian coffee, try this one at Brooklyn Ball Factory.
Parting Idea: Inner Rings
The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.
And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.