How I came to know and love coffee

Perhaps, the title of this blog post seems a bit odd.  Maybe all you care to know is that you like coffee (or I shudder to say) don't like coffee.  Coffee is just coffee-right? It's either good and I want more or no thanks, give me tea.  Some love the smell of coffee, but not the taste.  Maybe I should explain where I'm going with this ramble.

A little background on how I came to first know coffee

Two things come to mind about my first coffee experiences.  My family's percolated (read boiled) coffee I first tasted as a youth growing up in Ohio farm country and from early TV commercials about coffee.  That old aluminum percolator that my parents and grandparents used was where I received my first kiss from coffee.  Hot, strong and bitter, even with a healthy dose of cream.  Did it taste great - heck no. But for a 12 year old kid, it was a bit of a step into adulthood.  I'm drinking coffee with my dad!  So my journey with coffee began.

The second thing that I recall were the "good to the last drop" commercials on TV and the famous Juan Valdez.  Mountain grown and carried to market on the back of a burro.  Sounded romantic as the scenes of South American mountains were shown in the background.  I wanted to know more about Columbia that the fictional Mr. Valdez called home. No internet then, so my impression of far away lands came mostly from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Besides learning about Columbia, for good measure, I read those 24 volumes from Aardvark to Zygote.  And though we now have online resources and social media "experts" at our virtual fingertips, I believe the people who wrote for the Britannica had more hoops to jump through to get their work published.  And were perhaps more generally reliable and trustworthy than some of the information more easily obtained out in cyberspace today. This is an important distinction that I will comment on more later. But for now, fast forward to college and then military life. The coffee didn't get better, just a change in scenery.  So it continued for many years. Blissfully little progress in my coffee knowledge pool.

An important introduction and advance in my coffee journey

In 2014, I sold my technology business and retired to Kentucky to be closer to family.  It proved to be providential to advancing my meager knowledge and appreciation of coffee, for it was here that I met my Yoda - Arnold Myers.  And this young apprentice soon discovered he didn't know coffee at all.  You can read Arnold's Story here, but let me say that for over 25 years, he has developed his knowledge in both cafe' operations and the online retailing of specialty coffee and coffee gear. This is where the benefit of that knowledge is good for you, as a consumer of coffee. I was learning at the feet of a coffee Jedi Master!

Buying coffee from a trustworthy source

Arnold's love of the best coffees was the start of his interest, yet there was more to come. Here's what I have learned and continue to learn from Arnold that can benefit you. Coffee is the second most traded commodity on the planet by dollar amount, only oil is bigger. Because of the global demand, there are not only many bad coffees on the market, but many coffees that are sourced in the cheapest way possible. From the underpaid farmer to the lack of concern for the environment, billions of cups are served daily from beans sourced in unsustainable ways. One of the first things Arnold taught me is that there are sources for acquiring great tasting coffee in a fashion that respects the process from coffee seedling to the cup we drink, wherever we drink it. That fact makes it important to know where your coffee comes from and how it is produced.  Fairly traded coffees are the only coffees Arnold will sell. And your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. And they just taste better - why you may ask?

As Master Arnold demonstrated to this young Skywalker, coffee preparation must be done right to get the most flavorful end product. You may start with ethically-sourced, quality beans, but poor preparation of the brew will leave you disappointed.  He showed me it was important to start with the right grind for your brewing method, the right kind of water, the correct water to coffee ratio and the right brewing time and brewing temperature.  All these factors work together in contributing to the best possible cup. Ultimately, the best coffee for you is the way you like it, but you should consider these guidelines to making the perfect cup. Ignoring any one of them will diminish your coffee enjoyment.  You can find out more about each of these factors in blog posts here.

The conclusion is that I now think differently about coffee and love it more than ever before. I have evolved from gulping down just any coffee for the caffeine effect to a more sophisticated experience that only high end coffees and brewing can make possible. The different coffee origins, preparation methods all provide nuances that are akin to the way one enjoys different wines or craft beer.  I'll leave you with this. If you want to explore some of the finest, sustainably sourced coffees you can purchase anywhere, check out Arnold's coffee collections.  And I hoist a cup to Arnold for taking the time to pour his knowledge (pun intended) into me and his customers.

Thank you readers for permitting me a moment to wander around my personal coffee journey. And may the coffee be with you!

Ron Kelley


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