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A Real Barista Percolates on The Perfect Cup

October 30, 2009

jason head shotDay 16

I’m sorry. I can’t stop making coffee puns.

Before we get into today’s treat, I have to make one caveat on coffee shop etiquette: if you are reading a book, don’t sit in front of an outlet. Please God. I went to four cafes yesterday, in the rain, before I found one with a table – outlet combo.

Now…on to the fun part!

Over the last couple weeks, I realized I actually know nothing about coffee. Water tastes like bold tastes like umami. And I don’t even really get what umami is.

So, I reached out to Jason Pearson, a 4-year Starbucks barista veteran, who recently moved from Portland, Oregon to NYC. He now works as a strategic planner in digital advertising, but he was  still kind enough to answer my novice questions. In the near future, Jason and I may be working together on a digital community that will focus on freely educating and bringing together coffee enthusiasts, professional baristas, and coffee roasters.  If you’d like to be notified about the progress, please follow @JASONpear on Twitter and, of course, keep up with Type7!

In the meantime. Coffee 101.

1. What’s your background in the coffee world?
It has been about four years since I started drinking coffee.  I developed a passion for coffee tasting over my four years as a corporate barista at Starbucks, and began to frequent several independent cafes while living in Portland, Oregon.

2. In your opinion, what makes a good cup of coffee? What should novices look for when trying to discern one cup from another and impress their friends with their foodie knowledge?
For novices wishing to increase their coffee knowledge, the best thing to do is just start tasting and smelling different coffees.  Pay attention to where the coffee was grown and who roasted it.  Try to begin picking out similarities and differences between coffees of different origins and different roasters.

3. Do you notice any differences between coffee culture here and in Portland?
Stumptown, originally from Portland, is a recent addition in the New York coffee scene.  In Portland, their coffee is widely available.  Here in New York, it’s a little more difficult to find.  That being, said, I am really excited to try some of the independent roasters based out of Brooklyn.  And although I haven’t yet spent a lot of time in the NY coffee scene, I have found a lot of valuable resources for the aspiring coffee connoisseur.  For example, a Chicago-based roaster called Intelligentsia has a New York coffee lab, where coffee enthusiasts can enroll in coffee classes and tasting programs.  Unfortunately, most of the classes cost money.

4. What’s your favorite brew?
It depends on the day.  Sometimes I want something smooth and mellow.  Sometimes I want to be kicked in the face.  Stumptown’s Hairbender blend is always a good stand-by.  I also enjoy some of the more “exotic” African coffees from Starbucks.  Maybe I’ll find some new favorites in NY.

5. How do you make your coffee at home? French Press vs. …I don’t even know what it’s called…coffee maker? Which do you prefer?
I definitely like French press coffee the best.  It’s much easier to pick out the differences in coffees when tasting from a press.  In the future, I would like to try some of the less commonly used methods of brewing coffee.

6. Any other coffee tidbits we should know? How can some one learn more?

When attempting to compare and contrast coffees, it’s important to remember that it is not an exact science.  There will always be a degree of unpredictability in coffee tasting.  If you want to get better at picking out flavors and nuances, start paying close attention to the coffee that you are drinking.  Smell it.  Try to feel where it hits your tongue.  Then talk about it!  Conducting a coffee tasting with friends or family can be really fun, and you’ll begin to develop a greater appreciation for a good cup.

I’m visiting one new coffee shop every day for a month. Mainly because I broke my coffee pot. Check out the other reasons and guidelines here. And if you have any recommendations, please let me know!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. stymn permalink
    February 2, 2012 6:08 pm



  1. The Time Has Come To Say Adieu « Type Seven

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