blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cleveland, America!

I just returned from the opening of Herbert Ascherman's photography exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

When Herb first started his odyssey across Cleveland, seeking to capture Cleveland's shape and form, he originally thought he was supposed to be looking at buildings. However, when he encountered Sheila at Swift Cleaners (picture to the left) he realized that the project was really about the people of Cleveland.

As I walked thoughtfully down the wall of stunning photos, glass of wine in hand, marveling at the grit and variety of humanity, and I read the caption for Sheila's picture (paraphrased above), I realized that a similar thoughtform has been morphing in my brain lately as regards the coffee business.

Coffee is a business completely built on people. I make a big deal about the chemistry, the taste, the product, the processing, and myriad other facets of the industry, but it really all comes down to the human hands that carry out each step of the process. I had a meeting with a gentlemen named Kevin Cronin at one of my cafe's on Friday. And I found myself trying to explain to Kevin why I love the coffee business. What I was trying to tell him is that I am in love with the coffee business because of the thickness of the human strands, the human relationships, on which the whole industry turns. Trust and craftmanship are built into each stage of the process, culminating in the final sip, which is often consumed in the course of a dialogue between two or more individuals. Coffee may be a social lubricant, and coffee would not be able to be produced if it were not for the well lubricated social relationships between pickers, growers, exporters, importers, brokers, roasters, baristas and consumers. The richness of coffee will never cease to amaze me.

And thank you, Herb, for producing such a wonderful reflection of the humanity of Cleveland, that has in turn sparked such thoughts from me.

All you Clevelanders should definitely take a trip down to the WRHS at University Circle and take a look. You'll be glad you did. While you're there, you can also enjoy Herb's portrait of Phoenix's own coffee guru, Carl Jones, who is featured in this exhibition as well.


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