Five Things Coffee People Like: A photo essay
By: Kelsey Snell
As you read this, I’m either preparing to take my final exam of college at UNC-Chapel Hill, right smack in the middle of it or out celebrating my freedom on Franklin Street. Although my priorities on Sunday were eating brunch at Acme in Carrboro, then studying for the day at Open Eye Café next door, here’s a few photos and stories from my study-free Saturday. Geared with my camera, pen and an empty stomach, I went out on the towns (Chapel Hill and Durham) for the love of coffee.
Here’s five photos of five hours of five things coffee people love:
1. Manual coffee
I started at 3CUPS in Chapel Hill for barista Matt Souza’s tasting series of Aida Batlle’s Grand Reserve peaberry coffee. Batlle (@aidabatlle) is a leading lady of coffee who grows her coffees on three hillside farms on the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. The steady trickle of customers picked up hand-crafted pour-over, syphon and French press tastes of Grand Reserve roasted by Counter Culture Coffee, and Souza took orders for the limited 8 oz. tins of the blend. Customers and Souza talked about the fruity notes and acidity gleaned from each manual method as they slurped, and John Esposito, a doctoral student at UNC-CH, asked Souza to try the Grand Reserve from a press pot. He and his wife agreed it was their favorite because of the flavorful finish.
Batlle’s Grand Reserve is a blend of coffee peaberries from her three farms: Fincas Mauritania, Los Alpes and Kilimanjaro. Coffee harvesters, believing peaberries were defected or mutated beans growing as singles instead of a cherry pair, used to throw out these little guys until they realized their trash was treasure. “It’s cool to talk about this mutation that happens and then actually taste it in a cup,” Souza says. From the coffee cherry she markets for ultra-caffeinated cascara tea to the peaberry, Batlle wastes not. Peaberry coffee is a good change for your daily cup, boasting intense fruit flavors, so stop by 3CUPS this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon for a second chance to try.
3. All things German: Stollen samples
Peaberries are great but far from filling. Next stop: Stollen. The German Christmas Market at Durham’s Guglhupf Bakery & Café was full to the brim when I arrived. Powdery chunks of their famous holiday stollen loaves littered platters on the patio and inside the bakery; I had three. Not quite full and still in my beloved breakfast mode, I resisted the heavy German sausage and sauerkraut on bretzel buns and waited in the bakery line to pick up cranberry walnut biscotti and a müsli roll. Overwhelmed by the crowd, I ended up retreating to my favorite Durham escape—Scratch Baking (@scratchbake)—just in time for barista Curtis Cushman’s lunch break. The bright yellow table in front of the café was lit by the sun and calling my name, so with a double espresso and in good company, we enjoyed the mid-December sunshine.
4. Craft fairs in dive bars
Winding up East Franklin Street, back in Chapel Hill, I cut over to Rosemary Street for Nightlight’s holiday craft fair. Nightlight, local grunge bar and venue, had me at alleyway. The hand-scrawled sign on the street was an appropriate teaser to the eccentric beauty going on inside the windowless room down the graffitied pink bricks of the entrance. Scott Conary, inside man of Open Eye Café, Caffe Driade and Carrboro Coffee Company, was quietly setting out bags of his roasts, and barista champion Michael Harwood poured tastes of their Cup of Excellence-winning coffee for market goers from a Clever and Chemex, other manual-brew favorites. I browsed the hand-knit ear warmers, vintage clothing and pottery before grabbing a ginger-infused, poppyseed-drenched truffle from Durham power couple Leon and Areli of Cocoa Cinnamon and bikeCoffee.
5. Pottery (and beards)
Matt Smith, art teacher, potter and Carrboro newcomer, is a breath of fresh air on the local pottery scene. Moving from Indiana nine months ago, Smith said he’s trying his hand at the hand-held with his Four-legged Flamingo Ceramics. It’s just as hard for me to resist good pottery (and a great beard) as resisting good coffee, so I gave in and bought two of his humble-priced pieces. “I’ll take these two,” I said. “Well, I won’t take them. I guess I’ll pay you.” I see many more Matt Smith pieces in my coffee-loving future.
Kelsey Snell is graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill on Sunday with a journalism degree. She worked at the Daily Grind Espresso Café during her last year at UNC and is excited for the next adventure. She hopes to move north to D.C. or New York City after the holidays, but knows her roots grow around the Triangle.
Follow Kelsey on Twitter at @kelseysnell.