Not too long ago, though not recent enough that I can remember what year it was, I lived in a cabin on my cousin’s land. During construction a giant boom truck lifted the recycled building into place, using a hole that was gouged into the roof to elevate it to its new foundation. New shingles were put on by the square, and pine flooring was added as well, along with a bathroom. Over time every new inhabitant would add something. To save space, there was a loft perched above the living area with a small wood stove beneath.
It was a warm, cozy space and sleeping in the loft meant stoking the fire enough before retiring for bed to keep warm for the night and always being mindful not to build it up too much or the rising heat would wake me in the middle of the night drenched in sweat.
That winter I found myself in possession of an automatic coffee maker that I would set each night before bed and I would be treated each morning to the best alarm clock one could ever dream of.
The aroma from the coffee would dance and curl its way into my loft and, as I was still in far-off places in my slumbering mind, the beautiful smell would slowly lift me from that world. Coffee is a simple pleasure, a pleasure so desirable that coffee beans are the second largest commodity bought and sold globally; only oil exceeds it. I can’t remember a day in years that I have not had coffee soon after waking up in the morning. I am spoiled and can probably be classified as an addict. Like any thoughtful addict, as I sit and write this, I am convinced that I could wake up tomorrow and wouldn’t need coffee, but I don’t want that. I now wake up each morning and the first thing I do is put on a kettle to boil water and wait.
Two cups before leaving the house is standard.
This morning at Alley’s general store, on my daily visit for the newspaper, I found myself replacing the vat labeled Columbian in their coffee station as another customer was washing his mug in a sink in the back room. Humans are ritualistic and Alley’s coffee is familiar. I don’t want to imagine a West Tisbury without Alley’s. It is a general store that adds so much character to its small community, while also serving the needs of every demographic in our varied, seasonal population. Newspapers are stacked high each morning and set aside behind the checkout counter for regular customers. If you need duct tape, a fishing lure, a salad spinner, a gift for your eight-year old niece or an ice cream sandwich, it is all there. Gertrude Stein famously wrote “a rose is a rose is a rose” and relating that to Alley’s, I learn from them to be what you are and nothing more, from that comes beauty and happiness.
I consider myself a producer and love to surround myself with people who create things as well. Producing food on our farm is the most basic production, but meals and writing or carpentry are also enjoyable ways to craft something new. I joke with my two of my closest friends, one of whom produces wine and the other roasts coffee, that I chose the wrong line of business since their customers pay premium prices and consume their products at alarming rates. Farming is not so simple, and nobody demands a bag of salad greens to help them get out of bed each morning or a bunch of carrots to help take the edge off of a long day. The winemaker grows his grapes on hundreds of acres, far away in California. Luckily, the coffee roaster is less than a mile from Beetlebung Corner in Chilmark.
Todd Christy is the owner of Chilmark Coffee Company. He is also the roaster and, as far as I can tell, the only employee of the company, unless you count the days when his young kids help to pitch in with bagging or join him on deliveries. Selfishly, I hope he roasts coffee for a long time. The thought of his product continuing to improve as steadily as it has over the last few years makes me look forward to a better future.
Todd’s story in the coffee business is inspiring and gives depth to the argument for supporting our fellow community members and their endeavors. Todd has worked for the town of Chilmark, screen printed T-shirts and clothing and started a beautiful family who can walk through the woods to school if they so choose. Our community is lucky to have him. A few years ago Todd decided that he needed a change in his life. He also knew that he loved coffee so he bought himself two cheap home roasters and started roasting coffee. It was not very good. But slowly it got better and better. He now owns two larger, custom-made American roasters has made a commitment to be better at what he does each day.
Visiting Todd at his home, which smells of coffee all the time, means I will be treated to a great cup of coffee or espresso drink depending on his mood. No offense to Alley’s, but this is nothing like what they serve. His beans are so fragrant that my heart begins to race at the first smell and the flavors so nuanced and intentional that drinking a new batch he is working on is to witness a great artist at work. I wish Todd had been roasting coffee back when I spent my nights in that loft. My dreams would have been that much sweeter, and the potential of each day that much better.
The perfect cup of coffee as per Todd Christy:
The pour over method for coffee preparation is simple and widely used as it yields a fantastic basic cup of coffee.
You will need:
A cone dripper made to fit over a mug
The proper filter
A coffee grinder
Good quality coffee
Start with eight ounces of nearly boiling water, adjust accordingly if you are serving more than one or plan to consume multiple cups. While water is heating, grind whole beans finely enough so that it clumps when you pinch it. I like to pre-rinse my filter so that it has no paper taste and warms the dripper. Add your coffee to the filter, three tablespoons is sufficient for one eight ounce cup. Pour enough hot water over the ground beans to saturate them and say the pledge of allegiance three times. Now, pour in earnest until you have the desired amount of coffee, the amount of water that goes in will be slightly more than the amount of coffee you will brew. Once you have your desired amount, remove the dripper and sniff the wonderful aroma of the nearly 2,000 hours of farmer care it took to get that coffee from seed to your cup!