Thursday, November 28, 2013

Today's the big day!

This might be the longest day I have ever stayed up.  It's getting close to 4am and I'm suppose to get up again at 4:45 to go serve coffee to the runners and families of the Skinny Turkey half marathon in Raleigh.  It's our first official event, although we are MOST DEFINITELY still in beta mode.  Today was the first day we checked our plumbing in the trailer and sadly, our espresso machine isn't ready to make her grand debut.

The good news is we have some AMAZING coffee that we can't wait to share with the world!
     (The Ethiopia Kochere is particularly scrumptious)

There's no way that I could have gotten this far if not for the METICULOUS, DEDICATED work of these three people:

Bethany, Cam, and Julie.

You guys just knocked my socks off this week.  You have been working with me, sweating with me, laughing with me, and crying as we try to get this thing off the ground.  Now we are here and it's all because of YOU!  Thank you!

Today we finished the plumbing (with advice and counsel from Mark of Carrboro Coffee), solid oak trim on the counters, crown moulding, curtain install, and cabinets.  We received our first shipment of milk from Homeland Creamery (thanks to the awesome folks at Respite for their help!), our first shipment of cups, lids, etc, and we got our register.

It seems crazy that we are actually going to try to serve coffee out of the trailer even though we JUST finished it up today, but that's how we roll!!

Watch out Raleigh!  Here we come!


P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When a light is more than just a light

Caffe Bellezza now has lights.  It took about 2 hours total, and a number of creative "turns" but I was able to install two sets of energy efficient CFL track lights.  These hook directly into the solar panel system, running purely off of stored energy from the sun.

As exciting as it was to finally flip the switch and watch the lights come on, I was reminded of my dilemma while I was in the store shopping for these lights.  I knew that I was going to purchase energy star certified lights, but while I was in there, I was struck by something profound:


I mean, I get that energy efficiency is a relatively new concept (yes, that's sarcasm) but come on, guys! Three times as much??  For just a minute, I considered crumbling and just getting the halogen set.  But then I took a deep breath and bought the CFLs.

This experience reminded me why Caffe Bellezza is committed to sustainability in the first place.  It's not because it's convenient and everyone's doing it because they are not.  It's not because it's affordable because it really isn't.  It's because if we don't commit to better efficient power (and we're talking 75% more efficient in this case), then we never will.  Sounds profound, huh?  Seriously.  If we don't COMMIT to the idea, than we'll continue to buy cheap bulbs and cheap products and fill up our landfills with outdated equipment and we'll never push our scientists and our brilliant young minds of tomorrow to do better.  The prices for efficient products will never go down because we'll always have to stock the shelves with slightly cheaper things "just in case".  

So yes, buying these lights hurt my wallet.  A lot.  But ya know what?  I'm okay with that.  The lights that burn over our little Mobile Coffee Bar will always be a reminder that we are making a stand to be a part of the solution.

What's our slogan?



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Solar Panels


The solar panels are installed and charging our beautiful coffee bar!!  A HUMONGOUS thank you goes out to the men and women of Yes!SolarSolutions who made it all possible.  I know there were a number of surprises and obstacles along the way but they did a great job and I can't wait to show off my panels to everybody!  TA-DAAAA!!

The question on everyone's mind is, "Will those panels really power the WHOLE coffee bar?"  And sadly, the answer is no, but they WILL be able to supplement the power from our generator and thereby decrease our total carbon footprint.  It also gets the word out about great companies like Yes! Solar Solutions who can help your home or business utilize the power of the sun and save you hundreds on electrical bills (no, they are not paying me to say this, but they may have given me a slight discount)!

Lately I've been so encouraged by the folks in the Specialty Coffee Industry who are representing coffee the right way.  The US Barista Competition Big Central regionals were just last weekend and I particularly loved Josh Wismans' presentation that included lighthearted dialogue about noses and an interesting perspective about tasting coffee.  Also, Shannon Steele-Knuckles' presentation using an organic coffee grown by an all-female staff from Costa Rica was awesome! (plus her name is badass)

Josh Wismans (Copyright
Shannon Steele-Knuckles (Copyright
I am planning on volunteering for Big East's Regional competitions to get the insider look on the competition that is going to be HERE!! in Durham from January 17th-19th.  It's free so ya'll should go!

Our next big task is to get our Kickstarter officially up and running!  Look for it in the next couple weeks!

Oh, and here's a look at that nasty old door that we refinished to turn into our espresso bar countertop:
From this

To this!

Get ready, Triangle!  Coffee is coming to you soon!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Coffee Cuppings, Coldbrew DIY and a Church Door

I recently participated in another one of Carrboro Coffee's excellent semi-public blind cuppings.  I say "semi-public" because although the doors are unlocked and anyone can come and go- it's a bit of a weird process what with all the sniffing and slurping and silence until the very end-- that usually it's just the same handful of guys that do it.  The silence I think is the weirdest part.  In fact, I even got politely "shushed" by Mark, the head roaster when I accidentally blurted out, "Oh, wow!" after I took a sip and was shocked at the flavor.  The idea is not to influence each other's individual experience with the coffee because the power of suggestion is, well, powerful!  The coffees are tasted and ranked in a somewhat bizarre, ritualistic and systematic way and then after everyone's had a chance to jot down their thoughts, we all gather around the table and share our findings.  It's humbling tasting with these guys because they are pros and they do this so much that they can detect the tiniest nuances of flavors and defects (if any).  They use the cupping method to help tweak the roast profiles, deepen their palate, and discover new wonderful single origins.  While I was there I took some photos and video that will be on our Kickstarter Campaign (look for it in a couple weeks!).

 I also started a little DIY project with cold brew.  I had a Kenyan coffee from Ceremony Coffee Roasters that a friend bought for me that was *SO LEMON INTENSE* I wondered if by cold brewing I could mute the flavors a bit and bring some balance to it.  It totally worked and I strongly recommend creating some variation of this if you love cold brew as much as I do!  So, if you can't see it, I've got a 2 liter bottle upside down with the bottom cut off and ice water inside that drips slowly through the pinhole that I pierced in the lid.  From there the water drips onto an aeropress filter that is covering a bed of coffee followed by another filter and then it drains into a jar. The "frame" here is just a weird piece of styrofoam that I had laying around.  You can always just stack it up in a little pyramid.  Yeah, I know, it looks a little ghetto.  It took about 6 hours for the whole thing to drip down. 

I guess you could always just fork over $200 for this baby:

But not all of us have that kind of flow burning holes in our pockets.


... that's pretty stinking gorgeous.

I mean, look at that wood...


 My other project is to turn this ugly church door into my espresso bar countertop.  I'm finding out that taking off varnish and years of dirt and grease and grime is NOT FUN and it takes a lot of sand paper.  Thankfully I had some help from my pal Eric.  Thanks, Eric.  You're my hero.  He's also going to be putting my menu sign together!  SO MUCH TALENT.

So, here is how it used to look--

And here is how it looks after 3 hours of sanding and cursing under our breath:

If I'm totally honest than I will say I am having a BLAST putting this whole coffee trailer thing together, but that it is also a LOT OF WORK.  My hope is that when it is all said and done I will have learned a lot in the process and not lost my mind completely!

Be on the lookout for that kickstarter campaign!!  I know you are just DYING to help be a part of this!


A Family Heritage

This last week I spent some time at my Grandfather's 130-acre cattle farm in Kannapolis, NC.  Despite my Grandpa's ongoing fight against pancreatic cancer (and all the negative affects of the chemotherapy), he has been maintaining a good perspective and is ALWAYS going out of his way to try to help me on my crazy quest to start a mobile coffee bar.

This last trip I was working on joining and planing what will be the outside countertops.  It's made out of gorgeous maple that my Grandpa rescued from a rotted tree on his property and cut up himself on his own saw mill.  I count myself so blessed that I have been able to watch my Grandpa show off his woodworking skills and I have been able to work beside him and my dad on several projects.

I am (at best) an amateur woodworker and have just been so amazed at the help I have been given so far by men and women much more skilled than I!  Here's a quick list of those who have helped in several capacities:

Grandpa Harry Morris- planning, supplies, financial support, electrical, free meals and board!
Uncle John Morris- planning, supplies, woodcutting, electrical, plumbing
Tom Morris- planning, financial support, woodcutting, moral support
Eric Leighland- insulation, woodcutting, design
Cameron Kinch- insulation, woodcutting, theology (more important than you think!)
Wizard Designs- website
Julie Morris- my rock, my 24/7 sounding board, my sanity, and my sweet beautiful wife- Love you!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Progress and Perfection

So, construction on the trailer is coming along quite nicely!  Tomorrow I am going to install the flooring and begin work on my counters using beautiful White Oak from my Grandpa's saw mill.  It was an amazing experience to be cutting and planing this wood with him.  Most of my life has been spent on opposite sides of the country from him- and getting to come together on this project especially after learning of his diagnosis has been ... well... heart-wrenching at times.  He may not have all the strength and stamina that he used to have, but he has all the knowledge and passion for a job well done that he ever has.

So, that's the Progress part.  The Perfection part is in my quest to come up with a kick-ass pourover recipe.  It's been exciting for me to have all the equipment I've ever wanted to create a really delicious cup of coffee- whenever guests come over and they take a sip they are shocked.  Some of them had no idea that coffee could ever taste like this!  I am obsessing over brew ratios and TDS readings and extraction yields.  The reason I am going through all this work is not because the work itself makes great coffee, but because by being disciplined and by understanding all that is affected by the little changes I make I can become more consistent and a bettter all-around barista.

I just read about the "Mane Conference" coming up in October in Rhode Island.  It's a coffee festival that doesn't necessarily have all the frills and stuff of hosting the WBC or USBC or even the official Latte Art Championship.  It's all about the coffee industry and what's going on both at the store level (latte art workshops) and at the Origin (Green classification seminars).  I'm excited to hear from the keynote speaker, George Howell, and his experience in starting the Cup of Excellence program that has really been taking off lately.  The only downsides is that it costs $100 and it's a 13 hour drive but I think it will be worth it.

Until next time,

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ready present

Today is the day after my birthday.  I am scheduled to meet with my dad and grandpa to discuss my business plan- a 20 page report on Durham, the coffee industry, the tea industry, craft beer and wine, and how I want to go about creating my coffee shop.  This process has actually morphed from a simple cafe into creating a Mobile Coffee Bar, actually, and I'm getting pretty stoked about it.

The thing is, there are a lot of coffee shops in Durham.  I'm hoping to not just be another mediocre shop but the place to get the best cup in town.

My biggest decisions right now will be who to use as a coffee supplier.  I've narrowed it down to two, so we'll see who wins out by the next month or so.

So excited to be on this journey!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

10 years in the making

I got my first job at a coffee shop on my college campus in Redding, CA.  I was 18 years old- and the thrill of making coffee began.  I used to sneak out of classes to make my girlfriend (now wife) lattes.  I didn't know a thing about Specialty Coffee, and my drinks probably tasted terrible, but 10 years later, and after working at over 15 different shops, I am embarking on starting my own coffee bar.

This blog is my attempt at not getting completely overwhelmed with everything.  I've been talking with so many people about it, asking what they did that made them a success- what almost led to their failure, etc etc.  But I know that it ultimately comes down to me.  It's not about just following all the rules.  Frankly, there are no rules.  There are so many people that have endeavored to start their own business only to fail less than a year later.  I want so badly to create something that will last and that will be loved by the community.  I want to do what I love- make great coffee and know my customers personally- and skip all the politics that seem to really be hurting the coffee industry in our area.  

So I am envisioning a new coffee shop in Durham: a shop that I would want to go to all the time!  It is my sincerest hope that Caffe Bellezza will be known for it's amazing coffee and super customer service.