What began as a project to collaborate with great roasters and baristas to share delicious coffee at TED, unexpectedly transformed into a message and energy that transcended its initial purpose—it was a reaction to confusion. In the year and a half spent developing, organizing and running Coffee Common events in LA, NYC, Edinburgh and London—I learned an incredible amount. But most important were the people involved in making the experiences so fantastic and the knowledge they all shared so generously.
Working with Brent, Kyle, Peter, Sean, Stephen and Tim, meant being surrounded by an unmatched passion for coffee and their desire to share it with people. That energy is what drove our events forward and its what makes it so hard to see it come to an end. Coffee will continue to be at the heart of our work and our hearts will remain dedicated to sharing exceptional coffee. There will no doubt be other great things in the future and I look forward to sharing them with you when that time comes.
Thank you to everyone involved for making it what it was.
Read our official farewell:
Coffee Common is Dead, Long Live Coffee Common
posted by bwj
on 09.19.2012, under Misc.
John Giannakos, a barista from Vancouver who joined the Coffee Common team at TED, took time between working on bar to shoot this incredible video of Coffee Common moments throughout the week. It captures so much with so little. It’s a lovely vignette of both the professionalism and fun that takes place at Coffee Common. This was another inspiring week spent with incredible people who also happen to make spectacular coffee.
Thanks to everyone for being a part of this and making it so damn awesome.
After completing the fourth Coffee Common event in our first year, I’m really excited about the future of cC and specialty coffee as a whole. There’s an excitement and eagerness among consumers to learn more about coffee, the choices they have, and making it better at home. While every Coffee Common event has been a success for different reasons, our event in New York was without question, my favorite so far.
The space we used was a bright corner unit across the street from Highline Park called A Startup Store. It was just a few blocks from Chelsea Market and provided ample room for three bars, lit by a flood of natural light through floor to ceiling windows. Each bar had a different theme that introduced guests to new discussions and experiences around the coffees being served. After walking in and paying a nominal fee of $5, guests were handed a ceramic cup to use during their stay.
The first bar, Taste&, was an introduction to each coffee brewed in a V60. It was an opportunity for guests to try several coffees from different origins and roasters side-by-side, while talking with baristas about differences, thoughts, likes and dislikes. By the time customers walked away, many of them had experienced for the first time just how different coffees can taste from one another.
Everyone left this bar with a personal favorite and reasons why they liked it more than others—the sweetness, the fruitiness, the brightness, the balance. The tasting was far less intimidating than a cupping and more akin to an informal wine tasting. Guests lingered and chatted with baristas, or went back for seconds and thirds of their choice coffee. It was the central gathering point of the event and created a context for which the other bars could work within—that not all coffee is the same.
The next station was our Ingredients& bar. This stop fostered a lot of conversation, even among those who didn’t attend. The premise was simple, illustrate the effects that additives like milk and sugar have on two types of coffee—specialty and commodity. First, guests were given an unnamed commodity coffee to try black and then discussed what they tasted. Ashy, burnt, smokey and bitter were common responses. That coffee was then dressed with some milk and sugar and it transformed into a coffee that most people were familiar or comfortable with.
Next, one of the featured coffees were sampled in its unadulterated form. The unique characteristics of that coffee were then discussed and usually agreed upon as much nicer to drink in its black state than the previous coffee. Milk and sugar were then added to the specialty coffee, which reduced its complexity, making it less interesting and ultimately diminishing the qualities that made it special.
Although some still enjoyed both coffees with milk and sugar, most noticed the adverse effects it had on the flavor. The purpose wasn’t to say what was right or wrong, but once again illustrate that not all coffees are the same and discuss those differences. [Erin Meister, a barista who worked this bar, wrote a great piece about it on Serious Eats]
The third bar, tucked in the back corner of the space, was the place to go for hands-on demonstrations and personal brewing tips from baristas. Method& was the coffee equivalent of an Apple Genius Bar and my favorite of them all.
There were three stations where guests could chose the coffee and the brew method they were most interested in learning about. Baristas at this bar would brew a round with step-by-step instructions, answering questions along the way, and serve the resulting sample to everyone within reach. Next, the tools were passed on to guests who wanted to try it themselves, being guided through the process.
Seeing the look of empowerment and success on a persons face after making their very first Chemex or AeroPress was the most rewarding part of the event. When someone realized that with just slightly more effort than making EasyMac, they could enjoy much better coffee at home, it was a big win for everyone involved. Watching people leave with a smile on their face and—in some cases—all the equipment needed to brew coffee themselves, was a win for everyone in specialty coffee.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen and all of you who came out to participate (especially those who waited in line). If you haven’t had the chance to join us at Coffee Common yet, I hope that one day you will.
posted by bwj
on 02.02.2012, under Misc.
Coffee Common has officially begun! After spending the last 48 hours unpacking boxes, transforming our space and orienting a new team of baristas, we’re ready to roll. If you’re in New York between today and Sunday, this shouldn’t be missed. Come try some great coffee, learn a lot from fabulous baristas and see what I’m doing when I’m not writing here on DCILY. This page will be dormant all week, but follow along over at Coffee Common for live updates.
The doors to Coffee Common have officially opened to the public here in NYC and we’re really excited to share these great coffees with everyone. For $5, you’ll be given a ceramic vessel to use while you’re in the space to visit each of our bars as often as you’d like.
Each bar features a different focus on ingredients, method, and taste where you can discuss all the details of brewing a great cup of coffee and learn to enjoy the differences between coffee varieties and brew methods. We also have a Breville brew station where you can work hands-on with one of our awesome baristas to learn how easy it is for you to brew great coffee at home.
All of the coffees we’re brewing can be purchased at the store along with the brew methods we’re using and limited edition Coffee Common merchandise. Come say hello, taste several great coffees and learn something new from a great team of baristas.
144 Tenth Ave. (At 19th Street)
Thursday: 11am – 6pm
Friday: 11am – 7pm
Saturday: 11am – 6pm
Sunday: 11am – 6pm
Saturday: GiltCity Tasting (buy tickets)
Sunday: Skillshare Espresso Class (buy tickets)
posted by bwj
on 01.19.2012, under Misc.
After two back-to-back events last July, in Edinburgh & London, Coffee Common is returning to the US. This time, setting up shop for 4 days in New York City. The team has partnered with Rachel Shechtman, founder of A Startup Store, to offer a pop-up coffee experience in a city whose access to quality coffee continues to grow.
Coffee Common has partnered with Google+ to broadcast “hang-outs” throughout the event and Breville will be giving away some of their latest home brewing equipment. There will be stations for comparative tasting, brewing demos and baristas to help troubleshoot home brewing problems and answer questions about coffee. On the weekend, there will be events scheduled in partnership with GiltCity and SkillShare.
Just like past events, this is more than a temporary coffee bar. Since coffee sales aren’t the goal, baristas and customers can engage without worrying about a line of people building up behind them. The atmosphere is designed to learn, share and discuss—all while enjoying some exceptional coffee (from Counter Culture, Gimme!, Intelligentsia, Heart and Ritual) prepared by a team of world class baristas. This event will be espresso free and focus solely on filtered black coffee. If you’re in New York, mark your calendar!
This will be an amazing event that I’m excited to be a part of bringing to NYC.
Watch Coffee Common in action at last summer’s TEDGlobal conference:
[photo credit: Stefan Georgi]
After what seemed like forever, we’re back and we’re going international! Coffee Common will be gathering a whole new team to participate in TEDGlobal2011 this July in Edinburgh, Scotland.
For all the details, head over to Coffee Common.
It’s been one week since the debut of Coffee Common at TED came to an end. Since then, I’ve been collecting my thoughts while enjoying those shared by others who took part. First, I’d like to thank all the baristas and my fellow committee members who passionately volunteered their time to make this such an incredible experience, one that has set an ambitious stage that’s now being gazed upon by a rapturous audience.
While, our goal was to begin a much needed conversation about coffee with consumers, I don’t think any of us involved knew just how quickly we would gain such vast attention. The support, inquiries, and critiques have been equally overwhelming and humbling.
Though the idea of a collaborative coffee service at TED had been in development for a couple months, Coffee Common—and the idea of it being something more than a single event—is just a few weeks old. There is a lot to be figured out moving forward, but our purpose from the beginning is still very clear—we believe that great coffee is, at its best, a collaboration of an empowered coffee farmer, an artisan coffee roaster, a dedicated barista, and an enlightened consumer. Through a diverse collection of voices and future collaborative events we will work together to continue educating consumers about the process and pleasures of truly great coffee. With greater consumer understanding, comes better appreciation, quality and value that will benefit everyone involved.
When I first joined Alex Bogusky on a call with Stephen Morrissey from Intelligentsia, I thought I would just help design a logo and some t-shirts for the baristas serving coffee at TED. But I quickly realized this was an opportunity for much more. I had finally been introduced to a group of industry insiders trying to do the same thing I attempt to do here at DCILY—to enlighten and inspire consumers to expect more from their coffee.
Over the next few days, a brand, a voice and a forum were developed to carry the message of this newly formed collaborative to those who would listen. Over a weekend, a book had been written, designed and sent to press; a website had been launched, and a conversation had begun. Shortly after, I left for California to join the rest of the team and watch all the pieces we’d been working on virtually from around the world, come together before our eyes. Collaboration at its finest.
Being able to spend a week with great people whom I admire, who’s blogs I read regularly, who I rooted for at their Regional Barista Comps, and who make me want to drop everything to be a part of the coffee industry full time—was an experience I won’t soon forget. It was a pleasure helping support the baristas in various capacities at TED and documenting the experience for everyone back home to enjoy.
When lines got long, I helped field extended conversations with attendees, and discussed the simple truths and nuanced joys of great coffee with them. There’s a great satisfaction that comes with a person’s first positive reaction to black coffee or their excitement upon first learning about the complexities of the coffee process. I witnessed many moments during the week when attendees at TED “got it.” The same spark many of us have experienced—that initiated our uncompromising love for great coffee and the genuine concern and support for the farmers, roasters and baristas who make it possible. Those moments are why we are doing this.
First-Hand Coffee Common Reports
Sean Bonner – GOOD
George Giannakos – CleanHotDry
Erin Meister – Serious Eats
Anthony Benda – Cafe Myriade
Also check out the great barista interviews being posted at Coffee Common
posted by bwj
on 03.11.2011, under Misc.
I’m excited to announce (and be a part of) this incredible new project making its public debut this month at TED in Long Beach, California.
Coffee Common is a collaborative gathering of top baristas from around the world, making coffee from top roasters around the world, who source their beans from the best farms they can find. For a week, some of the biggest players in the coffee industry will join together to introduce the open minds of the TED audience to the culinary delights of exceptional coffee. If the coffee industry had an All-Star game, this would be it.
This will also be the first public event shared by Common, a new collaborative brand. Under the banner of Common, like-minded businesses join forces to benefit people, communities, society and the environment. Since the participating roasters believe in the importance of building relationships with farmers and the overall quality of life at origin, there are many shared values that Common believes are important for coffee consumers to understand.
The experience and thoughts of the baristas and TED participants will be captured on the Coffee Common website. Ideally, the alliance will continue beyond TED to keep promoting the truths of great coffee. Show your support to see that it does.
We of Coffee Common gather as a community with shared values. We understand coffee as the most complex and extraordinary beverage in the world. We believe that great coffee requires study, experimentation, craftsmanship, and humility. We believe that great coffee is, at its best, a collaboration of an empowered coffee farmer, an artisan coffee roaster, a dedicated barista, and an enlightened consumer. We believe that collaboration can be an act that promotes global economic prosperity, social parity, cultural exchange, and culinary expression. –Coffee Common
More info about Coffee Common, TED, & Common
Photo Credits: TED / Marla Aufmuth