A life has many wayposts. Is there a better way to say this? Life’s ‘book of firsts’? Not all good, not all bad and not all shared. I mention this for two reasons, this week saw the departure of our first (and only ever) wholesale account relationship team member (Connor, or as our friends at Perennial Artisan Ales like to call him, Collin). This event, more than a ripple, resulted in a concatenation of actions dominoing out in all directions, but it also imposed a moment of retrospection -to the beginning, before wholesale, back to a time when two or three people exclusively made every cup or shot of coffee enjoyed (or not, there are those that we failed) in the shop in 2011 and 2012.
Before Connor left our little team, the core Sump team had one last very intense collective experience, the regional coffee competitions. As experiences go, this is usually not life or death level, more like preparing for an important exam or job interview -the outcomes can be transformative if you win, but if you do not, there are more tests, retakes, and other jobs to be interviewed for. In part of Connor’s prepared remarks for the event, he reminded us that the current generation of coffee professionals likely had a watershed moment drinking coffee as a young(-ish) adult that forever changed their understanding of the possible in coffee. Essentially, transitioning from the platonic form of coffee (office coffee, their parents or grandparents coffee) to an aristotelian, practical or specific, instance of coffee; the world of cultivars, processes, origins and roast levels; accompanied by fetishized coffee tools/equipment. This brought me to one of my own watershed coffee moments, and to the gist of this post.
In 2011 and 2012, we were working on making a go of coffee on a sleepy corner of South City in Saint Louis (n.b. the corner is still sleepy). We were tweaking constantly every variable related to running the business. Should we have earlier hours? Later hours? Batch brew? Different brew methods? Brew ratios? Sugars? Pricing? When to pay? What’s on the menu? What does the menu look like? What coffee are we serving? Who are we? Why are we doing this again? Etc. During that window of time we brought in a number of coffees from different roasteries around the US. (n.b. not as many to choose from then as now.) (A Comet Coffee model before Comet, but without the pastries). And for context, I already thought I had my coffee watershed moment, circa New York City 2005, thus the reason for opening Sump in the first place. At about this time our first shipment from Kuma Coffee arrived. The 2011 and 2012 crops/vintages forever altered what I thought I wanted or knew I needed from coffee. I think back to those coffees as high water mark coffees, they created the lens that I would come to view all other coffee. (n.b. since so much time has passed from now to then, I know these coffees have also started to take on mythic proportions, if you’re into fantasy novels (LOTR, The Wheel of Time) this was the time of legends). As 2012 ended, Sump started up its own roastery and found its own voice and Kuma continued grew and evolved its approach (acquired new roasting machine/tool) to coffee. However, Kuma (the owner’s name is/was (spoiler) Mark) Coffee was always remembered with fondness and inspiration.
Fast forward to 2019, with every city and township enjoying their own roastery renaissance, with dozens of specialty coffee roasteries and roaster co-ops sprouting up across the country (so much so that coffee trade organizations are hosting panel discussions with titles like ‘The Roaster Bubble’), my personal cult icon and coffee spirit guide of the O.G. day has sold Kuma Coffee and started his own green importing/consulting/buying company, Bend Coffee Company -named after his new home, Bend, Oregon. (As the pile gets bigger, keep climbing to the top. If there is a roaster bubble and the wholesale model is falling apart, climb higher. Roasters need input, sell to this new legion of people, sell them green. I have no idea if that is the reason. It just rings logically consistent to my mind.)
I’m not just telling this story to tell the story, but instead, to introduce our blossoming relationship with Bend Coffee by announcing some recent Sump coffee releases that were sourced via this new green buying partnership. This weekend (February 9th and 10th) we will be rolling out in full force our Colombia Tosoabi (washed) (look for notes of McIntosh apple, cinnamon, demerara sugar) of the Narino department, as well as, our Honduras Juan Contreras, Las Flores (washed) (look for notes of hops, cedar, cherry). Also, we have a Bend sourced coffee headed to Shared Brewing for a special collaboration, look for that in the coming weeks. Also, farewell Connor. Best of luck to you from team Sump.