Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the face of coffee

He cannot remember when he discovered his passion for coffee but it probably started on the day he was born. In his house in Ethiopia, on the day he arrived, his family made coffee for their friends to celebrate. The aroma of coffee awakened his newborn senses, being one of the first things he smelled while being embraced by his mother.

His passion continued as a young man with his first taste when he was 14. In the mid 80’s he came to America to attend college. He stayed. But he found he could not find a cup of coffee like that from his homeland. His family sent him beans and he began, like many of his people away from Ethiopia, to roast at home. In 2005, coming to Kansas City, he had a dream of opening a coffee shop to share his passion. For three years he experimented with roasting and taste.

He opened his shop in January 2008.

In Ethiopia there is a saying…”Buna dabo naw”, written in Western alphabet, and roughly translated as “coffee is our bread.” The coffees of the world originated in Ethiopia and the legend of the goat herder Kaldi is a wonderful story in itself (read more here). Ethiopia produces 4 million bags of coffee a year, and drinks half the production. The two million bags they export find their way around the world. 12 million people in Ethiopia work in the coffee trade.

Ethiopia has over 5,000 genotypes of coffee, a veritable ancient Garden of Eden, a world heritage-like site. Farmers raise the crop in medieval ways, ensuring the continued harmony of this plant with nature with their own harmonious methods. These methods, unlike industrial farming methods in other countries, preserve the diversity. He says that with coffee there is poverty. He wants to change that, one cup at a time, and share the rewards of the art with the people who grow the beans.

When was the last time your barista was from the point of origin of your coffee? Better still, when was the last time you met someone who, more than barista, has more in common with a Paris trained wine sommelier with the nose of a perfume chemist?

The Kansas City area has such an artist and his name is Habte Mesfin. While he is an authentic, passionate face of coffee, he will tell you that the faces of coffee are in his country. He knows them well and their spirit is in the bags of roasted beans he sells in his shop and the aromatic delicious cups of coffee he prepares.

He will tell you that in his country, the coffee ceremony, using the traditional “jebena” pot is a sacred part of the day, a keystone of culture, and a delicate sensual process of aromas, textures, and flavors. Each cup is a work of art.

He will tell you of the integrity of his beans; their origin down to the name of the farmer and the village. That integrity is part of the art and his artistry continues with his roasting process, preparation and presentation.

He is a face of coffee, one of many around the world.

Find Habte Mesfin roasting and preparing coffee at Revocup, his shop at 11030 Quivera Road in Overland Park, Kansas.

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