If you love coffee, you are familiar with the concept of addiction. Coffee injects the body with the nectar of the gods. Once you start drinking it, it is difficult to stop. The aroma, atmosphere, and caffeine can hook you for life.
Noah Crabtree knows a thing or two about coffee addiction. In fact, he takes coffee addiction to an entirely new level. As a sophomore in college, Crabtree attended his first “coffee cupping” in Portland. Cuppings, or tastings, involve observing the tastes and aromas of coffee through deep sniffing, loud slurping, and measuring the body, sweetness, acidity, flavor, and aftertaste of coffee. Experienced cuppers can not only identify the flavors of a coffee, but also identify the region of origin.
After his first cupping, Crabtree promptly drove home and built his own coffee roaster out of a barbeque and trash can. He dedicated every spare moment to educating himself about the coffee industry — going so far as to travel up to Portland on weekends to attend more cuppings and learn from experienced roasters. He began roasting and holding cupping events for family and friends, eventually cupping thousands of cups of coffee.
For Crabtree, coffee is not just any other beverage. It is a work of beauty. He says,
“Good coffee is like fine wine. It is sweet, complex, and unique…Good coffee can take many forms. It can be rich and chocolate-laden, or it can be bright and full of fruit and floral accents. It can be spicy, earthy, tea-like… you name it.”
Crabtree’s interest went beyond the taste, though. He wanted to get to the root of the coffee bean, since, as he says, coffee is “above all, an agricultural product.” He explains,
“The more I learned about coffee and roasting, the more important it became to me that the roast yield center stage to everything that happens at the farm level. I also realized that discovery and learning should be the focus of every cup of coffee.”
The fact that discovering and learning about coffee is a never-ending process is part of the draw for the roaster. Crabtree says,
“I love that coffee is always changing. Coffee is never the same from season to season, and every farm and every crop holds new surprises and new discoveries.”
Crabtree decided that the best way to make good tasting coffee was to start with the best green (unroasted) coffee and then roast it in a way that preserved the history and uniqueness of the beans. So he created Parenthesis Coffee Roasters. Parenthesis’ goal, Crabtree says, is,
“Sourcing really good single origin green coffee and roasting it in a way that preserves and emphasizes each coffee’s unique varietal character.”
Parenthesis employs a “minimalist approach” to roasting. Crabtree describes this minimalism in the following way:
“Our project is to present excellent coffees as straightforwardly as possible. Many companies get distracted from the coffee; they forget that coffee is what it’s all about. We do not do blends, or ‘signature roasts.’ We keep a small selection (three or four) of what we consider top quality, in season, coffees. And we roast them in a way that simply allows the coffee to speak for itself.”
Crabtree compares the job of a coffee roaster to that of a language translator. He explains,
“A coffee roaster is analogous to a translator. Our job is to represent the coffee faithfully, and ourselves be as unimposing as possible. This is our mentality as a company as well. I would much rather hear buzz about one of the farmers we buy from than about our company, because the farm is really where the potential is created.”
This emphasis on the coffee itself is known in the coffee world as the “third wave” movement. This movement began in Portland around 10 years ago with the purpose of bringing coffee quality to the forefront of the coffee business. Since beginning in Portland, third-wave business have popped up all over the country. Crabtree says,
“[The third-wave movement] is essentially a movement of coffee connoisseurship. Most third wave coffee companies emphasize high-scoring single origin coffees, lighter roast profiles to highlight the coffees origin characteristics, and transparency, so the consumer is aware of exactly where the coffee came from and how it was processed. It is a response to the ‘secret blend’ and ‘dark roast’ mentality of the 1990s style coffee roaster.”
Even though this movement began in the Pacific Northwest, Crabtree says,
“For whatever reason the coffee industry in Eugene has been slow to embrace this model. We want to change that.”
Coffee roasting is not cheap, though, even if you are a minimalist roaster. So Crabtree started a Kickstarter fundraiser, soliciting online donations from friends, family, and more by using the power of social media like Facebook. He set his Kickstarter goal as $5,000, saying,
“The money raised by this Kickstarter project will allow us to buy our initial inventory of green coffee, a small sample roaster, and a retail presence on the web.”
Here is how Kickstarter works: An entrepreneur comes up with an idea and then asks people to donate. In order for the entrepreneur to receive the funds, he or she must actually reach the set goal — otherwise no donations are actually taken from donors.
Crabtree had to reach his goal of $5,000 by Monday, October 15. And by 6 pm the day before, he raised his last $400 or so.
This success means that Parenthesis Coffee Roasters just became a legitimate contender in Eugene’s coffee scene. Crabtree’s dream of “bringing the world of third-wave coffee to Eugene” is now one step closer to completion.
For more information about Parenthesis Coffee Roasters, visit the company’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ParenthesisCoffeeRoasters.