Lately, as we've been meeting lots of new people unfamiliar with our company, I've been asked how we arrived at our name. My initial reaction is awkwardness, as the process was not glamorous or sophisticated.
Rich, Eric and I brainstormed for a VERY long time, coming up with lists of names that I'm too embarrassed to try and recall. We had several rules, such as "no puns about coffee, no misspelled wordz, and nothing that plays up the drug abuse angle of coffee or tea consumption". There was also the challenge of how to address our equal love of both coffee AND tea, but ultimately felt that was a dead end for us.
Those of you who know Rich (and to a slightly lesser extent, myself), know that he is a fan of things vintage. We started riffing off electronics and amps but veered way too close to our rule about caffeinated names. Then one day I was listening to some AC/DC at home and came across the tune "Live Wire". This had a ring to it, but was also deep into rule-breaker territory.
I was thinking about conversations Rich, Eric and I were having about roast, and our individual preferences. We felt that the pendulum of preference had swung too widely from deep, dark roasts that favor body and presence over origin character and brightness to the light roasts that showcase origin character and acidity but lack "guts" or body. We had long sought coffee that married both body and origin character. In other words, coffee that was balanced. That's where "Highwire" comes in.
And balance is what we try to achieve with almost all of our coffees (don't worry French Roast drinkers, we got you covered).
As we roll into November, it is time to bid adieu to some coffees we've come to know and love. We have roasted the last of our Yirgacheffe Kochere, Honduras Tulio Portillo, New Guinea Nebilyer, Costa Rica La Pastora, Guatemala La Providencia and Ethiopia Kossa Limu. Phew! We enjoyed these small batches for the last month or two, and there are a few cups that will linger in our memory for a long time. This is not the time to lament lost loves however, as there are several exciting new arrivals to share with you. First, we have purchased a few bags of Blue Nile Yirgacheffe. Bright, delicate, classic. This coffee arrived in our store last week. We expect this to last through mid-december, so check it out. Next up, the return of Colombia to our menu! Alto de Jesus from Huila brings big body and orange sweetness. So much to like. Never without a Guatemala (or 5) up our sleeves, November will introduce San Miguel Urias from Antigua. Expect cocoa notes, balance, and pleasing acidity that make the highest grown coffees so good. Starting Monday, November 5th we will introduce Celebration 2012, our annual blend that allows us to appreciate some of the great coffees that come our way as well as the blender's art that makes it greater than the sum of it's parts. This year the blend is driven by a new origin for us: Burundi. The Mpanga shows great promise, with beautiful floral character and pleasing body. (we'll have a few bags of this available in the store for those who want to try it on it's own). We think you're going to like this. For the duration of the Celebration, we will not be roasting Tightrope. Look for a new incarnation in the New Year. Finally, we have two roasts left of our Kenya Kagumoini. The next tiny lot Kenya will roll out in December. This is a lot to share at once, and we haven't even touched on the amazing new teas...Soon
It's no secret that we at Highwire Coffee are huge fans of the coffees of Guatemala. Guatemala coffees are like a good friend - balanced, reliable, and comforting. They often don't get the praise they deserve because they don't preen and demand your attention the way some other origin's coffees do. Instead, they are quietly complete. They deliver heft, mouthfeel, juiciness and balance. For these reasons and more, we love this origin and want to share it with you.
On August 2nd, we will do a one-time roast of three Guatemala coffees that we feel are great representations of the regions in which they are grown. Antigua, Atitlan and Fraijanes share classic Guatemala characteristics, but are quite distinct from each other.
Your order will contain three 1/3lb bags of these fine coffees, roasted and shipped the same day. We will include a write up about the coffees, regions and farms, as well as our cupping notes from the day. This project is a labor of love that we think you'll enjoy. Supplies are very limited as we are only doing the one roast of each of these coffees. Order yours today.
Possibly today, or maybe over the weekend, we will have sold our last pound of Italian Roast. This has been a fairly strong seller over the last year for us at Highwire. So why in the world would we discontinue it?
Well, first the name. All along we've let our tastes dictate how a particular coffee should taste. When we encountered the ingredients that used to be in Italian Roast we felt they would taste better with a different approach to the roast. We hit it hard with heat up front, but stop the progression before losing the origin character of the component beans. It immediately started to taste more balanced and lively with a sweeter finish. Then we started to bring in better ingredients for that particular recipe. Each of these added dimension to the blend and demanded the taster's attention. Gone was the monolithic flavor profile we had associated with the name. We also stopped thinking of it as our espresso blend. The Highwire Blend had really shown more balance and body as an espresso, so we went with it. Finally, we could no longer claim anything about the blend was especially "Italian". Rather than pretend that Italy was a point of reference for us, it makes more sense to us to make a break from that tradition and celebrate what this blend has become.
Introducing Tightrope Blend. Now that we have the lively 2012 crop arrivals to enjoy, this blend has evolved into something much more interesting than the sum of it's parts. The Tightrope Blend is an attempt to balance the lively bright flavors of the new crop coffees with the roaster's intention to bring out as much body and sweetness as possible. If you have enjoyed Italian Roast recently, the roast degree will be similar, but the flavor will be more expressive. We think you'll like it as much as we do. We welcome your feedback.
Recently i've been thinking a lot about the nature of retail service, and my own patterns and preferences as a customer. Somewhere along the way I realized that I really prefer to do business with people that I like. Sometimes my "liking" them is a projection of my own impression of the business, the owners or employees. Sometimes it is based on my experience of their friendliness or expertise. It is always based on a sense I have of whether I believe they are in business for the love of what they do or if I think they are just after my money. The love is the value-add in my world. I like to connect with people based on shared love or passion. I respect doing what one loves to make a living, and have managed to do this for 21 years now.
On the service side of the counter, it is the same. I love serving coffee and tea to folks who I believe appreciate it as much as I do. Also, people who know how much goes into a good roast, or blend, or cup and value it the way I do. When both sides of the counter meet at these junctures, we achieve what I consider the ideal in business. A person to person exchange based on mutual appreciation for the products and respect. We will work hard everyday to make sure we hold up our end of this bargain. I hope you enjoy the results.
Highwire Coffee has existed in our heads for a long time. Rich and I talked wistfully about having a coffee and tea company probably 15 years ago. Eric and I had endless conversations about how coffee should be. About the right way to do things, etc. So it is a little surreal to step back and realize its become real. Bringing an idea out of each of our heads and applying it to a space with its own history and culture has been hard work. I want to take this space to thank everyone who has contributed to making our shared dream come true. Thank you. We have had lots of help.
Also, this website (and so many other things that make Highwire run) would not have happened if it weren't for Courtney Reynolds. She put in the time to get this going and built it from the ground up. She is the friendly voice who answers the phone when you call our roastery. She has helped bring order to the behind the scenes chaos that was Highwire. She does the bookkeeping, blends the teas, makes the bag labels, fills orders, sings to herself and handles surprise visits from regulatory agencies. She is also a trusted taster who can make a solid recommendation of a particular coffee or tea. Thank you Courtney for all the work you've done for us so far.
Intentions are a bear. I hope we can use this space going forward to keep you up to date on Highwire happenings as well as anything else that seems interesting enough to share. But I'm not promising.