There’s already a buzz of excitement in the air about next week’s panel discussion, “From the Ground Up: Sustainable Coffee Culture,” and that’s before we’ve even begun the tasting. ALOUD guests will be treated to a pre-program coffee tasting, or ‘cupping,’ as it’s referred to in the industry, prior to hearing from some of the region’s experts discuss one of the world’s most complex agricultural products. We had a moment to chat with coffee connoisseur and industry leader Peter Giuliano, who will be moderating the ALOUD panel, to get his taste on the coffee buzz.
Peter Guiliano is one of the pioneers of direct trade coffee.
What is your take on why this coffee explosion is happening now? Ever since coffee was first roasted and prepared as a beverage in Ethiopia about a thousand years ago, coffee has been a drink of social connection. At the Ethiopian coffee ritual, neighbors, friends, and family gather to exchange news and information over cups of fragrant, strong coffee. This tradition persisted through the coffee stalls in the Arabian souk, the palatial coffeehouses of Vienna, the English coffee houses called “penny universities,” and the coffee shops of today. People crave personal connection and coffee is perfect for that- for both pharmacological and culinary reasons. As people increasingly work from home and socialize on the Internet, public spaces for interaction and exchange are increasingly important. At the same time, the culinary awareness that has spawned the local food movement has revolutionized coffee flavor: we’re drinking better coffee today than ever. Those two things together spell coffee renaissance, and it’s a joy to behold.
What do you think is at the core of people’s obsession with coffee? Is it the addiction to caffeine or the love for the ritual or something else? Where do you fall into this mix? Coffee is an amazingly complex flavor- probably the most chemically complex food we have. Thousands of aromatics and flavor compounds combine to create a multilayered flavor- it’s a mystery even to food scientists! This captures our imaginations and lifts our spirit. The caffeine does too. There’s just something special about the warmth, the flavor, the stimulation, the gift to oneself in the morning that makes coffee a cherished part of the day for so many people. I’ve worked in coffee for a quarter century now, but I’ve never lost that sense of joy when I make coffee for myself in the morning, or when someone makes me a perfect cappuccino.
What’s defining the L.A. coffee scene right now? Anything special the consumer should be paying attention to? Los Angeles has one of the most vibrant coffee scenes in the country at the moment. We’ve got a little less tradition than San Francisco, Seattle or Boston, which makes L.A. coffee a little more innovative and creative. Coffee in L.A. is stretching its legs- and the creativity is a boon for the coffee lover who’s willing to take a chance and be surprised.
You’re probably reluctant to show partiality to any one café, but we’d love to know where we might find you sipping a cup of joe, or how you make your home brew. I still love the shop where I began as a barista, and where I still know all the regulars- the Pannikin in Encinitas, near San Diego. One of my favorite shops in the country is the Intelligentsia shop at the Sunset Junction in Silverlake. I love Bear Pond Espresso in Tokyo too. But every morning, I have the best coffee I can imagine, brewed simply in a Kalita pourover brewer in my kitchen.
Green beans on the drying rack at the Good Land Organics farm in Goleta, CA.
Hear more from Guiliano and panelists Alexandra Katona-Carroll (Coffee Quality Institute), Jay Ruskey (Good Land Organics), and Angel Orozco (Cafecito Orgánico) on May 21st at ALOUD. Coffee tasting begins at 6:15 pm, preceding the 7:15 pm panel discussion.
–Posted by Maureen Moore