Caroline Bell’s Cafe Grumpy Interview

by Coffee Kevin on September 6, 2016

Caroline Bell_Cafe GrumpyI have always been intrigued by Café Grumpy. Never have I heard so many scary rumors of the tough love treatment of consumer electronics, coupled with praise for their beverages. Such media luminaries as Bruce Cost (creator of my favorite ginger ale) to HBO Girl’s Lina Dunham, where her character works as an uninspired barista on the show. I was so disheartened when Oren’s Daily Roast left Grand Central Station to reopen as a Starbucks. My enthusiasm returned when Starbucks left and Café Grumpy inherited the Grand Central location.

Caroline Bell was on my Future of Coffee Panel at the New York CoffeeCon in 2015. I found her quiet but thoughtful and someone who waited patiently for her turn at the microphone but always added substance and reason to the discussion. So it was that I had to pester her to join me on this podcast, even though I know she’d obviously prefer painful dental procedures to being interviewed.

While visiting Grumpy’s roastery, I was impressed with the fact that they’d roasted so long with a tiny L12 Probat roaster, which sat unused next to a more recent and much larger Probat model. I want to point out the Grumpy’s is one of those roasters where the team concept is in full view. Liam Singer is the talented roastmaster and Cheryl Kingan their painstakingly careful green buyer.  While much of the coffee world has taken to presenting a giant assortment of single-origins, Grumpy’s has the courage to keep the menu short and simple and savory.

Caroline told me her grandparents worked in radio. She has a beautiful voice, no doubt in part being a descendant of trained radio talent.  Perhaps the most surprising part of our interview as when I asked her favorite brewing method and she said French press. Made me want to try her coffee in a press, which I did the moment I arrived home. My suspicion is that many roasters choose green and roast their coffees with a favorite brewer in mind.

 

Enjoy.

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Tom Maeglin photo for podcastI met Tom at CoffeeCon Chicago 2015. He impressed me first with the coffee, then with his sense of humor. Finally, one day over a cup of coffee at his North Shore Hansa Coffee Libertyville location, he mentioned that he doesn’t brew using any gauges or scales. I saw his roaster. No Agtron roast meter. Now he’d piqued my curiosity.

Hansa is also unusual in that it actively supports a post-traumatic stress effort for military veterans and has a mascot dog to send coffee to US troops overseas.

Tom’s an adherent of natural process coffees. I can’t know for certain if he’s right, but he sure thinks he is. What impressed me most about him is his willingness to go his own direction. In my opinion, there’s a lot of me-too collectivism in coffee that can lead to too much group think and not enough individual thought. This is not a problem for Tom, nor his business partner and Hansa’s c0-owner, Kevin Kane.

This is a long podcast. You may want to take a break midway, but Tom was very willing to share his views on many subjects and I know you’ll come away more knowledgeable from hearing from him.

 

Podcast recording equipment

 

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