Country: Colombia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sumatra
Mild, laid-back Brazil estate is topped off with gentle acidity and a hint of teak, coconut and citrus.
I consider coffee to be a religious discipline of sorts: it begins my day, like prayer does for some; is a sacrament at every familial function, friendly gathering, and every celebratory or solemn occasion. If I venture out for a walk in a strange city, the quest for it directs me along my way. I offer it to every soul who enters my house, and likewise I would never refuse its offer without due cause, any more than I would refuse someone's handshake. It's not so much a substance, I mean, as a way of life…a true habit of my being.
About eight years ago I made the switch to drinking nothing but espresso products and doubt now I shall ever again do other. Each pull is like a haiku: deliberate, focused, and to the point of revealing something essential.
As such, my switch to espresso sent me on a quest for a bean, a roast, and a roaster to which I could pledge my allegiance; and my arrival destination was Equator Coffees.
I tried all of the espresso roasts that Equator had to offer, and loved several dearly…becoming a zealot on behalf of Jaguar specifically. And though I never grew to be dissatisfied with it, I found I was experimenting with adding portions of other Equator roasts to my grinder's hopper—even sea salt on occasion—in a sense working like a primitive at perfecting a new blend that would be completely singular.
I didn't have to fumble in the dark of my arcane laboratory for long: following a meeting backstage after a performance of mine at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, co-founders Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell offered to work with me to develop my own custom espresso blend under their banner.
I began by writing a letter to both—nay, a poem in prose form—detailing my favorite coffee experiences, my disappointments; as well, what I most liked about each of their roasts as I had experienced them; but I ran off the rails at a point, and turned to music—my own true vocabulary—to finally connect my heart to my mind, and both of them to something that might offer us all some real and common illumination.
In the end, I sent Brooke and Helen a Duke Ellington collection culled from a revelatory few years in the early 1940s, when a shockingly young bassist from Chicago named Jimmy Blanton "wrote the book" on modern jazz bass playing that still stands as the Bible for practitioners of that instrument. In Jimmy's hands, the bass spoke with subtle depth, even as it sprang to the fore with muscular melodic sophistication. For the first time, the instrument was speaking in complete sentences and above the din. It was not merely pulsing, but singing. And that's what I want an espresso to do.
I pointed Helen and Brooke to a song in particular called "Jack The Bear," which Duke had written expressly to showcase Jimmy Blanton's revolutionary approach, and that seemed to close the circle on our experimenting.
Thus, Equator now offers Jack The Bear Espresso. This roast reminds me of Jimmy Blanton's bass playing: deep and round, steeped in tradition, but not trapped by it; buoyant yet structurally sound; full of life, love and light, and dedicated to carrying our shared humanity—to quote Strayhorn—"ever onward and upward."
What more do you want from a cup of coffee?
South Pasadena, CA