•January 8, 2011 • 1 Comment

I guess the countdown to the end of the world starts now right? Those nutty Mayans. 2010 was a hell of a year. Much better than 2009 by far. This new year, for some strange reason I feel older than last (not for the OBVIOUS reason). Something is shifting. Maybe heading into my mid thirties is changing something. I am not sure. Work is busy as ever, but I am super lucky because I think I work for the best department i the whole company. Of course I also say this because I am biased and I love roasting coffee. Talking about roasting with other roasters, and tasting coffee is truly rewarding. I love that once we think we have figured something out, it goes the other direction and we have to start from scratch again. Coffee is a moving target, and never let anyone tell you they have it figured out because they totally don’t. It’s a lie.
The Mrs. and I are thinking of our vacation in May. I have never been to Europe before, and we have been saving for a couple of years to take this trip, possibly before we start thinking about a family. I am not super fond of thinking about traveling with a sniveling babe. No thanks.
I have lots on the brain, about all sorts of things. Maybe this is the getting older part. Deeper archives.


•December 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

white trash repairs - Pot O Noodles
see more There I Fixed It

Veganism and barefoot running

•December 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

These are my current obsessions as of late. I am super busy with work, but this weekend I will be experimenting with barefoot running. Many people have many opinions, but I have never been happier about being vegan as I am these days. It has been the best choice I have made besides marrying my beautiful wife.
Tonight, roasted veggies and a tall glass of water and a good book before heading to bed to wake up at 4:30 AM and head to work.

I am still here, at least for now…

•August 11, 2010 • 1 Comment

It’s been a long time since I have written anything. I have been so very busy with work and life in general. Now that I am in California things feel right, as I have always considered the bay area my home. I love Oakland and San Francisco and I even love Sonoma County where I have been commuting to every single day 2-3 hours per day to get to Ecco in Santa Rosa.
My mother’s first death anniversary was spent on the Caribbean Sea funny enough, in Tulum Mexico while on my very first vacation ever with my wife. The last time we had a non-move related trip was our honeymoon in Portland. It was amazing. Almost ten years together and never an official vacation! We celebrated my mother’s life and her lessons and her smile on the beach with candles and lots of kind memories of her. It is so difficult to shake, but everyday it gets more manageable.
Work wise things have been hectic and insane and exciting. I feel the most challenged I have ever felt professionally. Intelligentsia has lofty expectations from baristas to directors of departments, so I knew I was in it for the long haul. But it is worth it to have co-workers that respect you and are always willing to push that envelope with you.
I applied and got the job of the very first National Roasting Department Manager for Intelligentsia and Ecco. This means that the roasters have an advocate and someone to be there to support them and lead them and guide them and fight alongside them to roast the best coffee on earth. We have an extremely talented pool of people, and i am just happy to share these moments with them and get better and better at what we do.
There should be no stone left unturned when it comes to roasting understanding, innovation and experimentation and this is hopefully the very beginning of that great path for us. This is certainly the most responsibility I have ever had, but truly and genuinely the most support I have ever received from an employer on all levels.
I feel really fortunate, and after almost 10 years in specialty coffee, I have a place to call home and have something to show for it. Intelligentsia is every bit as intimidating, as innovative, as forward thinking and as crazy filled with talent as you may think. It’s all true. I am not saying it’s perfect, but in it’s pursuit of perfection it is truly relentless and unafraid of carefully calculated risks. I have never felt so pushed to the seams and satisfied at the same time. Cheers to finally feeling like an adult at 32, and feeling like I have worked hard to achieve something I consider fantastic.
I wish my mom were here to see it.

be well.


•June 16, 2010 • 2 Comments


Originally uploaded by tonx


Thoughtful Rant

•February 26, 2010 • 5 Comments


I love restaurants. I love going out to dinner, even now, when I am vegan and thus the choices are narrowed. I still like the anticipation of service, menu and bar choices. I love scoping out the design, atmosphere and any attempted innovations. Old classics, tried and trues, completely fucking insane stabs at re-inventing the wheel in restaurants…I welcome it all.
I do however dislike the end of dinner, not all of it, just the SEVERE LACK OF GOOD COFFEE SERVICE.
I still don’t get it. Why would you go out on your menu, and ingredients all the way through dessert and then completely skimp on the coffee? Why? It makes absolutely no sense to me that you would buy the best ingredients to make up a great meal and then question someone on the PRICE of amazing coffee.
Whenever a specialty roaster approaches a restaurant they seriously are taken aback if the coffee costs anything over $6/lb wholesale. Really? With the markup you can have you are gonna freak about any price above that? You are gonna take the chance of masking a fantastic meal with shitty coffee because of price point?
I just don’t get it. Really, I don’t. If a chef is truly a thoughtful person, this thoughtfulness would go into the coffee as well. The vision of your place of business should be complete…from the napkins, to the toilet you buy, to card stock to the COFFEE. I am so tired of looking at the menu of 95% of restaurants and finding really crappy coffee being served/prepared poorly and without any sort of care. If you are a restaurant worth your salt, hire a bartender that can also take the time to care and understand coffee preparation. Everything that you do, or offer, you should master it and do it well, if not, you might as well not serve it at all.
To connect it to coffee, if you are not committed to tea at all…don’t serve it in your coffee bar. Why bother? But if you do want to offer tea, take the time to source a good tea wholesaler and take the time to learn how to serve/brew/present it well. It will make the vision of your place so much more clear. It also sends a message that you care about the entire experience.
So this is a note to restaurant owners/operators…please please please take coffee off the menu unless you care enough to do it correctly. If you want to take coffee on, do it right. Think about the quality and consistency of the coffee not the price. Think of the hard work going into bringing you the coffee, and think of the lasting impression on the meal.
ok, that’s enough for now.

last post of 2009

•December 31, 2009 • 7 Comments

This has been probably the worst year of my life, and among the best. I don’t even know where to start. This blog was originally for documenting my thoughts on the coffee industry, my work within that industry and a general place for contemplations on the subject of greens, brewing, conventions, inventions and concepts. It has moved from that as of late, and I think I am ok with that. I used to be consumed by coffee and the coffee industry, but lately I am more consumed with my family and friends and life outside of my job. I happen to think this is a healthy move, and actually makes me a more effective coffee professional. Nothing should ever consume you so much you blind yourself to everything else.
So let’s run down some of the things that happened in 2009 for me. Some good, some bad, some ugly but all true.

The worst thing of all, was the death of my mother. It has been a few days more than 7 months since she passed away. I cannot effectively explain this awful, terrible pain. It’s in here, every single moment of every single day. I think about her constantly, especially whenever something fantastic has happened in my life, she’s there with me. It kills me that she cannot be here physically to share it with me and Mae. Christmas and Thanksgiving were brutal. My in-laws made it out here, and I am so grateful for that. They are my family, and I love them for all of there support. I miss her every day, every second…I know, I have already said that. I have never in my life felt this much sadness and grief over anything. I wish she were still here, so that I could have at least given her a proper goodbye. A hug, a kiss on the cheek and another embrace. Not much I can do about that, so let’s move on to other things that happened in 2009, in no tidy order.

I quit my job at Ritual. I have so much to thank Ritual for in regards to really catapulting a career in coffee for me by being such an active member in the coffee community at such an early stage in their brand. It was also a very young company in a very hip/cool city and that has it’s own problems built in. I started at Ritual a few weeks after they opened, and left a roaster and a better person for it. I knew what I wanted to do with my life in coffee because of Duane Sorenson and his relationship with Ritual. I am grateful for that experience. Stumptown Coffee made me feel like a career in coffee was a reality, and something to be proud of. My leaving Ritual for good was a great thing, as it was time to move on and take care of family matters back in upstate NY.

I started working for Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, my alma mater, my coffee “homebase”. I started with Gimme as a barista about 7.5 years ago. Then I managed the original store. I came back having no idea what my job would be, and sort of shaping it as I went along and as was needed which was actually fantastic, and terrible at the same time. I loved it. I learned more within this year at Gimme than at any other job hands down. I learned more about myself, my needs and desires and my limitations and I learned about what I loved to do the most and what I was great at. I learned a great deal about the importance of people and communication and how this trumps ANY green coffee purchase/company mantra/specialty coffee innovation. If you don’t have communication skills or respect for diplomacy and open policy and on top of that LOVE for people…you won’t make it out here. You just won’t. It’s no secret formula. You gotta b willing to trust people, and believe in them and support them, and great things will happen. Its all anyone ever wants really.
I learned a ton on green sourcing and buying, sample roasting, air roasting, drum roasting, profiling, espresso research and development, labeling, training, barista communication, customer relations, people relations…the list goes on. I came back east to take care of and be closer to my mother. She waited for me. She passed away 9 months after I moved back. She was waiting for me to come back to her, to take care of her and to take care of her things when she would eventually pass away. At this point, I knew I no longer needed to be in NY. Not upstate anyway. Ithaca was not the place I remembered it to be, and i was not the same person I was when I went to college there either. Now the place felt like a tomb, as the drives up to Rochester to clean my mothers estate became unbearable. Too many memories remain in that area of the country and to many of the same people still live in Ithaca. Just couldn’t cut it anymore. It became painful to be there. Ithaca is a place that believes is progressive, except they were progressive 20 years ago and have gotten stuck in that mentality. It became emotionally unbearable to never be anonymous in any given space. I like space from people sometimes, in fact I need it. And every time I would run into someone it was apparent I needed to be in a bigger city. Though admittedly, I would miss a few very special people there. No worries, I am sure I can sway them to move west.
Mae came to Puerto Rico for the first time, unfortunately to attend my mother’s funeral. She met my family in PR which was amazing. She got to know me at a much deeper level, and from that experience I can safely say she is the love of my life. Puerto Rico is an amazing place. And a strange place, but I have never felt so much cultural pride as I felt when I was down there. I cannot wait to go back.
I received my Q Grader certificate. Paid for out of my own pocket. Did all the work myself with a dramatic “defend your thesis” moment with Marty Curtis and Jaymin Haddox of Cafe Imports. Whew. I did it though.
Got to experience a few trips to NYC. Enough to know how much I love it, and how much I did not ever want to live there. However, made some lifetime friends there, the kind of folks I want my kids around.
Got to get closer to my sister than I have ever been since the age of ten. The passing of my mother weirdly enough brought us closer. She is a severe paranoid schizophrenic who is living in a supervised environment, needless to say she has a worrisome and seriously fucked up relationship with my mom and since her passing…there has been some serious internal turmoil for her. But we are getting through it. One step at a time, and I am getting to know my sister all over again for better or for worse. It hast been easy, but at least I can now be a positive force in her life. She’s all I have left of my blood relatives. and I am the only thing she has left in the States.
I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. The very thing that killed my mother after 19 years of dialysis. Bummer. The only thing I can do at this point is change my diet, drink lots and lots of water, low protein, low caloric numbers and avoid all animal products in my diet. Never thought I would become a vegan and it turns out it is the best thing I have done in a long long long time. Although it didn’t start as a consciously ethical move, it has become one, and I am really happy and according to my Cleveland Clinic doctor I am super healthy. score. I became a vegan (along with Mae) the day after my diagnosis. Cold Turkey yo. that’s the way I roll! I have never felt better. Cut down the salt, sugar, grains and bad fat from my diet. Lost about 15 pounds and feel really great. The only other options are dialysis (once kidneys fall below 15% function) then a transplant. I am not even close to that point, thank god.
Went to the extremely respected Cleveland Clinic to get assessed by the best in the country. Holy shit. I wish every single clinic was like the CC. Amazing Battle Star Galactica type facility. I feel lucky to have been able to go there to make sure I was taking the right steps in my life. I am, and will continue to do so forever. I’m a tough little shit and stubborn too (thanks ma), and obsessive, which is good when it comes to sticking with stuff.
Got a job with Ecco/Intelligentsia. Best move I have ever made. Mae got an amazing job in the yoga studio she managed before we moved, and was offered a percentage of the studio in Oakland. We both felt incredibly grateful and fortunate to have found great jobs in such a shitty economy. So we packed up and moved back to California, where we are supposed to be. California, the bay area has always felt like home to us and we were thrilled to move back. I did my duty as a son for my mother, and now it was time to go home. I have always had great respect for Doug and his company, and for Andrew and his coffees/palate and I was getting to work with both of them and my best buddy Drew and Keith. Amazing opportunities in the horizon that I could not look past. I was in, head first, deep end, eyes closed.
Family has become increasingly important, and wanting children is a new development. My greatest regret is not having been able to give my mother grandchildren earlier, and thus it remains our goal for the near future. We don’t want to make the same mistake twice with Mae’s folks. I take my job very very seriously, and I am a professional at heart, but family and people come first. I think it is dangerous to have your job/career consume you, because family is who motivates you, holds you up and catches you when you fall. This was a lesson I have learned the hard way, but in a beautiful poetic way too. I love my job. and I love it even more when I can be in the moment at home with my wife and pets and not worry about work, and I love that I can go to work and focus and get things done in a healthy way. Coffee is not my life, it’s my career. Theres a whole world out there, and because of my fantastic job and great support network at Ecco/Intelligentsia I can finally start to see it. I am getting older and with that comes more contemplation about real issues and goals. Intelligentsia gets that, so much. There is a future here, and fantastic possibilities and I believe them to be true and attainable. I am in this for the long haul and I have honestly NEVER felt this way about a job before. I’m excited about the possibility of my kids coming to see me at work, beside the roaster, roasting and cupping coffee. I never thought those words would escape my lips. I (not so long ago) saw myself pulling shots behind a bar at 40 with no kids and still in the Mission partying with PBRs in hand and no benefits or financial plans for the future and struggling to pay the rent for a tiny 1 bedroom apartment. It’s not how I see things any more. Cheers to getting older and wearing clean shirts!

So far it has been great to be back. Never doubted making the move back home. It has been awesome to work alongside Intelligentsia and the crew at Ecco in Santa Rosa, and I am looking forward to an amazing 2010.

so though there were some pretty deep potholes in the road this year, looks like the road smoothes out a bit up ahead.

happy new year everyone.