If the specialty coffee business ever were to build a hall of fame, pride of place would likely go to Alfred Peet, who brought European-inspired roasting to Berkeley, California nearly 40 years ago. And in that same hall, at Peet’s right-hand, there surely would be a spot reserved for Jim Reynolds… a coffee buyer, roaster and taster steeped in Peet’s tradition, and today the very embodiment of the Peet’s brand.
Jessica Guynn of The Contra Costa Times offers a delightful profile of Reynolds – The Bean Stops with Him – at once thoughtful, and romantic, and – best as I can tell – spot on.
With near religious concentration ridging his frothy brow, Jim Reynolds pours 6 ounces of hot water over 10 grams of freshly roasted grounds in the two dozen glass cups lining an 18-foot table in the Peet’s Coffee & Tea headquarters.
He waits a few minutes, then uses a soup spoon to pierce the thick brown crust that has formed on the surface of the coffee and takes a whiff.
After stirring, Reynolds lets the coffee steep for another few minutes before skimming the excess grounds. Again, he waits, letting the coffee cool to a few degrees above room temperature.
Then, with a monastic deftness that comes only with decades of practice, he lifts the spoon and slurps with the force of a vacuum cleaner, swirling a small amount of coffee before spitting it into a spittoon, not once spilling a drop on his Mark Twain mustache.
Reynolds appraises the appearance (a quarter pound of each type of bean sits in plastic blue trays on the cupping table), aroma (maybe flowers or chocolate), flavor (sometimes blackberry or cloves), body (how the coffee feels on the tongue) and acidity (“a liveliness detected on the back and sides of tongue”). And then moves onto the next cup.
“Cupping is the single most important thing a coffee buyer does,” Reynolds said. “You have to be able to decide with only a few sips whether to buy many thousands of dollars worth of coffee. We’re going to be cupping that coffee hundreds of times from the initial green sample to the final roast, so I’d better like it.”
It’s a longish sort of excerpt, but then it’s a longish sort of article… and this is just a hint of the good stuff therein.