“It’s wild, totally unexpected in the way it comes out. It’s just a grab you over the table and put your head in the cup,” says Gunnhild Seljenes about one of her favorite coffees.
“I’ve thought this is my favorite, but then I get home, brew the other one, and that’s my favorite. But, what I’m most excited about is Edlina Estate, Finca Vista Hermosa,” says Sean Stewart.
“Usually the one in front of me that went well,” says Winston Harrison as he goes on to talk about the vegetal components of coffee.
The way these three people talk about coffee may sound like a different language to some. But, to Gunnhild, Sean and Winston this speech is a part of everyday life.
They are the roasters for Crema’s new roasterie. They start their day cupping coffees and naming off the different flavors and scents they find in the newest cup. Sometimes it’s chocolate notes or peaches. Other times it smells like a forest, or more specifically, bark.
“It’s a beverage that’s 300 times more complex than wine, so we want to show it off,” says Sean.
Because of this fact and, in their opinion, Nashville’s need to see coffee differently, they are all passionately employed in Crema’s newest project.
Serious conversation about the roasterie started about a year ago, right around the same time Rachel Lehman, owner of Crema, hired Winston. He said they talked about roasting in his interview and he expressed a desire to learn more.
As of November 2011 Crema now has a Diedrich IR12 roaster in a newly renovated space within the coffee brewtique. A table to the side of the roaster allows for group cuppings and note taking. Windows allow customers to see the roasting process, but a re-purposed door keeps them separated. Burlap bags line a wall next to the entrance.
Each of the roasterie’s employees is an experienced baristas with coffee wisdom to share.
Sean, like many other baristas, started at Starbucks. He eventually moved to Fido in Hillsboro Village. Then he left the country.
“When I was in Spain I realized coffee meant a little more to me. I really enjoy it. I wanted to do it more seriously.”
When he came back he started learning more. He took courses, got certified, and started playing with a refractometer, a device used to measure the refractive index in liquids, aiding in creating the best cup of coffee. He started Beve, a mobile coffee company, with his friend Nathanael Mehrens, and is now business partners with Crema. Sean says Beve is what made coffee stick for him. He went from barista of the masses to coffee geek.
Winston, also like many other baristas, needed a job. He had worked in coffee before, but there was more to this job than any other.
“If there’s one constant in my life it has been my obsession with coffee.”
He said he would go to sleep excited to wake up the next day and make coffee. Now it’s a part of his life and he gets to roast for Crema.
Winston jokingly says Gunnhild is an international coffee superstar. Though modest, Gunnhild shared she has won the National Barista Championship in Norway. From the win she was given opportunities to travel to producing countries and serve on the International Cup of Excellence Jury. She moved to Nashville for her husband. She says she never saw herself living here.
“It’s a lucky position to be in,” she says.
The Crema Roasterie is just getting on its feet, but they know they’re going to have some big shoes to fill.
“Nashville is coming to the same place that a lot of the big cities already are and cultivating more high end coffee places and having more chances to experience coffee at a high level. I don’t know that we are alone in making a huge impact, but we are part of some big change that’s happening in Nashville,” says Winston.
Gunnhild doesn’t want to drive to find good coffee. She wants to walk down the street.
“I would like to see better coffee in local coffee stores. Putting the expectation upon coffee stores to pay attention,” says Gunnhild.
Sean says he wants to see people thinking differently about coffee. He wants to see a move towards an understanding of why coffee is more expensive and being ok with that. He wants to see a move from selling coffee by the pound to selling it in 8 or 12 oz. He wants to see coffee thought about outside of dark roasts.
“The norm for America, let alone Nashville, is used to dark roasted coffee. We’re used to the idea of throwing in cream and sugar,” says Sean.
He wants to drink a livelier cup.
“We will be hosting a lot of community events to try to push what we talked about. We’re going to do cuppings, tastings, explaining where the coffee comes from, why we roast it, what we did, what they’re tasting, so the community knows why we’re doing it…We don’t want to be exclusive,” says Sean.
So far Crema has hosted their first cupping. They filled the table in the roasterie with three types of coffee, Finca Vista Hermosa, a Guatemalan coffee, Mbeya Mshikamano, a Tanzanian coffee and San Pedro, La Laguna, another Guatemalan coffee.
There were spit cups and spoons. The room was filled with slurps of different registers. Some people kept their teeth together. Others used their tongue more. It was a unique site to see grown men and women spitting into cups and talking about what it tasted like. But, that’s how coffee is changed and moved forward, through tasting and seeing, through identifying those chocolate flavors, the nuts, apples and herbal scents and honing those.