What Made Maher a Cafe Hound?

Maher Hound

I sort of stumbled into drinking coffee.

During sophomore year of undergraduate study, I distinctly remember needing to pull a couple of all-nighters.  As a crutch, I sampled some delicious, individually-packaged Oma chocolate covered coffee beans from Bogotá, Colombia.  This opened my mind to the fact that even eating coffee grounds  wasn’t all that bad.  Later–during summer study in Alicante, Spain–I encountered a sweet powder-keg of caffeine explosion called the bon-bon.  This sugary, condensed milk, dark espresso fused drink kept me up until 6am tossing and turning one night–probably because I sampled it following an afternoon siesta.

Perhaps, like so many others, my ‘gateway’ demand for coffee came through my need to stay awake. It did not stay that way.  During a period when I resided in Colombia, I mounted a horse and rode through a beautiful coffee plantation on the side of a mountain in Chinchiná, Colombia.  It was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life – no contest.

So many different facets of the coffee world fascinate me: Whether it be the social and moral obligation to better the lives of all global citizens through capacity building, sustainable business and passing value along the supply chain; solving of the complex operational management puzzles that arise in dealing with an industry fraught with risk, price volatility, speculation, unobserved variables, and fluctuating demand; or whether it be geeking out about how to train one’s palate to discern the most complex distinctions between tastes, mouth-feel and finish.

I have been lucky enough to meet people at every stage of this industry through my travel, study and business experiences.  Some examples are: one-on-one private cupping of Manizales’ best crops of 2008roasting high quality beans from Dipilto, Nicaragua while helping grow a domestic specialty coffee franchise; cupping down at Caffe Calabria in Northpark (San Diego, CA); connecting with the amazing Karen Cebreros of Elan Organic importers; consuming the roasts of Bird Rock Roasters, the blends of Intelligentsia, creating a second custom blend with the good guys at Novo Coffee in Colorado, or the siphon brewed coffee of Blue Bottle in San Francisco.

It seems to me that in order for a long term supply of excellent quality coffee to grow, the market must develop mechanisms to:

1) protect supply security through capacity building at the farm-level

2) help producers capture more value from their output

3) improve effectiveness of marketing aimed at promoting social and environmental fairness

It was incredibly gratifying to create a custom blend of beans in conjunction with a brilliant professor at University of California, San Diego – Krislert. Big thanks to Chuck Patton for allowing us to invade his beautiful shop in order to make that happen.

Coffee is definitely among the most broadly impactful commodities traded, sold and consumed in the world—equally for  those at the top and bottom of the pyramid. Have you had your cup today?