Thinking about a job I loved

Mini Dove Squares get philosophical.

I am taking a moment. I’ve recently expressed on here that I am looking for new work-either total replacement or additional work.

So, I made some coffee.

I found some Sumatra at Sprouts Farmer’s Market in Oviedo.

I recently went to Sprouts in Oviedo to get a vibe about the store and check out their coffee selection. As I expected, I found some whole bean Sumatra. I love coffee but, my coffee true love is Indonesian. Earthy and heavy (full bodied), syrupy with low acidity, Indonesian beans are great black or with half and half.

Today, looking at my little bag of whole Sumatra beans made me happy and sad. I miss my coffee business job but, I was happy to find some Sumatra I didn’t have to order online.

It made me sad because I miss the culture. This is probably one of the things I miss most about living in Portland, Oregon. From 1993 to 1997 I served Portland’s coffee junkies at Coffee People. You really haven’t seen true coffee lovers until you’ve been in a coffeehouse in the Pacific Northwest. Our lines to order coffee drinks at Coffee People were mind bogglingly long. Sometimes twenty-people deep or longer. And, this was a regular day, not on the weekends or during the holidays.

I loved the chaotic insanity of it all.

Sometimes it was even orderly chaos.

It also made me sad because this is just the kind of retail job I could do and love while I struggle to finish my first novel, which is set in Portland, and work some freelance gigs. Finding a job like this is next to impossible in Florida. We don’t have the climate for it. By, “climate,” I mean both the weather kind and the human interest kind. People here do not rhapsodize over coffee the way they do in Portland or Seattle. I can’t have a 15 minute conversation over the pros and cons of Ethiopian Yrgacheffe or what a peaberry bean is.

I’ve had this since Fall 1993. I saved it for some story and character development in my novel. Plus, it’s a great coffee reference.

I’m sure I could find a mom and pop shop but, it would probably be far away in downtown Sanford (not really a fan) or DeLand, which is a small college town in Volusia County that is home to Stetson University, and has a cute, very small main shopping drag. I could probably find such a place in Tampa or Miami but, the buzz would not be as intense and, again, they are far away. Coffee in the Pacific Northwest has reached critical mass. Not so much in Florida.

After our bean person left CP, I was put in charge of ordering beans for our store, which was on NW 23rd and Hoyt. Starbucks was on the opposite corner. Our lines were always longer. Portlanders are very loyal to local businesses. Plus, omg, our coffee was astronomically better.

My shifts at Coffee People typically included arising from slumber at 4-4:30 am. and arriving at the store by 5:30. We opened at 6 am.

For a good portion of my employment with this company, my husband and I lived in a 90-year old apartment building on the corner of NW 21st and Glisan. There is still some academic debate over the correct pronunciation of this street name. Portland historians say it’s pronounced, GLISS-an. Portlanders, by far, say, GLEE-sun. Since it’s strange, I prefer the latter pronunciation.

After almost murdering the alarm clock, I would get up and feed our cats, make coffee and eat, get dressed in jeans and a Coffee People t-shirt and hiking boots or Doc Martens and then stroll to work.

I loved living close enough to my job so I could walk there. My favorite strolls were done in the chill or light drizzle, which was sometimes more like a fog. And, always, the urban raccoons were doing their garbage can rummaging. They were humorous critters.

After unlocking the door and silencing the alarm I went about setting up for business. I put out three tills for the cash registers, rinsed the group heads in the espresso machines, pulled and timed shots (it should take about 22 seconds for an espresso shot to brew), inspected their crema (orange tinged foam that sits on top of the espresso shot) and helped the two other opening employees set up the pastry case and brew the first pots of regular and decaf coffees. We baked cookies and made whipped cream with the whippets (nitrous oxide canisters that look like bullets) that were kept in the safe. I always thought that was amusing that there was a need to do that. People will get stoned on anything.

At 6 am there was usually an initial group of five to ten customers in for their morning routine.

Customers trickled and then rushed in and other employees came in to join us. I think on a typical, non-weekend day shift we had a crew of at least six.

It really was a fun job. I learned so much and met many colorful or interesting people, including Senator Ron Wyden (D) and Governor John Kitzhaber (D), quite a few local news anchors and Moultrie Patten, who played Walt on the CBS show, “Northern Exposure.”

I want to find something here that is at least half as satisfying as my job at Coffee People.

My invitation to attend coffee class. Got buzzed that day, for sure.

Coffee People is no more but, owners and founders, Jim and Patty Roberts have reincarnated their shops as, Jim and Patty’s coffee. If you ever visit Portland, Oregon you should give them a try. I haven’t been there myself but, I’m sure the coffee will be amazing.

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