Written by Arthur Treff | Photos by Anthony Harden
Relax…and imagine tomorrow’s first cup of coffee. You can smell it brewing, is it ready yet? The cup warms your palms and the aroma delights your nose as you take that first sip. This moment is a ceremony; a cozy slice of time nestled between waking and the first task of the day. Since the 15th century, mankind has jump-started the day with coffee.
What does your coffee ritual look like? Perhaps clad in PJ’s, you grind the beans, meter the water, and snap on the machine—or does someone serve you in bed? Maybe you enjoy the ceremony in business attire at a favorite bistro or in your car from a to-go cup.
If you’ve purchased your brew from an establishment whose primary focus is coffee, there’s a good chance the person behind the counter understands the ritual and takes your coffee experience very seriously. These individuals who preside over our coffee ceremony and prepare the drinks are called ‘Baristas.’
Much like a wine sommelier, your barista should be able to tell you the origin of the beans, how they’re roasted, and, most importantly, prepare your coffee beverage exactly the way you like it.
Millions of baristas credit coffee with getting them through college; caffeine-powered study sessions propelled them through finals, and coffee shop salaries paid many a tuition bill. So it was for Dynamite Roasting Co. co-owner, Andy Gibbon.
Andy attended college in Ohio and realized he needed a break, so he took a semester off and traveled west, working as a barista when he needed more cash. He returned to school and realized that college study wasn’t going to get him where he needed to be. Andy quit school and his local barista job and hit the road again.
He ended up behind a coffee bar in New Zealand, then traveled up to Maine where he played barista and bluegrass music for a while. He hiked the length of the Appalachian Trail. He didn’t find any coffee employment on the trail, but he did find the woman who was to become his wife.
Together they moved to Bozeman, Montana where Andy worked as…(wait for it)…a barista. Some of the coffee houses he’d work for roasted their own beans, so part of Andy’s job was to assist in the roasting process, which opened a new area of knowledge for the inquisitive man.
When he wasn’t working with coffee, hiking, or playing music, Andy was brewing his own beer. A self-professed geek for the details drove him to try his hand at reproducing the taste of beers he loved. We’ve seen home hobbies pursued with fervor develop into full blown business ventures many times, here at Capital at Play.
Andy’s home brewing experience led him to the beer industry. He walked into Catawba Valley Brewing and volunteered to work for free. Shortly thereafter, he was a full time employee entrenched in beer making. A couple years later, he migrated over to Highland Brewing, but this wasn’t the spark to light the entrepreneurial fuse.
While shuffling through a catalog, Andy found a home coffee-roasting machine. He had to have one. He yearned to refine his roasting knowledge, learning the intricacies of how time, temperature, and airflow could be varied to change flavors.
He had his own ‘cuppings’: sessions where the roaster taste tests his creations by slurping lukewarm coffee off a spoon and spitting it out. Eventually his roasting repertoire grew to include some tasty signature blends.
While Andy was traveling and gaining coffee knowledge, a Western North Carolina native, Josh Gibbs, was working at his own digital media production company, JMG Productions. Josh created videos, advertising campaigns, and wedding DVDs. He was happy.
One day, Josh was contacted to do some small video spots for a political campaign, and welcomed the opportunity. His company would be part of the democratic process, helping a struggling candidate, and it was aligned with Josh’s core value of community involvement. He signed a production contract.
The realities of United States politics soured his zeal when the candidates’ lawyers pressured Josh into developing negative smear-spots about the opposing side. He couldn’t believe it. As soon as Josh had honored his part of the contract, he closed the doors on JMG after four years in business. He hit the road to play music full time and forget the bad experience.
His timing was fortuitous. Josh and Andy met through music, and ended up playing in the same band. In Josh, Andy found a fellow coffee aficionado. During music tours, the pair would scour towns they played to find the best cup of coffee or espresso. When in Asheville, Josh sampled some of Andy’s home roasted coffee blends. The taste was explosive; he was amazed that fresh coffee could taste so good.
(article continues on page 2 and more photographs are at the end)