A PDX Coffee Adventure-Part 3

Part 1  Part 2

After our talk with Matt, Sam and I decided to walk up to Coava Coffee, just a few blocks away. I had been planning to stop by and talk to them about their new Kone filter that was just released for sale. Coava has been very effective at creating a buzz (pun intended) in the social media sphere. They are very active on Twitter, and the Kone was recently reviewed favorably by The New York Times and Gizmodo. I was hoping to talk to them about their marketing strategies and to try some Kone-poured coffee.

The rain was falling steadily and a hostile cold wind was blowing as we walked to Coava. We were relieved to get inside the café and out of the weather. I was glad to be back in one of the first PDX coffee shops I stumbled across in my exploration of the area’s coffee scene.

We walked up to the counter and started talking with Matt, one of the co-owners, about the Kone filters. Keith, the other owner, was busy boxing up Kones for shipment while Matt was taking care of the bar. They’ve been very busy lately with getting their products ready to ship.

Kones in waiting

We ordered two different Kone pour-overs—one was Kenya Kieni and the other Costa Rica Helsar. Under the lights, the pour-over method is kind of like ballet—smooth and graceful, with the water being delicately and accurately poured.

The double pour

While we were waiting for the coffee, Keith brought out Coava’s newest product, a small disk filter designed to be used with the AeroPress. He asked us not to talk about it for another day, because they hadn’t even released it to the public yet. Soon afterwards, a professional photographer came in to take pictures of the disk filter and we got to sit there and watch him as he worked with the light and the camera angles to get just the right shot. Sam, himself an accomplished photographer, pulled out a high-tech light meter and estimated the ideal shutter speed for the occasion (1.3 seconds—it was pretty dark in the café). We should have asked the photographer what he speed was using.

The two coffees were different, though both had a soft acidity that was bright but not biting. When the Kenya was cold, the berry flavors in the coffee really stood out. At the bottom of the cups there was a bit of sediment that made it through the Kone—not something that bothered us, but if you are someone who likes the absolute cleanest brew, you would probably be happier with a Chemex brewer than with the Kone.

While we were sitting at the table finishing up our coffee, a man walked by and noticed Sam’s camera sitting on the table. He stopped to ask about the camera, pointing out that he had a similar one. Photographers really get excited when they talk about their gear, and the two of them started talking about various camera models and techniques. As someone who is not much of a photographer, I was lost in the conversation until the man introduced himself as Keith (Shradar), the designer/builder for Bamboo Revolution, which owns the space where Coava’s café is.

We started talking about the furniture and design inside the café and we also talked about bamboo. Keith is (by far) the person most passionate about bamboo that I have ever met. He told us about its benefits (grows fast, releases lots of oxygen, stores a significant amount of carbon, makes great furniture, etc.). He also talked about how Bamboo Revolution started a bamboo grove in Albany, Oregon, by driving to Louisiana to dig some bamboo shoots up and bring them back. Here's the video, in case you're interested.

After talking with him for a while, you realize that Keith is going to change the world. Many, many more people are going to understand the benefits of using bamboo as a source for building  because of him. Keith is one of those people whose passion is genuine and contagious. It will be interesting to follow the company over the next few years to see where it goes. If I could, I would invest in the company.

Right before we left, we chatted with the woman who had been diligently studying across the table from us. She told us she was studying to take her medical board exams and that she has been working on her medical degree for twelve years without a break. Wow. I salute her singularity of purpose. It is rare to find people with such a long-term and noble goal, and rarer still to find someone with the discipline to pursue it.

One of the interesting things about the conversation with her was that she too was interested in photography. She asked Sam what he thought about a type of camera she was thinking of buying. I was once again left behind by the camera talk, but the psychology of the conversation fascinated me. Earlier, on the bus toward downtown, I had been reading Joseph Sugarman’s book on how to write great ad copy (confession—when I posted my rant about excessive consumerism, or as my father called it, the “there goes your Christmas” post, the very next thing I did was pick Sugarman’s book up at the library and start reading it. . .Yes, I’m conflicted). Sugarman, one of the great marketing geniuses of the last forty years, wrote about psychological triggers of how we buy things.

He said that consumers start by establishing an emotional connection with a product (ooh, that’s a sexy car!). The emotion gets us interested,  and then we have to find some logical way to justify the purchase (features, price, recommendations, etc.). One of our fears as consumers is making a bad purchase (have you ever bought something and felt dumb later? I have), so we seek out authorities to help us justify what we’re going to buy. This is exactly what the soon-to-be doctor was doing in front of my eyes. She recognized from Sam’s conversation with Keith that he was knowledgeable and was asking for help to justify the camera purchase she was thinking of making. It was kind of eerie to watch Sugarman’s writings be validated so soon after I had read them. I knew I wasn’t wasting my time by reading books about copywriting.

After spending about two hours at Coava, Sam bought a Kone to take back to Australia. We nearly froze in the driving rain as we walked back to downtown, discussing coffee, culture and politics of both the US and Australia. Our meeting was fortuitous and had turned into a fun coffee adventure for the both of us. The lesson from the story? Stay flexible and keep your eyes open when you’re out and about. You never know where your adventures and interactions might take you. Of course, hitting a PDX coffee trifecta in one afternoon is a pretty good idea too.