One foot on the brake and one on the gas
I’ve logged hundreds of miles in recent weeks in pursuit of good drink, so I couldn’t help channeling Sammy Hagar last week. I was sitting with the husband, sipping a lunchtime beer and describing a morning spent with one of my favorite coffee roasters when he started in on the song.
Maybe I was suffering a bit of caffeine-alcohol whiplash, but I don’t regret it. Especially after catching up with Habte Mesfin of Revocup, in Overland Park. My friend Kathy Denis of the Restaurant Guide of Kansas City put me onto him years ago, and it led to a Kansas City Star article about local do-good coffee roasters. He’s still at it, and the Revocup Coffee Foundation is now working to buy 200,000 books for 41 libraries in Ethiopia.
Why Ethiopia? Because that’s where Mesfin’s from. His earliest memory is the aroma of coffee, and his first childhood chore was rounding up friends and neighbors for the coffee ceremony at his home. Mesfin went on to organize a farmers’ cooperative in Gonder, Ethiopia, in the late 1970s—an experience that changed him forever.
“I came to realize how difficult and dehumanizing it can be to make your living as a farmer. This new reality forever altered my view,” he writes in Majka Burhart’s vividly illustrated Coffee Story: Ethiopia.
Mesfin emigrated to the US in 1987, eventually finding his way to a strip mall at 110th and Quivera, where he opened Revocup. He roasts three or four mornings a week, specializing in single origin coffees labeled by type and farmer origin.
On this particular visit, we chatted a moment, then he offered to make me a siphon coffee. A what?? Siphon coffee was apparently popular in the pre-percolator 20s and 30s; it faded away in the face of new technology, only to resurface around the turn of the new century.
Mesfin’s set-up looks like a chem lab experiment, complete with glass vessels and a tiny open-flame burner that means he can’t offer it on his menu. Water went into the bottom carafe, finely ground Ethiopian Sudamo Dara Kebado coffee into the top vessel. Mesfin lit the flame, the water heated, the steam rose…and then the coffee bloomed, swelling as the vapor re-c0ndensed around the grounds. Mesfin stirred with a wooden spoon, bringing coffee and water together for about a minute. He turned the flame off, and coffee siphoned back into the bottom carafe.
The results were clean and soft, yet bursting with honeyed sweetness and hints of berries and chocolate. We sipped and talked, mostly about the foundation, which is partly funded by a 10-cent-per-cup donation from Revocup, and about a patent-pending cold-press (but non-toddy) coffee he’s bottling.
Then it was off for a belated lunch with the husband at Blanc Burgers + Bottles on the Plaza, where I hoped to find the remains of a firkin. Don’t know what that is? I’ll tell you in my next post.