Dear Pilots, Let’s Talk About Coffee

Today is National Aviation Day, established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright's birthday to promote interest in aviation. We turned to our Co-founder and pilot, Ben, to see what he had to say.


For more than a few years now I’ve been bewildered why my fellow aviators don’t share my passion for coffee. We are obsessed with every detail of flying, yet upon reaching our destination we settle for a gnarly cup of airport coffee. WHAT? You know the kind, bitter at best and brewed on equipment last cleaned...well, never.

Wait! Don’t label me a coffee snob just yet. Coffee and aviation share an interesting similarity: they are most often viewed as a commodity. Passengers rarely (if ever?) stop to acknowledge a pilot’s skill, a flight is simply a transaction to get the traveler from point A to B. There is no deeper appreciation. Coffee is just a commodity too, the cheaper the better. Just give me some caffeine to quell my need.

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How might our worlds change, if for a moment we stopped to consider the finer points of coffee like we do the finer points of flying (shameless plug for a great podcast!)? I don’t mean just coffee, I mean exceptional coffee. Coffee that has been relationally sourced with good and ethical intention, cared for at every step of the journey and then thoughtfully roasted and prepared? Stay with me for a just a few minutes longer, it could change your mornings forever...

Airventure is fresh on my mind - again I found myself surrounded by young and old aviators alike with whom I share a deep love and appreciation. And yet every morning in Camp Scholler I felt so alone with my cup of coffee in hand.

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AM I ALONE? DO ALL PILOTS CARE NOTHING FOR WHAT THEY EAT AND DRINK? CARE NOT TO EXAMINE AND LOVE OTHER PARTS OF LIFE?

These are the feelings and emotions that have been steeping in my conscience. Then, today, I had a new realization that changed everything for me.

MAYBE SPECIALTY COFFEE, LIKE AVIATION, HAS STRUGGLED AND FAILED TO CREATIVELY INTRODUCE OURSELVES TO “THE OUTSIDERS”.

The growing pilot shortage is no secret...we’ve failed. We’re a group of aviation geeks who love “our thing”. But our thing, like Speciality Coffee, has so many barriers: cost, attitudes, privilege, misinformation, complicated rules and both share the dude’s club affliction (only 7% of pilots are female).

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My epiphany made me realize it has to begin with me. No bureaucracy or industry organization can fully solve this. It begins with me and you.

So today, National Aviation Day 2018, I’m beginning with a fresh perspective. I’d love to introduce you to Specialty Coffee. The easiest way of course is to share a great cup of coffee, that is when revelations happen. But since we can't do that in a journal post consider the following a simple, warm and open ended welcome to Specialty Coffee. We’re going to walk through this the same way we would as if we were face to face, sharing a cup now...

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A Pilot’s Operating Handbook to Specialty Coffee

COFFEE IS A FRUIT
First, you should know that coffee is a fruit. It’s the seed of a cherry. It’s not bitter, it’s what man does to it that makes it less fruit-like. When you drink it you should taste fruit, it should have sweetness, acidity and plethora of fruit like tastes. Just thinking about it makes me want to go to bed early so I can wake up and get brewing!

COFFEE FALLS INTO TWO CATEGORIES
Coffees fall into two categories, commodity grade and specialty grade. Generally, commodity coffees are cheaper, have lower tasting scores and are grown in huge quantities. Yes, coffees are scored, judged on taste and defects (among other things) by licensed Q Graders. Commodity coffees are what you might drink at your favorite chain coffee shop, gas station, restaurant or what is typically bought at a grocer.

SPECIALTY COFFEE, SAY WHAT?
This might all sound very mumbo-jumbly at this point. Let me break it down. Specialty coffee will have more taste nuance, more flavor and will most often be relationally sourced (aka direct) from the farmer. You guessed it, less defects, better farmer relationships, small batch roasting leads to a sweeter, nuanced taste in the cup. As defined by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) it is coffee that “is free of primary defects, is properly sized and dried, presents in the cup free of faults and taints and has distinctive attributes”. You can dive deeper here.

TRY SOME AND COMPARE
So what’s next? Try a cup and judge for yourself. A Google search for “specialty coffee shops near me” will likely turn up at least a few to try out. Instagram and Yelp can also be helpful. I’d love to help! Email me at hello@crema-coffee.com and I’ll be happy to recommend a roaster in your area, maybe if you’re close I’ll fly to you to grab a cup together.

BREW IT
There are many amazing Specialty Coffee roasters spread across the USA. Find one again with a Google search, my personal recommendation would be George Howell or of course our coffee (free shipping on orders over $29!). We have a collection of brewing recommendations and guides here and, if you’re in the area, an ongoing series of coffee classes.

KEEP EXPLORING
Try as many coffees as you can! I think what draws many of us to flying is the adventure, you'll find a similar thrill with coffee. There are endless origins and varieties to try. You might find something you love today but tomorrow be completely turned upside down by another coffee or roaster you didn't know was out there. Get out there, keep seeing new places and trying new coffees. 

I'd be thrilled to help get you, send me a note at hello@crema-coffee.com with any questions.

LAST, ONE GOOD REASON
One last thing I feel passionate about mentioning. When you drink specialty coffee the producers are being paid a better wage. When you drink coffee that has been ethically and sustainably sourced you are helping others better themselves.

In closing, I’m certain many of you are future Specialty Coffee drinkers, but if you aren’t that’s ok too. I hope you feel welcome and at least a little bit more informed about coffee.

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How do I get started flying?

Are you interested in learning to fly? On behalf of pilots we would love to extend to you a meaningful and warm welcome to aviation. We would love to introduce you to the joys of flying, we'll do all we can to break down the barriers and help you get started. As a start today here’s a few of my favorite aviation vlogs, personalities and social media mavens:

  • Flight Chops - Steve is a humble, kind guy with huge sideburns, or are they chops? You decide while you join him on his wild journey to becoming a better pilot.
  • Trent Palmer - I cannot stop watching his adventures, his flying represents the very feeling of freedom that only aviation brings.
  • The Finer Points - Jason’s podcast might be the most insightful aviation podcast out there.
  • Tucker Gott - He’s flown to 15,000ft in a paramotor, what else do you need to know?
  • Angle of Attack - Chris runs his own flight school in Alaska, every video and photo is full of beauty and smart teaching.
  • Steveo1kinevo - Ride along as Steve flies amazing routes in the Bahamas and beyond.
  • MzeroA - Jason’s videos have been an invaluable resource to me in my learning.
  • Cyndy Hollman - If you have a specific technical question about aviating, no one can describe it better than Cyndy, no one.
  • Backcountry182 - This one’s just for fun, fly along as he lands and takes off in places planes don’t typically go.
  • AviatrixLife - Only 7% of pilots are female, go show your support on Instagram and teach your daughters that flying isn’t just for the boys, we need them!

Instagram:

  • @mattguthmiller
  • @the_candourist
  • @deonmitton
  • @that55upilot
  • @reisspuddin
  • @peterpilotmaf
  • @cessnateur
  • @missbarilov
  • @ryan.campbell13
  • @mamainiero
  • @vfr2imc

I think my friend and CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor) Chris, said it rightly: anyone can be a pilot. No, really, you can do it. If legless WWII fighter pilot Douglas Bader and armless Jessica Cox can fly, you got this.

To those seeking a starting point in aviation, I’m hopeful the links will help you get jump started. Please know that you are always welcome, find a pilot and ask them to take you flying - we’ll be happy to!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi! I’m Ben, CREMA Co-founder. I love coffee and I love flying. Am I the only one? You can follow my journey on Instagram here. I am a private pilot with an instrument rating and tailwheel endorsement and I am working on my commercial license. I hope to teach flying someday and own a plane with big tires for big adventures.

 

All photos by 30MilesWest.