Ever Wondered What It’s Like To Be a...

Coffee Roaster?

/ by Noah Charney

Katja and Omar Escobar are the founders of ESCOBAR Specialty Coffee Roasters, based in Vrhnika, Slovenia.


 

Our journey began on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. We were both working on cruise ships. It was not love at first sight, but now, when we look back more clearly, we realize it was much more than that. Fate causes certain things to just happen in our lives, without any apparent reason. Another lucky spark was also the start of our coffee business!

Coming from Honduras, Omar’s coffee palate is very demanding and he was not keen on the commercial coffees available in Slovenian shops. At home, they grow coffee trees instead of apple and pear trees. He was used to harvesting red coffee cherries with his grandmother, home-roasting them and preparing a wonderful cup of coffee, rich with the flavours and aromas of cranberries, caramel and almonds.

When Omar moved to Slovenia, he tried to find fresh green coffee beans and met a supplier with whom we established a strong and stable relationship. We work directly with the coffee farmers, which enables us to get access to smaller farms. We have already visited many of these specialist smaller producers. Omar is our head buyer and roaster. Quite simply, the skills are in his genes, but even he is still learning about coffee, and curious to find out more.

In the beginning, we didn’t have any professional equipment, and Omar was hand-roasting beans on a wood-burning stove. Interest quickly grew in our coffee, among neighbours, family and friends, until we made a very exciting decision… Omar’s hobby became our every day job! We invested in professional equipment and followed the path where we are walking now.

We love to explore the world of coffee. Every time when we find an interesting micro-lot, we get goose bumps. We source the best coffees in the world and strive to maintain transparent, quality-based relationships with small farmers along the way. Single origins are the most important part of our offer, because we want to show to Slovenian coffee drinkers the diversity of coffee world.

As the first micro roaster, we are changing coffee culture in Slovenia. People started to realize that there are not only coffee blends that they can enjoy in their cup, but many single origins, and that there is not only espresso and Turkish coffee, but many other methods of preparations, as well.

At our roastery, we take the roasting very seriously, as one of the most important parts of the whole coffee chain, from the bean to the cup. The mission of Omar, our head roaster, is to bring out the best and fullest potential of what’s inherent in each particular coffee already. Roast to draw out things like acidity, floral notes, chocolate, molasses, and earthiness, and roast just enough to find the perfect balance between acidity and bitterness, to add the right amount of body and sweetness, without degradation.

There is one more story related to our work and to the cultural heritage of our town. The first “Cup of Coffee” was actually written in Vrhnika, more than century ago. “A Cup of Coffee” is an autobiographical story written by Ivan Cankar. He was a Slovene writer, playwright, essayist, poet and political activist, born in Vrhnika. He is regarded as the greatest writer in the Slovene language, and has sometimes been compared to Franz Kafka and James Joyce. He was raised by his mother, with whom he established a close but ambivalent relationship. The figure of a self-sacrificing mother would later become one of the most recognizable features of Cankar's prose. She is the main character in the story, “A Cup of Coffee.”

With our family Coffee Roasting Company business, we are writing a new story about “A Cup of Coffee” in Vrhnika, a century later, with a vision that’s always been a little left-of-center, and with the focus squarely on quality.

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Tips on Making Turkish Coffee, From the Experts at Escobar

Make your coffee in a Turkish Coffee Pot, which is the traditional way of preparing coffee in Slovenian households.

1. Measure the amount of cold water you will need. Place your pot of water on the stove and warm up the water (do not boil it).

2. Add about 1-2 teaspoons of coffee per cup. Add sugar to taste. Do not stir it yet.

3. When the coffee starts to sink into the water and the water is warm enough to dissolve your sugar, stir it several times until the brew starts to foam.

4. When you see the bubble "ring" forming on the surface, turn down the heat a bit or move your pot away from the heat source. From this point on, watch your coffee carefully. Do not let the temperature get hot enough to start boiling. The key idea here is to let the coffee build a thick froth and that occurs approximately around 70 ⁰C.

5. You might even gently stir your brew a little bit at this stage, and put it back to a heat source for a while, to lift up the froth once more.

Turkish coffee is always served with a glass of water. You drink water first, to cleanse your pallet. Wait about half a minute or so, to let the grinds settle to the bottom of your cup. A steeping cup of coffee will not last forever, but every sip is meant to enjoyed!

Learn more about Escobar coffee at http://www.escobar.si/.

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Noah Charney

is a professor of art history and best-selling author of, most recently, The Art of Forgery. You can learn more about his work at www.noahcharney.com or by joining him on Facebook.


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