Coffee and Class, Handsome Wade Intro and Homage



coffee beans mug plants on the table detail Handsome Wade

If you know me in real life, you have no doubt my love for coffee, and not in your typical 20-something's obsession for caffeine. I don't need coffee to operate in the morning. You can talk to me like a human pre-coffee and sometimes I even do the things before I drink coffee. On average I only drink between 8 and 16 ounces a day. My love for coffee runs a little deeper, consumption alone isn't enough for me. I need to know more.

I thoroughly enjoy reading about the history of coffee. For Christmas, my wife bought me a beautiful book about the science behind coffee. I measure my daily coffee down to the gram and I have multiple notebooks dedicated to taste profiles and various experiments born out of pure curiosity. I'm completely fascinated by it.

From the Beginning

I had a special love for my Grandpa Wade. We lived in Colorado and he lived in Michigan with my grandma. The distance made our time together particularly sweet. During one of his visits, I couldn't have been much older than 5, Grandpa Wade took me to the nearby Carl's Jr. for his morning cup of Joe. When we sat down, he got up to fetch his sugar (He always took his coffee with two sugars, "to keep him sweet," he would say). I looked at that dark black liquid and thought to myself, "If Grandpa likes this stuff, it's gotta be great!" I snuck a sip and needless to say, I found it to be quite wretched.

From that day on, I began to flirt with the idea of coffee. I started drinking it laced with hot chocolate mix and the sugar rush inducing pre-mixed "cappuccino" powders. However, it never breached the point of becoming more than just a nostalgic smell that reminded me of him.

Sunday September 27, 2009 forever changed me. I woke early in the morning on my top college dorm bunk to the sound of my phone ringing, the tearful voice of my mom on the other line. Grandpa Wade was gone. It totally rocked my world. Over the next couple of months, I found a comfort in getting up early to have myself a cup of coffee with two sugars, to keep me sweet.

starbucks reserve small batch roasted single origin coffee film handsome wade

The Corporate Experience

From that time on, I developed a relationship quite similar to the average American. The beverage was a vehicle for caffeine, often accompanied by cream and sugar, and was totally essential to the basic operation as a human being. Motivated by my need

for additional income I applied to the local Starbucks. It only took me seven tries to finally get my interview, but once I did, I was in. I was officially a barista, which felt like a pretty awesome title to me. This new job ushered in the next phase of my journey.

I spent those first couple of weeks struggling through knowledge that now feels as natural as speaking English to me. A couple months into my time at that store, we went through a remodel that brought in Starbucks' proprietary Clover machine and access to the Starbucks Reserve coffees, a line of premium, small batch roasted, single origin coffee. Those coffees propelled me into the world of specialty coffee.

Riding the Third Wave

My obsession grew with each new shipment of Reserve coffees. I collected the info cards, studied the flavor profiles, and learned pastry pairings. The rabbit hole opened up before me and I was getting ready to see how deep it goes. I began reading articles about brewing techniques, proper extraction, roasting philosophies, and sourcing. I even started reading books on the history of the coffee industry and decided to start the process of earning my Black Apron by becoming one of Starbucks' Coffee Masters.

river rock roasting company shipping container building coffee drive thru Handsome Wade

Between my self-paced learning at home, the Starbucks Coffee Master training, and my own natural hipster tendencies, I quickly became disenfranchised with the corporate approach Starbucks took to it's coffee. Experiencing local coffee became a favorite pastime in my travels and I longed more and more to bring my newfound passion to the local scene.

Going Local

Just a month after earning my Black Apron, the owner of River Rock Roasting Co., the only local roaster in Southern Utah, approached me with a job offer as a lead barista in their new shipping container drive thru. I finally found my way out. River Rock still operated old school all-manual espresso machines, as opposed to the Starbucks all-in-one auto machines. Over the course of the year that followed, I learned to grind, dose and tamp espresso while refining my palate and dialing in ratios and brew methods from home.


coffee film camera tweed hat Handsome Wade

And that brings us to where I am now. As I begin to leave the world of public coffee service in a cafe and enter the world of full-time professional wedding photography with my wife, I want to maintain an outlet for my continued research and development as a home barista. This blog will be where I chronicle my love of all things coffee, where I'll develop my palette, perfect my method, give life to those experiments in my head, and share my love for the cafe side of coffee culture.

More than anything, I want to make coffee accessible while providing depth for those who discover the need to dig deep, as I did. So you can make that perfect cup of coffee at home and find contentment there, or you can follow along and dive in. Whatever your stage or story, I'm here to facilitate and encourage your coffee experience. I intend to update with a post on a weekly basis to start with and get all the basics up. Once I've accomplished that, I'll likely shift to an every-other-week posting schedule.

Thanks for reading, get to know me better over at the About page. You can stay up to date with by subscribing via email in the sidebar and following along on social media.

In loving memory of Grandpa Wade, who started it all with 2 sugars to keep him sweet.

Stay Handsome.

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