– Can you please introduce yourself in a few words.
I’m a journalist and author. I write regularly for the New York Times and Vogue, and I’m the co-author of the Hartwood cookbook coming out this month.
– How and when did you get to specialize as a coffee journalist?
I started to write about coffee as a part of the work I do for the Food section of the New York Times. It became clear that the articles resonated, and that there was a hunger among the readership for measured pieces that were informative, and that treated roasters and buyers and baristas as experts. That was unusual at the time. Back then, many articles poked fun at the obsessiveness of coffee professionals, which I always thought was misguided. If you write about a chef, you treat that chef as an authority and not as a punchline. That same standard should apply to coffee.
– What makes you special/different?
I’m not. Although if I’m to be candid, I’m one of the best central defenders in coffee journalism.
– What was your first coffee experience?
I went to a boarding school at age 15, and the dining hall, which was called Commons, had terrible brewed coffee all day. There were cups and saucers although they were plastic and a sickly beige color – I think the tableware was intentionally unattractive so that nobody would steal them – and you could sit in the empty dining hall after breakfast and nurse a coffee and pretend you were a grown-up and knew what you were doing. Eventually, my roommate and I bought a used Braun coffee maker at the church charity shop in town and started buying hazelnut-flavored coffees at the one gourmet store. We were the envy of the dorm.
I first started paying attention to coffee in college in the early 1990s. I went to the University of California, Berkeley, which had a fairly sophisticated coffee culture for the time. I first fell in love with coffee when in 1994, when I lived in Venice and worked at the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim. Every day, I went to Bar da Gino behind the Academia for a classic Italian cappuccino – it’s still there, and still run by the same family.
– What was your best coffee experience?
The coffees at Tim Wendeboe in Oslo.
– Do you prepare coffee at home ? If yes, what method do you use?
Right now I’m using an AeroPress. I tend to go back and forth between my AeroPress and my Kalita “Wave.” Sometimes I’ll use a Chemex, or the Wilfa “Svart,” the plug-in coffee brewer.
– How do you like your coffee? Black, sugar and milk, iced, vietnamese style,…?
I drink black coffee at home, an espresso if I’m out. Sometimes I’ll take a long morning and get a cappuccino for me, a babycino for my three-year-old son. He expects to be served in a ceramic cup and a saucer with a spoon, and if any of that is missing – or if we’re handed a paper cup – he will let his disappointment be known. When a coffee shop or coffee bar has an unusual drink on the menu I’ll order it to see what it’s like. Last week I had the espresso fizz at Maialino and it was delicious, iced espresso over tonic water with orange bitters and an orange twist. When I’m at G&B or GGET in Los Angeles I’ll get the Full Nelson, which is one of everything.
– How would you qualify yourself as coffee drinker (occasional, heavy, addict…)?
Habitual. I have two cups of coffee at home every morning, then maybe an espresso either in the late morning or after lunch. Never in the afternoon or after dinner.
– Do you have another passion or a hobby besides coffee?
I cook, read and stay up on the arts, which are all passions but which also bleed into work. I’m not sure if I’m clever, and made my passions my profession, or dull, and take my work home. I make pilgrimages to buildings I think I might love. Once, in Copenhagen, I biked to Grundtvigs Kirke with Jeff Verellen and Nicolas Clerc, then we rode to the Skovshoved Petrol Station, a jewel of a building by Arne Jacobsen. One was so stark and empty and refined that the light that filled the nave and aisles had a presence that was almost tactile; the other so stylized and confident that it pops out of the landscape even though it’s small and out of date.
– What other place would you recommend, anywhere in the world?
Big Sur at dusk on a clear, moonless night when you can see the dome of stars disappear into the horizon.
– What would you say to people who don’t know much about coffee?
Go to one of the nerdy, geeky coffee shops that everybody talks about and give yourself over to the experience. Just go with it. If you don’t like it then you just threw away $5 or $10, but it could be that it you enjoy the experience, or some of the experience, and you might learn something that could add some pleasure to your morning routine.