Triangulation and Children

Triangulation Competition
Foxy Coffee Co.
9 May 2017

Following local coffee shops on Instagram provides particular benefits, including finding out about low-key triangulation competitions going on. When I saw that Foxy Coffee Co. was putting on a triangulation at their shop on SE Belmont on a Tuesday evening that I was available, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. I had never participated in a triangulation before, but I had heard about them, and I thought it would be a lot of fun.

For those who have not heard of a triangulation before, a bit of explanation is warranted. Triangulation is a way to taste different coffees. As the name implies, it involves sets of three coffees. Of the three coffees, two are the same and one is different. The goal in a triangulation is to taste the three coffees and pick the odd one out. Depending on one’s level of experience, and the coffees used, this can be extremely difficult. It could be as different as a lightly roasted, fruity coffee from Ethiopia and a dark roast from Starbucks, or as similar as two similarly roasted and processed coffees from different farms in the same country. This triangulation was somewhere in between, although I never did ask about the particular coffees used, so I can’t say with certainty. It consisted of six sets of three coffees and about ten people participated. I had no idea what to expect as far as difficulty. I had never tested my palate in that way. While I do try to be mindful of what I’m tasting when drinking coffee in everyday life, I couldn’t say how good a job I would do at it.

I went to the triangulation with Remington, Everly, and Jude. I love going to coffee events with my children. There is definitely more involved in taking them to events: my attention is somewhat diverted from whatever is going on, as they do need to be conversed with and cared for. On the other hand, the opportunity to share with them things that I love is priceless, and they do enjoy their time more often than not. To me, bringing my children in to the things I am passionate about is valuable for a number of reasons. A big one is that it shows them a side of me beyond simply “mom” and gives them an example of what pursuing their own interests can look like. I don’t want my life to revolve around my children any more than I want my life to revolve around my marriage or work. Instead, I want to intentionally integrate my children into my everyday life, along with marriage and work, creating an integrated whole of my life, rather than fragmented modes of “mom,” “wife,” “work,” “self-care,” “spirituality,” and so on.

I am a human being, I am a woman, I am a mom and a wife and a Christian and a writer and a homemaker and a barista, and I don’t have time to partition my life out into a hundred different boxes. I clean the house with my children, I pray and recite scripture while I’m cooking dinner, I take care of myself by pulling shots and pouring lattes, I hang out with my husband at coffee shops and triangulations. Sure, there are times when I focus on one aspect of myself in particular, but I don’t try to “balance” the various aspects of my life. I find ways to bring all of myself, or as much of myself as possible, into every situation.

So, I bring my children to triangulations to show them what it looks like to pursue one’s interests while living an integrated life. Yes, there were a couple times that Remington or I had to take Everly outside for a few minutes to help her calm down, and I probably should have brought more snacks for her. Yes, it was a little challenging to juggle children, especially while concentrating and tasting coffees. Yes, we had to leave directly after the event instead of hanging out afterwards. And yes, little Jude had a few moments of frustration that he couldn’t crawl everywhere and chew on everything. Nevertheless, I would do it again happily. I got to have a blast participating in a triangulation with Remington, Everly was exposed to people that she wouldn’t have met otherwise and saw her parents having fun doing something they enjoyed, Jude really just wants to be with his mom all the time, so he appreciated not having a babysitter. And honestly, it’s important to me to expose other people to the idea that life isn’t over after having children, and you don’t need to either stop doing things for fun or have the extra money to pay for a babysitter every time you want to do something you enjoy. Children really are a blessing and a joy and bring such awareness and growth in life. My children expand my ideas about what is possible and what is important, and I have the express privilege of exposing them to things I find fascinating and fun. Why wouldn’t I involve them?

Photo credit: Angel (@smalltimeroasters)
I tasted six sets of three coffees with little Everly on my back. I tried a new way of enjoying and appreciating coffee, and stretched my coffee tasting abilities. I took almost seven minutes to try the coffees (seven minutes was the cutoff time), and when the results came in, I had gotten four of six correct and won second place! It was really exciting and encouraging for me. It is good to know that all my work intentionally tasting coffees is actually creating results and allowing me to distinguish differences in coffees. Remington got three out of six correct and took a minute or two less time than I did. Oddly, he got correct the coffees that I got wrong, and I got correct the coffees he got wrong. Apparently we make a good pair. I look forward to participating in another triangulation someday soon. And if they’re interested, someday I’ll be able to share the entire experience with my children and we’ll all be tasting coffees together. I look forward to that, but in the mean time, I will keep exposing them to things I’m interested in and keep living an integrated life with coffee and children and everything else.

Have you participated in a triangulation? What do you think about exposing children to your interests? Share your thoughts and experiences!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Chai (@chaiamericano)

Courier Coffee Roasters

Courier Coffee Roasters
923 SW Oak St
Portland, OR 97205

I first visited Courier Coffee Roasters around the same time I first visited Coava. It made a huge impression on me at the time and I frequently cite it as my favorite Portland coffee shop (although that changes depending on my mood and who’s asking). It is hard to define why exactly I love Courier so much. Emily McIntyre, in a PDX Eater article which I can no longer locate, called Courier “a quintessential Portland coffee shop,” and I have to agree. While it may not be a typical coffee shop, to me, it embodies the real Portland: grungy, understated, distinctive, legit hipster, and freaking awesome.

It was a sunny Friday in the late afternoon when Remington, Everly, Jude, and I visited Courier. The windowed shop front let it copious amounts of light and made the space feel a bit larger. The floor is concrete, the walls are white. Decorations are sparse and consist of local art for sale. Tables are white, chairs are wood, as is the counter and the bar by the window. Music consists of vinyl records chosen and switched out by the baristas regularly. It is not a large shop; there are three two-person tables and one four-person table, along with a few seats along the counter and the bar in the window. The menu is written on the window and also on a rectangle of card stock at the bar. As far as coffee shop spaces go, this one never pretends to be upscale or polished. As others have mentioned, cleaning doesn’t seem to have very high priority, except the espresso machine and the space behind the counter, which always looks clean and presentable, if a bit cluttered with supplies and ingredients. They’re not trying to win an award for their space, and I’m fairly confident they didn’t hire an interior designer, but it feels refreshingly un-done up and casual.

Despite the fact that I love Courier and love espresso, I had never actually ordered an espresso. Their 8 oz mocha is so incredibly thick and rich and delicious, not to mention very hipster in a mason jar, that I hadn’t bothered to order anything else. If you like drinks mostly consisting of amazing chocolate with a little espresso, I highly recommend the mocha. This time, although I did still order a mocha, I tried the espresso as well. Remington ordered a pour over and Everly was happy to drink the sparkling water, plus sips of my mocha. The espresso came with a full 8 oz of sparkling water in a mason jar. It was pulled very short, maybe a little too short as it left me wanting another. It felt light and smooth with a note of sugar cane and lots of sweetness. There was more complexity than that, but the shot was so short, I didn’t have enough sips to analyze it all. It was really good. It was really good. I cannot believe I never tried it sooner, it will definitely be what I order next time I go in, unless I am in desperate need of chocolate.

I love Courier Coffee Roasters a lot. More than just espresso and milk and chocolate, it provides a unique experience of Portland. I recommend ordering either an espresso or an 8 oz mocha for here and just sitting, observing, experiencing. It would also be a good shop to come with a friend or a sketchbook.

Have you been to Courier? I would love to hear what you think of it. Where have you been to coffee this week? Let me know in the comments!

Coava Coffee Roasters: Brew Bar

Coava Coffee Roasters
1300 SE Grand Ave
Portland, OR 97214

When the sun shines in Portland, it makes some of the decisions for you, like the decision to go to coffee at Coava Coffee Roasters Brew Bar on SE Grand. I still have not been to their new Espresso Bar on Hawthorne, but I love the Brew Bar’s many large lead glass windows and spacious interior shared with Bamboo Revolution. Coava (pronounced kōvuh) is a Portland coffee culture staple started in 2008, and was actually the first place I tried espresso back in 2011, an experience I won’t forget. They are super solid roasters, source excellent coffees, and the baristas are on point. You can always expect some fantastic coffee or espresso when you visit.

Coava’s space is on the corner of Grand and SE Main Street. Lead glass windows are plenty, letting in copious amounts of light and adding even more character to the older building. Concrete floors and walls with wood furnishings, ceiling, and accents don’t infringe on the spaciousness of the shop while the Probat roaster next to the bar and the old metal working milling machine in the corner add some interest to the otherwise sparse space. There is a bar along the south wall with lots of outlets for those interested in working on their computer. The floor holds several larger tables great for sitting with a group of people or alone, and the milling machine, which has been converted into a bar-height table.

The barista offered to answer any questions we had while deciding on drinks. One thing I love about Coava is how simple their menu is. It consists of two single origin offers for pour overs and two single origin espresso options which can be made into any traditional milk based drink or a honey latte. I ordered their Los Nacientes, Costa Rica espresso. Remington ordered the other single origin espresso, and Everly got a pastry. The espresso was served with water and was really enjoyable with a bite of acidity at the front end, a sweet body reminiscent of dried apricots and graham, and a very smooth finish. I think it would go splendidly with milk, although it was delightful all on its own. I also tried a sip of Remington’s espresso, which was an Ethiopian, although I don’t remember the region. It was the most incredible burst of berry I think I’ve ever had in an espresso.

If you have never been to Coava, I highly recommend checking it out. I would put it on the short list of essential Portland coffee shops, and I’m not the only one. The openness, the windows, the baristas, not to mention the straight up excellent coffee and espresso, come together to make it a wonderful place to come for coffee either alone or with group. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, but it is the perfect place to come for a pour over or espresso.

Where have you gone to coffee this week? Have you been to Coava’s Brew Bar or Espresso Bar? Tell me what you think!