First Cups

There are only so many meaningful firsts one can enjoy in life. Sitting on farms in Cobán, Guatemala, and then Tarrazú, Costa Rica, I enjoyed a couple of "firsts" -- experiences that were a bit surreal, all things considered.

A cup of coffee can be a quite simple thing. As an adult, childhood memories are often fuzzy and few, but when I think back to my first experiences with coffee, I think of sitting with my dad, surrounded by the bricks of that outdoor patio at McDonald's on Liliha Street in Honolulu. I don't remember any one particular moment, as the memory seems to be the cumulative remembrance of many moments building on one another until they became a singular, indelible treasure. Much like the little things in life, coffee with Dad is still very fresh in my mind: The pigeons that would flit around us, Dad's coffee in the styrofoam cup, cream and sugar mixed in with that plastic stirrer with the squarish top, the happiness that came with sitting with my dad, knowing that this was just something we did.

In Cobán and Tarrazú, I sat on coffee farms and drank coffee that for all intents and purposes had either never left or never gone very far from the property. All the growing, harvesting, processing, milling, roasting, brewing the coffee had undergone up until that point was all within a short walk of where we sat and sipped. That thought, followed by the realization that the very first time the coffee I was drinking would truly be leaving its roots, so to speak, would be with me, after I consumed it... well, that was downright cool.

The coming weeks will see the Greenway Coffee roastery receiving many fresh, new coffees, among them six from Guatemala and three from Costa Rica. These coffees were all lots I had the privilege of selecting, and they were all coffees that we find to be fine examples of the work being done by their respective producers. As excited as I am to be getting these in, I can honestly say I'm even more excited to be able to think back and remember my first coffees consumed on farms, and tie those memories in to each fresh, new coffee as they come in, one by one.

If you had told five year-old me that three decades later I would be writing about that everyday experience as a guy whose job title is Coffee, and that I would look back fondly at Dad's coffee habit with nostalgia and fondness, rather than judgment, I don't know what I would have said, but I do know one thing: I still would have been happy to sit at McDonald's with Dad, eating breakfast while he drank his coffee, much like adult me was happy to sit in Cobán and Tarrazú, drinking coffee while surrounded by coffee farms.


John Letoto

Honolulu native John Letoto came to Houston by way of Louisville to open Blacksmith in 2012. He contributes to all aspects of the business—roasting, making drinks and training—ensuring Blacksmith maintains its reputation for top-notch service. A regu … Read more
Honolulu native John Letoto came to Houston by way of Louisville to open Blacksmith in 2012. He contributes to all aspects of the business—roasting, making drinks and training—ensuring Blacksmith maintains its reputation for top-notch service. A regular on the national latte art competition circuit, Letoto was one of only three Americans to compete in the Coffee Fest Latte Art World Championship Open in Tokyo in 2015.

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