Highlight on Katie Kime
Katie, our Assistant Roastmaster, has been with us for about a year and a half. In that time, we've gotten to know her pretty well, including just how thoughtful and talented she is. We sat down with Katie recently and explored a little bit under the surface to find out about coffee life from her perspective.
What surprised you most about coffee roasting when you first got involved?
The first crack! I’m blown away by the observable progression of a roast, specifically the very dramatic cracking sound that the beans make as they reach around 380 degrees Fahrenheit, when they release moisture and CO2.
How has your relationship to coffee changed over your time working with the Homestead?
I’ve always been most passionate about the connections that coffee inspires. Growing up, coffee was the first smell filling the house in the morning. My mom still brews a pot of coffee and sometimes travels with the whole glass carafe and mugs in hand to offer company to a neighbor or family member.
I’ve worked as a barista, and enjoyed few things more than offering someone a warm cup and a smile and the humanity that comes with those very simple things. Spending time at the Homestead, roasting and collaborating with the Lewis’s, has kind of blown my coffee-connection-world wide open, on a more macro level.
Understanding and exploring the relationships between farmers, importers, roasters, cafes and restaurants, and individual customers - there are so many collaborative parties, connected on a global level. My coffee world has gotten much, much bigger… and I’m able to appreciate the minute intricacies of attention and skill on every level.
What is the most challenging thing about roasting coffee?
Trusting my senses. There are so many measurable factors that provide a reliable framework for a good roast, and the tendency is to want to rely on a known formula. The biggest challenge (and greatest reward) comes in listening and smelling and watching for the moment when the beans reach their peak, and trusting that.
Do you help choose the new beans and develop the roasts for those new beans? Is it a collaborative process?
Yes! Collaborative is the perfect adjective. Everybody has their hands and hearts in every part of the business. It’s a constant evolution of tasting, testing, discussing, taking things apart and putting them back together in a better way. Some of my favorite moments are in tasting and discussing samples with Michael and Trevor.
Do you feel that you are able to bring something unique to the work that you do? In other words, is there room for artistic expression or is the art actually in being able to maintain consistency/repeat a roast formula?
Some of our coffees are tried and true, and people love them just the way they are (including me). For those roasts, the art is in maintaining consistency, which isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Different crops of the same beans, for example, might require significantly different approaches in order to maintain the desired outcome.
We also have a healthy rotation of smaller crops, or limited releases, which are really exciting to figure out.
The way I see it, the art of roasting can’t be explained in terms of individual expression, but in the ability to recognize the potential in a coffee bean and coax it out. That is definitely a unique and acquired skill.
What excites/inspires you about the coffee industry?
So many things. What comes to mind first is the trend in consumer consciousness that allows us to make ethical and responsible decisions about purchasing beans, and how we package them for retail. I can’t tell you how excited I am every time I finish a bag of coffee in our new backyard compostable bags. I freak out! It’s just going to melt away, I’m not adding anything to a landfill. And it’s only because people care about what they’re purchasing that we’re able to invest in something like this and make it sustainable, economically.
How do you create balance for yourself in and outside of work?
I stand on one foot while roasting, and switch feet while packaging.
hahaha. just kidding. whiskey.
ahhhh, i can’t stop joking.
Honestly, the Homestead is the most naturally balanced working experience I’ve ever had, and I’m grateful for that every day. I do a lot of sun salutations, in and out of work. I enjoy a healthy mix of light-hearted mischief and down and dirty work, coupled with an intricate craft that engages my mind and senses, and offers the challenge to consistently improve my skills. I do wonder sometimes if I absorb coffee through my pores when I’m grinding large amounts and it gets everywhere, so I make sure to drink a lot of water.
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