Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Swan Song

When I first met David Blanchard back in 2007, we were introduced by Chris Barras, current leader of the A10 faith community and the man behind Cartwheels & Coffee in Carytown. Chris was a regular of mine at Can Can, and  thought that, given my enthusiasm for coffee, I would benefit from seeing the actual roasting process. Chris picked me up in a parking lot on a Sunday evening and drove me to the Other Land known as the South Side, where we had to call David to unlock the door to let us in.

I thought, "What the Hell is going on here?" David didn't seem nearly as eccentric as the man I had pictured when I pictured someone who had a hole-in-the-wall roastery-slash-coffee-shop-that-wasn't-really-a-coffee-shop. Nor did the shop seem nearly as hole-in-the-wall once you actually got all the passwords right to get in and traverse the dark and narrow staircase leading up to it.

I guess my point is that my first Blanchard's experience was pretty mythic. So much so that I even wrote a short story about a man and his relationship with his bright red Ambex (though thankfully the real David has more integrity than that guy). I hung out in that retail space on my days off and learned to roast out of pure interest. When David & Kelly went on their annual trip to Daufuskie, he asked me to step in and roast in his absence.

Six more months passed and I ended my relationship with Can Can, seeking something not front-of-the-house oriented.  David came to me and asked me to sign on with him in preparation for Ukrop's distributing our coffee to all of their stores.

Ukrop's. Remember when?

Over the past three years, my time with Blanchard's has afforded me opportunities not only to learn about the coffee world (at one point landing me at the top of a cliff in Puerto Rico plucking my first wild coffee cherry and ripping it apart while my best friend hungrily wished I would just find our destination so she could use the bathroom and get out of the car, and another time sneaking into the Altria offices at 9pm to make sure someone got their coffee order in time), but the professional world in general. Because of these opportunities and the freedom provided by David and our many associates, I learned about all the things I really want to be doing, and most of them involve creating if-then statements encased in curly brackets.

Sadly, you can't program coffee beans. My focus on the roasting process has waned while my interests in organizing workable systems (whatever that means outside of my head) has grown. But Blanchard's Coffee Company is still a coffee company, and still churns out some of the finest coffee you've ever tasted. It's still growing and going strong, and needs strong dedication behind it to continue in that fashion.

So in June, Coffee-of-the-Monthers, you'll be drinking my Swan Song. My two favorite coffees combined. The first blend I ever designed was the FTO VoilĂ , and this, for a time anyway, is the last. It has taken three years to find these beans and recognize them as everything I want in a cup of coffee, and I hope that somehow my warm fuzzies regarding the past three years are passed on in the cup.

Next week, Jonathan's heading out to Cape Verde for two years with the Peace Corps. Our new roastmaster will start training, and I'll be slowly exiting stage left (though I still have some tricks up my sleeve which will keep me buzzing about for awhile).

Change is good, and keeps things fresh. The Swan Song is really just the start of the next chapter in the story of Blanchard's Coffee Company.

So drink up and keep brewing. It's on sale starting Monday.



  1. Glad I could be a part of this story. You are gem in the coffee world Tom. You will be missed there. God Bless you on your new endeavors.

  2. TOM! Thanks for everything you've done and all the coffee you've roasted!!! And Jonathan, you too! love you guys!