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pour-over coffee

Celebrating connections in specialty coffee

Celebrating connections in specialty coffee

Learning coffee origins through farmer-roaster relationships

This is an exciting time for specialty coffee roasters because of our deepening relationships with the farmers who produce our coffee. Our connection with farmers is a crucial partnership built on trust and trying new things to achieve great results, and what we do would not be possible if not for the growers.

The Triunfo Verde Co-op in Jaltenango, Mexico grows coffee that thrives in the lush climate of the Triunfo Biosphere Reserve.

The Triunfo Verde Co-op in Jaltenango, Mexico grows coffee that thrives in the lush climate of the Triunfo Biosphere Reserve.

With these stronger relationships come transparency and traceability, which allow us to to learn the story behind each coffee before we roast it. Our Mexico Jaltenango Chiapas is a microlot coffee produced by the Triunfo Verde Coop, whose farmland is situated near the largest cloud forest in mesoamerica, an ideal growing climate for coffee. In Chalatenango, El Salvador, farmer Jose Armando Portillo grows coffee that we love for its balance of bright citrus and sweet, creamy flavors. We know that he comes from a long line of coffee farmers with traditions so powerful that they have “coffee in their blood.” These are the farmers we want to support, who take care of their natural environments and fold coffee farming deep into their family histories.

This knowledge informs the decisions we make while roasting, from differences in farming and processing techniques to climate and experiences with roasting past lots from farmers. Though roasting is an incredibly important part of the process, appropriate brewing techniques ensure that we realize the true potential of every coffee. Baristas at our newest coffee bar, Uptown Tunnel Coffee, prepare all drip coffee as individually brewed pour overs to bring out the best possible flavors in each cup. With this slower, manual brew, we can more easily pick out the flavors that make each coffee special, and start dialogues with customers about the stories behind our coffee.

With coffee consumers increasingly interested in where their coffee comes from, attention shifts to coffee farmers and their individual stories, as well as the growing techniques that make their crops unique. Specialty coffee today feels like a celebration of coffee and its providers, connecting us all in a way not previously possible. We are proud of its evolution so far and excited to be part of where it is headed.

Slow brew is the best brew.

Slow brew is the best brew.

A reflection on fast coffee and the gentler method

Brewing slowly is the best way to brew. We know this long before the final product meets the cup, before you take that first cautious sip. It comes down to science—the surface area of the ground beans and the slow pour of water over them. 

Brewing pour-over coffee takes a creative approach and the patience to try new things.

Brewing pour-over coffee takes a creative approach and the patience to try new things.

The initial “bloom” is a light pour just to wet the beans and start them releasing gases as the boiled water makes contact. This can be likened to an anointing, as compared with the process inside your average Mr. Coffee auto-pot, which is more like an unceremonious deluge that scalds or drowns the beans before they have a chance to de-gas. This button-operated process is like a traumatic swimming lesson for your ground coffee. Like humans, coffee needs to breathe before being completely submerged in water. 

The next few pours are slow but heavier than the first, each one allowing water to cover the entire surface area of beans and ultimately, extract the most flavor for the final cup. This slower, gentler process of pour-over unlocks the tasting notes in different coffees, from the nutty sweetness of a lightly roasted Mexican variety to the peppery, vegetal qualities of a classic Sumatran. Dump a pot of hot water over some beans you ground yesterday, and you’ll likely miss what makes a coffee special.   

An ideal pour-over coffee takes a few minutes to brew, between the first bloom and final pour. You have to watch, pour, and wait for the coffee to react in its own way. Some take longer to bloom than others, and your job as the brewer is to pay close attention and respond accordingly. Brewing this way takes patience, experimentation and creativity—and the finished product is best enjoyed right away. 

Taking our time is not something we’re accustomed to anymore, with the advent of smartphones, synchronized calendars, and those self-checkout kiosks at your average quick-serve restaurant. There is something meditative about enjoying the process, especially when that process makes the final product a better one. Respect the time it takes to make something great and you might just want to change your pace for good. 

Pour overs in the Prow

Pour overs in the Prow

Tunnel City Coffee sets up a pop-up pour over bar inside Mass MoCA

If it takes four miles to travel through a museum, there’s bound to be a coffee stop along the way. About a half mile into Massachusetts Contemporary Museum of Art’s (MASS MoCA) Tunnel City Coffee brewed pour-over coffee at a pop-up stand in Building 6 throughout the post-holiday week.

Located in the Prow Gallery, visitors enjoyed a variety of pour over coffees while reading literature pertaining to the museum and its exhibits, displayed across a long wooden table.

"MASS MoCA visitors embraced the idea of stopping to enjoy a cup of thoughtfully prepared pour-over coffee,” said Sydney Lester, Tunnel City Coffee employee. “There's something special about experiencing something made just for you, and I think museum visitors appreciated what goes into making pour-over coffee, from its origins and roasting techniques, to all the different varieties that Tunnel City Coffee has to offer."

Tunnel City enjoyed its pop-up space in the elegant Prow Gallery, within the recently renovated Robert W. Wilson Building. Massive windows lit the gallery with natural light and created a tranquil scene for museum goers looking to indulge in an afternoon coffee.

“We’re often asked where the nearest coffee spot is in Building 6, a far trek from the museum lobby, so it was great to offer this new spot to patrons in need of a caffeine break,” said Rebecca Waterhouse, MASS MoCA gallery attendant.

Pour over coffee is available to order at Uptown Tunnel, Tunnel City’s newest shop inside the Williams College bookstore. Several varieties of single-origin light and dark roast coffees can be ground and brewed to order with the Kalita Wave pour-over system.

Tunnel City Coffee runs three shops in the northern Berkshires, one inside Mass MoCA, another inside the Williams College bookstore, and its flagship shop on Spring St. in Williamstown. Tunnel City operates its own roasting facility inside the historic Norad Mill of North Adams. To learn more about Tunnel City Coffee,  stop in or contact Sydney Lester at sydneylester@tunnelcitycoffee.com/