Ensuring Productivity In My Home Office

I-Have-A-Bean-SingleMugDarkImageI’d like to pose a simple question. What’s the single most important piece of technology in my home office? Don’t dwell on it. What comes immediately to mind?

Those of you who have been paying attention for a while will know that the correct answer is the coffee machine. You may have a different opinion, but as the question was specifically about my home office, I assure you that this is definitely the case.

Like so many people coffee plays an important part in my day, illuminating the foggy crevices of morning, accelerating my migration into the productive portion of the day. I have been heard to refer to coffee as, “that marvelous brown fluid that gives rise to intelligence before noon-time.”

I am admittedly an addict. So be it.

Coffee is a curious thing. In many ways I am starting to think of it very much as I think about wine. Yes, coffee is to my morning as wine it my evening. Both are readily available from a variety of sources, but I’m becoming more particular about what I prefer if given a choice. Of course, at home we have the opportunity to be exacting in our choices.

It happens that Houston is an especially good place to be a coffee addict. I’m told that around 70% of the coffee imported into the US passes through the Port of Houston, making it a great place to buy coffee at the wholesale level.

There’s a local retailer called House Of Coffee Beans that’s been custom-roasting coffee beans in small batches for over 30 years. Every Christmas my wife, who hates coffee herself, gives me a couple of pounds of beans from House Of Coffee Beans. (HOCB)

While she usually gets several types of beans she usually tries to get a pound of 100% Hawaiian Kona. Pure Hawaiian Kona, grown at higher elevations,  is exceedingly rare and costly. Given the high price HOCB only offers a limited quantity of 100% Kona during the holidays.

What passes for “Hawaiian Kona” in supermarkets may have as little as 5% of the beans actually sourced from Hawaii. The remaining content of the bag are usually from cheaper Central American sources like Mexico or Costa Rica.

I like many different types of coffees. I’m not a fan of the strongest coffee, preferring a medium to medium-dark roast, but I do like try beans from different origins.

I’m not a fan of Starbucks, finding it often over-roasted. Others must feel the same way since the company recently introduced a “Blond” coffee variety. That’s Startbuck-ese (-ian?) for a lighter roast than their Pike’s Peak.

Coffee is grown in many different places in the world. The brewed coffee reflects this fact in a manner that a vintner might call “Terroir.” The end-product is a complex expression of all the factors involved in process, from the soil, location and climate, to the farmer, roaster and even equipment used for brewing at home.

Some time ago while I was on a business trip to Chicago I had occasion to meet up with VUC regular Karl Fife. Such a pair of self-professed voip-geeks you rarely see in one place. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner, including a discussion of our shared coffee habit.

If you’ve listed to some VUC sessions you will doubtless know that Karl knows a thing or two about technology. Let me also assure you, he knows something about coffee as well. Recently he recommended me to The Second Chance Coffee Company, a small coffee roasting company with both interesting products and an interesting story.

IHaveABeanThe Second Chance Coffee Company hand selects raw beans, craft roasting them in small batches. On the strength of Karl’s recommendation I ordered two pounds each of two different types of their beans. I’ve been brewing coffee with these beans for the past week. I’m very pleased with the results.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you which beans I purchased. Karl tells me that his favorite variety are only occasionally available, often in limited quantities. Protecting our own interest in the current availability of the product we agreed to keep the variety a secret.

The story behind The Second Chance Coffee Company and their brand name “I Have A Bean” is also interesting. As a matter of policy they try to hire ex-convicts. They cite evidence that ex-cons who find gainful employment and a supportive workplace have much less likelihood of becoming repeat offenders.

Since they run a retail shop they give their staff a good environment for learning to deal with the public. They also train people in the art of craft roasting coffee, giving them as marketable skill.

I see this as a noble enterprise, worth supporting even if the product was merely average…but it’s not. The coffee that I received is as good as any that I have ever tasted, making this a win-win situation! Thanks for the tip, Karl!