I love how in the coffee industry, you meet creative people through creative people, like we’re all connected somehow, you just have to unearth the ties that bind us. Daniel Thompson of Buttondown Photography shot the gorgeous photos we used for the article “Latte Art Lessons From the Pros” that appears in the June+July issue of Barista Magazine. Getting to know Daniel and his keen eye for coffee photography (see our profile of him HERE) was pretty great, but then he introduced me to his partner, Emily Brock, and I had my mind blown by coffee-related creativity all over again.
Emily is a woodworking wizard, and the owner of Board and Bread, which is her line of handcrafted wooden tools such as serving boards, spoons, and as luck would have it, paddles for stirring coffee during the manual brew process.
Emily wanted to offer up one of her stunning paddles for Humpday Giveaway, and we said, “Hells yeah!” So you can look for that tomorrow as part of the July 10 Humpday Giveaway prize pack. We thought you would be just as curious to learn more about Emily as we were, so I’m sharing a conversation I had with her here.
Be sure to come back here to Barista Magazine’s blog tomorrow for a chance to win one of Emily’s handcrafted coffee paddles, and also check out Board and Bread’s lovely website HERE.
Sarah: How did you get into woodworking, and what do you specialize in?
Emily: I began learning about woodworking growing up watching my dad work out in his shop. My great-grandfather was a staircase maker and my dad followed suit, teaching himself the trade in his early 30s. As a kid, the smell of walnut dust, the whir of machines, and the grating sound of rasps was second nature. I picked up the artistic gene, and went to school learning graphic design. After developing an interest and passion for great food and drink, as well as a slow-paced life centered around community, I really began to appreciate handcrafted kitchen and dining pieces, as well as antique kitchen collectables. The visual experience of preparing food and sharing a meal is as much about the food and company as it is the vessels we eat from and the tools we use. The more I immersed myself in food blogs, great cookbooks, and the world of casual entertaining, I began to see an opportunity for me to follow my family’s history in woodworking. The first project I actually completed was a black walnut pedestal cake stand. My dad and I stood over his lathe in Georgia while he taught me the basics of turning. When we finished the project and put on the first coat of walnut oil, I fell in love. Since then I’ve assembled my own workshop in Washington State, and have started a small business called Board & Bread. I make handcrafted kitchen and dining pieces that are created to be very utilitarian and serve their owners well for a lifetime, all the while having a very sexy, lustrous aesthetic.
Sarah: What is your process? Do you do it using machinery or all by hand? How do you finish the pieces?
Emily: My workshop is out back from our home in Olympia, Washington. We [Emily and Daniel] live on a blueberry farm, and naturally have a very old canning shed on the property. With some elbow grease and Martha Stewart paint, we turned it into my workshop. I have a bandsaw that I use to cut out all of my blanks, and then hand shape everything from there with a variety of carving and shaping tools. Then there is sanding, sanding, and more sanding! A few coats of a food safe finish goes on, and then my homemade blended beeswax rub goes on to protect the wood and give it that nice buttery feel.
Sarah: Do you have a background in coffee?
Emily: I began my love affair with specialty coffee while in college in Athens, Georgia. I lived down the road from the 1000 Faces Coffee Roastery, and the smell of roasting beans that wafted up to my house coerced me into applying for a summer internship there. I was later hired, and worked there in the roastery during the rest of my time in college. That job was probably my favorite I’ve had to date, outside of my own business, of course! Since then I’ve continued to love great coffee, and am always eager to find the best cup wherever I happen to be.
Sarah: What inspired you to create the coffee paddle?
Emily: I was asked to make the coffee paddle initially for a new shop, Brash Coffee, that is opening soon in Atlanta, Georgia by my good friend Matt Ludwikowski. He wanted some coffee paddles for his manual brewing setup he is going to have, as well as some Chemex chargers. The product developed from there based on a lot of interest and support by my friends in the coffee community. The paddles [that had been available up until this point] remind me of the coffee brewing equivalent of a cheap pair of chopsticks. Knowing that baristas and coffee folk love their tools, I thought there was a real market opportunity for a beautiful, handmade paddle that could meet the needs of the tool’s functionality, but also be pleasant to look at and more durable.
Sarah: Do you have other coffee-related tools? Or will you in the future?
Emily: We are working on prototypes for a 10-gram coffee scoop currently, and once I have my own lathe, I fully intend to fulfill a dream to hand turn tamp handles and offer custom tamps for baristas.
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.