Stories From The Grind: A Storytelling and Coffee Event

Coffee pros swap stories and sip on drinks paired to their tales at The Grind, a storytelling event in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As coffee professionals, we collect stories ”not just our own, but of our customers and the experiences we share both outside the café and behind the bar. œThe Grind,  an event hosted by Charlotte, North Carolina-based coffee company, Not Just Coffee, and the storytelling project, The Crock, took that idea one step further and paired five stories with five different coffee drinks. Rebecca Henderson, organizer of the The Crock, and James Yoder, owner of Not Just Coffee, wanted to engage with the Charlotte community on multiple levels, and coordinated together to put on this event. œI’ve found that collaborating with artists and creatives helps us realize the vision of our business and our role as coffee professionals. Events like this add so much value to our community because they allow us to engage the serious play of our work and reimagine the kind of presence that coffee can have in Charlotte,  James says.

Drinks being assembled for the audience.
Drinks being assembled for the audience.

Below are the stories and accompanying drinks, all created by L Burleson of Not Just Coffee.

œWorn Out Jeans 
Storyteller: Amanda Medina

The first story of the night was a tale of sexual awakening and the neon suspense of teenage lust. Medina recounted the details of a young relationship and her first experience with bump and grind ” a physical, musical, sensual orientation to adulthood. œDo you remember that distressed jeans fashion trend that was so popular back then?  she asked. œWith our grind, the stretch and pull against the seams, the fabrication of our puppy love, I could’ve sworn we were the inventors, creators, and gods of it. 

œWorn Out Jeans  was paired with a shot of Counter Culture Coffee’s Hologram espresso and a shot of seltzer spiced with honey, cinnamon, and cayenne. œWe wanted something that was syrupy sweet but still had a kick, something that really warmed you up as you drank it, gave ya pink cheeks and a warm chest,  says Burleson. She instructed the audience to add the espresso to the seltzer and observe the live chemistry ”an experience meant to mimic the sexual chemistry articulated in Medina’s story.

œShades of White 
Storyteller: Rebecca Henderson

The Grind creator, Rebecca Henderson, shared her own story
The Grind creator, Rebecca Henderson, shared her own story of discovering her need for vibrancy in her life.

Henderson’s story detailed her first experience with paid time off. After landing a dependable, albeit boring job, Henderson used her vacation time to travel to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The story was complete with visits to a body inclusive strip club, tips on sleeping in hospital parking lots, and her memories of riding on one of the floats in the Mardi Gras parade. The experience, in its boozy wildness, helped Henderson realize that she wanted to live a life in full color even if it meant a ceaseless grind. The contrast of Mardi Gras’ vibrance with the stark white of her dependable life at home showed Henderson a life of hustle where she could put the I in grind.

œShades of White  was paired with a vodka, cold brew (made from Counter Culture Coffee’s Concepcion Huista), simple syrup, and heavy cream beverage. Finished with a sugar rim and featuring a delightfully cheap vodka, the creation balanced the wet, drunken, nighttime vibes of a strip club with a harsh white Russian feel.

œWhat to Expect When You’re Expecting the Unexpected 
Storyteller: Taylor Williams

Williams told the story of becoming an egg donor in her early twenties. Dazzled by the prospect of making a few thousand dollars, Williams created what she describes as a œrather flirty profile  on an online egg donation website (think, but for viable female gametes). Once she matched with a pair of prospective parents Williams began the process of prepping her eggs for donation. Celibate at the time, Williams’ story recounted a grindless grind, and offered a reflection on the hilarity of œbecoming a daddy  in the contemporary biomedical maze of reproduction.

Taylor Williams recalls her experience donating her eggs.
Taylor Williams recalls her experience donating her eggs.

Burleson paired œWhat to Expect When You’re Expecting the Unexpected  with an espresso of Counter Culture Coffee’s Hama Natural Processed Ethiopian coffee, lychee juice, milk, and lychee boba balls. Burleson describes this combination best, saying, œBoth Taylor’s story and her general way of connecting with people carry this consistent combination of enjoyment, sweetness, and absolute weirdness. Her knack for comedy feeds her natural comfort with all things uncomfortable, so we wanted a drink that was tasty and yet somehow still really weird. The unsettling textural experience of gulping boba balls, combined with their resemblance to various types of fish/reptile eggs made this drink an easy and ridiculous addition to the menu. 

œNot Just Coffee 
Storyteller: James Yoder

Yoder told a story of an annual camping trip coordinated by his sons’ school. He detailed the numerous supplies he amassed for the trip: an Aeropress and its accompanying filters, coffee from his shop, gooseneck kettle, coffee mug, scale (with batteries), hand grinder, and loosely packed black bag with assorted accessories. Upon arriving at the campsite, Yoder downloaded the stares of other dads as they assessed his coffee setup. Feeling quite proud of his foresight Yoder brewed himself a cup of coffee and then began to leisurely set up the family’s tent. Only then did he discover that he’d forgotten an integral piece of camping equipment ”poles for the tent. His story is one of preparedness and unpreparedness, of prioritizing the important things.

Yoder chose to serve Counter Culture’s Idido Thirteen brewed on a Fetco alongside his story. It’s a bean that showcases James’ favorite kind of coffee ”delicate, subtly sweet, tea like, citrus forward. Like his story of camping, he wanted to highlight the ways that simplicity can become quite complex.

James Yoder, owner of Not Just Coffee, shares a story of being both over and underprepared.
James Yoder, owner of Not Just Coffee, shares a story of being both over and underprepared.

œLet the Good Times Roll 
Storyteller: Robert Hildreth

Hildreth focused on a different kind of grind ” the sort associated with skateboards and Lupe Fiasco songs. Kick, push, coast, grind. Hildreth gave a personal history of skateboarding over a lifetime. From his first major fall as a child, to being rejected at the skatepark by a beautiful girl during his teenage years, to his current status as œthe old guy on the skateboard,  Hildreth mused about the persistent lack of coolness in his skating. His was a tale of learning and relearning, of changing motives and changing times.

Robert Hildreth discusses his personal history of skateboarding.
Robert Hildreth discusses his personal history of skateboarding.

œLet the Good Times Roll  was served with a vanilla ice cream and Highland Brewing Black Mocha Stout Float. Inspired by the nostalgia of Hildreth’s story, Burleson focused the float around the sweetness of a childhood treat, but gave it an adult twist. œRobert’s story delved into the hard knocks of being an adult in a sport/hobby ruled by and for the young, so making a classic sweet treat out of beer seemed a fitting combo,  she explains.

image1-150x150Kelsey Viscount is a barista turned academic currently completing her master’s degree at Harvard. A lover of all things coffee education and brewing science, she works as a consultant forNot Just Coffee. These days, Kelsey can be found holed up in the basement of Andover-Harvard Theological Library waiting for Boston’s winter to end.

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