A Distinct Cup of Joe

As with anything in Lanny’s life, once he gets into something it’s always to the extreme. So, when he got into coffee 10 years ago, he quickly became one of those insufferable coffee snobs who had to have the best. When he makes his coffee, it’s a mix of art and science. It’s a sensory experience made with scientific precision.

Thanks to this obsession of my husband’s, I know WAY more than I need to about coffee. For example, when making an espresso (which is rare, because I usually just let Lanny make it for me), I know exactly where the dial of pressure should be. I know that if you let ‘the pull’ of the espresso run too long, the coffee will taste too bitter and be too watery. I know that when compressing the beans with the tamper, you should use 35 pounds of pressure. I know that the bean we choose and how they’re roasted can add unique and unexpected tones to the coffee. I know that beans from Ethiopia have a blueberry flavour. Knowing all these things has spoiled most coffee for me. But, it has also made me appreciate really well-made coffee more than most would because they all taste unique and different.

Now, let’s look at another form of coffee consumption/making. It is neither better nor worse than Lanny’s way. Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and McDonald’s. All three of these places are producing coffee — some would argue it’s really good coffee, while others argue really bad coffee. Good coffee is pretty subjective. And those big-name coffee purveyors are looking to provide one thing: exact consistency. When you go to Starbucks, you know what kind of coffee you’re going to get. You know what it’s going to taste like, no matter which Starbucks you go to. Food engineers at McDonald’s have engineered a cup of coffee that tastes good and is the same, every single time. I’ve been told it’s ‘actually’ really quite good. Same with Starbucks and Tim Hortons. (Subjectivity again.)

When you go to a ‘more serious’ coffee shop (we like to call it ‘hipster coffee’), it’s not about the consistency of taste, it’s about the consistency of quality. Two very different things. And quality, of course, comes in many different tastes. Depending on the bean that they’re using, their coffee is likely to have different taste tones than the previous weeks. They make the best cup of coffee based on the variables they’ve been given (the coffee bean) and following a process. And this is where the art comes in. How much the beans are roasted. At what temperature. What grind coarseness they use, and so on and so on and so on.

You didn’t come here for an essay on coffee alone. You came here because you want to be a better photographer. Trust me, coffee making and photography have more in common than you think. They both require the skills and knowledge of how to use the right equipment. They both have a specific process. In one situation, the process is engineered to be the same every single time. In the other situation, the process is open enough to allow variation but strict enough to keep standards high.

When it comes to your photography, what sounds better for you and your goals? McDonald’s, where the coffee is engineered to be amazing, but exactly the same every time? Or like Eclipse (our favourite coffee shop in Canmore), where the coffee is artisan — meaning different every time?

Some clients want McDonald’s style. Others want Eclipse style. You get to decide what you offer on your menu. Does the uncertainty appeal to your style of art? Because that uncertainty will make a different and somewhat more appealing (in some ways) cup of coffee than McDonald’s.

Love, Erika

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