Secrets of a Connoisseur

1522164850752Admirably labeled a “coffee connoisseur” by the owners of Raven Café, Tasha Kramarenko recently took time during her busy day (after walking her dog, Wilfred, named after the FX comedy starring Elijah Wood & Jason Gann) to sit down with Raven’s media specialist for a rapid-fire Q & A.wilfred-and-tasha

Q: “You are stranded with only Buck’s Tim’s, or Old Man McDonald’s coffee on your island. Do you make the best of it, or swim to the next island?”

A:  Her answer may surprise you, so we’ll disclose it at the end!

Q: “Where should first time coffee drinkers begin?”

A:  “At Raven Café, of course, but with a single black cup of coffee, to get the full-flavor of the bean- nothing added to it. Maybe start with a nice cup of Resurrection Brew, my personal favorite. I don’t think they’d be disappointed.”

Q: “Coffee only, or tea too?”

A:  “A nice cup of Earl Grey in the evening is great!”

Q: “Latte, Mocha, or Cappuccino?”

A:  “Cappuccino.” (Pictured above with her personal coffee art in the foam on the top!)

Q: “Light Roast or Dark Roast – which has more caffeine?”

A:  “That depends on the bean and the roast. Often it is the Light Roast, and that surprises people, but the density of the bean changes; beans that are roasted longer are less dense. If you measure your coffee by scoops, light roasted coffee will have more caffeine, since the beans are denser than a darker roast. However, if you weigh out your scoops darker roasts will have more caffeine, because there is less mass.”

Q: “Are coffees rated or graded in any way, similar to wine?”

A:  “Yes, baristas will have what is called a “cupping”, which is a coffee tasting where the aroma, flavors, and aftertaste are evaluated to better inform the coffee drinker what to expect.”

Q: “Caffeine and little flavor? Or flavor, but no caffeine?”

A:  “That’s a hard one… but I’d go for the flavor first, I guess. Neither one is a problem at Raven Café because they have multiple brews for a variety of tastes every day.”

Q: “Espresso or Expresso?”

A:  “Espresso.” She stressed the s, but she’s not a coffee snob, and humbly took interest in my follow-up question next.

Q: I know this may make some coffee snobs seethe, but I have to point  out that the word expresso is the customary wording in France, Portugal, and Spain. Of course, the art of making the drink was created in Italy, but spelling it with an x was also widely used in Great Britain, especially in references to the popular coffee houses frequented by the famous bohemian set in Soho. Did you know the Oxford English Dictionary even includes it as an acceptable variant?

A: Tasha grins and says, “ I learned something new today!” (So, there’s a feasible reason to say and spell it with an x, if you happen to pronounce it that way yourself!)

cupsQ: Considering her humble response, I asked “Do you think anyone should feel intimidated to enter and order in a specialty coffee shop like Raven Cafe?”

A: “Absolutely not! Most baristas are genuinely interested in sharing their knowledge and eager to guide others through making a great coffee drink selection and enjoying their visit to the Raven. Please don’t be afraid to ask,” she insists.  (The Raven Café beverage menu provides a detailed description, including diagrams of the most popular coffee drinks to assist too!)

Q: “Best food to have with coffee?”

A: A wide grin appears on her face (so I sense real love for this answer). “Bacon!” Tasha exclaims.

Q:“Best alcoholic addition to coffee?”

A:  “Whiskey – any brand you’d like. I suppose some have their favorite Irish whiskeys for the “Irish Coffee,” but I can enjoy any one of them.”

Q: “A flavorful cup of delicious coffee to relax and enjoy alone or just a simple no-frill coffee with friends?”

A: “Coffee with friends of course, or people in general. The best way to find your people is a coffee house. It’s the first place I visit when traveling too”

Q: “If you are alonehow do you enjoy your coffee?”

A:  “Relaxing with the music of Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday is nice,  or watching Max Fleischer’s ‘Gabby’ cartoons.” Tasha’s eyes brighten with mention of cartoons.

Q: “Would you drink instant coffee?”

A: “Ahhhh- No.” But then Tasha pondered her response and added, “well, only out of desperation, I guess.”

Q: “Dream job?”

A:  “A mobile coffee truck on the road to wherever I wanted to go.” (Should she go for it? Let her know!)

tasha-and-grandma-e1522176502998

Q: “Other interests besides coffee?”

A:  “My degree from Grand Valley State University is in philosophy; I have a real interest in the dynamics of a business, the community, and society in general; I also enjoy anthropology, and I love to read.” Some of the nearly 5000 books in the upstairs library at Raven Cafe reflect in Tasha’s eyes as she answers.

Q:”How did you come from the west side of Michigan to working at Raven Café?

A:  Tasha gives a soft sigh, like one associated with a pleasant memory. “My grandmother lives near, and she hasn’t any other family so I came here to be with her – she told me I had to check out this cool coffee shop called Raven Cafe’ and when we visited, I told her right away, ‘I want to – I really want to work here’.”

And so, it was generations of coffee love that brought Tasha to enjoy making and consuming coffee drinks herself at Raven Café, and sharing time with coworkers she calls “the best”!

We finished up with discussing  tidbits of coffee trivia including a Turkish wedding tradition that includes a vow to provide the bride with coffee or it could result in divorce. Not a bad premarital agreement for any coffee connoisseur, not just Turkish, she agrees but quickly adds, “as long as it’s good coffee that is!”1522174545611

And finally, back to the original question in regards to drinking coffee with Buck, Tim, or Old Man McDonald – Tasha grinned, and said, “honestly McDonald makes a pretty good cup of coffee I have to admit. So I could manage, but of course the coffee isn’t half as much fun as the one you’ll have with friends at a coffee house!”

Tasha, it was my pleasure!

Story by: SK Mabry, Media Specialist, Raven Cafe

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