Yesterday afternoon I had the good fortune to be invited to a tasting for Cocoa Cinnamon, a soon to be lounge/shop in Durham that will sell coffee, tea, and chocolate. In addition to being a tasty experience, it was also a great reminder of the power of a lesson offered by those who have a great passion for their craft and skill in conveying to others.
Throughout the tasting, Leon and Areli offered bits of information about the inspiration for their creations, often related to the ingredients’ origin or historical importance. As someone who teaches World History, it was cool to hear many of the places and people that we discuss in class mentioned.
On some level, you might imagine that it’d be hard to screw up tea, coffee, and chocolate, but the danger for people who feel passionately about those things is that they can come off as elitist or snooty. On more than one occasion, I’ve been tasting or sampling something which was accompanied by a ridiculously complicated description that zapped all the joy out of the discovery.
During this tasting, rather than launching into a long spiel about roasting and brewing, Areli and Leon set two coffees in front of us and invited us to taste them. Then Leon asked, “What do you notice?”- the perfect question to invite our reflections without making people feel like there was a right or wrong answer. It turns out the coffees were the same coffee, just brewed differently. It was intriguing how different they were just because of the brewing process.
The final part of the tasting process was sipping chocolate. We were encouraged to play with combinations of the spices in front of us, with only the caution that combining too many at once, like mixing all the colors in a paint palette, might ruin the taste. We used spoons and tiny stirrers to craft our chocolate creations.
In addition to being the experts, Leon and Areli were just as interested in learning as the rest of us around the table. At the end of the tasting, we kicked around ideas for the shop and their upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
I often hear folks talking about the importance of teachers being learners, but I hadn’t really thought much about the importance of proprietors being learners as well. At one point, Leon described how much there is written and known about coffee, tea, and chocolate. He said, “I love that excuse to keep on figuring out what’s happening.”
P.S. The tasting was held at Fullsteam R&D, a tavern run by Sean Lilly Wilson. Sean’s a great teacher and learner as well. I love his willingness to experiment with unusual flavors and admit when things don’t go exactly as they’d hoped.