One of the many elements that binds the Coava family together is our drive for refinement. We all want to grow, learn, and become better at the different things we invest ourselves in. Away from coffee, we are beekeepers, musicians, roller derby competitors, fishermen, social workers, and much more. At Coava we're hosts, baristas, roasters, quality controllers, production experts, and educators. Whether at home or work you'll see us regularly making small changes to improve our execution and, ultimately, our enjoyment of what we do.
One of our favorite quotes on refinement comes from Richard Sennett’s fascinating book called The Craftsman. As he argues that all people have the natural inclination to do a job well for its own sake, he also touches on that which separates the craftsman from the hobbyist. He describes it as the ability to refine oneself through learning “to localize, to question and to open up” any craft we want to improve.
As we take on new challenges we "localize" by making them concrete. This is the process of learning something thoroughly. For our baristas, our task is first to learn how to make espresso the way it has traditionally been made here in the Northwest. We learn the importance of dose and grind in relation to time and volume. We learn how form, temperature and texture make or break terrific milk drinks. We learn how critical preventative maintenance and cleanliness is to quality and consistency. By doing this we show honor to those who have come before us and we build the first step in being able to move forward. We believe that we cannot dramatically improve the things we do not understand.
Once we've learned the core elements that lead to delicious drinks and have moved that knowledge from our brain to our hands, we are then able to begin questioning what we’ve learned. Sennett calls this "reflecting on the process” and it is the hardest part to hold off on. When we're excited about something its easy to have many questions flood in. However, if we do not suspend them until we’ve learned the task thoroughly we may waste time spinning our wheels on topics that would have answered themselves in time. From a strong foundation of experience, we are able to ask thoughtful questions that are fitting to the specific circumstances of our espresso machine, grinders, coffee, water and even more.
Quality questions allow us to move on to the final step that Sennett calls "expanding its sense" or experience-vetted experimentation. This is the part that moves us from "playing off of the sheet music" to "improvising a solo." It pushes a casual hobbyist towards becoming an authority. A part-timer into a professional. And a barista into a craftsmen.
You’ll never see the Coava family experimenting “just because.” Our goal is to learn more and refine what we do. To improve the little things so that we can enjoy the large things more. This is who we are.