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Sensory careers


Bean there,
done that

In this story:

Go east, young man

'When we roast'

David and the corporates


(CNN) -- "You take your nose and you pretty much inhale it throughout your entire body. You want it to go to the back of your brain."

Coffee roaster Doug Bond, his blue eyes bugging wider under a mop of tousled hair, clutches a steaming mug with one hand. He's demonstrating how he sizes up a cup of coffee by wafting his hands wildly toward his nose.

"One of the characteristics you're looking for is the aroma."


Bond is passionate about his coffee. Owner of the San Francisco Coffee Roasting Company in Atlanta, he oversees the buying of specialty beans, roasts them to perfection and still finds time to serve up rich lattés to customers.

Bond's partnership with the bean began years ago in California. He spent time pouring espresso shots and steaming milk in several Bay Area coffeehouses before he made his way into the roasting room. After completing a two-year apprenticeship in which he learned how to brown beans to the perfect shade and "cup" -- or taste -- the distinctions of coffee, Bond struck out on his own.

"I considered myself an entrepreneur," he says, "and I felt it was time to go out and do this.

"It was at the beginning of the coffee madness," he recalls. "I mean it was crazy -- and I just got tired of the Bay Area. It got really, really crowded really fast, and everyone was from somewhere else."


Go east, young man

For Bond, opening a coffeehouse 10 years ago in Atlanta was more like a contribution than a business proposition.

"I saw Atlanta was deprived of a lot of things, and it was more like I had the feeling that I had to do it because, 'You poor guys.' It was a charity move," he says through a belly laugh.

graphic Do you have a taste for a career in coffee?

Yes, please, and I'll take it black -- sounds like a pretty delicious vocation to me.
Maybe, but I like the stuff so much now, I might never come off the ceiling if I got "into" coffee professionally.
No thanks, I'd rather be on the drinking end of the deal, myself. Could I have another shot, please?
View Results

After purchasing a German-made roaster for roughly $30,000, Bond opened his original shop in Vinings, a wealthy suburb of Atlanta. Three years later, he opened a second shop in the trendy and comparatively urban Virginia Highlands area.

The Vinings location closed after four years -- a fact Bond says he attributes more to the "quirky" customers in the area than to the addition of both a Starbucks and a Caribou coffeehouse nearby.

But his Virginia Highlands location is thriving, and he has recently expanded the store by adding an outdoor patio for his clientele.


'When we roast'

It's in the basement of his 3,900-square-foot coffeehouse that Bond takes the raw, pea-like coffee bean and transforms it.

Hoisting a bucket filled with 26 pounds of raw beans over his head, apprentice roaster Josh Leininger pours them into the large, fire-engine-red roaster that's been pre-heated to 400 degrees.

graphic As coffee and coffeehouses have grown more popular and proliferated, international coffees have become better known among fans for their distinct characters. Follow our map of the world to the flavors you like best.

Soon, the basement is filled with a warm, baking smell -- a cross between toast, apple pie and tobacco. White smoke billows out of the top of a ventilation pipe on the roof.

"Yeah, the whole neighborhood knows when we're roasting coffee," says Leininger.

Both men hover over the roaster, pulling small samples of beans periodically from its belly to evaluate color. Each sample is successively darker and shinier. After about 20 minutes they proclaim the batch of coffee "perfect" and transfer the beans from the oven to a cooling tray.


"It takes a few years to get the gig down," says Bond. "The main part is to be consistent because you roast the same coffees three times a week. It's just like baking a loaf of bread, but making it the same all the time. That's the tough part about roasting coffee."

Several minutes after cooling, the newly roasted coffee will be taken upstairs to be used in a customer's latté or cappuccino. This quick turn around, Bond says, is one way he beats out the ever-present competition.

"Starbucks and Caribou, they consider themselves specialty brands, but the thing about my coffee is that it's fresh."


David and the corporates

While Bond says he'd prefer not to have to compete with larger coffee companies, he does see the silver lining in the situation. The difference between a latté and a cappuccino may best be taught by these coffee Goliaths.

"As soon as Atlanta goes to these giant corporations over and over again," he says, "they're going to seek out another place and hopefully when they seek out that other place, they will come searching for our place."

Bond's own coffee education spans 14 years. "I think I have it down by now."

"You take your nose and you pretty much inhale it throughout your entire body. You want it to go to the back of your brain."
— Doug Bond, San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co.

While he admits he wasn't born with the refined sensory skills needed to pick out the discrete flavors present in various coffees, Bond says drinking a lot of coffee and training with java addicts has helped him along the way.

In the end, though, it's all about the hot cup of coffee in a customer's hand.

"That's my favorite part," he says. "I like going upstairs and making a beautiful latté and serving it to them and just watching their faces. It's awesome."

Coming Monday: Our coffee quiz. Get up, drink some, be alert and see what's stirrin'.



Coffee producers confident of plan to withhold beans to prop up prices
September 29, 2000
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September 14, 2000
Brazil's coffee plantations moving into the rainforest
September 6, 2000
Researchers identify caffeine-making gene
August 31, 2000
Coffee bars make splash in tea country
August 31, 2000
Central American coffee producers gather to control export prices
August 21, 2000

Caribou Coffee
San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co.
Starbucks Coffee Company

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