Behind the Beans: Q&A with Local Baristas  

If you’re anything like us, coffee is an absolutely necessary part of getting your day started. When the snooze button can’t be pressed anymore, you know at least around the corner waits a delicious cup of caffeine ready to help you kickstart your day! And whether you prefer to brew your own beans at home or you want a cup of coffee placed in your hand first thing in the morning, High Point’s coffee shops and roasters are here to make the mornings just that much nicer!  

But have you ever explored the world behind your favorite drink? Or have you considered branching out and trying something a little different from your go-to shop? Maybe you’re still wondering, what is the difference between that dark roast Colombian and that light roast breakfast blend? Do words like “Cortado” and “Macchiato” and “Americano” mean anything to you?  

For all of you curious coffee drinkers out there, we sat down with some local baristas and roasters who “spilled the beans” on all “behind-the-beans” questions!  

A cup off coffee sitting in a pile of coffee beans at 83 Custom Coffee in High Point, NC.

What would you recommend to first-time coffee drinkers? 

Jamie, 83 Custom Coffee: My advice is to try something new! Not sure where to start? Ask your barista what they’re drinking! 

Maddy, Cork & Grind: For the first-time coffee drinker, I would recommend a sweetened latte. When I say “sweetened,” I also mean getting vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, whatever fancy special the coffee shop you are visiting is featuring. – 

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: Usually when a first-time coffee drinker comes into our roastery, emails us or calls us, we get a feel for what they really enjoy drinking (whether it’s tea, wine, soda, etc.) to become familiar with their taste preferences. We also like to learn their daily routine and any experiences that they’ve had with coffee in the past. Usually these people have tried coffee but they didn’t know that there was a difference between specialty and commodity coffees. They also didn’t know that brewing fresh roasted coffee is a game-changer. 

Finally, we suggest that they taste their coffee before they add anything to it. Many people are shocked to learn that specialty coffee, just roasted, is naturally sweet with flavors that they’ve never experienced before in a cup. Some flavors are delicate, some fruity or chocolaty. 

After they have tasted the coffee, they can decide if they’d like to add something to complement the flavor notes, body, and acidity. We remind them that specialty coffee was grown, cultivated, processed, roasted and blended with this experience in mind and we don’t want them to miss this opportunity to savor it! 

Mike and Pam Foster, Owners of FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters in High Point, NC.

Mike and Pam Foster, Owners of FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters

What is your favorite item on your company’s menu? 

Chelsey, 83 Custom Coffee: If you love espresso but don’t want to add the heaviness of milk, try an extra dry cappuccino. It’s probably one of my favorite hot drinks because I love the taste and smoothness of espresso and to add that pillowy foam on top makes it even smoother. 

Maddy, Cork & Grind: My favorite item on our menu; that is such a hard question because coffee is completely based on your morning mood. My two go-to drinks on our menu are the sparkling americano when I just need some caffeine or if I’m watching my calories. A sparkling americano is a light and refreshing alternative to black coffee. My other drink is a Spiced Chai latte. Chai lattes are my comfort coffee 

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: Mike’s (my husband) favorite coffee to enjoy is our Brazil. He enjoys the nutty flavor notes and low acidity. My favorite coffee is always changing, but I gravitate to any light roast African bean. I really look forward to a great cup of Kenya Karani AA or Ethiopian Sidamo (naturally processed). I love the light bodies of both of these coffees and the lingering flavors. A good coffee for me must have a lingering finish! I know I really have brewed a good cup of coffee when I have finished it and I’m still looking around for more!

What would you recommend for an adventurous coffee drinker? 

Brittany, 83 Custom Coffee: At 83 we test our espresso shots multiple times a day to make sure that they are always pulled properly! This means each shot in your drink is getting all the natural sweetness and flavor out of the bean. If you are feeling adventurous, I’d suggest trying a true Italian Macchiato or Cortado to experience the full flavor of our espresso!  

Charis, 83 Custom Coffee: At 83 Custom Coffee, we are one of the few coffee shops in the area to offer CBD as an add-on to any coffee or tea drink. CBD is a wonderful natural approach to improved mood and decreased anxiety. Additionally, mixing CBD with your coffee can help the caffeine have a steadier energy effect, decreasing the risk of experiencing a caffeine crash.

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: We think coffee is an adventure, so we love to meet these type of customers! Like the new customer mentioned above, we like to learn the adventurous coffee drinker’s routine, taste preferences and past coffee experiences. We especially like to find out about the most pleasurable coffee experiences from these people because they enjoy sharing them. It’s part of the pleasure of the journey!! Where were they? How was the coffee brewed? What type of coffee was it? Was it a single origin brewed in a Chemex, was it a double shot espresso in Belize? Trying to learn the palates of our customers is fun! And helping them to discover their palates and to explore coffees totally out of their wheelhouse is great with these type of drinkers because adventurous people know that to get to the pinnacle of the mountain, you have to climb through all kinds of terrain and take risks. No reservations at all!

An espresso machine at 83 Custom Coffee in High Point, NC.

What is one misconception people have about coffee? 

Jamie, 83 Custom Coffee: Did you know that a cup of drip coffee actually has more caffeine than a 2-shot latte? If you’re really looking for a boost, try a Red Eye… that’s a cup of drip coffee with an added espresso shot!  

Maddy, Cork & Grind: Something people seem to always misunderstand about coffee is if it involves using the espresso machine (espresso, milk frother), it’s too fancy for them. I see this as sort of the same thing some folks think about wine: “Wine is complicated, fancy, and pretentious.” I don’t agree! A latte is coffee and milk; wine is grapes that have been fermented. The folks who usually think this is too fancy have never had one… A latte is perfect for those coffee drinkers! 

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: Before people are introduced to specialty coffee, they think that coffee is a shelf staple without an expiration date. Old coffee will not kill you but it will not carry the various flavor and aromatic compounds as fresh roasted. Its volatile flavors and the aromatics (that you paid for when purchasing specialty coffees) start to dissipate after it’s roasted. If you come to roastery, you’ll be shown a diagram that outlines the Freshness Clock of the coffee bean. Most coffee is best enjoyed between four to twenty-eight days after roast date. With this in mind, we encourage our customers to buy less coffee at one time more often. Put another way, purchase only the amount that you can use in three weeks.

People stand with their coffee in hand at 83 Custom Coffee in High Point, NC.

What is the difference between light roast and dark roast when it comes to flavors? 

Maddy, Cork & Grind: There are a couple differences between light and dark roast coffee, some are somewhat self-explanatory and some always surprise folks. Light roast is roasted less than dark roast, just as cooking when you cook something longer it tends to get darker. This one always surprises people – light roast has more caffeine than dark roast. 

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: We develop the roast profiles based on the characteristics that we wish to bring out of each coffee. With specialty coffees, you rarely see a charred or extremely dark roast coffee because taking the bean to such a high temperature for an extended time to achieve this roast level depletes the flavor and aromatic compounds. Our espressos are roasted dark enough to achieve the right level of acidity and body to hold up to cream for lattes and cappuccinos. 

Roast level can affect the flavor in some beans such as our Dark Sumatran. The way we roast this bean can bring out the intensity of the currant berry flavor. But there’s a thin line from this intensity of flavor to a bean that lacks mouthfeel. There’s a balance that must be maintained and our customers help us with their feedback and by our daily cupping routines. With that being said, there are three basic roast levels – light, medium and dark. With regard to the flavor, think of how added temperature and time affects the result of a chocolate chip cookie. The flavor does not change as much as the texture of the cookie. The temperature and time that a bean is roasted affects not as much as its flavor (unless it’s roasted too long and then of course the ashy, charred notes prevail) but the mouthfeel (body), acidity and finish. 

A picture of coffee brewing in a pourover at FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters in High Point, NC.

What do you wish your customers knew about coffee? 

Nicole, 83 Custom Coffee: Ask your barista questions. It is completely normal to get anxious when ordering or trying something new. Baristas love when they are asked questions and could possibly teach you a lot about coffee!

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: NOT ALL COFFEES ARE CREATED EQUAL. Terroir (the environment of the plant – nutrients in soil, etc.), elevation, rainfall, harvesting and processing methods all make a difference! And the variety (and its varietal) of the plant makes a difference in the flavor. We roast only specialty grade (the best grade available) Arabica (the best variety) beans. There’s a difference in the balanced flavor notes available in the cup. Our beans are all handpicked. Each coffee tree bears approximately one pound of coffee and not all those berries ripen at the same time, which means each tree has to be picked over four to five times. We appreciate the effort the harvesters take in bringing us the best coffees available.

What is your favorite thing about working in coffee? 

Pam, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters: Wow, that’s a tough one to answer because there are so many things we love about being coffee roasters. But we’d have to answer that the best thing we love about what we do is tied to the purpose for why we exist: coffee and community. Particularly we want to be a personal guide to our community into the world of specialty coffee AND as we get to know those in our community, we want to encourage them to find gaps in their neighborhood, family, workplace, etc., and fill those gaps with their gifts!

Maddy, Cork & Grind: My favorite thing about being a barista is seeing how happy people get to have their morning coffee. Coffee has the magical ability to make the rest of your day tolerable.  

Discover our High Points,  

The HPD Team 

Photography by Maria West Photography