Oct 1 2013 | 2 Comments
A COFFEE PLANT GROWS IN BROOKLYN
Michael Pollack encapsulates so many things I adore in life. He is a baby boomer who followed his bliss and turned his passion into a career at the end of his fifties. Proving yet again, that the third act can be the most invigorating and exciting. He is a self-professed yes man. And by that he means if you say yes, anything can happen. He believes in taking a chance, forging ahead- the world is a magical place and you never know what can happen. But if you say no, the one thing you can count on, is nothing will happen. And then, then, he spends his days buying, selling, roasting and selling coffee; Perhaps my favorite substance on the planet.
According to Michael and his publisher wife Barbara Marcus, Michael has been futzing with coffee beans forever. He has been roasting them at home. Mixing his own blends, and sharing them with friends. Brewing his own unique coffee until he got it just the way he likes it.
So for Michael coffee as a hobby has been in place for years, but coffee as a fulltime job, did not come to pass until Michael was well into his sixth decade.
He had been a success in the video business, owning and operating a chain of stores. He got out of that at the right time and then devoted ten years to being a stay at home dad to his two daughters. Don’t you love the guy already? He kept busy with investments and raising money for worthy causes.
Then one day in 2010 when his girls were grown he was looking around for something to do. He saw an ad for an intern at a mail order coffee plant operating out of Brooklyn. Yes. I said intern. A successful, fifty-nine year old man was willing to intern.
I want to repeat that for all of you (especially you young’uns who think you are too fancy to intern) Michael invoked his just say yes philosophy and decided to be an unpaid intern.
When he went out to Brooklyn for his first day of work where he found a tiny operation not unlike the one he had going in his own apartment.
But he figured why not, he had much to learn. So for one summer he interned for Jim Munson, a man younger than himself.
At the end of the summer they decided to become partners and the intern turned into the co-owner of Brooklyn Roasting Company.
That fall he made a trip to California to buy a state of the art roaster. Today that roaster sits proudly in the center of their flagship store in Brooklyn. It roasts sixty pounds of coffee at a time. Brooklyn Roasting Company roasts one hundred and fifty pounds of coffee an hour, eight to ten thousand pounds a week, and they buy, roast and sell a half million pounds of coffee a year.
With that “yes” a summer internship has turned into a very successful operation.
Michael and Jim now have two outposts in Brooklyn. The one I visited last week in Dumbo and one in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They have two shops in Japan, one in Tokyo and one in Osaka. And they wholesale their brand all over the world.
Michael is like a kid when you watch him with his beans. One of the many perks of the jobs is he gets to go to travel the globe to wherever they grow coffee. All of his beans are free trade and organic. He tests beans where they grow. He meets the growers. He loves that part of the job.
I got to see them green, fresh from the burlap sack then into to the big giant spinning tub in the roaster, I watched them get sucked up into the belly of the roaster where they turned a deep brown, emitting the most amazing scent of coffee that wafts out the door down Jay Street in Dumbo.
While I was at Brooklyn Roasting Company I got a lesson in making coffee. I had to admit to Michael that I was a Nespresso pod person. To a passionate coffee producer this is heresy. Not only are you not getting that fresh ground, fresh brewed flavor, those pods are ecologically horrific and the cost is staggering. When Michael told me how much I was paying per pound for my coffee by using the pod system I almost passed out onto a stack of Costa Rican’s Finest.
I ‘m not going to tell you today, but write in comments and take a guess at how much one spends per pound of coffee if you use a Keruig or Nespresso machine.
I complained that my French Press coffee was always kind of grainy and bitter. I left Brooklyn with the proper grinder. Apparently the grinder you use is a big indicator of how tasty your coffee will be. Who knew the little steel blade number was coursing my beans too finely. I was doing other things wrong that I will explain in my next post when I try and brew the perfect pot of coffee. According to Michael’s instructions and my new fangled machinery.
Now in his early sixties, Michael bikes to work each day and has never been happier.
From the looks of his packed coffee house his passion is making a lot of others happy too.
If you aren’t close to Brooklyn you can experience Brooklyn Roasting Company’s coffee by buying it from their website right here…BROOKLYN ROASTING COMPANY
If you’re in New York, take the F-train to Dumbo. Spend a couple hours. Stop in at Brooklyn Roasting, you won’t be sorry.