By JESSICA WRIGHT
It's the age of hype; an era filled with VSCOcam filter discussions and lengths of time devoted to procuring the perfect natural light for the perfectly placed candid shot. Activities that were once considered daily humdrums, like sipping that first cup of coffee, have now been amplified into showcasing one's artisanal tastes. It can create a looming intimidation factor that my shy-self can feel apprehensive about dissuading.
The coffee world has, especially, become an artisanal force to reckon with. Following the Starbucks boom, a new movement began to take root as soft-spoken mad scientists roasted small batch, ethically sourced coffee. Quality was no longer just a gimmicky word thrown around by large, chain suppliers, but a line drawn in the sand over which these small coffee roasting companies would go to war to uphold. With all that effort, I could understand why they wanted their products and brands represented so seriously, but how in the hell does one break into that world?
There was something different about 1000 Faces.
If you spent enough time in Athens you would notice their coffee being sold or used in local shops, or for sale at the farmers market on weekends, but there was still an elusive edge about them. Eventually my curiosity led me to their roaster on Barber St. As I walked in the door, I was slightly surprised. A big table in the entryway served as the spot for most of the daily business transactions, bags were being slung and sealed right in front of me, and a roasting machine years away from the industrial Henry Ford style operation I thought necessary for success was spinning green beans round and round. When coffee beans landed in the 1000 Faces roaster, the same hands that created and ensured its quality taste also bagged it and took my money. The warm, accommodating faces answered my cliché questions with sincere enthusiasm. There wasn't an ounce of pretentiousness to be found. It was a quintessential Athens business; heavily connected to the community, thorough in its ethical bean sourcing and compost practices, and effortlessly cool because they didn't care if they were cool. They made good coffee for the sake of it, because they loved it and wanted to share it. They kept their doors open for added honesty, and even offered internships, so anyone who wanted to could learn all about the inner workings of a wholesale and retail coffee roaster.
While I'm casually building up my love for 1000 Faces, I do need to yield one sentiment of caution: you can never go back.
You will be spoiled, on the coffee front that is. I was able to drown myself in flavor profiles that opened up all my senses to the warm smells, bright tastes, and lingering finish that transported the mere act of drinking a cup of coffee into a full blown experience. You get caught up in defining your method of brewing so much so that coffee extraction takes on an actual character trait that you add to your Instagram biography. You feel an odd sense of guilt going out and paying for a cup because yours can finally rival, if not beat theirs. Coffee to-go will always have a place in your life, but now there's an inner monologue reeling through your head so sassy you judge yourself a little. Ultimately you don't care, because you know the limitless possibilities a single cup can divulge.
It may be apparent at this point that I haven't spoken exactly on the internship itself, as the title of the blog post implies. That's because what I'm leaving this internship having learned isn't about task knowledge. The cupping and production lessons were intriguing, but they are illuminated by the soul of this place, where Athens, Georgia's weird and subtle heartbeat pulsates.
To know 1000 Faces is to know Athens.
It's to know the families that walk the shaded sidewalks of Boulevard and step in for a quick cup and chat. It's the local chefs and artists who enjoy hearing of your passion for coffee beans as they share their passions in return. You get to know the young transplants, and their dogs, and relate to their struggles and successes. You start to see these same people all throughout town at events or bars, and they're always just as willing to engage in happy small talk and bullshitting. In a place where 120,000+ students, professors, visitors, newbies, and townies ebb and flow in and out of the 30601 constantly, this internship finally made the small town of Athens feel small. Everyone is doing exciting things and it's humbling and motivating to immerse yourself in every inch of it. The 1000 Faces internship cultivates that immersion without even intending to. Hopefully you'll leave as I did, with a deep love of coffee, and an even deeper love of Athens.