Coffee Insurrection Hero: Chapter #4 Caroline Bell
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job.
Caroline Bell, Co-Founder and CEO of Café Grumpy in Brooklyn, NY.
2- When and why did coffee become important to you?
Coffee became important to me during high-school. Back then, my friends and I used to spend hours hanging out at our local New Jersey diner taking over bottomless cups of coffee. Back then it was more about the social aspect and less about the taste.
3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?
Yes - it was when I first discovered fresh beans, a grinder and French press!
4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?
Drinking coffee of course! Most days, I go to sleep looking forward to the first cup. Before the pandemic started, we would get espresso shots at our cafe (next door to our office and roastery) then head over to the roastery for a morning cupping. Since everything is still “to go” and we have limited the amount of people allowed inside the cafe at a time, we had to change our routines. Now, we batch brew at the roastery - a different coffee each morning and compare tasting notes. In the afternoons, we brew a few coffees on Chemex to share.
5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?
When I am making coffee at home, I still like to use a French press. I don’t want to stand there with a timer and kettle watching the coffee bloom - I’d rather get some dishes done while the coffee brews itself!
6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?
To me, even just an okay cup of coffee can taste great in the right environment - just like great coffee can somehow taste bad if something doesn’t feel right. The best cups of coffee are always ones linked to memories of being with family, friends or just discovering a new coffee spot while traveling.
7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?
I really feel attached to all of the coffees we roast - especially the coffee from farms I have been lucky enough to visit in person. As far as flavor profiles in general, it depends on the time of day. In the morning, I would probably select a washed coffee from Guatemala with a clean approachable profile that gets sweeter as it cools (because I drink coffee slowly). In the afternoon, maybe one of our selections from Honduras - like Las Mariposas.
8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).
I would check out Ritual Coffee in San Francisco - another woman-owned business that
has also been around since 2005.
9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?
As a hands-on business owner, the most important thing I have learned is to try to stay as organized as possible and as healthy as possible. The work and stress are never-ending so you want to make sure you are able to keep up.
10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?
This has been a huge challenge that we never expected would last this long. We ended up permanently closing one of our cafe locations and still have 3 that are temporarily closed, but we are hopeful that New York City’s office workers and tourists will come back soon and that small businesses will be able to survive. In the coffee shops themselves, it has been very stressful for baristas, but thankfully, we are doing well with the vaccine roll-out here, so people are starting to feel a little more comfortable working in the service industry. I do think a lot about what coffee shops will look like in the future though - will people want to hang out, drink out of ceramic and chat to the person making their coffee? Or will the to go drinks,order ahead and get in and out as fast as possible vibe continue? It is a little sad actually as you spend years trying to build a place where people from the community can come and feel welcome and what is left right now is a place where you can’t really have much of a personal interaction. Will the commuters want to buy a coffee on their way to work if they have to wear masks on the subway?
11- How do you the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?
It will depend on how we take care of each other and the environment.
12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to be relaxing with a cup of coffee, reading a book with my dogs next to me.
13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?
Stay focused on quality and listen to your intuition.