MCP#011: CHRISTOPHER SCHOOLEY

 

ROASTER: Christopher Schooley

YEARS ROASTING: 16 years roasting, 21 years in Coffee

COMPANY: Troubadour Maltings, Fort Collins, CO

At Matchbook, we strive to tell stories of our roasters. They give you—and us—amazingly beautiful and personal coffees and we try to craft a narrative and find words to describe what they've crafted. Sometimes, you already know their stories. Sometimes, the roasters are better at telling their own tales. Chris Schooley, our first featured roaster of 2018, is the magical combination of both. 
If you've roasted coffee or picked up a coffee book, you probably know who Chris is. He's the co-founder of Coffee Shrub in Oakland, he was the green buyer for Metropolis Coffee in Chicago, and has been in coffee for over 20 years. What you know about roasting has probably been influence one way or another by Chris, and he's roasted on more machines than you could probably name. 
What does Chris do now? He sources grains and produces malts for beer. His small malting company, Troubadour Maltings, is based in Fort Collins, Colo., and like his coffee life, he's received accolades for pushing the beer industry forward. But we're pulling him out of retirement to roast the inaugural Matchbook release of 2018. So get your hands on this coffee, and quick—because we don't know when you'll get a chance to taste coffee from Chris again! 
___________

 

Snake In The Grass is inspired by an Andre Breton quote that I read once which simply stated that:

“Surrealism is a snake in the grass”

Suitably, I've never been able to find the quote again since I first saw it. It was in a book that I was thinking about purchasing for my brother for Christmas which was a collection of publications from Breton and the original Surrealists. I can't even remember the name of book store. It was in Chicago, north on Broadway near Irving Park. An enormous garden level apartment converted for retail with unsorted random stacks of books.

It's possible I never really saw the quote in the first place. Maybe a dream.

It's possible I never really saw it but it always stuck with me. I've always wondered how I could create a Surrealist, unconsciousssssss coffee experience.

My interpretation of this and what I've come to believe is that the means to create that experience lies within information and the idea of what information means in coffee when so much of it is obvious and transparent. Not that I see transparency as a bad thing in the slightest. It's just that in some ways all of this information creates a controlled and manipulated coffee experience based around words instead of your senses.

What about all the information hidden from you, like a snake in the grass? The organic information? The information that exists within the seed itself? A more true (?) and experiential information than names and numbers given to the coffee.

I'm going to create a surreal coffee experience by giving you only the coffee itself, but I'm also going to obscure the information from myself. I've asked some close roaster friends to each send me a sweet, clean, and balanced coffee without telling me what it is. I'll see what each coffee tells me before and after I roast it, and then blend them uniquely in each bag as I see fit so that no two bags are exactly alike. Each package will be its own unique blend.

I promise that all will be revealed, eventually, and maybe not entirely obviously. You may have to search a little for it.

In my new life with malting, I no longer have the same historical/information reference points that I built up through my life in coffee. I've had to put even more trust in my senses in order to understand where I can positively impact quality and characteristic. This has been extremely liberating and definitely shades what I'm trying to accomplish here.

I'm aware that this whole idea sounds like a gimmick and I've been told as much.The modern connotation of the word gimmick is of a cheap trick. The word gimmick, though, comes from magic (I've been a card carrying member of the Society of American Magicians), and is a tool or prop that has been specially prepared in order to help create the appearance of a miracle.

It's this sense of the word gimmick that I've chosen to embrace in this project. I am most certainly trying to create a sense of something surprising, and in order to do that I've gimmicked what I see as the familiar specialty coffee presentation by withholding information about the coffee from you, as well as myself. I'm trying to tap into something deeper and subliminal.

But never cheaply or crassly.

This is intensely meaningful to me, and in no way is this meant to diminish the importance of the grower or anyone else in the supply chain. I DO believe that this information is important. But I want to surprise you! This is the hissssss in the lawn that you can't precisely place that maybe makes your heart beat just a little harder, heightens your senses.

I'm incredibly honored to have been given this opportunity by Matchbook. As dramatic as it sounds, at this point in my life I’m only interested in roasting coffee for others if it's for something truly meaningful and interesting to me. Now that I'm a coffee eccentric and no longer a coffee professional, I have been freed to roast from my heart.