In this installment of our Coffee Blogger Profile series, we get to spend some time talking coffee with David and Mae Clark, the minds behind Purista Coffee
. We were attracted to Purista by the gorgeous coffee pictures and by the Clarks' unique coffee review format. We first contacted them to review coffee from one of our roasters and then followed up with some questions about their lives, their process and their love of coffee.
: NOUN ˈPYU̇R-ĒS-TÄ ONE WHO INSISTS ON UTMOST PRECISION IN RELATION TO ALL THINGS COFFEE, NAMELY IN CREATING A TRADITION OF UNADULTERATED COFFEE PREPARATION AND CULTURE.
If you're not familiar with the definition, don't feel bad. It's a word coined by Mae Clark to define the niche she and her husband, David, have carved for themselves in the culture of specialty coffee. That precision that fuels the need for a new word to define their role is the same precision that has led David and Mae to create a new kind of coffee review blog -- one that recognizes the importance of precision in brewing, enjoying and reviewing coffee. It also recognizes the importance of transparency when it comes to coffee. It's obvious in every post and every review that David and Mae are not only knowledgeable and passionate about coffee, they are in love with it and, like true lovers everywhere, they want to share the sensory experience of that love with the world.
One of the first things you'll notice about the coffee reviews on Purista is that they're far longer than your average review. That's in part because the Clarks have chosen to brew each coffee using several different brewing methods, a technique known as vertical tasting. We started off our interview asking about that choice -- which, for the record, we think is absolutely brilliant.
: What made you decide to approach your coffee reviews with vertical tastings?
: When we decided we were going to start writing our impressions of coffee we were drinking we looked around at all of the other blogs doing the same and noticed that there wasn't really anyone else doing it that way. It was also because we have the hardest time making decisions, so we weren't going to try to pick one brew method to do every coffee review on. We like to think that our very comprehensive approach serves the coffees we're reviewing and the people who are purchasing them best. If somebody only has a Chemex or a French Press, wouldn't it be a bummer if they ended up with a coffee that wasn't particularly well suited to that brew method?
: We have to completely agree. It's a fact that different brewing methods bring out different characteristics in each coffee, and vertical reviews are a great way to get an idea of a coffee's full range of flavors. How do you try to balance the technical and the subjective in your reviews? How do you avoid getting too technical?
: We feel like the technical stuff is somewhat subjective because taste is subjective. Yes, we do check the temperature of our water before brewing, we grind and dose and measure, we pour certain ways, we have our tamping technique figured out, but what works for us might not be the only good way so we try not to shove it down anyone else's throat. That and there's always more learning to do. We also tend to enjoy writing more when we aren't boxed in by technicality and following a specific flavor wheel.
: That enjoyment really comes through in your reviews. They're a lot of fun to read, something we always appreciate in a blog. What advice would you give to coffee enthusiasts who want to start their own coffee blog?
: The best advice we can give is to find something that no one else is doing and do that, and also be very true to your vision. You have to love what you're doing before other people will love it. Lastly, make sure you know your own voice and speak loud and clear.
: Great advice. So, let me ask you this: as a coffee blogger, you have a unique perspective on the coffee industry. What do you see as the most common mistakes that pros are making?
is a tough question. We like to think of ourselves as pretty open minded and we like seeing everyone doing different things. Right now we see a lot of the newbies in the industry trying really hard to innovate and be different, which is great because that's how we evolve, discover, and better what we're doing. Standards are changing a lot. That said, one of the worst things we've seen and experienced in the industry is that a lot of us are so caught up in what's good and exciting in the industry that we're leaving the consumers out of the equation.
: It's interesting to hear that. It's not the first time we've heard that exact criticism from others outside the pro sphere of the coffee industry. Could you get more specific?
: It's definitely important to have all of the information about the growing conditions of the coffee, the varietal, the individuals who toiled over growing it and their situation, why it's important to pay higher prices for it, how to roast it to best let the coffee speak, how to brew and serve it adequately, nailing the design and build out of your platform, presentation (latte art, vessels, etc.)...
All of these are great things to know and we're all really jazzed about knowing everything and being transparent, but it can be overwhelming. Couple that with too many coffee professionals feeling high and mighty because we know so much more than the consumer and that can make for a bad taste in the mouth of the people paying for all of the above mentioned. We're not saying that the majority of people in the industry are scaring the consumer away, but when we notice this sort of attitude it's unforgettable and very off-putting. Hopefully some of the people who are really nailing their relationship and appearance with customers will have a lot of influence in the coming days.
: So, let's talk about coffee. If you could construction your perfect coffee flavor notes, what would that coffee taste like? For example, mine would be a slow opening of the senses, light floral qualities arching into a medium, velvety body and ending in a sweet, almost peart-tart note.
: This is so hard to answer! Every time we get a new coffee, we are giddy with excitement. The fact that this one roasted coffee tastes like no other on the planet is thrilling! With that, however, I do have to admit that I have my preferences. The Roast House's Idido is the closest to my ideal cup that I have ever tasted, personally. A bright, rich fruit-bomb with very distinct aromatics and flavors. A medium, buoyant or tea-like body with that tart, almost pucker-inducing acidity. Lemon, lime zest, blackberry, huckleberry, and most of all – blueberry. These are the aromas and flavors that my palate yearns for.
: Well... I like my coffee experiences to be a full court press on my senses. I want the aromatics to be strong and very discernible. My ideal coffee would have raspberry, honey, cream, rum, a little bergamot, a bit of melon, maybe some almond, and a hint of cacao in the aroma and flavors. I really like a sweet, dessert-like coffee. It would have a medium-full body somewhere between creamy and velvety because it carries the flavors best. The acidity would be fruity, sparkling, and sweet and the finish would be very balanced and hold onto the fruit. I've found that most of the El Salvador coffees I've had almost fit the bill.
: Finally, what has been the most inspirational part of your coffee journey?
: The sense of community is just amazingly inspirational. People value each other's input, differences, and story. Everybody is working towards the same goal of elevating the enjoyment of coffee to its fullest potential and having that same goal makes solid connections. We've seen people helping their fellow baristas find new jobs, lots of information sharing and collaborating, people all too willing to share their failures and successes to teach, and baristas holding fundraisers to help their direct communities. There are so many good people in coffee.
"So many good people in coffee..." If that sounds familiar, it might be because we say those exact words a lot. If you want to hear more from David and Mae -- and who wouldn't? -- you can follow them on Twitter at @Puristablog
, catch their photos on Instagram at @Puristablog
or hook up with them on Purista Coffee Co.