By Debbie McGinn
Foreign currency at the bean
When we opened the Bean, we were in a small building off the plaza in Old Mesilla. A lot of our customers were tourist from other countries. Historic Old Mesilla was very much an international tourist destination. Mary hung a large map of the world and invited customers to stick a pin in the map showing where in the world they were from. Then someone pinned paper currency from their country to the map. Before long, the map was covered with currency from around the world. Some got lost in a move, but that is the foreign currency taped on our bake case.
Smurfs and yeasty beasties; how fun is baking at the bean?
We started baking our own baked goods early on. Commercial baked goods tasted so….well, commercial. Leave a funny chemical taste on your tongue. All our recipes were and are developed by us. We have a very good time baking, maybe having fun in the kitchen is part of why our baked goods taste good!
Yeast breads are very interesting. To make good bread, the yeast must be fed. We had a baker, who shall remain nameless, that was scared of opening the container of yeast. “It jumps out at me” she would say. It was really a static reaction on the part of the yeast, but she was sure the yeast was alive and referred to yeast as yeasty beasties. And she did everything she could to avoid baking bread.
Baking bread is such a wonderful process. Fresh whole wheat flour, unbleached red wheat flour, yeast, honey or molasses and butter or canola oil. That’s it. It sponges in the bowl; it is kneaded, mixing the yeast with the natural properties of the flour. It rises in our kitchen, developing the nutty, flavorful taste that only handmade, homemade bread has. We don’t buy frozen dough, thaw it, bake it and call it fresh-baked. Our bread is wholesome, truly fresh bread.
This same baker was, shall we say, creatively messy. One morning, I arrived to find her behind schedule, and the floor was covered with smashed blueberries. Accidents happen, and even though blueberries are expensive, I didn’t say much.
After the bake case was stocked and the customers started coming in for the morning rush, I asked what happened in the kitchen. Deadpan and straight-faced the answer was “smurf wars”.
Back when we opened at 6 am, people would be waiting at the door for coffee. Some of our baristas wrote a play entitled “coffee zombies”. Sorry, but it was hysterically funny. It was never produced, although it was auditioned for and rehearsed. No doubt if it had been produced, it would have become a big hit on Broadway.
This was before Starbucks opened a shop with a drive through on valley. I won’t say anymore.
The painting on the canopy over the front patio was painted by Priscillana. A wonderful Mesilla artist who has painted many murals around town. It depicts people involved with the beginning of the bean. Some are still around and some are gone. All loved the Bean, and the Bean was a part of their lives.
Sometimes I wonder what makes the Bean so special to us and our customers. It is so much more than a job and a coffee shop. Sometimes it seems like we are serving friends and family with hospitality. Sometimes it seems like we are meeting a challenge. Sometimes it seems we are meeting a need, filling a place.
We have regular customers who appreciate us. We strive for and need this circle of friends to grow. We love the excitement of welcoming new customers all the time.
Do small businesses like the Bean have a future? Do neighborhoods and friends still need a place to meet that is unique and individual? Does taking time to make things with care still matter? We think so, and we are glad our customers seem to think so too.
Aroma is just flavor getting away, and we brew our coffee just a day from roasting. In some countries, coffee is roasted over little open fires on the street. They use a pan and stir it. How high-tech is that? A friend told me the best cup of coffee she ever had was brewed from coffee still warm from being roasted over an open fire in Africa.
Really fresh coffee is such a treat. Roasting our own coffee became a priority pretty early on.
well, two roasters and 6 years later, we think we have the right tool for our job. We have a 3 kilo roaster made by US Roasters, installed in the front room of the Bean. Roasting 3 kilos at a time is just the right size. Our roasts are always fresh, we have just enough of several origins to offer diversity and that size of roast is not too smoky or annoying to our neighborhood.
We buy green coffee beans in wholesale lots. It is bought from a broker who buys it from a farmer. Although we don’t have much more than 6 origins (country’s crops) at a time, it is new crops, excellent quality and fair to the farmer and his workers.
There are many words and ways to describe coffee. Much science is involved with the roasting of coffee. But regardless of the science or the description, if it is done right, it is incredible. A rich, almost thick flavor on the tongue, a bit like chocolate melting. And sometimes like chocolate in taste, but often times more. Sometimes a hint of fruit or flowers. Sometimes complex and bright, sometimes rich and spicy. Every roast is special, care is taken with every batch. There are so many variables that determine the best roast for a bean, and each roast is carefully watched from start to finish.
The Building that is the Bean.
Our building was a gas station for the first 40 or so years of it’s life. It is considered a historic building, probably only because it is located in a historic area. We believe it was built around 1947. The first fire engine that served the town of Mesilla was parked at this garage. When we bought it in 2003, it was in sad shape, although structurally sound. We wanted to keep the old garage doors, but they were coming apart. Plans were approved by the town of Mesilla and after an extensive facelift, the Bean opened for Business in the present location in February 2003. What is the kitchen used to be the office. The smaller dining room was the customer service area and the big room was the service garage.
Reusing old buildings is a sensible thing to do. It preserves farmland and saves resources.
We believe our old building has character. It has new wiring, plumbing and insulation, but the original ceiling and walls are unique.
The building to the southeast of the shop used to be a chicken coop then was a vegetable stand. Soon it will be either remodeled or torn down.