Chris Calkins (Gotham Coffee Roasters): Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #72

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Chris Calkins (Gotham Coffee Roasters): Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #72

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job.

Hello I'm Chris Calkins I'm the owner and CEO of in New York City. Gotham is a 10 year old specialty roaster based in Brooklyn, with a retail shop in the Flatiron district of Manhattan.
Before Gotham I co-founded Spinelli Coffee, with a chain of stores in San Francisco. Before that I worked with la Marzocco and Starbucks. I’ve been doing this for a long time.

2- When and why did coffee become important to you?

I've been in the coffee business and coffee’s been a serious part of my life since I was hired by Starbucks in 1978 to run their wholesale restaurant division. I was also involved in opening their 4th and 5th store in Seattle. So, you might say coffee spend integral in my life for a long time.

3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?

The first cup of coffee that I remember wasn't specialty coffee but it hit that spot that a great cup of coffee does. Coffee is very personal and even a mediocre cup of coffee can seem like a great cup to the person that drinks it.
My first great cup was during a sailing trip on Long Island Sound with my family, I was 15. We were about an hour from shore when a storm with Gale force winds came from nowhere, in the process of pulling the sails down and rocking out the storm I got soaking wet without a change of clothes.

My mother handed me a towel and something hot in a cup it was the coffee that I will always remember. It hit the spot and I’ve been drinking coffee ever since.

4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?

Silly question, That first cup of coffee.

5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?

I can't say that I really have a favorite. I float around to see how specific coffees taste brewed in specific ways I tend to use my Chemex pot frequently but lately I've gone very old school with the melita drip filter that I use when I travel because it's plastic and it doesn't break. Not very high tech but with good coffee it works fine

6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?

The most memorable cup of coffee was 40 years ago and it was a Jamaica Blue Mountain. I've been disappointed with Blue Mountain since then but for some reason this cup blew the top of my head off.

Chris Calkins (Gotham Coffee Roasters)
7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from?

It's difficult to narrow down an origin because there's so much variety from one origin but I would say Ethiopia.

8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).

I would just say support your local coffee house just like you would support your local bar so much of coffee is about the experience and the camaraderie. There's great coffee all over the world.

9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?

Listen to your own voice, be flexible and willing to change course if necessary.

10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?

COVID has been very difficult it seems as if everyone in my company has and sick, there were financial strains, I managed to keep the company open and keep everybody employed even when sales dropped off. But as of today May 2023 COVID is still here but has calmed down and we are operating at pre pandemic levels. and grateful that we survived.

11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?

It's hard to say but 40 years ago when I got started there were only a few dozen people in the US that really understood and knew how to buy how to roast specialty coffee. That number is now in the 10’s of thousands. So, one would assume that the growth will just continue exponentially.

12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Your guess is as good as mine, I’m 74 years old!

13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?

The coffee business like any business it's hard work. Don't start anything if you don't believe in it fully and if you do put in the time and effort and realize you only fail when you quit. try to find joy in the process.

Gotham Coffee Roasters

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