Monday, September 21, 2009


Last Wednesday I was treated to one of the most exciting, most sensuous, strangest experiences ever: A personal coffee cupping at Topeca Coffee, Tulsa's only seed-to-cup coffee company.

Check it out.

Though I love Topeca for its coffee, its cafe and its indie-ness (yes, it's Monday and I'm making up words), what I love most about it is its accessibility. It's great for me as a reporter, and it's especially cool when I go into the cafe as nothing more than a curious consumer, wanting to know how one bean can, just through differences processing and roasting, taste like mowed hay in one cup and chocolate and blueberries in another or why the barista has to bang steamed milk against the counter, like, a million times before he can pour quality latte art.

Coffee, my friends, is fascinating.

I spent the weekend before last in Napa Valley trotting from winery to winery, tasting everything my pocketbook could bear (not much but enough to be able to start one of those cool wine trivets made from the corks I stole from the half-dozen or so wineries where we tasted), and I didn't get nearly the personal attention at any of them that I enjoyed during the cupping at Topeca.

Sure, folks in Napa were nice, but since we were there during the weekend during one of their busiest tourist seasons of the year, they "didn't have time" to teach us about tasting in the first place, let alone any in-depth information on how the wine was made or where exactly it came from.

My cup and my rabid ADD were satisfied at Topeca, though. Thanks to the three Johns (there's the roaster, John Cunningham, the owner, John Gaberino, and the barista, John Schaeffer - crazy, no?) for my first-ever cupping. It rocked.

Topeca doesn't want to be nice to me and me only, though I totally wouldn't put up a fight if that's what they really wanted, which it most definitely is not.

John (Gaberino or, as he calls himself, Johnny 3) wants to give one lucky TDT reader six months' worth of free coffee.

That's one 12-ounce bag of the blend of your choice (there are seven; my husband and I are in the habit of drinking Ayutepeque, but I think I fell in love with Natural last week at the cupping) per month for six months, all fresh and small-batch roasted by all the people you can't help but like at Topeca Coffee.

If you can't wait to get all this roast-astic bean in your burr grinder, skip to the comments and tell me about the best cup of coffee you ever had.

I would pick my favorite story as the winner, but since I know one person will make me belly laugh and another will make me cry and another will make me salivate and fantasize and I just won't be able to pick my fave, I'll let do the dirty work.

Turn in your story by tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10am and I'll have the winner picked by coffee time. Until then, happy slurping, y'all.

P.S. - Next time you're at Fifth and Cheyenne, duck in to Cafe Topeca for the Nutella Crepe. It will open your mind to all kinds of prepossessing possibilities.


Lauren Houston said...

The best cup of coffee I have ever had, I have on a regular basis. Several times a month I sit out on the back porch of my family's lakehouse with my parent's and watch the sun rise. Even though I'm drinking the cheap stuff my mom buys, in that moment being with my parents, drinking Maxwell House coffee, watching the sun rise over Grand Lake... That makes for a great cup of coffee.

Funky Food Trisha said...

Love, love, love Topeka coffee.

Nece said...

When I was a teenager, we'd go up into the mountains in Arkansas and stay with family in their log cabin. That cabin was built by hand by my Uncle and didn't have the best insulation, so on cold mornings during Winter Break, when I got up, my Mama would hand me an old fashioned tall plastic cup of hot coffee. She and my aunt made it in an old metal percolator on the wood stove. Sitting there with a hand made quilt over my knees, watching Mama and Aunt Gin fix breakfast, my hands wrapped around that perfectly warm cup was a little slice of heaven. I could smell the wood smoke in the steam of the coffee, and taste the love they added to every pot. Thirty years later, my Mama is gone now, but those cold winter morning plastic cup coffees have always been the very best I ever had.


Amber said...

Shortly after moving to LA in 1992, it became my habit to pack my novel and folding chair out to the beach on Sunday mornings. I would order an iced latte from the beachfront coffee shop and take it onto the sand in a tall styrofoam cup. I can remember distinctly, the taste of sea salt on the rim of my cup when the spray would mist me, my book and chair. It's a taste I doubt I'll experience again.

Nancy said...

The very first Starbucks I ever had waaaay back in.....well, it was a LONG time ago. I realized how amazing coffee could taste and so began my love affair with it that continues to this day.

Jeff Shaw said...

You said Roast astic. :) great post.

M. Hill said...

Best cup of coffee I ever had was directly following the best meal I ever had at Restaurant Toque in Montreal. It was a fresh french roast with cream and natural sugar. I was just one of those moments that you had to close your eyes. Delicious.

Geoffrey said...

I don't remember the best cup of coffee I ever had. I know I had it at La Baguette in Norman, Oklahoma. I drink Topeca coffee every day, and I am picky about my coffee, but the best cup of coffee could have been crap, and I wouldn't have cared.

I was more interested in the girl than the coffee. I took my wife to La Baguette for coffee on our first date ever, and that was the best cup of coffee ever.

Kristin said...

DoubleShot Ethiopia coffee made with a french press on Saturday morning, enjoyed while sitting on the front porch.

Carrisa said...

OMG I would love to win this. Discovering Topeca coffee has deeply enriched my life. No joke.

The best cup of coffee I've ever had involves my espresso machine, Topeca Ayutepeque, 2% milk, and Coffee Mate Belgian Chocolate Toffee creamer.

I grind the beans myself and then make about 4 oz of espresso from them. I pour a little of the creamer into a shaker along with the milk. Then I pour in the espresso and shake. Then I fill a cup with ice and a straw and pour my delicious coffee creation over it.

So yeah I realize this isn't at typical cup of coffee, but this is what I love and no one makes it better than me. Of course I couldn't do it without Topeca. Because I've tried it with other brands and there's no comparison.

Even other Topeca flavors don't do it for me the way that the Ayutepeque does.

Man I hope I win.

Xylo said...

Turkish coffee while honeymooning in Romania... sip it slow, the dregs are in the cup.

Neb said...

The first time I had a true macchiato Nordaggio's in Tulsa was something of a revelations. I didn't realize coffee that strong could be smooth and flavorful without being overpowering. Freshly roasted coffee from places like Topeca has since rescued me from those bitter, stale cups of coffee produced by Folgers.

Brigid said...

I recently tried French press coffee for the first time, and wow-ee, it's definitely the best way to brew it at home. If you're including coffee drinks, I'll never forget the cappuccini I used to buy in Italy. My favorite place in Milan was called Bar Cielo.

Elizabeth & Chad said...

My first cup of Illy brand coffee... best cup I've EVER had!

Mercedes Millberry said...

I love Topeca coffee.

But my favorite cup of coffee probably came early in my relationship with my fiance. He was home roasting at the time, and knowing the beans for the coffee I was drinking were lovingly roasted by him for me, made it special. Now if I can get him back to roasting!

angela kay said...

I've never had Topeca coffee ever. I guess judging by these posts I have missed out!

Being a huge coffee fanatic, there are many stories to tell that deal with great coffee.

The best coffee I have is when I go to visit my grandparents for the weekend. I love waking up to that dark coffee bean smell, it almost makes waking up at the butt crack of dawn wonderful. I said ALMOST.

We'll all sit at the dinner table, cheap coffee in hand and talk about whatever we want.Mainly I try to get them to tell me how it was when they were children, teenagers, young adults. It fascinates me. We do it for hours some times. I absolutely love it.

Last week on wednesday I woke up before the roosters and sat down with my Nana and Popie and shared a couple cups of cheapo-joe to help celebrate their being married for 58 years. ...Now THAT'S a lot of coffee talk!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Topeca is awesome. I work right across the street. Their Americano is the best I've ever had.

The best cup of coffee I ever had was after a Cub Scout campout at Zink Ranch. Nobody brought any coffee for the morning. We didn't leave the campout until midafternoon. The first stop was the Quik Trip in Sand Springs. That was my best cup of coffee ever!
It wasn't the best coffee I ever drank, not by a long shot, but it was my most anticipated cup of coffee.

Joy said...

Best cup of coffee I had was my first Prague Mocha at Shades. So smooth. So yummy. I normally don't order the same thing over and again; I like to try new things. But every time I go in to Shades, I order the Prague!

The Jimmy said...

I worked one summer at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in NM, and lived in a tent city for the summer. One of the other workers (who we called "coffee man") had an espresso machine in his tent. He provided me my first taste of this delicious addiction. I remember the night he pulled that little cup from underneath that spitting, steaming machine. Next thing I remember it was two days later, and I was lying under a pine tree wearing a donkey head from a halloween costume, war-paint on my face made from used coffee grounds, with a pounding headache.

Nicole Nascenzi said...

The setting: Early one Saturday morning, mid-June, 1990-something Caffe Vittoria located on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End at the heart of the city’s historic Italian neighborhood. Caffe Vittoria is more like a Vatican Chapel than a Starbucks and this story is set long before that west coast chain sprawled over the U.S.

Porcelain cups are colliding with spoons and saucers, ornate espresso machines are shooting out milk and trumpeting steam, while baristas dance between English and Italian as they take orders at the marble counter. Waitresses somehow manage to squeeze between tightly packed tables simultaneously taking and delivering orders.

The story: A suburban teen walks in, nervously fidgeting with her notebook and clutching her Cannon A1 35mm camera as if holding it tighter might make her meager film supply last a little longer.

Her eyes scan the café, no one she knows is there; she is more than an hour early. The tourists haven’t arrived yet and the neighborhood’s old men are still finishing their morning coffee ritual before retiring to the bocce ball courts and patios tucked into alleyways throughout the neighborhood, where they will spend the day hiding from their wives and sharing war stories over Campari.

A waitress nods, she sits, unties the flannel shirt from around her waist and wraps it around the camera before placing it between her feet on the floor. She grabs the small menu from its resting place between the sugar dispenser and the napkin holder.

She has no idea what to order, she has never been in a place like this and the only coffee her mom made was instant.

Panic creeps over her chest as the waitress approaches asking “what’ll it be?”
Good question, she thinks, what will it be? She scans the menu and settles on a word she has heard before – “cappuccino.” OK then, she will have a “cappuccino,” whatever that is.

She settles into the café chair and takes in the sights and smells around her, examining the photos lodged in intricate frames on the walls, the banter from the old men as they make their way to the street and the smell of fresh pastry and roasting coffee.

Suddenly, there it was. The most beautiful thing she had ever seen in a cup. The waitress walked away as if it were nothing and happened all the time.

For a moment all she could do was stare at it, delicately cradled in a grand porcelain cup. The cappuccino looked too pretty to drink....

By the time her photography instructor and the rest of the class showed up, she was on her third. The instructor gave them their assignment, but that really didn’t matter.

I don’t remember any of the photos I took that day, but I will never forget that first cappuccino.

ASHLEY said...

well I can say this, the best cup of coffee i have had as of late occurred just this past sat. night at the starbucks on utica. i can say it was the best, because it was made exactly as i ordered it! how often does that happen? I personally, like really hot coffee, and no matter how many times i ask for it to be "extra hot" it never happens so it seems. But when i ordered my peppermint mocha, w/ skim milk, extra hot, and light whip. it came exactly that way.

I do remember my first real coffee exp. was at nordaggios when i was in high school and i have been hooked ever since. love love love coffee... and would love to add Topeca coffee to my regular coffee regimine!

Lanna said...

I know it's sad, but I'd have to say Starbucks consistently makes some of the best coffee I've had. I'd love to find a local business to match it, but so far I haven't.

karen said...

Any morning my little buddy is up and about early, shouting from the kitchen, "Can I make you a coffee, person?" < insert giggles galore because he thinks that is so funny > And he makes a pretty darn good espresso. We do enjoy DoubleShot. Ethiopia Sidamo Koratie beans were some of the best ever.

I will be trying Topeca asap though! Thanks!


Wendy said...

Somebody say coffee? As many may know I heart coffee and its the only drink that helps me start my day.

My Guatemala parents are coffee lovers themselves and I remember the smell of coffee running threw our home every Sunday morning. Every time that I would ask my mom for a sip she would say, "coffee is not for little kids." For many years I would get denied.

When I was 13, my folks took me to Guatemala. It was the 1st time I met my Grandparents and majority of my cousins. One morning my Grandma Carmen was preparing breakfast in her outside kitchen. Over the open flames was an cast iron pot with coffee brewing. The nutty smell was amazing! Grandma saw my eyes widen and a grin came over her and she went to the pot, added milk and stirred. My mom came in and saw her child fascinated by this. Grandma poured a cup and offered it to me, I was so excited, my 1st cup. Mom interjected, but Grandma had the upper hand. I took my 1st sip and enjoyed ever moment. Still to this day I order lattes.

suburban hippie mama said...

I am quite spoiled when it comes to coffee..being married to a coffee connaisseur. Enjoy the perfect cup of freshly roasted and brewed coffee every morning.

Wanted to share a cute coffee story. My son (4 at the time) was sippin' his hot chocolate, pretending it was coffee. "Mmmm...good coffee. I drink my coffee black, mom, cause I'm a man." Nice.

Becky said...

I have never had Topeca coffee, but I most certainly need to give it a try, because we LOVE coffee and lovingly refer to ourselves as coffee snobs. After living and traveling in Europe, plain ol' restaurant coffee just isn't any good at all to us. We roast our own beans at home and there really isn't anything better than a cup of freshly roasted and brewed coffee! I am so going to have to visit Cafe Topeca for the coffee and that Nutella Crepe--yummmm!

Crayons said...

It was Aug 7, 2002. I woke up. That was the best part of my day. Aug 6 had been my last chemotherapy treatment. The prognosis was good, I was going to live for probably a long time and my suffering through treatment was over. I made a cup of coffee and sat outside watching life around me. I dont remember what brand, it didnt matter. Everything tasted a million times better that date and everyday after.

Nicole Cates

Anonymous said...

The best cup of coffee I had was not because of the taste. I was in the Army stationed in Korea. It was freezing cold. I made Ranger cappuccino by mixing chocolate milk into my coffee. Those few moments before the chaos of the day began, made it he best cup of coffee.

Jason Blakeley said...

The best cup of coffee I've ever had was about 17 years ago In Kansas City. It was my very first Cafe Mocha and I have yet to find another place that makes it as good.

Karol said...

The best cup of coffee is ALWAYS the first one I have in the morning...and that's EVERY morning! lol I thank God daily for that first cup! :D

matt said...

best cup of coffee? I was in Brazil, in this mountain town called Ouro Preto, and stopped at a little cafe in a bookstore with some friends. The cappuccino was unbelievably good. My friend was videoing everyone, and he points the camera at me, asks "What's the secret of life?"

I say "This is the best cappuccino I've ever had. The secret is to enjoy the good while you've got it." He goes to the next person, and I turn to do something, and knock the coffee in my lap. Then, the coup de grace, my friend pans back to me with coffee all over my lap.

Jason said...

No doubter. Atlanta, GA - a little place called Danneman's. I was visiting some family who had recently moved to Atlanta, and they had stumbled upon the place by accident. It's not fancy, but the coffee is phenomenal. I mean, like profound revelation kinda good. I've never had anything like what they served me. The people were so pleasant, and the shop was very quaint. I am honestly looking for an excuse to go back to Atlanta.

Kyle said...

The best cup of coffee I have ever had was one that I will forever remember. My grandfather and I had gotten up very early; 3:30 am, and we took to the fields of his farm. He had a thermos full of coffee, probably Folgers, and as we where made it to the end of the fields we took a seat and both had a cup of the delicious coffee. About 10 minutes after sitting down a young fawn approached the both of us and for some odd reason it wasn't scared and let me pet it. Being a yound lad of 13, that was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done.

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