Think you know how you like your coffee? The right cup could change everything.

BatSheva and Aharon Vaknin
BatSheva and Aharon Vaknin. Photo courtesy of BatSheva Vaknin

Aharon Coffee is a Los Angeles-based roaster and purveyor supplying beans to premiere businesses throughout the region. A favorite of the Sunset Staff, Aharon Coffee will bring you inside the world of high-quality coffee in this new weekly series. For more information, visit the Aharon Coffee website.

I’m not sure what I was wearing but I remember clearly where I was: at home, in our detached garage office, arguing with my husband. About? Coffee. Or rather, personal preferences.

Aharon had only been roasting for a few months—after his initial life-altering trip to the coffee farms of Boquete, Panama, where he first learned about coffee, harvesting and roasting—he returned to L.A. and our family with a fire in his heart and a pure desire to roast amazing coffees from around the world and share this coffee with everyone, everywhere.

Every week following the Panama trip, Aharon left our family of six (four kids, him & me) to fly up north, hone the craft of coffee roasting with his mentor Willem Boot, and then return that same night with eyes sparkling and plans to do something big: to roast coffee in a way that only a small percentage of the world’s coffee roasters were doing. With consciousness. With intention, and meditations. With joy.

I supported him whole-heartedly. I loved coffee. And while his business of design/build construction was steady and lucrative, I didn’t share his passion for that industry and I could see that his unique and extraordinary culinary gifts would be handily applied in the coffee industry. 

After all, as he loved to remind me: Coffee was a fruit. A red ripe cherry, grown in high elevation then picked and washed/dried with care. Why most roasters in the world then proceeded to take that precious fruit and burn and char it to a crisp (resulting in “dark roasted coffee”) was totally beyond Aharon’s understanding. When a coffee is OVER-roasted to the point of a dark/French/Italian roast, Aharon explained to me, the natural oils that escape from the coffee bean as it’s roasted become burned and rancid. Needless to say, the resulting coffee was not the robust flavorful caffeine-rich and antioxidant-rich fruit that he had fallen in love with.

The Fateful Bag of Beans

I was onboard and moving forward, supporting him in our journey together into this exciting but very new (for us) specialty coffee industry. The very first time Aharon arrived home from Mill Valley, CA clutching a bag of the coffee he had selected as a green bean, then roasted in a manner he was happy with, he asked me if I would share a cup with him.

Sure! Of course, let’s take it into the kitchen.

You see, we were having this conversation in our detached garage where we had built a miniature coffee lab equipped with state-of-the-art coffee brewers, grinders, tampers, water filtration, everything. Everything that is, except what I needed in the kitchen. Cream. And sugar.

Remember what I said earlier? We were arguing. This is why: Aharon argued that I needed to be open, to drink and sample the coffee he was roasting without cream, without sugar, just black. And I—I am very strong-minded too, no accident we wound up together—I did not want to drink coffee without cream and sugar. In fact, I did not like coffee without cream and sugar.

But it didn’t take long for me to understand that this was too important to Aharon for me to insist on drinking his coffee how I liked my coffee. I capitulated. (Okay, maybe sulked a bit) but I put on a brave—nay, stoic—face. For the sake of peace in the family, I would do this. Suffer through a few sips of black coffee. There are worse ways to end a fight.

So I drank.

Love at First Sip

And friends, I do not lie when I tell you this: It was the cup of coffee that changed my life.

Because that black, no-cream-or-sugar-added coffee was delicious. It didn’t taste like dirt, or ashes, or bitter sourness, or any of the other ways black coffee had only ever tasted to me my entire life.

It tasted… divine.

It had nuance. Flavor notes. (I would learn soon enough that coffee has a greater variety of flavor notes than wine, in fact.) Yumminess. Dare I say creaminess? I dared. This particular Colombia roast was even chocolatey. (I am a chocolate fanatic.)

I’ve come a long way since that pivotal day. I enjoy coffees that Aharon roasts from all over the globe, coffees with chocolate notes, coffees with citrus-y notes, coffees with caramel notes, nutty notes, berry notes, pumpkin notes and even earthy, tobacco notes. (Sumatra, anyone?)

I doubt I will ever forget the first cup of well-roasted coffee that sent me firmly on this journey side-by-side with Aharon. These days I drink drip coffee black, though I also love to occasionally treat myself to an Aharon Caramel or Vanilla latte. (In the cafe we make our flavors in-house from scratch, and they are better than any dessert.)

Well-roasted (never over-roasted coffee) is my playground and I have fun with it.

Essential Coffee Gear

The Gooseneck KettleThe Cold-Brew System
The Digital ScaleThe High-End Espresso Maker
The Burr GrinderThe Pour-Over Stand
AeroPressThe French Press
ChemexThe Smart Mug
The All-in-One Espresso Maker
Keep Reading: