This is Kevin Porter. He is a former BMX pro. That is him in the video below. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole video. The whole entire video. Note: the beginning is funny, but that is not the best part… hang in there… it’s pretty f*ckin’ rad. I didn’t know I even liked BMX… until I saw this video. It is so cool! Just like Kevin.
This is also Kevin Porter, Verve Coffee Roasters’ Southern California wholesale sales manager. I met Kevin at the Verve Melrose in West Hollywood one morning in early September when I was there having coffee with my friend Ada.
At some point, Ada stepped away, and I started a conversation with Kevin. He was working, and I think maybe I wanted to know what he was working on (nosy). And that’s how I found out he was in charge of Southern California’s wholesale sales for Verve. He told me he loves having conversations with people who are passionate about coffee, so I took that as my cue to ask him if I could interview him for this blog. Here’s our Q&A which took place at Verve 3rd Street on September 15. I had a decaf iced latte (delish even though it was decaf) 🙂 , and he had a pour over of Nicaragua El Limoncillo Yellow Pacamara (honey-process).
Q. When did you first discover coffee?
My father, mother, both grandmothers, both of my grandfathers, and all of my aunts and uncles drank coffee like there was no tomorrow. It was Folgers or Hills Brothers… all day and night! So I don’t remember exactly when I tried it. However, I just know that when I did, I made it like my father made it, tons of milk. It was more of a coffee-flavored milk. I still remember the cans the coffee came in. I couldn’t wait for them to give me the empty cans. I used those cans for everything, blowing off fireworks, painting bike parts, soaking parts in degreaser and so much more!
Q. When did you first discover you loved coffee?
I am from Chicago, originally, and back when I was growing up, I became a professional BMX rider. While I was still very young, I travelled a lot, and I met a lot of Pro BMXers, some of which were my idols. Coincidentally, around the age of 20, I found myself in Austin, TX, surrounded by BMX’s absolute best bike riders: Ruben Alcantara, Paul Buchanan, Garrett Burns, Taj Mihelich and Joe Rich. All of the sudden, I was in the same place with all these guys, and I was staying with them, and it was very “holy crap!” It turned out that Ruben, Garrett and Joe were big coffee drinkers. Because of them, in that moment at that point in life, something transpired into the cup, and ever since then I have been captivated by coffee. I think it helps that they were not just my BMX idols, but they were really good people. They had a huge influence on my life in many ways. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I am vegan today. Ever since then it’s been bikes, bikes, bikes, bikes/coffee, bikes/coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee.
Q. What was the coffee you were drinking when all of this went down?
It was a 12 oz. mocha with cinnamon and made with soy milk at Little City Cafe on Guadalupe Ave. Who would have thought that cup would do so much?
Q. How did you end up working in the coffee industry and then with Verve?
While as was still a professional BMX rider, I fantasized about having a business where I could pull all my friends who ride bikes together before we go riding. The first thing that popped into my head was I should open a cafe. I fell in love with a barista who ran Half and Half Cafe in Chicago. She gave me a job, and I was working there as a manager. Then we got engaged and eventually opened a cafe – Delicious Cafe. As part of that process, I reached out to Intelligentsia Coffee about serving their coffee in the cafe, which they agreed to do, and they also became one of my BMX sponsors. Eventually we sold the cafe, and I renegotiated my Intelligentsia sponsorship, which included doing some field work for them by reporting back about what I was seeing in cafes around the country. Then I left to do freelance sales, until I was picked up by Metropolis Coffee Company, where I ran the sales for four years until I switched to Verve and came to paradise.
Q. What are some of your favorite cities for coffee in the U.S.? And what are one or two coffee shops you like to frequent when you are visiting those places?
Miami – its undeveloped except for a coffee called Panther Coffee. The guy who owns Panther has done so much legwork to get the place up to specialty awareness… which might be why they have a corner on that market. Another one is obviously New York… there are 37 specialty coffee shops in Williamsburg alone. Toby’s Estate is beautiful. Box Kite Coffee is also good. There is a collaborative coffee project called Pulley Collective. Pulley makes it easy and affordable to have a startup coffee company in a low cost/low risk way. In Chicago, I am big fan of Dollop Coffee.
Q. What about LA?
One of the best coffee houses in the world – other than Verve, of course – is G&B. Much like I have my BMX idols, I have coffee idols, and Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski are two of them. I first started working with them back at Intelligentsia. They set their own trends instead of following the trends. They are innovators. People always need to be thinking about what can be different and there is a video of a symposium with James Hoffman where he talks about exactly that. James and Geoff Watts are two more of my coffee idols, incidentally.
Q. Where do you plan to go on your next vacation?
My old boss from bike riding is in Zihuatanejo, Mexico – where they are at the end of Shawshank Redemption, and I’m probably going there to visit him. At some point I’ll start doing my in-depth research about that place, at which point I’m sure I’ll find some great coffee shops to visit. My feeling is that coffee is embedded in culture, and the cafe is a centric part of an area and has a revolving door for all cultures. It’s a really good place to learn more about an area. And the baristas are always there to help you as tour guides.
Q. How do you brew your coffee?
V60 for the most part, however I have a few different toys at my apartment.
Q. What is your favorite thing to eat with your coffee?
Bagel, toasted with peanut butter or hummus.
Q. What is one item of clothing you love?
My style is plain and simple. To the T, I’m a California casual. Vans, short sleeve button-down and jeans… or wetsuit.
Q. What is the one thing that you feel has had the biggest impact on your success?
Being passionate. I don’t really know why I am so passionate about some things, but when I end up liking something, I end up loving it really quickly.
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.