A few months ago, a friend sent me a pound of coffee from a local coffee roaster in her neighborhood: Booskerdoo Coffee Co. Besides the fact that it was really thoughtful of her (thank you, Tricia!), I loved it! Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when I had a chance to interview Booskerdoo’s roastmaster, Mike Costaney. Mike is super cool, and he loves loves loves coffee (maybe as much as me.) 😉 If you want to try Booskerdoo for yourself, you can order online, and they will ship it to you on the same day they roast it. Here is my interview with Mike.
Q. When did you first discover coffee?
A. My mom would drink coffee in the morning, and I wasn’t allowed to have it which always makes something more enticing. Then slowly – when I was still pretty young – I was allowed to have a little taste of coffee with a lot of milk and sugar – it was basically a mug of milk at that point, but it was still cool because I associated it with adulthood. Later in life I started drinking coffee for the caffeine. I remember thinking I wanted it to be better, because I was mostly drinking rest-stop stuff, which never tasted that great.
Q. When did you first discover good coffee?
A. I was on tour with the band I was in at the time, and we were staying at a friend’s house in Texas. They had Blue Bottle Coffee – the Bella Donavan blend. I remember thinking “this is incredible.” And I was looking around the table asking “Are you guys tasting this, too?” Everyone kind of looked at me strangely. That was when I realized I had a palate for coffee. That was the first spark in my journey toward working in the coffee industry and finding a love for it. That set me on a path to find good coffee, to chase that flavor. I think I realized, too, that coffee can also be an emotional experience.
We have a positive association with a time in our lives, so you want it to be good. When you find a good cup of coffee, the flavor and the feelings can recapture a moment in time, like that moment in Texas, or the first sip I took as a kid.
Q. What were you doing before you got into the coffee business?
A. I was a touring musician. It was difficult to hold down a job when you are only at home for 2 months and on the road for the rest of the year. That’s how I got into barista work–it’s one of those jobs you can come back to. While I was in the touring lifestyle, I was a drummer for an indie/folk band, and also would do recording sessions and play with other bands around the tri-state area. I played a little bit of everything. Eventually that work stopped making sense for me.
I do think my time learning how to play the drums prepared me in a lot of ways for becoming a roaster. Both require you to spend a lot of time working alone- drilling the same rudiments or songs over and over — and staying focused while you patiently create the final product — working through the monotony of practice to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Q. How did you end up becoming a roaster?
A. I home roasted for a bit while working as a barista at Booskerdoo. Then the owner, James Caverly, saw that I had a passion for roasting coffee and brought me into that side of the business. As the company continued to expand, James had less time hands-on with the product, and he has trusted me enough to make decisions on creating flavor profiles and with the whole coffee roasting operation. We still, however, try most of the coffees together and talk out ideas to fit the company’s direction.
Q. What are some of your favorite cities for coffee in the U.S.?
A. I really like Boston. There is a place in Boston that is called Barismo. They really know what they’re doing with coffee. Chicago, I like a lot, too. There is place called Buzz Killer Espresso in Wicker Park – they offer many interesting micro-lots – their coffee is exceptional. Both of those places are gems in their respective cities.
Q. Where do you plan to go on your next vacation?
A. [laughs] Booskerdoo is in the process of opening up a bunch of new locations so I don’t really have any vacations planned, but I just came back from DC. There is a place called Mad Cap Coffee that has a training facility where they do cuppings* by RSVP every Friday. I tried to go while I was down there, but unfortunately, I missed it.
Q. How do you, personally, prefer to brew your coffee?
A. I rarely make coffee at home, but on the weekends, I use a Hario v60 Dripper. I drink it black; and I tend to like full-bodied, chocolatey-nutty coffees.
Q. What is your favorite thing to eat with your coffee?
A. It’s funny because if I do have some sort of food item in hand, I’ll probably end up dunking it – no matter what it is [laughs] – but I don’t usually eat with my coffee.
Q. What is one items of clothing you love?
A. Huge fan of socks – ridiculous socks – the rest of my outfit is really plain, and then I have ridiculous socks. [laughs]
Q. What is the one thing that you feel has had the biggest impact on your success?
A. Being as nice as you can be and listening as much as you can. Not being a jerk and listening a lot seems to be working across the board for most things (not just my job). You can have the best of everything – best beans, best roasts, best boutique shop, but at the end of the day, you have to be cool to your customers. That, and working hard.
Booskerdoo Coffee Co.
Multiple locations including:
793 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ 07704
phone: (732) 383-7196
M-Sat. – 6A-5P
Sun. – 7A-2P
* Cupping, or coffee tasting, is a method of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. Often this process involves sniffing the coffee and slurping the coffee so it spreads to the back of the tongue. The purpose of cupping is to measure aspects of the coffee’s taste, specifically the body, sweetness, acidity, and flavor. Coming soon: blog post of me at a local coffee shop’s cupping.
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.
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