Mar 23, 2022
All the Gear You Need for Pour Over
Pour over coffee: it’s delicious, fresh, robust, AND easy to brew in the comfort of your own kitchen - as long as you have the right tools.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to start brewing pour over coffee, you’re in luck. This blog will discuss the essential equipment you need to get started with pour over coffee.
Let’s dive in.
5 Things you Need to Brew Pour Over Coffee
Whether you’re transitioning over from coffee pods or an electric drip machine, brewing your own pour over coffee is the best way to get a delicious, fresh cup of coffee full of intricate, delicious flavors. Before you can get started, though, you’ve got to gather your gear. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. A kettle
When you go shopping for pour over equipment, you’ll find all sorts of fancy kettles, including gooseneck kettles. Featuring a long, narrow neck, gooseneck kettles are specially designed for brewing pour over coffee.
Thanks to the neck shape, the gooseneck kettle gives you more control of the flow rate and allows you to be as precise as possible as you pour hot water over your coffee grounds. If you want to purchase a gooseneck kettle, you should be able to find one for between $50-$200.
Great news, though: you don’t NEED a gooseneck kettle. Any kettle will do, and a standard tea kettle or an electric kettle will both do the job when it comes to pour over.
2. A dripper
The dripper is one of the most critical parts of any pour over system. They are designed to sit on top of a mug or carafe and hold the coffee filter. A good dripper needs to be large enough to allow the coffee to “bloom” and stable enough to avoid slipping or shifting.
When it comes to drippers, you’ve got a few different options. If you purchase a Just Pour subscription, we’ll send out a durable, eco-friendly, reusable dripper that’s perfectly sized for your favorite mug. If you’d prefer to buy your own dripper, a quick internet search will reveal many options.
The dripper doesn’t function alone: it needs filters to hold coffee grounds and facilitate the brewing process.
You can find a wide variety of different filter options online or opt for the pre-filled, compostable filters that we provide at Just Pour.
Just hop online, shop our coffees, and choose your subscription settings to get yours. We’ll send fresh, pre-filled coffee filters right to your door.
4. Ground coffee
You’ll also need ground coffee to start the pour over process. If you purchase a Just Pour subscription, you won’t have to worry about buying ground coffee separately.
Our biodegradable filters are pre-filled with the delicious, fresh coffee of your choice - all you have to do is open the filter, pop it in your dripper, and start pouring your hot water!
If you choose to buy coffee separately, you’ll want to have your coffee ground to a medium-coarse consistency.
5. Your favorite mug
Finally, you’ll want something to drink your coffee from! If you’re brewing multiple cups for a group, you can grab a carafe to hold a larger volume of coffee.
If you’re just brewing a cup for yourself, grab your favorite mug to hold your dripper and become a receptacle for all your fresh-brewed deliciousness.
Pour Over Made Simple
While pour over coffee may seem intimidating, it’s not nearly as hard as it looks. With a few simple tools, including a kettle, dripper, filter, and some ground coffee, you can start brewing fresh, delicious pour over right in your own kitchen.Want to simplify the process and get a complete pour over starter kit delivered right to your door? Order your Just Pour subscription now!
Mar 09, 2022
How Pour Over Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
We’ve got bad news about your coffee: that delicious drink you enjoy each morning might be responsible for some pretty hefty carbon emissions.
According to a study carried out by the Natural Resources Institute Finland, coffee farming is responsible for most of coffee’s carbon footprint. Still, other factors, like shipping and brewing methods, stand to increase your favorite coffee’s environmental impact.
Don’t worry, though - there IS a way to reduce the carbon footprint of your coffee consumption: switch to pour over.
This blog will break down the factors that make pour over such an environmentally-friendly option and how it differs from other brewing methods.
Let’s dive in.
Coffee Production and Carbon Footprint
Conventional coffee production consumes vast amounts of water, land, and energy, thanks mainly to the long, complex supply chain required to grow and prepare beans and then transport them to market.
According to one study, the carbon footprint for conventional coffee production in Vietnam and Brazil was 12.99 and 111.56 kg CO2e kg–1, respectively, from farm level to a storage location in Bristol, UK.
After production, though, the most significant contributor to coffee’s carbon footprint is consumption. Depending on HOW you brew and prepare your coffee, the preparation of your favorite brew may account for nearly a third of its total carbon emissions.
If you walk into a coffee shop, for example, and order an espresso shot, the shop is emitting CO2 from its lighting, heating, air conditioning, dishwashers, and even its espresso machines! According to some studies, this kind of “big operation” coffee production can double the coffee’s total carbon footprint! And that doesn’t even consider the packaging and single-use plastics in your to-go cup, sugar packets, stir sticks, and other accouterments.
Pour Over to the Rescue: How Home Brewing Decreases Carbon Footprint
Feeling a little bummed about your morning brew? Don’t worry - you don’t have to abandon coffee for good. While coffee production and consumption CAN create a pretty hefty carbon footprint, there are many ways to make your morning cup more eco-friendly.
And one of the best is also one of the easiest: switch to home brew.
Home brewing tends to be significantly less impactful to the environment than purchasing your morning cup at a coffee shop or even using an electric drip machine.
Here’s something to chew on:
Using an automatic drip coffee machine generates about 60.27 g CO2e per cup of coffee, while a reusable dripper like the one offered by Just Pour creates only 10.04g per cup.
As you can see, just switching to pour-over can seriously reduce your coffee’s carbon footprint. If you want to take it a step further, here are some to-dos:
- Look for coffee suppliers that embrace sustainable practices. Large-scale commercial coffee farming can be harmful to communities and the environment. Instead, look for a coffee producer that works with small farms that embrace sustainable practices. Just Pour is proud to work with small farmers worldwide to harvest sustainable coffee and uplift communities.
- Ditch single-use anything. The coffee industry is full of single-use plastics and waste products. To make your coffee consumption a little greener, focus on kicking these single-use products to the curb. Our reusable dripper is an excellent alternative to coffee pods that just wind up in the trash. Plus, it fits on your favorite mug, which means there’s no need for a disposable to-go cup. Our filters are entirely biodegradable, which means they can go in the compost rather than the trash can, and our packaging is all recyclable. The result? A very low-impact cup of Joe.
- Spread the word. Compared to commercial meat production, gas-guzzling cars, and airline travel, coffee seems like a small consideration for carbon emissions, but that’s mainly because people don’t know how much of an impact their commercially-produced coffee could be having. Help spread the word about coffee suppliers embracing sustainable practices and promoting carbon-neutral coffee.
Just Pour: Here to do Good - for you and Your Morning Cup!
We love coffee, and we believe sourcing, producing, and drinking it shouldn’t harm the environment. That’s why we’ve committed ourselves to sustainable, eco-friendly practices and supporting small farmers worldwide. The result is delicious, fresh, responsible coffee you can feel good about drinking.Ready to learn more? Want to check out our reusable dripper or composable filters for yourself? Shop now.
Jan 24, 2022
Quiz: What Kind of Coffee Are You?
For many of us, coffee is a staple of the morning routine and we all have unique ways to start the day. Whether it's sleeping in or jumping out of bed first thing in the morning everyone has their own rise and shine style. Ever wonder what kind of coffee fits your personality and morning routine best? Take our quiz to find out!
Jan 10, 2022
How Coffee Helps Your Health
Coffee is delicious, but did you know that it can also improve your health? Packed full of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients, coffee is a heavy-hitting superfood that can protect you from a variety of diseases and health conditions.
In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of coffee, and how to bring them into your daily ritual.
Let’s dive in.
5 Health Benefits of Coffee
From improving your reaction time to lowering the risk of diabetes, coffee has some seriously impressive perks.
Here are a few of the most notable:
1. Coffee improves physical performance
Coffee contains caffeine, which stimulates the nervous system. This, in turn, tells the body to break down fat and ramp up production of epinephrine.
People who drink coffee have more energy, faster reaction times, and physical performance that improves by 11-12% on average.
2. Coffee makes you less likely to develop heart failure
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, people who drink 1-2 cups of coffee each day are less likely to develop certain heart conditions or suffer from heart failure.
In fact, a recent study found that moderate coffee drinkers enjoy a 12% lower risk of death from all causes, and a 17% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Coffee protects the heart because it creates positive changes to the function of the heart. Better yet? You can get these heart-protective benefits from any type of coffee, including decaf.
3. Coffee may decrease cancer risk
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world. In 2018 alone, there were 9.5 million cancer-related deaths worldwide. Fortunately, coffee may help protect you from developing the disease.
Coffee is especially protective against liver and colorectal cancer. Recent studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a 40% decreased risk of liver cancer, and a 15% lower risk of colorectal cancer.
4. Coffee reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s
The caffeine in that daily cup (or two) of coffee is good for your brain. Recently, researchers have discovered that coffee drinkers have a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than non-coffee-drinkers.
The reason for this protective effect comes down to the beneficial compounds coffee contains, including caffeine and antioxidants. In fact, many people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruit and vegetables combined.
With that in mind, sip up and know that you’re protecting your brain in the process.
5. Coffee protects the liver
Both caffeinated and decaf coffee brews have a protective effect on the liver. Research has shown that people who drink coffee have liver enzyme levels that are at healthier levels than non-coffee-drinkers.
Specifically, people who drink 4 or more cups of coffee each day have an 80% lower risk of developing cirrhosis, a condition that causes scar tissue to develop in the liver.
How to Make Coffee Part of Your Daily Wellness Routine
Now that you know how many health benefits coffee presents, here are a few ways to enjoy your daily coffee ritual more:
- Don’t go overboard. When it comes to coffee, more is not necessarily better. While the beverage is good for you, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that healthy adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine daily (about 3-5 cups of coffee). Keep your consumption within this limit to make sure you’re enjoying the maximum health benefits of coffee.
- Perfect your process. Brewing your daily cup of coffee should be quick, efficient, and easy. We recommend a pour over setup like we offer at Just Pour. All you need is hot water, your favorite mug, our reusable dripper, and a pre-filled filter of your favorite roast. The result is a delicious cup of coffee that’s ready in about 3 minutes.
- Say “no” to additives. If you like to add creamer or other flavors to your coffee, look for healthy options that don’t contain chemicals and other nasty additives. We recommend whole creamer, for example, rather than sugary, flavored creamers.
Dec 02, 2021
A Beginner’s Guide to Pour Over Coffee Brewing
If you talk to coffee lovers, most will agree on one thing: brewing pour over coffee is the best way to generate a great cup of coffee.
If you’re not all that familiar with pour over coffee, but you love a good cup of Joe, you may be wondering if you can make it at home? If so, do you need the gooseneck kettle, scale, and special water warmer you’ve seen in the coffee shops? How can you guarantee a delicious cup every time?
In this blog, we’re providing a crash-course introduction to the art of pour over coffee. We’ll discuss what it is, why it’s unique, and how to get started making it at home.
Let’s dive in.
What is Pour Over?
Pour over is a method of coffee brewing. While espresso takes finely-ground coffee, puts it under extreme pressure, and runs hot water through it to make a super-concentrated “shot,” pour over is a process that allows the brewer to control factors like strength and taste.
Here’s how it works:
You take medium-coarse ground coffee, put it into a paper filter, and set the paper filter into a dripper system. From there, you slowly pour hot water into the filter, allowing the coffee to “bloom” and then slowly drip into your cup. The result is a clean- and fresh-tasting cup of coffee.
Why Does Pour Over Coffee Taste Different?
The value of pour over lies in the brewing method. Since the process of brewing pour over is more gradual than, say, using a K-cup or making coffee with an electric drip machine, the coffee it creates tends to have a more vibrant flavor.
Because the water moves through the grounds slowly, it has more time to pull oils and flavors from the beans, and transfer all that roasty, full-bodied goodness into your cup.
What do you Need to Brew Pour Over?
There are a few different ways to brew pour over coffee - some of them fancy and complicated and some a little more straightforward. If you go to a coffee shop to get a cup of pour over, for example, you’ll watch the barista measure the coffee and water on an ultra-precise food scale before putting the grounds into a special dripper and using an elegant gooseneck kettle to pour hot water into them.
It’s fancy, sure, but do you really need all of that?
The answer, fortunately, is no.
The three basic elements of great pour over coffee are as follows:
- Ground coffee
- A coffee filter
- A pour over brewer
Here at Just Pour, we’ve created a single-serve coffee subscription service that takes those three basic elements, assembles them in an eco-friendly, reusable package, and sends them straight to your door.
How to Brew Pour Over Coffee
Next time you want a cup of pour over, follow these simple steps:
- Grab your reusable dripper and set it over your favorite mug.
- Open a pre-ground coffee filter packet.
- Add hot water. Professional baristas do what’s known as “the bloom pour.” The bloom pour is meant to saturate all the grounds and ensure a more even extraction. To do this, pour about twice as much water as there is coffee into the filter and stir it gently. Allow the water to rest for 30-45 seconds. Once that’s done, pour the rest of your water in as normal.
- Add milk, cream, sugar, or whatever else you like in your coffee.
The process of brewing pour over at home only takes a few minutes, and it’s easy to master with just a bit of practice.
Make Your Own Perfect Pour Over With Just Pour
There’s no doubt about it: pour-over coffee is an art. Whether you’re a die-hard coffee connoisseur or just getting into the world of coffee, pour over brewing is the best way to create a clean, delicious, flavorful cup of coffee.
If you’d like to start brewing your own pour over at home, Just Pour is here to help. We’ve taken the elegant, multi-step process of coffee shop baristas brewing pour over and made it into a convenient, streamlined, take-anywhere system.
Our reusable, durable pour over dripper fits virtually any cup, and is small enough to toss in your bag, while our pre-filled, freshly-ground coffee filters feature flavorful, ethically-sourced coffee from small scale farmers around the world. It’s an easy, streamlined way to get a delicious cup of pour over in just about two minutes.
Whether you’re on the road, in the office, or in your own kitchen, Just Pour will help you master the art of pour over coffee, and take your caffeine game to the next level.
Find your perfect fit. Shop our subscription options now.
Nov 23, 2021
Pour Over vs. French Press vs. Chemex: Which Brewing Method is Best for You?
When it comes time to brew your morning cup of coffee, you have a few options. Pods and electric drips and pour overs and french presses and chemexes, oh my! As it turns out, though, not all of those brewing methods are created equal. While some create a tasty, full-bodied cup of coffee, others create a watered-down mess that NOBODY has time for.
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the three top methods: french press, pour over, and chemex coffee maker, and give you all the info you need to decide which is right for you.
Let’s dive in.
Option One: The French Press
The french press has been around for a long time. In fact, it was developed in the late 1920s and reigned for years as THE posh method to brew coffee. To use a french press, you place your ground coffee in the bottom of the glass container, add hot water on top, and let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes. Once that time has elapsed, you gently push the plunger down into the bottom of the carafe.
- Creates a delicious, full-bodied brew
- Can be messy
- Most french presses are made of glass, so this is not a portable brewing method
Option Two: The Chemex
The chemex is a sleek, sexy coffee-brewing method that was developed in 1941 by Peter J. Schlumbohm, Ph.D., a doctor of chemistry.
To use a chemex, you set the carafe up with a paper filter and measure the desired amount of ground coffee into said filter. Next, you add hot water to soak the coffee grounds and let the coffee ‘bloom’ for 30 seconds. For best results, the water should be added in a circular or swirling motion, since this allows the grounds to soak evenly. Finally, you add the rest of the water and let the chemex do its job.
You’ll have a delicious cup of coffee in about 4 minutes.
- The chemex carafe has a large capacity, so you can brew up to 10 cups at once
- The chemex delivers a superb, clean-tasting cup of coffee
- The carafe is elegant and looks beautiful on a countertop
- Using a chemex can feel a bit science-y, and some believe it involves too many steps to be a daily go-to.
- There are different filter sizes and very specific grind specifications, which can be confusing.
- The chemex carafe is glass, which means you can’t take it camping, hiking, or on the road.
Option Three: Pour Over
Finally, the Holy Grail of coffee brewing methods - the pour over. Designed to be functional, fuss-free, and elegant, the pour over is everything you want from a great cup of coffee.
Here’s how it works:
Using a paper, pour over filter and a compact pour over system, you add your pre-measured, ground coffee. Next, you pour hot water into the filter and let it drip through. In just a few minutes, you have a delicious cup of coffee.
- Simple, accessible, and perfect for busy mornings.
- Perfect for making a single-serve cup.
- Delivers a delicious, clean-tasting cup of coffee.
- Doesn’t require fancy equipment or specialized kettles.
- The reusable dripper is perfect for throwing in your bag and taking on the go.
- It can be tough to stop at just one delicious cup.
Pour over coffee gets even better when you buy your coffee from Just Pour. We ship pre-measured, pre-sealed coffee pods and a reusable dripper right to your door. The entire system is portable, recyclable, and eco-friendly. In a word - perfect!
Level Up Your Morning Cup
There are a bunch of different ways to brew your morning cup. As you can see from the breakdown above, though, not all of them are created equal. While pour over, french press, and chemex carafes all create a delicious cup of coffee, french presses and chemex carafes are decidedly more cumbersome and complicated than pour over coffee.Here at Just Pour, our mission is to take this user-friendly brewing method and make it even more accessible for you. Check out our coffee subscription options today to find the one that’s right for you.
Nov 15, 2021
Coffee Aroma and Aftertaste: Everything You Need to Know
If you love yourself some coffee, you may have noticed a strange phenomenon when enjoying a particularly tasty cup: the aroma of that first heady wiff is totally different from the aftertaste of your first sip. What gives? The same chemicals are responsible for creating both, so why do they vary so much?
In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look at the relationship between aroma and aftertaste, and why the two don’t always go together.
Let’s dive in.
What is Aftertaste and What Causes it?
Depending on the food or beverage, aftertaste can be either a great thing or a terrible one. Generally speaking, aftertaste refers to the flavors and aromas left behind in the mouth after you swallow something. With coffee, though, the effect of an aftertaste is especially strong. Compared to other drinks, the aftertaste of coffee can really linger. In fact, the aftertaste of a shot of espresso can linger for up to 15 minutes.
No matter how delicious the cup of coffee is, you’ll notice that aftertaste is never quite that good. Depending on the brew, the aftertaste may be metallic or ashy. This is because, when you experience an aftertaste, you’re not experiencing all the flavors that go into the cup of coffee itself. Instead, you’re experiencing only certain components that stick behind in the form of flavor.
When you take a sip of coffee, these long-lasting molecules hang out in the mouth and then pass into your nasal cavity through the back of your throat. That’s why you may continue experiencing the aroma of the coffee, even after you’ve swallowed the sip. This reaction, known as retronasal olfaction, is responsible for both aftertaste and after-odors.
The Chemicals Responsible for Aftertaste
We just mentioned that there are some molecules that like to hang out in the mouth and nose after you’ve had a sip of coffee, but what are they? Shockingly, researchers don’t actually know which molecules create the unique aftertaste of different coffee brews.
In studies regarding the aftertaste of wine, however, researchers have found that the molecules responsible for aftertaste may be the larger and less-soluble ones in any given cup.
What we do know about aftertaste, though, is that different flavors linger for different periods. Compounds responsible for light fruity or floral flavors dissipate first, while other molecules interact with flavor compounds in the coffee differently, causing them to linger in the mouth for longer. One specific area of interest in coffee is polyphenols, which may bind strongly to proteins on the inner surface of the mouth, and help to create a strong, bold aftertaste.
While the science behind coffee aftertaste is still developing: one thing is certain–there’s nothing as satisfying as that first sip of a perfectly-brewed cup. To develop your palate and make each morning a little more delicious, check out our easy, convenient single-serve coffee subscriptions. What are you waiting for? Get delicious coffee delivered right to your door! Shop now.
Nov 01, 2021
What Your Coffee Order Says About You
The coffee order: it’s one of the most personal and important details that makes you, you. And the world take mercy on anyone who messes it up! We all know that your coffee order makes for great mornings, but could it contain secrets about your personality?
In this post, we’ll mine the depths of common coffee orders, and explore what each says about you.
Let’s dive in.
Straight Black Coffee: You’re No-Nonsense, Classy, and Maybe a Little Antisocial
People who take their coffee black don’t have time to mess around with sugar or cream. They want that caffeine, and they want it now. And, let’s face it, a cup of black coffee is simple, classic, and, for some, a little hardcore. If you like your coffee black, you probably…
- Have a tight, to-the-minute morning routine
- Enjoy catching up on world news
- Appreciate simplicity and elegance
- Enjoy a drink that you can enjoy in the morning and with dessert after a delicious dinner
Americano: You’re Sophisticated With a Taste for the Finer Things
Americanos are drinks made from espresso and hot water.
They can be dressed up with cream, sugar, or flavors, and made hot or iced. It’s a bold brew that’s not for the faint of heart, or novice coffee drinkers. If you cozy up to an Americano as your coffee drink of choice, you’re probably also…
- An ex-barista who knows your way around an espresso machine, and appreciates a perfectly-pulled shot.
- A devotee of your favorite local coffee shop, who knows exactly how you like your cup.
- Efficient and dedicated to simplicity.
Cold Brew: You’re Busy, Hip, and Live Life On-The-Go
Cold brew is a popular drink made by filtering cold water through ground coffee, then steeping the mixture in a refrigerator.
Once chilled, the mixture is strained to create a delicious cold-brew coffee. The resulting product is crisp, refreshing, and less acidic than your standard cup of coffee. If you love cold brews, these things probably describe you:
- You like things that are cutting-edge and on-trend.
- You’re bored with standard iced coffee and want something a little bolder to start your day.
- You value casual comfort and laid-back style.
- You like to zhuzh things up by making your cold brew a nitro, when available.
Espresso: You’re a Sophisticate Who May Have Spent a Semester Abroad
Made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans under pressure, espresso is the Mac Daddy of coffee drinks. Bold, complex, and delicious when made correctly, espresso takes coffee to a whole new level.
Each shot of espresso contains more coffee than a cup of brewed coffee. Some espresso drinkers love a shot on its own, while others add a splash of cream or a dollop of foam, for an espresso macchiato. If you’re a straight espresso drinker, you’re probably also…
- Capable of saying “espresso,” rather than “expresso.”
- Worldly, well-traveled, and in possession of at least one pair of killer boots.
- Accustomed to strong flavor profiles and bold tastes.
Frappuccino: You’re Friendly and Amenable
Made by blending powdered frappuccino base with milk, and ice, and adding espresso or flavors, depending on your personal tastes, frappuccinos are a tasty treat that’s also a coffee drink.
If you like sweets, you can top yours with whipped cream or a dash of cocoa powder. To put it simply, the frappuccino is the yellow lab of coffee drinks. Here are a few things that describe most frapp drinkers:
- You’re social and enjoy being around people.
- You love sweets and appreciate the finer things in life.
- You like to enjoy your life, and live every moment to the fullest.
Pour-Over: You’re Eco-Minded and Artisanal
Go to most high-end coffee shops today, and you’ll find that the pour-over is the holy grail of modern coffee drinks.
While a traditional Americano is made with espresso shots and hot water, pour-over coffee takes simplicity to a beautiful new level. This technique uses a filter, medium-size grind, and hot water to create a clean, crisp, smooth cup of coffee. Here are a few traits most pour-over drinkers share:
- You care about the environment and don’t want to use K-cups or single-use plastics.
- You love coffee, and want a drink that pulls out all the complexity of the flavor.
- You like making coffee at home, and you use Just Pour to create delicious, fresh coffee in the comfort of your own kitchen.
- You want a product that’s 100% recycled and totally biodegradable, so your daily cup of joe doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment.
Your Coffee Order Says a Lot About You
Who needs personality tests and Hogwarts houses? We believe you can learn everything you need to know about a person from their coffee order.
Whether you’re a frappuccino drinker with a sweet tooth or a pour-over aficionado, you deserve to enjoy your daily pick-me-up exactly the way you like it.
Here at Just Pour, we deliver delicious, single-serve coffee that’s sourced sustainably from responsible growers around the world.Ready to learn more about our products or how to brew your own delicious cup of coffee? Check out our blog or contact our team today.
Apr 19, 2021
As Deep as Glass: Good, ole-fashioned serial fiction in three parts
Part III: Just More:
“What happened down there,” Valeria repeated, in a basso undertone that seemed too deep for her frame, and which resonated to the extent that, briefly, her voice could be felt as a subtle vibration in the floor. Max took the enamelware off the heating element. The cry it uttered resembled one of disappointment, as if the kettle was upset at being taken from the heat.
“Your mugs all have pictures of your face on them,” Max remarked, laughingly, as he removed one from a cupboard. He hadn’t asked her where she kept the mugs.
“Not all of them do,” she replied, for-instancing the one that she held, with both hands.
“Why not all of them?”
Her brow darkened. She stood very still before speaking, letting the silence lengthen and thicken. “After you’ve killed me, will you remember what we said during this conversation?” He turned, somberly, his darkly handsome face frowning also. “In detail, I mean,” she continued. “Like, years later, in your living room, when you yourself are close to going to your reward, and maybe when you have some grandchildren assembled around you, and you’re recounting how life was before the robots started doing all the work - including my work, as a model, and your work, as an assassin --”
“Val,” he said, sharply.
“-- when you tell them the story about how you shot me in my own house, are you going to include the detail about the mugs? ‘Listen kiddos,’” Valeria mimicked, screwing her mouth up the side, “‘she had these mugs with her own mug plastered all over them. You wouldn’t believe it. After papa shot her, he kept one as a souvenir. See, here it is,’ and then you show them, and you join them in laughing at how anyone could have taken that face so seriously as to sell her soul for its sake.”
“So we’re getting to it,” Max said, softly. “Is that what you sold your soul for?”
“You wanted to know what happened down there,” Valeria replied, her eyes hard black stones that gave back none of the light they were given. He hadn’t turned his whole back to her, and while Max poured the hot water over the grounds in the filter bag she stared at the part of his face she could still see with those igneous eyes. She waited for him to say something, and, as she stood in her bathrobe, in her own kitchen, in her giant empty house, none of which felt like hers anymore, not even her own body, which could be conveyed to hell with a single bullet from the ugly hardware tucked so obviously into his waist, tucked in there the way a man would tuck it who is unaccustomed to carrying a firearm around but who wishes to appear as if he does, she was struck by a singular feeling: of absurdity. How stupid is this, she thought, and, for a moment, Valeria was confronted with the full weight of what she had done. Suffered under the appalling weight of this absurd truth. Only then was she able to go back in time, to relate what she experienced underneath the abandoned building all those years ago, and she began:
The little girl she had been, the orphan in all but name, who went as Stacy back then, moved impatiently over the dirt floor of the old cellar, lit by the unearthly sanguine glow mentioned before, which illuminated also the petrified and stinking corpse of the strange animal. Lit by this ambient glow, her child’s face looked sinister, as if she herself had killed the strange beast with her bare hands. She was already different, and she knew it, even as her precocious heart clubbed in her little chest, she fully understood that terrifying admonishment of Christ’s, which her cult’s pastor had drilled into her head and in the heads of all of the abandoned and semi-abandoned vulnerable young children in his priestly charge: that to think of a sin is to already commit it.
“Could you have given it up then, and gone home?” Max interrupted, while waiting for the hot water he had poured to sluice through the rich grounds.
“No,” Valeria replied. “I don’t believe I could’ve.”
She stood on the little mound down there. She breathed several times with her eyes closed, and then swallowed. She opened her eyes. It was then very easy for her to say the words the old man in the candy store had taught her. Her arms at attention, she lifted her chin, turned her eyes up to the low ceiling, as if hoping her voice would carry in that direction, though suspecting the opposite was true, and she uttered the cant with a power and an intention that belied her age. Aware - fully aware - of the gambit she had launched, risking it all, all of it, because she wouldn’t consent to live another second as she had been living. If Stacy would never feel her mother’s love, or her father’s love, then, at the very least, she would make strangers love her, she would become a celebrity, the embodiment of certain dear and private desires that the public holds in its heart, even the happily married, even the empowered, even people who are volitional. She would become aloof, austere, beautiful, and inaccessible, perfectly inaccessible, and thereby she would inspire envy, flattery, rue, even hatred - and above all, grudging love.
“To show you what I mean,” Valeria continued, “and maybe you remember this, Max, I think you were with me, there was that one fan who found his way into my dressing room in Milan, even getting past the guards somehow. He looked as if he may have been in the industry himself, he was very well-built, and had a fair sense of fashion. He asked me very politely for a moment of my time, to autograph a printout of a still from a shoot I had done earlier that year. I looked him right in the eye and I said no, and as his face melted I told him that I had already given him the improbable gift of a moment of my time, and then I raised my hand above his head, pointed downward, and the guards hustled him out. By the nape of his neck, at one point, when he tried to protest. I’ve never seen him since, but I know, without being told, that the childish admiration he had for me before meeting me changed to fear after he met me, which is to say, it changed into the love we hold for a stern father or an arbitrary god. They all - no matter how happily they are married, no matter how decent they are to everyone around them - crave the power I have: the power to embarrass a perfectly polite man by having him physically muscled from their sight. Just to do it, and to enjoy doing it. I feel their grudging respect, their reluctant love, each and every day. I’m comforted just knowing it’s there.”
“People admire you because they want to hurt people the way you do?” Max asked. Derisively. In the tone of someone who feels he has the upper hand in a contest the stake of which is life itself. He cooled the coffee by blowing on it, watching her from over the brim of the mug as he did so, with her image staring at her coldly from the mug.
“Search yourself,” she replied.
He actually laughed. “That’s fair,” he averred. “Go on.”
“It was only a voice at first. I had no doubt that it was the devil. The timber of the voice seemed to come from the bottom of a bubbling caldera, or from a giant comet bearing down on one’s house. I don’t know how else to describe it. It didn’t sound like a man’s voice or a woman’s voice, either, but both, or maybe neither. I’ll never forget it. The first thing it said was, ‘You’re very young to know exactly what you want.’
“‘That’s my business,’ I replied. You may not believe it, but that’s what I said. A sassy little one, to the end.”
Max watched intently. He seemed already to have forgotten his mug full of Just Pour coffee.
Valeria gestured with her free hand as if warming it over a fire. “The voice replied: ‘You should know, girl, that I give people exactly what they want.’
“‘Well that’s why I’m here,’
“‘You think so.’
“‘I know so,’ I said. ‘Now, make me the most beautiful woman you can make me into so that I can have the power to make people love me.’
“‘All well and good,’ the voice replied, from the gloom beyond the red light.”
“The devil,” Max breathed. His eyes had begun to shimmer with strong emotion.
“Yes, the devil. So. All well and good! ‘What do I need to give you in return?’
“‘Your life,’ the devil replied, immediately, ‘at the age of 40, when your looks ultimately lose the power to make people love you in the way that you want.’
“‘Darkness, girl. Utter, smothering darkness.’
“To be honest, I hesitated when I heard the price. The voice must have known why I hesitated. ‘But in return you will get all that you desire. All. The public will exalt you. Other beautiful people will slander you in public but they will lay awake at night in fearful love of you, in abject worship of you. You know what abject means, don’t you, brave one? And you will receive awards, and accolades. You will get rich from your work, and your wealth and honor will make people love you even more fervently. Eventually, a fan club will emerge, several of them, all over the world, and their members will worship you like a cult fetish, they will fearfully love you as they would a god. You will be as perfect, and as remote, as a celestial being descended to earth. From the stars, little one. You will live in the full glow of your fulfilled wish for twenty years. Now think. How many people ever earn a full twenty years when they get what they most want from life? That’s right. Not many. What you desire, the richest and most powerful men on earth desire - and you will have it.’”
“Until you don’t,” Max finished for her. His face had changed. He had become a murderer, in his heart, working himself up to the state necessary to taking another life. [He had, to that point, never hurt anyone.] He sipped from the mug and smacked his lips. Valeria was watching him quietly the while. He set the mug down. “Do you want to know what I bargained with the devil for?” he asked.
“No,” she replied. His eyes snapped to hers in shock. “I could care less,” she continued, grinning wickedly, a hyperbolic and vulpine grin: the grin of an empress, meting out justice as she sees fit.
“What is that, then?” Max asked, murderously, his eyes hard and bright. “Your last ‘fuck-you’ to me?”
“Maybe not the last,” Valeria replied. He questioned her with his eyes. “You sold your soul to the devil for some reason. What that reason is doesn’t interest me, frankly. But, you sold it in exchange for killing me. Am I right about that?”
He turned his head away from her, shifting his gaze to the floor.
“Killing me, your bullying boss.”
Max turned his eyes back to her, hard and ugly. Smiling tightly.
“Well, excellent. Except...I didn’t go through with it.”
His hand paused behind his back, one sheer moment from drawing the pistol. His eyes grew to saucers. “Bullshit.”
“That thing, ‘the devil’, whatever it is, is very clever. When you petitioned it, it may have sized you up and found you unworthy. Found you to be a mean-souled little lackey, a yes-man. A toad. You probably wanted to sell your soul to it for the best sex in the world, or some stupid nonsense like that. So, it laughed - didn’t it - and told you, well, you can have all the great sex you want for twenty years, but first shoot your boss dead. She owes me. So you know what will happen. You’ll shoot me, but nothing will happen, because the terms of the agreement are not genuine. I don’t owe the devil shit, because I never accepted its terms.”
“Then how did you --”
Valeria laughed. “I climbed out of there as if a weight had fallen from my shoulders. It was terrific. I danced all around that old out-building, in the humid and hot air, until I tired myself out. My relief was so great that I cried - out of happiness! And guess what? After a few years, puberty hit, and I became tall and beautiful! I couldn’t believe it. I actually questioned myself, like, had I actually sold my soul down there? But I hadn’t. I was destined from birth to be the woman I most wanted to be: cold, lovely, and austere. I could still say, ‘to hell with them all,’ because my very body grew into that abnormal, elongated form and figure that our industry prefers. In other words, I really am this beautiful. The devil wants you to shoot me because I got what I wanted without the devil’s intercession.”
“But if I shoot you --”
“---you’ll only go to jail.” She grinned evilly. “Where you may get something of what you wish for, but not how you want it.”
Max lowered his head into his hands. One hand still holding the pistol.
“There, there, Max. You’re not built for this, babe. You’re a toad. You were made to serve real people, like me. And you’re very good at it. I mean it. It’s when you try to act like a boss that you get into trouble.” He looked up from his hands, ravished, his face already scarred with tears. She tilted her long head, ironically. “Booby. I’m so sorry. You know what? I’ll transfer some money to your account and you can take a little sex vacation. How does that sound?”
“Dammit!” he spat, in a spasm of raw feeling. He dragged his forearm across his eyes, wiping away the tears that were even then falling down. He tucked his pistol back in, took up his mug once more, and had a drink of the Speedwell roast. He then looked at her, red-faced, rueful like a spoiled child.
Her tone of voice was sympathetic, conciliatory. “Do we have a deal?”
He nodded his head, yes.
“Good. Now get the hell out of my house.”
Max set the mug down without a word. He came around the island, his arms swinging at his sides, incredulous, crestfallen. Valeria came up to him as he came around the island, making only a very narrow path for him to get by her. As he walked past, she turned with him, smiling the while. “You know which way the door is, don’t you, big fella?”
He couldn’t speak, for his shame and disappointment. He had taken a few steps before she called him back. He turned, and saw his own pistol pointed at him, which she had lifted from his waistband as he squeezed by her. He turned fully around and began to raise his hands.
“Val,” he said.
“Look at how fucking perfect I am. Of course I sold my soul for these looks.”
And she shot him between the eyes. He crashed backward to the floor, dead. The roar of the pistol had hurt her ears, and she winced as she lowered her arm. She turned back and set the pistol down on the big island counter and then she took her coffee up. She didn’t have to wait long. She enjoyed the roasty flavors of her Just Pour coffee in the meanwhile. It was delicious, indeed.
“You’ve won yourself another few minutes,” it said, in an uncanny voice, impossibly resonant. “Congratulations.”
“Yay me,” she replied, blithely. She took a breath, and then turned around. She wasn’t terribly surprised to see the anonymous animal corpse from the cellar all those years before standing in her own house, regarding her almost charitably with its vicious little eyes. Stinking. It stood over Max’s body as if to claim a kill.
“Are you ready?” it asked, its dead eyes lazarously lustrous.
“Would you care if I wasn’t ready?”
Stacy laughed at the thing, and not long afterward, not seeing any reason to stop laughing, she kept on, she filled the house with laughter, made her laughter reverberate throughout her colossal and empty color-coded house. Bunching her fingers up with laughter, writhing with it, as the animal grew to an enormous size, laughing, laughing.
The coffee mug smashed to the floor in an empty house.
The moral of this story is: when it comes time to pay for debt for having sold your soul to the devil, it’s best to go out having consumed a fresh cup of Just Pour Coffee. We’re kidding, of course - though we sincerely hope you enjoyed the read! Thank you!
Mar 28, 2021
As Deep as Glass: Good, ole-fashioned serial fiction in three parts
Part II: Rust Door
The short, forgettable young girl walked across what to her young eyes seemed a vast veldt - late-summer grasses still and brown for as far as she could see. She wasn’t afraid. She waded through the wild stalks with grim intention as the exhausted sky above seemed to steep in milk. Humid, close air, and something else besides: a kind of buggy whining that seemed to come from everywhere invisibly, like a vibration from a different dimension.
In orphans, or in girls whose parents cared so little that they may as well have been orphans, there may arise in girls such as these a certain courage that well-cared-for children never need to develop. So it was with her, short-statured, bland, even stunted-looking, as if she didn’t enjoy nutritious, or even regular, meals. She walked across the field as if toward a destiny desirous. Above her head a flock of crows spiraled together in a strange and great funnel. They made no sound. She noticed them and felt emboldened.
After several minutes, during which time a gaggle of leaping grasshoppers parkoured ahead from grass to grass as if to show her the way, bizarre ashen grasshoppers larger than any she had ever seen, she saw, in the near-distance, the gable of some building out here. She looked behind her. The very first doubt had entered her mind, but she was not afraid, for she had learned some time ago that her tears would summon no helper. But would this work - that was the question. The little girl was reminded then of how desperate she was. If this didn’t work, there was no home to go back to. At least, no home that would welcome her back without cruelty, without a measure of revenge.
The building grew larger as she approached it. The grasshoppers veered left and right, and the stalks hid them, or swallowed them, and she saw them no more. She parted the last veil of grasses and emerged before a simple shed made of wood, rising up from a foundation of mortared fieldstones, a homely and derelict outpost, even ramshackle, and yet possessing an aura like one of habitation. But the front portal was boarded shut. She tried to pull a plank from the door with her bare hands, but the boards were too rough and her strength no match for the brutal nails that bit through plank and bulwark. A sign was hung on the door, but she couldn’t read, and hadn’t learned, no matter how loudly her mother screamed at her.
She stood before the door for a moment, both arms at her sides. Waiting, taking in clues. The building seemed to be talking in a language she could only faintly make out. It seemed to be moving, too, though not in the normal way of animals. Moving perhaps in the way that sea-grass does, a sort of inward intention made barely manifest in the familiar above-ground world. She walked around back, noticing, as she looked skyward, the crows had gone. Coming around a corner, she saw the woods very close. Voracious trees growing tightly together, as if squaring up for a fight with one another. A muggy gloom grainy and vague that slouched beneath the canopy. She glanced at these woods but didn’t pay them much attention.
What was behind this abandoned building. She rounded the corner and a gust of hot wind came from nowhere, or came from the grasses themselves, shoving them over so that they canted like bamboo. Her lank hair flipped stiffly from her face, and she faced a cellar door like that of some tornado-alley vicinage, a rusty bulwark, with strangely sharp edges. The girl made a clicking noise with her mouth, smiling with an oddly acclimated brightness out of keeping with this surly hot scene. She approached the door and looked at it. Two handles, studded with odd bumps, like flair on a biker’s jacket. No lock present. She tried the handle and the door shifted. She tried with both hands and the door rose up but the effort staggered her and it came heavily shut with an iron slam that sounded like a bomb in all that quiet. A smell like shit had come from the briefly-opened door.
A precocious anger. If these doors didn’t open. She planted her feet and gripped the handle with both fists and with a salty curse she hauled at the door, stepping with it as it crept up, her elbows bending inward, cursing, walking with the dead door as she pried it to life, rust flaking from its naked hinges, hauling at it, not breathing, in the end dragging the thing open until something broke and it fell as if exhausted to the dirt that may have been called the backyard of the place if such homey language made sense here.
Carrion breathed from the pit of the building. She plunged into the darkness heedlessly, excitedly even, her legs making mincing careful prance-steps down what proved to be a deep and unevenly-spaced stairwell. Soon the milky skylight dwindled to a distant ambience, neither hot nor bright, implying only distance. A dessicate dirt floor announced she had reached bottom. She knew not to call for anyone, for somehow she knew that none would answer in a language that made sense. It was oppressively hot. There may have been something breathing down there with her, but she didn’t focus on it, for she felt invulnerable. No more of this. Never again, no matter what it took.
She stepped into her own kitchen, advancing on the intruder, who was her agent. Max made no move backward, but he seemed to want to. She took the coffee cup he had set down, the aroma of the Speedwell-roasted beans earthy and dark, like the chocolate of Moctezuma. She lifted the cup to her cruel lips and began to drink it scalding. He watched her keenly, and with something like incredulity. Losing ground to her. She drank it down, gulped it even, her throatwork moving like a snake’s full belly. She set the mug down empty, resoundingly, and dragged a long wrist across her lips. Val hadn’t broken eye contact with Max since she had stepped into the kitchen.
“You know why I did it?”
Max questioned her with his eyes.
“C’mon,” she said, smiling coldly. “You know what I mean.”
A sickly red light seemed to emerge from the hard dirt floor itself as the rank and humid moments passed, or it may have been there all along, and she only now noticed it after having gotten used to the peculiar thick darkness that pervaded. No longer blind, she set to looking for the stage, what the old man at the candy store had described to her as being a sort of platform, his teeth blackened with tar, a strangely palsied and decrepit old man with a voice like power itself, a teller of truths the sum total of which was an outright lie. She didn’t care. The cost was plain. The rewards immeasurable - or, rather, the sort of reward that she could never in a million years of dreaming and planning have ever conceived as being possible. As she herself would have put it, even at such a young age: to hell with it. Anywhere was better than home.
“How old were you?” Max asked.
“Nine,” Valeria replied. Then, she shrugged, her shoulders both sharp and smooth, by odd turns, she an abnormal goddess, at one time considered the most beautiful person in the world, though, really, she had been all along, and still was, and it was only to seem fresh that critics in her world had ever stopped saying so.
“Brave thing for a little girl to go all the way out there,” Max averred, his eyes laughing, perhaps even mockingly.
“Not really brave,” she replied.
“What did you go by back then?”
“I went by Stacy.”
Stacy saw a humped shape in the darkness, with glass eyes that stared with blind hostility. A dead thing lying on its side, four legs outstretched, knobby and half-starved, stiff hair up in hackles. She smiled at it. Bolder now. It was all coming true, after all. All that remained was to kneel on the platform and say the words, imagining all the while what she most wanted. Which was the easiest thing in the world for her to do, as she thought of nothing else.
“When did they bring you in?” she asked him.
“Before I knew you,” Max replied. “I knew of you, of course, from the Frangiapani shoot, but before I met you. They just showed up at my condo. I was selected, I guess.”
“I would have figured it would have been a stranger, that’s all. Or one of my staff, who might as well be strangers.”
Max reached into the rear waistband of his pants, but then stopped himself. He placed both hands palm-down on the island. “Indulge my curiosity, if you would. What did you have to say, when you were down there?”
“Nothing much,” she replied, smiling curiously: a broad and vulpine grin. Max stood up straight again, guarded now. She pointed at the coffee stand. “Why don’t you make yourself a cup.”
“Are you in a hurry? Go ahead.”
Max waited. Then, he turned, doing so, as if obeying a command. She might have attacked him then, with his broad and athletic back turned to her, and the hideous .38 police special that was tucked into his rear waist, she might have pulled back on his shoulder a little and tripped the trigger and shot him in the calf muscle without ever having to draw it out. She felt resigned to her fate, though; she couldn’t account for it. Surely the debt could not be paid by being shot. Surely the remittance would happen elsewhere. And yet, she felt ready, even as she bought as much time for herself as she could, even while she watched him chuck the spent filter.
“Hey there. Max,” she said. He turned warily, his eyes narrowed. She pointed one impossibly long finger at the trash bin. “They’re compostable.”
He looked at her quizzically.
“The filter. It’s biodegradable. The staff have a compost pile out back.”
“Are you serious?”
“Have you ever known me to speak frivolously?”
He sighed through his nose and retraced his steps to the bin. He removed, with one finger and thumb, the dripping filter. The top of the bin thumped shut. He left the filter at the edge of the sink. The element had flared to life again and soon the white kettle was trembling with the energy of the heating water.
“That coffee is good.”
“It is,” she replied. “Cheaper than Keurig.”
“I never thought you’d give a shit about how much things cost.”
“Well. I paid your salary, didn’t I?”
Max laughed, almost in spite of himself. He looked away from her, closing a hand over his mouth, his eyes shining with the wet power of regret. She watched without looking away, faintly smiling all the while. Then, he looked back at her. As if he, too, was desirous of deferring what was to come.
“What happened down there?”
Valeria watched him, lips curling tighter. She said nothing for a long moment. The house was as silent as a reality without sound, which may very well be the sort of place that Max had been tasked with sending her.
Then, the kettle began to shriek.
What happened in that eerie pit below the abandoned building all those years ago? Will Valeria survive this hostile encounter with her agent? Will Max ever take a sip of that delicious Just Brew coffee he is brewing? This and more to come in the thrilling conclusion to our good ole fashioned serialized short story: Deep as Glass! Thank you for tuning in!
Mar 09, 2021
As Deep as Glass: Good, ole-fashioned serial fiction in three parts
Part 1: Must Pour
She woke to the smell of coffee brewing. It lifted her head from a crisp white cloud-pillow, her leonine hair tousled, eyes blinking peevishly against this aromatic interruption of some bizarre, perhaps violent, dream she had only just been enjoying, the details of which were already scrubbed from her conscious memory by whatever Orwellian mechanism that performed such elisions, imbued nonetheless, as she lifted her head, with the desires her dream had conjured, desires which made her wish she was still asleep and dreaming.
The bed was enormous, ivory-white, the bed of a cruel princess, or of someone afraid of disorder. Tightly stitched pillows puffy with down were piled against a brutalist headboard. They had placed vases of obsidian around atop the many flat planes in her room, the white furnishings with nothing on top of them, all hard angles and modernity, and within these severe black vases sanguine roses tilted, freshly clipped and dying, bristling with curling thorns, per her instruction. She glanced at one and smiled privately. The tableau was simple, but it worked upon her with an almost uncanny potency. The pageant of bright white and darkest black broken open by a red rude and violent, an intrusion that created a new pageant.
And across the room from the bow of the great barge of her bed, extending nearly end-to-end along the opposite wall, was hung an austere portrait of herself, a photograph, from when her career had exploded, which had initiated the period of greatest productivity, when she had become a national avatar, a symbol on which the privately wounded and the secretly vindictive and the surreptitiously neurotic could hang their greatest hopes, and identify with in their most cherished and intimate inner moments. During that brief, brief, polar growing season that is peak fame in her industry, the abbreviated summer when one does three big shoots and ten lesser shoots a week, when one is never not working, the five-year period when images of her cold eyes, her cruel lips, the extraordinary, almost alien, angularity of her bones, the cream of her flesh, the broken-glass brilliance of her eyes, she had printed money to the tune of nearly two million a week, after taxes.
The portrait had been done by Frangiapani, the gold-star gay who antagonized his subjects, made them livid, then refused to shoot until they calm. And it was not the calm he wanted, but the struggle to calm. A nuclear-option for mining the black gold buried in the soul of a subject ignorant of it. He had worked on her cruelly, she nineteen years old and as green as the screening jungles of El Dorado. He was the greatest, and for years afterward she had been afraid of him, and had covered her fear by hating him, mortally. Not so much anymore: as she got older, her hatreds had diminished. Rather, they had lost their scope; they had become general. She no longer hated Frangiapani, this is true. But what he had said to her to make her look the way she had in the portrait that was hung opposite her now, before her waking eyes, with coffee in the air, them, they, whoever they were, down there clearing out of the house lest she come down and stare at them until they left, what he had said to her to make her look that way had left her after the shoot shorn naked, shaved of her hair, disemboweled, and, his shutter snapping closed, meekly she had wrapped her guts in the ripped strips of her wardrobe and had excused herself from his company as he, maybe, she couldn’t remember precisely, had opened his monogrammed cigarette case and stepped away from the tripod. Or something like that.
And yet. She pressed a sharp elbow against a pillow warm from the heat of her violently dreaming body and lifted herself recumbent to better look at the portrait. She began a breath through her nose and in the middle of taking in this breath she closed her eyes. What was there, across the room from her. The impossibly beautiful eyes of a nineteen year old orphaned wolf. Her moist hair voluminous, living streams of curling water, piled with edenic naivete atop her asiatic skull, a rudely healthy pile of hair. Mouth open as if to draw breath, or to utter a command to a firing squad. Subtle freckles. An enormous nose, the nose of an antipope. Clean lips rubbery in the morning, pastel and unreal when made up, her upper lip a cupid’s cap, her lower lip veal-lean, to where it looked as if she might be tucking it in. A creamy dome protruding from under the natural part of her excessive hair, a dome that had by now furrowed somewhat with age. She opened her eyes and saw the actual portrait and the confirmation of what she had seen behind her closed eyelids, and one detail she had forgotten, and was pleased to be reminded of: that of her leaning toward the camera, her naked shoulders out of focus. Stalking the viewer.
“Ah, Frangi, you old pervert,” she said, chuckling softly in her bed. That shoot had made her. As close to tears as she had been to killing him, or to killing herself, when he had shot it, this portrait had so stirred her profession that critics carapaced in cynicism by years of boredom had declared the shoot a sort of Rubicon, crossed by a daring Caesar in the form of a chubby auteur-photographer finally come to his due, who was a cross between Stanley Kubrick and Drew Carey, and by his subject, some unknown hayseed probably molested by her uncles who was not only astonishingly beautiful but who possessed a fierceness of soul so pronounced that the glass of her eyes had shattered before the ennobling lens of her photographer. And for close to seven years she had posed for luminaries, for Fredro Antonio, for Douglass, Cher Maitre, Bakalau, Kitnikov, Amy and Ari Conrad, “Elvis” Ming Ho, the whole constellation of artists in her profession, who had felt emboldened by that original gambit with Frangiapani, energized by the chimerical ugliness of her mug, the enthralling viciousness of her lips, the beguiling innocence of her freckles. “If they scrubbed the freckles, she wouldn’t look like she could eat you,” she had once heard a critic mutter, at a gallery, to another critic - not knowing the model had been standing close enough to hear. Not caring, maybe.
The coffee continued to stir her awake. The roses in their vases. The curtains closed against the brazen sun, muting its glare to milk. This giant portrait hanging like a glass that allowed a peek into the past, back to when she had suffered through an awakening of a different kind. Well. Night was over. It was time to step into her slippers and get to it. She threw off the impossibly soft comforter, slung her slender glossy legs over the side of the bed, fully nude, her body taut and warm, triumphantly coiffed in the bedhead of gods, eyes hard and cruel and inquisitive. Her fortieth birthday. She had seen Sofia Loren in that movie recently. Good Lord, is time cruel. And Sofia Loren had been altitudes higher than she had ever been. What would Valeria look like at 86?
She crossed her bedroom with easy steps, straightening her posture as she did so, resembling, by the time she reached the black doors of her immense closet, a ballet dancer warming up. She opened them. Her closet was a room in its own right, but her black robe, her white slippers, were at the front. She unhooked the robe and drew her lithely muscled arms into each sleeve and tied it around her waist. She then stepped into her slippers, stepped back and closed each door softly until they clicked shut. The central air blew quietly. Other than that, there was no sound.
Neither was there a door to her bedroom, only an open portal, and Valeria crossed the threshold talking to herself, not entirely aware of what she was saying. She followed the trail of coffee, Just Pour coffee delivered to her door, the preparation of which was handled by her team of people she never saw if she could help it. She glided down a corridor of black marble, white walls interrupted in their frigid perfection every now and then by the loathsomeness of her portraits back when she had attained full grandeur, twenty-three, twenty-four, as seductive as Crawford, as androgyne as Bowie, as remote as Callas, as confusing as Spasek. Down the stairs, a linear stairwell, for she mistrusted turns. To the kitchen at the western end of the house, situated away from the spreading morning sun. Her closed mouth shaped as if she was turning something over with her tongue.
Max stood there, having just finished pouring hot water over the fresh grounds. The coffee had dripped into a scarlet mug, monogrammed in a baroque and sable script with the letter “V”. Valeria stopped short as soon as she saw him. He turned around to face her, apologetic, determined. He smiled crookedly at her. He proffered the cup. She made no further move into the kitchen. Holding him with her arctic eyes.
“Hey there, kiddo. Happy birthday,” he pronounced.
She watched him.
He waited for her to respond, one moment, then two, returning her gaze. Then, he shrugged, and set the mug down on a great island in the middle of the kitchen, on which her evacuated staff usually made her meals; he set it down with the handle forward. It steamed in the still and cool air. He stood up straight. Wiped two huge hands together. His palms rasped dryly.
“They’ve waited long enough, Val,” he said. “Time’s up.”
Who is Max? To whom is Valeria indebted? And will she allow a perfectly good cup of Just Pour to go to waste? These questions will be answered, as more will be posed, in our next installment!
Feb 23, 2021
The Accountant Who Dreams of Coffee: Part 2
Continued from The Accountant Who Dreams of Coffee Part 1...
In coffee, the founder of Just Pour found the symbol around which his dreams and ambitions could orbit. “I’ve always been fascinated by coffee, since I was young,” Jason tells me when we recently met at a coffee shop in New Bedford, located inside a high-ceilinged old mill-space, capacious enough for indoor seating in a pandemic. “And I’ve always wanted to be a business owner,” he adds. His appreciation of coffee can be characterized as a gourmand’s appreciation - that is, as one who enjoys the beverage for its intrinsic qualities, not merely for its utilitarian ones. As with his enjoyment of wine, Jason appreciates the color of the beverage, its aroma, its protean flavors. “I use Speedwell Roasters’ coffee [from Plymouth, Massachusetts] because they’re the best,” he says, having chosen them from among five options he looked into at the beginning.
Just Pour makes delicious use of Speedwell’s detail-driven approach to sourcing and roasting their beans. When we enjoy a hand-delivered pour-over coffee from Just Pour, for instance, we are enjoying coffee from beans that were sourced the old-fashioned way: via direct relationship. That means visiting the farms themselves, located in the warmer latitudes of our planet; that means flying, driving, and walking out to those plots of rich land where the caffea grows - where the soil itself is aromatic, rich in nutrients. Where the sun is hot and broad and bright. Where there are two seasons. Where artists of a different kind cull and cultivate the plant to get the beans they desire to sell to roasters like Speedwell.
“The goal of Just Pour is social in nature,” Jason continues, coffee at his elbow steaming from within a cup made of second-use cardboard. January sunlight spills over the lot across the street and its ambient light filters through 20-foot-tall windows behind him. He wants his customers to drink Just Pour as they converse, as they work, as they collaborate. He wants Just Pour to benefit the independent coffee growers in Brazil and Ethiopia and Salvador, by buying from Speedwell, who source beans from them. He wants us to enjoy Just Pour without feeling guilty about the environmental impact of the waste generated by coffee consumption. He donates revenue generated by Just Pour to charitable organizations that he vets personally. “The word ‘Just’ has two meanings here,” he explains. As in, all that a customer has to do, ultimately, is “just” pour hot water over the filter bag in order to brew a cup, and, in its second insinuation, Jason endeavors to be “just” as he runs his business, moral. By leaving the world that he moves within - customers, employees, suppliers, the distant Pacific and its floating islands of filth - better than when he found them.
All this emerging from a dream dreamt by a lad from Taunton. His parents stolidly middle class. Dunkies was a thing among teenage boys in the post-industrial environment of his adolescence, and most likely still is. It turned out that Dunkies was the thing which got Jason into coffee, when, of necessity, he consumed it black one day, when he ran out of cream and sugar (ever fastidious, he used to dress his coffee himself). The difference in flavor and aroma were striking. “Coffee should be consumed black,” he avers, a position shared by everyone who drinks coffee with the intention of enjoying the quality of the roast, rather than, say, the rote sweetness of refined sugar, or the bland dilution of pasteurized cream, which turns what should be a potent and bold beverage into saccharine syrup.
From this accidental introduction to what coffee can and arguably should taste like, Jason’s fondness for bean-juice grew even further, when, as an undergraduate studying in intimate Providence - that small city with a large soul built against and around its eponymous river - he discovered the Brewed Awakenings coffeehouse. Where he immersed himself in the culture of coffee: the poetry readings, the political discussions, the ironically-consumed cigarettes, the requisite largeness of mind to appreciate more “exotic” forms of coffee: espresso, latte, cold brew, corretto. As his appreciation for coffee grew, a humanistic awareness of his responsibility to and for his fellow human beings concurrently grew, an awareness nurtured by this intellectually rich coffeehouse culture that he inhabited - a culture which flourished more abundantly in niche urban neighborhoods back in those halcyon days before Starbucks had completed its Genghisid sweep of the continent.
With these layers piled organically one over the other, we have the onion which is Just Pour. The layers of the lived experience of its founder. The city within which he grew up. The humanistic culture of coffee shops, given a new aspect. Humanizing the sales space opened up by Keurig - and providing the consumer a cup of coffee at a lower cost than Keurig.
A final digression, if patience allows. The number of problems we are currently confronting in this country are legion. To enumerate them in selective form is perhaps to inspire dismay or sadness in the reader, but please bear with me. In addition to the obvious threat posed to our health by SARS Cov-2, we have the resurgence of White Supremacist terrorism, the tyranny of armed and bellicose White Nationalists, and not merely those casual chauvinists who burble racial slurs from the comfort of their couches. We are threatened by those terrorists who would hang to death our elected representatives on makeshift gallows, who would use political violence to force New York City, for instance, into resembling some dim hamlet in the backwoods, where nuance is banished, where the astonishing kaleidoscope of ethnic and cultural diversity is reduced to an oppressive monochrome. Where everyone must be what the terrorists want us to be - or be shot. Or worse.
Of even greater threat is the damage being done to our planet. Rather, the damage being done to our planet in relation to its capacity to continue to nourish our species, and the millions of other animals like ourselves who call this planet home. (For what other reason is Elon Musk in such haste to get human beings to Mars if not to give a select few of our population the chance to carry the species on?) Naturalists in a multiplicity of scientific disciplines are sounding the alarm that it may already be too late: that, without a radical change in how we earn money, and how we consume resources, we may very well plunder our way into a scenario where billions die over an agonizing number of decades, where chaos grows as cities empty, where all of society as we know it is forcibly reorganized to accommodate the famine and carnage predicated by resource scarcity, warming temperatures, sea-level changes, and ever-more-powerful and frequent storms.
I could go on, but to continue this digression would be to diminish its returns. The humble point we’ve finally reached, then, is this: Just Pour is one of the many small steps being made in this country, and around the world, to bend our economy toward a more sustainable reality. As we work harder and harder for less benefits and time off, perhaps the aroma of Just Pour coffee can remind us to endeavor to slow things down. As wealth inequality continues to deepen, every bag of coffee you have delivered to your door by Just Pour will fund charities vetted by Just Pour’s founder. As consumer waste continues to pile up, your filter-bag of Just Pour, which carries a serving’s-worth of yummy Speedwell grounds, will join the ground itself, to become rich compost. These are very small things in relation to the totality of our problems. But they add up.
Jason Hebert is the accountant who dreamed of coffee, and Just Pour is the next step he has taken to insert a humanistic, positivist perspective into this bleak era where violence and natural catastrophe seem always a moment away. A small step. Perhaps not so small.