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.