It was a beautiful spring morning in a small Bedouin village at the north edge of Wadi Rum in Jordan. This was an unusual village because there was a section that had settled houses, like a normal village, and a section that had the traditional goat-haired tents in the desert. Our friend Abu Mohammed lived in a tent and did NOT want to move to a house; so he continued moving his tent seasonally in order to supply the best grazing land for his herds of goats and camels. On this particular day we were sitting on the farashat, the thin cushions that served as a seating area for the family and their guests.
As we sat and visited, drinking our coffee and tea, Abu Mohammed said something interesting. He said, “Coffee and tea are our life.” Now that seems, on the surface, like hyperbole, but what he meant to emphasize was that the art of serving coffee and tea. The way coffee and tea-based hospitality builds friendships and trust between a person and his guests is vital to the traditional Bedouin way of life.
Coffee can be very powerful if used effectively in the right context. It can help build relationships. I have spent many hours talking and chatting with so many different people of all shapes, sizes, socioeconomic status and cultural backgrounds, as we built a relationship over coffee. Coffee can help build community, and that was exactly our goal as we went from dreaming about starting a coffee business to actually starting a coffee business.
My son Joshua and our family friend, Hunter, spent the summer 2016 doing an internship with some friends who ran a coffee business in Muscat, Oman. When they returned home in late July both Joshua and Hunter were very excited about their experiences. Their newfound passion for coffee was contagious. Now, much like his father, Joshua is very persistent about something in which he believes, and for months he insisted that he wanted to start a coffee business for his career. At first, I thought it was just an emotional high from being in another culture and experiencing new things. But his enthusiasm was relentless and I’m always looking for new and novel ways to invest money; so, when Hunter graduated from the University of Alabama in 2017, I hired him to help us start a coffee business!
We decided that we were going to initially roast coffee and sell it online and for subscriptions. We would take it as slow as we needed to in order to minimize initial costs and overhead. Hunter and Joshua began researching everything about specialty coffee: from ordering green beans to best roasting techniques, to distribution and marketing. Then our direction completely changed in December 2017.
Our dearest friends in the world, Brad and Alison Haynes, lived in Muscat, Oman. Brad ran the coffee company that Joshua and Hunter did the summer internship with in 2016. Brad and Alison decided that they were going to return to live in the U.S. and they were planning on moving to our city, Birmingham, AL! Now, it didn’t take a genius (which I am certainly not) to figure out that their move back to the States created a perfect opportunity to get Brad to help run our new coffee business. Brad and I talked for a few days and we agreed that he would be a perfect fit to help us start this business. So now, instead of just roasting and selling wholesale and subscription coffee, we were going to open up some brick and mortar cafes.
Next, we had to come up with a logo and name. We wanted to have a Middle-Eastern vibe to our cafes, so we decided to call our business Baba Java because the word Baba is Arabic for Daddy which is what some of my children still call me from our time living in the Middle East. Java, of course, is a colloquial term for coffee. A camel was chosen as a part of our logo, again, because of our experience in the Middle East and our love for the culture.
The next challenge was finding the perfect location for our first café. My wife, Wendi, and I love drinking good coffee after dinner, but there were no good coffee shops in our city, Hoover, Alabama. So we really wanted a place in Hoover where we could be close to work and have a place where we could go drink great coffee after dinner (or first thing in the morning, or after lunch, or in the afternoon, well, let’s face it- anytime is a good time for great coffee). We also wanted to offer this to our community, so we started “close to home.” We looked at several places in and around Hoover for a location close to a lot of businesses that was also easily accessible to residential areas. The perfect place eluded us for a long time but then we finally found this perfect little spot in an area called Chace Lake. It was right outside a medium-sized neighborhood and really close to a large neighborhood in Riverchase. It was also close to many of the large offices in Riverchase, so we negotiated a lease and began planning the build out.
The process of finding an architect and contractor was not easy, but we found exactly the right ones for us. It also took much longer than we anticipated. We had heard to expect that it would take twice as long and be twice as expensive as we planned, and that was almost exactly what happened to us!
In the meantime, we had a roaster installed in our basement and we hired two really great young men to be our coffee roasters: Reuben Parsons from Australia and Jacob Catlett from Arkansas, two exotic locales. They began practicing roasting green beans that we ordered and they were naturals- Reuben quickly became our Roast Master, in charge of ordering green beans, roasting, and production and distribution of our coffees. Jacob became a roaster, Sales Manager, and was responsible for distribution, sales, and marketing. They were both very busy but very hardworking and talented.
Finally, on Saturday March 30. 2019, our first café opened in Hoover, Alabama, and Baba Java was born! We at Baba Java Coffee demand excellence of ourselves- we want excellence from the farms that we do business with to the coffee that we brew and sell. We insist on excellent customer service and an excellent customer experience. We strive to build communities in every sphere of our collective influence- from the farms where our beans come from to each and every place to which our cafes provide service. And that is exactly what we want to do- serve our communities.
Baba Java Coffee has been an amazing experience so far, and we are so excited for the opportunity to serve our communities around the world with excellence for many, many years to come. Baba Java Coffee- excellence from farm to cup!
No matter if you are brewing for one person or fifty, from pour over to drip machine to French press, and for any coffee type, there is one factor that is more important than any other. It’s the thing that happens after the perfect cup of coffee is enjoyed.
The big secret to making great coffee is...cleaning!
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