The Wendelbook, as it is affectionately known, properly titled Coffee with Tim Wendelboe, was, at first, a great disappointment to me. Wait, let me explain! In these parts (the southeast US), Tim Wendelboe is a coffee paragon, from the Greek: paragon, a participle of paragein: one with which to compare side by side; in other words, an example of qualities of which to aspire. As a roasting company, we here at Safehouse Coffee & Tea have developed our roasting protocols in as much of a vacuum as exists in this internet age. With strong leanings to a desire to roast and develop coffee as fully as possible with what is commonly called a “light” roast, when TW hit our radar, we have since poured over every material we can get our hands on that he and his staff have produced. What we found has been inspiring, frustratingly challenging, and at times, absolutely confounding, so when we heard that TW was printing a book, our hearts leapt with joy at the consolidated knowledge we would soon hold in our trembling hands. This is why, when the book at long last arrived, I was stricken with disappointment to find only 8 pages on roasting. I am sure that I could have know that it was not going to be a roasting textbook, but my expectations and excitement ran away with me, with their visions of ascending to a new level of understanding and proficiency in the realm of roasting. I put the book down and walked away, feeling somehow personally let down by this man I have never met. I took a few days to deal with my misguided para-social relationship with Mr. Wendelboe, and I approached the book again with fresh eyes to read it for the work it was intended to be. What I found was, again, inspiring and challenging.
Coffee with Tim Wendelboe is situated into eight sections interspersed with striking photographs from origin and the Wendelboe coffee home cafe, namely, “What do you need to make good coffee?”, “Green Coffee”, “Roasted Coffee”, “Buying Coffee”, “Brewing Methods”, “Serving Coffee”, “Recipes” and “Taste”. We have neither the time nor space to summarize each section, however, there a few points that bear noting.
In the opening section, the author gives a simple yet thorough rundown of the parameters that universally affect the brewing processes of coffee. If one were to commit, not only to memory, but take to heart and commit to practice the study of these parameters, one would find an ever-strengthening mastery of brewing coffee.
In the Green Coffee section of the book, an understanding of terroir emerges, progressively unfurling itself for the reader. With this comes the pervasive respect the author has for the farmers and various producers of fine coffee. A balanced hand defines the coverage in areas of exploration throughout the Green passages dealing with topics such as “organic” coffee, harvesting and processing.
A concept that may be new to some is gently offered in the Roasting section as roast development pursuant to a coffee’s intended brewing method is subtly juxtaposed with the more traditional practices of tracking a batch of coffee by roast degree and color of roast. While this concept may be initially elusive, it is actually eluded to time and again throughout the book in one simple course of thought, encapsulated in the closing paragraph of the author’s preface, “Don’t get hung up on what you think coffee should be. Rather, try to find out what coffee can be. But remember, taste is always what matters.” (italics mine)
So much of what many coffee companies base their over-arching core values and practices on are simply a replication of what was once effective, but Tim Wendelboe puts forth taste as the paradigm from which all practices, from germination to decanting, can be based. Keeping that thought in the forefront, this book arrives as the preeminent introductory and intermediate text for consumers and those entering the coffee industry. A more invaluable resource for those interested in specialty coffee, I have not found. ~ Hunt Slade