by Angie Thompson
I knock on the kitchen door at Alli Claridge’s house and am greeted first by a caramel-colored shepherd head popping up over the patio wall. It’s Maggie, The Claridge’s friendly dog. She’s the unofficial spokesperson for this household–one full of light and cheer.
Alli opens the door with a smile and a baby on her hip. Ellie, her 8 month old, is smiling too. I get a hug from both and rifle through my tote bag for my contribution to this morning’s gathering, a bag of Ecuadorian coffee that Methodical is releasing soon. Neither of us has tasted it yet, and we marvel at the novelty (to us) of Ecuadorian coffee and the novelty of having coffee at home in general.
“Sam always makes coffee, every morning,” Alli tells me. While her husband has his routine in place, the coffee professional in the house prefers to start her day a different way. “I’ll have English Breakfast tea with a little splash of milk… especially since I’m breastfeeding, I have to be aware of my caffeine intake.” For her, there’s a freshness to opting for a coffee alternative these days. Anything you work with or experience on a daily basis can lose its luster. It’s no different for coffee professionals, and Alli is finding new joy in coffee as a result of the restraint. “I enjoy it more now, because I drink less.”
I sit on a barstool, bouncing Ellie on my knee while Alli pulls out her scale, a Kalita wave, and turns on her Stagg kettle. She grinds 19 grams of coffee on her Encore at a medium-ish setting (16 on that particular grinder). She’s making coffee for each of us, one brew at a time, pouring 350 g of water over the grounds into two unique mugs. The vessels that people drink coffee out of forever fascinate me, and I relish seeing collections of china, thrift finds, ceramic crafted pieces in the cupboards of a home. They have something to say about the people in that home, and Alli’s thrifted finds remind me of her love of nostalgia and of far-off places. She finishes the first brew and pushes is across the bar toward me. It smells like cinnamon; it tastes like raisin toast.
We sit at her kitchen bar, talking about motherhood, mostly; how it’s a different kind of hard than we imagined it would be; how it’s a wondrous privilege to watch a person unfold. Alli has a way of breaking past pretense, of defusing the troubles of the day and entering into a moment. Usually with laughter. She has a smile near-fixed to her face. I know that this is what customers see when she dons her Methodical apron, and I know here in her kitchen that it’s given in earnest from a born hostess. Even as I finish my coffee, she tells me her plans for the dinner she’s making for a friend tonight. It’s just who Alli is, on and off the clock–kind, funny, telling stories and making coffee while you hold her wiggling baby girl.