Seth Appell is a red-dreadlocked muscleman whose enthusiasm for coffee is like that of a miner who’s found gold. He invites us to dig our hands into warm, just-roasted beans of Red Sea Blend – one-third Ethiopian Harar, one-third Yemen Mocha Sanani, one-third Ethiopian Yergacheffe. He chews a few beans straight: “Oh, yeah! I’ve got to try this.” Standing in one place in the shop, surrounded by all he needs, he burr-grinds beans, swivels 90 degrees as he tamps the grind into the filter cup and ratchets it into place, then reaches down for two small paper cups to put under the spouts. The coffee comes out dark and syrupy. He hands us one cup and sniffs deep into the other himself. “I hope you like your shots really thick. This should be sharp.” Its impact is as smooth as a prizefighter’s glove.
“It can take me two days to figure out what I have bought,” Seth says, drawing sips of the coffee over his tongue as he shoots hot water through the espresso machine and says, “Let’s try this Mexican coffee from Chiapas. I have no idea what to expect, but it comes in a beautiful bag.” The Chiapas coffee is shockingly different from the powerful, pungent Red Sea Blend – ethereal and impossible to pin down. “Wow, that is so light!” Seth exclaims. “It’s almost like tea but not flowery. It’s nutty, isn’t it? What is it that I taste?” He is not asking us these questions. He is asking himself. Unable to resolve the issue, he tries again. “I’m going to make stronger shots. I need to know what this one is all about.” He grinds the beans finer and packs them more densely. It brews thicker, but the flavor is still elusive. “Oh, my God, this is electric! I can’t begin to describe it. It’s not like coffee at all. It has no dirt, no earthiness. I am going to have a real problem here.”
It is the kind of problem he loves. “You know, we may never be able to get this exact coffee ever again. I live for the excitement of new coffee coming in.” Tabling the quest to describe the Mexican coffee, he suggests going back to Africa with another brand-new Kenyan bean. “It’s light, it’s all spice and no heaviness,” he declares. “It is like I am tasting the color brown.” Then, maestro announces, “I need El Salvador. “I’ve got to have it. My taste buds are getting perverted. El Salvador will fix that. It is like crushed black pepper, very dirty, heavy. You can taste the earth of Central America.”
Note: Although you can buy bulk coffee at Old Bisbee Roasters, it is not a full-service retail store or coffee bar. It does business primarily by mail-order via internet or phone sales and does offer cups of espresso to visitors.