By BLAINE BOLES
Last Thursday at the Boone Street Market, Jonesborough Locally Grown held its first lectures in a series on the importance of locally sourced foods.
“What we’re doing here is developing an appreciation of our locally sourced foods,” said Karen Childress, the executive director of Jonesborough Locally Grown.
What Jonesborough Locally Grown is about is “connecting our farmers with the local community,” explained Erin Gibner, a 29-year-old AmeriCorps Volunteer.
Gibner, one of the primary organizers of the Jonesborough Locally Grown lectures, noted that she proposed the night’s first lecturer for his “charismatic and captivating personality.”
That lecturer was Bill Chapman, a Jonesborough resident and coffee connoisseur, who came down to the market to talk about the science-intensive process of roasting coffee beans.
Although he has dabbled in roasting coffee for roughly 25 years, Chapman said that he only began seriously roasting coffee when he retired in 2012.
“One can only play so much golf,” he joked — so Chapman’s wife bought him an “electric-coil heated Alpine roaster” for his next birthday.
“When we lived in Massachusetts, I started roasting in our basement and the smoke would make its way up the air ducts and set off the fire alarms so I was banished to the garage,” Chapman said.
Despite his banishment, Chapman was not deterred from roasting coffee. “A few years later,” Chapman noted, “I purchased a North brand coffee roaster,” which featured four propane burners and could roast up to 14 pounds of coffee beans at a time.
After purchasing his second roaster, Chapman noted that he became deeply interested in the more technical aspects of roasting coffee.
“The outermost layer of the unroasted coffee bean is ‘chaff,’ which must be removed before the coffee can be roasted,” Chapman said. A coffee bean chaff is the “silver-colored skin that covers the unroasted bean.”
Once the chaff is removed from a batch of coffee beans, “the process of roasting coffee beans is designed according to four features of a batch — the beans’ density, the altitude at which the beans were grown, the moisture content of the beans and the level of roast desired.”
Next, Chapman gave specific roasting times and temperatures for each degree of coffee roast: light roast, medium roast, and finally dark roast. For each roast, Chapman and Childress distributed samples of roasted beans and coffee made from those roasts.
What this show-and-tell of coffee was intended to display is that “you can tell when a roast is achieved based on how the coffee smells and tastes,” Chapman said.
“You should be able to taste notes of cherry and vanilla extract in the lighter roasts,” he said.
Chapman closed his presentation by discussing the logistical and political aspects of the coffee industry. “In this inaugural lecture series, it’s important to know that certain small coffee farmers may not be able to afford the cost of having their product certified as fair-trade or organic,” he said.
Chapman noted that he keeps this fact in mind when choosing beans for his product, for he wants to produce the best locally sourced product for the best price.
“The things that I sell here (at the Boone Street Market) will arrive on the shelves within two days of being roasted,” he said.
The night’s second lecture was led by Nathan Brand, a 29-year-old chef, and his wife, Diana Brand, a 28-year-old psychologist, on the use of heirloom crops in local cuisines.
The couple began the lecture with Diana Brand’s reading of Todd Blair’s “Moonshine and Mountaintops: A Living History of Northeast Tennessee” — a selection she believed articulates the connection that traditional Appalachian cooks had to what they cooked, which “is a sort of nostalgic comfort if you’ve grown up in the area,” she said.
Nathan Brand talked about his extensive culinary training that led him to an appreciation of “locally grown.”
He trained in several Nordic countries, he said, yet during his training, he soon realized that he “wasn’t cooking anything locally sourced,” which disregards an important culinary concept: terroir.
Not cooking with locally sourced ingredients, according to Nathan Brand, deprives you of being aware of your food’s terroir, a French term that refers to both a crop’s chemical characteristics and the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s chemical makeup.
This culinary feature is why he believes “everyone is seeking heirloom varieties now.”
“You can buy well-formed black-eyed peas at a Kroger,” Nathan Brand said. “But they are hybrid seeds that haven’t been adapted to specific environments. They’re solely meant to be prolific and ship-well.”
Whereas, “an heirloom crop is a variety of a crop that tastes better than its more common analog,” he said.
He quickly pointed out, however, that it is important to distinguish between “heirloom” foods and “niche” foods.
“There are a lot of ‘niche’ foods in today’s markets and anything niche has an undertone of elite,” he said.“There should be no elitism in the kitchen.”
“I’ve been broke and down-and-out, but I ate something great and that great thing wasn’t boutique or expensive.”
If you’re interested in attending one of Jonesborough Locally Grown’s future events, check out their website at https://jonesborough.locallygrown.net/welcome.