Sprudge.com co-founder Zachary Carlsen is embedded all week long on the Counter Culture Coffee Fruit Bombs & Fermentation road show. Over the next few days he’ll be in Atlanta and Chicago, but today we join him in Asheville, North Carolina.

It’s a four hour drive to Asheville from Counter Culture headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. The city of Asheville – “Ashvegas” – is a progressive little Smoky Mountain town that’s positively buzzing with coffee professionals. Around 45 folks came out in force to the Counter Culture Asheville Training Center last Wednesday night, to join us at the Fruit Bombs and Fermentation Cycle Two, a Counter Culture Coffee and La Marzocco roadshow making its stops in CCC Training Centers in Asheville, Atlanta, Dollywood, and Chicago.

Just what is FB&F? It’s a part of Counter Culture Coffee’s Works In Progress tours that bring together coffee lovers of all shapes and sizes for evenings of cupping, education, tastings, prizes, and fun. For Cycle Two (read all our Cycle 1 coverage here!) there are several new coffees on the cupping table, including one that is being tasted for the very first time in the United States: A natural coffee from Burundi, the first of its kind, something so rare that the exporters had to ship the coffee without first dry hulling it.

Chocolate? I love it, but it makes me fat. All the same, they had some delicious nibbles of the stuff on hand at the TC, made by French Broad Chocolates, who were featuring their Tumpis Cooperative 70% dark chocolate, nibs, and cacao. There was also a selection of fine cheeses, grapes, honey crisp apples with creme fraiche, and some special beer to wash it all down. The beer was an exclusive brew crafted especially for the event by the fine folks at Green Man Brewery, a porter made with CCC’s Guatemala Concepcion Huista. Folks were buzzin’ and burpin’ – and the fun hadn’t even started yet!

Burundi coffee in various stages of hullin’ and cookin’.

Experimental coffees on the table included two different drying practices with Aida Battle’s Finca Mauritania, in El Salvador – one sample had been dried on clay patios for a week, while the other had been dried on raised beds for four weeks. The Ethiopia Haru from Yirgacheffe – a sample that had been fermented in tanks under water for forty eight hours and a sample that had been fermented in tanks without water. The fruit bombs on the table were the natural Rwanda Bufcafe from Gikongoro (a first for Rwanda, and something that was introduced during the first cycle of FB&F) and the Buziraguhindwa from Burundi in Kayanza – a sample that had been washed (like all coffees from Burundi) and a sample that had been naturally processed. Like Rwanda, the Burundian government doesn’t even have standards in place to export natural coffees. The samples had been shipped to Counter Culture Coffee unhulled in dried cherry form. The samples had to be hulled in the roastworks.

Katie Carguilo brought her USBC signature drink realness back for cycle two. Carguilo and Asheville CCC rep Scott busted out over forty signature beverages that took top prize last year. Soda Streams were pumpin’, Katie was slangin’ drinks left and right. “The night made me really excited about the coffee community in Asheville,” Katie tells us, “so many baristas and coffee enthusiasts digging on coffee.” When we ask if people liked the sig drink Katie replies, “Everyone loved it.” Work!

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Same as in Cycle One, the folks at La Marzocco have kicked in a GS/3 giveaway to the Fruit Bombs cavalcade, and there’s also a handful of prizes being raffled off at each event. 60 raffle tickets were sold at five bucks a pop, all the proceeds going to the YCFCU – the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. Three lucky tickets were drawn from the gilded caged wind-up roaster and attendees were given prizes like a customized tamper, some Counter Culture Esemeralda Geisha, and coffee subscriptions.


Notes on Asheville:

* All the kids had these cute bottle covers for their Miller High Lifes. These bottle covers are all the rage here in this rustic mountain hamlet and while I’d never be caught dead with one, after a couple of $5 double fisters I was singing their praises with the rest of ’em.

* The real action is at Rankin Vault, where their hot dog is the prize pig of the menu and the pan-fried chicken sandwich was passed around and gobbled up with heads tilted back, thanking God for this miracle glazed in cumin, slapping our backs with delicious glee. Someone ordered up a huge plate of sliders for the table and Scott provided an endless baskets of chips and queso. Conversations broke out – half the group debated the merits of Lost while the rest of us made Breaking Bad predictions.

* Everyman Espresso’s Samuel Lewontin has a long lost older brother, and his name is John, and he works at a brand new cocktail bar called MG Road. Served me up a negroni something fierce. Rumor has it the staff at the neighboring candle shop and yarn emporium get tanked here on the regular. Frothy!

* The Southern is where people go after they’ve attempted to knock a parking meter over using a Street Fighter II flying air kick (this was unsuccessful, the parking meters aren’t going anywhere in this town). Get the whiskey. Bartenders pour ’em long. They ain’t shy.

Overheard throughout the evening:

Butter on anything make ’em better.”

If you’re heaping, heap less.

Why did the skeleton compete in the barista competition again? Because he had the hindsight to do better.

Places we went for coffee:

Dripolator Coffee Bar served me up a memorable espresso (Toscano) and an easy like Sunday morning cup of batch brewed Counter Culture drip.

Izzy’s Coffee Den is full of heart. It reminded me of San Francisco’s Trouble Coffee. Free condoms near the register, inappropriate stickers adorn the refrigerator.

A sincere and special thanks to the Asheville Counter Culture crew Lindsay, Peaches, and Scott for opening up their training center, throwing a killer party, cleaning it all up, and taking us out and showing us around your rad town. You’re all a bunch of sweethearts. We’ll see you at the Olive or Twist next time around.

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