A Cup Of Coffee And A Slice Of Time With Alan Smith
Alan Smith knows something about crafting a cup of coffee. As the roaster at Lamplighter Roasting Company, it’s his job to produce what has quickly become the standard for coffee beans in Richmond.
“I started in my first café when I was sixteen at a Starbucks just outside D.C.,” he says. “I worked in food service and coffee through college and got a lot of good training. I helped open Ellwood’s Café when I moved here and then was apprenticed with Lamplighter to roast.”
Naturally, Alan has some opinions about a good cup of joe. He likens coffee to wine, explaining the need to savor it and use a specific vocabulary to explain its unique characteristics.
“As long as it’s fresh and well-prepared,” he says it’s a good cup. He admits to an espresso a day at Lamplighter. “Most people don’t think about where their coffee comes from. The history of the land can be tasted in a cup.”
But it’s not just about being a coffee drinker that appeals to him; it’s about the roasting of the beans. “It’s the craft aspect of it. It’s something that is an artisanal craft. It takes one person’s extreme attention to get it right.”
Alan’s extreme attention extends to other areas of interest as well. He’s fluent in American Sign Language and is currently applying to grad schools to further his knowledge of linguistics.
“I’d like to teach people about acquiring a second language. To successfully interpret, you need to be culturally sensitive. And teach sign language, too. It’s a constant struggle between craftsmanship and academia, the physical versus the mental. But I do want to teach at the college level.”
His undergraduate degree is in printmaking and he volunteers at Studio 23, a printmaking collective on Main Street, where he enjoys being around other artists, helping troubleshoot the equipment and assisting with the constant work of studio cleanup.
A native Virginian who grew up in Northern Virginia (“I don’t miss it at all”), he likes that Richmond has a history that is readily available.
“There’s an enormous depth of the things you can learn and do in this city. If you put in the effort, you will be massively rewarded; there are really cool places and things to do. I spend a lot of time in parks, the cemeteries and the VMFA. That’s an awesome place! And the restaurants are amazing, like Zeus Gallery. Café Rustica is one of my favorite places. I like the Roosevelt a whole lot. It’s five blocks from my house. This is a city of hidden gems once you get to know that the things people aren’t talking about are the good things.”
Besides being an enthusiastic foodie , Alan is an avid biker. He’s a member of the Saddle Sores Bicycle Club and worked briefly at a bike shop. In college, he had lots of friends who were into it and he found it a good way to get around.
Having lived in Vermont for a while, he’s especially satisfied with biking in RVA winters.
“There, when it was cold, you walked. For the three months it was warm, you biked. It’s nice to get a weather break here. Nature gives you a break to ride your bike all the time in Richmond.”
Music is another passion and when Alan couldn’t find a local gay bar with the scene he and his friends wanted, he decided to do something about it.
“I’m doing an alternative queer-themed night every other month at Balliceaux. Young, smart, hip people can go and enjoy punk, riot girl music, music with a shared identity. It’s all on vinyl. We want to get out of town DJs to come and guest DJ there, too. We’re trying to bring a different type of business, more open for queer and queer-friendly people, but where they can go and get a really good dinner and drink, too.”
Dinner and a drink figure into Alan’s idea of a perfect first date. “I like to be outside and I like good food, so dinner and a walk is great. I know, it’s a pretty traditional first date, but some things are traditions for a reason.”
It’s that measured and thoughtful attitude that informs Alan’s entire persona. Asked about how he’d like to come back in another life, he smiles and says, “As a more evolved version of my true self. But I need to even figure out this life first.”
Karen Newton is a freelance writer and full-time nerd who isn’t happy unless she’s going out every night for food, music or art and blogging it at www.icouldgoonandon.blogspot.com.
Animal RVA will return to Balliceaux this weekend for their monthly gig, this time, in support of the Richmond Peace Education Center. The collective consists of DJs, musicians, and artists who regularly produce queer-friendly events in the area and will bring their beat-heavy dance party to the venue with DJ CONLEY DIRT ϟTAϟH and ZAVVl. And [...]August 23, 2016
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