Van Pierszalowski of the band WATERS invited us inside his apartment in Highland Park for a morning brew to talk about how coffee is more than just a routine, it's an artform in and of itself. After working as a manager at San Francisco's coffee mecca, Four Barrel Coffee, he learned about the economic impact of sustainable sourced and roasted coffee, which led to a more philosophical approach to the craft of buying, making and enjoying a cup of coffee. Van is set to release his first solo album under the name Van William (and we bet he's sure to thank coffee in his liner notes), follow him on Instagram to find out more.
His First Time
I still remember my first cup of coffee: I was a sophomore in college and I was having breakfast with my bandmates in Oakland. It was raining and I was slightly hungover. I remember thinking of ordering coffee as an act of rebellion because at the time I was Not-A-Coffee-Drinker. I remember it tasting horribly. And I remember loving it so incredibly much. During those first few years, coffee and I had somewhat of an abusive relationship. It was so cheap and available everywhere at anytime. I didn't think much about where it came from or how it was made or even how it tasted, to me, there was one type of coffee and that was just called coffee.
After years of touring with my old band Port O'Brien and crashing on couches and not paying rent, I settled in San Francisco to work on my new project WATERS. I needed to get a day job to pay the bills and I somehow ended up convincing Four Barrel Coffee to hire me as a barista-in-training. It was there that my relationship with coffee was forever changed.
The lengthy training regimen taught me a lot that I had never really considered. Coffee is a berry (NOT A BEAN IN ANY WAY) and berries can be sweet and incredibly delicious! Lighter roasts are not only capable of providing more dynamic flavors, but they also have more caffeine!
Perhaps most importantly, 90% of the world's coffee is grown in developing countries while most of it is consumed in the industrialized world. So, the choices we makes as consumers are super important. While I may have earlier dismissed the marked-up prices of single-origin coffees as a pretentious fad, I started to realize it was actually providing massive economic opportunity for people around the world. Not only do Four Barrel and other specialty coffee houses have exponentially better tasting coffees, many also have direct relationships with farmers and co-ops that benefit them and their local communities.
The Best Creative Partner
As a songwriter who mostly works in my bedroom, the ritual of home brewing has become very important to my creative life. Coffee is as essential to my process as my guitar. My entire day revolves around it. My morning cup gives me life, while my afternoon cup allows me to reset and to refocus. It provides me with a ritualized structure that is badly needed in the face of a self-disciplined day of artistic struggling.
There are plenty of different methods for preparing coffee at home, but my personal favorite is the Chemex. Not only is it gorgeous (it's on permanent display in the MOMA and the Smithsonian), but it also makes two perfect cups of coffee at once. I usually drink a cup in the morning, and put one in the refrigerator for an afternoon iced pick-me-up.
Nothing makes me happier than the thought of a perfectly brewed, single-origin, direct-trade, light roast coffee running towards my pre-heated coffee mug down the pour spout of the Chemex in the morning. That sentence would have probably made me cringe years ago, but now I realize that coffee is too important to me to haphazardly consume. It deserves to be treated like the beautiful creative partner that it is.
Photos by: Jonathan Chu
Shop Van's mug picks here!