Duluth Coffee Company started by recent UMD grad

Many students believe that after graduating from college they will know what to do with their lives.  As many approach their own college graduation (me included) they are painfully realizing that this is not the case. Post-graduation, some students seem ready for a career, ready for added responsibility, and to put it in general terms, ready for their adulthood. Some of these recent graduates are qualified to join the workforce but are not yet ready to make that commitment, or are simply too afraid. These recent graduates seem to be biding their time, waiting for life to force them to make a decision.

Andrew Dito, who graduated college in December 2011, is still working his part time job at Kohl’s and is saving his earnings for a family trip to Las Vegas in June. When asked why he was saving for a Vegas trip and not for something more responsible he responded with, “I figured treating myself to something after graduation is acceptable...after my lease is up and I move back home, that’s when I’ll look for a real job.”

While some recent graduates are taking their time finding a job,  others are frantically applying or looking for any job offering they can find. While these recent graduates run about with worried and stressed looks on their faces, all Eric Faust can do is sit back with his calming relaxed smile that says, “I know better.”

The JJ Astor restaurant literally spins atop the downtown Radisson hotel in Duluth.  The restaurant's dining room is nautically themed and jazz plays as spectacular views of Duluth, Lake Superior, and possibly even boats coming to harbor dance across diner’s eyes.  “I like working in a fine dining atmosphere,” Faust said, the restaurant's general manager.

Besides being the manager of the JJ Astor, Faust is also part owner of the Duluth Coffee Company, a company he helped start up in 2011.

Faust is also recent UMD college graduate, leaving in 2008.  During college he was an English/Communication student who loved writing and worked part time and acquired coffee shop experience throughout college.

After graduation, Faust moved down to the Twin Cities to try to find work that fit more in line with his degree of study.  He found a job as a technical writer and held that position for a while.

Faust found that being a technical writer was not what he had expected.

When Faust moved to the Twin Cities, he was still working and involved with the coffee scene and he worked at The Blacksheep Coffee Café in St. Paul.  “I made a lot of connections at Blacksheep coffee,” Faust said.

In 2009, after being in the Twin Cities for a year, Faust decided to move back to Duluth.

“Duluth is a great town,” he said.  “I didn’t get to know the city of Duluth until after I graduated. I wish I had never left.”

After moving back he was hired as the manager for Nokomis Café. He then went on to manage the Clyde Ironworks restaurant, and now settled in working at the JJ Astor.  While working the Duluth restaurant scene over time, Faust has gotten to know plenty of faces.

I ask how he has made his connections; he boldly responds with, “The business card is a strong tool.  I walk everywhere with two business cards,”  Faust said. “I’m just trying to make as many connections as possible, and get the Duluth Coffee Company name out there.”

Faust swears that, “networking is far more beneficial” when trying to find a job. “I’m always trying to find new connections.”

Something that has been a constant for Faust since and during college is his passion for coffee.  Having gained experience working, knowing, and being around the coffee scene since his college days, why wouldn’t he pursue a job involving coffee?

“Duluth Coffee Company is not my job, it's my pursuit,” he said.

Faust, through the Duluth Coffee Company, tries to infuse unique beans into Duluth’s coffee scene.  Beans that are exotic to the company’s customers.  I ask if he uses connections to help Duluth Coffee Company get their hands on rare beans.

Faust tells me about Ben Carlson, a connection he made while working at the Blacksheep Coffee Café.

Ben Carlson, who lives in Burundi, Central Africa, is chasing coffee with the Long Miles Coffee Project, and is working directly with growers to produce small lots of coffee of superior quality.

Three years ago, the Duluth Coffee Company connected with Carlson before he moved to Burundi. Since his move, Faust has been able to keep in touch, allowing the Duluth Coffee Company to get their hands on unique coffee beans.

I asked Carlson if Faust calls asking for exotic beans, “Eric is looking for something unique that has a taste that is either unusual or really stands out in its aroma, flavor, or body,” Carlson said.

Faust invited me to join him for a “Coffee Cupping” he is hosting.  The cupping included all of the Duluth Coffee Company selections along with unique fresh coffees from Ethiopia, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Kenya.

Faust prepared for the cupping by freshly grinding up beans.  When he spots me across the room a smile breaks across his face followed closely with a, “Dash!  Glad you could make it!”

You can tell Faust is in his element as he immediately dives into telling me about how the cupping works.  First he grinds the beans, then, has participants get a sense of the dry aromas, their first impression of the coffee.

“Coffee is very nasal, it connects the sense of smell to taste,” he said as he continues to grind up coffee beans.

Faust reveals exactly how the cupping works, first every participant gets a sense of the dry aromas by smelling the freshly ground beans.  After everyone has had a chance to smell the freshly ground beans, hot water is then poured over the beans and is to sit until what is called a “bloom” forms.

Once the bloom forms it is now time to “break the crust.”  Faust showed all participants how to properly break the crust. Once the crust is broken the coffees strongest aroma is released then.  After every participant had a chance to break the crust on all the coffee selections, it was time for what everybody was waiting for, the tasting.

The puzzled looks on the participants faces as they sampled the beans told it all.  Different looks said different things, some looks said, “This one’s good I like this one,” while other looks said “This one, maybe not so much.”

“I believe there is certain bean for everyone,” Faust said.

Sometime after the cupping I asked where his vision for Duluth Coffee Company was headed. Faust and his partner, Seth Lozano eventually want to open a coffee shop somewhere in town where they can continue to roast and sell unique beans of coffee to the residents of Duluth.

Out of college Faust dreamed of being a writer, but over time coffee bloomed as his true passion.  He chased that passion, and now has the Duluth Coffee Company to show for it.  Eventually he would like his work at the Duluth Coffee Company to be his full time gig.

When asked what’s the best advice he could give to recent college graduates, a simple statement exited his mouth, “If you follow your passion, and figure out next steps, you make progress.”

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