Counter Culture at Coffee @ the Lofts

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What’s Brewing at One of Portsmouth’s Newest Eateries

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Coffee. It is the second most consumed beverage in the United States, falling only behind water. We crave the boost of energy it gives up, we savor its range of flavors and aromas, and we take solace in our morning brewing ritual. If you consume two (only two?) cups daily, there are 18 coffee trees producing beans just for you. It is fair to say that we are hooked. Fortunately, Portsmouth has gained a new coffee shop to slake our thirst.

Terry Ockerman, a native of Lucasville, Ohio, opened Coffee @ The Lofts in July of this year. The coffee shop offers a variety of teas and coffees prepared to order as well as smoothies, pastries, and eventually light fare such as soups and sandwiches. “Coffee shops are an extension of a lifestyle. They are a local gathering place, a business meeting venue, a study area, a place for quiet time, and a place for socializing. We thought it would be great for this city to have a good coffee shop, with really good coffee made the way it’s supposed to be.”

Coffee @ The Lofts is located in a renovated garage beside The Lofts apartments on Gallia Street. The windowed garage doors can be opened to create an indoor/outdoor space that seats approximately 80. Stylistically, the shop is true to its industrial roots but is comfortable and relaxed, with different seating options and plenty of space for groups. The atmosphere is bright, modern and welcoming, with displays that reference the building’s original purpose. Seating in the patio area will be enhanced with fire pits. Ockerman plans on using the space for community events such as celebrations, fundraisers for nonprofit organizations, displays of works by local artists, and musical performances.

The shop is also technology-friendly, providing free wireless Internet access; a number of outlets especially designed for tablets, laptops and phones; and access to USB ports. Tellingly, the Wi-Fi password is “simplify.” “If you’re not going to have Wi-Fi, you might as well not have a coffee shop. That’s part of the culture and it’s an important part of our customers’ lives. We want to be technology- friendly for the students, business people, and people who just want to relax. We want to make it easy.”

Ockerman’s focus, however, is definitely on the coffee. In researching his plans for Coffee @ The Lofts, he visited a number of other cafes across the U.S., attended conventions and read trade magazines. He talked to experienced roasters and baristas and, ultimately, learned that there is a lot going on behind a cup of really good coffee. Like wine, the flavor depends on the soil, climate, and altitude in which the beans are grown. Different roasting methods bring out different flavors in the beans, and certain beans benefit from multiple roastings. Different grinding methods produce different results, and flavors can all be altered by water quality and the calibration of machinery. Some varieties of beans make better cappuccinos while others shine in a deceptively simple cup of black coffee. Baristas, people who specialize in the making and serving of coffees, spend about four or five years perfecting their techniques and gain certification through their own professional organization. An experienced barista has developed his/her palate so acutely that upon tasting, he/she can not only identify the variety of bean used in a cup of coffee, but also can tell you the region of the country where it originated. The beans used at Coffee @ The Lofts are obtained from small co-ops, and purchased directly from the farmers. Ockerman’s goal is to provide the best quality product through fair trade and to have the most qualified staff in the region.

Future plans for the shop include expanding the line of pastries, lengthening the patio and extending the operating hours, particularly to accommodate Shawnee State University students during mid-term and final exams. Ockerman also hopes to develop a smartphone app enabling customers to place orders in advance of their arrival. Another project being considered is turning the shop into a wine bar in the evenings.

According to Ockerman, implementing the business has been a challenging process. “There is more to coffee than I ever thought there could be. It’s like trying to hit a moving target, with trends in the industry always changing, but I like that, it keeps me interested. I’ve also learned so much from my 20-something employees about style and world views as well as from the opinions of everyone who has given us a try. I think we bring coffee up to another level without being snobs and we are giving this community something they will enjoy.”

Photos: Ashley G. Quinn

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Chaille Holt

Chaille B. Holt is a freelance writer and editor residing in Flatwoods, Ky. A former reference librarian and bibliographer/editor for Duke University's Environmental History, Holt has a master's degree from Louisiana State University and a bachelor's in English from Morehead State University. On a perfect day, you would find her poolside, happily scribbling poetry and plotting great escapes while listening to classic rock.

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