My day taking photos at Z-Best Coffee
By Paul S Hoffman--Web Designer--Apex Designs LLC
On a spring day in May I headed north of Columbia, Missouri to shoot photos of my friend Zakir at his home based Z-Best Coffee. It was a cool day with the wind blowing nicely from the west. I knew the area were Zak lived, it is the rolling hills of north Boone county. I followed Route NN around its windy path that cuts though the densely wooded countryside. Walnut, oaks, sycamore, elm and cedars are just a few of the trees that fill the hills. Small farms are also situated in the area as well. As I neared what I thought was the entrance to his home I saw the sign Zak had place at his drive so I could find him. A drive of about a quarter of a mile, on a dirt road, brought me into an opening in the woods. Here I saw a Zak's truck, a small older building that is likely a storage shed, and a very comfortable looking home. I was greeted by two dogs, one small and barking fiercely and the other large one, which I knew would be the friendly one. Sure enough, if dogs do smile, he had my hand petting his head and a smile on his face.
Our early Missouri spring had produced plenty of rain so the trees and landscape were green and lush. The aroma of spring flowers and trees was in the air. Also to my delight the unmistakable aroma of roasting coffee filled my senses as I petted my new found friend. Soon Zak came out with his warm smile and open hand. As we had a few minutes before he had to empty his roaster Zak gave me a tour of the house he and his wife hand built. It is evident that a lot of time, effort and care went into making not just a house but a home. The house was comfortable and warm with the glow of wooden floors. We ended up on the deck out back feeling the cool westerly breeze blowing in. Next we were in the kitchen and Zak was preparing me a rich tasty espresso. I had started my morning out with 4-5 cups of his coffee already but the espresso was a treat.
Zak's roasters are located by the kitchen, separated by glass windows and a glass door. Having them as part of the house makes the whole place smell of roasted coffee. We went into the roasting room because it was time to empty the roaster. I entered into the room filled with a wonderful smoke and aroma. Zak, like many people who deal with quality products, is an artistic roaster. What this means is he doesn't have timers, meters or gadgets to tell him when a roast is done. For him its the smell, the smoke and the popping of the the beans as they near the perfect finish. As he opened the barrel to his roaster to allow the finished beans to empty out the room filled with smoke and the deep aroma of great coffee. A fan was held in front of the beans to blow the chaff off as they fell into the cooling tray.
While the beans were being air cooled Zak immediately put more green coffee beans into the top of the barrel roaster. I grabbed a freshly roasted bean and popped it into my mouth. What a taste sensation exploding inside my mouth as I crunched down. A cup of this fine coffee is extremely good but nothing compares to a warm, fresh roasted bean. I looked through the small glass peep hole on the roaster and watched as the beans were rolled around the barrel above the gas flames. The next 14+ minutes involved watching Zak pour the freshly roasted beans from one bowl to another, in front of a small fan, to remove the chaff. He explained how the chaff can affect the flavor of the final product. Once done Zak returned to the kitchen to make us another espresso.
Zak's tells me his two roasters were made in Mexico but he still has an antique one that he started out on. It is a marvelous little machine, as are his newer ones. Like any good equipment though its the person using that makes the product what it is. Having drank many a cup of Zak's coffee I know he prides himself on his product. I personally am a fan of the African coffees and his Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Zimbabwe coffees are outstanding. The artist comes through as I watch the ease in which Zak attends to each roast. Once again smoke is billowing out of the roaster and it is time to open it up allowing the dark brown beans to fall into the cooling tray.
My excitement is as evident as Zak's when he opens the door and the beans spill out. He blows the chaff off as they poor out and after a moment we each pop a hot fresh bean into our mouth. Smiles broaden on our faces as the rich coffee flavor fills our mouth. This was a treat for me to enjoy Zak's company for about three hours as he roasted, cooled and packaged pounds of his wonderful coffees. We chatted, drank espresso and I felt we both had an enjoyable afternoon. I thank him for his hospitality and the enthusiasm that he imparts to me about his coffee roasting. I have always enjoyed his java and will continue to for a long time. My afternoon was rewarded with a bag full of an African blend, a smile and handshake from Zak and a head place under my hand by the big friendly dog outside. What a wonderful photo shot it was at Z-Best Coffee.