Coffee Talk with Bard's Bob Garver
Photo courtesy of Bard Coffee
Bob Garver is a coffee connoisseur. The owner of Wicked Joe’s Coffee, a wholesale roasting company based in Brunswick, Garver decided to explore the retail side of life and opened Bard Coffee on Middle Street in Portland in April. [To read more about the coffee scene in Portland, see this article in the Portland Press Herald.]
With Garver and partners Jeremy Pelkey and Tom Bard at the helm, Bard Coffee is quickly becoming a local favorite. Garver is the official roaster for the shop, and he has been roasting coffee for more than seventeen years.
“Even as a kid, I loved pungent smells and things,” says Garver, “but probably more than anything, I like the rituals of coffee, like sitting with my friends after dinner. I’m not a fill-up-on-coffee guy. I lived in Turkey for a while and had an amazing experience there around coffee, its rituals, and what it represented in terms of bringing people together. That was what really turned me on the most. When I returned, I started my first roasting business.”
Garver is no ordinary coffee man. He’s a World Barista Championship certified sensory judge.
Here’s a quick explanation: Competitions are held to rate baristas — those people you see behind the counter at coffee shops. Competitors present drinks (usually an espresso, a cappuccino, and a signature drink) and are judged by a panel rating taste and presentation.
“What we’re primarily concerned about is the taste of the coffee,” says Garver. “What notes are in the coffee? Does the barista understand the coffee? How do they present it? Professionalism, passion, dedication…their overall attention to detail. All of those things are part of what we’re evaluating, but what matters most are taste scores.”
Garver is one of only five Americans certified to be a sensory judge at the World Championships. A sensory judge is involved in the actual tasting and presentation scoring. He’s also a U.S. Barista Championship certified head judge, which means he can oversee a team of sensory judges at national competitions.
This is all a very long way of explaining Garver knows a good cup of coffee when he tastes, sees, or smells one, which is the philosophy behind Bard Coffee. Don’t be intimidated if you can’t tell the difference between a Kenyan and a Nicaraguan bean; there’s no need to worry.
“We want this to be a place that people who don’t know much about coffee come in and are welcomed,” assures Garver. “We want people that know a little bit to come in and learn more. And we want people who know a lot to come in and go ‘Wow.’ Everytime we hand them a drink we want the customer to say ‘Wow.’ We really want to be great.”
Bard carries about half a dozen single-origin coffees and the selection changes frequently. Indian, Ethiopian, Columbian, Costa Rican, Honduran — Bard offers beans from different terroirs and regions and represents a variety of processing techniques. If you order a regular cup of coffee, the house blend, it will be French-pressed.
“No coffee sitting around in pots,” says Garver. “Everybody gets a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. If someone likes coffee a little stronger, we can custom craft a cup.” As Garver notes, you can custom order at the brew bar, or opt for an espresso or latte with whatever bean you’d like. (The staff will make suggestions for you so you don’t pick a too bitter bean for a surprising shot.)
Bard Coffee is all about making each coffee experience as good as possible.
“This is an opportunity to really go out and have an immediate response from our customers,” says Garver. “It’s really fun.”
In addition to the coffee, the café also carries organic teas and a range of fresh pastries, cookies, and cakes from local bakeries. Another perk, so to speak: free wifi.
Bard Coffee is located at 185 Middle Street in Portland. 207 - 899 -4788. www.bardcoffee.net
Hours: Monday - Thursday 7:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M.; Friday - Saturday 7:00 A.M. - 11:00 P.M.; Sunday 7:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M.