Samuel Demisse is among a community of coffee professionals evangelizing the beverage’s allure through public and industry events, cultivating a customer base that values its complexities.

By Brittany Britto (Baltimore Sun) |

BALTIMORE, Md.―White Marsh (Baltimore County, Maryland) resident Samuel Demisse isn’t your average coffee connoisseur — the owner and founder of Keffa Coffee is a purist of sorts. He rises every morning around 7 a.m. to indulge in his own stash, freshly brewing three specialty coffees to start his day sans milk and sugar. Later that afternoon, he participates in a “cupping” ritual with his staff, a mix of duty and pleasure.

The session starts with the group steeping freshly ground coffee in water heated between 195 and 202 degrees Fahrenheit. They wave the aromas to their noses and slowly settle spoons into their cups before slurping — surveying the quality and noting the flavors similar to a wine tasting.

By day’s end, Samuel Demisse is on at least his 10th cup.

Coffee is a lifestyle for the Ethiopian-born entrepreneur, whose Jonestown-based wholesale company sells 2.5 million pounds of specialty coffee beans a year. It’s a passion he hopes to spread across Baltimore, a city he says hasn’t lived up to its caffeinated potential.

“There’s not a lot of coffee shops or roasters [in Baltimore] compared to a city like New York or Philadelphia, where on every block you’re going to see an amazing independent coffee shop,” said Samuel Demisse, 47.

He’s among a community of coffee professionals evangelizing the beverage’s allure through public and industry events, cultivating a customer base that values its complexities.

“Baltimore, we’re just behind,” Samuel Demisse said. “But now it’s time to pick it up.”

Originally from Ethiopia, Samuel was born just outside of Kaffa, a Southwestern Ethiopian province known as one of the places where coffee originated. The story goes that a goat herder in the region discovered coffee beans after noticing that his animals were energetic after eating them. The townspeople became infatuated with coffee beans, and much later, Samuel, did, too.

When Samuel Demisse was 17 and studying to be a chemist, his college town began experiencing unrest and instability, he said. His father, worrying about his safety, proposed that he join his coffee business. Samuel spent around 10 years traveling around the world learning about the coffee market and helping his father with farming and exporting.

Continue reading this story at Baltimore Sun
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