by Susan Frampton
Coffee. You may wake up and smell it, drink it early or late, hot or cold, black or white, sweet or flavored. You might like it extra strong in a tiny espresso cup, New Orleans style in a bowl with a handle, in a thick-lipped mug, sipped from bone china, savored with a good book or in a paper cup on the fly. But until you've had it fresh roasted by John Curry and prepared by the team at Augusta's Buona Caffe, you haven't really experienced coffee as it is meant to be.
John and Pat Curry's roots begin in the newspaper business, and they'll tell you that the stereotypical image that comes to mind of a news office is not an exaggeration. Envision a coffee pot filled with dark, bitter sludge, and brown coffee rings on littered desktops. Both experienced that scene first hand during their careers and it drove them to begin experimenting with roasting their own coffee beans at home.
Many, many pounds of organic, fair trade coffee beans later, you'll find the charming and knowledgeable couple keeping Augusta happily caffeinated and chatting up newcomers and loyal patrons in their Central Avenue cafe. The aromas alone make one want to linger in the warm, Italian-inspired surroundings, and it comes as no surprise to learn that Buona Caffe was named by FodorsTravel.com as one of the top fifteen indie coffee shops in America.
This is not the fast-food, corporate chain version of coffee you'll find in the airport; it's so far removed as to scarcely resemble the same food group. Here's coffee preparation is an art form. Each cup takes 4 minutes and is prepared in an hourglass-shaped Chemex Coffeemaker using the diffusion method. Cream and sweetener are definitely optional, even for those used to loading their cup with extra ingredients. If you do decide to add a little something extra, drinks are prepared with handcrafted syrups Pat has painstakingly perfected, using real vanilla beans, mocha, and cinnamon to add deep, rich tastes to coffee drinks and french sodas.
It isn't unusual to find folks settled into the comfy couches or sitting in the cafe's sunny alcove with their books or laptops; the cozy, inviting ambiance and friendly staff encourages one to do so. The Currys cherish the friendships that have grown since the cafe opened and the couple enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the community, generously supporting many charities and organizations through donations and fund-raising programs. But their generosity reaches far beyond the Augusta city limits. For every 12-ounce bag of coffee sold, Buina Caffe makes a donation to an organization that supplies water purifying packs to those without access to clean water in developing countries. John explained the sentiment behind their donation to this particular cause.
"We realize that our business depends on clean water," he says. "This is our way of paying that forward."
And that, friends and fellow coffee drinkers, is no small beans.