I went to grab some lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago. Backporch Coffee Roasters was next door and closed, so we sat on their picnic tables as we ate. This super friendly guy came in and out of the coffee shop a few times, and we had a few small interactions. He was notably friendly, like nearly bubbling over with kindness and wore this giant smile the whole time. We'd traded small talk each time he went in and out. Then, on his way out for the last time, he gave my friend and me each a can of beer. "To lighten my load", he said, as he was about to pedal home. I called Backporch a few days later to attempt to track him down. They gave me the company email address, attempting to filter out the creeps. I wrote, explaining this project and my intentions. I soon got a text message from Brandon. We met again at Backporch for the interview and it was more of the same friendliness, positivity, and big smiles. Keep an eye out for this guy -- he'll brighten your day.
Who are you?
I'm Brandon. Brandon Harris. I was raised in raised in Texas, but born in Idaho, and now I live in Bend, Oregon. It's a pretty rad place. I really like being here.
What brought you to Bend?
I'm a coffee roaster by trade. And a barista. And I knew that the business was thriving here. There are so many great coffee shops with so many great people that I just knew this would be a place where I could really thrive with my craft. And so, that's exactly what I'm doing. For the last year now, I've been doing that. (Big smile)
What do you like about Bend?
So many things: good beer, good music, meeting new people every day, all the coffee, cycling, being able to just hop on my bike and ride wherever I need to go, and then the mountains, you know, the great scenery outside of the town. And there's a hundred waterfalls I haven't checked out yet, either. I knew that coming here with coffee in mind as a job, everything else would follow suit.
What does community mean to you?
I think community is supporting the common idea of just being good to one another and helping out in any way that you can. Whether that be getting somebody's latte because they forgot their wallet in their car, but there's a line and you know that it will back up, or just being nice in a roundabout (laughs) and letting somebody go instead of trying to steal the gap. There's a number of things that community can breed, too, and I think that the most important one is love for each other. And I think in this type of generation, this world we live in, there's a lot of bad. And it gets reported on easier than all the good, but I think this community, with everything between physical activities and professional chefs and professional beer brewers and coffee brewers, with all the like-minded people that fill in the community here, it's a really beautiful thing because that whole idea is moving forward. There's no competition here, that's the one thing I learned about when I moved here. There's no competition in the sense that the person down the street who also sells coffee isn't my enemy; they're just doing it in a different way than I do. And that's cool, to learn about something different, about how we do the same thing. You know? Everybody ties their shoes different, right? We all learned a different way and that came from something, but we still put our shoes on every day and go and serve the community. It's really cool.
Honestly, when I got my first coffee job in Nacogdoches, East Texas, at a coffee shop called Java Jack's. I realized just how integral coffee was every single day, but also the tiny conversations that wrap up the transaction in a neat little bow. I mean, we're not pushing people through just to get them their drink. The person who comes up is not just their drink; they are a person. The saying goes that You could have the best coffee in the world, but if there's a jerk serving it to you, then it's not going to taste any good. But then you could have the worst coffee in the world, but if you've got somebody really nice and passionate serving it to you, it's going to taste like the best cup of coffee. So I learned about community through coffee, through those people who show up in the shop and they haven't seen each other in five years and they give each other a big hug and they go and sit down and they chat all day. You know? That's why coffee breeds love and community, because it's this thing you gather around. Such a small thing to gather around, but it brings everybody together. It's like a campfire, coffee's like a campfire, man; everybody sits around it, everyone talks around it, everyone stare's at it when they're thinking about something. You know? You consume it and it warms you. It's a beautiful thing and that's why I'm so interested in residing in this community for so long. I mean, I've only been here a year, but I don't see leaving. I've moved to a lot of places and none of them were with a damn compared to this. (Laughs) This is great!
I grew up in a Christian home, so with that comes all of the people in your community that stick together and help each other move and go out for potlucks and things like that, you know. That's where it all began, really. I grew up in the suburbs of North Dallas and I mean just meeting up with friends on the block to go play games outside, kick the can, from that onto being in the church with my family and seeing just how family was formed and community and love in that way. And then kind of losing sight of that because I went all individualistic when I moved to college and then regaining that focus once I realized that coffee is this thing that really gets everybody going and everybody can gather around it. Knowing, too, that I'm a personable person and know that I can make a five-minute transaction seem like a great conversation, even though it's such a short amount of time — those are assets that I didn't ever see in myself until I got into coffee. Then I realized I could do that at the register and get great tips (laughs). But, of course, it's not for the tips. I realized that's an asset I have that not many people have and you can't train it, you can't teach it. If you're a personable person, you are, and if not, you're not. And that's okay. Someone's wearing a band t-shirt or someone's saying something about what they're about to go do - mountain biking, skiing — I've done enough things and I've gathered enough things in my life that I can be able to relate to them on a base level and, in that way, we become equal right then, for that second. That's another aspect of community that's so important. Coffee leads to community.
I love roasting, especially on the new machine. Roasting is this scientific dance with the coffee because it starts as green and you put it into this 460-degree machine and, with what I've picked up along the way, it's amazing to know that I have a muscle memory of sorts in my mind about what numbers to hit at what time. And so I love roasting because it's this dance I'm doing trying to keep the bean going on a smooth path without getting too low in temperature or too high in temperature because both of those will become detriments to the coffee. Whether it be slowing it down to create body or speeding it up to create acidity or knowing that after the turn around, up until the first crack, there's the sugar-browning phase and things like that. Just knowing those things keep me coming back, wanting more. Every roast is different, too.
Do you have thoughts regarding Bend's growth?
I've always been a patient person, so if I have to sit in traffic it's just more time I get to myself. That's more time I'm not concerned about anything else. It's more time I'm just sitting with myself. So, for me, it's fine. I see a ton of people talking about Californians or it's too busy or it didn't use to be this way 20 years ago, but I feel like there's no positive progression that comes from those type of thoughts and then you're only highlighting yourself. And then when you're highlighting yourself, you're not thinking about anybody else. And then you're not thinking about community. You're not thinking about these things that brought you here in the first place. It's a beautiful thing to have people move here. I moved here. You moved here. People who talk about Californians probably moved here at some point in time. It's like if you didn't vote, you don't have an opinion. Right? So, if you weren't born here, then, I mean, you really don't have the right to say those types of things. Everybody has the right to their own opinion, truly, but man, keep it to yourself if it's negative. It only takes a tiny rock to create a ripple and one of those days, that ripple is going to reach the shore, whether we see it or not. And if kindness does that, that's great. But if hatred does that, then what kind of shore are we hoping to land on eventually? The aspect of not wanting more people to be somewhere that's so awesome is really selfish. These aren't my mountains, these aren't my bike lanes. I have my own things, I have my own life going on. If somebody's willing to speak negative towards anybody else, then they should probably just open their eyes and see what's around them truly before they decide to speak.
People are busy here. Time is money here. People get tunnel vision. They don't see the reason they moved here anymore because they're so jaded by maybe their mundane routine. Maybe they're not getting out enough. I tell you what, you go hike to the top of Pilot Butte, you don't think about anything. You don't think about anybody who moved here because you're doing something for yourself and you're also letting your mind unwind. But if you spend your whole day behind a desk and then the rest of your free time thumbing through Facebook and then you get home to the person that you sulk with and that's all you guys do, then, those type of people, I really wish they could somehow break that mundane, everyday thing. And not with alcohol, either. With some sort of - go ride a bike. Tourists are going to be here. This is a beautiful town, it's a tourist town. It's just how it's going to happen. Maybe people see other larger cities and their problems and think it's gonna happen, but we have a great local government.
What is the main issue behind there being more people somewhere? It's not like a lack of resources exists in our culture anymore. We're not barbarians. We have all the water, all the beer, all the weed, all the food we could ever use. So what really is more people? It's just traffic. Or waiting in line to get the good you want. But if you're at a place worth waiting in line for, then the line isn't even the issue. You know? You're at a place you have to stand in line for, that means that good is of high commodity. Like coffee, people wait in lines for coffee 10 minutes, 15 minutes, sometimes 20 minutes because it's good. And it's worth waiting for. Even driving on these awesome roads and seeing a cyclist pass you and you're still waiting in your car, you're waiting to get to a good thing. You're home in this great place — Bend.
What do you wish for the future?
For myself I just want to get better at coffee, start taking more time for myself and not focusing on how other people view me. There's a certain issue I've had in my life about inadequacy. And I don't think I'm inadequate by any means, but sometimes, you know our culture is driven to comparison, right? You can see it everywhere. You can see how someone would compare themselves to another and feel inadequate and I think that I've fallen trapped in that. Especially coming from North Dallas, which was very rich. It didn't use to be, but when I left, it was very rich and was very vanity-driven. One of my goals is to continue pushing myself harder and harder within coffee, within my friendships — how can I be a better friend, how can I be a better person to everybody? And also within my physical activities — how far can I go on my road bike, which route am I going to do next when I go climbing? Money's not really a goal for me. I have enough. I save enough. I can take care of people when they need it and then I can take care of myself when I need it. I've never been in a place where that's been a thing. That used to be my goal — to make more money. But now I make enough to where I have some leftover after everything's taken care of and I can take care of others with it or myself. Now my goal is just to get stronger, become happier, serve my community better, get better at coffee.
I hope that for the community that folks can see that we are in a great place and that you'll feel a heck of a lot better caring for someone else or going out of your way to help someone else than you will about sulking about how you're inadequate. Or feeling regret because you didn't do something. Everybody's had that day off where they wish they would've gone out and done something. Or like as a young kid, you wait in line for a roller coaster then you freak out at the last moment and you wish you would have gone. Because it was scary. But getting out there and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone leads to growth and leads to someone being able to teach someone else how to go and do that same thing. There's a number of people I've introduced to climbing and they're climbers now. And it's amazing.
That's another thing, I want to be a better teacher. I think I'm pretty good now, but I think I can get so much better. So much more tactful with the way that I might tell somebody that they're not doing something right. Because it's usually in a busy condition and I don't want to come off as rude, but how else do I tell somebody besides telling them point blank? There's a way to do that that I could get better at as well. A number of goals - drink more water, you know? (Laughs)