What’s with the name?
After my apprenticeship with Mark Hewitt, I got a job as a barista at one of the few places in the country that had coffee from Biloya. I wasn’t then, and I’m still not, a ‘foodie’ (I even dislike that word). But drinking that single-origin coffee had an effect on me, and it clued me in to a whole world I hadn’t known about.
Here in the states, we drink lots of coffee. It’s everywhere you go, it’s cheap, it’s mostly generic. The term ‘blend’ is assumed (‘bland’ would stand in just as well). We call it good or bad, because it can so easily be plugged into a spectrum with a short list of obvious characteristics determining what’s better and worse. It’s treated more as a caffeine delivery system than anything else.
What’s lost is coffee’s powerful ability to carry and express information, terroir. When I had my first cup of Biloya, it was a revelation. I could taste its history, the soil, the geography and climate, the labor and craftsmanship, everything. Not because I have a refined palette (I don’t) and not because I’m crazy or spiritual or anything like that (I’m not). The sense of taste exists to understand information stored in chemistry. It’s not literal, of course, and isn’t really translatable. But it was all there for me, without doubt, right in that cup of coffee.
Pottery can absolutely express terroir, and, just as with coffee, you don’t have to be any kind of an expert to get it. But so much of what’s out there is mass produced, with market viability guiding decisions all the way – from the materials used through the manufacturing processes and on to sales. I don’t have those restrictions on what I make. I can make something unique, something handmade and creative, using local materials and original ideas.
What I tasted with that first sip of Biloya years ago was completely original, but it was coffee, all the same – not flavored coffee, or something better than coffee, or anything other than coffee. Biloya is coffee. And now, Biloya is pottery.