Caffeine Crawl Portland is tomorrow!

Here are 5 tips for success:

Photo of the 2015 Indianapolis After Crawl Party at Thirsty Scholar

It seems like every time a Caffeine Crawl event pops up, I get more and more excited.

I’ve been involved in quite a few Caffeine Crawl events across the country, visiting shops in Chicago, Omaha, Columbus, and beyond. Last month on October 14th was my third time working at the Indianapolis Caffeine Crawl.  It was also, however, my first time acting as a major sponsor of the event, and with that the organizer of the After Crawl Party, so that was a pretty big deal for me!

With all of my time spent traveling and visiting different Crawl stops, I’ve gotten to know some good ways to really make the most out of the events. Some of you that will be attending this weekend have never been to a Caffeine Crawl before, so I wanted to give you a few tips on how to make your visit as successful and memorable as possible.

First things first, though: If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you better do so now right here. There aren’t many left!

Once you’re ready, scroll down for 5 tips from a Caffeine Crawl Veteran on how to really experience the event.

1. Take care of your body with water, food, and restroom breaks.

 

This cannot be emphasized enough. With how many caffeinated beverages and snacks you’ll be consuming throughout the day, you MUST remember to drink plenty of water and grab some snacks while you’re traveling around town.

One of the biggest downers of the day is when someone forgets to drink water and ends up with either a major headache or uncomfortable jittering from the caffeine rush. Water is your #1 tool for combatting this, and most of the stops on your route will have water available if you ask (or there will be a special station set up before you arrive with cups of water ready to go).

This first section doubles as a reminder for me, too. It’s easy to forget to drink water or grab a bit of a breaded snack to balance out the caffeine. Just this past September at Caffeine Crawl Columbus I found myself up a dozen cups of coffee with nothing else to counteract against it. I felt the consequences, though, with one of the worst headaches that I’ve had in a very long time.

Drink water. Use the restroom. Eat some food. You’ll thank me for it later.

2. Make sure you leave each stop on time.

 

This tip may sound like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised just how tempting it is to stick around a few minutes after each shop’s presentation is over to look around, buy a few coffee products, or just sit a little longer.

Honestly, you should check out each stop in a little more detail. Half of the point of a Caffeine Crawl is to help you get to know the local shops better than the chains, so I would be defeating a good portion of the fun that comes with these events if I was to tell you not to look around or buy a bag of the delicious coffee beans you will be trying.

Just be aware of your schedule and time while perusing. Take the Caffeine Crawl schedule card and make a note of something you want to look at and come back to the shop either later that day or sometime in the future. Each shop has totally different presentations and samples to serve, and some of them will not prepare any of the samples ahead of time (especially fresh espresso-based drinks). You don’t want to miss out on a great, freshly made drink sample because you were standing in a long line waiting to buy something at the previous shop.

Plus, when you return you get the added bonus of being able to tell the Baristas that you are back after being a Caffeine Crawler! They love hearing that. 🙂

3. Bring a Journal (or Notes App)

 

You might think you’re going in just to get a few samples and free swag, but the reality is that every Caffeine Crawl event is designed to not only be a fun and great experience, but also incredibly informative. Coffee is a simple beverage and shouldn’t be taken so seriously that we lovers of the bean come across as pretentious and “know-it-all”, but there is a lot of complexity that often goes unnoticed by the casual consumer of the beverage. 

While you’re crawling from shop to shop, the coffee pros that greet you will be ready to share knowledge that you didn’t even know existed. From basic brewing techniques and unique equipment that will take your home-brewed cup to another level, to in-depth lessons on the coffee roasting processes and flavor extraction ratios, to stories of the struggles that many coffee farmers and producers face when creating their product; there is a lot to learn. 

Bring a notebook, or launch that text editor app on your smartphone, and be prepared to take a few notes. You’ll be surprised at how understanding the full story of coffee, from seed to cup, can change the way you brew it for yourself (or for your friends). Little tips and facts, like the difference in grind level for different types of beans (dark vs light roasts) or the colors you should look for when pulling a shot of espresso, will drastically affect the end result. 

Whenever you learn something new or interesting, quickly jot it down so you don’t forget later. Then impress your house guests with your incredible attention to detail as you excellently serve them your favorite drinks. 

4. Ask Questions.

 

Taking off from where the last point left us I give you this: Ask questions.

Of course, I don’t just mean to ask questions in order to learn more from the coffee pros who are putting themselves in the spotlight for you. A lot of shops will actually leave time at the end of their presentations for questions, and your use of that time can help everyone in your group have a great time. 

One of the best groups I’ve ever led on a Caffeine Crawl started off strong with a couple of people asking a lot of great questions right at the start, and from there we had a snowball effect of great conversations between former strangers for the rest of the Crawl. 

Asking questions will absolutely teach you some of the finer details of the coffee brewing craft, but it also energizes everyone from the hosts, to the guides, to your fellow Crawlers. By the time the third stop comes around, if no one has been asking any questions, the whole group tends to stay pretty quiet. If one person steps up to field a few questions, though, everyone seems to get a boost of courage to put their thoughts on the spot and speak up. 

This has a compounding effect: The hosts feel great about the presentation they just gave and might let the group in on some secrets they hadn’t shared for other groups, your guide will feel on top of the world (even if this is their third time seeing this same presentation from other Crawl routes they were on (and 30th cup of coffee for the day), and your entire group will open up with other questions you might not have thought of, conversations you’ll enjoy having as you get to know each other, and a bit of laughter to make the whole event so much more fun. 

Plus, there’s the age-old saying that, “No question is a dumb question.” You never know how many other people have the same questions that you do, so don’t be afraid to speak up and learn something new that you’re interested in.

5. Get to know your fellow Crawlers!

 

Finally, I leave you with what I believe is the most important tip for enjoying your next Caffeine Crawl event:

Get to know people. 

For me, coffee is a means to an end, and that end is “community”. It brings people from all different walks of life together in ways that other products simply cannot, and Caffeine Crawls showcase that every single time.

I have met musicians, artists, coffee shop owners, authors, World Champions of latte art competitions, actors, and sooooo many other interesting people. Through the Caffeine Crawl events I’ve made lasting friendships with people that I would love to hang out with again in the future (we’re friends on Facebook, so that must be true!)

Go to the After Crawl Party, drive a van and invite people to carpool with you, introduce yourself during down time, get to know the Guides. Nearly everyone who attends these events is there for more than just to drink coffee (they could do that at home, after all), they’re there to learn cool things and meet other coffee lovers in their city. Some people even travel from out of town to see what another city has to offer: My first Crawl (Omaha) was a 13 hour drive away from my home! 

Don’t be shy, be adventerous. You’re on a journey through a coffee scene you’ve never seen before, make that journey a long-lasting and fond memory that counts for more than just a caffeine buzz at the end of the day. 🙂