The business of coffee relies on the shared passion of coffee people all over the world, and this section is dedicated to introducing the members of our diverse, dynamic supply chain. Here we ask a few fun questions of our partners at origin, our employees, and our customers; and we share their answers with you so that you can get to know them like we do—in their own words.
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Ben Horner, RoasterBorn at Durham County General early in the New Year, Ben Horner was raised in the neighboring town of Chapel Hill by his mother, grandmother, and an assortment of friends and other family members. He spent much of the '80s and '90 riding his bike and chasing his dog around the yard. After high school, Ben moved to Seattle and got a job as a bicycle courier. It was during his first winter there that he was introduced to the strange and happy association between bikes and coffee. Espresso carts around town supplied cheap fuel and much-needed stimulation during the wet months as seasonal affective disorder set in.
For all its natural beauty, Ben found the Pacific Northwest to be ill-suited to his temperament, and he moved back east to the more hospitable climes of Western North Carolina. There, he worked as a courier for another two years before continuing his return migration to Chapel Hill, where he enrolled part time at UNC and, eventually, took a degree in geography.
Back in his home town, Ben was fortunate enough to find work as a bike mechanic at the better shops in town. After seven years of wrenching, Ben left the bike shop and started bagging coffee at Counter Culture. These days you'll find him over by the roasters slinging beans as a roaster's apprentice.
Q: What coffee are you currently drinking?
Atu Lintang ("Sumatra Fantasy Lot")
Q: Choose your favorite coffee and brewing method.
Favorite coffee is always changing, depending on what catches my attention coming out of the roaster or on the cupping table.
Q: Who at Counter Culture Coffee would you most like to arm-wrestle, and why?
The list is long ... I'd probably start with Brett Smith and work my way down.
Q: What is your favorite book?
Cathedral by Raymond Carver.
Q: What keeps you busy outside of work?
Cleaning the kitchen, blacksmith puzzles.
Q: Share an interesting fact you've learned about coffee while working at Counter Culture Coffee and name the person from whom you learned it.
Good quality, high-elevation green coffee (unroasted) is as hard as diamonds – my own independent findings.
Q: When you were 8 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Like Joey Lindsay, I, too, thought I'd be a comic book illustrator. Fortunately for the coffee world, I am a fairly untalented drawer. Also, I didn't understand that it's a character's weakness that makes her/him interesting, so all of my heroes were unassailable and boring
Q: If you could beam yourself anywhere in the world for your lunch break, where would you go and what would you eat?
You guys take lunch breaks?
Q: Which Counter Culture Coffee customer is most likely to see you outside of work?
Q: Ben, it's well-known around the Durham office that you're a cyclist. How far is your longest bike commute? How often frequently have/do you make the whole trip? And what's the farthest you've ever ridden at one time?
My ride to work is around 15 miles each way, but I haven't been riding it nearly as much as I'd like since I discovered the 805 route on the Triangle Transit Authority bus. The farthest I've ridden in one go is 100 miles even, off road.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your super-cool motorcycle?
The motorcycle is Honda CX500. The model has a small cult following based on its legendary reliability and ugliness – it was dubbed the Plastic Maggot when it was introduced in the late '70s. I bought mine a couple of years ago for $500 and have since spent far more time working on it than riding it.