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When is a cup of coffee not just a cup of coffee? As our daily routines have changed in recent months, simple acts – like stopping into our favorite coffee shop – have taken on greater importance. Recently, our Chicago team spoke with Tim Coonan, the Founder of Big Shoulders Coffee and a frequent partner for our Chicago customer events. We chatted about the important role coffee plays in building strong workplace relationships and how we can continue creating this community in – and out – of the office.

First, Tim had a question for us: why did we feel coffee was so central to our work life? 

For many of us, coffee is much more than a quick caffeine pick-me-up– it’s an integral part of our daily routines. It’s the afternoon break we take with a coworker to walk down the street to our favorite coffee shop, and the casual conversation we have during this break that builds a stronger relationship. Coffee creates bonding moments– it’s the shared frustration when the breakroom coffee maker stops working right before a big deadline. It’s the genuine appreciation when a colleague surprises you by knowing your daily order. These little moments build community– and they’re part of a routine we’re excited to re-establish as we begin coming back to the workplace.

Since companies are phasing their returns, some professionals are continuing to work from home, either full-time or part-time. So we asked Tim, what’s the secret to brewing the perfect cup of coffee in your home kitchen?

You can prepare a great cup of coffee at home without fancy tools and equipment. My personal favorites for home-brewing equipment are the French press, the Moka pot or a glass pour-over coffee maker. These three manual brewing methods give more control than the average coffee machine. Don’t be afraid to experiment and really relish in the physical act of brewing coffee.

Each coffee brewing method has specific instructions, which can be easily found online, and your friendly neighborhood barista is always thrilled to share advice, too. But no matter your brewing method of choice, there are three important factors that influence flavor: the grind size of the coffee beans, the water temperature and the contact time between the coffee and water. By adjusting these factors, you can brew a great cup of coffee that accentuates wonderful aromas, delicious floral notes and acidity. 

Tell us about your morning routine.

I get up early, while it’s still dark. I love plodding around the kitchen in my bare feet and making coffee. It’s time for me, and it’s quiet. I’m not yet plugged in — my phone is off — and I can think about what my day will look like, plan how I want it to unfold and really set the tone, all while drinking a great cup of coffee.

How can coffee build community in and out of the workplace?

Exploring local roasters and finding one you like is a great way to build stronger community connections. For roasters, it’s a joy to interact with customers and establish a relationship. Another is discovering ways to share coffee with friends, even while apart. Recently, I’ve started sharing a Sunday morning cup of joe across the fence with my neighbors, and texting my brother in Oregon to discuss our latest brewing experiments. In the workplace, the coffee you choose sends a message about your company’s values. When businesses opt for locally roasted coffee that’s sourced with integrity, it’s an expression of their corporate values that’s reinforced with every cup. 

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