I have officially achieved coffee Nirvana.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon Raven’s Brew Coffee Roasters, a marvelous coffee company in Ketchikan, Alaska. Easily the best coffee I have ever tasted. Extraordinarily high-quality beans, perfectly roasted. Even better, they’re big proponents of sustainability: they use shade-grown, organic, and naturally-processed coffee beans in most of their blends, and support small family growers through their buying practices.

aeropress Last week I stumbled upon the Aerobie AeroPress, an espresso and coffee maker that gives French press quality coffee without the bitterness or sediment. The reviewers, even jaded coffee connoisseurs, were going overboard in their praise (as one friend would say, “raving, foaming at the mouth, falling over backward”), so I ordered one, and made my first cup this morning.

It was, as I said, Nirvana. Silky smooth, full-bodied, rich, incredibly flavorful, and bringing out all the subtleties of the coffee as well as its strengths, even with cream added. A new shipment of Raven’s Brew arrived just yesterday. So today I had my old standby, Wicked Wolf. But I also ordered an old favorite, Skookum Blend.

When we read the Skookum Blend motto—“Halo Wau-wau, Muckamuck Kaupy,” which they translate as “Shut up and drink the coffee”—Adam was as fascinated with their use of Chinook jargon as I was. I had been familiar with only a few words and phrases before: tilikum (friend), tumwater (waterfall, literally “heartbeat water”), potlatch (the great gift-feast which underlay the Pacific Northwest Coast people’s economic and political systems), and of course hyas muckamuck (the “big dogs” who sit at the head table during feasts), but reading the Wikipedia article on the subject was nearly as stimulating as the coffee itself.

It even prompted Adam to write a poem about the coffee. The poem, appropriately enough, is called “Skookum,” which is Chinook jargon for “strong.” (I sent a copy of the poem to Raven’s Brew, but they must have never received it, or surely it would now be printed on their coffee bags or displayed prominently on their website.)

Here, then, is Adam doing a public reading of “Skookum,” from his forthcoming collection Identity Theft:


by Adam Byrn Tritt

I had this dream.

A longing. A thirst.

I would go to the Pacific Northwest
And live among the tall trees.
Wake to cedar and coffee,
Fish for salmon,

I would learn from the Chinook,
Keep my mythos close to me,
Prosper from the green land,
Take life as pleasure.

I even learned their Trade Jargon,
The Chinook Wau-wau so much the
Creole of the Pacific Northwest.

I am called there but
It is a battle upstream
And I am exhausted,

I am too busy working to spawn.

Listen to me.
As we sit here across this table,
As I decide what to wear,
Think about how long my day will feel,
Taste the dry breakfast I eat of need
And not desire,
I sip the strong splendor;
My salvation in a cup,
My blessed Skookum.
As I listen to you drone—
Your day, our life,
How good it all is—
All I want to say is
Halo Wau-wau, Muckamuck Kaupy:

“Shut Up and Drink the Coffee.”

Categories: First Nations, Food and Diet, Poetry Sundays | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Skookum

  1. Years ago, when my only coffee maker was a French press (by choice, coffee snob that I was), I found the amount of oil left on the sides of the press to be nearly as unpleasant as the sediment in the bottom. While snobbier snobs than I insisted that was what made French press coffee taste so good. I remained skeptical. One morning, while cleaning the press, I had a revelation. In the back of an upper cupboard I had stored an ancient piece of coffee technology. A gift from my mother, who had also received one as a gift in the long ago, still in its box, was a Chemex coffee brewer ( and a supply of unbleached filters. My experiemt, to pour my delicious French press coffee through the thick filter of the Chemex in order to remove the bitter oil and the sediment, was an unqualified success. The aforementioned snobbier snobs were, as expected, aghast. Then they tasted the result. Prepared phrases of derision died on their lips as they savored arabica ambrosia, true to the spirit of the French press, but exalted.

  2. That’s precisely what the AeroPress does. You use a fine ground, and it is pressed, like a French press but with greater pressure not unlike espresso, through a very fine paper filter directly into your cup. This produces a shot or two of espresso, to which you add hot water if you want coffee instead of espresso, or hot milk if you want latte, or foamed milk if you want cappuccino. Lovely and still just as rich as my old beloved French press, with no sediment. And it cleans up almost instantaneously. I’m totally sold.

  3. There’s nothing like good coffee that you can drink with a clear conscience.

  4. Mali

    Of course one naturally thinks of Alaska when one thinks of good coffee.

    PS … lovely to “see” Adam too.

  5. Uncle Robbie

    I laughed the first time I ran across Raven’s Brew (on eBay, many years ago). “Coffee from Alaska??” Then I tried it. Not bad at all, as it turns out (they specialize in dark roast and I prefer medium to full roast). While I buy my (organic, shade grown, fair trade) coffee in small amounts from a local roaster because I like it as fresh as possible, two posters by Raven’s Brew adorn the kitchen wall next to my “coffee station” — Raven’s Brew – The Last Legal High, and Wicked Wolf – Granny’s Gone, But The Coffee’s On — and if I had room I’d add more.

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