One day in the grassy mountains of Bali, a sip of coffee changed a man’s life.
Before working as the specialty coffee roaster at Deet's Place, Michael Goetz had worked in the Middle East as a chef. He already liked coffee before his travels, but he usually kept to the standard tin can coffee.
However, while traveling, he decided to try the coffee at his hotel, and it was like nothing he had ever had before. Immediately, Goetz asked a hotel worker if he could have some coffee to take home.
The worker handed him a fistful of green coffee beans.
“I didn’t know anything about it, and I said, ‘What are you supposed to do with this?’ and he says ‘Well, you’re a cook, you’ll figure it out,’” Goetz said.
With no intention of going back to commodity-grade coffee, Goetz conducted internet research to find out how to roast the green coffee beans given to him in Indonesia.
Once he developed a roasting process, he began to order green coffee beans online.
Flash forward to 2010, when Goetz began working at Virginia Tech as a chef in West End. While there, he overheard that Deet's Place, the dining hall coffee shop on campus, needed a coffee roaster.
Goetz wasted no time turning his favorite hobby into his new career.
“Mike has been a wonderful asset in this field,” said Leann Cook, the operations manager at Deet's Place. “His passion really shines through with the product.”
Coffee roasting requires intense focus, and Goetz must monitor the product every 15 seconds as it roasts, looking for cracks and other tiny details. His passion for quality coffee motivates him to pay attention.
“Good coffee, it has real body, it has body and a lot of depth and character and different notes that you can pick out,” Goetz said.
Most coffee fanatics are familiar with how the nuances of coffee tasting overlap with wine tasting.
For example, wines feature hints of oak, pear and other flavors much like coffee naturally sports hints of chocolate, caramel or fruit. Part of the flavor has to do with where the beans were grown, but Goetz can accentuate different flavors through the roasting process.
While Deet's Place serves more than a thousand people each day, some students do not visit the coffee shop as often as they would like because of its location.
“It tastes good, and it’s a better flavor for the price, it’s just far,” said Madison Irving, a junior financial planning major.
For Matt Grimes, the assistant director of Living-Learning Programs, on the other hand, the locality of Deet's Place is part of its attraction, he said.
Grimes regularly hosts office hours in the coffee shop’s spacious booths. While Deet's Place is geographically close to where he works, the shop's pro-organic, pro-local outlook is also close to his heart.
“I have a practice of supporting local businesses, and... I consider this the local coffee shop,” Grimes said. “I’d rather drink coffee here than go to Panera as a chain, and honestly I’d rather drink it here than at ABP or Dunkin Donuts.”