By Justin Hermstedt
On any given morning in Hashinger Hall, one subtle sound that breaks the silence is the hum of Jack Hatzfeld’s coffee grinder. Hatzfeld starts his morning with a cup of coffee like anyone else, but caffeine addiction does not drive this morning ritual. Hatzfeld is a KU student devoted to the art of coffee.
“Third wave coffee” is the artisan approach to coffee that Hatzfeld practices. Third wave coffee makers seek the highest quality ingredients and get them directly from their origin, whether that is Colombia, Ethiopia or any other coffee hub. Hatzfeld says coffee becomes an art form rather than a mundane daily beverage, when it is produced with the acute attention to detail that sets third wave coffee apart from Starbucks.
“The quality of water, the temperature, the brew time—there’s so many variables that actually go into making coffee and it really takes a lot of skill and knowledge to be able to isolate those,” Hatzfeld said. “That’s kind of what third wave is about.”
Ian Walla is a coffee colleague of Hatzfeld’s. Walla says third wave coffee is like other drinks, such as wine and whiskey, only it is more complex. He says that he and Hatzfeld are drawn to the coffee industry partly because it is constantly evolving.
“As soon as someone knows everything, some crop disease happens in Asia and it totally changes the game on every front. And then you have to relearn everything”, Walla said.
Hatzfeld has done the best he can to support his coffee hobby despite being restricted by the size of a dorm room. Last fall was Hatzfeld’s first semester at KU, and the first time in three years he hasn’t been working as a barista. Hatzfeld is a product photographer for a few coffee companies, which means he is sent samples to photograph, helping his personal coffee supply remain stocked. Although he’s grateful to still be crafting coffee for his own use, Hatzfeld longs to be back behind the counter in a coffee shop so he can share his work with customers.
“Luckily, coffee is a part of my life right now because I am photographing for companies,” Hatzfeld said. “I get that every day. I wish I could give it to other people every day though.”
Hatzfeld began working in coffee when his other art form of choice, photography, led him to it. Hatzfeld worked as a freelance photographer throughout high school. He has worked at several coffee shops around Kansas City, but his first job in coffee was at a coffee shop in Gardner, Kansas called Groundhouse, where he often used to hang his photographs. The manager reached out to Hatzfeld to see if he’d be interested in working there.
“I started picking up some shifts at Groundhouse on the side while I sold my art, and then I started to realize that coffee was kind of an art form in itself,” Hatzfeld said.
Hatzfeld is studying graphic design at KU. He draws inspiration for design from coffee work, and vice versa. Design is prevalent in the coffee industry through media other than the beverage itself. Hatzfeld is fascinated by the incorporation of art in the atmosphere of coffee shops, whether it is through interior design, graphic design, or the packaging of coffee products. Hatzfeld’s dream job is to be a brand manager for a coffee company, allowing his work in design and coffee to intersect.
Hatzfeld says we are in the midst of a boom in third wave coffee. He hears of independent coffee shops popping up all the time around Kansas City as demand grows. His father, David Hatzfeld, says his son is poised to take advantage of this burgeoning industry.
“Jack has realized that as the coffee industry is starting to develop and mature into a craft like microbrews in beer, he’s seeing it as an employment opportunity at levels other than at the retail level,” David Hatzfeld said.
Hatzfeld says most people view coffee as just a drink, but he finds art in it.
Jack Hatzfeld and his father share this artistic mindset, but David Hatzfeld’s interest is in culinary arts. Jack Hatzfeld cites his father as an inspiration in his artistic development in coffee, and fondly recalls extravagant breakfasts that his father used to prepare for their family. David Hatzfeld and Jack Hatzfeld see past the surface level of their respective crafts and obsess over details.
“He looks at coffee at a deeper level, and picks up the nuances”, David Hatzfeld said. “I would talk to my kids and tell them food is an experience, not sustenance. He kind of took that to heart.”
Photography courtesy of Jack Hatzfeld