My neighbors, the coffee farmers, are opening a cafe in Safety Harbor

Kent and Logan in front of sign

Logan and Kent Runnells outside the soon-to-be Cafe Vino Tinto

Lifelong Safety Harbor resident Logan Runnells and her father Kent are set to open their coffee shop, Cafe Vino Tinto, on Safety Harbor’s quintessential American Main Street at the end of this month. The coffee will come directly from the Runnells’ coffee farm in Costa Rica and will be micro batch roasted onsite at the cafe.

Kent, a former Safety Harbor mayor turned coffee impresario, told me, “We’re not going to be just a local coffee shop; we’re going to be a special coffee shop.” Cafe Vino Tinto joins the ranks of locally owned cafes with brew roasted onsite; it is one of, if not the only, coffee shop in the Tampa Bay area that sells coffee sourced directly from the owner’s coffee farm.

 

13 Spilling the Beans

“Spilling the Beans” – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

For two years Kent and Logan have seduced coffee drinkers with their fresh-roasted brew at Safety Harbor’s Third Friday festival. Now they are setting up shop for good. Nestled between the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center (SHAMc) and wine bar On the Vine, Cafe Vino Tinto comprises a small kitchen and a wrought iron-wrapped patio reminiscent of the New Orleans’ Cafe Du Monde.

Logan, who will manage the coffee shop, described a cup from the Runnells’ cafe as a simple yet memorable experience built upon the trademark “Pura Vida,” or “Pure Life” mentality of Costa Rica. At Cafe Vino Tinto the focus is plain and simple: serve quality coffee and offer locally sourced goods like pastries, jams and art.

Kent, a real estate lawyer and former mayor of Safety Harbor, had no intention of selling coffee when he bought his farm, Finca Vino Tinto, eight years ago. The farm owes its name to the waterfall it overlooks, which the town locals say “flows like red wine.” In an email Kent explained, “Occasional Spanish speaking persons think we are nuts, stupid even, because they think we have unwittingly named our coffee the red wine coffee. I wish they would just read the bag, the story is on there!”

King of the hill

Finca Vino Tinto – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

The story goes something like this:

Kent found the farm on a hike off the beaten path in what he describes as a storybook town in a valley of Costa Rica. After having spotted a majestic waterfall, pouring forth at a proud 80’ upper fall and +100’ lower fall, Kent and his guide Rafa made their way to the bottom of the upper of the two falls. Across the valley Kent saw a silver roof and said, ‘That house has a beautiful view of the waterfall!’ and Rafa (his guide) says, ‘Well it’s not a house, it’s a shack. The people that work the coffee are called ‘collectivos’ and that’s where they stay when they’re working the coffee fields. It’s a coffee farm and it’s for sale.” Three days later Kent tracked down the seller and the rest is history.

 

The Coffee Farmer

Showcasing the beans – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

He bought the farm because of the remarkable views: a waterfall on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other. That he loved the coffee was a happy coincidence. He brought bags home at first for the simple pleasure of sharing, but the more he brought the more people asked for it. Finally he decided it was time to give a go at selling it. Kent and Logan set up a stand at the Third Friday festival where, Logan told me, they built a clientele base and learned the business of brewing.

“People have been asking for a shop for about a year and a half, but it’s got to be in the right location,” Kent explained. Cafe Vino Tinto is a few hundred square feet, a couple of sinks and a large outdoor patio. The coffee shop will operate in a space shared with Kent’s friends, Todd Ranquist, Kiralinda, and Heather Richardson who use to area to host artistic events under the auspices of the SHAMc.

Kent and Logan foresee future Friday night events at the cafe, where guests can enjoy live acoustic music, beer and wine, tapas, and, of course, coffee. In our interview they also discussed the possibility of eco-tours on Finca Vino Tinto, and their commitment to conducting a perpetual shoe drive for the children of the indigenous and impoverished Panamanian workers who spend their days in the coffee fields.

It’s nice to know where your coffee is coming from, and it’s even nicer when you know it’s coming from good, hardworking people who happen to be your neighbors. No one can deny that we consumers love the idea of local business. We dedicate festivals and create organizations for it. Politicians blabber about it. Tourists eat it up. The trending love for local isn’t just about economics or novelty. Thanks to Amazon and Facetime, we can execute most every human interaction without ever interacting with a human in person. Could it be that our whirring fingers and LED inundated eyes are finally fatigued? Maybe we want local because we are human and we want to share that with others. Or maybe it’s just me.

Cuban maiden voyage documentary to debut at Tampa film fest

Zuzy Martin Lynch shares my hunger for the Cuban narrative. She is a first generation American who grew up in Jersey and, after Obama announced the reestablishment of relations with Cuba in December 2014, finally made it to the Cuba for the first time to dig deep into her roots. She documented her “journey to understand the past, present, and future of that magical island just 90 miles [from Miami]” through the lens of interviews with Cubans of all walks in her new film, Craving Cuba. Tomorrow, March 31, Craving Cuba will make its world debut at the tenth annual Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa. It is one of three films competing in the Cuban Sidebar Competition.
The Forbidden Coast and Havana Motor Club are the other two films competing in the Cuban Sidebar Competition. They will make their Tampa premiere at GIFF on Friday.

Journalism About a Journalist, Part 2

Lo and behold it was not taken. Of course not! It’s lousy. And such a shame to be so because I wrote it about a person I admire. One of my top role models. But I think (spoiler alert) Steve Inskeep would understand. It is the first thing I’ve ever written  in call-it-straightism.

How wonderfully absurd that days, countable hours, after I decide to give my dream of journalism another stab (after giving up on it years ago) – wholehearted and head-on this time – I hear on the radio, driving across a Tampa bridge, minutes away from my new home after hours on the road, that my most favorite newsperson will be miles away in just a few days. What?! Call it a coincidence, call it a sign. Whatever it is, it only fueled my reignited fire.

Man, oh man did it live up to the hype. Part of the reason my article is kind of lousy is because I didn’t originally intend to write about his talk. I just came to listen. Then somehow I worked up the nerve to question him about something that’s itched at me for years. Basically, how does he do his job so well[!]? His response was every bit as diligent as the questions he poses in interviews. (See below for a paired down version of the answer.)

I’ve interviewed people since I’ve been here. I’m pecking away at those profiles pieces. I must write faster otherwise I won’t make it. Aware it would take me awhile to get those pieces done, I seized the opportunity after the fact to write a concise bit about Inskeep’s talk with Carson Cooper at USF Sarasota.

By the way, he signed [Great] Aunt Jim’s WHRO (the 757 NPR station) mug. How pleased she would be. Stay tuned for more info on the history of the matriarchal NPR mugs.

Inskeep mug

Following is the article in question.

“Calling It Straight: NPR’s Steve Inskeep Comes to USF Sarasota”

Steve Inskeep comes to Flahrida

Steve Inskeep at the USF Sarasota Selby Auditorium

On January 21, Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, sat down with WUSF host Carson Cooper at the University of South Florida in Sarasota. They discussed Inskeep’s newest book “Jacksonland.” 

“Jacksonland,” narrates the face-off between Andrew Jackson and Cherokee chief John Ross over land rights in the American South. Inskeep described it as a narrative of “two men battling over real estate in a democracy.”
 
Inskeep described the tools of democracy Ross and the Cherokees used to engage in acts of civil disobedience which reframed the definition of minority rights to one inclusive of racial minority rights. Members of the the nearly all-white audience murmered when Inskeep described the Founding Fathers’ Constitutional interpretation of minority as one pertaining to the minority of people with money.
 
Asked about his swift interview tactics, Inskeep shared that he often practices interviews beforehand with colleagues. In scenarios when there is no time to “game it out,” he asks himself, “what does this person actually know that they can tell me?”
 
As a journalist, Inskeep noted, “your job is to call it straight.”

 

 

 

PS: I’m the one who asked about the swift interview techniques. Shocked? I knew it.

Journalism About a Journalist

I attempted a fact-based article about a journalist’s visit to Florida. My favorite journalist. It is the first article I’ve written in this epoch. It’s bland, but it’s a start. And what better a topic than a professional in the craft? Learning to fold the flavor of my commentary into the call-it-as-it-is (not as you want it to be) prose of journalism is an adjustment.

This first piece is dry, which is sad because it’s about a person whose work I find rich and fascinating. But I resisted the temptation to write about the experience as a personal narrative because that is not what I want to learn to do. In order to learn something I just have to do it. Time and practice improve all things. The potential is there, but a crafter’s potential is worthless if she does not practice.

I want to share with you fine folks but I’ve submitted it to a local nonprofit newspaper for funzies and I don’t know if they can print something that’s already on the Web. In the likely event they reject it, I will post it here. If they do accept it, I’ll link (and do a happy dance).

Regardless, I will continue practicing. I’m off to do that now…