When describing David Elman, the word passionate immediately comes to mind. A music aficionado that hails from the East Coast now resides in Columbia, Mo. Why? Elman has discovered a new passion, a seemingly simple product compared to musical song and note; a cup of coffee.
East Coast Roots
A brief background of Elman and Fretboard Coffee. Elman first discovered his passion on the East Coast while living in New York City and Washington, D.C. He has since refined his art in his own shop in downtown Columbia, Mo.
Elman came up with the idea of Fretboard Coffee almost 15 years ago after spending most of his youth playing music and frequenting coffee shops. He was living in Washington D.C. at the time and was dreaming of the future with his now-wife, Julie. A coffee shop which centered around music seemed the perfect way for Elman to incorporate his passion for music into a meaningful and sustainable career.
While still in Washington, Elman found a shop selling green, all-natural, pesticide-free coffee beans and for the first time, Elman tried roasting his own beans.
“My very first batch was literally on a frying pan in my kitchen. That didn’t turn out so well,” Elman said. “But I really loved the idea of it, the smell and the experience. So very soon after that I bought a small home roaster and started roasting everything I could get my hands on.”
Elman and his wife briefly moved back to Elman’s hometown of Brooklyn, where he visited dozens of coffee-shops and began researching coffee-making.
“The last couple of years that I was in New York I had spent a lot of time with different roasters and asking them lots of questions.” Elman said. “I feel like I learned a lot from them.”
The Art of Coffee Making
From bean to cup, Elman takes us through his process of making coffee. He also sheds light on how he selects the beans he roast.
Elman sources his coffee beans from all around the world and closely examines each batch to ensure they are high quality and ethically sourced. He wants all the beans to be non-GMO, pesticide free and all the workers to be fairly compensated. To accomplish this Elman works with numerous importers and exporters on a daily basis.
“Coffee [has] one of, if not the most amount of hands that are touching the product from start to finish,” Elman said. “If you think about the farmer, the picker, the exporter, the importer, everybody in the chain, there are a lot of hands that touch that cup.”
Because the coffee beans change hands so many times during their journey to a cup Elman must do an extensive amount of research. He goes through this process every time he buys from a new importer to make sure that the beans he is buying and selling are fair trade and organic.
Coffee From Around the World
Elman takes pride in selecting GMO and pesticide free coffee beans from around the world. The beans he roasts can be found both North and South of Equator as well as in both hemispheres.
Elman lived in New York City for less than four years before moving to Columbia when Julie got a job at the Women and Gender Studies Department at the University of Missouri. Elman began selling his hand roasted coffee at the Columbia Farmer’s Market. To make his coffee, Elman used an old roaster he bought in Queens while he still lived in New York.
“I was fortunate, someone was getting rid of it [coffee roaster]. It was a guy who was trying to own a shop; it never really came to fruition,” Elman said. “It was in his mother-in-law’s garage, she was trying to get rid of it, so I got a pretty good deal on it.”
For almost a year, Elman sold his coffee as a vendor at the farmer’s market before expanding his business into a full blown coffee shop. Despite the fact that he now has a permanent location downtown, Elman still sells fresh hand pressed coffee every Saturday morning at the market.
A Morning at the Market
A trip to the original home of Fretboard Coffee, The Columbia Missouri Farmers Market. 2016 marks the fourth season as a vendor for Fretboard. They set up shop every Saturday and sell coffee from 8 a.m. to noon.
Fretboard Coffee opened in downtown Columbia, Mo. at the end of 2013. It sits tucked between a boutique and a local grocery store at the center of the North Village Art District. The smell of coffee and faint sounds of music greet you as you enter the shop. Wooden tables, well-worn couches, and chairs with burlap-sack upholstery dot the cafe.
The shop itself combines Elman’s appreciation for music with his passion for roasting coffee. When visiting Fretboard one can hear the musical stylings of The Who, Radiohead and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In fact, the shop has multiple music streaming services that play in the shop throughout the day.
Fretboard keeps customers coming back for more by providing an amalgam of comfortable atmosphere, a tasteful choice of tunes and hand crafted coffee.
“It’s the best coffee in town.” Jonny Pez, a regular at Fretboard, said. “It’s really delicious coffee and it’s worth the extra buck.”
A Song for Every Cup
In the North Village Arts District, Fretboard coffee brews up a cup with more than just good beans. Owner David Elman is a musician to his core, and he made sure that he stayed true to musical his roots when opening his own coffee shop. Braden Tyrer spoke with Elman about his love for music and how he infuses great music with great coffee.
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About The Authors
A few words from the authors and their favorite cup of joe at Fretboard Coffee.
Braden Roberts first discovered his passion for journalism during his freshman year of high school. There he was a member of Blue Jay Journal, the TV-Radio program at Washington High School. Since then Braden has been pursuing the strategic communication interest area at the University of Missouri and will interning in Washington D.C. next fall. His favorite cup at Fretboard is the Bolivia medium roast.
Humera Lodhi is a journalism and statistics major at Mizzou. She works as a fellow at the Reynold’s Journalism Institute conducting research on the usage of technology in news and media. She can most often be found on her laptop with a cup of coffee placed dangerously close by. Because of her love of coffee and chocolate, her favorite brew at Fretboard is the Ethiopian Yirgocheffe.
Braden studies entrepreneurial journalism at Mizzou. When not working at his outdoor services firm, Mow-It-Alls, LLC, you’ll find him with his brothers at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house. Most days start with a cup of coffee for Tyrer, whether it be the beginning long day on the mowing rig, or a freezing 2 a.m. start in the plow truck. Fretboard is one of his favorites, with Harold’s Blend being the go-to.