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One Line Coffee
FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's Thumb
By Allex Spires
September/October 2012 Issue

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Thursday, the First Day of August in the Hundred-Score-and-Dozenth Year since B.C.(E.)

I looked past my pointing index finger at movie titles that zipped by as I paced the aisles on the second floor of the Downtown Columbus Metropolitan Library.  I was scanning the video selections in search of Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro. An unimportant but exasperating phone call caught me off guard; I managed to hang up, abruptly, and looked at my watch. Fifteen minutes ‘til my transfer expires.  I found and grabbed the FFC epic along with seven other videos. I forgot the DVDs at checkout, though, as I left the library in such a hurry to meet my bus.  I ran down the front walkway to Grant Avenue and then rushed my way four blocks along State Street toward High. According to my watch, set to COTA time I'd already missed the bus.

I jogged past the Statehouse but knew there was no hurry: The bus was gone and I’d have to wait for the next one. When I reached the statue of Christopher Columbus, however, I saw a Two at the Broad and High bus stop. I ran across the statehouse lawn to the main walkway, past the McKinley Monument depicting Peace and Prosperity and up to the bus at the stop by the corner.

When I boarded, the driver was kneeling on the floor, fastening safety belts to Ronald Baecker’s electric wheelchair. I thanked Mister Baecker for being disabled – the first time his degenerative disc disease was ever particularly useful. I took a seat across from him at the front of the bus, where us handicapped folk belong. We both got off at Buttles and High, he to arrive at Bollinger Tower; I to cross High Street to visit a café intending to celebrate its grand opening during the August Gallery Hop: One Line Coffee Roasting and Sourcing... Coffee roasting and sourcing. I wondered what else they might know about coffee, like serving it, as I approached the glass front-door. I expected to have a lousy time.

In my experience, most coffee shops know almost nothing about coffee. They seem to pretend that dripping hot water over ground cooked beans is all there is to it. Coffee is so much more. As I walked through the door I expected to find the mean of mediocrity. I found a high-tech coffee science lab instead.

The relief of the staircase from next door (it fills the south side of the front end of One Line Coffee) was on my left as I walked in. The entrance seemed almost claustrophobic, and I felt like I was being pushed by the space into a blind spot created by a coffee display on my right. When I got through, the place felt cozy instead of claustrophobic.  No tables or chairs overran the relatively small space, so it appeared larger than my first glance had led me to imagine. It felt a little bit like I’d just entered the TARDIS, and I approached the main console of a service counter. The barista, Sean Hundley, held up his index finger and said, “Just a second.”

How rude, I thought.  I’m not even here five seconds and now I have to wait one second more?

Before I could think any mean thoughts, Sean turned back to face me. I hadn’t introduced myself but a tangent about the values, history, and mission of One Line Coffee already rolled off his tongue. Sean was the most knowledgeable barista I had ever encountered – I mentioned this during a follow-up, and his peers agree.  Any time his colloquy on grind quality and brewing techniques faltered – he spoke of Kyoto-style iced coffee, Chemex, French Press, etcetera – Logan Demmy, also behind the counter, would catch up to continue the discourse.

The One Line of the business's name refers to a straight line from the growers to Mark and Dave Forman, the café’s owners, to the roaster at the back of the store, to the baristas with their grinders and brewing specialties, to the customer's perfect cup of coffee. As the name One Line Coffee suggests, they don't serve pastries, chocolates, or anything else. They only serve coffee.

I looked about and saw sparse seating set up as stools at a counter that ran around the walls. This is an intentional step in defining the atmosphere, it induces a community feel. One Line isn’t so much a place to visit to leave the world behind while immersed in a laptop 'n' java, though one can do that. This is more of a place where people can get together to talk and share with one another. It does feel open. I was drawn into several conversations with total strangers.

After talking with Sean and Logan, et al, for several minutes, I ordered a French pressed cup of medium roasted Sumatra for two dollars and eighty cents. That's seventy cents less than the comparable drink at Starbuck’s, which really doesn’t begin to compare against the drink that awaited me now.  Sean poured it. I took a sip. I grinned and raised my cup to him, and I took a full bodied drink.

For a no-nonsense, straightforward, Dale Cooper-type of an American coffee drinker this was a perfect cup. No need for cream or sugar to trick me into believing I had a delicious drink in my hand; this was the real deal. Incredible to the last drop. It ended with a sudden rush of dark chocolate flavor. One Line Coffee prepares each cup to-order, and they don’t serve dark roasted coffee. I consider myself something of a novice coffee fanatic, and any coffee fanatic knows: roasting that hot for so long ruins the beans’ flavor potential and depreciates the overall value of the coffee.

I was invited to the backroom to see the observational graduated roasting operation. My invitation was nothing special because the roaster is open for public viewing. They have an amazing roaster. Its output looks something like the monitor display for a particle accelerator. It doesn't blindly track the cauldron's cooking temperature like most coffee roasters. Thermometric probes in this roaster measure exactly how well-cooked the beans actually are. Most coffee is roasted blind, and it usually turns out at least a little undercooked or overdone. When One Line’s roasting technician, Luke Leffel, poured out the beans, each had the exact same deep golden brown hue as every other. Perfect.

I returned to the front of the café and ordered another cup, this time a light roasted Kenya. Sean did a hot pour-over through grounds into a cup of ice: V60 extraction. It gives the coffee a completely different texture than just a hot brew poured over ice. Again, I found no need for cream or sugar in this placid cup of well-made coffee. Something like milky chocolate and mild citrus rolled over my tongue; the drink ended with a taste not unlike cola. This flavorful beverage was brewed just for me by people who care about coffee. Coffee grown by farmers in far-off lands with whom these people have shaken hands, roasted to the peak of flavor here in the back of the store. The people at One Line Coffee Roasting and Sourcing know coffee and want people to enjoy it.

One Line Coffee is located in the Short North at 745 N. High St. Call 614-289-2939 or visit to learn more.

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