Staff Profile: Ben Merrick

When did you fall in love with coffee?
I fell in Love with coffee twice. The first time, I was in Boulder, CO in the spring of 2011. I was walking down the Pearl Street Mall and stumbled into Boxcar Coffee Roasters. I walked to their espresso machine, and ordered directly with the barista. I told her, the beautiful white-dreaded and bone-gaged barista, that I was looking for something different. She told me that they had a coffee that smelled sticky sweet and tastes like watermelon. I replied, “No way, coffee could taste like that?”

I watched her make the naturally processed Yemen as ‘Cowboy Coffee.’ I received the brew and took a seat in the cafe. By the end of drinking this Yemen, I was tasting watermelons. I got schooled. This cup – it pushed my belief of what coffee could be and allowed me to experience the phenomena of flavor.

The next year I walked into Customs Coffee in Wellington, New Zealand. As I looked down their coffee menu I saw only origins of coffee that I had never tasted: Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Bali. I felt like I had walked into flavor Mecca. I asked the baristas if there was a cup that I shouldn’t pass up. Without hesitation they said, “Bali, it tastes like papayas”. I smiled to myself and went for it. As the cup cooled into its sweetness, I began to drink coffee that tasted like my favorite fruit. In this moment, I fell in love with coffee, again. Over the next 6 months I made my way through their coffee offerings. I learned about the impact that origin has over flavor. No two origins are the same, no two farms, coffee plants, soil conditions, or climates. Everything is different everywhere, day in and day out, the coffee plant is constantly under environmental stresses. Each stress constantly influences coffee’s intrinsic flavor. I even go so far to say that every coffee seed is different.  All over the world, coffee shops have shown me that people care about the craft of coffee. We connect people to experiencing different places of the world, intentionally, through flavor. Sharing our experiences with coffee elevates drinking a cup of coffee and ties us to closer origins. That’s what working in coffee is all about.


What’s your favorite café? Why?
I don’t have ‘a favorite’ cafe, because every café is such a different experience than another. The shop I’ve had the most fun at while enjoying my coffee would have to be Flight Coffee in Wellington, NZ. I enjoyed this shop because I could chat with all the baristas before my classes, grab a few coffees, and sit in a calm patio on a bustling street. Their shop was rocking a Faema which gives any shop a retro feel. The feeling within this coffee shop is the same feeling you’d have if you were to waltz into a beach cabaña with all our best mates. The atmosphere was playful chaos, coated in friendly enthusiasm. After spending some time there I noticed a tattoo on one of the baristas. I asked him where the artist worked out of. He pointed across the street. Three months later, I had my left arm finished. They gave me a sense of place, and friendship. I’ll always hold my memories of the time I spent there…Hilarious. 


Who is your favorite person to drink coffee with?
I am my favorite person to drink coffee with [laughter]. I’ve done some traveling and having a cup of coffee in the morning, no matter where I am in the world, is a very grounding and nurturing sensation for me. For a few moments at a time I get to recenter my self and find my mode of thinking for the day. It’s personal. My coffee is about understanding where I’m at in the world – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. It’s such a simple grounding ritual, and for me, that’s beautiful.

What is your most memorable Blueprint experience?
This past summer there was a bike locked to this new, young oak tree in front of the shop. It was there for at least two weeks, maybe even longer. That’s only as long as I had noticed it. One day, the bike was gone. Someone removed the bike by bending the tree and sliding the bike over the top. The tree was thrashed, and remained bent into the street. I was sad and worried that the tree wouldn’t recover. So, over the next few weeks, I nurtured the tree. I named the tree Alfonzo. He’s better now, but still needs some looking out for. A Blueprint memory that I enjoy is thinking back to when I would water Alf before the shop opened. I would sit on one of our front benches and water Alf from our big Toddy bucket, while enjoying my morning cup. We’ve become strong friends because of these morning sessions.


Who inspires you?
This is an interesting question. [pause] I would not say that there is ‘a’ person who inspires me, people do. There is not a place or an object that I find inspiring. Life is inspiring. I have things that I carry to remind me to stay focused and to live true to what I believe in and experience. Watching and listening to others inspires me to continue pursuing and uncovering beauty.

What are your favorite places in St. Louis?
I love St. Louis. I always tell travelers who come into the shop that we’ve got a little bit of everything and not much of anything – if you know what you want, you’ll find it here. I love the City Museum simply because it is a dream come true. The Zoo has African Spotted Dogs and a Jaguar, my favorite animals. The Art Museum’s Impressionist wing is my favorite. I love walking through the Botanical Gardens. I love going to BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, as well as Beale on Broadway to listen to Kim Massie. My favorite music venue in town is Off Broadway – perfect place for good, moshy punk show. 33 Wine shop & Bar is the watering hole for me. Yes, they have a secret patio that is tranquil and epic.  Dressel’s is my favorite restaurant in town. You can’t go wrong with fish and chips and a cask brew in the winter, or a nice patio session in the spring. I frequent Mission Taco the most of any place. I enjoy when you can wave to your friend and they know your order, “the usual.” Oh yeah, and my crucial buddy has a mini ramp in his backyard, so his backyard is another favorite spot of mine.


Speaking of skateboarding, tell us about why you skate?
The act of skateboarding is extremely humbling for me. I’ve always been an active and athletic person. Moving is a temple. Skateboarding is a way for me to press myself into the moment and discover thoughtlessness. Skating is ritualistic, and gets me back in tune with my inner rhythms. I don’t land every trick, and I fall quite often. This is a part of the process. Each fall reminds me I am not made of glass. I’m human. When I fall, I pick myself back up and try again. I love that. I get to live past my own doubts and fear. I constantly try new tricks. My shins get lit up with bumps from the edges of the board and I grab little scrapes on my shoulders and hands. They show me growth, and my own character. From them I learn where and how to push heavier, kick softer, spin harder, jump in all directions. In all this commotion, I get to have a few moments where I live in thoughtless movement. I continuously challenge myself. Even when it gets painful, I believe it will all be worth it – the fear, pain, ambition, doubt, and self awareness. In this way, skateboarding is a way of life. When I land on my bolts and all my wheels all hit at once, I feel authentic joy. To me, this sense of happiness, accomplishment, fulfillment, and pleasure is worth everything. I’ve let that trick become apart of me and I’m back in tune. I skateboard to let go of my own oppression, and remember who I am. I skate because I dare to live.