I met Angel, one of Bulgaria’s few coffee roasters, in his tiny shop in the achingly charming Old Town of Plovdiv, a city that’s been continuously inhabited for more than 5,000 years. Which is neither here nor there, but there you go.
Angel only learned how to roast coffee a year ago. He’s a quick study and Bulgaria is embracing the artisan coffee culture that’s developed in the States and other parts of Europe, so he and his partners received an offer to expand operations and move to a much larger space almost immediately.
Much to the chagrin of his partners, Angel refused to take the offer to grow the business.
Why not take the money?
Because, he says, growing now would have cost him his soul.
Angel is an artist. Coffee is his chosen medium.
He described to me how he puts his heart into every small batch he roasts: where the beans come from, why he chooses a particular blends, what mindset he engages in the work with.
I say he didn’t take the money because he’s an unreasonable man in the best sense of the term.
There are times to be reasonable, but sometimes it’s just not about the money.
There’s nothing to prevent an artist like Angel from charging and accepting money for his services. That’s how he provides for his family.
But for any artist, the moment that what you once did for the love of the thing becomes something you do for the money, you’re in trouble.