I’m often asked how I started in specialty coffee. Some assume it all started with my first Instagram page, @manmakecoffee. With more than 400,000 followers on Instagram for my coffee & food pages, it’s a natural assumption to make.

But my love for specialty actually started in Ethiopia.​

I was in Addis Ababa. And lost. There was no mobile signal. I couldn’t do what I normally do when I’m lost. Summon an Uber. There was also no Uber in Ethiopia. There still isn’t.

So I kept walking.

I could smell the coffee before I saw her little hole in the wall shop. She invited me in. Gestured that I sit down. And started the ceremony.​

We didn’t speak a single word. She smiled. I smiled. It’s only when I tasted the coffee that I let slip an uncontrolled “Wow!” She laughed. She was already pouring before I could gesture for a second cup. No milk. No sugar.​

By the time I finally looked up from my cup her little hole in the wall was filled with locals. Not a tourist in sight. Except me. So I decided to make room for more of her local customers, paid more than what she asked for, tried hard to express how much I loved her coffee, and left.​

I continued to be lost for a good while thereafter. But at least I was happy.​

That experience got me thinking.

Maybe I didn’t understand coffee as well as I thought I did. Maybe I didn’t know as much about it as I thought I did. Maybe adding milk and sugar to coffee was a sign of disrespect. Like dipping the rice part of nigiri sushi into soy sauce.​

So I decided to learn as much as I can about coffee. Actually, I’ve become obsessively curious about it. And that’s the reason for FLTR (pronounced “filter”). Unless I write things down it all goes in one ear and out the other. So every time I learn something new I’m going to make a note about it here.​

I still dip the rice part of nigiri sushi into soy sauce. I’m flawed. Human. Subscribe to join me as I learn to become a better one.

Andy Anderson, Editor-in-Chief