The Devastating Washington Mudslide: How the Coffee Community Can Help

This diagram by AGU shows the mudslide area, as well as a larger image of Washington state so you can see where Oso is located.

I was touched when I received an email from the awesome Maxwell Mooney, a barista at the Spotted Cow in Mill Creek, Wash., about his efforts to help victims of the horrific mudslide—dubbed the Steelhead mudslide—that virtually wiped out the Steelhead Drive neighborhood located four miles from the town of Oso, Wash., this past Saturday morning. This area in Washington’s Snohomish County lost 14 residents, and approximately 176 other people are still missing.

In this image by the American Geophysical Union, you can see the trauma caused by the mudslide.

In this image by the American Geophysical Union, you can see the trauma caused by the mudslide.

Forty-nine homes were swept up by the slide, a mile-long river of mud and debris that reached depths of more than 20 feet. The mudslide cleared Highway 530 and the river itself. In a press conference in the nearby city of Darrington on Monday morning, John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County department of emergency management, said the slide “came out of nowhere, with no warning” during one of the wettest months of March on record.

Highway 530 after the mudslide. Photo by Disaster Report.

Highway 530 after the mudslide. Photo by Disaster Report.

Maxwell, who calls Snohomish County home, has created a fundly campaign to raise money and awareness for victims of the Steelhead mudslide; he calls it Latte Art Saves Lives. “It is part of my home and it’s a relatively small community,” Max says of the mudslide site. “I used to drive by that area when I would drive up to give drum lessons. It killed a small family much like my own. I work and live in the county and I believe that our community is so interconnected that what affects others will affect me. I guarantee I serve people who have family that is on the missing persons list or have been claimed by the slide. Communities are necessarily communal. I would want others to help me if I was in that situation, so I felt the need to do what I can.”

This diagram by AGU shows the mudslide area, as well as a larger image of Washington state so you can see where Oso is located.

This diagram by AGU shows the mudslide area, as well as a larger image of Washington state so you can see where Oso is located. The mudslide hit four miles from the small town of Oso.

Maxwell’s fundly campaign has a goal of $1,000, and he is confident this is a cause that coffee professionals in particular will rally behind. “I think this is a great chance to show that while we don’t have much, we can band together to help people,” says Max. “Baristas have always been a charitable group. I was inspired by the countless pushes I’ve seen by baristas to give up their tips to help a colleague, donate their time to helping others, and offering up their couches to those who are down on their luck. This is an outgrowth of that generous culture many baristas have cultivated. I hope that inspires other baristas to help out in this case.”

Maxwell says all of the money raised, minus the fees taken by fundly, will go directly to the local Red Cross and their efforts. “They have comprehensive disaster relief plans, significant experience in handling post-disastrous efforts, and the leadership necessary to ensure proper stewardship of the funds we’ve raised,” he says.

The close-knit community has been devastated by the loss of community in the wake of the Steelhead landslide.

The close-knit community has been devastated by the loss of community in the wake of the Steelhead landslide. Photo by CNN.

The Latte Art Saves Lives campaign is creatively designed and incentive-driven, thanks to Maxwell: Donations of specific amounts will entitle the donor to such gifts as latte art lessons from Maxwell—himself an accomplished barista competitor; Barista Magazine tshirts and subscriptions; and fun items like having latte art poured in requested patterns and posted in tribute to the donor on Instagram.

In addition, Maxwell will be developing a series of online latte art tutorials after the fundy goal has been met: “The latte art tutorials will start from the beginning, with milk and espresso preparation, theory, and science. They will also cover steaming techniques for different steam tips, which I’ve noticed to be a major problem. Most home baristas use either a single hole or a double hole steam tip. These tips require different placement into the milk to maximize quality microfoam and there is no accessible media to show folks how to do it. From there we will cover latte art theory, how milk moves, some basic techniques such as pushing, rippling, stacking, and convection. Then I will do some basic patterns and variations of each pattern- hearts, rosettas, and tulips. Then we’ll cover some advanced techniques like utilizing frames, convection, multi-patterns, etc. Finally I’ll round it out with some troubleshooting of common problems I see and experience myself. Things most folks don’t think about like the trim set on your pitcher, etc.”

The hillslide above Oso, after it gave way on Saturday.

The hillside above the mudslide zone, after it gave way on Saturday.

As Max says on the Latte Art Saves Lives campaign page, “I want to use latte art as a way to raise money and awareness for the victims of the Oso Mudslide in my home, Snohomish County, Washington.” Let’s all work together on this.

 

About the Author

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.