By Sadie Colwell
It was a cool May evening at the end of Terrace Street, in Kansas City, Missouri, and a gentle breeze mingled with the smell of coffee as I walked down the pavement towards About The Coffee. Kansas City’s usual humidity had graciously departed for the day, and a fresh breeze of springtime played with hearts and hats as people gathered for the festivities.
When it comes to KC’s coffee scene, the thing I’ve always loved the most is the community. Connected, cohesive, and brimming with synergy, the Paris of the Plains has it nailed when it comes to a coffee culture that strives towards greatness without getting too caught up in the often competitive nature of professional caffeination. In a celebration of this, Marty and Tooti Roe, owners of About The Coffee (and commonly known as the “coffee mom and dad,”) throw an annual party known as JamJam, a happy combination of coffee, music, art, food, and fun.
Baristas are artists—with a cup as their canvas and drowsy multitudes as their audience, they create and beautify what many would see as just another cup of joe. However, most artists don’t stick to one artistic “sphere”—at least not for very long. When Marty Roe figured this out, he knew that combining the caffeine artistry of local baristas with a lot of their overlapping musical talent would make something magical, and he was right. Thus, JamJam was born—a musical coffee event for baristas, coffee professionals, and anyone looking for good company and a good time.
This year marked the third annual JamJam, and it lived up to its predecessors with gusto. Tall round tables stacked with issues of Barista Magazine, were scattered throughout the space, cocktail-party style. The area served as a social side-stop to rest your beer and elbows on while chatting. Smokin’ Fresh BBQ, a local KC food truck, had set up shop along of the side of the drive, and fueled the evening with pulled pork sliders, chipotle chicken sandwiches, beer brats from KC’s favorite butcher shop, Local Pig, and some veggie-friendly options that were equally delicious.
Two massive posters, designed for the occasion by The LAB’s Jason Burton, featured JamJam’s customary motif and overlooked the handmade stage with a great sense of splendor. An incredibly exciting inflatable bounce house added kid appeal, and a face-painting station crowned the attractions with patrons young and old dropping by for colorful facials throughout the evening.
The evening’s entertainment was opened by Random Acts of Uke, a four-sibling band with three ukuleles, one violin, and plenty of charisma. With old favorites playing over the speakers, KC’s newest coffee shop, Second Best, opened the coffee bar with their not-yet-launched, totally-to-die-for honey lavender affogatos. The music continued with more local talent: Brent Lee from Homer’s Coffee House, Cameron Troy from The Roasterie, and a few banjo solos from One More Cup’s Jeremy Neff.
Latte art “grudge matches” carried on throughout the evening, and if you elbowed your way through the captivated crowd of interim judges, you might be lucky enough to walk away with that round’s winning latte. Tooti manned the counter inside About The Coffee, and more than one person left with a new brewing accessory they had forgotten they needed. The music line-up was paused briefly for a Barista Magazine subscription giveaway, answering the question “Who was the first person to use the phrase ‘specialty coffee’?” with “Erna Knutson” landed two gentlemen a year of being in-the-know.
Melodies resumed with a set from two members of local Missouri band, The Sawyers, joined by Marty Roe and several mean solos on guitar. Thou Mayest, a new KC coffee company opening shop soon, took over the coffee bar with unique and delicious cold brew and bourbon shaken cocktails, and the grudge matches continued as others polished off beers and caught up with friends from neighboring shops.
The evening wound down nicely, with many staying till after dark as the music continued and the coffee kept flowing. A fitting celebration of the friendships that KC’s coffee crowd shares and an all-around good time—we’ll be looking forward to JamJam 4 next year, and savoring the last drops of our grudge-match winning latte.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sadie Colwell is a completely committed coffee addict who adores coffee shop culture and chocolate. She is currently living the loft life in downtown Kansas City, Mo., with her extraordinary husband, Tyler, and her imaginary dog. When she isn’t advancing her unorthodox latte art skills as a barista at Quay coffee, working on a project for The LAB (creators of Caffeine Crawl), or teaching young prodigies to play the piano and like it, she dives headfirst into blogging and freelance projects with reckless abandon.