Some days I can barely manage to change from my pajamas into my human workday clothes before stumbling to my desk for another day of drudgery, and if that’s the best I can accomplish, I’ll call it a win. Actually it kind of feels like a win if I can even make it out of bed in the first place, and okay, if I am being honest, most days are like that for me. I’m a steady plodder and I’ll get there when I get there and I certainly can’t multitask worth a damn. But then I’ve got these fantastically brilliant friends who are always moving and shaking and hustling and making and I’m constantly marveling at not only the amazing creations they bring into the world but the regularity with which they conjure forth these wonderful things. And then! And then! There are some friends who somehow, on top of everything else they are doing, surprise you with an entirely new endeavor, and it’s like “HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS? Do you have an army of clones? It is sorcery?” How do you crazy-clever people have the time and energy and focus to keep all of these fabulous projects going at once?
The answer is probably that they get out of bed in the morning, they change out of their pajamas into their human clothes….and keep going. They don’t stop!
One such unstoppable human creator is Harlow Skalwold; you may recognize her name from her involvement as art director with Dellamorte & Co., purveyors of high drama gothic eccentricities and décor…but did you know she can now supply you with an otherworldly brew to fill that eerie, eldritch, meticulously sculpted coffee mug with?
Grounded in the most vital of mortal experiences–that first taste of a dark, steaming cup of coffee on a chilly morning– Banshee + Cinder is a small, woman-owned business offering a “bespoke roast-to-door experience.” And having tried it their coffee myself, in a roast and a grind that I picked out with some help from them (because I’m pretty clueless about both), I can speak to the fact that it is delicious! I haven’t quite learned how to talk about coffee but I will say that it tastes beautiful on it’s own–no sweeteners or milk needed. And my partner, who never likes the coffee that I make as much as he likes the coffee that he makes, exclaimed, “wow, this is good! Are you sure that you made this?”
And I do know exactly what they mean when they speak to that first magical sip of coffee in the morning; it is, they share, “the profound intimacy of this ceremonial sip so imperative to our daily ritual” that inspires their passion for coffee. And I know we are not alone in our mutual passion for coffee and that transformative first sip–which is why I thought it imperative to talk with Harlow Skalwold all about her new venture and to offer a giveaway for Unquiet Things readers!
Read below for our invigorating, highly-caffeinated (well, at least on my part–I think Harlow naturally runs on some sort of high-octane genius-juice) interview and leave a comment for the opportunity to win a bag of Banshee + Cinder coffee (medium roast, medium/coarse grind, just like mine!) as well as a Banshee + Cinder coffee mug, with art by Saint Calluna. A winner will be chosen on Christmas eve next week!
Unquiet Things: I know you initially through your art–both in your role as art director for Dellamorte & Co., in addition to your own personal work as Saint Calluna. So the coffee connection was a bit of a surprise for me! Coffee + art? What’s the link?
Banshee + Cinder: Interior decorating, obviously! It’s funny, at the time I was thinking about opening an online boutique with curated items for home decor. A witchy, dark lifestyle brand. I thought it would be an interesting and generally unexplored niche to fill. I started doing a lot of research into opening an e-commerce site, finding suppliers, running logistics, etc., and I randomly stumbled upon this coffee supplier. It was love at first sight, and complete happenstance. I thought, I love coffee, why couldn’t I do this? And so gears shifted and I was suddenly researching coffee. I learned everything I could about coffee varieties, growing, farming practices, roasting, brewing, even the countries the beans came from to get an idea of the social and political climates. I was able to choose some incredible coffees from around the world, with plantations committed to organic and sustainable practices, while providing fair wages to their farmers. And then I found a roaster in Chicago to partner with. Before I knew it, I was running a coffee company!
What’s the inspiration behind the name Banshee + Cinder?
Banshee and Cinder are my cats- tortoiseshell sisters from the same litter. I adopted them when they were three years old, and Banshee claimed me right away. We were inseparable for a decade until her death last year. Losing her was devastating… Naming the company after her is just one of the little ways I continue to honor her. Thankfully Cinder is still going strong.
Tell me about your first experience/s with coffee. What’s your earliest coffee memory?
When I was very young I hated coffee, and through much of high school I just drank tea. I remember exactly when I started drinking coffee. I was out late at a diner with my friends. I ordered tea and poured in some creamer and it curdled. It was disgusting… and sad because I really only had pocket change to buy anything with! Someone offered me their coffee after getting it refilled, and I discovered quickly how to make it more palatable with milk and sugar. I’ve been a fan since, and I adulterate it much less now.
What’s your coffee drink of choice? What do you pair with your coffee?
I like the American style, regular coffee (as opposed to espresso drinks) that I make at home. Either drip or pour over, as long as it’s brewed with a paper filter. Paper filters produce a brighter, sweeter cup of coffee with little or no sediment or oils. I primarily drink my Brazilian blend, roasted dark to bring out the chocolate earthiness. I have come very far since I was a child! My favorite way to take it is with whole goat milk and raw alfalfa honey, sometimes with a dash of organic pumpkin pie spice.
Tell us about the coffees and the roasts that you offer at Banshee + Cinder? Any tips for preparing and drinking your brews? How would you advise folks to best enjoy them?
All of my coffee is single-origin, meaning they come from one location in a specific country. It’s incredible how much a change in location, terrain, and climate can affect the flavor beyond bean varieties. A flavor profile is listed on each coffee’s page to help customers decide which region suits their palate best.
Now we’re called a “bespoke” coffee company because we roast in small batches, to order. This coffee is fresh. We will roast any coffee light, medium, or dark, and grind it to your specifications. Or it can be ordered whole bean, if you prefer to grind it yourself. The grind depends on your brewing method, and the roast just depends on your taste. We have guides for the roasts and grinds as well so you can pick the perfect coffee for your needs.
As far as preparing and drinking… make sure your equipment is clean, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise drink your coffee how you like it best. I suggest sipping it black first so you know what you’re getting into, and then lightening and sweetening slowly until you achieve your perfect coffee to adulterant ratio.
I also offer a decaffeinated blend. I want to drink coffee all the time, except I really need to sleep at night. I’ve never really understood the decaf taboo. I can personally attest to the quality of Banshee + Cinder’s decaf!
Is there anything else you want people to know about Banshee + Cinder?
I have been blessed to be able to work with some incredible women in the arts. Photography by Darby “Old-Hag” Lahger, Casey Capell of WolfTea Creations, and Carla Cury of Seven Spike Studio, and illustration by Nikol King. I hope to keep featuring artists as the company grows. The next illustrator to be featured will Holly Cappello, aka Holigoil. I find it exhilarating to work with these artists and have the chance to bring the arts to the coffee game.
Do you love coffee? Have a favorite way of taking your coffee? Perhaps you maybe even have a morning ritual dedicated to this most sacred of morning beverages? Tell us all about it in the comments and be entered for a chance to win a bag of Banshee + Cinder coffee and a Banshee + Cinder mug?