Faces of the 4th | Nolan Hall
If you’re like me, you love coffee because of the smell, the taste, and the caffeine.If you’re like Nolan Hall, you love coffee because of the science behind it.
You know, the type of science that involves measuring moisture content within the beans and keeping its consistency, data logging within coffee roasters and their acoustics, how beans crack and how that data can profile a coffee bean, the difference between conduction, convection, radiation and how it affects taste, or control over air flow in roasters. The simple stuff.
As he explains all this to me, I sit there, speechless, trying to react with an intellectual response. All I could come up with was “wow, that’s so interesting. It’s...” “Nerdy,” he says.
Nerdy, but in a cool way.
Docent Coffee wouldn’t be what it is today without the genius of Hall behind the bar. His knowledge of roasters, beans, tastes, techniques and all things coffee seems to be infinite. “I never really went through the Starbucks iced-macchiato-caramelfrappuccino phase.” Instead, he earned some grant money from school to work on an invention. That invention was a coffee roaster that allows you to enter a temperature profile and roast beans to that profile. He was roasting on this for about nine months, realized he was getting pretty good at it, and started selling bags to his friends and family. Fast forward, Hall joins a startup launch program at Tech where TopTime Coffee pops up, with two locations on Tech campus. Now, he’s dedicating his craft to Docent, located right in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
So where does a passion like this spark from? “It kind of came out of necessity. When I
was at Georgia Tech, I would go to Westside Octane all the time, hang out there a lot, and I was just spending a lot of money on coffee so instead of buying the $18 bag of beans, I looked into roasting at home and I went through the home roasting enthusiast phase where I was doing stove top roasting, and just buying really cheap beans off of amazon and just loved it. And I loved having the control over what my roast profile was gonna be and how that affected taste so i just fell in love with coffee from there. I went into coffee from a scientific background and have stayed that way ever since. I kind of think of coffee as a balance between science and art, I definitely lean more towards the science side, but that’s where my business partner, Jeff, comes into play because he comes at it from an artistic point of view.”
When it comes to art, Hall “doesn’t know where to start,” but luckily his business partner is up to date with the artistic community. The Atlanta based craft roastery collaborates with local Atlanta artists like BlackCatTips, Sarah Emerson, and Kyle Brooks to put their work on coffee bags. Visual art may not be a strong suit for the roaster, but his latte art and unique blends makes up for it. And the blends don’t stop at coffee. Hall has dabbled in coffee cocktails, and even mentions experimenting with kombucha (specifically, a garlic and onion one that was bad, but a habanero one that actually turned out well).
Clearly, he loves to explore new flavors. His ideal cup of coffee tends to change with the seasons, but currently, he’s leaning towards heavier chocolate bodied coffee and talks about a peaberry blend from Papua New Guinea, whereas in the warmer months he enjoys an iced, fruity blend from Zambia that tastes like a grape Jolly Rancher. But one thing that remains constant: his appreciation for espresso.
“I love espresso. Whatever that coffee tastes like, if you do it on espresso, it’s just a super magnified version of what that coffee tastes like on drip. Even if I know I’m not going to run a coffee on espresso, I like to pull shots with it anyway. It’s kind of like looking at something under a microscope. So I pretty much do everything on espresso just for fun.”
So, if “nerdy, but in a cool way” is a lifestyle, Nolan Hall is #winning, sitting on his throne,
eating huevos rancheros for breakfast.