Chris is the Stamford dad behind Turning Point Coffee Roasters! Get to know him in this special Father’s Day Meet A Dad!
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have two kids: Graham, who’s almost 5, and Campbell, who’s almost 2.
What brought you to Stamford?
I grew up in Stamford, so when we were ready for a family, my wife and I moved from our cramped New York apartments to a house a couple of miles from free babysitters.
What’s your favorite family activity in Stamford?
My son is learning to ride his bike, so we’ve been spending a lot of time at Cove Island working on that lately. We also love the Nature Center & water fountain at Mill River Park.
We love Turning Point Coffee Roasters! Why did you decide to open the shop?
I actually didn’t drink coffee until about three years ago. I drank a lot of diet soda and my wife had been trying to get me to quit for a while. I promised her I’d quit if our son ever asked for a sip. Eventually he did and I substituted coffee in. I was formerly an editor and critic at Wine & Spirits Magazine, and when starting to drink coffee, I found a lot of similarities to assessing wine. I was immediately obsessed with tasting coffee from all over the world and comparing their differences and similarities. Unfortunately, that was hard to do in Stamford. I’d have to grab beans from different cafés and roasters in the city.
Ultimately it was easiest to mail order raw beans and roast them at home. Things escalated quickly and soon I had a commercial roaster in my garage. We figured at that point, there might be some others around that were interested in small-batch, fresh-roasted coffee locally.
Tell us a bit about the process of roasting your own coffee.
Coffee beans cook like popcorn; once a bean’s internal temperature gets to a certain temperature, it ‘pops’ and instantly increases in size by about 50%. That’s the point where you have drinkable coffee.
But to get something really great, it’s a bit more complicated. A coffee roaster transfers heat to the beans through conductive heat (like searing a steak in a pan) and convective heat (like finishing that steak in an oven). Coffee beans develop their flavor through a random chemical process that occurs after you’ve dried all the moisture out of the bean. To get something that is consistent, you need to achieve the same internal temperatures in the bean throughout every phase of the roast – each time you roast – by balancing the conductive and convective heat properly. Then – like a steak again – you have to decide how well done you’re going to cook the beans. It’s easiest to make everything consistent if you roast the beans to a black, oily piece of charcoal, but you get more of the bean’s character the lighter – or more rare – you roast. The latter is what we aim for.
What’s your personal favorite drink/food item at the shop?
My go-to drink is a macchiato. Macchiato is Italian for ‘marked.’ It’s a double shot of espresso marked with a little bit of milk foam for a little bit of richness.
For food, my favorite thing to eat and prepare is the porchetta. It’s a traditional Italian roast made from a whole pork loin covered in herbs and spices and stitched inside a whole pork belly (essentially an 18-pound uncured slab of bacon). We take a slice of that roast and put it in a sandwich or over a salad (a great Keto-friendly meal). It’s salty, spicy and tender with bits of crisp skin, and very satisfying.
What do your kids like about coming to visit?
They just like seeing me out of the context that they normally see me in – Ninja Turtle role-playing, story reading and Baby Bum-watching – and think it’s special to see me at work. My son also likes getting kombucha at the shop.
How has Turning Point helped you connect with other families in the area?
Depending on the day, about 200 people or more come in the shop, so it has really thrust us into the community. It’s fun because I grew up in Stamford, so I get to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while and reconnect.
What I really love, though, is meeting parents-to-be that I can encourage, as well as people that have kids slightly older than mine so I can pick their brain about things that worry me, or that I don’t know how to traverse, like ‘How are you liking taekwondo for your kids?’ or ‘How/can you positively introduce technology like cell phones and iPads when your kids begin to get a little older?’
How do you balance work & family, especially with a new business?
It was tough in the first few months we were open, because we were still figuring out the nature of running a café/roaster; I was essentially there all operating hours for a couple months. Even during that time, though, I would get in some snuggles and a story before bed and a kiss in the morning. Then my wife and I would have a couple hours in the evening together each night. And she picked up all my family-slack during that time, which was really tough on her. But soon, I was able to get away more.
Now I’m really trying to focus on having a nightly routine where I pick the kids up from daycare, have dinner with them and spend the weekend with them.
That said, I feel it’s easy to focus on your kids and neglect your marriage because I’ve had a longer relationship with my wife and she recognizes the difficulties in getting away from work, whereas my kids don’t necessarily. We’re fortunate enough to have my folks local and her parents a couple hours drive off, so when they come over, we definitely try to get in a date night out, or a short weekend away (sans-kids) where we can just decompress, sleep in, and talk without listening for crying.
What’s the best piece of “dad advice” you’ve gotten so far?
Maybe it isn’t advice, but it was a comment by a nurse that gave me confidence in my ability to be a dad. It was after my son had a fall on my watch. I frantically called the pediatrician’s office to see what to do. After a few questions, the nurse said something like, “Don’t worry. People have evolved so that new babies are made to withstand new parents.” It was funny, but profound. It gave me the ability to not focus on how little I knew about parenting, and instead made me feel that as long as I loved my kids and did what I thought was right in the moment, things would work out.
Turning Point Coffee Roasters is located at 55 High Ridge Road in the Bulls Head Shopping Center.