Warm Coffee Cheese

(or: how to steal enough ideas that people think you came up with them on your own)

In northern Sweden and Finland, there’s this thing called “kaffeost” or “juustoleipä” which means “coffee cheese” or “cheese bread.” This cheese, very similar to cheese curds, gets dropped into a warm cup of coffee to both flavor the coffee and to flavor the cheese. It’s a culinary delight, with brown melty-cheese to eat at the end of a slightly-salty, poignantly-oily cup of otherwise-black coffee.

Recently, Starbucks has been pushing the Ember mug, and I, in a fit of indulgence, bought one for me and one for my business partner John. Ember mugs have a battery, a Bluetooth connection, and a requisite app so that you can program your mug to be the perfect temperature. I’ve found that 135° to be the best. A side benefit is that I get notifications when my coffee cup is empty, a rare event.

Wisconsin is famous for its cheese. Particularly, they’re famous for their cheese curds, which are served deep-fried at nearly every non-franchised restaurant in the state. One of our employees lives in northern Wisconsin and brought back a bag of Wisconsin goodness to the headquarters in the Northwest for all to enjoy.

So then I walked around the office with my perfect cup of 135° coffee cheese curds.

I didn’t come up with these ideas, nor did I do anything particularly innovative. Things were presented to me and I used them in combination and I talked about them to others. It seems that this happens to me a fair amount–I read books, follow Hacker News, listen to customers, look at new software releases, attend formal school–and every now and then an idea will form around multiple of these otherwise-independent thoughts. Steven Johnson wrote about this in his book Where Good Ideas Come From many years ago. What’s interesting is how much credit I get for putting these things together, credit that I truly don’t deserve! If I deserve any accolades, it is for my successful attempts to be at the places where ideas are shared.

And now I’m going back to drinking and eating coffee and cheese.

Atlas Obscura and Wikipedia have nice articles about Coffee Cheese too, if you want to read further.

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