Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Young Navajo coffee stand entrepreneur continues to etch a name for himself as coffee connoisseur

Young Navajo coffee stand entrepreneur continues to etch a name for himself as coffee connoisseur

By Donovan Quintero
Special to the Times

GALLUP — As if he’s preparing to attend a real Jinjééh, Daniel Tullie begins his preparations with vigor and enthusiasm.

To sell, Tullie, the owner of Jinjééh Coffee & Roastery, often wakes up at 3 a.m. to prepare the products he’s becoming known for: coffee, Navajo tea, and blue corn donuts.

Young Navajo coffee stand entrepreneur continues to etch a name for himself as coffee connoisseur

Special to the Times | Donovan Quintero
Daniel Tullie pours Navajo tea from an enamelware kettle into a paper coffee cup at the Gallup flea market on Saturday. Tullie, of St. Michaels, Ariz., owns Jinjééh Coffee & Roastery.

When he finishes his prep work, he gets into his car, which is filled with supplies and coffee/tea-making equipment and gets on the road.

Tullie, from St. Michaels, Arizona, said he didn’t even have a name for his budding coffee business when he started traveling a year ago.

It was former Miss Navajo Radmilla Cody who encouraged him to make a name for his coffee business.

“Radmila Cody kept telling me to make a jinjééh coffee to add to the menu, and I was like, ‘That’s a really good name for a coffee business,’” he said on Saturday while manning his booth at the Gallup flea market.

Jinjééh is part of the ndáá’ that is conducted only during the summer. It’s usually held on the second night of the ceremony, where good-filled songs are sung all night as dance partners dance arm-in-arm into the early morning hours.

Na’niłkaadí blend and conversation

While the connotation of a Jinjééh remains part of a Navajo traditional ceremony, for Daniel Tullie, it stuck and became the name of his small one-man coffee stand operation.

“(For me) It’s definitely the social aspect of coming together as a community,” he said. “So, for me, that’s what the idea is. Sometimes, people want to hang out together longer. So, the coffee will bring that energy as well, or the tea.”

Young Navajo coffee stand entrepreneur continues to etch a name for himself as coffee connoisseur

Special to the Times | Donovan Quintero
Daniel Tullie pours Navajo tea into a paper coffee cup at the Gallup flea market on Saturday.

The self-described “super introvert” said he enjoys interacting with others and forming new connections. His pathway to socializing involved mastering the art of preparing traditional “sheep herder” coffee, which entails heating coarse coffee grounds with water and serving the brew after the grounds have settled.

“It took me a long time to be able to socialize with people and be able to talk to people, but like just being able to serve coffee to them,” Tullie said. “It’s, you know, obviously something I’m passionate about, something I care about.”

Sheepherder coffee is traditionally made by cowboys or sheep herders while on the range or in remote outdoor settings. It is a simple and rustic method of brewing coffee. It typically involves boiling water over a campfire or portable stove and adding ground coffee directly to the water to brew.

Sheepherder coffee is a simple and practical way to brew coffee in outdoor or rugged environments where more sophisticated brewing methods may not be available. While it may not produce the most refined or consistent cup of coffee, it is a time-honored tradition among those who spend long hours working on a ranch or tending to their flock.

Tullie even has a steel coffee pot that seems could fill the cups of at least 30 sheep herders. On Saturday, he used it to make Navajo tea, or dééh, which could be mixed with honey, depending on the customer’s preference.

But don’t let the simplicity of his setup throw you off because Tullie wants to take his coffee business into the stratosphere.

Tullie said he recently purchased an espresso machine, which can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and a coffee roaster. If he succeeds in using both machines and creates a true Jinjééh Coffee and Roastery coffee, there’s no telling where his company will go.

“So, with the help of the community, I’ve been able to get an espresso machine and a grinder. And those are things I can’t even put out yet because I don’t have the capital for like, a generator,” he said.

Art and science of roasting ‘ahxwééh

After all, the meticulous craft of coffee roasting is a multifaceted art form that intertwines technical precision with scientific understanding. Far from the mechanized assembly lines of traditional coffee roasters are artisans and scholars dedicated to honoring their source—be it farmers, consumers, or the coffee itself. Coffee’s journey begins long before the roasting chamber, starting as a humble seed within the lush foliage of a coffee shrub. Planting, nurturing, harvesting, processing and packaging occur in distant lands far from the roaster’s domain.

Daniel Tullie said he’s in no rush.

Young Navajo coffee stand entrepreneur continues to etch a name for himself as coffee connoisseur

Special to the Times | Donovan Quintero
Daniel Tullie holds up Navajo tea bundles before placing them into an enamel kettle at the Gallup flea market on Saturday. Tullie sold coffee, Navajo tea, and blue corn donuts.

“I’m getting the work done up to it. And I believe that I’ll get there in time, and I’m not in a rush to do it because it just takes time,” Tullie said.

Once he masters the art of coffee roasting, Tullie plans to use an espresso machine to concoct one of the tastiest cups of coffee that he plans to sell at his stand. This method of coffee preparation, with its roots in Italy, has become a beloved and versatile choice for coffee enthusiasts worldwide. Espresso machines create an array of espresso-based beverages such as lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more.

Tullie didn’t specify where he’d buy his coffee beans or what sort of tasty Jinjééh drinks he’d make. But he’s already made room for the two machines in his tiny car.

Blue corn donuts

On Saturday, Daniel Tullie sold out of his donuts — his most popular item on the menu — which is normal.

To make his drool-inducing donuts, he rises around 2:30 a.m. and begins the prep work, which takes 2-3 hours to finish.

The ingredients for his donuts are simple: blue corn and juniper ash. While he didn’t go into detail about how he makes them, what matters is that they sell out fairly quickly.

During the interview, he was asked if he still had some of his donuts.

“You don’t have any more of your donuts, do you?” the customer asked.

To which he responded, “No, don’t. I sold out about three or four hours ago. But I’ll be here at the flea market.”

Tullie, instead, made her, the customer, a cup of dééh with honey.

“At the end of the day, we’re related to everybody in some way. We have some connection to everybody that we interact with in some way. Whether that’s common interests, which could be coffee or tea,” he said.

Tullie regularly travels between Tuba City, Kayenta, and Gallup. He occasionally drives to Los Angeles, where horchata is the coffee made in various Hispanic neighborhoods. Since starting his business, he’s set up his stand at the Santa Fe Indian Market, Albuquerque, Farmington, Flagstaff, Mesa, and Phoenix.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make a living for ourselves. It’s important to realize that I’m part of the economy here,” Tullie said. “And I get to show up to events to make a living. So, I feel so privileged to be able to travel to places like Los Angeles to Phoenix, to even go out there. That’s something I have to recognize.”


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