Keurig ‘s Coffee Clique

Honestly, Keurig is going a little Mean Girls on us, here. I’m all for a good Regina George quote here and there, but some people just take it too far. I’m looking at you, Keurig.

In all seriousness, Keurig is making a controversial and exclusive move as early as this fall by preventing any coffee company not licensed by Keurig from making pods suitable for their machines.

I know, right? Talk about catty.

The single-cup market is a rapidly growing one, especially after the expiration of certain exclusivity patents that ended in 2012. Once competitors had the opportunity to produce the extremely popular K-Cup, they jumped on the bandwagon to produce generic pods for a much cheaper price than Green Mountain Coffee (the brand of Keurig coffee pods).

Though, technically, Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee have merged to form one, more recognizable name in Keurig Green Mountain in an effort to further assert their dominance as the top contender in the K-Cup market.

We get it, Keurig! Jeez.

Naturally, in their attempt to beat out the competition, Keurig has caused quite the uproar among their competitors. One in particular, TreeHouse Foods, is not going down without a fight. As of last month, TreeHouse Foods is suing Green Mountain Coffee (or Keurig Green Mountain) on the ground of initiating of anti-competitive acts to unlawfully maintain a monopoly over the cups used in single-serve brewers.

According to the lawyers representing TreeHouse Foods in their court case:

“TreeHouse asserts that these actions are an attempt to eliminate consumer choice and to coerce Keurig 2.0 brewer owners into purchasing only Green Mountain owned or licensed K-cups. In addition, Green Mountain has announced plans to eliminate the current lineup of K-cup brewers, which function with competitive cups, to exclude competition and force consumers to purchase higher-priced Green Mountain cups. TreeHouse’s lawsuit maintains that any supposed consumer benefits from the new technology are more than outweighed by the harm to competition and consumers by eliminating their choice and forcing them to pay higher prices for Green Mountain cups.”

So, to play Devil’s Advocate, Keruig comes up with this successful product and has to watch a million and one other coffee companies take advantage of their product and make millions of bootleg K-cups. I guess I can kind of see where they’re coming from (not really, I think it’s silly, I’m just trying to be understanding). I suppose I’d be a little protective over my billion dollar enterprise.

On the other hand, however, is just that: This is a billion dollar enterprise. In this video from the Times Herald, a small coffee business owner from California discusses how Keurig’s monster profit grossly overshadows their own, despite his independent company making several million a year.

With this in perspective, we can more easily realize that although Keurig may be trying to protect the profit they make, the profit they make outweighs any of their competitors profits’.

It really just depends on who you sympathize with. I’d be interested to hear who everybody sides with! Let’s hear it people, will you back up the new Regina George of the coffee industry? I mean…she IS pretty fabulous.

                                        As early as next fall, Keruig will only take certain K-cups.

Tea Talk

If coffee is the driven, high-maintenance, and very popular older sibling, I think it’s safe to say that tea is the low-key, go with the flow younger sibling of coffee.

The coffee vs. tea debate is an ancient one. I know plenty of coffee haters who only drink tea and coffee lovers who think tea is useless.

But what about those people (myself included) that don’t want to take sides in the sibling rivalry? What if some of us aren’t lying when we really love them both the same? For the sake of that argument, I propose taking this post to check out tea’s side of the story.

I think my favorite thing about tea is the range of different kinds of tea. I think I’ve also found that this is something that confuses tea skeptics most of all. There are so many kinds — which to try?Let’s take a look at the different types of tea to try, shall we?

Black Tea: Black tea is the most common variety and accounts for about 75 percent of global tea consumption. Although black tea has a bitter taste (definitely needs more honey than any other tea I drink) it also has the most caffeine. That got your attention, didn’t it? Black tea has 40 milligrams of caffeine a cup as opposed to coffee’s 50-100 milligrams. So this is a great alternative for coffee lovers!

Green Tea: Green tea has a more delicate flavor than black because the leaves are dried and heat-treated soon after they’re picked. It contains about 25 milligrams of caffeine per cup, so not as impressive as black tea’s caffeine count, but with some other great benefits. Green tea has antioxidants called catechins which basically help prevent everything from heart disease to cancer. Talk about a super drink.

Oolong Tea: Oolong is similar to black tea but has a richer flavor and less caffeine. So it’s kind of a give and take. Here’s the best part of oolong: it hypes up your enzymes, which help burn stubborn fat. That’s right, a cup of oolong a day keeps the fat pants away.

White Tea: White tea leaves are picked when they’re young, so they have a much milder flavor than any other variety, and also less caffeine—about 15 milligrams per cup. However, white tea is (in my opinion) sweet and delicious, and is another super drink that helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and lowers your LDL cholesterol.

Herbal Tea: Spoiler Alert –herbal teas are not teas at all. They usually some combination of dried fruits, flowers, and herbs. Herbal varieties contain no caffeine (ouch) but have amazing weight loss properties (win), lower blood pressure in people with hypertension (double win), and some types of herbal tea, such as chamomile, help you get a more restful sleep (triple win).

Traditional chinese tea ceremony accessories

Thank you to all the tea haters who at least took the time to hear tea’s argument. You may now go back to hating tea, though I urge you to keep an open mind.    There’s no room for segregation on my blog. I hope this little info-session has not only mixed up your day but maybe inspired you to put down the coffee and grab a tea bag for something a little out of the norm and still just as healthy, delicious, and generally caffeinated.

Vote for the Independent (Coffee Shop)

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You walk into a Dunkin Donuts. You stand in a line, order your usual, and the coffee is presented to you in .2 seconds, pre-brewed with a quick pump of flavored syrup. Is it good? Most of the time. Is it convenient? Hell yes. Is it personalized? Not so much.

For some people, coffee is about a quick pick-me-up, keeping full, or enjoying a sugary coffee drink (Dunkacino shout out). And that is okay! The wonderful thing about coffee is that it can be a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

But for some people, coffee is more than just a quick, cheap stop on your way to class or work. For some people the flavor, the richness, the taste of the coffee is key. For others, the atmosphere of the coffee house plays into that. And while there’s nothing wrong with a Dunkins date or doing your homework in the dark corner of a Starbucks, there is something special about the atmosphere of an independent coffee house.

Independent coffee houses are often few and far between, which creates a strong sense of solidarity in them. Being an employee or a regular of that coffee house is something special; there is no other coffee house like that specific one, it is made unique by the people that visit it and the area it is located in.

I don’t think I could better capture the sense of community in independent coffee houses better than the small business support organization, Indie Coffee Shops, did:

“We believe that coffee chains pose a threat to the authenticity of our unique neighborhoods. Although there is room both the homogenous corporate enterprise and the independent ventures across the nation, our independent, community-operated businesses deserve your dime.”

They’ve got a good point there. Not only are you supporting a jewel in your community that represents your area and bring people together, but it is economically-savvy to help support small businesses.

Win, win? I think so, my friends.

So the next time you walk into your local indie coffee shop, look around and appreciate the fact that you are helping a community of coffee lovers thrive. Then pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.

Weekly Brew Review: Organically Fabulous

A recent trip to Delaware finally brought me to my very first weekly Brew Review! Sure I could have gotten a good cup of organic coffee in the state where I live, but what’s wrong with a little road trip?

So, this week’s Brew Review is on organic coffee. It’s also a great time to plug the great coffee shop where I had this cup of organic coffee, an independent coffee chain called Brewed Awakenings. I’d seen some of these coffee houses before (and always appreciated their punny name) but never had the opportunity to go try their coffee.

For one thing, the atmosphere of this coffee house was awesome. This Brewed Awakening, in Newark, Delaware, had a really off-beat, laid back vibe, and has been hailed as Delaware’s best coffee for years.

Brewed Awakenings uses Fair Trade organic coffee. Fair Trade works through a company called Equal Exchange which outsources fresh coffee beans from harvests all over the world and guarantees farmers a minimum price, linking farmers directly with importers, and creating long-term sustainability.

Not only is this fair trade, organically grown coffee great for the farmers and for your health (look back a few blog posts and read about why organic trade is so great for you!) but it is also delicious.

I literally have no description of this coffee other than that it was like drinking caffeinated velvet. I ordered a Cafe Mocha and my mom ordered (and I leeched off of) a Cafe au lait Dark Roast, which, for those of you who don’t know, is just coffee with steamed milk. The coffee was strong but at the same time very smooth, which is not a combination I tend to come across.

Honestly, I’m kind of a baby. Creamer is my best friend, I can’t have enough of it most of the time, and I could never even imagine drinking coffee black. But this coffee? THIS COFFEE I COULD DRINK BLACK.

At first, when I saw there was very little cream, I was wary. But it was truly love at first sip. I could not imagine masking the rich, vibrant flavors of this organic coffee with creamer. This tasted like real, raw and flavorful coffee, like the way true coffee beans should taste without the extra smoke and mirrors of creamers and flavored syrups.

And yet, somehow, the coffee was still just as sweet as if it did have those added flavors! A combination that I thought only existed in my deepest, darkest coffee fantasies. So for that, organic coffee gets two big thumbs up from me.

brewed awakenings

Brewed Awakening in Newark, Delaware

The Passion of the Coffee

Kyle does not let the wintertime stop him. Come snow, sleet, and negative degree weather, he will endure, using his funky popcorn popper in the worst of weather just to get the sweet, sweet coffee he puts in so much effort to have.

It’s a story of true coffee love and devotion. Nicholas Sparks plot-worthy, if you ask me.

Kyle is a coffee enthusiast in my Arthurian Literature class, who puts all of us Dunkin Donuts lovers to shame. It might sound silly to a college student always running around, grabbing a medium iced coffee at Dunkins out a sheer convenience (and also because they can be delicious when made well), but Kyle doesn’t buy coffee. He buys coffee beans.

A few times a year, Kyle orders about 20 lbs. of un-roasted coffee beans from Sweet Maria’s, a place clear across the country that sells home coffee roasting supplies and beans. When Kyle gets his bean-stash, he roasts his own coffee once or twice a week, because one round of roasting makes about 3 or 4 days of coffee.

How does he roast? Outside in his driveway in a popcorn popper that Kyle has modified to get hotter than normal to properly roast his coffee beans.

Talk about commitment.

Kyle claims that the reasoning for this long-distance coffee effort is because of the particular way he enjoys his coffee beans:

“There are usually two ways to process coffee beans,” Kyle said. “The bean comes inside a fruit, and you can process it in a wet method or a dry method. The wet method requires blasting the fruit off the bean with water, and the dry method requires pulling the fruit off the bean with a machine. Dry method processing is a lot more difficult to find, but I like the taste a lot better; it’s a brighter, more acidic, fruitier taste. Sweet Maria’s has this kind of processed bean, so that’s why I rely on them for my coffee bean supply.”

Unfortunately, the seasons tend to mess with Kyle’s specific coffee taste. The roaster he has created smokes profusely, which would get Kyle in a whole lot of trouble with his apartment building if he roasted inside. So, winter or summer, Kyle has to roast outside when he can.

Although sometimes he has to resort to brewing plain ol’ Stop and Shop coffee beans when nature is fighting his roasting schedule, Kyle makes his own coffee no matter the cost.

There’s definitely a lesson we can all take away from this. Thou shall not cheat on your favorite coffee. It’s in the Bible. Look it up.

I Need a Coffee Hero

Well this blog post was something of a wake up call.

Coffee is the most chemically treated crop in the world. Who knew, right? You all probably did, but needless to say, I did not. And I am quite disturbed by it.

Even more than that, many buyers of coffee beans will not buy beans unless they’ve been treated with pesticides. And pesticides don’t come cheap, my friends. For poor farmers who grow the beans, they need to sell possessions and land just to keep their beans selling and continue their livelihood.

How can we stop this?! This great coffee injustice cannot stand. Fortunately, there is an answer: Organic coffee.

Beans that are grown without pesticides harmful to the consumer and less expensive for the farmer? Check and check.

Downside: Organic coffee, with it’s health and economic benefits, is going to be a little more expensive. General consensus seems to be maybe 25 cents more per cup, at most coffee houses.

25 cents? That is a used book on an Amazon sale. That is a pack of instant cocoa. THAT IS WORTH IT, PEOPLE. Think on the big scale: organic coffee is less expensive to produce for everyone, and better for you. Still delicious, still providing you with your drug. Win, win, win.

I have definitely been inspired to try a cup of organic coffee next — in fact, look for a review on a cup of organic joe next week post! I realize I haven’t quite started with the coffee reviews promised…here they come. Look out. And remember, next time you drink, drink organic. Be a coffee hero.

organic coffee