You Never Forget Your First…Cup of Coffee

I am getting all nostalgic today. Nothing like a good flashback to get you blogging.

Today I want to revisit the moment I fell in love with coffee. I’m doing this because, after having been blogging about this for many weeks now, trying new kinds of coffee, learning a ton about coffee, and viewing coffee from a variety of new different angles, I want to remind myself how and why I started this blog.

The day I fell in love with coffee was the day I brewed my first cup of coffee. It was my freshman year of college (late bloomer, I know, I was a spoiler Keurig brat) and it was in a Mr. Coffee (I know, I know, there was no grinder, no dripper, no fancy coffee brewer — just a plain, old Mr. Coffee. Give me a break, it was my first time).

I remember I tried to make my first batch and completely ruined it by forgetting to put in the filter. Yep. Embarrassing.

It smelled, literally, like burnt eggs and crushed dreams.

So my mom had a little intervention with me. She told me that this was how to make coffee, how to really make coffee, and I needed to learn. We had a little work shop and then she pushed me from the nest and I tried again to brew my own pot.

I remember it all very vividly. I can still remember the hissing, bubbling noise of the water boiling in the machine. I can still see the perfectly dark brown stream of caffeinated gold dripping steadily into the pot, my own face reflected greedily in the glass as I watched in anticipation.

Just the right ratio of water to beans (thanks, Mom) created the perfectly alluring aroma of thick, rich beans, with the sweet, soft hint of vanilla (it was Gevalia Vanilla coffee, highly suggested) in the beans. It filled up the whole kitchen and it was unbelievably intoxicating.

When it had finally brewed I poured a mug and let the warm clay sit in my hands, watching the steam rise up from my perfectly crafted creation in transparent ribbons before taking the first sip. The bold taste was perfectly balanced with sweet vanilla of the beans — the first and last time I had coffee without cream, the taste was too perfectly balanced and rich to hide with flavored creamer.

I swear I’ve never made coffee as perfectly as that first time.

Since then, I’ve come into my own routine of how to make coffee the right way for me, the right amount of water to grinds, cream to use, sugar is it’s a strong blend, but nothing will ever compare to that first time.

Cliche but true: you never forget your first.

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Can I Get an Easter Blend, One Jesus and Extra Holy Spirit?

I am about to make everybody’s day better. It certainly was the highlight of my day when I found Abbey Roast, a coffee brewing business run by…wait for it…monks.

Is that, or is that not, the coolest thing you HAVE EVER HEARD?

No, just me?

Whether you agree or not, you have to give these monks a little credit. They offer nearly a dozen different types of roasts, with all their beans imported straight from Brazil, their holy blends only cost $12.50 AND all proceeds go toward expanding their monastery so they can give more money to charities knocking on their doors.                                                                                                                                    monk

Well, then.

Can you think of a better reason for buying coffee? Because I literally cannot.

What I really wanted to highlight is their seasonal blend that is now available for purchasing: The Easter Blend. This blend is described as,

“A mysteriously excellent tasting coffee, very smooth, with a slight bouquet of berries. We have handcrafted this interesting blend using four custom roasts with three Gourmet Arabicas, including one from an ancient Biblical country.”

 

Delicious and soul-cleansing. Even if you’re not Christian, or religious at all, the cause for this coffee is as good as they come and it sounds absolutely wonderful taste-wise. Either way, this could be a perfect Easter present or just a generous (and delicious, for you) contribution to charity. And if you are religious or Christian, imagine them serving this at mass instead of wine.

Seriously, people should petition for that.

 

Caribbean and Central America

I feel like I had JUST been talking about the Coffea plant and it’s unassuming fruit when I stumbled across this blog post about Coffea Diversa Plantation, a coffee plantation that produces multiple types of exotic coffee in Caribbean and Central America.

The specific kind of coffee being reviewed in this very articulate and detailed coffee review is called Geisha Coffee, one of the ancient Ethiopian coffee varieties (its name is derived from the city of Gesha in Ethiopia) that won a Gold Star at the 2011 Great Taste Awards.

I aspire to not only try such interesting kinds of coffee as this writer, but to also be able to describe the cupping so well…very impressive.

geisha-varietal

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

 

English: Coffee berries Polski: Owoce kawy

English: Coffee berries Polski: Owoce kawy (Photo credit: Wikiped

Cranberries, you say? Boysenberries, maybe? Try coffee berries. These bad boys, often deceivingly called “cherries”, are actually hiding two small coffee beans beneath a fruity shell.
The plant is called a coffea plant, and is native to southern Africa and tropical parts of Asia. Had you fooled, huh?

Weekly Brew Review: The Dirty Chai

Let’s get dirty.

With our coffee, you animals, get your mind’s out of the gutter!

When I visited Tony’s Coffee in Thomaston, CT, last week I tried their drink called Winter Spice. I didn’t do it because it was seasonal (it’s spring now), I was just fascinated by how the woman behind the counter described it: “a Dirty Chai”, she said. Count me in.

Often Dirty Chai’s are made with spiced black tea and contain spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Then a single shot of espresso and steamed milk is added.

I will start off with a large: DELICIOUS. The mild, spicy taste was tantalizing and unlike any kind of coffee I have experienced before. Although it is out of season, I could imagine this being the perfect winter time drink; especially with the cinnamon, it tasted like a big liquefied ginger bread man and had that warm, spicy kick of holiday foods and drinks.

That being said, the coffee was rather watery. I attributed it to the possible combination of tea and espresso. With their being only one shot of espresso, the thicker, coffee-consistency was overrun by the watery tea.

The best way to describe it was rich flavor with not-very-rich consistency.

Despite the drink being so thin, it was a new, flavorful experience that I would definitely suggest. I don’t even think it would hurt to ask for maybe one more shot of espresso or add some milk or coffee yourself just to fill out the drink a bit more. Keep this one in mind for the winter, or even for a rainy spring day or cold summer night, it’s the perfect drink to warm you right up!

A Conveniently Caffeinated Conflict

Who doesn’t like a good dose of caffeine? That’s what coffee’s for, right?

Sadly, wrong.

There has been some discussion lately about caffeine pills coming up hot on coffee’s tail. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the pill, most of them contain somewhere around 200 milligrams of caffeine, are quick and easy to take, and do not stain your teeth yellow. Those aren’t my words, I swear to the coffee Gods.

Some people would rather avoid a medley of things that come along with coffee drinking: yellowed teeth, dehydration, overuse of sugar and cream which can often be unhealthy, and spending excess money on coffee.

Alright, caffeine pill-poppers, I’ll play along.

I can definitely see the convenience of the pill. You are monitoring exactly how much caffeine you want in your body and you also don’t have to keep spending money on coffee throughout the day to get the 2, 3, 4 cups some people need to keep going.

HOWEVER, I think these poppers are missing some big points here.

First of all, I won’t deny the yellow teeth thing. I’ve said it before, it’s my one big issue with coffee. Nothing’s perfect.

Secondly, dehydration? Yeah, FROM CAFFEINE. Sure, coffee dehydrates you…but, news flash, so does straight-up, concentrated caffeine.

Third, I get the cream and sugar thing, too. But there are plenty of organic, natural options for both sugar and cream that are a million times better for you than crap like artificial sweeteners and even regular sugar. Also, ween yourself off of one. That’s what I did! I no longer take sugar in my coffee, only cream or skim, which cuts down my sugar and caloric intake by a ton.

Fourth, the money…I might have to give you that one. When it’s $7 for a bottle of pills that lasts you a few weeks, whereas some people spend $7 a day buying the coffee they need to get through the day (though I think those people may be crazy).

But I have one final counterpoint to contend with that excellent point of the cost of coffee vs. the cost of caffeine pills: coffee brings something more through the taste and often the experience of coffee.

What do caffeine pills taste like? Fake energy and plastic? Yum.

ImageCoffee — albeit, well made coffee, — brings flavor to your day, flavor to your life, and as I’ve talked about before, it can bring people together. You can make rituals and dates and communities over coffee, you can utilize coffee has an experience instead of just that boost of energy you need. This is probably one of the biggest things about coffee that I, myself, have learned through my new-found relationship with the delicious beverage, and I hope people won’t stray from coffee for convenience’s sake only.

The day that becomes acceptable is the day when the term “caffeine pill date” starts becoming a thing. That’s sound riveting, doesn’t it?

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)

Embed from Getty Images

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.