Month: April 2014

US Coffee Championships 2014

We really enjoyed watching the USCC last weekend. There were lots of great competitors. The overwhelming feeling that I got from watching the USCC is that just like coffee plants need strong roots to flourish, competitors need a strong foundation in order to compete. That foundation can not be done by oneself. That foundation is a strong network, a whole complex web of interactions and relationships that is ultimately represented by an individual competitor’s 15 minute performance. Congrats to Laila Ghambari for winning the USBC. She totally deserved it. Her performance really reflected her deep passion for coffee and represented the level of teamwork and camaraderie that is needed to make amazing coffee. Watch her performance: http://new.livestream.com/SpecialtyCoffeeAssociationOfAmerica/events/2892164/videos/49287754

Laila: We desire to serve extraordinary coffee; however, individually we were limited by each other’s roles. See, as a barista, the quality of coffee that I can serve to you is going to be dependent on the quality of the green coffee and the quality of the roasted coffee. So, we knew that in order to achieve our goal, the three of us (barista, roaster and coffee producer) would have to work together. So, we did.

Laila flew to Santa Ana, El Salvador to walk the farm of Emilio Lopez-Diaz. They picked the best coffee, brought it home and her roaster perfected the roast. She also found the perfect milk from Little Cow Girl in NJ to compliment her cap, which was a grass-fed non-homogenized milk that had 3.25% milk fat. She finished with her specialty drink which contained 3 main elements, each representing the people who came together to create it: Emilio, the farmer: The Coffee beans and Coffee cherry syrup with coffee-pollinated honey from the farm Phil, the roaster: Smoke from the the wood of the coffee trees that grew the coffee Laila, herself: Espresso, which pulls everything together. Her job is to finish the story.

So ultimately this is a story about collaboration. Collaboration thats “I” and turns it into “we.” “We” is stronger. Many minds and many talents working together towards one common goal. I wanted to serve you a drink that expresses the essence of this collaboration.

Magnificent performance by Laila Ghambari. We wish her all the best for the upcoming World Barista Championships!

Shout out to Jonathan Bonchak for placing 5th in the Brewer’s Cup. Proud to have him representing NC!

D.I.Y. Slow Drip Cold Brewer

Everyone’s drinking cold brew. A few companies, like Stumptown Coffee, have even started bottling it to sell at coffee shops and grocery stores.  Popularity is on the rise because the cold brew method prevents certain acidic, bitterness-inducing compounds from appearing, creating a smooth and syrupy finish well-suited for iced coffee. That, and the equipment used to achieve that delicious nectar looks totally badass.

cold3Photo by cafeculture.com

This is the Yama cold water drip tower. It makes delicious cold brew coffee, but more importantly, it looks like a steampunk meth lab (think Heisenberg in goggles and a top hat). It also costs $295 and takes up a lot of counter space. No, we’re not expecting you to use this at home.

A little searching online got us to Cafe Prima’s DIY Cold brew tower using the Aeropress and just a standard water bottle. We decided to give it a test run.

As you can see by the slow, methodical dripping, this D.I.Y. method is essentially an unholy combination of an Aeropress and Chinese water torture. The brew took a total of 1.5 hours for 330 mL of water to pass through and we ended up with 280 mL of brewed coffee. If you’re interested in why we used 185 degree water for pre-infusion, check out this really interesting article about combination hot and cold brewing.

Sometime in the near future, we’re going to attempt to create a more advanced model that more closely resembles the Yama Brewing tower. Expect more glass, controllable valves, and gnarly wood.

An Obsession with Cups

I think my obsession with table wares and kitchen gadgets came from my mother. I remember we never had any matching wares at home because she would couldn’t resist buying up and collecting more and more. Her excuse was “oh it might break later and then we’ll need more anyways” or “we don’t have enough if guests come over” (which never really happened but every once in a blue moon). Hah!

So, I’ve been kind of doing the same thing my whole life, but definitely not on the same scale as her. We have a couple of vintage tea cup and saucer sets as well as coffee mugs and various dish ware by Fire King. I read that in Japan, there is a coffee shop with all sorts of vintage pieces. Not only do they make a cup of coffee exclusively for you, they also make sure they pick the perfect cup to put it in!

So whats the deal with really expensive designer cups? (J: Feel free to read that in Jerry Seinfeld’s voice. I know I did.) I think that professional baristas, as well as home baristas are buying them up because they are a marriage of form and function. They are like pieces of art that you get to enjoy more intimately because well…let’s be honest. You’re basically making out with it.

J: What? You don’t make out with your coffee? Don’t look at me like that. No, I don’t use any tongue. I’m not a weirdo. Coffee is hot. You could burn yourself!

You wouldn’t serve foie gras on a paper plate. It ruins the experience. Shell out a few extra bucks on some decent cups for your coffee. Or don’t. At work, I drink my coffee in a giant Ninja Turtles mug. Why? Two words. Turtle Power.

Here’s a few of the more popular options:

 

Designer Cups

Illy Artist Collection 

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Straight from the illy eShop: “illy Art Collections are a series of limited edition cups designed by contemporary artists that transform the enjoyment of espresso into an inspirational, multi-sensory experience.  More than 70 international artists have contributed, each creating mini masterpieces of beauty to behold.” (Illy eShop) These cups range anywhere from $40 to $225. A work of art in a vessel that is also a work of art!

 

Terra Keramik

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Used in barista competitions worldwide, these cups are considered to be the crème de la crème of coffee cups. Each are carefully handcrafted and individually signed by master potter and sculptor, Felix Volger. The design is spunky, with nice bright eclectic colors, finished off by a showy, platinum handle and rim. I don’t think this is for everyone though. I think it looks a little outdated and too flashy for my taste. However, baristas swear by its perfect size, thickness and mouth feel as well as heat retention all working together to create the best all-around coffee experience. $40-$45 each

 

Budget and Space Conscious

World Market – Stacking Mugs and Espresso Cups

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Comes in different colors and designs, these cups are a great place to start if you have a limited budget as well as limited space. I have a set of the espresso cups and they have held up really well.  The quality is not superb, but they look nice and modern. Overall, you can’t beat the price at $12.99 for a set of 6!

 

Affordable Quality

Sur La Table – Café Collection Espresso Cup and Saucer

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I bought these in the 2 oz. demitasse and 5 oz. cappuccino. They really caught my eye because of the simple, modern design and solid build weight. I love having heavier porcelain wear. These also retain temperature really well and for the price, its a great place to start a coffee wares collection. $5.95 to $14.95 each

 

Williams-Sonoma – Brasserie Porcelain Cups and Saucer, Set of 4

Very similar to the Sur La Table one, but this one has a lower-profile saucer. It comes in a convenient set of 4 and is available at almost any mall, but I do prefer the design of the Sur La Table’s. It also comes in 2 other styles, one with a blue and one with red band, all for $59.95. Not bad.

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Bodum Glass Double Wall

Bodum has a large assortment of double-walled glassware thats just been really popular over the years. I’ve read that they provide amazing heat retention while still being comfortable to the touch on the outer glass wall. I like that since its clear glass, you can see the different layers of coffee, crema, milk, etc. $15-$25 each

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Setting the Standard

Intelligentsia Black Cat Project

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These beauties were created after 3 years of collaboration with NotNeutral, an LA based design firm. 3 years! Not only is the design fabulously modern, it is also meticulously designed to meet the strict needs and standards of barista champions around the world. $12-$20 each

 

notNeutral Lino Collection

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notNeutral’s description:

notNeutral, in collaboration with world-class baristas, brings you the premier vessels for enjoying everything coffee.

Meticulously designed and tested, the MENO cups achieve a seamless marriage of form and function. The contour of the interior provides optimal fluid dynamics for the perfect pour, while the wide mouth accommodates the drinker’s nose to take in the aroma. The base is thick to retain heat, while the rim has an elegant mouth feel. The graceful profile of MENO is comfortable to grip and rests easily in the palms of the hands.

What a beauty! Prices vary.

 

Coffee is an experience. So much goes into making a single cup, whether its espresso or pour over. The grind, the pour, etc. Why would you spend so much time creating something, and then serve it in something that diminishes the quality of the experience? That would be like putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet with the Montagues in dinosaur costumes while the Capulets wear space suits. Wait…that would be awesome. And hilarious. It would be more like going to see your new favorite movie (Captain America: The Winter  Soldier) in a theatre filled with crying children, sticky floors, and the pungent aroma of fresh hobo urine emanating from the seat next to you. Yeah. That. I get chills just thinking of that.

Anyway. Nice things are more enjoyable in nice packages. There are many nice choices out there that can fit any budget!

Coffee Scout App!

We’ve all been there. Traveling to a new place with unfamiliar streets and neighborhoods, whether it be another city or another country. You’re craving coffee like a junkie craves his next fix, but you’re clueless as to where you can find the local pusher. Been there, done that. It’s unfortunate that most people will just settle for the nearest Starbucks out of convenience (we’ve definitely been guilty of that). The Coffee Scout App, which has been released for Android phones earlier this month, is here to guide you!

Conceived by coffee-fanatic,and Google employee, Alon Havey, and partnered with Barista Magazine, Coffee Scout uses crowdsourcing to map a database of locally owned and independent coffee shops around the world. Just type in where you are, or just hit “Use My Location” and it’ll map out, as well as list all the coffee shops near you.

This isn’t Yelp. It’s not a place for reviews. It simply allows coffee shop owners to put their business out there, along with their hours of operation, coffee served, a brief description and list of amenities such as wifi, outdoor seating, parking, payment options, etc. With all this information, you can decide which one to try (but why not try them all!).

Forwarding the info from Barista Magazine:

If your shop isn’t on the map yet, you can add it here! Just like the apps, it’s fast, easy, and free!

By the way, Alon has a special request for cafés in Paris, London, and Stockholm: He’d like to see more you listed! (Maybe he has a visit in the works?) We’d love to see you join Coffee Scout and help the project grow!

Go download it now!

Aeropress: Inverted Method + Almond Latte

Leave any comments, suggestions and/or questions below!

Coffee filter was pre-rinsed. I didn’t include exact measurements because I think everyone should have fun experimenting and coming up with their own unique recipe for each roast and style of coffee.

Vietnamese Style Black Eyed Pour Over

It’s finally getting warmer outside now! This past winter was long and brutal for the South. The only acceptable type of polar vortex here is the one happening in our drinks.

So, we’ve finally begun to dedicate some time into developing specialty coffee drinks that we can offer seasonally (or permanently based on popularity) on our truck! So exciting! After filming the video, we roamed through the aisles of Whole Foods picking out various spices, dried flowers, berries and fruits that we can incorporate to enhance and compliment the flavors already present in various coffees.

The whole car smelled amaaaazing. More drinks coming soon!

Bookman Bicycle Cup Holder

Sick of people questioning how hipster you are? Worry no more! Bookman has created a cup holder for your coffee that clamps on to the handlebars of your bicycle! (Fixed gear, of course. Brakes are for pussies.)

This easy to use cup holder from Bookman, a company based out of Stockholm that specializes in accessories for bicycles and the urban cyclist, is aptly named, the “Cup Holder” (So meta, right?). All you do is squeeze the two rings together, place the clamp somewhere on the handlebars, and thats it. The two ring design not only facilitates the clamping, but it also accommodates for different size cups. If your cup doesn’t fit, simply flip the cup holder over.  It won’t slip, and due to the spring steel construction, durability shouldn’t be an issue. Its assembled without screws or glue, and its ridiculously easy to disassemble if the need arises.  Comes in black, white, green, and red.

Check out Bookman’s video demonstrating the Cup Holder. Complete with a soundtrack that Ryan Gosling would drive to in a silent, brooding manner.

So if that ironic mustache and iTunes account riddled with Arcade Fire songs isn’t raising your hipster street-cred fast enough, Bookman’s new Cup Holder will help you kick it into ludicrous-speed (because warp speed is soooo mainstream)!

Pre-order yours here.