industry secret

about once a week we have to grease the fittings on the roaster and keep all the moving parts lubricated (just like you would grease the fittings on a tractor.) however, unlike a tractor, there is a chance of incidental contact of the grease with a coffee bean. so the hardware store special-orders us cans of grease that are “food grade” and consist of vegetable and mineral oils with no carcinogens or harmful chemicals. it is mostly tasteless and odorless. it fits right into a standard grease gun and works on any machinery lubrication fittings — but technically, you could eat it. mmmmmm

Shipping Policy

Internet orders that are received by noon Eastern Time should ship that same day.  We have about an 80% fulfillment rate of this policy.  Remember that we roast coffee AFTER the order is received, so on a particularly busy day (like a Monday), a few orders that are complicated don’t make it out until the next business day.

We use Priority Mail for most orders, but if your order weighs less than 13 ounces it will ship first class mail.  If it weighs more than 40 pounds, it might ship via UPS.

We rarely ship on Saturday.  Orders made on Friday afternoon will probably not be roasted and shipped until Monday.

We understand the importance of shipping on time ALL orders received the weekend of December 20th.  We will do everything in our ability to ship out 100% of the orders received by noon the 22nd, by that afternoon.  It is extremely likely that all orders shipped the 22nd will be received by Christmas regardless of destination.  Most of the United States are in 1 and 2 day shipping zone from us, so it is LIKELY but RISKY that your orders on Tuesday will also still be received before Christmas.   Just remember that the USPS does not put a guarantee on its delivery dates, and both volume and weather this time of year can slow things down.

so many choices

We carry a LOT of coffees, and it can be intimidating to new customers.  the three best-selling coffees this year have been:
1-Outdoorsy Sumatra
2-Inspirational Artist’s Blend
3-Get in Gear Morning Blend
They sell the best because they are crowd-pleasing. Nice, medium to dark roast coffees that appeal to everyone. Nothing particularly special, but great everyday coffees that we can consistently roast all year round and have a large fan base.
But if you ask me what you SHOULD be drinking…..here’s what’s extra special right now:
1– if price isn’t an issue, Yemen. Yemen and Ethiopia Harrar are the only two places that can grow the Mokka varietal of coffee bean. This coffee is the original heirloom strain that other coffees came from, and most countries would grow it if they could. A farmer in Guatemala managed to grow 8 pounds of it a couple years ago, and sold it for $500 a pound (http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/19/500-50-a-pound-for-coffee-beans/?_r=0) Yemen coffee is incredibly hard to import, and even when successful, they are rarely as amazing as this one tastes, and rarely traceable back to a responsible co-op like this one is. If you look at what the few other roasters that have it charge, you see prices from $25-$40 a pound. So the $16 a pound suddenly doesn’t seem so expensive. The trademark for a good Yemen is Malty (taste of grain), bitter (think baker’s cocoa), and fruit (anything from berries to stone fruit to oranges, etc, but this one has a slight banana flavor which I’m obsessed with).
2–Royal Ethiopia Harrar. Most of the coffees out there labeled Harrar aren’t good Harrars. A traditional Harrar is from the Mokka varietal and tastes incredibly sweet with unmistakable blueberry notes and no earthiness. This one is so beautifully complex that it seems a bit “weird” to the average coffee drinker, but the ones who know good coffee can’t get enough of it. (Granted, this coffee is best as a french press or pourover. You won’t taste as much blueberry in your electric coffee pot).
3–Kenya Jungle. Kenya traditionally grew a hard-to-grow varietal called SL-28, and that’s what gave it the red-wine/blackberry taste. Then they mutated it to SL-34 which was almost as good but easier to grow, and they would blend the two beans together. Then the farmers started blending in even easier varietals like Caturra (boring) and Ruiru hybrid (awful!) and Bourbon (nice, but rarely amazing), and little by little Kenyan coffee stopped being so special (but was still just as expensive). We only buy Kenyas that are SL-34 (which are not easy to find anymore!), but this is the first time in 5 years we found one that was strictly pure SL-28. Cost an arm and a leg, but its a classic, old time Kenya that makes you understand why Kenya carries such a good reputation. Each sip has the complexity of a fancy wine or scotch. (Other roasters are charging between $18-$25 a pound for this lot of coffee).
4–Balanced Costa Rica “Bello Horizonte” — We use “Balanced Costa Rica” as our brand for whatever Costa Rica happens to be in stock; but this one in stock right now is a microlot from a particular farm. It was expensive and special and we should have given it its own label but didn’t have time. It is full of complexity — floral, citrus, sweetness, and a mouthfeel like you’re eating a pear. (I see this selling elsewhere online for $19/lb)
5–New Guinea Peaberry from the Kimel Estate — This estate uses the Blue Mountain varietal that they brought over from Jamaica; and this coffee tastes as good as Jamaica did 30 years ago. White wine, dry mouthfeel, chocolate notes. When you consider that only 5% of their crop is peaberry….and this is already the best estate on New Guinea….and a particularly good year for New Guinea….you start doing the math and realizing what a rare and special coffee this lot is. (I see other roasters selling this coffee between a range of $18 to $30 a pound)

Iced Tea

iceteablog

Iced Tea is refreshing, delicious, and good for you!  It contains antioxidants and often vitamins and fruits.  If you want the caffeine choose a Black Tea or Green Tea.  To avoid caffeine, choose an Herbal blend.  Home-steeped iced tea is a wonderful alternative for children who don’t want plain water, but should not drink so much soda and kool-aid.

We have an extremely simple recipe that works with all of our teas.  We take a quart canning jar, and add 2 Tbsp of sugar, and 2 Tbsp of loose tea (in a Tsac).  Add hot water.  After 4 minutes, take out the Tsac and put the canning jar in the refrigerator.  We keep a couple different kinds in the fridge so that there is always something healthful to reach for when we are hot and thirsty.

You can ice any tea, but some particularly amazing ones are Fresh Peach, Berry Black, Tropical Pineapple, Juicy Plum, and Cinnamon Rooibos.

Coffee Nursery

Coffee plants are grown for a year in a nursery area like this before being transplanted next to the mature trees.  It will take 4 years for these plants to start producing coffee fruits.

Coffee trees over 100 years old exist and produce fruit, but a commercial coffee plantation typically replaces 15 year old plants with new plants, and keeps the average age of the coffee plants at around 8 to 10 years old.  It’s a constant cycle of planting and cutting down.coffeeplants

Seeds and Plants

DSCN1163Here is a picture of coffee plant that I am presently trying to keep alive (it is not a happy coffee plant).

Coffee beans, are not “beans” they are seeds — the pit from the coffee fruit.  You can plant unroasted coffee beans, and they will sprout.  The germination rate is low, something like 5%, so you have to plant several of them, and coffee can’t realistically grow in the climate of the United States.  If you wanted to harvest and process your own coffee, you would have to keep your plant indoors and give it a lot of warmth and a lot of sunlight all year round.

But still, it is fun to remember that coffee is produce.  It is a fruit.  Hence, it is rich with antioxidants and bioflavanoids and continually linked to health benefits.

Tasting Coffee

Several years ago, coffee tasters sat down and wrote out every flavor and characteristic that might be found in a cup of coffee, and organized it into a circle.  If you look at the wheel of flavors as you drink the coffee, it helps you figure out what you are tasting.  The only problem, is that the “Flavor Wheel” that has been used for dozens of years is full of words that are not very helpful.  Descriptors like “Tipped” “Cappy” and “Horsey” just don’t mean much as we are mulling our latest roast.

Finally, the admired Counter Culture from North Carolina brings us an updated, useful coffee flavor wheel, with flavors and lingo that are common in the coffee world.  Look at this the next time you’re trying a new coffee and see if it helps you navigate the tastes you are experiencing. coffeetastingwheelcoffee_tasting_Wheel    <—-PDF version for easy print-outs

in the coffeeshop

a red fire extinguisher hangs under a red picture of a fire extinguisher.
a poster shows how to choke, how to unchoke.
a man in a hat enters the room, fills his mug, takes a sip, smiles.
looking around the room, nothing is on fire;
no one is choking.
he takes another sip and steps back out into the world.

best seller lists for 2013

i just ran a report that shows the best selling products on the website so far in 2013.  this list doesn’t include any wholesale orders — it only counts retail sales that were processed through the website.  but with 1,021 website orders received so far this year, that’s still a fairly reliable pool of data to consider.

roasted coffee:

# 1 seller:  outdoorsy sumatra
2- decaf sumatra
3- strong and gentle bear blend
4- renegade guatemala
5- balanced costa rica

flavored coffee

#1 best seller – winter grogg
2- jamaican paradise
3- hazelnut
4- caramel latte
5- almond

tea:

#1 seller: breakfast tea (sumatra)
2- berry black (guatemala)
3- dragonwell (china)
4- berry basket (herbal)
5-golden bud (china)

green unroasted coffee:

#1 best seller: sumatra mandheling
2- costa rica la minita
3- peru cafe succhia
4- uganda bugisu
5- guatemala huehuetenango

my personal top 7 favorite coffees right now:

kenya kiangombe
ethiopia amaro
sumatra mandheling (outdoorsy sumatra)
costa rica la minita
ethiopia yirgacheffe natural
tanzania peaberry mt. kilamanjaro (extroverted tanzania)
india pambadampara estate

my personal top 7 favorite hot teas right now:

plum
red chai
jasmine pearls
grand keemun
raspberry
chocolate coconut
rose heart

coffee chaff

bag of coffee chaff

bag of coffee chaff

when coffee is roasting, it expands, pops, and little pieces of chaff break away from the bean.  it smells somewhat like hay, is feather-light, extremely flammable.  if you brew it with the coffee, it tastes very bitter, so you have to separate it from the roasted beans.  the bible talks about tossing grain up into the wind so the chaff blows away while the kernels fall back to the ground.  this is the basic idea.  if you are roasting at home, you can sift the chaff out using a colander or stir the coffee in front of a fan on low speed.   commercial roasters have an exhaust fan that carries the chaff over to a collection tank away from the heat.

but are there uses for this organic matter?  in soil, the chaff is fantastic at absorbing and retaining moisture, so stirring in coffee chaff in small amounts can be a helpful addition.  it also works as chicken bedding! or one can spread it on a muddy path in the spring to help dry the mud. or use it like sawdust in the bottom of compostable toilets.  but the latest use for this substance will raise some eyebrows…

a farmer stopped in recently and submitted a sample for nutritional food analysis, and it came back showing to be full of protein, particularly well paired for the digestive system of cattle.    the report looks like this:

protein 16.7%, digestible protein 12%, acid detergent fiber 49% neutral detergent fiber 63% estimated net energy 87%   calcium 1% phosphorus .07% potassium 1% magnesium .2% sulfur .2%

so he carried away about 50 pounds and is going to try adding it to food for his herd of heifers.  my hunch is that there is caffeine in the chaff, and he will have some very happy cows.  we will have to wait and see.