Monday, June 30, 2008

Stealth Sale

Things have been hectic around here lately, but I wanted to make a quick post alerting folks to some stealth sales. As many of you know I'm trying convert our coffees from conventional to Fair Trade as much as possible (see post below) and with that in mind I'm going to discontinue our Sumatra Grade-1 and El Salvador coffees, and only sell their organic/Fair Trade counter parts. I'm also going to discontinue the Panama Berlina. All three of these coffees are amazing and we drink them daily around here, but now that I'm able to get more Fair Trades, I would like to focus on that.

So these coffees are on sale for a few $ off each, until we get rid of the remaining supply (for the Sumatra that is not much, but I think there's a bunch of the El Salv and Panama). So, get some cheap coffee while you can, and enjoy!


Ps, the Kona is on sale for a couple more days too!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kona's on sale!

In honor of July 4th, the anniversary of American Independence, we have decided to put the lone American coffee that we offer on sale. The good news for coffee lovers is that the lone coffee happens to be Hawaiian Kona!

Our Kona coffee comes from a wonderful estate called Greenwell Farms. The estate has been growing and exporting coffee since 1850, so suffice to say they know what they're doing. We buy "extra-fancy" beans, which defines about 20% of the crop. The "extra-fancies" are a larger and rarer bean.

Kona coffee gets its name from the region it's grown in "Kona," on the big island of Hawaii. It is known for it's smooth flavor, while retaining a full body. It doesn't have any bite or bitterness to it whatsoever. The plants in Kona are nurtured by rich, volcanic soil, and the clean air at extremely high elevevation helps yeild the smoothest of coffee beans.

Our Kona is on sale 15% off for the next week, starting Tuesday AM, so give it a try and let me know what you think.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Fair Trade at a glance...

I've been doing a bunch of in-store demos lately, where I basically meet customers at supermarkets, IGA's and co-ops, and give info about and sample of our coffee away. One of the most common questions I get relates to Fair Trade coffee. People want to know what it's all about.

I'm going to post a link to a blog post from last year, that is something all of our customers need to read. The Fair Trade movement is a big deal, not just in coffee but for all products that offer it, and I encourage everyone that reads this blog to learn more about Fair Trade, pass on the info to friends and family, and act upon what you read.

Here's the link to the old blog post entitled Fair Trade 101.

There is a video under the "About Us" section of the Fresh Coffee Now website that discusses Fair Trade. Click here, and then scroll down and look to the right, to view it.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

A plug for cold brew ice coffee

My calendar says summer is officially here, and the time for Iced Coffee is surely upon us. I've been a fan of cold-brewing iced coffee for a long time. Several stores in Vermont are serving their coffee this way, and people are loving it (our record so far was 7 gallons of iced coffee in one lunch rush, at City Market in downtown Burlington!!)

So here is an article I read last summer in the Times, describing ice coffee and the cold brew. Beneath it is a great recipe. Don't forget to make coffee ice cubes, so the melting ice won't dilute your drink. We recommend our Organic Nicaragua or Organic Mexico coffees for the cold brew method. Enjoy!

Iced Coffee? No Sweat

BEFORE I go telling everybody that the secret to great iced coffee is already in the kitchen, my friend Keller wants me to confess: I didn’t know iced coffee from iced coffee until he showed me the light.

It’s important to cop to this now, because not a summer goes by that he does not painstakingly remind me, a rabid iced-coffee drinker, that he’s the one who introduced me to the wonders of cold-brewed iced coffee. The funny thing is, when the subject came up we were holed up in a summer rental with three friends off the coast of Puerto Rico, on a tiny island not exactly swimming in upmarket coffee houses.

Our first morning there I brewed a blend from the local grocery in the coffeepot, laced it with a little half-and-half and sugar, then let it cool. Classy, I thought, carrying the pitcher to the table. “I’ll just take it hot,” he mumbled, while I blinked in disbelief.

Clearly, this boy didn’t know any better. A drink has a time and place. Surely he didn’t subscribe to drinking hot coffee in summer?

“No, I only drink iced coffee if it’s cold-brewed,” he said.

For five days we watched him sullenly sip his hot coffee on a broiling Caribbean island in the dead of summer. We chided him for his pretensions, ridiculed him, tried valiantly to break him, but he patiently waited us out. Once we tried it we would understand, he explained. Like friends disputing a baseball stat in a bar with no access to Google, we had no way to settle the argument.

Two weeks later, back in Brooklyn, I saw a sign: “Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee Served Here.” Fine, then. I threw down two bucks and took a sip. Though it pains me to admit, the difference was considerable. Without the bitterness produced by hot water, the cold-brewed coffee had hints of chocolate, even caramel. I dropped my sugar packet — no need for it. The best brews hardly need cream. It really is the kind of thing a gentleman might spend five days in hot-coffee solitary confinement for.

Most days I’m too lazy to hunt down the elusive cold-brewed cup. But recently I discovered an interesting little fact. Cold-brewed coffee is actually dirt simple to make at home. Online, you’ll find a wealth of forums arguing for this bean or that, bottled water over tap, the 24-hour versus the 12-hour soak. You can even buy the Toddy cold-brew coffee system for about $30.

But you can also bang it out with a Mason jar and a sieve. You just add water to coffee, stir, cover it and leave it out on the counter overnight. A quick two-step filtering the next day (strain the grounds through a sieve, and use a coffee filter to pick up silt), a dilution of the brew one-to-one with water, and you’re done. Except for the time it sits on the kitchen counter, the whole process takes about five minutes.

I was curious to see how it would taste without all the trappings. The answer is, Fantastic. My friend Carter, something of a cold-brewing savant, turned me onto another homegrown trick: freeze some of the concentrate into cubes. Matched with regular ice cubes, they melt into the same ratio as the final blend.

Very fancy. Can’t wait to tell Keller.

Recipe: Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Time: 5 minutes, plus 12 hours’ resting

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
Milk (optional).

1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.

Yield: Two drinks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coffee cupping for beginners..

Last Friday, Joe and I, and the new intern, Ben, began cupping coffees together around 10am. We are going to make this a weekly habit if possible, and Ben and I are going to post some of our tasting notes to the blog. Please keep in mind that we're new at this, so we'll get better at describing what we're learning as we go...

The process of cupping coffee is a technique used to evaluate the aroma and flavor profile of coffees. It also is a great way to taste differences in different coffees by trying them side by side. Subtle nuances in each coffee, that might not be noticed or remembered if you waited a few days to try against a different coffee and compare them, are more easily recognized during a cupping. You can cup just to learn about new or different coffees, or you can use it as a tool to detect defects in the coffee, or to help in the creation of new blends of two or more coffees.

The first thing you do in a coffee cupping is grind a small amount of each coffee and put them into a small glass. You usually want a few glasses with each coffee in it, in case you get one cup of grinds that has bad beans in it (from being burnt or just defective). We chose to cup 4 coffees on Friday, our Organic Mexico, Organic Nicaragua, Organic Guatemala and Organic Colombia Reserva. You can see in this picture the 3 glasses of each of the 4 coffees.

We first smelled the coffee grinds in each glass. This is the "fragrance" of the coffee. I couldn't tell too much of a difference with most of them, although I thought the Guatemala smelled a bit more flowery. The next step was to boil water and fill each cup up 1/2 way, and smell them all again. By the way, each cupper smells all 3 of each coffee, as the quality control I mentioned above in case one of the cups contains defective beans. The fragrance is much more pronounced after adding the water, and even beginners like me can start noticing large differences.

The next step is to fill the cups up with water and let them sit for a minute or two. The coffee hardens a bit at the top of the cup, forming a "crust" of part coffee part water. You then "break the crust" with a spoon, holding your nose right above the spoon and cup, and take a big whiff. This allows you to taste the aroma of the coffee. It is pretty potent compared with the previous smells you've gotten up until then.

The final part of the cupping is tasting for flavor. Here you place some of each coffee in the spoon and slurp it into your mouth, attempting to get the coffee to hit every taste bud on your tongue. This should allow you to detect all sorts of different qualities that the coffees possess, the most important being taste, acidity, body and aftertaste. Joe gave us up a flavor profile wheel for the occasion since Ben and I are inexperienced at this and were having trouble identifying the flavors that were coming through. We took notes of most of this, although mine at first were more about the process than the actual profiles of the coffees. In the end, I did learn a LOT about what kind of coffees I like and dislike.

Here are my notes from the final flavor cupping:

Organic Mexico:
Harsh, dirty first taste. Full body, medium acidity and smooth aftertaste (compared with the original, harsh taste).

Organic Nicaragua:
Clean taste. Light/medium body, chocolatey aftertaste.

Organic Guatemala:
Flowery taste, light body, high acid, winey aftertaste.

Organic Colombia Reserva:Clean, balanced flavor, medium body. Medium acidity with a sweet finish.

No surprise that the Colombia Reserva was my favorite here. The fact that I did not enjoy the Guatemala at all (keep in mind that I DO like this coffee when brewed normally) was a surprise, as was the harshness of the first sip of Mexico, which is another one of my favorite coffees. I found from this tasting that I enjoy medium to full-bodied coffees, and tend to want more from a low-bodied brew.

Overall, this was a really informative process. I'll be taking better notes next time, as I won't be so wrapped up in the actual cupping process, and hope to pass on some good info to you the reader!


Friday, June 6, 2008

Roasting Jamaican Coffee (on Video!)

As I mentioned in my last blog post, and as some of you might have seen on our mailing list, we are doing a promotion on Jamaican coffee for Father's Day. As expected, we're selling quite a bit of the coffee, so Joe roasted a couple batches this morning, and began teaching our new intern Ben about the coffee profiling process. I shot the video of the beans coming out of the drum and into the agitator and then panned over to show the roast profile on the roasting control unit. If you ordered Jamaican Moy Hall from us yesterday or through this weekend, this is most likely the batch of coffee you'll be getting.

If you're interested in learning more about Jamaican coffee, and why it is so expensive and hard to find, please check out these posts from last year:

The Price of Excellence, Part I

The Price of Excellence, Part II


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Father's Day Specials and New Coffee!!

Joe and I have been working away for the past week and I suddenly realized this morning that I haven't posted on here to let everyone know what the heck we've been up to.

First off, we're going to do some nice sales for Father's Day. Dad's are cool, and they deserve something nice for "their day." Our best coffee, Jamaican Moy Hall, is going on 15% sale, and we're also going to put the Organic Gift Pack 20% off, until the Sunday of Father's Day. Order now and we'll make sure your dad gets it before the holiday!!

We also have a new coffee that we're excited to announce: the Organic El Salvador. This is a great coffee that we haven't had in 2 years, and this time it's Fair Trade, too. It was one of our best sellers, and it was replaced by the "El Salvador" minus the organic. Finally we've got it back and we're releasing it for sale today. In the next few weeks we'll be putting the old El Salv on sale while we move on to only sell the organic/Fair Trade version. Check it out!

Lastly, I'll be @ Fresh Market/Cheese Traders in Burlington Friday afternoon, and Natural Provisions in Williston giving away coffee. Julie will be @ L.A.C.E in Barre on Sunday doing the same. Come say hi and drink some coffee with us if you're in the area!