Category Archives: Coffee & Tea

Beyond Kona: Hawaiian Coffee

The Big Island of Hawaii is the home of the world famous Kona coffee region, which has long been touted as producing some of the tastiest coffee in the world. But it’s not the only source of delicious Hawaiian coffee — as we wrote about last month, Maui is undergoing a renaissance in coffee agriculture, and there is also a pretty serious emergence of another coffee growing region on the Big Island itself: Ka’u.

Big Island Video News has an interview with a Ka’u farmer that is quite interesting and they also show the recent Coffee Festival held in the area to promote the coffees from this region. Also, if you live in the islands or are planning on traveling there sometime soon, this great guide gives you a run down of the expansion of coffee agriculture throughout the islands, as well as some tips for visiting different plantations.

We’re hoping to get to the Big Island later this year and look forward to sampling some of these emerging beans. Aloha!

Recipe: Diva Tofu-Chino Parfaits

We all try to cut caloric corners every now and again, and this dessert has the potential to deliver on the flavor without taking a toll at our waistline!

Diva Tofu-Chino Parfaits
vegan, makes 4-8 servings, depending on cup serving size.

Cinnamon Vanilla Mousse

  • 1 box vegan vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups soy milk
  • 8 oz. firm tofu (1/2 pack of tofu)
  • 2 Tbsp Veganaise
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Arrowroot Powder (my substitute for cornstarch)

Spicy Chocolate Mousse

  • 1 box chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 cups soy milk
  • 8 oz. firm tofu (1/2 pack of tofu)
  • 2 Tbsp tofu
  • 1 Tbsp Veganaise
  • 4 Tbsp sweetened high quality cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Arrowroot Powder (my substitute for cornstarch)

(for a richer chocolate flavor melt 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips into the pan when heating pudding mixture)

Other:

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 1/2 cup crushed almonds
  • 1 cup crushed organic graham crackers or vanilla cookies


Equipment: blender, lidded pan, cappuccino or parfait serving cups.

To make:

  1. Add add vanilla ingredients, except tofu to a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add in tofu and blend again until smooth.
  4. Add blender contents to pan.
  5. Turn stove on med-high.
  6. Stir constantly until mixture begins to bubble.
  7. Continue heating on medium and stirring until mixture thickens a bit and large bubbles break through.
  8. Heat can be turned to medium-low if you are worried about burning the pudding.
  9. When pudding has thickened, remove from heat and pour back into blender.
  10. Re-blend until smooth.
  11. Be
    careful, make sure to vent blender and a heated blender can easily
    build up pressure to explode. Be careful. Never point blender towards
    face.
  12. Repeat entire process with chocolate pudding.
  13. Set puddings aside, but no need to refrigerate yet. A thin, still-warm pour will be better for presentation anyways.
  14. Prepare 2 shots of espresso.
  15. Crush the almonds and crust crackers.

Assembly of cups:

  1. Fill serving cups with a 1/2 inch layer of ‘crust’. (crushed cookie or cracker.)
  2. Pour in a nice layer of chocolate pudding.
  3. Add a thin layer of almonds.
  4. Add 1 Tbsp of espresso to each cup. Use more or less depending on your tastes.
  5. You can even substitute de-caf, coffee or chai tea instead of espresso.
  6. Add a layer of vanilla pudding.
  7. You can add more chocolate than vanilla or more
    vanilla than chocolate. Or equal amounts of both. It looks more like a
    cappuccino if you use more vanilla as top layer.
  8. pouring the pudding while it is still warm will allow for a more even line-pretty presentation. Cooled pudding can clump more.
  9. The top garnish layer is a sprinkle of cinnamon and a tsp of espresso. A few almonds also looks nice. You can garnish with whatever filling you decide to use.

Filling
subs: If you don’t eat nuts, or would like a different center layer,
try these: peanut butter, dried blueberries, fresh fruit, goji berries,
more crushed crackers/cookies, soy cream, sponge cake, pan fried
bananas, another type of crushed nut.

Notes: Chill cups until firm before serving. Adding
more tofu will make a thicker, milder pudding. I actually like this
with a bit more tofu-the thicker the better to my taste.If you do not have Veganaise, you can sub with a Tbsp of white or apple cider vinegar.

Tech Tip: Superautomatics and Oily Beans

We have written before about the no love lost between superautomatic espresso machines and oily, dark roasted coffee beans, but when we got a machine in the repair center last week that was caked to the gills with coffee cement, we just had to film it and show you what we’re talking about.

Watch Gail take apart the grinder of a Saeco Vienna superautomatic espresso machine and show what happens over time to the internal grinders on these machines if someone is using super-dark and oily beans. We definitely recommend sticking with a lighter, drier roast for the long term health of your machine — and now you’ll see why!

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series – Third Lecture Update

This past Tuesday, we headed into the third lecture of the Coffee From the Grounds Up series, being held at the University of Washington in conjunction with the Burke Natural History Museum’s exhibit Coffee: The World in Your Cup.

Unfortunately, we had a last minute scheduling conflict, so weren’t able to attend last week’s lecture on Direct Trade — very bummed about that. Tuesday night’s lecture was from an anthropological perspective and was entitled Why We Love Coffee. The speaker was professor Eugene Anderson and covered the social, cultural and economic factors that make caffeine-based drinks such an essential element of so many societies. Professor Anderson explores the impact of all types of drinks that contain caffeine — from coffee to tea to yerba mate to even cola — and it was quite fascinating to hear about the importance these stimulant-based beverages have in different societies.

Some of our notes from the lecture were:

  1. Purchasing shade grown coffee is one of the most powerful choices we can make as consumers because they’re promoting fabulously diverse nature preserves around the planet
  2. Caffeine works by preempting the adenosine receptors in our brain which regulate our sleep cycles and the acclimation process inspires our body to create more adenosine receptors, which is why we need more caffeine over time to experience the same result — your body will keep producing these receptors because you need to sleep, eventually
  3. Chocolate was used historically in a similar method as coffee, but the chocolate houses around the world slowly transitioned to coffee houses because it takes less coffee than chocolate to produce the same result, and coffee has little-to-no calories, whereas chocolate will make you feel full after awhile because of it’s high caloric composition
  4. The UK and other members of the Commonwealth are so tea-centric due to the coffee rust blight that wiped out the coffee plantations in India and Sri Lanka — after this happened, the plantations replanted with tea instead, which is why these societies became such renowned tea drinkers
  5. Coffee houses were historically notorious hotbeds of rebellion — the American Revolution was born out of coffee houses, and it’s no secret that the Beat generation, which fed into the 60’s hippie movement in the US, spent a lot of time fomenting their resolve in coffee houses (Cafe Trieste in San Francisco is one such legendary place where the likes of Alan Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs wrote/read/ranted)
  6. Feminist politics were also born from coffee, although more so in private spaces, the coffee klatches of yesteryear were spaces in which women could get together in order to discuss their own version of what many considered subversive politics — that is, equal rights
  7. The rise of what some consider ‘yuppie coffees’ — ie. Starbucks gourmet lattes, etc. — has turned the coffee house from a place of the working classes to the haunts of the leisurely, privileged class
  8. There is intense ritualization of coffee and caffeine-based drinks around the world; the highest per capita coffee intake is in Finland, which has an incredibly sacred, detailed and intricate ceremony that developed over hundreds of years and involves the evolution of the bread that was adopted/adapted by several different cultures — one notable evolution is Jewish challah
  9. Many of the aforementioned ceremonies were developed as a method for creating community or celebrating the sacred. For example, the Sufis developed a ceremony that involved coffee simply because it helped them stay awake for the other aspects of the ceremony
  10. The explosion of coffee consumerism over the last 300 years can be tracked to an increased adherence to time/alarm clocks (something driven largely by the industrial revolution), work discipline trends and the gourmetship/connoisseurship of the bean
  11. Coffee houses were also historical places of business. We’re used to seeing folks working on laptops at the local cafe, and this is a natural evolution of what used to be considered the poor man’s or working man’s office. Establishments such as Lloyds of London began as a coffee house, frequented quite often by members of the maritime industry, which eventually developed into an insurance/bonding firm that is now famous for some of their more unique insurance policies. It was quite typical that community or labor leaders would have their specific hours at a specific table and the locals could find them there during those ‘office hours’ at the local coffee house
  12. Coffee houses — and all houses that serve caffeine-based drinks — serve the very vital function of the 3rd place. The 3rd place refers to a non-work, non-home environment that allows for community, society and brings people together — they are intrinsic locations for humans and the societies in which they live, as they help them to both adapt to and survive the system

Overall, the lecture was very involved and the above notes are just a selection of what we gleaned from Professor Anderson. Wonderful food — and drink! — for thought.

Nerdy Birds: Portland’s Micro-Roasters

The double-edged sword of many small start-up companies is that growth can often come at a price — sometimes that price is the culture, sometimes it’s the product and, if you’re a small company hailing from Portland, OR, it can come at the price of cred. With homegrown independent roasters such as Stumptown expanding into the burgeoning NYC espresso market, what was once considered an alternative to the big boys is slowly becoming a big boy itself.

So how does DIY and indie-heavy PDX keep it real? It becomes a breeding ground for the next wave of small independents that might develop into something larger down the line. Peopled by young couples with toddlers and folks exploring the next chapter in their lives, the growing swell of micro-roasters in the Portland area speaks to that region’s history of upstarts, rebels and creatives.

In this fabulously descriptive profile, Kathleen Bauer discusses the trend and poses questions about the Portland roasting scene to five of its stars. One aspect we really loved about this article was the discussion of the volatility of coffee — that dialing in the scientific elements is not actually a science at all, and that every batch of coffee is different. This extends into the brewing space, as well, and is something we often find ourselves reiterating to new-on-the-scene espresso enthusiasts who are in search of the Ten Steps to Perfect Espresso how-to guide that, honestly, can’t possibly exist.

The creativity, artisan craftmanship and just plain nerdy obsession with delicious coffee that these roasters embody is something we love — and something that makes us love the coffee they produce all the more.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Spronomy

Spronomy coffee related blog We just ran across this blog, launched in late March by a barista in Pennsylvania, and got lost in the tales and photos of his recent trip to a Guatemalan coffee plantation with which his cafe directly partners in trade.

In addition to a detailed discussion of the coffee process, Spronomy also talks about mod’ing his cafe’s Mazzer grinder to work around that annoying left tick the grounds seem to take and examines the success/failure of smaller cafes in the Pittsburgh area. While this blog is just getting started, we will definitely be keeping our bookmark on it and checking in regularly!

New! Seattle Coffee Gear’s Commercial Espresso Equipment

We have a deep love for and commitment to the home espresso enthusiast, but as our passion for making excellent espresso at home has grown, we have been exploring commercial-grade equipment, too. Obviously, comparatively few of us can afford to drop $15k on an espresso machine for our homes, but if you’re looking to either upgrade your business’ existing setup or thinking about launching a new espresso-based business, we have a wide selection of machines that is going to continue to grow.

Currently featuring primarily La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli and Rancilio commercial-class espresso machines & grinders, we’ve also included a few of the prosumer class of machines that could work well in a smaller-scale business that has espresso as a complementary service — such as a bookstore or an art gallery. We also have tons of quantity discounts on accessories and wholesale pricing on coffee and syrups so just ask.

We’re excited to venture into a new realm within the coffee world and look forward to talking with you more about it! This blog will also expand as a resource and start offering up information that may be of interest to cafes and other small coffee businesses, so stay tuned.

Recipe: Turkish Dee-Lite

Inspired by reading about the preparation and practice around Turkish coffee, we decided to take a stab at creating a drink that incorporated the flavor of the traditional pairing of Turkish Delight. This is definitely an exotic flavor — one that the crew here found surprisingly tasty!

Ingredients

Directions
Combine the syrups in the bottom of a warmed mug. Add espresso and mix thoroughly. Top off with hot water to taste.

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series – First Lecture Update

Last night was the kick-off of the Coffee: From the Grounds Up lecture series that is being held in tandem with the Burke Natural History Museum’s Coffee: The World in Your Cup exhibit. The series was kicked off by Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, and was quite enjoyable. He discussed a lot of what is in his book, but here are some bits n’ pieces we picked up that we thought were interesting:

  • Caffeine is likely a natural pesticide that exists within the cherry to keep it from being decimated by tropical pests. This is similar to how coca leaves have a small amount of the chemical used to produce cocaine.
  • There is a resounding myth around the discovery of coffee — replete with dancing goats and monks — but there is some evidence that, at some point, nomadic Ethiopian people discovered that grinding up the beans of the cherries, placing them in fat and then ingesting the mixture would help them travel long distances…and this practice is still in existence among nomadic tribes in that African region today.
  • Brazil became such a big player because of two primary reasons: They had a lot of land and they were poised to take over the crop when the coffee rust disease nearly wiped out all of the bushes in Indonesia.
  • Americans have a very emotional relationship to coffee and kind of act like it’s our birthright that we should have access to cheap beans, regardless of market, environmental or political forces. There have been several times that frosts in Brazil resulted in an increase in bean prices — which then spurred congressional hearings to discuss the cause of the prices and find a way to resolve it! Communism was listed quite often as a cause during much of the cold war, and in 1962 there was an international coffee price agreement that was in affect until 1989, when the cold war ended. It was in our best interests politically to support the large coffee growing regions of the world, lest they fall pray to the evils of communist ideals! :)
  • There has always been and always will be a boom/bust cycle in coffee agriculture, due in part to the economic drivers of coffee growing regions as well as the basic growing cycle of the bushes themselves. They take a few years to produce quality cherries, so a time investment can be lost if too many are grown or not enough, etc. Around 2001, there was a huge bust due largely to an overproduction of robusta coming out of Vietnam, which was being grown to the detriment of the native highland peoples there that were being systematically and forcefully removed and persecuted in order to make room for coffee plantations. This is something that hasn’t been talked about much that we’re going to look into more.
  • Haiti was the site of the first and only successful national slave revolt, which included the burning down of coffee plantations and tons of the native trees. There are some theories that posit that the heavily denuded nature of Haiti and the removal of the colonial structures could play a part in the fact that hurricanes ravage it so often and it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere to this day. Another interesting topic for further research.
  • Because carbon dioxide is produced during the roasting process, coffee has to be a bit stale to begin with if it’s going to be packaged for export; this makes it not an easily manageable product for mass production, because the packaging can explode if the coffee wasn’t allowed to sit long enough. With the invention of the one-way release valve that is seen on many high end coffee bean bags these days, however, the coffee can be packaged more freshly and this could mean that roasting could take place in the growing country instead of after it’s exported to the consuming country. This could mean that there is room for future economic benefit in the growing countries, who could start roasting the coffee as well and then ship it out in bags with release valves.

Next week’s lecture is on direct trade and we’ll provide a similar synopsis of our thoughts here then. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or comments on what we shared here.

Brew Tip: Some Like it Hot

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Temperature, temperature, temperature. For truly great espresso, there is a fine balance between too hot and not hot enough — and maintaining the temperature from portafilter to lips is very important. Oh yes, yes it is.

The first step is to let your machine warm up all the way; often, folks think that as soon as the light goes out (generally around 1 – 2 minutes after turning it on), the machine is ready to rock. Not so! In fact, all that means is that the machine has reached ideal boiler temperature, but all of the other parts of the machine have not, so if you pull espresso right at that time, the water is going to cool significantly as it travels through colder apparatus to reach your cup. Depending on your machine, we recommend waiting anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes to allow your machine to reach an even heat.

Next step is to pull some water through the system to warm up the brew head, the portafilter and — if it’s a heat exchange — the copper tubing that pulls water from the reservoir to the brew group. Let it run through and fully warm up all the metal components.

Finally, make sure you’re pulling into a preheated cup; you can easily preheat by using the cup as the container to catch the water you just pulled through the brew group, or you can keep your cups on top of your espresso machine and let them toast as your machine warms up.

Do you have any tips on how you maintain ideal temperature for your espresso extractions? Drop us a comment here if there’s something we didn’t cover that you think is essential.