Category Archives: Current Affairs

SCG Classes and Events

Rachel makes mochas for the ladies of Visit Bellevue at one of our SCG classes and events.It’s two weeks into the new year and we’re off to a good start. We’ve recovered from the holidays and are gearing up for the rest of the year (which includes setting up new SCG classes and events). Although the winter months are a busy time for us, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fun too! Some of us got to travel to warmer (and in some cases, colder) climes, while others stayed in town and enjoyed the generally mild weather.

One of the exciting things that those of us who stayed in town got to do was host an event for the lovely ladies on Visit Bellevue Washington’s sales and marketing team. The team got in touch with us because they thought it would be fun to learn how to make a drink or two (and make sure they were fully caffeinated) before heading off to their holiday party. So Rachel fired up our Nuova Simonelli Musica, which happens to be the same type of espresso machine that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson owns, and showed them how to make peppermint mochas. Afterwards, we enjoyed chatting with the gals for a bit as they explored our store and bought a few goodies for their friends and family.

Of course it wouldn’t be a new year without resolutions – and one of ours is to provide you with more fun classes! This coming year we have a slew of events lined up, including classes on how to make a variety of coffee preps, coffee and tea tastings, maintenance classes (so you can keep all your gear in tip-top shape) and visits from some of our roasters and equipment vendors.

We are excited to get our classes going again, and will be resuming them this month at our Bellevue store. To kick things off we will be hosting two educational/tasting events where you can learn everything there is to know about the featured product and sample it as well!

Blooming Tea Tasting

Saturday, January 18th, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

You may have seen these display teas at parties or heard your friends talk about them. If not, now’s the time to learn! Blooming teas allow you to enjoy both tasty tea and a show, as these hand-sewn balls of tea transform into beautiful flowers when placed in hot water. Best of all, if you are one of the first few guests at the event, you will get a free tea ball to take home that you can use to impress your friends and family.

How to Make Excellent French Press Coffee

Saturday, January 25th, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

We’ll be brewing delicious French press coffee at the top of every hour for this event, and discussing everything you need to know about making perfect French press coffee. From what type of grind to use, to how long to let your coffee steep, we have you covered!

If you are in the area or plan on visiting soon, make sure to keep an eye on our calendar for more classes in the months to come. We would also love to hear your feedback on our classes. Is there something you want to learn about that we haven’t covered? Or a class you’d like to see featured again? Let us know and we’ll do our best to make it happen!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Happy New Year Boozy Shakes!

Happy New Year 2014!In preparation for tonight’s festivities, here’s a special episode of Brewin’ with Brandi — Happy New Year Edition!

Many of you will be rockin’ the bubbly when the clock hits midnight, but there’s plenty of time to get in some yummy drinks beforehand. For example: Breakfast. If you had a little pre-funk last night and need a good way to alleviate the boozy shakes, or are looking to set yourself up for a remedy tomorrow morning, then this boozy shake is just for you. With coffee, liquor, liqueur and chocolate ice cream, it’s certain to be a party favorite.

Watch Brandi whip up a batch for us to enjoy.

Recipe: Boozy Shake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Irish whiskey
  • 2 cups chocolate ice cream
  • 1/2 cup chilled coffee
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 cup of ice (more or less)

Directions

Place all of the ingredients (or half or the ingredients) into the blender and turn it on high speed. If you have a ‘pulse’ feature you can use it to hear if your ice cream/ice cubes are well blended. Serve up to yourself and three of your favorite people.

Happy New Year!

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Queen Mary Tea Room Review

After having our first snow last week and with the holiday spirit in the air, you can’t help but want to pop in a cozy tea room and warm up with a cup of cheer (aka tea).  With its sophisticated decor, the charming English-style Queen Mary Tea Room, owned by “Queen” Mary Greengo, makes for the perfect locale. I recently stopped by the University District-area store and, in an effort to slowly convert the rest of the crew into tea lovers, brought Kaylie along for the ride.Holiday Harvest Tea

Upon entering the Queen Mary Tea Room, we were seated next to the home of Princess, the tea room’s resident dove, who enjoys watching guests from her perch (I later found out her counterpart, Earl, a five-year-old pied dove, makes his home at the Queen Mary Tea Emporium down the street). I was curious to learn more about these feathered friends, so I asked Queen Mary’s Brand Ambassador, Michael Zaborowski, to tell me about their story. According to Michael, “Mary has always been a great lover of birds. She even has a Macaw and a Lovebird at home! They add to the elegance of the environment here, just as anywhere.” Both doves used to live at the tea room, but when Mary opened the Tea Emporium three years ago Earl was relocated there so he can greet guests with a coo as they enter the store.

Our table was decorated for the season, with miniature Christmas trees, a bowl of sparkling green, red and white sugar and beautiful floral bone china. After pouring over the menu of over 80 different teas from all over the world, Kaylie and I decided to select one of the special holiday teas. With six teas to choose from, we had a hard decision to make. However, in the end we decided upon Holiday Harvest, a flavored black tea described on the menu as being “infused with orange slices, cardamom pods, pink peppercorn, clove, cinnamon, coriander and apple pieces.” According to our server, this tea is a perennial favorite, so while the other holiday teas change every year, the Holiday Harvest is always featured.

The tea came in a pretty silver teapot and our server told us to steep the tea for three to four minutes.  So we flipped over the hourglass timer on our table and waited anxiously for the last grains of sand to trickle through the timer so we could try our tea.  The tea had a mild orange flavor, with a hint of spiciness and smelled like cloves, cinnamon and citrus. Kaylie described it best when she exclaimed, “This smells like Christmas! Like what Santa’s house at the North Pole would smell like.” We also got to sample the Roasted Chestnut tea (also flavored black tea), which had a very sweet smell (like a cinnamon roll) but a smoky, nutty taste.

Though the Holiday Harvest and Roasted Chestnut tea were very different, both of the teas were quite tasty. If you aren’t able to make to it Queen Mary Tea in time to try one of the limited-time Christmas teas, never fear, the shop does feature teas for different holidays as well. According to Michael, “Last February saw the ‘Romeo’s Raspberry Rose’ and March featured ‘Luck of the Irish Vanilla Cream’.”

sugar for teaAlthough I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Mary in person, I did get the opportunity to chat with her and Michael via email. Launched in 1988, Mary proudly admits that Queen Mary Tea Room is the oldest independently owned tea room in the United States.

Mary came up with the idea to create the tea room during one fateful lunch with friends. While all of Mary’s friends ordered coffee, she ordered tea, which Mary claims arrived “weak, watery and flavorless.” Thus, Mary adds, “The idea for the Queen Mary Tea Room was born. I want[ed] a place where guests fe[lt] warm and welcome to sit and enjoy the traditional tea experience with the best cup of tea they have ever had.”

While this incredible idea may have just been a passing fancy for some, Mary had the necessary skills to turn her dream into a reality. Prior to opening the tea room, Mary spent years as a banquet chef at a five-star hotel (she has a degree in culinary arts) and always had the desire to run her own business. Tea also comes naturally to Mary. A native of Seattle, which might as well be the coffee capitol of America, she has never had a cup of coffee in her life (neither had her mother and grandmother). But Mary’s background wasn’t the only sign the store was meant to be. Mary explains that she and her brother came up with the store name at the same time, on the same day. Mary says coming up with a layout for the store was equally painless, “The design just popped into my head and the vision came together in all of two minutes. I bought all of my kitchen equipment at auction and it all fit with only ¼ inch to spare.”

Whether you believe in things being kismet or not, one thing is for certain – Mary has created a unique and wonderful atmosphere. With tea and food designed to please everyone who enters, you certainly won’t find another tea room like Queen Mary (although Mary says customers keep requesting that she open another tea room elsewhere). Mary isn’t afraid to share her royal status either. If you ask, she or her staff will happily offer up tiaras for kids (and adults too!) to wear during birthday parties or other special occasions, allowing everyone a chance to be “queen” for the day.

A Coffee Cup Designed to Change the World

MiiR Logo

When we talk about water at SCG, we’re usually dishing about mineral content, filtration or how to remove pesky scale build-up. Although water makes up 98% of the coffee that’s our daily lifeblood, we often take it for granted. Did you know that almost one billion people across the world live without access to clean drinking water? Imagine three times the total US population struggling to find a safe water source — it’s a staggering statistic.

Inspired by his time in Liberia, Bryan Papé founded MiiR in 2009 with a simple idea: How to provide clean drinking water for one person for one year. Now this Seattle-based company uses their product design prowess to positively impact communities worldwide through their water bottle and travel tumbler sales. Using their one4one program, MiiR partner’s with One Day’s Wages to fund clean water projects around the world. One dollar from each water bottle and tumbler sale provides clean drinking water to someone in need for an entire year. One bottle, one dollar, one person for one year. It’s a simple and powerful commitment to clean water and community empowerment.

We are thrilled to partner with MiiR to bring you their newest product, a coffee cup designed to change the world. The MiiR Travel Tumbler is an insulated double-walled stainless steel tumbler, built to keep your piping hot pour over or chilled cold brew at an ideal temperature. For every tumbler sold, one dollar is donated to clean water projects around the world. One of our favorite features is that each tumbler comes with an impact bracelet that lets you track how your purchase affects local communities worldwide. Simply enter your unique code online, and MiiR will follow-up with you within 6-18 months with GPS coordinates and photos of the clean water projects to which your tumbler is linked. Transparency and tracking are one aspect that sets these products apart from other one-for-one business models out there, and we’re excited to see how our tumblers can make a difference.

Social enterprise, sustainability and streamlined design — we dig you MiiR!

 

 

Happy Labor Day!

Today in the US we celebrate all of our hard work by toasting the final days of summer with a cool beverage and a barbecue! We recommend incorporating java into that beverage and your barbecue marinade/sauce because, you know, everything tastes better with coffee.

Have a fun and safe holiday!

Keeping Women Healthy in Coffee Producing Communities

Sixteen years ago on a trip to Mexico with a good friend, Dan Cox, the president of  a U.S. Coffee company, discovered an ever growing problem in many coffee producing countries: Cervical cancer.

Visiting with good friend and retired OB/GYN Dr. Francis Fote, he explained to Cox how the rate of women dying in these countries is the highest in the world, but is also one of the most preventable cancers when it’s caught early.

‘In coffee growing communities most women don’t have access for screening and treatment,’ said Jane Dale, Grounds For Health Development Director. ‘When Dan learned this he said it was unacceptable and that they needed to do something about it.’

Taking action, Cox and Fote set out to raise cervical cancer awareness and improve screening by servicing pap smear clinics in Mexico. This began the work of Grounds for Health and today it has grown in a number of other coffee cooperatives in other countries.

From its inception as a small service provider, Grounds for Health has now become a training organization to reach more women. Educating communities in the Single Visit Approach, it ‘has proven to be the most effective way to screen for and treat cervical cancer in low-resource environment,’ states GroundsforHealth.org.

The organization has also expanded from Mexico and is now running programs in Tanzania and Nicaragua, training their doctors, mid-wives, nurses and health providers on cervical cancer services and prevention.

‘In a low-tech technique, it’s a technique that is basically as simple as washing the cervix with household vinegar, waiting for three minutes and, if there are abnormal cells, you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye,’ said Dale. ‘Training is important because that’s where sustainability lies.’

Dale explains that women who have accessibility to screening and treatment at least once in their lives have a 30 percent less chance of dying from cancer.

Since 1996, Grounds for Health has screened over 16,000 women. Sharing the work of Grounds for Health with the coffee industry, Cox has created an organization that has been supported by almost 200 coffee companies since 1996.

‘We’re all about empowering these communities, giving them the skills and confidence to provide their communities forever,’ Dale said. ‘We still do screen and treatment but it’s all part of training now. The program has definitely evolved since it started. All the private funding from companies has made it possible for us to be responsive and nimble in changing and modifying the programs as conditions dictate in these areas.’

To learn more about Grounds for Health and to find out how to visit this organization’s mission, please visit www.groundsforhealth.org.

Health Watch: Coffee May Contribute to a Longer Life

And a happier one, too! If you need more scientific data to support your java love, read on.

Studies have shown that men and women who are drinking six or more cups of coffee a day have a 10 (for men) and 15 (for women) percent lower risk of dying at an earlier age.

Historically, doctors have noted a correlation between caffeine and an increase in bad cholesterol, high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease; however, a recent study has revealed an interesting pattern: Drinking coffee may extend the overall lifespan in already healthy individuals.

A study held from 1995 to 2008 involving the National Institutes of Health and AARP members between the ages of 50 to 71 from all over the US has given researchers a better look at the possible health benefits of coffee. They made sure to exclude people who already had heart disease, a stroke or cancer or had too many or too few calories a day.

‘By 2008 about 52,000 had died. Compared to those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age. For women, it was 13 percent,’ revealed the study.

Since previous studies have suggested that coffee may have a part in heart disease, this study inspired Neal Freedman, nutritional epidemiology researcher at the National Cancer Institute, to consider another contributing factor. He noted that many who were at higher risk of death were coffee drinkers and tobacco smokers, too. ‘It was only after we took into account people’s smoking that the association, the inverse association, revealed itself,’ he said. ‘Smoking has a really strong association with death.’

In the end, Freedman’s study showed that those with healthy habits who drink six or more cups of  caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee did cut the risk of dying but not to the extreme. Freedman couldn’t calculate the exact amount of extra life each cup can give you. However, he admits coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents and infections. No effect was seen on cancer death risk, though.

So we’ll admit that we’ll grab that extra cup of java to increase the longevity of our lives, even if it’s only by a few percentage points, but a word of advice: More coffee does not mean you should pack on the sugar and cream.

As Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health advises, ‘Watch the sugar and cream. Extra calories and fat could negate any benefits from coffee.’

All That (Caffeine) — and a Bag of Chips!

When you think of energy boosting drinks and food, thoughts of Red Bull, Rockstar and even your average shot of espresso come to mind, right?

But wait, did you ever think a bag of potato chips could give you the same amount of energy?

Arma Energy Snx and NRG have done the what many may consider to be the unthinkable: Created a crunchy + salty + caffeinated snack with a dash of taurine (an ingredient often found in energy drinks) to boost our mood.

Given that we often associate potato chips with being a couch potato, a high energy version definitely borders on ironic. But Arma claims that each 2-ounce bag comes with about 70 milligrams of caffeine while NRG says that every 3.5-ounce bag is ‘equivalent to 3 and a half cups of coffee, 350 mg of caffeine.’

However, with each bag also comes 290 calories. Compare that to an energy drink that has 80 mg of caffeine and 110 calories and a shot of espresso with only 5 calories and 75 mg of caffeine.