Crew Review: Jura Impressa F8

Jura Impressa F8Jura has been busy designing a lot of new machines, and this latest model is sure to impress all of your friends! The Jura Impressa F8 contains a mix of some of the best features from the brand’s new and older machines. However, in our opinion the nicest part about this machine is its software and all of the programmability it has.

One of our favorite settings on the Impressa F8 is the “Expert Mode,” which allows you to be the authority and change the settings (shot volume, shot strength, shot temperature and amount of milk used) for all the drinks that are programmed on the machine. Likewise, the F8 gives you the option of changing the volume of your shot once the machine starts to brew, allowing you to customize and play around with your drinks on the fly. Finally, the machine also has a counter so you can keep track of how many shot you’ve pulled and how many drinks you’ve made, and use that to help calculate when your machine is due for a cleaning.

Speaking of cleaning, while Jura doesn’t provide you with access to the brew unit, which is the case on all of their superautos, they do provide you with some pretty efficient automated cleaning tools. These tools can be found and accessed in the maintenance section of the machine’s programming. For instance, you can program the Jura Impressa F8 rinse both your coffee and milk system to ensure your machine doesn’t get gunked up with coffee residue or old milk.

The Jura Impressa F8 is ideal for someone with a lot of users in their home, such as roommates or large family, that enjoy making a variety of coffee drinks. While we wish Jura had incorporated a little more stainless steel into the casing of the machine, we like that it has features like a bypass doser and digital screen as well as a ton of functionality. Watch as Brendan and Gail play around with the settings for making a cappuccino on the Impressa F8, and attempt Gail’s famous superauto latte art.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F8

Mystery Taste Test: Cappuccino Chips

CappuccinoBy now you’ve probably heard of the Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest. If you haven’t, this annual contest hosted by Lay’s allows people to submit their ideas for new potato chip flavors in to the company. The brand then selects three to four “flavor finalists” to actually produce so that the public can sample them and vote on an ultimate winner. Last year’s contest conjured up inventive flavors like Chicken & Waffles, Sriracha and Cheesy Garlic Bread (which ended up being declared the winner). This year, contestants have gotten even more creative in developing flavor finalists, which are Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Mango Salsa, Wasabi Ginger and Cappuccino chips.

Being the coffee lovers that we are, we were both surprised and interested to hear that a cappuccino chip was being created. After all it combined two of our favorite things, a cappuccino and potato chips. However, we were a little uncertain how these two flavors would mix, as they are both pretty distinctive. As such, we decided we no choice but to put these cappuccino chips to the test and taste them ourselves. However, we wanted this test to be as scientific as possible and wanted people to taste these chips without developing any preconceived notions about their flavor. Therefore, we decided to invite several of our crew members to blind tasting, so we could find out what they truly thought of the chips.

“What were the results of the experiment?” you may ask.  What did the chips taste like? Are they sweet, salty or somewhere in between? More importantly, do they actually taste like a cappuccino or even coffee? You’ll just have to watch the video of our crew chowing down on these cappuccino chips to find out. Likewise, if you have gotten to try the chips out yourself, we would love to hear what you think! Please leave a comment and share your review.

Mystery Taste Test: Cappuccino Chips

Meet the Roaster: Zoka Coffee Roasters

Zoka Coffee RoastersFounded in 1997, Zoka Coffee Roasters began with a small roaster in their now flagship café in the Tangletown neighborhood near Greenlake. Owner Jeff Babcock started Zoka because he wanted to create company whose purpose wasn’t about becoming a giant corporation, but whose goal was to create incredibly quality-oriented coffee. Jeff says, “We really wanted to focus on the quality of the coffee – because I knew it existed and I wanted to get there. I wanted to make a spectacular cup of coffee and I also wanted to make a great latte.” Jeff adds:

Just about every coffee company in the world says ‘we have the best coffee in the world’ but there is a lot to that, and if you really do have spectacular coffee, you have to go to the farm, you have to find it, you have to really know how to roast it right after you have found it, and then your presentation in your store as to prepare it right, and your baristas have to be very quality oriented and very customer friendly. So having all of those elements correct is the journey. And I guess you never quite get there, but we’re getting a lot closer.

In addition to continuing to learn about coffee, part of this journey has been becoming heavily involved in both the local and coffee community. In 2003 Jeff was invited to judge his first Alliance for Coffee Excellence Cup of Excellence (COE) competition, and has continued to judge them ever since. Likewise, Zoka consistently turns out fabulous baristas, and several of them have won barista championships. Finally, as Jeff mentioned previously, being on the ground and getting to know the people who grow, harvest and perfect the coffee Zoka roasts is a very important aspect to creating a spectacular cup of coffee. As such, Jeff makes frequent trips to origin to connect with coffee farmer around the world.

These reasons and more are why Zoka Coffee Roasters have become a much-adored favorite among coffee lovers over the years. In the last year Zoka was even named as one of America’s 15 Best Indie Coffee Shops by Fodor’s Travel, which is an impressive accomplishment. Here at SCG we’ve been fortune enough to work with Zoka quite a bit. Their talented crew members often stop by our stores for tastings and educational demos, so keep an eye on our calendar to make sure you catch the next one. We also were recently treated to tour of their roastery and got a chance to chat with their team. To learn more about Zoka Coffee Roasters and the wonderful small batch-roasted coffee they produce, check out our interview with Jeff Babcock himself.

Meet the Roaster: Zoka Coffee Roasters

Crew Review: Melitta Pour Over Stands

Stainless StandMelitta Pour Over StandsWant to ensure you stay on trend with your coffee making? Why not try pour over coffee? Manual coffee-making methods are becoming increasingly popular, you’ve probably seen them popping up in your favorite cafes and many coffee enthusiasts are using them at home as well. The nice thing about brewing with pour overs is that you have more control over the different variables (the grind, water temperature, length of the pour, etc.) that go into to making a cup of coffee so you can create your ideal cup of coffee. In addition, with a pour over, you can evenly extract your entire basket of coffee, which is big advantage. Oftentimes on drip machines the middle of your coffee will get extracted a lot more than the edges, which can impact the flavor. As result, pour over coffee is typically very smooth and highlights the unique flavor profile of the coffee brewed. Besides providing you with the control you need to create a quality cup of coffee pour overs are also a simple, lo-fi way to create a tasty cup of coffee. All you need is a cup, kettle, pour over and a filter of coffee to start brewing. Of course, if you are brewing on a pour over, it is also nice to have a stand! Devices like Melitta Pour Over Stands put the focus on the coffee brewing process and provide an extra helping hand by holding your pour over in place.

Just as there are a variety of styles and types of pour overs, there are also a couple of different Melitta Pour Over Stands to choose from. However, one of the benefits of these stands is that both types we carry come with a porcelain cone (or even two or three in some cases) as well as filters, so that at least that part of the selection process is taken care of for you. From there, you just have to decide if you would rather go with the Melitta Bamboo Stand, which is a single brewer that will allow you to brew like a “slow bar” professional at home. If you like to drink a lot of coffee, are worried about other coffee drinkers stealing your precious brew or are looking to get a third wave setup in your café, you might want to consider getting the Melitta Stainless Steel Pour Over Bar. These sleek pour over stations allow you to brew either two or three pour overs at once, so you can serve several eager coffee drinkers. Check out Gail and Brendan as they try out these Melitta Pour Over Stands and pick up a few brew tips along the way!

Crew Review: Melitta Pour Over Stands

Crew Review: Saeco Pure

Saeco PureWe are excited to announce a new addition to the Saeco family. Part of the Minuto class of the machines, the Saeco Pure is the second machine that is in this category that we know of, but the brand claims that they are going to add at least one machine to the family and possibly more.

The release of the Pure couldn’t happen at a better time as one of Saeco’s other beloved machines, the Vienna Plus, has recently been discontinued by the brand. However, the Pure is an excellent replacement. Like the Vienna Plus, the Pure’s simplicity and wallet-friendly price point make it a great option if you are just getting into the world of espresso. This machine is a great option even if you consider yourself an old pro when it comes to superautomatic machines, but just want just the basics and not all of the fancy and sometimes complicated settings that come with higher end superautos. Keeping on up your maintenance is also a breeze with the Saeco Pure. Just like the Vienna Plus, the Pure has a removable brew group, so you can pop it out of your machine whenever it is due for a cleaning. If you want to speed up the process, you can put the brew group in your dishwasher. We just recommend that you put it in the top rack of the dishwasher so it doesn’t melt.

While the Pure is part of the Minuto family, this model does have three major differences from the first Saeco Minuto. First, the Pure doesn’t have a coffee lever that allows you to brew drip like the Minuto does. However, there is a button to press that will brew a lungo (long espresso) so you can get something close to drip coffee. Second, you can’t adjust the strength of your shot (also known as the aroma). As such, you’re best option from regaining some control over your shot is to cut back on the amount of water that is going to be dispensed, which will make the coffee stronger. Third, the burrs inside the Pure aren’t ceramic like on the Minuto, but are stainless steel. Keep in mind these differences don’t make the Pure not as good of an option as the Minuto, just a different one. With the Pure, you are provided with some programmability with the bypass doser, the ability to program the length of your shot or the option to brew a double shot.

If you’re looking to add this machine to your family of appliances decorating your kitchen, check out Gail and Brendan’s demonstration of the Saeco Pure. They’ll go through the features, compare them with the machine’s almost twin, the Saeco Minuto and brew up Gail’s famous wet cappuccino. It’s so good; we’ll never get tired of it! If you listen carefully you can even pick up some pro-tips for milk frothing with a panarello from Gail.

Crew Review: Saeco Pure

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Savrika Tea Review

IMG_1795After a year of writing tea reviews, I have visited quite a few different tea shops and houses in the greater Seattle area. While none of the other tea shops I visited were bad, in fact all of them served great tea and food, it was apparent that the owners of some tea shops hadn’t invested the same amount of knowledge or time into learning about the products they sell. Or if they have, they haven’t quite figured out how to share that information with their customers. However, when I recently stumbled upon Savrika Tea in downtown Kirkland, I realized I had discovered something really special.

You can tell that the owner, Rupa D. Gadre, is passionate about tea. This love for tea is evident from the second you step into Savrika Tea. This is not only because the numerous tea certifications she has earned, Rupa has been taking specialized courses since 2011 and officially became a Certified Tea Specialist in the Fall of 2013, but also due to the tea wall focal point and huge variety of tea with something to suit every taste.

IMG_1821Rupa’s entry to the tea world and entrepreneurship was somewhat unexpected. She originally worked as a Web Analyst for Cisco Systems, but took a hiatus from work to have children. As a mom, Rupa often visited the mall for her kid’s play dates and stopped at Teavana while there. Yet, while the store introduced her to a variety of wonderful loose leaf teas, she soon realized there were major drawbacks with the experience. One, there was no place to actually sit and enjoy the tea she purchased, so Rupa was forced to take the tea home and drink it by herself. Two, Rupa explains that she had a lot of questions about tea that the store staff couldn’t answer. Thus, disappointed in the lack of the social aspect and wanting people to be able to learn more about the tea they were drinking, Savrika Tea was born.

When it was clear that the store was going to be a reality, Rupa told me that she lucked into meeting an architect, who also happened to be an ex-Starbucks employee, through a fellow parent. Rupa explained that, while not a designer, she knew she wanted “a modern and clean look and feel.  That is evident also in the tea wall focal point, the furnishings I chose, the concrete design on the floor, and the bathrooms.” Rupa adds that “because I’m the one making the final decisions, there was no committee to restrict my colors or themes,” which was nice since it allowed her to make the space truly her own.

IMG_1818The appearance of the store definitely accomplishes Rupa’s goal. The shop is a modern oasis, with shiny granite tables and a cozy nook to one side of the space that is excellent for curling up with a good book. The clean lines of the shelving put the tea ware and tea that is sold on display. Aside from the giant wall of tea, my favorite part of the store was the tea sampling station that is set up in the center of the room.  Here, all 200 varieties of tea the shop sells are stored in small, color-coded tins (black tins for black teas, green tins for green teas and so on). Customers are able to open these tins in order to smell and examine the teas inside to find one or more that they would like to drink. There is a directory of all the teas that the store offers, which lists the ingredients and a description of each tea to help you get a better idea of what each one contains. If you still aren’t sure what tea you would like to try, Savrika’s knowledgeable staff can help you find a tea that is a good fit for you based on what flavors you enjoy. To ensure her staff remains knowledgeable about tea, Rupa says that, “after every training [I go to], I bring back my coursework and notes and educate my staff. That way they have more information at hand when speaking with customers.” In addition, Rupa states, “ I encourage my staff to try a new tea on each shift; that way they can give personal recommendations as well make their way through all 200 varieties.”

After exploring a number of the different teas on offer, I ended up deciding upon a black-green tea blend called “Roxie’s Passion” at the recommendation of a staff member. This blend includes black tea, green tea, papaya cubes, rosehip peel, flavoring and sunflower blossoms. Since it is summer, and has been hot out, I opted to have Roxie’s Passion brewed iced.  The tea arrived at my table in a to-go cup and was a pretty golden peach color. The flavor was even better. The tea tastes of a nice, smooth traditional black tea, except slightly lighter, perhaps because of the green tea that was also in the brew. There were fruity notes, such as peach and passion fruit, in the tea that made it even more delicious. In addition, the tea shop sells quite a few desserts and tea sandwiches, which can be hard to find nowadays. I didn’t sample any of these goodies myself, but they looked pretty tasty.

IMG_1812While Savrika Tea is Rupa’s first foray into selling tea on her own, it is not her first experience with tea. According to Rupa:

As far back as I can remember, tea was always around and part of my life.  When we had guests, my Mom would bring out the nicer teapots.  At parties, chai was always the last item served.  When we’d go on vacations, my parents would stop the car for afternoon tea time. It didn’t matter where we were, but the tea break came to be expected. It was the tradition that followed from India to their new country, from their parents’ houses to our home, and now to my home and business.

Since tea has long been a part of Rupa’s life, she decided she would combine another important aspect of her background, her Indian heritage, into the store. As such, “the base of the [store’s] name is ‘Sarika,’ which is a Sanskrit woman’s name meaning beauty in nature. I added the ‘v’ to make it Savrika – wholly mine and unique, but with an Indian base. “

IMG_1823Savrika Tea is rapidly approaching its second birthday; the store opened its doors in September of 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, when I visited, there were quite a few people in the shop sipping tea while reading or working on their computers. Besides selling tea, Rupa offers frequent tea tastings and classes so customers interested in learning more about tea have the opportunity to do so. It seems the abundance of knowledge Rupa provides her customers is likely what makes Savirka Tea so successful. Rupa said it best when she stated, “I have no agenda except to provide high-quality tea and perhaps educate customers along the way.”