Tag Archives: coffee news

A Return to Relevance?

Some of you may have been tracking the moves of Starbucks and its renovation of the 15th Ave store in Seattle to transform it into something a little more down to earth. The shop has been renamed 15th Ave Coffee & Tea and aesthetically revamped to look more like your neighborhood cafe and less like its cookie cutter brethren — they even have community spaces for performance, art and meetings. Oh, and a Pooch of the Month feature, which is just plain marketing savvy in a dog-crazy city like Seattle.

The lead on this project came into the store earlier this week to pick-up a few last minute items, and he was lamenting a bit that people were talking negatively about the store even before it opened. He felt it was being judged not on its individual merits, but on its lineage — everyone likes to complain about the big companies, whoever they may be and regardless of industry, so this is really no different. Starbucks is an easy target for many to rage against, and, let’s be honest here, their business practices have often given more than enough ammunition to their local competition.

But is there anything so wrong in an effort to rediscover the initial roots of a company and possibly expand on them in a new way? In a resetting economic environment, does the search for relevance in the marketplace have to be anything other than what is necessary for survival? It’s true, this shop was going to be closed down, until Cohen was offered the opportunity to do something different — and that difference maintained jobs in an increasingly virulent employment market. So, if anything, it’s worth exploring and keeping an open mind because, instead of leaving another open storefront, someone got creative and is trying to take things back to the drawing board a bit.

We’re definitely going to check it out. They’re opening up today and we wish them well!

Buena Beans: You Know, For Kids!

Social Entrepreneurship is the new Dot Com and you can find a great selection of new start-ups that are focused on balancing capital growth with giving back to whichever cause they happen to believe in. Enter Kate Schneider, founder of Buena Beans, a Massachusetts-based coffee importer and roaster with a business plan devised very specifically to help a cause close to her heart. Schneider spent a year teaching in the small town of La Violeta, Costa Rica, through Harvard’s World Teach program and decided that she wanted to give back to that area by assisting them with their primary agricultural export: Coffee.

The idea was inspired by the fact that thirteen families in the area were looking for distribution after they had a negative experience with a coffee cooperative. Schneider decided to get into the direct trade business and is now selling both green and roasted beans under the Buena Beans label. The company then donates 50% of the profits from each sale directly to the school in La Violeta, which serves about 40 children from the village. You can read more about the Buena Beans story in this excellent profile written about them for The Herald News, or you can contribute to her business by checking out the website.

Giro D’Italia Giotto Charitable Auction Status

We were able to secure one more limited edition Giro D’Italia Giotto, so we’ve auctioned three so far and now have three more to go!

This beautiful espresso machine is limited to only 100 total in production, and we’re the only folks to have imported them into the US! Get this gorgeous and functional collector’s item while also contributing to the wonderful cause Coffee Kids. The auctions are closing at around the price of the non-limited edition model, and all proceeds will be donated to the charity, so please help us raise some cash!

Watch Gail show us the unique features of these machines as they compare to the Giotto Premium Plus — the differences are aesthetic only and this machine functions exactly the same as the Giotto.

Independent Espresso: On Wheels and Wings

One thing that we really love about the world of coffee is its diverse economic lifecycle: It’s putting food on the table and roofs over the heads of millions of people, from its cultivation through its brewing. A rather rich and unique dimension of this portrait is that of the small espresso or coffee shop — and we found a couple of examples of really cool independent businesses that are worth checking out.

First up, Redeye Roasters in Hingham, MA. Based out of a brightly colored truck, Bob Weeks founded his java-on-wheels when he elected to change up careers and get out of the advertising business. In 2006, he started roasting his own beans out of his house and in the subsequent three years has grown to distributing them in specialty groceries around the Boston area. This excellent profile goes into detail on Redeye’s past and present.

Another great little operation we ran across is the Celtic-influenced White Horse Coffee and Tea Co. in Sutherlin, OR. Owner Kristin Lusk has been roasting and brewing coffee and teas to an exotic bird aviary backdrop for the last 11 years — and you can balance their Kilted Ladies of Hell blend with a cinnamon roll that measures 10 inches across! She’s been taking in “stray” exotic birds like cockatiels and parrots so often that her roost has expanded to nearly 100 birds.

If you live close to either of these businesses and have had the chance to sample their goods, let us know what you think!

Italian Art, Lavazza Style

We’ve got a couple of the gorgeous, artistic LavAzza posters hanging in the store, so when we ran across this synopsis of the Annie Liebovitz-photographed 2009 Lavazza calendar, we just had to pick one up.

Reinterpreting a selection of Italian artistic icons to incorporate the almost nearly iconic Lavazza espresso cup, these scenes are both breathtaking and surreal — and delicious artistic pieces in their own right.

Peruvian Coffee Co-Op Receives Environmental Stewardship Award

We’ve been talking a lot recently about the sustainable and environmentally-minded coffee cultivation in different parts of the world and here’s another dimension to add to that discussion: The Peruvian co-op CECOVASA recently received a national award for the positive impact their work has had on preserving and promoting biodiversity in the region.

CECOVASA is probably like many coffee co-ops around the world: A collection of small farmers who have banded together in order to take advantage of the economic opportunities of Fair Trade. But like so many labels, the real faces and people behind them can get lost in the shuffle, and we found this great article on a visit to the remote Andean farms that comprise CECOVASA incredibly informative.

This is another example of how choices we make in our daily lives — for example, purchasing coffee imported by Equal Exchange — can have a positive impact on both the ability of small indigenous farmers to put food on their table and to keep the ecological balance intact around them. These are market factors that can help define what kind of world we live in — not just in 50 years, but in even 2 years from now.

Stir It Up: Marley Coffee

Maybe your days of rocking knatty dreads are over, but you can give a little shout-out to your quasi-Rastafari roots by imbibing in Rohan Marley’s new papa-inspired coffee beans.

According to this interview in the Jamaica Observer, “My father came from farmland of Nine Miles,” Rohan recalls, “There, he learned a deep respect for nature and humanity – respect that helped guide his life and ours. He said he would return to the farm one day. That was his dream.”

Incorporating the Rastafari ideal of ITAL (pure, vital foods), Rohan and his business partner Shane Whittle work to partner with farms around the globe that are engaging in ecologically and socially sustainable cultivation practices — organic, shade-grown, ethically-treated workers and environmental balance are some of the attributes they look for when sourcing their beans. Their own beans, cultivated in the world-renowned coffee growing region of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, are similarly produced and they firmly believe that coffee grown in this manner just plain tastes better. From Rohan’s own experience, he draws on early memories of his grandmother hand-hulling and roasting wild coffee cherries for her daily cup of coffee and he seeks to embody this rich, handcrafted and smooth flavor in all of his coffees.

Marley Coffee has five different blends on offer, each name inspired by one of Bob Marley’s songs:

  • Simmer Down – Swiss water decaf
  • Lively Up! – 5 bean espresso blend
  • One Love – Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
  • Mystic Morning – Wake up coffee
  • Jammin Java – Bold full city roast

Jah mon!

Health Watch: Caffeine & Self-Control

A new study indicates that caffeine intake prevents risk taking behavior after extreme sleep deprivation. Now, who would commission a study like this? The US military, of course!

The research took 25 healthy volunteers, subjected them to three consecutive days of sleep deprivation (totaling 75 hours) and then gave them a double-blind test involving the regular intake of either 200mg caffeine gum or a placebo gum, bi-hourly between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The subjects then took part in a risk taking analysis test involving inflating balloons for money without causing them to burst. The results indicated that those who were taking caffeine throughout the experiment didn’t change their basic personal level of risk taking behavior, regardless of how long they were deprived of sleep. For those not on the caffeine regimen, however, had a significant increase in their impulsive and risky behavior.

While many of us don’t regularly stay up for three days straight if we can help it, there have been other studies that have recorded this kind of risk taking behavior increases even with sustained chronic sleep deprivation — for example, regularly getting just three hours of sleep per night. Further studies will be done to evaluate how caffeine impacts this type of deprivation.

So the next time you’re feeling in the mood to throw caution to the wind…knock back a shot of espresso and wait awhile. It may result in you keeping your pocketbook — and dignity — intact.

Giro D’Italia Giotto Auction Opens Today!

We are thrilled that today kicks off our series of five auctions of Giro D’Italia Giottos to benefit the non-profit organization Coffee Kids! This is such an awesome machine — we’re still waiting for them to arrive (they needed to engrave the name of 2009 winner Denis Menchov) and we can’t wait to get our grubby little paws on them.

These machines take all of the excellent performance and functionality of the Giotto Premium Plus and accent it with several specialized touches that make this limited edition stand apart — and since we’re the only US importer bringing these machines in stateside, these unique collector’s items are incredibly rare as well. But while your friends will be coveting the gorgeous stainless steel design or perhaps the Maglia Rosa-inspired pink manometer, the bragging rights will really be about all the money you donated to Coffee Kids, giving you a direct hand in helping to support tons of community projects for coffee growing families throughout Central America.

PSA: Starbucks Recalls 530,000 Barista Blade Grinders

We just ran across an announcement from Starbucks, indicating the recall of 530,000 Starbucks Barista and Seattle’s Best Coffee blade grinders. There have been several incidents of laceration when the grinders turned on unexpectedly while being cleaned.

If you or someone you know purchased one of the models listed in the announcement, contact Starbucks immediately for a replacement model. Or, maybe it’s time to upgrade? We’ve never heard of a burr grinder lacerating anyone. :)