Seattle Trip

November 14th, 2009

It began Monday, November 9, 2009

Since Ryan would not be off work until noon, I started the trip with a jump up to Coffeehouse 5. I took several batches of beans with the hope of a quick cupping with Sam. Luckily Sam was there and we had the chance to run though the beans. Then, I met up with Ryan and we took off to Seattle just after lunch.

Reaching the city a little after 5pm we checked into the hotel and went out for dinner. At the recommendation of our hotel we went to the Tap House with 160 beers on tap. Each with our own sample we got pretty tipsy. Our beers were mostly 9% or 10% alcohol, man they hit hard. Then it was off to Wild Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant. It was very tasty but not worth the prices. After sobering up we headed over to see Clay and Fey, two of Ryan’s college friends.

Here’s what we did on Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hurkimer – We visited their shop in the university district. Cool little shop, far enough from the campus that it was not too busy. We met Anne there, who turned out to be a long time friend of my brother’s boss at Panther Creek winery. Small world. The shots she pulled were delicious, sweet and acidic. While there we also met Scott Richardson, the roaster for Herkimer. After a long chat about roasting we were invited over to see him roast and check out their operation, an opportunity we would not regret.

Trabant – Here I was finally able to taste coffee from the fabled Clover machine. It was from 49th Parallel, and I must say, I was not impressed. It was smooth and clean like coffee from a paper filter but with a bit more flavor. I am glad to have tried it, but “meh.”

Zoka – Their Green Lake café is filled with fantastically dark and heavy wood. It borders on oppressive but is none the less warm and cozy. My shot here was not all too impressive, but was good. Chatting with the baristas we caught wind of daily cuppings at their offices. After a quick call to warm them of our visit, we were set for a 9am cupping.

Boom Noodle – Cool Asian fusion type restaurant, better pricing than Wild Ginger, though we did order off their happy hour menu. We went here with several of my brother’s college friends, had some beers and food, was a fun time.

Cupcake Royale – A hip little cupcake shop with tasty $2 cupcakes. We grabbed the huge “party” table in the back.

Café Vita – A little worn out on coffee, my brother and I swung by their shop on Pike. Neat shop, dark woods, windows back to their roaster. We had tea and played chess.

Chris – After Vita we went to stay with our cousin Chris for the night, drank a bunch of wine and caught up.

Then on Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Café Vita – We got back into town earlier than we had planned, so went up to Vita’s shop in Ballard. This time I took the chance to try their espresso, it was spicy.

Zoka – Starting out a little awkwardly, this was a great learning experience. We ran through a cupping with Zoka’s three roasters, a store manager, and a couple baristas. Once things got going and people got more chatty, it was a fun time. Afterward we hung around and chatted for a while about the business side of coffee roasting. While there, Jeff Babcock the owner of Zoka happened by, giving us the opportunity to hear first hand his feelings on the business. As with all roasters I have met, they are of course better than everyone else but advocate trying as much as you can.

Hurkimer – After Zoka, we made a trip up to Herkimer’s café in Ballard where they also do their roasting. Here we met up with Scott and hung out while he roasted, chatting with him and Nathan (I think?) about all things coffee and roasting. They were a wealth of knowledge. After some roasting, we gathered around for a cupping and spro. Talking with them about each coffee and their intended flavor profile taught us both a lot. After the cupping we grabbed from spro, 17sec shots, some of the sweetest I have tasted. Syrupy and sweet like candy.

Paseo – Scott had recommended a sandwich shop down the street from their café, with the best pulled pork in the city. So we had to check it out before hitting the road. Paseo, with a line 20 deep, and accepting only cash, the wait was worth it. With a deliciously spicy Jamaican style pork sandwich for each of us, we chowed down then hit the road.

Filling the jar

November 7th, 2009

So, I’ve been roasting now for a few weeks. I have been through at least 5lbs of beans, roasting batches of up to a quarter pound. I began with a few 1 pound bags from SweetMarias.com, each a different bean, and then purchased 10lbs of a Guatemalan Huehuetenango from a local micro roaster. I am 3 or 4 pounds into that 10 and have been working on dialing in a good roast. The next step will be to roast the second 5lbs as consistently as I can. If all goes well I will then try to get more of this bean and increase my batch size up to a full pound. I am not sure if my whirly pop roasting methods can support such large batches, but we will see. It will surely require modification to my temps, timing, and methods.

Already, I have a few potential customers, and am super excited for the day when I sell my first roast and turn professional. Going from burning batch #1 to selling coffee within 60 days is the goal. To help track my progress I have begun a “bean counter.” It is a jar which receives one bean from every roast I do, it can probably hold up to a half pound, if not a little more. That is how I will track my progress, it started with a single swollen, blackened, bean and will fill with brown goodliness. While it will be tempting to make a cup from all those beans when it fills, I think it will remain a trophy and testament.

Sorry, no new roasting pictures at the moment, but I am planning a trip up to Seattle for this coming Mon-Wed. You may think there is an event or reason for the trip, but you would be wrong. This is a frivolous trip just because I want a break. So, it is becoming a coffee safari, with a list of shops and roasters to visit and taste. We shall see how it goes, if nothing else it will be fun.

Stumptown’s Producer Panel

October 10th, 2009

Thursday, October 8 – Leftbank Project

Stumptown had flown in several coffee growers and exporters for an open panel discussion. The panel consisted of 2 Kenyans, 3 Columbians, and 2 Costa Ricans.

There was an exporter and co-op manager from Kenya, they grew the Gaturiri which Stumptown has been selling. Due to the economic conditions there they can only afford the most traditional methods of processing coffees. The parchment is removed by fermentation; the whole processing method is fairly “natural” using little water. Due to the risk of coffee berry disease they cannot afford to produce any organic coffees. They must also be careful of their use of shade trees because an overabundance increases the risk of the disease affecting their crop. Kenya is also working its way out of a commodity market for coffee and into one which allows differentiation between farms and beans. This allows the growers to be paid more for better quality, as opposed to simply by weight.

The growers and exporter from Columbia are in a similar place as the Kenyans as in they are working towards a market which recognizes and pays for quality coffees. In Columbia they have access to more technologically advanced processing methods, using more water to more quickly remove the fruit and parchment. Because of the higher humidity in the region, and greater use of water, the protein for citric acids can more readily form. The harvest will take place while they are still receiving rains. This means their drying beds need to be covered and have increased air circulation to allow the beans to dry. In order to achieve increases in quality, Stumptown and companies like Viramax (sp?) are on a mission to educate farmers. Once they know the good verse the bad, they are able to recognize if they are being paid appropriately for their crops.

The Costa Rican exporter and grower seemed to have the best access to “high-tech” processing equipment, using only 1000 liters of water to process over 2000 kilo of beans per day. The laws there require they use no more than 1000 liters per 100 kilo, which they come nowhere near. Similar in climate to the Columbians, the terrain of Costa Rica is much more forgiving. In Columbia, because of the limited space the drying beds are stacked where in Costa Rica they are one layer. Because of the humidity though, the beans are stirred and stirred while drying to prevent any fermentation simply from the moisture in the air.

The methods used to encourage farmers to only pick the cherries in their prime or ripeness each region has their own methods. Kenya will pay differing amounts for ripe verses unripe cherries, requiring the farmers to sort the two themselves. This is a huge inconvenience for the farmers and means they are paid less, encouraging them to be more selective and only bring the perfectly ripe fruit to the mill. In Costa Rica and Columbia family run farms do help with this problem to start with, but some will pay pickers by the day as opposed to volume picked. Essentially saying “Take your time and a smaller quantity of the high quality fruit rather than a lot of the mediocre”

Other issues raised were the drought in Kenya, and Ethiopia’s conversion to a commodity market. The Kenyans don’t believe they will be hit hard by the drought, as thanks to Stumptown they have already doubled their production and expect it to double again. There was not much to say about Ethiopia except that we all must wait and see what affects it has.

One over-arching theme heard again and again from all on the panel was education. Educating everyone through the whole chain will only lead to better quality, conditions, everything. Teach the farmer how to tell that their coffee is good/bad and what to do to improve it. Teach the millers and exporters that it is worth paying up for quality as it leads to more loyalty among their growers and clients. Teach the consumer to recognize and appreciate the quality so they will be willing to pay the increased prices necessary to “pass the buck” all the way down the chain.

It will require global changes to really alter the way the industry works. Personally, I think it deserves as much respect as wine and could easily go the same direction. Who knows, within a few years people could be clamoring to go on trips through Columbia or Kenya stopping at a dozen farms and visiting their posh cupping labs. They will buy memberships for exclusive early access to beans which they will put in their living-room “coffee coolers.” There is a lot of potential here; people just need to realize it.

Coffeehouse 5

September 12th, 2009

Coffeehouse 5 lies on the corner of N Albina and Killingsworth, near Jefferson High and PCC Cascade. Furnished with dark woods, a well trod wood floor, chalkboard menus, and (currently) paintings of dogs. As mentioned in my little tidbit a few weeks ago, the coffee is fantastic! They carry Nuvrei pastries too, so you know they care about quality. My second visit included another machiatto, it again was quite delicious. Sweet with a hint of fruit (I forget what beans were used).

The neighborhood is not like the trendy Pearl, or even hipster 23rd. It shares much more in common with Belmont and Hawthorne. A family friend recently had her wedding at the park just a few blocks from Coffeehouse 5, it was gorgeous. The Acadian ballroom is near by and where the reception was held, it’s a great area though it does pretty clearly is missing that those higher tax bracket citizens.

Plus, I just learned they do occasional cuppings, so I’ll need to hang around for that.  Anyway, if you like the feel of places like Fresh Pot, Stumptown, or Vivace, you’ll like Coffeehouse 5. Check it out.

Coffeehouse 5

August 29th, 2009

Mmmmm, delicious macchiatto and people that really know what they’re talking about. The coffee comes with the specs (time, temp, and grams).

Rocking Frog Cafe

July 25th, 2009

The Rocking Frog Cafe

In a renovated house on the corner of Belmont and 25th a frog sits in a rocking chair, sipping a cup of coffee. Not really, but that’s is the image on the shop’s sign. Inside this house has been turn into a café, similarly to Vivace, but in this case I almost feel it was done better. The bookshelves are packed with books, knick-knacks, or items for purchase. The dining room looks out into the street. The backyard was even preserved and turned into a wonderful patio. But of course there’s the coffee. On my visit I had a double macchiato. The shots seemed decent, but there was simply too much milk, it was like a mini-latte. Using Ristretto Roasters, for the non-snob coffee drinker it would be fantastic.

Being in a renovated old house, they have a kitchen, which means they serve food. Their menu includes breakfast and lunch items such as:

Waffles, pancakes such as the Elvis with peanut butter and banana

B.L.A.T. – Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato sandwhich

Pink Mohawk – Cucumber, avocado, tomato, lettuce, red onion, and cream cheese

BBQ pulled pork paniniThe bar @ Rocking Frog

Soups and salads

Build your own bagel

And more!

They even have their own donut shop in the back-yard! Donuts are $1 each (or $5 for 6) and made on demand. They are only served on Saturdays and Sundays and in my opinion were quite good (I had the cinnamon and sugar).

So that’s the Rock Frog Café. They’re good, they’re not Barista or Coffee House NW, but has much more character. I would visit again, if for nothing else but to try their food as it did sound good.

An Oldie But A Goodie

June 12th, 2009

A while back I had posted that I would play Theme Hospital, and I have been. It has brought back all sorts of memories from the good ol’ days. Working my way up form a simple clinic, I now manage hospitals with 5 or 6 buildings! Though, oddly they all seem to be only single story. And when a machine breaks down, it blows up, making the whole room unusable! If an epidemic breaks out, you just find the sick people and spray’em down with a vaccine. Only if the swine flu were so easy to deal with. Rats running rampant, VIPs strolling through for a visit, and radiators galore!

When it was new, this game was a top of the line simulation/strategy game. These days, it’s simple fun. Jokes and silliness are spread liberally across the game, yet you still have to be sure you are making money. If you see a copy of Theme Hospital laying around somewhere, pick it up and give it a try!

Another Stumptown Coffee

June 8th, 2009

I am getting close to finishing a bag of Columbia El Jordan. It was recommended to me as a very good French-press coffee. It is definitely a good coffee, very low on the acid, a mild flavor that lingers for a while. But I have had a troublesome time getting the brew right. Adjusting the temperature of the water, the steeping time, and the ground size, I have yet to get a cup that is just right. It is always a little sour or bitter or did not have full extraction.

Despite my troubles, it is a great morning coffee in my book. The low acidity makes it easy on the stomach, so is good if you have not eaten much. If you don’t care what I have to say about it, here is what they say it tastes like:

“Warm aromatics of nutmeg and cinnamon segue into mouth-watering flavors of satsuma orange and ripe blackberry which finish with notes of honey and brown sugar.”

Next I’ll be on to the Sumatra Gayo Mountain, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Missoula Montana – Cafe Dolce, Catalyst, La Petit

May 25th, 2009

Cafe Dolce

This May, my family and I, all went to Missoula Montana for my little brother’s college graduation. After hearing about all the cool coffee shops and bakeries around the town I couldn’t wait for the grand tour. He took me to Cafe Dolce, The Catalyst, and La Petit Outre.

Cafe Dolce Coffee

First up, Café Dolce. The building, specially built for the café has 2-story ceilings covered in French country designs, lots of blue/yellow. You can get an idea from the picture of my latte and palmier. The latte was decent, I’ve had much better. I’m not sure they even attempted a rosetta, it’s just sort of a blob. I was surprised to see a bag of Café Umbria beans beneath the counter. The pastries were great, they were from La Petit which I’ll cover later. They have a great patio area out back too, feels very European. On a side note, we found out a while ago, my favorite barista at Barista here in Portland use to work there. She probably had served my brother a number of times. Anyway, for where and what it is, it is a fantastic café. If I lived in Missoula I’d visit often.

The CatalystSecond, we visited The Catalyst. My brother’s landlord in Missoula also owns this shop. Similar to Café Dolce it has a modern feel. The Catalyst has some fantastic soups and sandwiches. It is definitely more of a local café, as opposed to a “coffee shop.” There is local artists’ work around the walls, and big glass windows view onto one of the city’s downtown streets. It has a great atmosphere.

Both of these reminded me of Sydney’s here in Portland. That more modern, clean, feeling with decent coffee but great food.

La Petite Outre is a local bakery in Missoula with fantastic breads and pastries. My brother would regularly stop for baguettes while biking home. I was able to try one of their baguettes, it was fantastic. They are larger than most I have had, but it was delicious. Trying a shot of their coffee wasn’t anything to brag about, but they are a bakery. Lots of great looking breads, delivering all over Missoula. If I was living in the area I’d make regular stops for bread.

So that’s some of the shops around Missoula. They don’t have quite the hipster scene like we do here in Portland, but they have great people trying to make great food and drinks and I would say for the most part they’re succeeding. If you’re visiting the city and are curious, here are the addresses for each shop.

Café Dolce

500 Brooks St, Missoula, MT 59801

The Catalyst

111 N Higgins Ave, Missoula, MT 59802
Get Directions

La Petit Outre

129 S 4th St W, Missoula MT 59801

Busy busy busy

May 15th, 2009

Man I’ve been busy lately and not updating.  With moving, work, being sick, lots of non-coffee stuff going on…  I’m way behind on my coffee shop reviews…  In more important news, I’m in Montana for my little brother’s college graduation.  And in even bigger news, he just got engaged!!

He showed me around to his favorite caffee shops here in Missoula, so I’ll write up and post about those soon.  Assuming I can find the time.