Author Archives: Cafe Hound

Cafe Hounding + Data Science: Hounding DC

It looks like 10 out of 16 spots on this list still need to be visited/hounded. Much work to do!

 

Map of DC coffee shops previously hounded or on the short list to be hounded.

Map of DC coffee shops previously hounded or on the short list to be hounded.

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Consumer Habits: Coffee “To-Go” in Europe

22 October 2012: by Bob O’Brien
Global Senior Vice President at The NPD Group

I’m reading “Zero History” by William Gibson.  It is the last book of a trilogy that pretty much predicted YouTube and applications like Layar before there was any reasonable way for either to exist. And, yes, he gave us the term “cyberspace” in 1982.

This book is nominally about marketing…or maybe not, it’s hard to tell.  It was a little unsettling when he had the protagonist (Or maybe she’s not. Again, hard to tell.) stay in the same random Paris hotel where my wife and I mistakenly spent the first night of our honeymoon.  It was more unsettling when I read this:

“…she wondered exactly when coffee had gone walkabout in France.  When she’d first been here, drinking coffee hadn’t been a pedestrian activity.  One either sat to do it, in cafes or restaurants, or stood, at bars or on railway platforms, and drank from sturdy vessels, china or glass, themselves made in France.  Had Starbucks brought the takeaway cup? she wondered. She doubted it.  They hadn’t really had the time.  More likely McDonald’s.”

I love the term “gone walkabout.”  No offence to my fellow NPD bloggers but that little snippet is likely the best writing you’ll come across in this or any NPD blog.

For the past couple of years, I’ve included my own little riff on this in presentations I’ve done at conferences.

In 1997, when I was meeting with folks from our various European offices to brief them on CREST foodservice industry research and how we use it to help the industry make decisions, an Italian guy in the audience raised his hand and said “that chart is wrong”.  We were looking at a chart that showed how consumers in the US consumed coffee.  It showed the dayparts.  It showed the restaurant channels.  It also showed where consumers actually drank their coffee.  That part of the chart showed that about 40% (maybe more, I don’t remember exactly now) was consumed off-premises…on the go.

My colleague said that this couldn’t be correct.  ”Coffee is not for carrying!  Coffee is to be ordered from a bar and consumed at the bar or at a table, with someone.”  We discussed the issues and concluded that the chart was correct and that Americans were ridiculous, which I’ve found is a satisfactory conclusion to conversations for most people in the world.

Further to this conversation, I heard a presentation by a woman named Vanessa Kullman, the founder of Balzac Coffee in Hamburg.  She told the story of how, interviewing people walking by the front door of what was to be her first shop, they universally rejected the idea of buying coffee in a paper cup and taking it away.  She had to buy the cups and tops in the US and warehouse them in Germany because there was no European source.  At the time of her presentation she had over 50 shops.  Gutsy.

But:  in 2000, as the chart below shows, nobody bought coffee to go in the countries we track.  Today, a huge chunk of Northern European consumers buy coffee to go.  Coffee hasn’t just “gone walkabout” in France. It’s everywhere.  And, it’s not just a global brand that did it, Vanessa Kullman and other gutsy business people did it all over the place.

Cafe Hounding: Verve Coffee

Verve Coffee Roasters
816 41st Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Phone: (831) 475-7776

http://www.vervecoffeeroasters.com/

Awesome service, attention to coffee, and people.

Kris checked this place out when stopping through Santa Cruz while galavanting through California per usual.  The life of a professor… The atmosphere at Verve is relaxing in true Californian style.  Plenty of natural light and wood and metal decor reminiscent of Urban Outfitters in its layout.  The shop is located only a couple of blocks from the Pacific Ocean, which undoubtedly adds to the tranquil feel.

The beans are roasted next door in their own facility – it appears they also sell wholesale across the country. Check out their website to make sure. Verve is among the most raved about roasters in the continental US and their baristas are talented enough to consistently make a splash at the annual SCAA barista competitions.  Unfortunately for Kris, during his visit the top baristas were actually in Houston competing in the SCAA annual competition on the national stage.  The staff are super fun and friendly and the wifi is very, very free.

Two paws up for this place.  We look forward to continuing to sample their coffee throughout 2012!

– Cafe Hound

Cafe Hounding: Echo Coffee

Echo Coffee
2902 N 68th St, Ste 135
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Phone: (480) 422 4081

http://www.echocoffee.com
Groovy spot in Phoenix suburbs.

Kris visited this spot in December 2011 and noted that they roast coffee on site every other day in small batches.  Echo, owned by Steve Belt, opened in mid-2010 by the inspired graduate of Tempe, Arizona’s major university, Arizona State University.

Steve chatted briefly with Kris while roasting beans and briefly mentioned his origins from Portland, Oregon.  With a modern, high-ceiling, loft-like layout and a good selection of pastries – Echo is a good place to set up shop, use the free wifi, and get on with life over a delicious cup of Papua New Guinea, Cameroon, and Kenyan coffees sourced from a local importer who claims the beans are “carbon neutral.”

Make sure to check this place out if you’re stopping through!

– Cafe Hound

Bean Counting: Idido Natural Sun-dried – Counter Culture

Roaster: Counter Culture
Place of Purchase: Peregrine Espresso (14th St. NW Location)
Preferred Brew Method: Paper Filter Drip (pour over)
Excerpt From Counter Culture Describing Coffee:

Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Organic • Shade Grown
The community of Idido, just outside the town of Yirgacheffe, has once again produced the quintessential Ethiopian Natural Sundried coffee. One of the cleanest and most refined naturals we have tasted in years, Idido offers notes of strawberry, blueberry, and orange zest with a balanced, chocolate-like sweetness.

Cafe Hound Review:   Generally, Counter Culture got this one right. This coffee cups clean, though it has  enough of what I call, “berry funk” to entertain your palate. I cycled through several of the Counter Culture coffees this year, with the Central Americans admittedly disappointing after a VERY strong showing in 2009, and a decent showing in 2010. In 2010 my favorite growing region of the world ended up being Kenya, though the Cafe Hound annual blend at the end of 2009 included a fair amount of sun-dried Ethiopian coffee from the Amaro region. (washed version for sale at Novo now). Right now, this Yirgacheffe is rocking my world. I admit that as the weather cools here in the Nation’s Capital, I’m leaning towards more bold and fruity coffees – though I enjoy a clean cup so much that I rarely venture to the extremes of many Indonesian grown coffees (Sumatra). Though, it is all a matter of taste and I encourage you to post your comments letting us know what your preferences are this year! Happy Hounding!

info@cafehound.com

Rusty’s Hawaiian Site Visit: Pahala, Hawaii

In early April 2011, both Cafe Hounds took a journey to Hawaii in search of the storied Kona coffee, in addition to some sunshine and snorkeling – oh, and Kris had a conference for the Association for Asian Studies  (AAS), which he presented at. During out visit we had the pleasure of sampling some wonderfully crafted coffee drinks on the island of Oahu before we jumped on a short flight destined for the beautiful Big Island, where we landed in Kona.  Once there, we decided to casually sample a few plantations in the immediate area near our Bed & Breakfast in south Kona (Ka’awa Loa). In short – they stunk.

Ka'awa Loa B&B

So the ONE big coffee related adventure on Big Island was our visit to the wonderful farm of Lorie Obra and her family in the Ka’u District (in Pahala, Hawai’i). It was amazing. The Obra family house and farm is located in the small and relatively impoverished village of Pahala – with less than 1,350 inhabitants just east of the southern tip (South Point – Ka Lae). According to 2010 Census Data, more than  80% of the population is Asian/Pacific Islander or a mix of the two. Many of the inhabitants descend from the Philippines – a country that Maher Hound used to live in until a volcanic eruption destroyed his home in 1991. This fact made visiting the volcanic island of Hawai’i that much more special.

Maher, Miguel and Lorie On The Farm in Pahala, HI

Lorie agreed to meet with Kris and Maher on relatively short notice and coordinated the meeting with her coffee consultant – and friend – Miguel Meza. Lorie’s daughter Joan Obra and her husband Ralph Gaston joined the group as well – after somewhat recently arriving in Hawai’i themselves to join the family business after most of their lives on he mainland.

I drove us all up the road a mile or so to their farm where we were then able to walk around and experience the relatively young and VERY well planned out coffee farm of Rusty’s Hawaiian. The brand and the farm were started  in 1999 with the seedling of a dream by Rusty Obra, a retired chemist who sadly passed away in 2006 – leaving his wife, Lorie with the tough decision of whether to continue his dream…or cut her losses and move on. She bought into his dream and kept forging forward in a naturally advantageous habitat for superb coffee – planted on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano, which makes up the majority of Hawai’i’s biggest of islands, Big Island. Standing on the farm you can see the ocean off in the distance looking south towards South Point where one can find Green Sand Beach – where the sand is colored in such a way due to chemical and gaseous reactions from volcanic/lava eruptions with ocean water.

On the farm, Miguel and Lorie have experimented with several varietals – but the five that we had the pleasure of cupping that day were the:

  1. RH Lot 24 Tipica
  2. Bourbon (red)
  3. Yellow Caturra Natural Dried FRUKO
  4. Red Caturra
  5. Yellow Caturra Natural Dried

The farm currently has no certifications at all – though they stated that they plan to certify organic eventually. They stated the reason was because achieving certification is not viable and – probably mostly – it is not viewed as an important aspect of quality in their sales strategy. (aka – their buyers don’t care about certification as much as their unique flavor profile and superb quality control). Thus far, they have not experienced broque (bug diseases).

Cupping With Miguel At Lorie's Home

One of their most important variables in annual yields is rainfall – 1) they don’t have an irrigation system 2) volcanic soil doesn’t really retain water very well. To that end, Miguel shared with me that the average commercial farm in the Kona district (where he also engages in coffee consulting for other farms) yields about 1,000 pounds per acre (due to higher rainfall counts) compared to averages ranging from 400 to 600 pounds per acre at Rusty’s farm. This relatively limited annual yield capacity for Rusty’s creates a situation where demand outstrips supply by far. For this reason, the $80 per pound for some of the coffees we sampled was understandable.
The hospitality shown to Kris and I at Rusty’s Hawaiian farm and home was exceptional and encapsulates not only the Hawaiian way, but reminds me fondly of my (Maher) time in the Philippines. Hopefully, there will be more to come on Rusty’s Hawaiian and Miguel Meza – and the change that they are catalyzing in Hawaii’s specialty coffee industry.

Ecotourism: Discovering Kau Coffee

Aloha — In anticipation of a series of posts relating to Hawaii’s specialty coffee market, culture and people, Cafe Hound will post a few articles from third-party sources highlighting the people we hope to meet during our visit.

The first article is graciously borrowed from Lavonne Leong  of HonoluluMagazine.com: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/July-2010/Farm-to-Table-Coffee/index.php?cparticle=1&siarticle=0#artanc


PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

Americans are on intimate terms with coffee. We consume about 400 million cups of the stuff every day. We wake up with it; work with it; date with it; pull all-nighters with it. By now, you’d think we’d know something about our favorite little brown bean.

Yet, in an age of increased interest in eating local and knowing your farmer, the back-story of coffee remains relatively unknown, in part because of a supply chain that can read like a Lonely Planet guide. It’s not uncommon for coffee to be grown and harvested in one country, undergo multistep processing in another and be consumed in a third.

Except here. Hawaii is one of the few places on Earth that both produces this strictly tropical crop and enthusiastically consumes it. The global field-to-cup timeline of coffee can be up to a year; in Hawaii, it’s possible to go from harvest to table in a few days. Vertical integration is also becoming more common in Hawaii—where a single farm, or a farm and a nearby roaster, take the coffee all the way from harvest to roasted bean rather than specializing in only one step in the process.


“Dr. Coffee,” Shawn Steiman, surrounded by coffee plants at Waialua Estate and Coffee Cacao.

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

Vertical integration: an easy catchphrase to drop, harder to accomplish well. A true field-to-cup coffee producer needs to master a mind-boggling array of skills: farming, processing, roasting, marketing and distribution.

Enter Shawn Steiman, scientist, consultant and self-described “coffee geek.” To Steiman, and others like him who are helping to usher in a new age of Hawaiian coffee, the creation of a good coffee is an achievable art—and a science that can be taught. Steiman has translated a love of coffee that began in elementary school into a coffee-centric horticultural dissertation and a career mentoring coffee farmers and producers across the globe. He also educates the public palate here in Hawaii through coffee “cuppings”—a centuries-old practice that is equivalent to wine tasting.

Steiman feels that the time is right for producers of artisanally made coffee—also known as specialty coffee—to find a wider audience. America, he says, is riding the “third wave” of coffee consumption (the first is coffee as a diner commodity, the second a Starbucks-type lifestyle choice, and the third, a deep appreciation of coffee’s origins, craft and subtlety).

For some, it’s an obsession: coffee’s third wave has spawned an intense culture of cupping and barista competitions, avidly read reviews of specialty coffees, “trip to origin” tours and a descriptive coffee-tasting vocabulary that approaches wine’s: an interesting coffee might offer aromatic notes of fruits and flowers, chocolate, caramel, herbs and even fir tree. “Coffee geeks are attached,” says Steiman. “They’re passionate. These people have espresso machines they can, and will, tweak to a 10th of a degree.”

You don’t have to be a coffee geek to appreciate that coffee folks in Hawaii are upping their game—and all of us who like something good in our cup will benefit.


Lorie Obra

PHOTO: COURTESY JOAN OBRA, RALPH GASTON

Small Producers, Big Flavor

The birth of a new coffee sensibility.


PHOTO: COURTESY JOAN OBRA, RALPH GASTON

Something is happening in  the world of Hawaii coffee. For years, big growers dominated the scene, and Hawaiian coffees, particularly the sought-after Konas, were routinely blended with inferior product to make them more affordable—a practice that diluted not only the coffee but, eventually, its reputation. Now, with sustainability and fair-labor practices at the forefront of farming, tastes evolving to appreciate coffee excellence and thousands of acres of prime farmland released by the sugar industry, smaller coffee farmers, boutique roasters and purer coffee are getting more play. In two decades, Hawaii has expanded from one coffee region to 11, and the coffee world at large has taken note. In 2008, Hula Daddy’s “Kona Sweet” coffee received a score of 97, the highest Coffee Review ranking in the world that year and the publication’s third-highest rating in history. A Hawaii-based barista, Pete Licata, of Honolulu Coffee Co., won this year’s highly competitive Western Regional Barista Competition with a blend of Kona and Maui coffees.

The birth of the Kau coffee region, which was planted in the 1990s and 2000s, is a prime example of this new dynamic. Less than 15 years ago, Kau was dominated by its sugar mill. Today, dozens of small farms, many of which belong to the Kau Coffee Growers Co-Operative, are making a name for the region by producing exemplary coffee. Some, like the co-op’s president, Lorie Obra (of Rusty’s Hawaiian coffee), have gone for complete vertical integration. Obra supervises the entire process from field to cup, experimenting with unusual methods such as saltwater fermentation. Her coffees have garnered reviews from the industry’s standard publication, Coffee Review, which used words like “mindblowing.”

Since they burst onto the competition scene a few years ago, Kau coffees have consistently garnered top prizes; this year, Kau’s Rising Sun Farms was named Coffee of the Year by the Specialty Coffee Association of America in the Hawaii-USA category. Alan Wong, who serves four Kau coffees in his flagship restaurant, says, “What makes Kau coffees so delicious is their terroir—you can ‘taste the land.’ They have a special combination of rich volcanic soil, rainfall, sunlight and humidity.”

Biography of a Bean

Farm Beginning

Hawai‘i is the only state in the U.S. that grows coffee, a crop with very specific temperature requirements and a love of volcanic soil. Although Kona-grown coffee has been produced for more than a century, the perfect planting opportunity occurred in the 1980s and 1990s when the withdrawal of sugar freed up some of Hawaii’s most fertile planting grounds.

Putting Down Roots

Putting down roots  Left to its own devices, the coffee plant will grow into a small tree, about 30 feet high and covered in fragrant, white blossoms. Most growers prune their coffee plants for easier harvest; farmed coffee rarely reaches more than about 10 feet high. Although coffee evolved to love shady places, it produces more fruit in direct sun—as long as it’s given more fertilizer and water, too.


Coffee cherries from Milton Decalio’s farm in Kau.

PHOTO: COURTESY RALPH GASTON

Getting Picked

Three years after planting, coffee trees begin to produce a round, red, juicy fruit known in the industry as a cherry. (The skin and pulp don’t taste like much, but the interior mucilage is sweet and packs a caffeine punch.) Because coffee cherries don’t mature all at once, and the fruit needs to be ripe to produce good coffee, growers often harvest by hand. At higher elevations, the coffee harvest can last for nine months a year—ideal for smaller growers who can keep a small staff or harvest the fruit themselves.

The Layers Come Off

A coffee bean is simply the seed of the coffee cherry. The fruit must be separated from its seed, and the seed from its thin outer layers of parchment and silverskin. There are a host of ways to do this, each of which affect the coffee’s final taste. Big growers tend to favor mechanical processing, while many smaller growers process by hand. A current trend is “natural-” or “raisin-” -processed coffee, which is left to dry inside the cherry and can produce fruitier coffees. Most coffee cherries are pulped, briefly fermented to separate the bean from its mucilage, then the bean is air-dried to the parchment stage. Green coffee beans, the end product of processing, can last for several months without losing quality.

The Heat is On

The heat is on  “Green coffee is to roasted coffee as a raw grain is to baked bread,” says Hula Daddy roastmaster and coffee consultant R. Miguel Meza. The roast—the application of heat for between 10 and 20 minutes—is where a hard, uninteresting green bean can become a thing of aromatic beauty. Sugars caramelize, acids restructure and aromatics develop, to the tune of about 1,500 different chemical compounds. This makes coffee “probably the most complex food we consume,” says Shawn Steiman. “There are over a thousand things in the aroma alone.” Once the coffee is roasted, it’s at its peak of flavor and the freshness clock starts ticking. A coffee geek will notice the difference in about two weeks; a layperson, in four to six.

Grind and Brew

The finishing touches to the art of coffee lie with you, the drinker. All coffee beans must be ground before use, releasing aroma and flavor; grinding your coffee at home, on the day it will be brewed, means that all the flavor ends up in your cup instead of your storage cupboard. Given the choice between blade grinders and burr grinders, choose the burr, which produce a more uni-form particle size and a
smoother brew.


Shawn Steiman (center in above photo, at left in photo at right) leads a group in a “cupping,” at the Honolulu Coffee Co.’s Ala Moana Center location.

PHOTOS: OLIVIER KONING

Coffea

All coffee plants come from the genus Coffea, which—although it contains 103 species—produces two drinkable bean types: Coffea canephora, commonly called “robusta” and used in commodity coffees, and Coffea arabica, which produces the complex, lyrically flavored bean used in artisanal and specialty coffees worldwide. Hawaii grows only arabica coffee.

Kona Coffee

For the most part, Hawaii coffee is grown on former sugarcane lands that were freed up in the 1980s and 1990s—but not Kona. Kona’s sloped terrain meant that sugarcane was never an option; the region has been producing coffee continuously since the 1870s.

 

Three places to score a Hawaii coffee experience

Try the freshest coffee in the United States. Here’s how.

CHAIN: Honolulu Coffee Co.

The Honolulu Coffee Co., which has a new owner, roasts its Hawaiian coffee in small batches. You can buy the beans, or let the company’s award-winning baristas show you how it’s done in one of seven coffeehouse locations that serve 100-percent Kona and 100-percent Maui coffees, alongside house blends.


PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

RETAILER: Whole Foods

At its Kahala store, Whole Foods carries coffees from all five coffee-producing Hawaiian Islands: Maui, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. A particular specialty is peaberry coffee, which is sometimes said to roast more evenly and produce a smoother-drinking cup.

RESTAURANT: Alan Wong’s

Alan Wong’s makes a special effort to not just cook local but to drink local. The menu features no fewer than 13 Hawaiian coffees, eight of which are from the Big Island.

Going to the Dark Side

What a difference a roast makes.

Most coffee is roasted dark.  There are some great darks out there, but this approach doesn’t always match the bean. There is a growing appreciation for light or medium roasts, which can showcase coffee made with care.

Light Roast: “Acidity and subtle aromatics will be at their peak” in a light roast, says Hula Daddy roastmaster R. Miguel Meza. This can produce some truly memorable coffees, but he cautions that, in order for a light roast to work, “the coffee must be exemplary.”

Medium Roast: Medium roasts strike a balance between nuance and body, sacrificing a little complexity for increased sweetness and mouth feel as sugars caramelize.

Dark Roast: Think Starbucks—and there’s nothing wrong with that. Roasting dark averages out differences in taste, conceals minor defects and introduces familiar smoky notes. Dark roasts also hold their own against added sugar and cream.

Quarantine

In agricultural terms, Hawaii is probably the best place in the world to be a coffee farmer, says Shawn Steiman. In 1888, King David Kalakaua enacted the first quarantine in Hawaii, to control imported coffee plants; as a result, Hawaii is free of the worst pests and diseases that plague other coffee crops worldwide.