What comes into your mind when you hear someone say “Sumatra”? Well, for some, it’s their first cup of dark roast being served at their favorite coffee shop on 81 Church St … for a few others it’s a vacation spot where you can run into some of the world’s finest flora and fauna, and it reminds still others of the deadly Tsunami of 2004. Considering our focus is exploring Sumatra as a coffee, it only makes sense to know more about the land of Sumatra to gain knowledge and perspective.
A Little Background:
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia. Settler colonies began arriving in Sumatra around 500 BC, and several significant kingdoms flourished there. I Ching, a Chinese Buddhist monk, studied Sanskrit and spent four years of his life here. The explorer Marco Polo visited Sumatra in 1292. Sumatra has a huge range of plant and animal species, but has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years, and many species are critically endangered.
Arabica coffee production in Sumatra began in the 18th century under Dutch colonial domination. Indonesian coffees are usually processed through a unique semi-washed method. Semi-washed coffees are best described as “wet-hulled” with heavy body and often more of that “character” that makes them so appealing and slightly funky. In this process, they are marginally dried, then stripped of the outer layer, revealing a white-colored, swollen green bean. Then the drying is completed on the patios.
Historic Tsunami of 2004:
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea mega earthquake that occurred on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Most coffee farmers lost their crops and are still recovering from the after-effects. This natural disaster made Sumatran coffee a rare and expensive commodity. Every bag of coffee that we buy and every cup of Sumatra that we consume will help support the farmers that are slowly building their lives back to normal.
Sumatra @ Church St.:
We brew Primavera’s Sumatra Mandheling which is a strong and bold Indonesian coffee. It lives up to the tradition of coffees from Indonesia having an earthy aroma. It is best when you pair it with our Best-Ever Bran Muffins. Grab a bag today and when you do, be proud of being knowledgeable about your coffee journey with me!!!
By Carrie Rollwagen
We’re feeling a little under the weather today. It’s not that we’re sick, exactly. It’s just that about traveling for the holidays, working 12-hour days at the shop, and living in weather that constantly ping-pongs between frigid and spring-like has our systems out of whack.
So Sri and I have decided to do something about it. Starting January 1, we’re taking a 30-day Yerba Mate Challenge, substituting one drink a day for a cup of this miracle tea that health nuts are raving about.
What’s Yerba Mate? It’s a rich green tea with an incredible, smoky flavor. Its proponents say it helps you lose weight, eases fatigue, relieves headaches and depression, and gives you an energy boost that’s similar to coffee but less likely to give you the jitters — sounds just about perfect for a post-holiday detox.
Traditionally, Yerba Mate is served in a gourd and passed around a communal circle — but we’re not so sure the Health Department would be thrilled about us sharing gourd tea in the morning coffee line. So we’ve cooked up the Yerba Mate Latte, a blend of Yerba Mate tea, steamed milk and a little vanilla. We can even make it sugar-free and nonfat to help you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions.
Starting Monday (we’re closed New Year’s Day), we’ll be offering both Yerba Mate Tea and the Yerba Mate Latte, and Sri and I will be starting our 30 Day Yerba Mate Challenge. And we want YOU to join us. We’ll see you Monday!
Since we just approached our three-month mark, Cal had “change water filters” on his to-do list all week. We finally had to stall operations for a mere 5 minutes to get it done yesterday. Yay!!!
Virtual Coffee Tasting
Filtered water is a minimum requirement for coffee brewing!
Last week we discussed how important grind setting is for brewing coffee. This week, we shift our focus on to water used to brew coffee. A big part of fine tasting coffee is using filtered water. No matter what method you use to brew it (french press, espresso maker, drip coffee maker), coffee tastes better if you start with filtered water. Most good coffee houses use the triple filtration systems.
They usually come with one sediment filter that captures minerals and salts, and then the water goes through two carbon filters to further improve the softness of the water. This triple filtration system not only ensures the coffee taste but also ensures the longevity of your brewing equipment.
Myth Busting (or, in this case, maybe myth creating?)
Other environmental factors that effect coffee taste are temperature and humidity. If I ever use beans that have been sitting for awhile, I even shake them up before I pour them in the grinder to so they’re more equally exposed to temperature and humidity. I call it shaking up the “cold” beans. Maybe it’s old-school, superstitious, or just crazy, but it works for me!!!
Whatever it takes for me to have a great cup of coffee!!!!
P.S: Panama Bambito from Primavera tastes wonderful both hot and iced — try it this week, and remember to use filtered water!!!
Can you tell the difference? Your coffee maker can!!!
One of our regular customers stopped in this morning and expressed disappointment at not being able to brew coffee to her husband’s liking. Trying to resolve her issue, we asked her various questions and found out that she was grinding her coffee on the “fine” setting for her French Press when the setting needed to be “coarse.”
Most popular grind settings, in order from coarse to fine, are:
French Press (most coarse), flat-bottom filters (a little finer), cone-shape filters (a little more fine), and espresso (most fine)
Virtual Coffee Tasting
In my opinion, there are 5 key elements to a great cup of coffee:
The customer picked up a bag of Guatemala and got it ground (“coarse” for her French Press) to try with the knowledge she gained this morning!!! (Can’t wait to hear her feedback when she comes by on her next visit.)
Myth: Decaf coffee does not have any caffeine.
Answer: Most decaffeination processes leave the coffee beans with a little bit of caffeine (around 3% of regular). So, decaf coffee has some caffeine, but a very negligible amount when compared to regular coffee!!!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Today is National Coffee Day … and I am in a dilemma as to what will I be celebrating it for — coffee capitalism? A tribute to coffee farmers who shed blood sweat and tears to give us the coffee beans? Or being in customer service brewing coffee for over ten years? I know I am complicating this, so I’ll simplify by having a cup of Primavera’s Guatemalan coffee with a piece of dark chocolate …
Virtual Coffee Tasting
We will get to the traditional coffee tasting after we cover a few coffee basics in the next few weeks, but for now let’s just keep it simple. The coffee I’m tasting is Primavera’s Guatemala — you can pick up a bag at Church Street and brew it at home if you want to follow along.
Here are the steps for an in-depth coffee tasting:
I taste the cocoa undertones, and that chocolate perfectly complements the Guatemalan coffee!
Myth: Bold coffee has more caffeine than Mild coffee
Answer: No … and Yes! No, if the coffee beans have the same geographic origin. That means, if beans are harvested from the same farm, they have comparable caffeine content whether or not they’re roasted to be dark or mild. But coffee from different farms and regions will have different caffeine levels, so some bolds do have more caffeine than some milds. Decaf is, of course, an exception!
Sri is a barista extraordinaire at Church Street Coffee & Books. He has a decade of experience in the coffee business, and he loves sharing that knowledge with others. He also loves cooking, playing with his dog Chuffy, and using copious amounts of exclamation points. You can follow him on Twitter @SriKoduri, or find him at Church Street most mornings.
When we decided to carry journals, there wasn’t really a question of which ones we’d stock. At least half our staff is already hopelessly devoted to Moleskine journals. They’re just perfect: they’re easy to write in, they look great, they fit easily in a laptop bag or purse, they hold together through constant abuse, and they even have a cool little pocket that holds receipts or odds and ends. Plus, legend has it they were favorites of artists like Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh — the perfect to our bookshop.
Turns out, Sri had already been looking for the perfect journal. (He says working with all of us “characters” is inspiring him to write more … should we be worried?) He got one answer over and over — Moleskine. So, when we got our order in, he couldn’t have been happier.
That’s when he made the announcement: “These are great! I could sell 40 of these in one week!”
Hmm. That sounds like a challenge to us. So we’re holding him to it. The journals are in, the stakes are high … we’ll let you know the verdict next week, but all this week you can come in and help him out by picking up a journal with your latte. Who knows, you could be the next author who starts out scribbling in a Moleskine!
Sri loves his coffee — but he does NOT love cameras!
My name is Sri. Most of you might know me from Church Street Coffee & Books as your barista. Working with people and having conversations with them and making their choice of beverages is part of what I do and what I enjoy the most — that’s why I have been doing the same for over ten years now.
Over the last several years, I have learned, experienced and studied a great deal about coffee, customer service, and behaviors in conversations with people that I run into. Carrie recently suggested that blogging these experiences and sharing them on Church Street website would be a great idea. So, in the weeks to come, I will use this space to share my journey in the coffee world and my knowledge and experiences with all of you.
This is going to be driven by you and me together to make it relevant, meaningful and informational all at the same time. So, I would encourage feedback and questions from you to see this blog evolve. Next week, we will start with a virtual coffee tasting and some myth busters.