January 15, 2012

Was Gonna Buy From Peet's But...

Peet's Ethiopian Super Natural is out again this year. My experience is this is the most unique, flavorful coffee I have ever tasted. Last year there was a hint of blueberry, other years lemon.

A captivating cup from the birthplace of coffee. Only the finest coffee cherries, picked ripe and naturally sun-dried. Complex with abundant fruit flavor and generous floral aroma.

But they don't have it in stores, only available online. OK. I'll order online.

But it's $20.95 a pound. OK. Worth it.

But then they try to add an $8 charge for shipping!. Forget it. I'll miss it, but this is outrageous. Peet's loses a long-time customer and future orders.

But the CEO's pay was cut to "only" $1.8 million this year. His "unexercised options" are valued at $9,529,744.00.

Also "O'Dea also could receive $13.5 million should a change in ownership of Peet's transpire."

Peet's used to give samples of different coffees and teas. Those samples are what helped me appreciate many of the coffees and teas I drink today. But samples are not profits this quarter. Yes, samples and reasonable shipping charges boost business later, but that's not this quarter that needs his millions, and we've got a CEO, so forget it.

$8 to ship a pound of coffee? Gotta pay that CEO somehow.

August 11, 2008

Peet's Tanzania Peaberry

Peet's Coffee & Tea is offering a special August 13 roasting of its amazing Tanzania Peaberry, with a reduced shipping charge.

A few weeks ago I bought a pound of this. It is one of the best coffees I have tasted, and I immediately ordered two more pounds. So this is a very special opportunity and I encourage readers to try it.

It is shipped immediately after roasting. The coffee arrives in a shipping box, inside of which is a special sealed foil bag. So you don't have to worry about the distance it might have to travel to reach you -- the bag will keep it fresh.

The first pot you make is the best, of course, because it is the absolute freshest, but also because it is the first experience of this coffee. It's a bit like a Kona, rich and creamy, with no bitterness. I use a French Press pot. I recommend ordering whole beans because you can grind them when you brew the pot, keeping the freshness.

And while we're talking about Peet's, I see that they are offering their Panama Esmeralda Geisha! This is an amazing, distinctive coffee with an almost blueberry hint in it. It is rare, so it is somewhat expensive -- $24.95 for a half pound. I absolutely love this coffee but I'll let you know it is a very special, distinctive coffee that some will love and others might find a bit too different.

November 5, 2007

Connoisseur Coffee Company of Redwood City, CA

I visited Connoisseur Coffee Company this morning in Redwood City. They have been roasting since 1984 - one of the oldest roasters on the Peninsula.

A visit to this shop is an educational experience and the shop is a treasure. In the back they have more than 20 varieties of beans, roasted and in burlap sacks waiting to be roasted. (You can buy empty original burlap bags for $1.)

They roast by hand, daily.

This is a bean shop (wholesale and retail), but they do have three or four drip coffees available, and they make a great latte. I had a Panama Bambito, from a very high elevation. It was great.

Stop in and talk to Shawn, and learn a lot about coffee. You can order online at

July 15, 2007

The LA Times discovers kopi luwak

My friend Toby writes to ask if I've tried kopi luwak, the novelty coffee made from cherries digested by civet cats. The coffee was recently featured in the LA Times, resulting in the usual wave of interest.

I haven't tried it, mainly because there's a lot of fraudulent beans sold as kopi luwak and because I don't even know if the real stuff is sold freshly roasted. That and the fact that I don't have $600 lying around in my coffee budget. Even so, I would drink it if I had the chance.

I'm more interested in the Jacu bird coffee, which I've learned via James Hoffman is being sold green at Sweet Maria's. You've got to love a coffee whose grade is "avian selected." I'm not sure if they have it in stock right now, but if I can get my hands on some I'd love to try it out on my friend Courtney's roaster. Assuming she'll let me back in her house after last year's "incident," that is.

Update 12/16: Mags in San Francisco offers a fitting limerick.

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

June 22, 2007

“This coffee has gone where I want to go.”

Coffee beans taken to the edge of space in a research balloon by JP Aerospace, and sold on E-Bay to help fund their "PongSat" program. From their website:
"JP Aerospace is a volunteer-based organization achieving cheap access to space by just doing it. We are an independent space program."
From their press release:
On June 2, a small bag of specialty coffee beans played the part of test pilot.

The “Bean Me Up” bag of roast flew to 92,000 feet onboard a high altitude research balloon.

The balloon was flown by JP Aerospace, an independent space program. In addition to the coffee, over 300 student experiments were carried aloft. Lifting off shortly after dawn, the balloon climbed 800 feet per minute. As it headed upward, the temperature dropped to 82 degrees below zero, and the sky slowly turned black. When it reached high enough where the Earth’s horizon is curved, the balloon burst. The coffee and experiments fell together at over Mach one back toward the desert floor. The parachute opened, and the package touched down ten miles from its starting point.

“This coffee has gone where I want to go,” says John Powell, President of JP Aerospace.

The high-flying coffee is now being auctioned off on eBay to raise money to support the PongSat program.

JP Aerospace has flown advertisements, toy action figures, and mementos to the edge of space to help fund their PongSat space education program.

A PongSat is an experiment that fits inside of a ping pong ball. Students as young as eight are running their own space programs. Experiments range from plant seeds to computers with sophisticated sensors. PongSat are flown at no charge to the students. Thousands of students have been to the edge of space with their PongSats.

Away 33 mission was the ninety-first mission flown by JP Aerospace. JP Aerospace is staffed by volunteers dedicated to bringing space travel to everyone.

A special thanks goes out to Vista Clara Coffee for providing the “Bean Me Up” beans for the flight.

May 16, 2007

My coffee smells like tuna fish

My friend Paul writes:

Here's a question that hopefully won't tax your superior barista knowledge banks too greatly. A co-worker of mine once mentioned that occasionally brewing coffee smells like tuna fish to him. I thought that was odd until I noticed it too. Now it doesn't happen all the time, but sometimes when I smell brewing coffee there is a distinct odor of tuna. I've done a google search and found other people who have had this experience, but I've found no satisfactory explanation.

My guess is that somehow it's related to the chemical trimethylamine, which is what gives fish a "fishy" odor. The chemical has an extremely low odor threshold, so it can be detected by scent even in very low concentrations. But what could be producing the trimethylamine? Do you have any idea what could be causing this?

I have no idea, actually. I checked my copy of Illy and Viani's Espresso Coffee, a collection of scientific papers about coffee, and couldn't find anything on it. A table reviewing odor compounds found in ground coffee doesn't include trimethylamine. The compound with the closest description is probably methanethiol, which leaves a "putrid, cabbage like" sense impression.

Another possibility is that the coffee with that smell was stored improperly and picked up off flavors from something else. Any other possibilities?

[Cross-posted at Eternal Recurrence.]

December 14, 2006

Coffee as gift

Got a coffee lover on your list of people to shop for this month? The 2006 Counter Culture Holiday Blend would make a worthy gift. We rolled it out in place of our house blend at Baked and Wired today and were delighted with its dark chocolate taste and lingering sweetness. Counter Culture's notes call it reminiscent of Black Forest cake, which seems an apt description. I don't usually get excited about blends, but I was sipping this one all morning even though a great single origin sat nearby.

The blend features beans from Zaragoza, Mexico, Bufundu, Rwanda, and Jaen, Peru. Ten percent of proceeds from the coffee go toward buying cows for the Rwandan community of Humure. Learn more about the blend -- and purchase it if you like -- here.

November 24, 2006

Home Roasting

Their cup of tea: home-roasted coffee,

"Even my less-than-good batches are fresher than any [beans] I'd buy in a store," said Becker, a 30-year-old government employee who uses a gas grill to transform flavorless green coffee beans into savory dark-brown kernels that he then grinds and brews within a few days, if not hours.

It doesn't require a lot of time, money, or equipment to roast coffee beans at home -- less than 10 minutes in an air popcorn popper does the trick -- but enthusiasts devote plenty of each to the craft.

[. . .] "It was like the difference between a tomato bought in the supermarket and one grown in your garden," he said.

Spend time talking with any home-roasting aficionado and it quickly becomes clear that, as with many hobbies, the pleasure comes from the process as much as it does the end product.

October 25, 2006

LA Times Makes Coffee

Advice for the ... beginner.

The new coffee connoisseur - Los Angeles Times,

Think you know how to make a great cup of coffee? Think again. It's all about the best beans, a careful roast and optimal brewing.

MY first stop was my local coffee roaster, where they have a pretty good selection of beans roasted on the premises.

The beans are at once the most complex part of the equation and the easiest to solve. At first glance, the choice seems bewildering. Walk into any moderately stocked coffee bean purveyor these days and you'll find more than a dozen choices spanning two or three continents and a range of roasts.

... When constructed by a good roaster, these blends can be among the best coffees you'll ever taste. But choosing one can be confusing, since each shop is free to name its blends whatever it feels like. One place's "Caffé Roma" can be made from the same beans as another's "Morning Sonata." On the other hand, it's a pretty sure bet that no two "Breakfast Blends" will be exactly alike.

There are different degrees of roasting as well. The darker the roast, the more earthy and chocolate flavors will be in the coffee — up to a point. Particularly when you're talking about the very dark roasts that are popular these days, the overpowering flavor is charcoal. Whether these roasts are popular because people prefer milky drinks such as cappuccino, or whether people prefer milky drinks because the roasts are so dark is hard to say. One thing's for sure — extremely dark roasts are not intended to be drunk straight.

Continue reading "LA Times Makes Coffee" »

October 14, 2006

Lesson in humility

Q: What happens when two barista friends and I think we have what it takes to roast some coffee beans?

A: My former roommate's kitchen becomes a coffee inferno.


August 29, 2006

A bounty of beans from San Francisco

A few days ago I got to enjoy some great espresso blends courtesy of co-blogger [on EatFoo] David. He was coming back from San Francisco and asked if I wanted him to bring anything back for me. Beans from two shops came immediately to mind: Ritual and Blue Bottle.

Ritual is a hip new coffee shop in Valencia. It's been profiled in Wired as a hangout for techies, but it's also known in the coffee world for having talented baristas, delicious coffee from the Stumptown Roaster in Portland, and style to spare. Blue Bottle is a roaster in Oakland with a charming walk-up shop in Hayes Valley. The espresso and Gibraltar I had there last fall count as some of the best coffee I've ever tasted, period. (I previously wrote up my visit to Blue Bottle on my own blog.)

David brought back three bags of espresso to try: Stumptown's Hairbender and Blue Bottle's Hayes Valley Blend and Roman espresso.

Continue reading "A bounty of beans from San Francisco" »

June 14, 2006

Free coffee for a year from Zoka

Though I foolishly lower my odds of winning by telling you this, you should know that Zoka, one of my favorite roasters, is having contest to give away a free year of coffee, French press, mug, and Solis Maestro+ grinder. That's a heck of a nice prize for a coffee lover, guaranteed to be delicious.

Tomorrow is the last day to enter, so drop your name here ASAP!

April 10, 2006

SCAA wrap-up

After spending the weekend in Charlotte, NC at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 2006 conference, I'm catching up with the blogging world at Fowler's Food and Wine in Durham. With it's warm warehouse atmosphere, broad selection of gourmet goods, and free wi-fi, Fowler's is one of my favorite places to stop for coffee when I'm in the area. Today I enjoyed a chocolatey, nutty double shot of Intelligentsia's Black Cat espresso followed by a bright, slightly fruity French press of their Ethiopian harrar. Great stuff!

Of course, there was no shortage of excellent coffee available for the tasting at the conference. I was there volunteering at the Barista Guild of America booth, pulling shots of our sponsors' coffee and encouraging baristi to join us. The BGA is a young trade group of the SCAA, formed to foster communication among baristi throughout the country and encourage the best industry practices. Take a look at the BGA's open forum here and, if you're a barista, do consider signing up.

When I wasn't working in the booth, I was out on the exhibition floor or watching performances at the United States Barista Competition. The latter was dominated by the aforementioned Intelligentsia, with three of the six finalist spots going to the company's competitors. Though I had to depart before the finals, word is that Intelly's Matt Riddle took first. I'll link to more complete information when it's posted.

The exhibition floor was huge, but the one thing people couldn't wait to see was the new model of the Clover. As mentioned here previously, the Clover is a remarkably precise, single-cup coffee brewer. In person it is both larger and faster than it appeared online. The entire brew and clean-up process takes less than a minute and in most of that time the operator's hands are completely free (perhaps to complete a transaction with a customer). I was especially impressed with how easily the controls can be worked via two knobs and a digital display -- if Apple designed a user interface for coffee machines, this would be it. The coffee it produced had a very nice clarity and cleanness in the cup. After seeing it in operation, I find it easier to picture in a retail environment.

The real fun with this machine would come from tasting numerous coffees side by side with it, or tweaking it to get the very best extraction from a particular coffee. There was no time for that on the show floor, however, leaving me with me one more enticement to own one.

March 9, 2006

The libertarian barista, part 2

When Dave and I first talked about me writing a few of posts about a libertarian look at coffee, the obvious idea for a second one was the Fair Trade label. Luckily for me, my friend Kerry Howley has written a far better article on the subject than I would have for Reason magazine.

The summary version is that buying Fair Trade beans is one way of ensuring coffee farmers get a good price for their beans, but not the only way. Any high-end specialty roaster is going to be paying more than the commodity price for coffee, some of the best among them establishing relationships right at the origin.

In addition, Fair Trade has some significant drawbacks. It's expensive (roughly five times more costly than organic labeling), forces rigid requirements on farmers, and through its imposition of co-ops forces a middleman between farmers and bean buyers that obscures market signals about price and quality.

If you want to feel good about your coffee purchases, feel free to buy Fair Trade but don't buy it exclusively. Seek out exceptional roasters who build sustainable relationships with their growers and reward quality. That way you'll enjoy some truly great coffee and help change the structure of the bean market from commodity to specialized good.

Read the whole thing.

February 3, 2006

Peaberry Especial

The new Peet's Peaberry Especial is fabulous. I brought in a one-cup travel-press unit and they made me a sample.

Peet's says the coffee is a blend of Columbian, Tanzanian and New Guinea peaberries. It has a smoothnes that reminds me very much of their Kona Reserve.

February 2, 2006

Quick Notes

My local Peet's finally has some Peaberry Especial. I'll sample it tomorrow morning and write up a review. Meanwhile, my British wife solves the decaf tea problem by drinking Celestial Seasonings Caffeine-Free Tea. She loves it.


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