Categories
Coffee

Coffee Roundup November

I’ve written some coffee reviews on coffees I’ve consumed over the last few months but now that I am blogging more regularly I am going to do some coffee roundups.

Sometimes I will have a couple of coffees in the month and other months just one. If I buy 1/2 of a pound I use it quicker obviously but I also like to branch out and try a few different coffees at a time.

PalletRicardoZelaya
PalletRicardoZelaya

This month I’ll be looking at three delicious coffees. One from Pallet Coffee Roasters, Another from Strait Coffee on the Sunshine Coast and an old favorite, Starbucks Gold Coast Blend.

Pallet Coffee Roasters Ricardo Zelaya: Santa Clara, Honey – Guatemala

I’ve included a link to Pallet’s website here with a complete breakdown and the information on this coffee and it’s an interesting story. There is one thing that stuck out to me with this blend, in particular, is how the beans are picked and sorted.

If you have ever seen a coffee plant as I have you will see the red cherries hanging off of the plant. Once those are picked and ready for harvesting the bean is processed and it is here that a farmer will use either the dry method or washed method.

Washed method coffees have all the cherry surrounding the bean removed and they are then soaked for 12-72 hours to ferment. This is the most common way to process and get green beans ready for roasting.

The Dry method as it is known sees coffee cherries placed on to raised beds to dry in the sun. This too effects the flavour and overall taste of the coffee as well.

With the honey process, coffee cherries are de-pulped but allowed to dry without washing. Some of the fruit is still there, but not nearly as much as in the natural process. Most of the cherry is gone, but the remaining golden, sticky mucilage is reminiscent of honey, which is where the process gets its name.

With this process, I noticed a distinct difference from Pallet’s Benchmark Espresso which I tried in the spring of 2020.

Costa Rica from Strait Coffee

Strait Coffee Traders is nestled in an unremarkable shopping plaza in Wilson Creek, B.C. on the Sunshine Coast.

Why great coffee comes from here I don’t know but they have been doing it since 1996, and their Costa Rica is a great choice for someone looking for a coffee that is too overpowering.

Once again I took this coffee through three possible brewing methods in my trusty Bialetti Stove Top Espresso Maker, French Press made by Bodum, and a cone drip coffee maker.

Strait Coffee describes it as one that you get the taste or feel of Milk chocolate, honeydew, caramel. The coffee is fully washed and dried in the sun and mechanical driers.

This is the type of coffee that could please many palettes and would be great hot or iced. It did stretch my preference too of wanting to always go for coffees from Africa or Asia which includes places like Hawaii as well.

Gold Coast Starbucks

This is an old favorite of mine from my days working with the coffee giant between 2003-2007. I can honestly I learned a lot about coffee from Starbucks which had nothing to do with Starbucks coffee per se but rather how and why coffee is what it is.

It has been 10 years since I probably bought Gold Coast and it was great to taste it again.

As Starbucks describes Gold Coast it has the heft of beans from Latin America and Indonesia with a bit of sweetness from our dark Italian Roast.

I can see now why I like this coffee so much when you think about previous coffees I have reviewed including some of the Latin Americans include in this and other posts.

I have an admitted bias against Latin American coffees especially when lightly roasted and full of acidity and lacking body.

Gold Coast however does not disappoint given that it’s a blend and a well crafted one at that.

Categories
Coffee

Benchmark Espresso A Welcome Cup of Java During COVID-19

As an ex Starbucks employee from many years ago it was great to receive training that taught me how coffee is grown, cultivated and processed and why that effects what you ultimately get in your cup.

This education has stuck with me over the years and with limited options during COVID-19 to visit cafe’s that were open, I decided to seek out and find some places that may offer pickup or delivery of whole bean coffee.

Pallet Coffee Roasters selection of Coffees

I stumbled upon Pallet Coffee Roasters when an ad came up in my Instagram feed so I took the chance. Boy was a I glad I did.

Pallet has been in operation since 2014, with six Cafe’s and their headquarters and roastery in East Vancouver as well as a Commissary kitchen.

The Coffee

I chose Benchmark Espresso purely on a whim and proceeded to put it to the test by trying it in my Bialetti Stove Top Espresso, French Press and Cone Filter drip machine over a three week period.

Pallet says this coffee has a “Smooth milk chocolate with a tropical sweetness and soft acidity” flavour profile to it.

I got that immediately as well as a caramel like sweetness and taste that left pleasant notes of brown sugar on my tongue. Perhaps that’s where the tropical comes from. An almost pineapple like taste of tropical could linger there.

The Coffee Dictionary

I always use The Coffee Dictionary as a resource when trying a new coffee. The Coffee Dictionary is written by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood. I looked up some of the terms described in Benchmarks flavour profile.

The first one was acidity and as the Dictionary describes it as something that is an essential component of a coffee but not necessarily something that is good or bad. A coffee isn’t bright nor is it sour as one would think and coffee itself is only a mildly acidic beverage.

The coffee’s Terroir from the French word terre meaning land or earth and the many environmental factors that are part of a crop’s growing conditions are said to have a greater effect on the acidity of a coffee than anything else. That would make more sense.

The Coffee Dictionary is written by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood.

The coffee used in Benchmark Espresso is of two varieties.

50% Brazil Fazenda Alta Vista, Honey
50% Colombia Narino Buesaco, Washed

I remember from my Starbucks days a Colombia Narino coffee that I did not like because of what I perceived as a strong acidity or nuttiness. I can confidently say that I do not dislike these coffees anymore.

Brazil Fazenda Alta Vista, Honey is not a coffee type or bean that I have tried or don’t think I have tried unless it was part of a blend that I bought. I’ll have to try a single origin Brazilian in the future.

Latin American Coffee Flavour Profile

Latin American coffees themselves have certain characteristics which include a light to medium body with a balanced and clean mouthfeel. They also exhibit a slight sweetness that is accented by a sparkling, crisp, and lively acidity that may be also be spicy.

For more information on the flavour profile of American coffees please visit the Espresso Coffee Guide.

All in all I would give the Benchmark Espresso a solid 8/10 as a coffee to buy and drink. It’s versatile, has great taste and works well in multiple brewing systems and as a hot or iced beverage.

Categories
Beer

Summertime Brews at Streetcar Brewing

StreetcarSlushie
StreetcarSlushie

With the COVID-19 restrictions relaxing a little bit, I made my way down to the Brewery District on Lower Lonsdale to visit a few breweries again after my visit in March.

My March visit was on March 8th right before the COVID lockdown the following weekend.

I stopped in at Streetcar Brewing and had a nice flight of a mix of beers including a Guava Gose, Overcast IPA, Peach Radler and the 153 Pale Ale.

Guava Gose

The Gose beer itself is an interesting one as is its history. Named after the town of Goslar in Germany, This style is characterized by the use of coriander and salt and is made sour by inoculating the wort with lactic acid bacteria before primary fermentation.

I’m not usually a Gose drinker and I know this is a real trend these days in craft beer scene in Vancouver and throughout B.C. My first taste of a Gose was the Lime Margarita Gose from Central City Brewing in which you could really get a taste of the saltiness of this style.

That being said I will try anything at least once or twice in order to push my pallet a little more. This type of beer is not my favourite so perhaps I should leave others to judge and move on from there.

Overcast IPA

The Overcast IPA hits on another beer trend these days, a cloudy hazy IPA that many love. It must be something about the tropical and citrus flavour that hits right with warm weather. I can only take a Hazy trend of IPA’s or Ale’s in doses as well but this one hits the mark nicely.

Image courtesy of Streetcar Brewing.

Peach Radler

The Streetcar Peach Radler riffs on a popular low alcohol style of beer that means cyclist in German. The Radler mixes beer and fruit soda or lemonade.

The Streetcar Brewing Peach Radler Slushie. Image courtesy of Streetcar Brewing.

These beers are generally low in alcohol content and this one is 3%.

Streetcar has also been producing Peach Radler slushies which I did not try but that they are advertising on their social media accounts. Follow them on Instagram to see where and when you can get it.

153 Pale Ale

153 Pale Ale is the last of the four beers I tried and it slots in nicely with the others I tried. One gets the sense of citrus and hints of honey and caramel.

This style originated around 1980. American pale ales are generally around 5% abv with significant quantities of American hops, typically Cascade. The style is also close to amber ale, though ambers are darker and maltier due to use of crystal malts.

Categories
Coffee

JJ Bean Coffee Brazil Carmo Estate Showcases Minas Gerais Region of Brazil

Coffee purchased from JJ Bean is always a welcome treat in my home but I decided to step outside of my usual order of their popular Railtown in favour of their Carmo Estate.

Carmo Estate

The region of Carmo Estate itself does warrant a little research as I have mentioned before how the terroir of a coffee can have an effect on what ends up in your cup.

Brazil itself is the largest coffee producer in the world.

Coffee producers and specialty coffee companies are aware of the fact that lower grade Arabica and Robusta are often what comes from Brazil. This can lead to low acidity, earthy and chocolatey tones, and bitterness.

The downside is that these beans will and should end up in supermarket packaged coffee, blends to increase body, and espresso roasts to add crema rather than in high quality products where you pay a premium price.

JJ Bean opts always for the best which I was I drink their coffee.

Carmo Estate Region coffee’s are high quality Bourbson varietals that are clean, bright in acidity and chocolaty bitterness. It almost feels like Central American coffee.

Sip Slurp Taste Describe

The above headline is something I learned while working at Starbucks but it is a great way to taste any new coffee you are going to make.

When I try a new coffee I always brew in a French Press and then pour a small amount of black coffee without any cream or sugar into a cup. I then take a small sip or slurp and allow myself to get the full effect of what’s being offered.

I was immediately struck by how light and balanced Carmo Estate is and that it doesn’t leave a dark or lingering burnt aftertaste.

As always I used a French Press, then Cone Filter Drip Machine and Stovetop espresso maker to try this coffee. The Cone Filter really did it justice to be honest which isn’t my first choice to brew.

All in all I would give this coffee a solid seven out of ten. A nice simple light coffee with some interesting chocolatey characteristics. Definitely give this one a try and try it as an iced coffee.

Categories
Beer

Old Boy Hits The Mark with a Classic Beer Recipe

With the craft beer industry in Vancouver a growing concern these days, Sours, Saisons and Hazy Pale Ales and India Pale Ale’s (IPA) seems to be the brews of choice for local company’s. 

It’s refreshing when a company like Parallel 49 brings back it’s Old Boy Brown Ale to complement current availability because of the classic taste and style of this type of recipe.

A Brown Ale History Lesson

As BeerAdvocate notes, 

“Spawned from the Mild Ale tradition, English Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a somewhat fuller body.” 

The Mild Ale itself refers to beer that was sold relatively soon after brewing and had not undergone any aging. It was not attached to any particular style of beer. Mild Ale’s were big in England in the mid 20th century but declined somewhat by the 1980’s. 

Brown Ales themselves were brewed in some form before the 18th century but they garnered more interest from drinkers in places like London after that. Bitter versions of brown beers if you can call them that evolved into Porter’s while the less bitter and hoppy style brown or nut brown ales did garner some attention from beer drinkers. 

Old Boy Brown Ale

When I grabbed this beer from the Tasting Room at Parallel 49, I tried one can without chilling it in the fridge. I don’t think it did the beer justice and I don’t normally obsess over serving beers at their correct temperature.

You can view the correct way to serve beer from the Dummies website and the book Beer for Dummies.

What I liked about this beer was its toasted styler, notes of toffee, what seemed like coffee and hints of chocolate. My beer tastes correlate with my tastes in coffee, particularly dark roasted full bodied style coffees that aren’t bitter.  

Categories
Autism

World Autism Month Kindness Quest – Week One

As a parent of a child on the spectrum I only recently became aware of Autism Speaks and the fact that today is World Autism Awareness Day.

Below is the challenge from Autism Speaks for Week One

Week One: 3/30/2020-4/5/2020
Your kindness quest this week is to spread understanding and acceptance for people with autism.

Here’s how:

Take the kindness pledge

Wear something blue on April 2 in honor of World Autism Awareness Day

I have also started a Facebook fundraiser for April, World Autism Month

My story with Autism began in March of 2019 when my daughter received an Autism Diagnosis after a private assessment. Like many parents I was confused about what that meant and felt anxious about my daughters life and whether she would live “normally”

My wife had the advantage of being a teacher who had regularly deal with students who had received a diagnosis and were working and functioning in her classroom or had been moved to another learning environment.

I will be sharing more about Autism Speaks and Autism on my blog here and LinkedIn profile over the month of April.

Categories
Beer

Time To Get Weird With House of Funk Brewing

The North Shore now boasts 10 breweries with the latest to open being North Point Brewing in the Shipyards Brewery District. The district which now has Streetcar Brewing, House of Funk Brewing Co. and Beere Brewing as well and is fast becoming one of the places to visit for local beer enthusiasts. 

As someone who lives on the North Shore and at the top of Lonsdale Avenue, I can easily do my own brewery tour of sorts by simply taking the bus down Lonsdale.

Yesterday i managed to hit all four breweries and I will be writing a series of posts on my visit to each of them.

What I like is that all of these places have their own unique style, setting and vibe to them and enough different beers on the menu to make you want to visit each one individually and spend a few hours there.

House of Funk Brewing (HOF)

House of Funk Brewing is owned by Darren and Jody Hollett and online reviews talk of the “heavy emphasis on wood, brettanomyces, bacteria and all around funkiness.”

I actually had to lookup and find out what the word brettanomyces means and it is as follows. Known for its barnyard, fecal, horsey, metallic or Band-Aid flavors, Brettanomyces continues to be unwelcome in many breweries and most wineries. However, Brettanomyces also produces high levels of fruity esters that are desirable in some styles like saison, lambic, and American sour beers.

If you are left scratching your head perhaps this will make a bit more sense when it comes to beer. According to All About Beer Magazine Instead, brewers pitch Brett in place of Saccharomyces for primary fermentation. When used this way, it behaves more like regular ale yeast and will ferment a beer out in about the same amount of time.

Ok got it now? On with the tasting I did.

Incalescent Porter

This Porter was a tasty one and you’ll often find me searching out a good porter to whatever brewery or liquor store I go to. It’s different than the usual porter’s I drink. When looking at the menu what struck me was that Incalescent was conditioned with 10lb of barrel-aged, light roasted Brazil-origin beans for 48 hours before packaging.

HOF does coffee as well in small batch roasting and with an espresso bar to boot.

Syncopation Pilsner – Czech

HOF website tells us that this is their “version of an old world beauty – the Czech pilsner. Hopped with 100% Saaz, fermented with a classic Pilsen yeast and then conditioned in our oak foeders as they did in the Germanic caves of old.

This was the first HOF beer I tried in 2019. It’s hard to go wrong with a classic Pilsner using Saaz hops and Pilsen yeast. If the funkier stuff leaves you uneasy then this is a great place to start. I also love it for warm weather when you want a cool refreshing beer without a lot of heavy duty flavour or strangeness.

Bootsy Farmhouse IPA

Named after the legendary bass player who played with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic, I found this beer not to my liking. I wasn’t crazy about it being dryhopped with Mosaic and Simcoe hops either.

Daucus – Carrot Saison

This too was another beer that I found strange and funky. I guess it was keeping with the theme HOF has established. On Untappd they’ve included some information about it adding “that chopped young ginger and blanched mandarin oranges, along with a small amount of mosaic hops have been added. They also fermented it with 100L of juiced carrots from our friends at Chaser Juice.”

Ceres

Ceres was a little more to my liking and Ceres is a wheat beer fermented with wild yeast strains. Brewed with only wheat malt and buckwheat, Ceres was fermented for 45 days on Sacch Trois and a house brettanomyces blend, and delicately dryhopped with Ella.

https://twitter.com/hofbrewco/status/1236378981881901056

Vespertine Sour

Brewed with a variety of kilned and roasted specialty malts, Vespertine was fermented with a delicate belgian yeast strain and a souring mixed culture, isolated from one of our foeders. Vespertine was then conditioned on cherry, black currant, and blackberry puree for 1 month. Vespertine is tart and complex, with underlying notes of dark fruit.

Categories
Coffee

Coffee of the Week with Doi Chaang

Drinking Doi Chaang Coffee was a pleasant surprise for me as I had not tried this locally roasted coffee in my coffee drinking over the last several years.

My coffee knowledge and training came from working at a Starbucks for four years and while the knowledge given was solid as was the training, it had a Starbucks influence to it so I have tried to add my own knowledge and experience since. 

The coffee producing regions of the World. Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific.

Doi Chaang is name after a village in north-eastern Thailand. As the company explains on its website, they have adopted a Beyond Fair Trade business model emphasizes the importance of the Akha Hill Tribe in Thailand and their role in growing the coffee. 

This “50-50 business model, an exclusive relationship where we would buy green beans at a significant premium to Fair Trade pricing and return 50% of our profits to the producers in Thailand.” That’s impressive!

Doi Chaang Coffee is a single-estate, premium Arabica coffee. The arabica plant itself is often used as a guarantor of quality and as a marketing tool. That being said plant and bean quality and sub species can and does vary. 

Doi Chaang uses a premium Arabica and relies on shade grown methods as plants are covered by a canopy of fruit and nut trees. 

They roast in Richmond, B.C., are organic and do not use any pesticides. They described their processing extensively on their website.

Social Medium

Social Medium is the blend of coffee I tried from Doi Chaang and while I generally like my roasts and blends a little darker it was an enjoyable cup of Joe.

The company describes it as having notes of cedar, cardamom, brown sugar, raisin. I did not get all those notes but I did like the fact that Sumatran & Nicaraguan beans are present.

I always try coffee’s using three different brewing methods: stove top espresso maker, french press, and cone filter coffee pot.

I have included the Starbucks Bialetti video here as that is the brand of stovetop I use and it was at Starbucks where I first learned about these stovetops. 

I have also found a great review on Business Insider regarding stovetop espresso pots.

And The Verdict Is……

All in all I would rate this as a solid cup of coffee, something that would satisfy many tastes and palettes, without it being too dark or too adventurous. Not everyone is like me in that they want to push the boundaries of what they drink. 

It would make a great summer iced coffee with fruit added to it and then stored in the fridge as a cold brew. 

Categories
Sports

Major League Baseball’s Opening Day Comes And Goes

Major sports leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have been on hold for two weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing across North America.

When this shutdown happened, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on March 12th that the season would be delayed a few weeks for Major League Baseball (MLB) as well. 

Today is March 26th, Opening Day for MLB, didn’t happen. 

Social media, particularly Twitter, was full of messages and hashtags regarding #OpeningDay  #OpeningDayAtHome but there were no games. Parks and their stands stood empty with no dramatic fastball’s or swings of the bat that knocked the ball out of the park.

2020 Season Story Lines To Watch

There are still some interesting stories that should unfold when baseball does resume though. Here are a few of those:

Houston Astros

We saw how the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal unfolded after their World Series loss against the Washington Nationals last year.

We wrote about their hiring of new manager Dusty Baker replacing the fired Art Hinch and what effect that move does for the Astro’s image going forward.

The Astro’s faced a barrage of fan feedback and heckling in the games they did play in spring training and that won’t let up in the regular seasons when it starts.

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals, 2019 World Series Champions, should have a chance to defend their title, albeit in a shortened season. They are without Anthony Rendon, who went to the Los Angeles Angels, a separate story line in itself.

The Nationals have retained the majority of their 2019 team but won’t surprise teams like they did last season. A Wild Card Team that needed a 19-7 August amongst others to stay in contention, their pitching staff Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin should feel fatigue from their innings pitched in October.

Teams will also know what to expect from them now as well both on the mound at at the plate.

Anthony Rendon

Anthony Rendon’s move to the Angels is an interesting one because of the complement he provides to Mike Trout.

The Angels have finally found a piece that can give them a serious one two punch. An aging Albert Pujols is still a threat but not enough.

Trout was the American League MVP in 2019 with 45 Home Runs, and a .291 Batting Average but his OPS of 1.083 was a really telling stat to go along with his WAR of 8.2.

Anthony Rendon’s .319 batting average, 34 Home Runs and 126 RBI’s to go with a 6.4 WAR did not garner him an MVP but he did win the World Series as we mentioned.

With him and Trout in the same lineup, the Angels look dangerous at the plate!

Albert Pujols

We mentioned the aging Albert Pujols and his role on the Angels might be limited, but he is closing in on 700 Home Runs and 700 Doubles. That’s a huge milestone.

He’s already a career .300/.379/.549 hitter with over 3,200 hits and 2,000 RBI. Those are Hall of Fame worthy stats alone.

Pujols has a legitimate chance to be the first 700/700 player in baseball history. It could be tough though as the 2020 season won’t be 162 games as expected. Even with a full 2021 season, his age and health will also play a factor in getting to this accomplishment.

Toronto Blue Jays

As a Canadian, I follow the Toronto Blue Jays naturally and while they aren’t likely to make the playoffs this season, they were scheduled to start their season against the Boston Red Sox today.

https://twitter.com/BlueJays/status/1243260697091465216

The Blue Jays have some of the best young talent in the game in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Danny Jansen also show promise in the outfield and at catcher.

They also signed Hyun-jin Ryu to a monster 80 million dollar four year deal in the off season with the hopes of boosting their pitching staff.

They are in tough in the American League East with The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The Yankees won 103 games last year and Tampa won 96. Tampa lost to the Houston Astros in the divisional round while the Yankees lost to the Astros in the American League Championship.

Categories
Beer

Beere Brewing A Great North Vancouver Find

As part of our North Vancouver Brewery District Tour last weekend, we visited the lovely Beere Brewing, yes that is the correct spelling, for a round of their finest beers. Open since 2017 this is a family-run operation by Matt and Craig Beere.  

We drank Legit Snack, Jog On, Pinky Tuscadero, and Go Easy Pale Ale from their menu.

Legit Snack

Legit Snack is a Double Dry Hopped IPA with El Dorado, Cashmere, and Citra hops and alcohol content of 6.5%. The brewery describes it as having notes of pineapples fresh mangoes, and creamy oats.

This beer to me follows along on the trend of hoppy IPA’s, Hazy IPA’s and Cloudy beers that have become all the rage. There is serious merit in them for me in small doses and what I like to see in a brewery is some variety.

This beer reminds me a lot of Steamworks Flagship IPA which uses Mosaic, Galaxy, and Citra hops.

This beer reminds me a lot of Steamworks Flagship IPA which uses Mosaic, Galaxy, and Citra hops.

Jog On

Jog On is Beere’s light and florally mild English pale ale. English Pale Ale’s and Bitters share a lot of commonalities and this beer could be enjoyed year round.

Jog On is also English slang for Go Away! in British English which makes me love it even more.

I see this beer as a perfect balance to the IPA’s, Sour’s and Double IPA’s that dominate the menu here as well. 

Dry Hopping

One thing that stands out with Beere’s style of brewing is their use of Dry Hopping a process that I asked the owner about and that he confided is something that they love to do.

It’s consistently used in American Pale Ales and American IPA’s with the idea being that you add hop flavor and aromatics into your beer.

Pinky Tuscadero

I tried Pinky purely on its name. I’m not a huge fan of the Sour movement that has become a huge part of the Craft Beer scene in B.C.

Sour’s themselves are not a new style. Sour beer is a beer that has an intentionally acidic, tart, or sour taste. Traditional sour beer styles include Belgian lambics, gueuze, and Flanders red ale as well as German Gose’s.

Pinky is conditioned on a whole pile of raspberries and lemons. It does evoke that taste of a raspberry lemonade on a hot day which I can dig so I shouldn’t let that bias me against some sours which I have found truly awful.  

Go Easy Pale Ale.

This is a dry hopped Pale Ale that to me makes a good cousin to Jog On.

Beere says this beer has notes of mango, orange peel, fresh wildflowers, and ripe nectarine. It has an orange, slightly hazy appearance of course!