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Coffee

Coffee Roundup Summer 2021

With the summer heat and this year’s heat dome you may think that coffee wouldn’t be a priority but this is the time to make iced coffee. Whether its pouring hot espresso over ice and adding home simple syrup or making cold brew coffee, summer is still a great time for coffee.

We tried a new favourite, Blindside Espresso, a Starbucks classic blend Caffè Verona, a vacation treat from Hornby Island Coffee Roasters called Helliwell Medium and the Strait Coffee Traders Blend Skookum Organic.

Blindside Espresso

I grabbed a bag of this coffee from Roaster Central at the Espressotec store on Clark Drive.

The company, Craft Coffee Canada, is a Vancouver Island based company that has a Crest series to which Blindside Espresso belongs.

This is a great coffee that the company says “is roasted to a light/medium level to help accentuate its bright acidity, syrupy body and wonderful sweetness.

I found it to be very good in my Aeropress while camping on Hornby Island when I was vacationing in August. The coffee itself blends Ethiopia and Colombian coffees.

Caffè Verona

Having worked at a Starbucks in the early 2000’s, I’ll admit I picked up a love for this blend because I drank so much of it for free. It was a great perk.

The coffee itself has been around since 1975 where according to Starbucks “it was created for a Seattle restaurant, naming it Jake’s Blend.”

The coffee’s second name – 80/20 Blend – refers to the initial blending of 80% Yukon Blend and 20% Starbucks Italian Roast.

I get the Italian Roast taste here which many people associate with Starbucks and its burnt way of making and roasting coffee. I don’t find it burnt personally.

Helliwell Medium

Helliwell Medium is named after Helliwell Provincial Park on Hornby Island. I visit there in the summer to vacation and over the years the Hornby Island Coffee Roasters brand has really grown there.

I grabbed this blend while there obviously and it is a great coffee for any type of brew method.

The biggest thing that I can say about this coffee is the memories it brings back of the Park itself while drinking it. I’ve included a picture. below.

Skookum Organic

I’ve reviewed this coffee before and it’s one of my favourites from the Sunshine Coast. Produced by Strait Coffee Traders, it blends their Italian and French Roast coffees.

Skookum is interesting because it blends two coffees that each contain two coffees themselves. The French Roast blends natural Ethiopian with hearty Mexican coffees while the Italian blends Central American and Indonesian coffees. That being said the flavour and taste of this coffee is a unique one.

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Coffee

Coffee Roundup Spring 2021

Spring usually means that warmer weather is coming and that coffee becomes less of a necessity but that’s not the case when you have so many local options to choose from in Vancouver.

Moja Coffee

Moja Coffee started on the North Shore in 2004 and while one may think that it’s overshadowed by a very competitive market that includes JJ Bean, Starbucks, and Delany’s among others it still has some great coffees that are supremely roasted.

I tried their Espresso and Colombia whole bean offerings that I brewed at home using my trusty French Press, Cone Filter Drip and a Stovetop Espresso Maker.

The Espresso blend contains beans from Brazil and Guatemala. It is described as being syrupy and sweet with notes of caramel. It’s a great coffee to drink any of the three ways I mentioned above and could be drunk as a cup or as a shot. I loved it.

The Organic Columbia is better than I expected as I generally don’t like Columbian coffees given their flavour profile. This one has notes of dark chocolate and orange which I thought were very enjoyable.

Columbian coffee beans are one of the most exported in the world.

CAFFE D’ARTE

Velleteri which I bought from the folks at Espressotec was a tasty blend of coffee that really could be drunk in winter or the spring. It’s a Caffe Darte product that the company says “is roasted on a 1949 Balestra Wood Roaster, which imparts a subtle smoky finish to this medium-dark coffee.”

The coffee has Central and South American beans in it and is a medium dark roast that really sits in my wheelhouse as an ideal type of coffee. I could easily enjoy it as an iced coffee.

JJ Bean

I’ll confess a bit of a bias here as anything JJ Bean is immediately going to get my attention coffee wise. Railtown has to rank in my top three coffees of all time and I mean anywhere.

JJ Bean says “Railtown is a dark roast blend that has Latin American coffee, specifically from Honduras, designed to withstand the heat.”

The thing that strikes me about this coffee too is the versatility of it. Cold, hot, as an espresso shot or a drip coffee or a french press coffee and yes an Aeropress.

Starbucks Anniversary Blend

Starbucks Anniversary Blend is another one of those coffee’s that i have loved for a long time. When I worked there it was brought out every September to commemorate the origins of the company.

According to Starbucks “It’s a complex, hearty coffee with cedary spice notes.” It contains Asia Pacific coffees beans from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

What I found interesting about this coffee in the past was the use of Aged Sumatra in it and the closeness of it to Starbucks Christmas blend which had a similar flavour profile in past years.

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Coffee

Christmas Coffee Roundup 2020

As well as being a great time to drink beer Christmas is also a great time for coffee.

Cool dark snowy weather goes hand in hand with a warm cup of java by the fireplace or in front of the television with Netflix on.

This year I made my way through a number of delicious Christmas coffees. They were Starbucks Christmas Blend, JJ Bean Coffee’s Banco Gotete Espresso, a Holiday Blend Coffee from Delanys, and Burundi Mabrizi and Skookum Dark from Strait Coffee Traders.

Starbucks Christmas Blend

Say what you will about drinking coffee from a large chain like Starbucks this coffee does deliver and has been a long time staple for many coffee drinkers including myself.

With dark roast coffee beans from Guatemala, Colombia and Papua New Guinea, the real secret to this coffee is the beans from Sumatra, which are aged. Starbucks has been carrying its Christmas Blend since 1984.

The coffee tends to vary a bit from season to season based on the varietals in it but it is always a good cup of dark, rich coffee that goes well with Christmas food and desserts.

Ethiopia Banco Gotete JJ Bean Coffee Roasters

This is another seasonal coffee with a rich history given its origins.

The town of Banco Gotete is located n Gedeo County. This county is part of the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. I’ve tried Yirgacheffe coffees before from other coffee roasters including Starbucks. Yirgacheffe is really part of the Sidamo region in southern Ethiopia, another name you may recognize if you like and drink African coffees. but since it’s coffees are so well known it gets it’s own micro region.

Ethiopia has widely been called the birthplace of coffee.

The African Coffee profile as it tends to be knowns always has fruit like, citrusy notes with a bean that doesn’t look dark or is roasted too heavily.

I would say that this coffee has that profile and was best made in a drip coffee maker versus my Stovetop espresso maker or French Press. I have always loved these coffees cold over ice and with some bits of fruit thrown in.

JJ Bean also has a Run For Water project that they are involved in in Africa within these regions.

Strait Coffee Burundi Mabrizi

Strait Coffee is one of my favourite coffee places. If it were in Vancouver and not on the Sunshine Coast I would be there likely every day.

They have been roasting coffee for 25 years and honestly you can tell. The Burundi Mabrizi arrived in a delightful purple cellophane bag for Christmas and I enjoyed it immensely.

For whatever reason I seem to have gravitated to African coffees over Christmas and in doing some research on the origins of and the history of this region I found out some interesting things.

Places such as Ethiopia and Kenya are well known for coffee but Burundi apparently also has an economy that is based around agriculture with coffee and tea according to Wikipedia “accounting for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP.”

Organic Skookum Blend

Next up on my list from Strait Coffee was the Organic Skookum Blend. I’m not sure what they put in this coffee in terms of how they blend it or what they use but it was delicious. This is honestly one of the best coffees I have tried in a long time. I’m not sure they will give away what the blend is.

Delany’s Holiday Blend

Delany’s Coffee is a Vancouver based company with five locations. It’s own by Robyn Delany and family and is well established on the North Shore with locations in North and West Vancouver.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find out they use Caffe D’arte as the roaster of their coffees using Dark Roasting with complex flavours.

I couldn’t find anything online about their Holiday Blend that related to blending and coffees used in this blend but it is a solid entry. It was also a holiday deal on sale for 10 dollars for one week during Christmas when I bought it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.