A Christmas Gift for the Coffee Drinker You Know

December 9, 2011 at 11:26 am | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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When we are driving through Columbus we take the time to stop at Staufs. They are one of our favorite coffee shops and we have been to quite a few. They are running a free shipping special now on coffee purchases. Their Cafe Femenino Dominican Republic is one of my favorites, but their Nicaraugan is good too, and…… You get the idea.

You can connect to them here: www.staufs.com. Let them know that Take Courage and Bill and Kim sent you.

I am sure the coffee drinker on you gift list will appreciate what you get them.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill

(Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1)

Coffee Shop Review: Boston Stoker

December 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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We spent Thanksgiving with family in Troy Ohio and before going I went online to find coffee shops. Over the four days that we were there we ended up going to three different shops and two of them were an hour away. The first shop we visited was Boston Stoker at 1293 Dorset Road (www.bostonstoker.com) which was only minutes from our hotel.

Before travelling I went to their website and saw that they had a cupping open to the public. Because of the holiday I called to make sure they were still having it and they were. So Kim and I left a little early so we could catch it. Joshua, the barista who was leading the cupping is a good teacher and he really made us feel comfortable. He chose an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and a Costa Rican La Minita for us to cup and both coffees were a light roast.

Joshua had a cupping station ready for each of us and we started with the Yirgacheffe. He talked us through each step and demonstrated the process also. It was very easy to follow his directions. He asked us what we tasted and listened as we described the flavors to him. Kim and I both tasted a little citrus and spice. We also thought it had a good body and a good long aftertaste. I wanted to pick the cup up and drink it, it tasted that good! It may be the best Yirgacheffe I’ve had.

Then we moved on to the La Minita. Joshua talked us through the cupping process again and asked us what flavors we tasted. He interacted well with us and did not get tired of us asking questions. We thought this one was sweeter tasting and even the aroma smelled sweet. This coffee had a full body and a good aftertaste. To put it simply, it was a balanced enjoyable taste of coffee. Kim wanted to pick this one up and finish it!

A couple of days later we stopped and talked with the manager, Kim (it will be easy for me to remember her name) and let her know what a good teacher Joshua was and how we enjoyed the cupping. She took the time to talk with us and told us a little about the company. I also enjoyed a cup of their House Blend Decaf and thought it was very good. You know Kim and I are always on the lookout for a good decaf and this one did not disappoint.

Boston Stoker has nine locations and a roasting facility in the greater Dayton Ohio area. If you are near there and want a good cup of coffee we encourage you to stop. It will be worth getting off the freeway because both the coffee and customer service was great. Remember to stop and enjoy the coffee and conversations. You may find a gem like we did in finding Boston Stoker.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1-10

What Makes a Good Coffee Shop and Sunergos Coffee

October 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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After moving to Louisville and getting settled as to where things were I thought a good date with my wife would be to visit every coffee shop and try their coffee. I literally tore two yellow pages out of our phone book and proceeded to pick out shops, go to them and write notes on how the experience was. I would tell my friends about this and recommend coffee shops to them. I did this before I ever started blogging. These dates quickly got narrowed down to coffee shops that roasted their own beans. I do believe that we made it to every coffee shop in town.

Now you can find a lot of opinions on what people think makes for a good experience at a coffee shop and I want to add mine. First, the coffee, it has to taste good. We are learning about cupping and the art of tasting coffee. We can experience the aroma, flavor profile, aftertaste and body. I understand different roasts. So this may be over simplifying by me, but after the first couple of sips, does it taste good?! Would I buy a bag of this to make at home? Would I want to share this with my friends because it is that good? A good coffee shop has to have good coffee, period.

Second, is the staff friendly and knowledgeable? If the place is not too busy, I will ask questions and I would like good answers. I go as a learner. The more I learn about coffee, the more I realize I still need to learn. I want baristas who know how to interact with me without acting like a snob or like I am a pest. Will they help me learn about their coffee and roasting methods and brewing styles?

Passion is a word that is both over used and misused too much today. Here’s a word I like better when talking about coffee, enthusiasm. Is the staff enthusiastic about helping me learn about their coffee? Here is an important lesson; if the coffee is not that good the first time, I will go back and give them another chance if the staff practices good customer service.

Location is the third component in making a good coffee shop experience for me. If I am on a date and exploring with my wife, I really don’t care where it is located. But if I am going to go back regularly I would like a location with good parking. It doesn’t matter if it has a parking lot or you park on the street. Does the shop have good access?

The fourth component for me is atmosphere. My wife will walk around and look at the art and I will look at the coffee bags. So put the roast date on the bag. Anyone who knows anything about coffee will not buy a bag of coffee without a roast date. I personally don’t care if the furniture is old, new or borrowed. I don’t care how many tables or couches are available. I like background music, but not overly loud music. When I am out with Kim, I want to be able to hear what she is saying to me across a small table. I’m somewhat flexible about the atmosphere because I’m going there with my date (wife), I like to explore new places and I want to try your coffee and sincerely hope it is good.

Now when you put all of that together in Louisville you come up with Sunergos (www.sunergoscoffee.com). They have good coffee. My wife and I have not had a bad cup there. We liked some better than others, but there coffee is good. We have purchased it by the bag and shared it.

The baristas are friendly, knowledgeable, and patient. They like to help customers learn. They know how to make good coffee drinks too. I had my very first cappuccino there last week. Kim and I shared two, the first one was a Costa Rican Don Mayo and the second one was the Sunergos Blend. They were better than I thought they would be. Kim really liked them. The barista’s artwork was pretty good too. We also shared an espresso; it had a slightly sweet and sour taste to me. I think it was a Nicaraguan and it was very intriguing. Then we took home a cup of their Peruvian Centrocafe which was their daily offering.

Their two locations (Preston St. and Woodlawn Ave.) are convenient and the atmosphere is good too. We can sit down and talk and like looking around. It is a pleasure to go back there and enjoy some coffee and conversation. I’ve even taken out of town guests there too.

There you have my two cents on what makes a good coffee shop and a coffee shop that lives up to that. If you are ever in Louisville or driving by it I would encourage you to stop and try the coffee at Sunergos. Until next time, remember to stop and enjoy the coffee.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill (Kim)

Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1-10

Coffee Tasting Party

September 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Posted in Coffee Reviews, Coffee Shop Reviews | 5 Comments
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What do Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, Haiti, Mexico, and Nicaragua all have in common? They are all countries where coffee beans are grown. Recently we had the privilege of sharing some coffee from each of these countries with some family and friends. We actually tried a couple more coffees too! It would be the first intentional coffee tasting party for us. Man did we have fun. We have already had another and have plans for more in the near future.

Before the party I asked the host if I could bring some different coffees and brew them a couple of different ways so we could try something new. You see I come by teaching naturally. I like to take opportunities to teach whenever I can. I am also a lifelong learner and I think that one of the best ways to continue to learn is to teach about what you are learning. My wife and I have been learning about the roasting, grinding, brewing and tasting of coffee. I wanted to share some of that knowledge and coffee with some family and friends. So I had a plan to share about grinding, brewing and tasting one specific roasters coffee.

Hemisphere Coffee Roasters (www.hemispherecoffees.com) provided us with coffee. Their motto is “coffee with a mission.” We’ve reviewed some of their other coffees before. They are involved with direct trade with the coffee farmers and this works out better than fair trade. They care about improving the lifestyles of the indigenous coffee farmers. They have also started a non-profit agency to assist the coffee growers in Latin America called Care Cup International (www.carecupinternational.com). I encourage you to check out both sites.

Well Kim and I stopped in Mechanicsburg at the Hemisphere Coffee Roasters shop to meet Paul and Grace who started this ministry/business. We had a good time talking with them and getting to know them. We tried some coffee and they gave us some samples to give away and to brew and little cups to use. We appreciate their helpfulness and generosity! We hope to get back up there again on one of our trips.

None of the people at the picnic own or use a grinder or French Press. They usually buy coffee that is on sale in the grocery store. That has changed now. First I showed them how easy it is to grind whole beans. Then I made the same coffee in an auto-drip and French Press. We tasted the auto-drip first and then the Press. A couple of people weren’t sure if they liked the Press, but they did like the coffee in auto-drip.

We were drinking coffee in little cups so I kept making coffee to taste. I would pass around the bag of whole beans and ask them how they liked the aroma. A few people actually ate a bean of each coffee. Then I would let them smell the aroma after the beans were ground and again after the coffee was poured into their cup. I would ask them to try to describe the aroma.

After we sipped some coffee I would ask them to try to describe what they tasted. It was a lot of fun listening to their descriptive words. Things like; I’m not sure, fruitiness, tingly, smooth, heavy, and full were used at different times. We even tried some Mexican decaf and one person who doesn’t like decaf liked it and thought it would be good in the French Press.

Overall the Papua New Guinea and Menno Blend were favorites. They are smooth, flavorful, and naturally sweet with a good earthy aroma. The Haitian coffee was liked too. Two people liked the dark roast Nicaraguan Maragojype the best. They thought it was a deeper, bolder flavor. All but one person liked the Mexican decaf.

We had a great time talking and tasting coffee. We gave away sample bags of coffee that we received from HCR. I also ground beans of each coffee we tried and put them in baggies for each taster to take home and enjoy. It was a lot of fun our pleasure to introduce people to the good coffees of Hemisphere Coffee Roasters. We truly hope it sends some business their way and helps their “coffee with a mission” grow. We received the coffee for free and offer objective feedback. Until next time remember to stop and enjoy the coffee and conversation!

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1-10

Coffee Shop Review: La Vida Java

August 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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About a week ago Kim and I went out to run some errands, go shopping and stop at a coffee shop. We wanted to try one that we had never been too so we went to La Vida Java. It is located in Westport Village, 1301 Herr Lane, Suite 110, in Louisville. It is easy to find and there are a lot of shops and restaurants around it.

We went there on Wednesday morning and it was not too crowded. We like to look around a shop and order small cups of their daily brew. The two coffees we chose were a dark roasted Ethiopian and medium roasted Costa Miel Blend. The owner was working that morning and he made Costa Miel fresh while we waited. He is very personable and we had a good conversation with him. He answered all of our questions while we waited. As other customers came in he greeted those he knew by name and asked if they wanted their regular.

I visited their website and found the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe described as medium dark and bold and as intense as its name with aromas ranging from fruity and flowery enzymatics to exotic fresh leathers. Its smoky flavor follows suit displaying a fruity tart earthiness with a dry clean finish. The Costa Miel (Honey Coast) Blend is medium and mild and is a breakfast blend which is comprised of three South and Central American beans. The chocolaty, creamy and sweet taste lends itself to a caramel nutty and smooth finish, hence its name.

We were looking forward to tasting these coffees. The Ethiopian was good and had a nice fruitiness. It was not over roasted which is a good thing. The Costa Miel was excellent. It was naturally sweet and smooth. When we left the shop we went to Whole Foods and left the coffees in the car. We came out and both were cooled off. We liked the flavor profile of both as they cooled and thought the Costa Miel would make a great iced coffee. It was a very enjoyable.

We would recommend a visit to La Vida Java (www.lavidajava.com).Their motto is “Live Life. Have Fun. Drink Coffee!” Even if you are driving through Louisville on a trip and want to stop for good coffee, this place would be worth the stop. The friendliness of the owner and the quality of the coffee made this an enjoyable date. Until next time, remember to stop and enjoy the coffee and conversation.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1-10

Coffee Shop Review – Stauf’s Coffee Roasters

June 7, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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We’ve traveled through Columbus Ohio on I-71 many times without exploring what coffee roasters might be available simply by taking a short detour off the freeway. Well, enough is enough, so I went online and picked Stauf’s to be our first Columbus coffee roasters’ visit. Stauf’s (www.staufs.com) is located at 1277 Grandview Ave. Getting there we also passed our favorite peanut butter producer without knowing we would.

Stauf’s is located on a nice little street with a number of restaurants and shops nearby. There is a patio area with tables and chairs right in front of the shop. You are greeted by the smell of coffee as you walk in. To your right is their flavored coffee and there is a lot of it. I’m not a flavored coffee fan but just a little walk and turn to the left and there is the coffee!

We were also greeted by a helpful salesman by the name of Andy. He offered assistance and information and was not pushy. He answered all of our questions and when asked he told me what his personal favorites were. We interacted with two other salespeople who were equally as friendly and helpful.

As we made our way past all of the coffee beans we went to the counter to order a cup of coffee. Kim and I both ordered a dark roast called Baba Budan. The young man at the counter asked if we would mind waiting because he had to make a fresh pot. We gladly assured him that we would not mind waiting for a fresh pot of coffee.

I bought a cookie and ate it as we waited for the coffee. There was a lot of activity and you probably couldn’t do much reading or studying there. But it is a good place to have a cup of coffee and conversation. Doesn’t coffee seem to taste better when you have it and talk with someone? There is food you can purchase too and it really does look like a good place to go to eat and drink coffee.

We ordered the coffee to go and when it was ready that is what we did. The only negative is that the coffee was so hot you could not hold the cup long even with the sleeve. We may have even burned our tongues a little because of how hot it was. But it did have a good bold taste that lingered after you swallowed. We would definitely get it again. The staff is friendly and helpful and the coffee is good. We would definitely return.

We’ll be looking for other coffee shops to visit and review on our travels. Until next time enjoy the coffee and the conversation.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1-10

Coffee Shop Review – Coffee Labs Roasters

May 19, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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My wife and I recently stayed in Nanuet, NY while visiting our youngest son. Before going I went online to find coffee shops, especially those that roasted their own beans. Let me say that the pickings were slim. One I found that looked interesting was in Tarrytown, but it was across the Tappen Zee Bridge on the east side of the Hudson River. Having been in and through this area a few times I did not look forward to going across the bridge and fighting traffic. But my son thought his mom and I would like it and that traffic wouldn’t be that bad and he would drive. How could I resist?

So we went to Coffee Labs Roasters (www.coffeelabs.com) 7 Main St. Tarrytown, NY and are we glad we did! We got there around noon on a Friday and we had to look for a parking place. When we found one we had to walk up the street a few blocks and we enjoyed looking at all the shops. You could smell the roasted coffee outside the shop and we were looking forward to going in. The staff was very friendly and helpful. They answered all of our questions concerning their coffee. We purchased two House Blends and one Peruvian decaf. We took pictures too.

The House Blend is a full city roast and has a nice aroma, smooth taste and nice feel in your mouth. I drank mine black and really enjoyed it. My son is not the coffee drinker that me and Kim are so he put cream and sugar in his and said he liked it. Kim really liked the decaf which is a full city to full city plus roast. She drank hers black and said it had a very good taste, almost a sweet flavor and slightly acidic.

They also have a Kyoto style drip brewer in the shop. I have seen them online but had never seen one in a coffee shop before. It cold brews coffee at about 2 drips per second and takes roughly 18 hours to brew 25 cups. They let us sample an Espresso Roast (our favorite) and their Witches Brew (it had an interesting flavor). I’m not really a cold coffee drinker but if you are I suggest you try it.

The head roaster is Kurt and he really understands coffee beans and roasting. The coffees we tried were very good. If you are in the area you should make the time and effort to go to Coffee Labs Roasters (www.coffeelabs.com),  you will be glad you did. We will return the next time we are in the area.

We left with three bags of coffee to brew at home, drink and review. As we were heading back west over the bridge I wanted to open the bags and smell the beans. I opened the first one, smelled the beans and was handing the bag back to my wife when my son said, “man that coffee smells good!” That was the Brazilian Decaf. Enough for now, come back in a few days to read our first review of the Coffee Labs Roasters coffee.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13; Psalm 138:1-3

Coffee Shop Review – The Hub

May 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Coffee Shop Reviews | 1 Comment
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While driving through Danville Kentucky I spotted a coffee shop on the corner. Kim and I were hoping we would find a coffee shop to stop at. We did not want fast food coffee, gas station coffee or donut shop coffee. We parked on the street and walked back to The Hub Coffee House and Café www.thehubcoffeehousencafe.com. It is connected to Centre College Bookstore.

We spent a little time in the bookstore because we like them too. Then we went over to The Hub to order coffee. The place was not busy at all and we were waiting for someone to ask us if we wanted anything. One of the sales people a young lady, seemed more interested in talking to a young man at the counter than taking our order. I didn’t want to be rude, but I kept moving closer to them hoping to get her attention. In my mind I’m thinking, “would you mind helping me spend my money here?”

She finally asks us if we wanted anything and I tell her she can finish helping the young man. She tells me its o.k. we were just talking. My wife and I tried to ask her some questions about the coffee they serve (Sunergos, Higher Grounds and Stauf’s) and about the coffee shop. She either didn’t know how to answer our questions or she didn’t want to talk with us. Since we both like Sunergos (and we have reviewed them before) Kim ordered Higher Grounds medium roast Mexican and I ordered the H.G. dark roast called Fresh Water Land Trust.

Both coffees were good. My wife drank hers black and really enjoyed the flavor. It wasn’t too bold, and had a slight citrus flavor. I got the bottom of the pot and it wasn’t that warm. She heated it with the espresso milk scalder. I thought she would offer to make a fresh pot. The dark roast wasn’t too bold and I told Kim I would like to try a fresh pot of this coffee. We also ordered a chocolate chip sandwich cookie and it was a little too sweet.

You may wonder why we stopped again on the return trip. Well I believe everyone deserves a second chance and we did not see any other coffee shops, anywhere. Kim likes a flavored coffee at times so she ordered Stauf’s Chocolate-Orange blend. It had a hint of bittersweet chocolate and slight orange taste. She liked it a lot. I ordered a Higher Grounds medium roast called Red Ribbon Blend. It was smooth and light in my mouth and was a bolder taste than I expected from a medium roast. I drank it black because it tasted so good.

The sales person who waited on us was different and she seemed to be interested in talking with us and serving us. The dark roast was old and she offered to make a fresh pot if we wanted to wait. This was totally different service compared to the day before. We were asking her questions about the coffee and the shop and she tried to answer them. She even asked us to talk with the manager; I think her name was Natalie.

I’m not sure if service there is always hit or miss, but based on my first time there I was not impressed. The second visit was a better experience. At the Leader’s Retreat one of the topics we discussed was the importance of customer service. The Hub needs to improve on customer service. They need some consistency in their staff. They seem to have great coffee selection, some good sales people, and a manager who seemed to care about customers. A little training and they could be a very good coffee shop.

We are looking forward to our next coffee shop adventure whether it’s good or bad because we do it together.

Much GRACE and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13; Psalm 34:1-10

Coffee Review – John Conti, “Cafe Tarrazu”

April 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Coffee Reviews, Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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My wife and I finally made it to the John Conti (www.johnconti.com ) shop on Bardstown Road in Louisville. We have seen their coffee in local grocery stores but have never purchased it. Since we are trying to go to all of the coffee shops in Louisville and try the different coffees we decided to go there.

When we got there we did not know that you couldn’t purchase brewed coffee. You can only buy whole bean or ground coffee. The salesman, Nick, we talked with was very helpful. He could give sales people a good reputation. When we told him our story about wanting to try coffee from all of the coffee shops in Louisville and write about our experiences, he went to their break room and brought us out two cups of coffee to try. That is service beyond what we expected.

The coffee we tried is a light roast called Café Tarrazu. It is described as “A combination of Central American coffees specially blended to produce a sweet, balanced cup, smooth, but with a complex blend of fruit, nut, citrus, and floral flavors.” It was developed after their master roaster took a trip to El Salvador to visit coffee plantations. It is one of their most popular roasts. We ended up purchasing a bag of Café Tarrazu and two sampler packs.

We intended to brew it three different ways when we got home (not in the same day of course, I couldn’t handle that much caffeine!) and then write about how it tasted. First up was the auto drip so that the coffee was ready when we got up in the morning. There isn’t much aroma and it isn’t a bold coffee. It tastes good, but we like a bolder coffee in the morning. This was our least favorite way of brewing and drinking Café Tarrazu.

Next we brewed the coffee in the Chemex coffee maker (www.chemexcoffeemaker.com). You could really taste the subtle flavor of the coffee. Here is where I noticed both the flavor and fruitiness. The light crisp flavor really shined here. This was my favorite brew and tasting style.

Then we brewed the coffee in a French Press. This helped the coffee taste a little bolder, but not too bold. This was my wife’s favorite style of brewing and tasting. The coffee left a nice taste on your tongue and was stronger tasting, but not overpowering.

I’m neither a coffee snob nor a coffee expert, but I know what I like and if I would buy it again. I did not like drinking the coffee in the morning because I like a bolder morning coffee, but I did like it in the afternoon. We thought it has a nice crisp, taste and light body. Overall we liked Café Tarrazu and would recommend it as an afternoon or desert coffee. We will definitely try some of their other coffees, probably some medium or dark roasts though.

Nick, the salesman that helped us probably doesn’t realize how much his helpfulness “sold” us. If all John Conti employees are like him, it explains why they have been successful in Louisville for so many years. You can learn more about John Conti here: www.johnconti.com .

I’m also looking forward to the next coffee date with my wife. Brewing and tasting the coffees with her at home is fun too.

GRACE and peace to you,

Bill

(Romans 15:13)

Decaf? That’s Right, Decaf!

March 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Coffee Reviews, Coffee Shop Reviews | Leave a comment
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While out on a date with my wife I came across some really good decaf coffee. Now, I’m neither a coffee expert nor a coffee snob, but I know what I like and what I don’t like. One weekend in the fall, my wife wanted to go to Rainbow Blossom, a local organic food store because they were having a gluten-free food tasting event. So we go up to New Albany, Indiana and we are walking around the store trying food and getting what we wanted to buy. I turn a corner and there is a lady handing out coffee. Now I’m always up for trying some coffee.

It smells really good and she asks me if I want regular or decaf. It’s in the afternoon so I take decaf. I like to try new coffees black, nothing in them at all. I take a sip and my first thought is, “man this coffee is good!” I call to my wife and tell her, “you have to try this coffee, it’s really good.” She liked it too. So we bought some.

The decaf is from Red Hot Roasters and you can find them here: www.redhotroasters.com . The owner and roaster is Sondra Powell and she is a really nice and friendly lady. Her coffee shop is located at 1402 Payne Street, Louisville, KY 40206. It is a little shop and it’s only a drive-thru. Red Hot is the smallest roaster in the city and the coffee is organic. She believes in accountability and sustainability. It comes in recyclable tins or you can bring them back to fill up with coffee again. Sondra only roasts seven pounds at a time. It’s a Peruvian coffee in a light French roast and a water process decaf.

So I went back and bought some decaf the other day and my wife and decided to brew it in the auto drip and the Chemex www.chemexcoffeemaker.com . The auto drip was first. The coffee beans have a good aroma and they are a little bit oily. It is a strong coffee but not overpowering and slightly acidic. The next day we made it in the Chemex. The taste is very clean and strong. There was the lingering taste of coffee in our mouths, but no bitterness. My wife and I thought the Chemex coffee maker could spoil us. It always makes the coffee taste better, even when you drink it black.

We are always looking for a good decaf. After lunch we don’t usually drink coffee or tea with caffeine. Both of us like the taste and smell of coffee, but sometimes not the caffeine.  We have tried a lot of different decafs. We think this Peruvian light French roast decaf from Red Hot Roasters www.redhotroasters.com  is one of the best we have tried so far. If you are looking for a good decaf you can’t go wrong here. Oh, and you can get it whole bean or ground.

I was thinking I have another reason to go out on a date with my wife; we have to try her regular coffee. I’m guessing it’s as good as the decaf. I’m looking forward to it!

Grace and peace to you,

Bill and Kim

Romans 15:13

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