If you check out the Counter Culture Coffee web site you will see that for a limited time you can order some of the winning espresso from this years South Eastern Regional Barista Competition. This is Nick Cho's tribute to Aida Battle, the El Salvadorian coffee farmer praised for her passion and zeal for great coffees. The blend is available in very limited quantities because, well, there just isn't that much of the great coffees that make it up.
I was in their training center in Durham this afternoon to meet with some of the fine folks about some ideas I have to propel the shop in which I work to the forefront of the industry (Clover?), and they left me alone for a good half hour and told me to make myself comfortable, and there in the big black Robur was Nick's blend. I was told to help myself.
I pulled 3 doubles, just to make sure I was getting it right. After sipping a bit of the first two, and finishing off the third, I was satisfied that I had teased out most of what I was going to be able to get from it. This must have been pretty fresh from the roast, as the crema was as bubbly as a kitchen sponge, but I felt like I had just eaten a fruit cup. This was a flavor that was really outside the box as far as espresso goes, but there was nothing I found offensive about it. In fact, I greatly admired the balance, the big juicy citrus fruitiness, and the soft dissipating after taste as a well rounded and complete experience. There was absent many of the features one usually expects to get from a blend that is based in a Brazilian, but there was no dissappointment. These shots all had a sleek and sensual body that I would easily expect to see in a Victoria Secret advertisement.
Later on, as others came in for their daily 2:00 p.m. shots, as is the tradition at Counter Culture, the discussion carried on about the nature of Nick's Champion blend. It was generally agreed upon that the all El Salvador espresso was analogous to the fashion industry. While Intelligentsia's Black Cat could be said to be a three piece suit, and Counter Culture's Toscano an evening gown, Nick Cho's blend was more like something you would see on the runway. It is not necessarily something most people could pull off wearing to work any day of the week, but it can certainly be appreciated as Haute Couture. This coffee makes a statement. Maybe it says something about the nature of single origin espresso, maybe it is about the whole Seed-to-Cup nature of the coffee experience that is so easily overlooked by the average consumer. Either way, the statement has decibels behind it.
If you get the chance to order a pound of this, do it. I think it is a little piece of history that will soon vanish from the face of the earth. Other great coffees and blends will surly come and go, but each one is like a child. Character and personality manifest in each one in a unique way that can never be duplicated in exactly the same expression of life.
See my exciting and awe inspiring photos from the Barista Olympics. These were games held at Counter Culture Coffee the night before the South Eastern Regional Barista Championship. Matt Riddle, National chapion and designer for Intelligencia of Chigago, was the suprize guest. Also Daniel Humphries, Director of Coffee for Cafe Grumpy in Brookly (and now Manhattan too), was coicidentally in town for some scrumtious cuppings with Peter Gulliano.
There were trivia questions, gasket ring toss, a decaf taste test, guess how many beans, and a little chest beating as the boys tried out the LaMarzocco GB5.
I have been sitting on these photos for a little while now, so I figured I would go ahead and get a free Flickr account, and I hit my monthly limit on the first day. That's where they get you, now I'll have to pay to post the rest of my SERBC photos, or wait till next month. Dang.
The Great Soy Challenge is on. Stockton, Graham & Co. are the official sponsors, and these will be the prizes.1st place
1 Espresso 101 VHS tape
1 Espresso thermometer
1 Measured shot glass
1 Frothing spoon
1# Midnight Lotus Espresso
1 Stockton Graham & Co. Coffee mug
3 Stockton Graham & Co. Luggage tags
1 Cupping spoon
1 Coffee scoop2nd Place
1# Midnight Lotus Espresso
1 Stockton Graham & Co. Coffee mug
3 Stockton Graham & Co. Luggage tags
1 Cupping spoon
1 Coffee scoop
These will be the Official rules.
1- Must be soy- open to any brand, we are, after all, trying to flush out the best brand and the proper steaming/frothing technique.
2- Must be free pour- the idea is to achieve free flowing, pourable, near mirofoam texture.
-Rosettas-Hearts-Shooting Hearts (the Bronwen style)-anything you can pour, so no etching. I don't have anything against etching, per se, but it is not conducive to the goal of finding good soy foam.
3-Size doesn't matter...really..... no I'm serious, I'm not just saying that to make you feel better. Even Machiattos, they are so cute.
4-Hot Cocoa counts
5-Pros and Home Enthusiasts are both eligible
6-You may send in multiple entries
Entries must be sent gmail account that begins with my name, philproteau.
Please include technical info-Brand of soy, amount of streching, final soy temperature, special pouring techniques (unless it is a secret).
The contest will run from now till November 24th, I reckon that is the day after Thanksgiving (that is an American Holiday that involves eating large amounts of turkey, potatos, and cranberry gelatin, followed by heavy drinking, and topped off with hearing about how much of a dissapointment you have been to your entire family, not be confused with Canadian Thanksgiving wich is on a different day, and has less gun play).
After that I will post the pics on the blog to count votes, which should be sent to the same email account.
I will not be participating in a competitive manner, and I have no personal or financial affiliation with the sponsoring company.
Send me those pictures of your Soy Milk Latte Art, I'll be picking the best one and crowing the King and Queen of Soy.
Here I am in the parking lot of Iron Gate Vinyard just outside Mebane N.C. I don't drink the stuff, so I can't tell you what it is like, but they have a very micro set up you can look through if the wine maker or her husband happen to be in when you stop by. Otherwise you can just sit at the bar and try one of every thing.
It's Soy, Baby!!
I have never had much luck with soy latte art. This is the first success I have had with it, so I hearby publicly pose the Soy Challenge. I am sure there must be some good stuff out there, I just have not see any posted though any of the usual outlets.
So here it is people, you got anything better, then bring it!
Submit it to philproteau(don't type this)@(same here)gmail.com, and I will be happy to crown the King and Queen of Soy. If you can take it to the hoop with Rice Milk, Egg Beaters, Non-dairy Powder, or Sour Cream, you can have your own special category too.
Any retailors who want to sponsor with the donation of a prize, you are welcome to contact me as well, but we do it for bragging rights, mostly (but material goods are never frowned upon).
A couple days ago (on October 4) I was poking fun at corporate coffee companies and their tendency to put out flavored coffees, which has now been exacerbated by the move toward flavoring with registered trade marked name brand items. I satirically propsed that Jay Caragay, of Jay's Shave Ice, was putting out a meat flavored coffee.
To my total astonishment, he is appearently planning something along those lines for the judges at the next USBC. Please see this thread posted (on October 5) in You Know Where.
Did I plant the seed of an idea, or was it just the natural progression?
The real news will always be funnier than the crap we can make up.
Here are some mushrooms I had in my yard this summer after the tropical storm rains came through. The tiny abundant ones are inky caps, they melt into black liquid after one day. The tall white one is Amanita Phlloides, The Destroying Angel, and it is deadly. I wounder what kind of flavored coffee that would make.
Even the independents are now feeling the squeeze of those crafty Megalacorporate chains. Demand has been created in the market for these name branded flavored coffees, so much so that if you want to stay in business and stay competitive you have to march in step.
Jay Caragay, of the famed Jay’s Shave Ice in Timonium, Maryland, has introduce a new flavor that is sure to appeal the greatest cross section of the coffee consuming public. Using his patent pending spice recipe and super secret cooking technique, he has managed to put his rib flavor into specialty coffee. I can’t believe he has caved into the pressure after maintaining such high standards for so long.
Apparently, even industry insiders are embracing the new marketing device. I overheard Cindy Chang, Barista Competition organizer and long time employee of Counter Culture Coffee, telling a co-worker that she even uses Jay’s new flavored coffee as dry rub before grilling meets. And I thought she was a vegetarian.
Please don’t take this seriously, though it’s not that far from the real truth of the industry, and many thanks and apologies to Jay Caragay and Cindy Chang.
Does anybody know about Seattle's Best Coffee
? This is the corporate coffee company that is getting ready to take over cafe operations for a certain mega internationally spread book store that originated in middle America. The book conglomerate, which owns mega book superstores, mall based intermediate book stores, and I think a brand of news stand (at least they did in the not so distant past) has something in the neighborhood of 400 cafes around the world.
A little back story on them would be appropriate. On the web site for Seattle's Best they claim to have been one of the pioneer coffee roasters of Seattle in the 70's, and were crowned as the best coffee in a coffee tasting contest. Who else entered, we are not told, nor are we told who the judges were other than to say it was held at a "local restaurant". It couldn't have been a MacCafe, because they weren't around quite yet. They have a photo of their neon sign hanging from the facade of a building, and in the background, creating a visual parley with the main subject of the composition, you can plainly see the erected signage that spells out "PUBLIC MARKET"
. Now if that is not a silly thing to associate your coffee business with, I don't know what is.
They also have a variety of flavored coffees, which in and of itself is not unusual. But they have a strange hybrid of flavored coffee. They have married the traditional high fructose corn syrup with the trade marked, registered, intellectual property of other businesses. For instance, they
offer the Cinnabon® Flavored Coffee. One cup for breakfast, one for lunch, and a sensible dinner, and you are on your way to that size 3 bikini just in time for spring break. Since when does the flavor of a flavored coffee have a little R in a circle? I am not really sure what the implications of such marketing strategies for name branding this may have, but I have a really bad gut reaction to it. I'll have to sleep on it to figure this one out.
The icing on the cinnamon flavored bun is this, Starbucks owns Seattle's Best Coffee since 2003
. They were very well aware of their reputation as the nations second biggest retailer of charcoal, right behind Kingsford. In an attempt to scoop up the other piece of the pie graph, they needed an outlet for what they describe as coffee with "smooth flavors". Presumably that means coffee that is not roasted so dark, or unsmooth. But this is not about bashing Starbucks, this is about the bookstore.
The cafes in the book superstore giant, (O.K., I'll go ahead and tell you, it is Borders) have suffered for at least a decade from a lack of freshness from the roasters to the cup. The beans are roasted, stored in warehouse, shipped, stored in a warehouse, shipped again, then sit on the shelf in the cafe for a week or tow before brewing. But what has been more harmful are the blends themselves. The brewed coffee house blend is sour with notes of saltiness. This is good on a potato chip, or in BBQ sauce, but there is a time and place for these things, and its not in a cup of coffee, ever. And it has tasted the same for years, so it is not just a bad batch.
I would have to say that when they complete the transition, the quality of the product at the book store cafe will no doubt improve, and quite frankly, I count on the corporate giants to provide a "gateway" product to pull people into the specialty coffee market. I just wish they would get off the notion of flavored coffee. If you don't want the taste of coffee in you drink,
please, order a Mt. Dew.
Here I am just after my press confrence with Don King, that was when I predicted finising in the top 3 next year. That is my Mom in the middle, she was so tickled to meet Don.
I hope my double jointed jaw dose not get too displaced as I live out next year with my foot in my mouth. My dentist is already concerned about the tooth grinding and the lip biting.
Having been cited by this blog
, popular in the "Third Wave" community, I will be held accountable for my prediction of placing in the top three at next year's SERBC.
With a mouth like Muhamad Ali, I better bring it next year, floating and stinging, with syle and grace, and keep my promise. The practice and planning never stops. Possible ingredience for my next sig bev include:
-Sun dried tomatoes
-Tincture of St. John's Wart (a happy judge is a high scoring judge)
-Silver cupcake sprinkels, both balls and cylinders (Freudian slip unintended)