My new favorite mug and my latest #coffee discovery; Divine Madman Coffee. This berry delicious Amaro Gayo is not only organic and grown sustainably, it is grown completely by a women’s cooperative in Ethiopia. How cool is that for acting locally and thinking globally? You can pick up these locally roasted gems at the Poway Farmers Market on Saturdays, or the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sundays. Cheers!
A LOOK BACK…
On May 10, 2013, I was invited to cup 20 of the coffees chosen at the Cup of Excellence in Colombia with the Ladies at Elan/InterAmerican Coffee in Downtown San Diego. Joining in the experience were John of Caffe Calabria and David of James Coffee Co. It was a fun experience and of course we agreed on a few, and agreed to disagree on a few others. But cupping 20 coffees at once was quite a feat for moi. Can you say palate overload? Thanks Yesenia, Sheridan, Kika, and Kayd for putting up with the rookie in the house. It was definitely a memorable experience.
I apologize it has taken me this long to figure out how to make a proper video complete with soundtrack. But now that I know how, watch out world!!! ;D
Local San Diego Roaster James Coffee Co. does! Catch David Kennedy (below) and family serving up some freshly roasted small batch coffee this Sunday, May 26th in Encinitas.
Drop in from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the Keep A Breast POP UP SHOP Coffee Tasting and Old Fashioned Bake Sale at UNIV Garage: 1057A South Coast Hwy, Encinitas, CA 92024.
Oh and if coffee, insulin pumping sweet treats and saving the Boobies isn’t good enough for ya, they have DJ Cute Boobs in the hiz-house, or rather Her-house. Enjoy!
Since I began searching for great coffee as an alternative to Starbucks and Coffee Bean, which are the more visible chains in Southern California, I’ve been very successful at finding exactly what I set out to find. And thankful for it. What I didn’t set out to do on my consumer centered journey was end my previous relationship with coffee, which really was a relationship with cream and sugar, not coffee. In fact, when my Dad poured my first cup of coffee I would openly joke about liking a little coffee with my cream and sugar.
In those days, “coffee” was defined as anything you’d pull off the supermarket shelf labeled as such, or the late night coffee available at Denny’s long before they introduced clubs for teens. We could stay out late and talk all night with a group of friends without needing a designated driver. That freedom on top of all the caffeine, was a great high in and of itself. I know, I’m a cheap date.
When I went off to college at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, my dependency and expectations would climb a few notches. I spent many nights studying in Stuart’s Coffee House in Downtown Bellingham sipping latte after latte and mocha after mocha. I eventually discovered I liked the taste of coffee with a ‘little’ sweet always asking for less and less sugar until lattes and cappuccinos without sugar became my favorite.
Fast forward 10 years, and I found myself a home owner in San Diego County. I also found that I no longer desired to continue climbing the corporate ladder in the Financial Industry. So I started a blog, really as an experiment to learn about online marketing. What I found was that I not only loved taking pictures and writing about the ‘feel’ or experience of a particular cafe or coffee house, but it seems others were interested in reading about it too, or at least looking at the pictures (that’s okay, I just buy a new pillow after the screaming and crying fits). I picked coffee because I selfishly wanted alternatives and I refused to believe that San Diego was devoid of Coffee Houses or Mom & Pops that could make grabbing coffee feel and taste like it did when I lived in the Northwest. I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised at my findings.
This new examination of coffee, especially at the Roaster level, meant I had to educate myself on what is necessary to get the best out of the coffee I was taking home in order to give each a fair shake. Also, sustainably grown fair trade specialty coffee tends to be more expensive than store bought coffee and I didn’t want to waste it, but also I honestly wanted to know what goes into brewing coffee so I could have the same taste experience at home.
Proper brewing meant paying attention to a few things: Seasonality, the date roasted, storage, grind, water quality, and water temperature as well as the specific brewing instructions for each choice of brewing mechanism whether a Hario Pour Over or traditional French Press. Just as Roasters taste or cup each coffee they decide to buy and offer their clientele, it was necessary to start tasting the coffee, not just tasting it but examining it in terms of aroma, acidity, body and finish, much like those who taste wine do.
And in the same way, I began a journey of understanding coffees by region, just as there are wines from Australia, such as Shiraz, there are coffees from Indonesia, such as Sumatra. Wines are often described for the type of grape used and beans are described by origin, process, and often times the farmer or farming cooperatives who produce it. Just as certain grapes take on certain qualities depending on the elevation and environment in which they are grown, coffee cherries also respond in terms of taste to these variables.
With this new journey and understanding, I began to forge a new mind-palate connection, and to do so I had to THINK about what I was smelling, tasting and feeling on my palate. What I found is that once you taste an amazing shot of espresso (minus cream or sugar), your whole consciousness on what you like about coffee shifts. The same goes for a wonderful pour over, just like tasting a superb Petite Syrah, your brain, whether you like it or not, automatically creates a standard on which all others must now be measured.
Your personal preferences in coffee, just like wine, emerge. You realize that while you like chocolate, caramel and berry notes in your coffees, others may not share your preferences. Others may like earthy, tobacco notes in their coffees and will never be happy with natural processed Ethiopian coffees, for instance, with their natural infusion from the coffee cherry of berry flavors. Just like I appreciate jammy, fruit-forward reds with a spicy or smooth finish, others like reds with earthy mineral qualities or hate reds and will only drink white.
This is why I may seem to clam-up when someone asks me, “Who serves the best coffee or shot of espresso in San Diego?” The truth is, only the taster can answer that question for themselves. I can give you a few places to try, but ultimately, you may decide you like the more European style espresso served at Caffe Calabria over the edgy espresso blend that might add a little Ethiopian into the mix at Coffee & Tea Collective resulting in a shot of espresso with nuanced berry notes. I may love the latter and you think it’s weird, and that’s okay.
In the same way, I may not want to drink any “Fucking Merlot" and reach for the Syrah and Pinot every time. You may say you only like late harvest white wines like Rieslings, and I may only drink red, but as I learned at the Le Metro Wine Underground kick-off this past month via my hosts Uva Buena Fine Wines and Protocol Wine Studios, who curated a collection of wines that completely turned what I ‘thought’ I liked on its head, I would encourage you, to find someone you trust in coffee and keep an open mind.
Many of you may not know that coffee has peak timelines shorter than the peak timelines for drinking certain wines, that is why seeking out someone who can speak to seasonality in coffee is so important. If you don’t know what is meant by that, it is likely that what you ‘think’ you like in coffee is about to change. Simply by hitting up a local roaster who concerns themselves with this alone, you are likely to have some eye-opening tasting experiences. Likely, if they’re concerned with seasonality, they’re concerned with the farming practices that produced the quality bean they are offering for sale to you. Once people find what they like, they can be fiercely loyal, and that’s okay too.
But I will leave you with this. At one time in my life there were a lot of things I didn’t like and it took a very special foodie friend of mine to prove to me that if I just stay open-minded and agree to try something new or prepared in a new way, I might be pleasantly surprised. This was a leap of faith that I am fortunate enough to say has resulted in some of the most memorable dining experiences of my life…
I would like to talk about closing the coffee-wine divide when it comes to cost too, but I think if you keep an open mind and set out on your own journey to search out great coffees, you’ll also experience a consciousness shift on what you’re willing to pay for coffee that automatically makes the moment you sip it memorable even if the rest of your day is not…
Until next time, I wish you adventure and discovery on your own journey, happy coffee-ing my friends! xox
Just a quick note. I don’t create a blog post on everything I do, but for more daily pictures and updates on life and coffee in San Diego, you can follow me on Instagram at sdjoecoffeeblog, and share your pictures with me too :). I’m also very active on Twitter with Facebook coming in a close second and Google+ coming in a close third.
That’s right. The rumors are true my coffee loving friends. Caffeine Crawl is coming to San Diego! For those of you who do not know what Caffeine Crawl is, allow me to elaborate. Jason Burton, the Founder, took some time to do a Skype interview with me yesterday to talk about this revolution sweeping the coffee world giving everyone, not just industry pros, an inside peek into the specialty beverage world, specifically the still somewhat mysterious world of specialty coffee.
While wine and craft beer have successfully indulged their fans in events both educational and experiential, specialty coffee’s big events are still largely preaching to the choir, according to Burton, aimed at people in the ‘industry’ rather than the folks that buy coffee for consumption.
"That’s messed up. It shouldn’t be that way… I go to beer festivals and wine festivals and it’s the complete opposite. It’s mostly consumers. So, we brainstormed and I guess it would be two summers ago now on how to solve that… at the time we were doing a lot for the cocktail world and I was traveling around the country going to cocktail bars and also coffee shops…"
After working on branding in the high-end restaurant and cocktail scene, Burton began working with Roasters in the Midwest like The Roastery. He immediately saw the lack of events geared toward coffee lovers as a missed opportunity for Roasters, and in 2009, Caffeine Crawl was born.
Ordering coffee is such a rushed event, there isn’t time, really, for the Barista to talk about the coffee or what they are doing for a perfect extraction, unlike when you order a beer or a glass of wine, says Burton.
“[With] cocktail bars one thing I really noticed was that you have time to interact with the bar tender—they’ll tell you a little bit about how they made the drink. The pace is slowed down. And in coffee, I don’t know if it’s more of a routine, but [we] don’t appreciate how much it should cost… and the time factor and people are in such a rush… and I think it does two things: I think it puts the Baristas in kind of a bad mood sometimes because they’re passionate about it and they don’t have a chance to articulate what they’re doing… even if someone cares… it’s eight fifteen in the morning, they’re trying to get out the door, and the other thing is the consumers are sometimes too shy to ask a question…they don’t want to ask, or ask a dumb question or bother the Barista… so that was the whole origin of doing this to break that barrier…”
Caffeine Crawl strives to slow things down a bit in order to engage the senses, educate and demonstrate in a way that is memorable and gets people thinking about the beverage in a whole new way. Don’t worry tea lovers, unlike some coffee events that forget all about you, Caffeine Crawl includes teas as many Roasters are also purveyors of specialty loose leaf teas. Burton and his team also partner with craft beer and other specialty drinks to create an overall ‘backstage’ experience for specialty beverage lovers. Don’t like coffee, tea, craft beer or wine? There’s chocolate. Burton explains why chocolate was such a natural offering to include:
"We figured instead of doing just coffee…tea always gets ignored…and there’s a huge movement with bean to bar chocolate…and American craft chocolate makers or chocolatiers…there’s so much of an overlap in their process and how they work with origin in the same way that coffee roasters [do]…"
Burton and his team at The LAB in Kansas City have grown the events year over year starting in the Midwest, but reaching as far as Vancouver, B.C. and Denver. This year, they’re going Coast to Coast; they were just in Boston, and are shooting for San Francisco in June (date TBD).
When I asked Burton whether San Diego could expect them to do a Crawl here anytime soon, his answer was YES. I wanted to slam my coffee cup down as if in the in-zone and start doing my happy dance. I was sure it was my cyber stalking that had finally paid off, but as it turns out, I’m not the only one in San Diego who reached out to them requesting that they do one here. Oh, and eat your heart out City of Angels! America’s Finest City beat you to the punch…or rather to the Crawl. Our coffee culture may just be brewing, but what we don’t have in L.A. Time’s and New York Time’s reviews, we more than make up for in community enthusiasm. Don’t worry, we’ll send you an invite (wink).
It usually takes about 6 months to organize such a large scale event, says Burton, so San Diego can expect Caffeine Crawl in the first quarter of 2014. A lot of work goes into communication and logistics. Working with many independent, small businesses and brands has unique challenges, but the events that have come together as a result, Burton says, have been worth it.
Recently, Burton’s noticed a cross-over in the Coffee and Craft Beer worlds, so we can no doubt expect to see that organically grow together in San Diego and hopefully be a unique offerring at Caffeine Crawl San Diego in 2014.
Part of the reason we’re primed for an event of this scale, acknowledged Burton, is the enthusiasm people like me have for our growing coffee community. He wouldn’t even know San Diego had a coffee culture or community brewing under the ‘surf’, if I hadn’t reached out to him and let him know what was happening in coffee here. For me, it’s a great feeling to know I’ve been a catalyst of sorts.
Speaking of good feelings. Caffeine Crawl caught my interest not just because it is an awesome event, but also because it gives back to the communities it comes into contact with. An event with coffee that gives back to the community? Hello, that’s how this girl defines s-y-n-e-r-g-y.
Each Crawl closes with a raffle of 8-20 items via an after party, with the main prize donated by Baratza out of the Bay Area; a Burr Grinder that retails for $400 and change. All the proceeds go directly through the chosen charity; in most cases, local food banks. The only time they did a giveaway rather than a fundraiser for charity was during their last event in Boston; the weekend of the Boston Marathon and the Annual SCAA Symposium.
"It was a tough weekend for a lot of people…" Burton noted solemnly.
That’s all the coffee news that’s fit to print this hot Friday afternoon San Diego! Until next time, happy coffee-ing!