Archives for category: Non-alcoholic

Naked portafilter photo by Oddly Correct.

I’ve been raving about Oddly Correct coffee for quite some time and for a damn good reason. It’s awesome. That’s about all you really need to read, but here’s some more if you need extra convincing.

I bought a pound of their Stranger in the Alps (I’ll let you do the work of figuring out what the name is all about, but it has to do with hilarious editing of a scene from The Big Lebowski) a few weeks ago and was running low on beans, so with only a few minutes left before they closed I popped into the shop and grabbed a bag of what I thought sounded good (not that I’ve found they roast anything bad). My Chemex and Clever Coffee Dripper were both feeling neglected while Signore Gaggia was getting all the fun, so I didn’t really care what I had grabbed as long as it was for pourover instead of espresso.

When I realized I had grabbed the one variety of espresso they had on hand I was momentarily upset with my “mistake” during the rush, but I recovered. I finished up the last of my Stranger in the Alps yesterday and dug into my selection, Entre Volcanes single farm espresso and all I can say this morning is “WOW!”

I did a little research about the Entre Volcanes farm and found a surprising amount of information here. The farm is located in Guatemala at what the site says is “a significantly higher altitude for the region, and thus the coffee coming from here produces an extremely complex cup.” The farm was founded in the 1950’s and so it would be safe to assume they know how to grow beans the right way.

The farm also grows poinsettias, macadamia trees, orchids and bromelias. I would like to say I could taste a hint of macadamia with a long orchid finish in the coffee, but that would just be a lie! LOL

I had a feeling I was in for a treat when I opened the hand-printed and labeled bag (a trademark of those crafty fellows at Oddly Correct) and saw the small, hard-looking beans I have grown accustomed to equating with great cups from their magical roaster. A lot of Oddly Correct’s beans seem to be about 1/2 of the size of a “regular” roasted bean and not as darkly roasted-looking. In my mind, the smaller and more pebble-like the bean from these guys, the better. Who knows?

I filled my Kyocera hand grinder (I always go by volume of the beans to the top of the grinder hopper, rather than weighing them out). It felt noticeably heavier in my hand but took the 200-ish cranks of the handle to grind them all, which is normal regardless of the bean I use, and the volume of espresso in the Gaggia portafilter looked right.

I got the volume of espresso I wanted in the time I wanted (about 15-17 seconds) and the aroma coming off the cup was a little grapefruity/citrusy, but the tasting notes on the bag prepped me for that. I feel like now, 15 minutes after I had the drink, that there is a lingering astringency/grapefruit flavor on my palate from the coffee, but that could be purely psychological.

Like the other espressos I’ve had from Oddly Correct, the Entre Volcanes was bright and punchy. If you could describe a sip as a physical thing, somewhere in the middle of it was a fleeting earthy character that my mind immediately associated with cinnamon. It was quick, like “5%” of the overall sip, and it didn’t TASTE like cinnamon, but there was some quality of it that I couldn’t shake as being “cinnamon-like.” I suspect I’ll be running the Gaggia a few more times today, so maybe I’ll have some more comments to note on that!

I got a little cherry toward the end, which seems to be a theme with Oddly Correct beans, and a citrusy, tart finish.

Entre Volcanes is truly handled well by the brilliant OC roasters and they have done this bean justice. The cup was really full-bodied, the crema was gorgeous looking and the flavors were pure, bright, acid and lacked any sootiness or ashiness that comes from most espresso roasts.

Damn!

I don’t have the biggest tea vocabulary in the world so rather than trying to desperately squeeze out reviews for these teas separately I figured a single article on them all would be sufficient. I’ve been drinking much more tea recently than I have in the past and what I’ve learned, in general, is that quality tea is more pleasurable than cheap tea, and that quality doesn’t have to come at an outrageous price. Enter Harney & Sons.

I’ve recently re-discovered Harney & Sons teas after having a hotel stay in California where the room was supplied with H&S sachets (like a fancy tea bag, more of a cloth pyramid). The Earl Grey Supreme reminded me what I like about tea and upon looking up prices on Amazon (because I always assume their prices are going to be better… which is not the case here) I was pleasantly surprised. I read some descriptions of the teas and settled on a tin of their SoHo blend (flavored with chocolate and coconut), which is OK, and the Hot Cinnamon Spice which is FREAKING FANTASTIC (see more in my last story, here).

Poking around on Harney’s own website I was immediately struck by the HUGE variety of teas they offer, most in loose, sachet or traditional tea bags. I was also frankly surprised by the prices, which were better than Amazon’s. This was shortly after Christmas and I took advantage of a free shipping offer they had going to order a few sample packs and a few tins of teas I was pretty sure I would like.

Lapsang Souchong

I first heard about this type of tea on a blog, Craft Beer Radio, that I’ve been following since its first episode but it took me several years to get around to it. This is a style of black Chinese tea that is dried over wood smoke, usually pine (although I’m sure people have played with that plenty, just like with barbecue). The result is a highly smoky aroma to this tea, adding depth and dimension to what would otherwise be just a plain ol’ cup of black tea. My only previous experience with Lapsang Souchong was some Twinnings I bought at the local grocery store in bags. The Twinnings has a slightly stronger smoke aroma that seems a little “synthetic” to me (although I don’t think it is). As a result there seems to be a little more smoke on the flavor, too, than the Harney variation which is overall a bit milder. If you’re worried that Lapsang Souchong is like drinking Liquid Smoke, don’t. The smoke is more subtle than you would think and it’s a pleasant experience coming from someone who doesn’t love smoked drinks. I bought a 6 oz. tin for $9. To give you an idea, they recommend one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup brewed, so that is a LOT of tea. It amounts to pennies per cup. The leaves are large and do well in a typical strainer ball or stick strainer.

Genmaicha

Genmaicha is a Japanese tea blend of green tea leaves and rice. The only time I’ve had this tea is when we eat at Po’s on 39th St. and I have it every time I’m there. It has a wonderful nutty taste from the rice. While the green tea leaves are being dried, rice is added and over times the rice grains brown and become crunchy. Some even burst open and when I opened the tin I laughed out loud because there were little tiny miniature “popcorns” mixed in. It’s quite beautiful and unique. This Genmaicha is every bit as good as that at Po’s. The tea is light and earthy and the rice gives a nutty, full-bodied lift to the overall drink. I really love this tea. This was $6.75 for a 4 oz. tin. Again, a great price for a lot of tea. I bought a four ounce package of World Market’s house brand green tea last year that was more expensive than this. I did find that there are a lot of little tea clippings in this blend and they slipped right through the holes in my tea ball, making the cup a MESS. The second time I brewed this I used my French Press, which has a fine strainer on it, and that worked great.

Blue Ginger

This is a custom blend that Harney & Sons makes for Ming Tsai’s restaurant, Blue Ginger. I bought a sampler of this for $2 that includes 2-3 sachets. It is regularly sold as a 20-sachet tin for $8.00 but it is currently out of stock. This is a Fujian black tea with hints of ginger and lychee fruit. This is a nice tea, although I was mistakenly under the impression that it is a green tea, not black tea, so I brewed it at about 185° instead of the customary “off-boil” for black teas. I’m not sure if the 30 degree difference in water temperature is a big deal or not so I will brew it properly next time. That being said, it has great flavor. I’ve had some pretty strong ginger teas (like the one Tazo makes) and they can be a bit much for me, so the ginger is a second fiddle in this tea for sure, which I appreciated. There is a nice fruitiness on the palate, too, presumably the lychee fruit, and this was a really nice tea that I would like to enjoy more of.

French Super Blue Lavender

I have to admit, I bought this tea only because I had to see the color for myself in person! Click the link to Harney & Sons’ website to see what I mean! I’ve never had lavender tea before so I had no idea what to expect, but it was worth the $2 to get the sampler and check it out. The packet contains what you would expect: a bunch of little tiny dried lavender flowers which are beautiful in and of themselves. I brewed this according to the instructions using my French Press (seemed fitting for French lavender tea!) and was disappointed by the color. Instead of the stunning purple shown on the website our cups were sort of a blue-gray, washed out color. Oh well. The tea itself was reminiscent of chamomile, another flower, to me. It was very light, thin bodied and just the essence of lavender. Much lighter than a traditional chamomile tea, but a similar flavor profile, to me.

Blood Orange Fruit Tea

There is precious little information about this “tea” on the Harney & Sons website, but while I was perusing the herbal section I spotted this and added the $2 sampler to my cart. Why not? A full 4 oz tin would be $6.25. The website gives no information about it, but it looks like dried bits of fruit and peel from blood oranges. Simple enough! I brewed this in my French Press and the result was a wonderfully aromatic drink. It smelled awesome. Like many pure herbals, however, the body and flavor were significantly lighter than the aroma, but they were pleasant, too. I wondered how this would taste as an iced tea in the summer, or as a blend with other components in a hot weather iced tea. I’ll have to remember that come July…

So on my diet, I can thankfully drink as much tea and coffee as I want. I was recently in California for work and the hotel I was staying at had sachets of Harney &Sons teas in the room. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I used to drink their English Breakfast Tea. The tea I had at the hotel in Monterey was their Earl Grey Supreme. I’m a big fan of Earl Grey and this is a great example of a wonderful flavor combo.

When I got home I hopped on Amazon (be careful if you use Prime because you MIGHT get better prices direct from Harney & Sons’ website…) and ordered some of their chocolate and coconut flavored SOHO tea as well as a box of 50 bags of their Hot Cinnamon Spice.

The SOHO is good. Smells stronger than it tastes, and the flavor is pretty good. Not something I’d want to drink all the time, and I’ll bet it would be good with a splash of cream, but for dieters who need a little chocolate fix, it does the job without cheating.

The Hot Cinnamon Spice is another story altogether. First of all, it smells UNBELIEVABLE! The aroma is so great, pure cinnamon delight. I was surprised about how sweet it tastes, coming from naturally sweet Sweet Clove. I love this tea! It’s warm, flavorful and sweet without any sweeteners actually being in it. This could EASILY be an everyday afternoon tea for me. It is just great!

I’m a big fan of Harney & Sons, now. I’ll be ordering more Hot Cinnamon and some Earl Grey Supreme and I want to try their smoked green tea… And with hundreds of tea varieties I think I have years of experimentation ahead of me with this brand! Yum!

I know about 20% of my posts here seem to be “what I’ve been doing/where I’ve been” posts because of the irregularity of my posting. It has been a BUSY year and focusing on health has had me drinking a LOT less beer than usual. I’ve had just a few beers in the last couple months, and when I do have an occasional beer it’s on my “cheat day” and I don’t really want the work/pressure of keeping notes, posting etc.

Yes, I am a horrible blogger!

I have been enjoying a little more wine than I used to, and I’ve REALLY been geeking out on tea and coffee (even more so than usual) lately, so I’ll have some things to post in the meantime on those subjects.

I have a few beer posts in the hopper just waiting to publish, too, so thanks for reading and I’m still knocking around and posting here, just sporadically. That’s how life goes sometimes!

Oddly Correct is a little midtown Kansas City coffee shop that is making a big name for itself. I’ll have a more complete review of their shop and some coffee coming soon, but I wanted to get this short review of their Hop! Toddy drink out ASAP. Hop! Toddy is a cold-brewed coffee with hops added to it, bottled in 12 oz bottles and served up fresh and ready to drink on a regular basis at the shop.

I’m not super familiar with Toddy brewed coffee other than that it is a cold-brewing method that is supposed to cut down on some of the “bitter acids and oils” that traditional forms of extraction may pick up. I’ve never had Toddy brewed coffee, so I can’t comment on that. The fellas at Oddly Correct said that they think the Toddy method can produce a rather flat cup, so they decided to try adding something to it to brighten it up and that “something” was hops.

For V1.0 they are using citra hops, a relatively new “breed” of hops that are prized for their citrusy notes (get it, citra… citrus!?) as well as their other “soft fruit” flavors, notably pineapple and even peach/apricot. If you’re a beer drinker you may’ve had a beer primarily made with citra hops. The most available around here is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA. I had Torpedo right after it hit the shelf a year or two ago and the pineapple and peach was quite apparent.

The girl in front of me in line said, “I don’t really like hoppy beers, so I’m not sure I’ll like this” and they assured that Hop! Toddy isn’t “hoppy.” They were right.

My bottle was bottled on 7/3/12 and I bought it on 7/4/12. I sort of forgot about it (every time I thought about it I didn’t really want a coffee, like at night) until 7/16/12. I’m not sure if that’s enough time for it to lose some hop character or not, but the hops were certainly subtle in the Hop! Toddy.

The concoction poured out of the bottle like a dead flat porter, very dark brown to black with lots of red highlights in the corners of the glass. It had a chocolatey, sweet aroma, sort of like if you could separate just the chocolatey aroma of a good stout. I wonder if the coffee was Ethiopian Yirgacheffe because there was an Earl Grey character with a hint of lemon, which is a flavor I get from good Yirgacheffes.

The hops were definitely in the background. I suspect that they added some brightness, and I think I was getting them in the finish and aftertaste, but if no one TOLD you there were hops in this you wouldn’t say, “AHA! Hops!” I think they may have done for the coffee what a spritz of acid (like a lime or lemon) will do for a dish… brighten up the flavors and make them “pop” a little where they would otherwise be flat on their own. After hearing the guys’ opinions on Toddy brewed coffee, this is exactly what it sounded like.

This was GREAT on its own (the sure sign of a good cup of coffee is when it tastes good COLD, too). It would probably make a fantastic iced coffee drink of some sort, with a little cream or something, but I think you should drink it undiluted… as-is. I really liked it!

Beautiful extraction

I’ve lusted after a Chemex coffee brewer ever since I became aware of them several years ago. I was a chemistry major in college, so it’s probably no big surprise that the “two Ehrlenmeyer flasks united as one” shape of the Chemex speaks to me. LOL

I picked up the 8-cup Chemex and a box of unbleached filters at World Market in Westport. At home I brew coffee one of two ways: espresso machine or French press, but the press is a PITA for me to clean, it seemed like, so I decided to bite the bullet on the lower maintenance Chemex (although it’s a lot more work to do the actual extraction than a French press).

I haven’t gone full coffeenerd on the Chemex just yet. I am eyeballing the amount of coffee (instead of using a digital scale), I am using a tea kettle and an OXO measuring cup to pour in the water (instead of a $50 Hario Buono pourover kettle), I am eyeballing the amount of water (instead of weighing it, too) and I’m guessing on the grind fineness (instead of timing everything to dial it in).

A work of geek art

All that being said, I can still brew up a dang good cup of coffee with the Chemex!

This gives me room to expand, I suppose! The Chemex method is not for low maintenance coffee folks. You have to boil water (oh, I also don’t have a thermometer to know my water temperature, which is important), rinse the filter, “bloom” the grounds, pour, watch, pour some more, etc. It’s high maintenance, but fun (to me).

I watched a few helpful videos (go to Vimeo and search “chemex”) after the first few times I used the Chemex and learned some important things. First, you should use boiling water to rinse the filter some. I didn’t think this was necessary until I did it once and I got some brownish looking water off the filter. Yuck!

Second, gently tamping the Chemex on the counter top (use a towel under it) a few times to settle the grounds into the filter cone seems pretty important, too.

Blooming the beans is important, although I don’t know why. Blooming means pouring a small amount of water onto the dry grounds to soak them a little. Some things happen for about 30 seconds, then you’re ready to start pouring in water.

Pour the water in the center, not along the side, so you get a nice extraction from the point of the cone, rather than running down the side.

Most importantly, have fun! If this seems like “the system” that is going to stick for me, I’m going to add a digital scale and maybe that fancy pourover kettle (or something similar if I can find it)!

I was at Cost Plus World Market in Westport the other day and as I was waiting at the checkout I spied something in the cooler that caught my eye. Gee, ever wonder why they put those things right by the cash register? LOL Anyway, I walked out with a bottle of Ayala’s Herbal Water in the Cinnamon Orange Peel flavor.

The company appears to have been around since 2005 and this is their only product I have tried. It is clear and colorless and packaged in a relatively widemouth clear, colorless plastic bottle. There were several flavors to choose from, but the Cinnamon Orange Peel attracted me the most. The product is USDA certified organic and uses only natural flavorings.

The water has a faint citrusy aroma and a warm, earthy orange flavor with a cinnamon finish. It tastes decent but has a somewhat synthetic character to me, immediately bringing up an image of bubblegum in my mind. There is no sugar or sweetener in the water, but it has a slightly sweet character all the same. I don’t know what was in it that made me think “cheap bubblegum” but that was the only thing I could picture as I drank this water. It must’ve had something to do with the cinnamon, and even though the bottle listed “natural flavorings” I wonder if they weren’t extracts that are also used in the making of, well, bubblegum, too!

I’d have to try some more of their products before rendering judgement, but I probably won’t have Cinnamon Orange Peel again. It wasn’t bad, but I’d just as soon drink some good ol’ Kansas City tap water, honestly.