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Archive for January, 2008

For a variety of reasons, we have decided a “Misson Statement” is in order. For now, CoffeeInAction is the road trip, its us (Sara and Melanie), and its a fun venture with a limitless number of possibilities.

We don’t know where it will go or what will come of it…but that’s the fun part.

And now, without further adieu, we present to you, (Ta-Da!) a mission statement:

CoffeeInAction

Good People, Good Coffee

http://www.CoffeeInAction.wordpress.com

Our Mission:

To explore the ideas and practices of community, sustainability, and social responsibility within the specialty coffee industry

 

Our Goals:

· to experience communities around the country that are taking part in local action to create global change

· to learn about and raise awareness of the:

· relationship between coffee farms and coffee consumers

· social and environmental impact of the coffee industry

· positive impact that specialty coffee businesses can have

· provide publicity for specialty coffee businesses that have this positive impact

· to build a network of small, community-focused specialty coffee businesses

 

Our Plan:

· Travel the country on a road trip to engage with coffee businesses and professionals.

· Highlight businesses that:

· create and maintain vibrant local communities

· employ environmentally sustainable methods

· operate with an awareness of the global social impact of the coffee industry

· Document the trip and what we learn on a public blog

 

The specialty coffee industry is a powerful avenue for creating awareness about, and making positive changes on a wide array of issues; human, environmental, and economic. Our public blog will provide an educational and experiential forum to connect progressive specialty coffee businesses and forward-thinking coffee consumers.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

There she is, hope you like ‘er.

-Melanie and Sara Rose

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Gearing up.

Count Down to Departure Day: 2 weeks exactly:

14 days!
Back to the gear:

This weekend my Dad and I trekked over to CampMor in New Jersey to get some camping gear. I picked up a TENT, a sleeping bag, a sweet sleeping pad, plus a collapse-able 2.5 gallon water container (to counter the copious coffee consumption).

The tent was a holiday gift from my Dad (Thank you!) Part of the present was getting to score some quality time with Pops which is why it was a delayed present.

Last night I was like a small child on Christmas day – I pitched the tent in my living room, put the sleeping bag and pad inside, got in the sleeping bag and made my parents come appreciate all my new gear with me inside it. It was really fun – I promise. I sat in the tent for a solid half-hour being happy before I started to feel smothered by my super warm sleeping bag.

Sara promised she and I would have a sleepover in the tent before we hit the road. However, in retrospect, with the “new-gear-high” wearing off, I think I want to spend as much time as possible in my own super-cosy bed. (If you have read our bios’, you’ll know I’m serious about my bed.)

In other news: I was able to attend another cupping this afternoon. Sara couln’t come, she was working at Coffee Labs.

I went down to Gimme! on Mott St, where Taylor Mork was offering up some Ugandan Coffee from Crop to Cup. We tasted two coffees, each one in a light roast version and a dark roast version. Plus two coffees someone brought in from Intelligentsia; a Rwandan and a Colombian.

cupping-line-up.jpg croptocup5010.jpg

The space was small and there were a lot of people, but I was happy to recognize a number of faces from the last NY event I attended (Hi, Mary!).  Including Casey, another barista from Coffee Labs.

I had a clear favorite, (the second set, for those at the event) my only complaint is that I wish the taste stayed longer in my mouth. Once I slurped, it was quite delicious, light, I tasted a deep amber honey (?) but for a very brief, unsatisfying amount of time.

It was good for me to attend a public cupping. All the cuppings I have been to were very small, private and geared towards my learning. I am still really intimidated to talk about my impressions of coffee in public – I remained practically silent at the cupping. In fact, I am even embarrassed about writing my description here. But it’s all part of the learning curve, so I want ya’ll to be able to read it. There is a good bit of terminology in describing coffee: brightness, acidity, mouth feel, etc.. and I’m still teasing out what all the different descriptors mean. I could tell you what they mean, but tasting it is a different story.

Let the count down begin…

-Melanie

PS: Everyone say “Hi Sara!”

prettysara.jpg

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Kelly and Sergio, two truly delightful human beings who also happen to be dear friends of mine, gave me what is possibly the best road trip gift in the history of mankind….

It’s a map of the US; but it is oh-so-much-more than just a map. This is a special map.

This map tells me ALL of the NPR stations around the country! AMAZING!

NPR, everywhere we go. It’s like magic.

It’s almost like having my own Marauder’s Map, almost.

In other news – we are now Google searchable! I don’t know how it all works but, if you searched for “Coffee In Action” three days ago, we were hidden on page three or four of the search results. Now, we are the fourth site listed. Watch out world, here we come!

Happy reading,

Melanie

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How Lovely

We can’t think of a better way to spend Valentine’s day.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of PJ, a friend of the beautiful Laina Solomon, Coffee In Action: Road Trip 2008 has its first event!

Feb 14th, 4:30-6:30 at Artmosphere Cafe in Mt. Rainier, MD, we will share the inspirations, aspirations and itinerary for our trip.

ARTmosphere Cafe

I am incredibly excited about this. “Love Your Coffee” is officially the first event for Coffee In Action: Road Trip 2008.

This will be our first chance to present our ideas to a group of total strangers who are waiting to hear from us. It will give us an opportunity to connect with a collection of people, and that is such a big part of what CoffeeInAction is about.

Melanie and I are going to learn A LOT during the next few weeks about coffee business, the coffee industry, road trips, and coffee itself. We are also going to encounter great people along the way. Events like this one allow us to engage with many new people, and hopefully encourage people meet each other, too!

Feb. 14th, 4:30-6:30pm at Artmosphere Cafe – bring your mug and $5 for all the coffee you can drink. Artmosphere Cafe will provide a number of socially responsible coffees.

We’ll let you know how it goes!

–Sara Rose

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Important Equations

Every night I lose hours of sleep to coffee blogs.

Here it is, 1:30 in the morning and I was so consumed with reading and writing about coffee I didn’t notice my dog consuming my cookie. My cookie! Anyone who knows me knows I am serious about cookies, especially ones that contain chocolate chips.

Tonight something wonderful occurred in the real world as a result this coffee-blog obsession. Sara, our friend Laina, and I attended a coffee tasting at Society Coffee. The event was put on by a delightful triad of gentlemen. Daniel Humphries hosted (and posted on his blog about) the event where Taylor Mork introduced us to coffee from Crop to Cup, and educated us on Ugandan coffee farming, while Thomas, the owner of Society Coffee, was buzzing around making sure the night was flawless.

Taylor Mork - Owner of Crop to Cup

This event was different from the few other coffee events I have attended. They paired each coffee sample with a food from the menu at Society Coffee. Oh – a BIG tip of the hat to Wiley, the chef. The food was delectable and the pairings were palatially satisfying. (Again, with the making up of words.)

The pairs were:

Coffee from Uganda with Belgian waffles drizzled in a chocolate sauce.

waffles-websize.jpg

A Colombian coffee with steak in a mild pepper sauce (my favorite combination of the night).

steak-websize.jpg

A Bolivian coffee with a squash and apple soup.

An African varietal of coffee grown in Panama and a cheesecake with nutmeg and cinnamon.

From the first sip of coffee to the last cheesecake crumb my mouth was in nirvana.

Did I mention the event was FREE?

And that’s not all…

Community is a cornerstone of our road trip, something we have not written about yet. Sara and I are people who are passionate about people. (If this page could play music, you would be hearing Streisand right now.) The individuals, and pairs, and trios we met tonight were uplifting and stimulating. It’s a rare, inspiring night when you walk into a room full of strangers and connect with the people around you. People were truly engaging with one another.

We sat with four women and spent the evening discussing everything from what we were tasting to helping one woman reconfigure the furniture in her apartment; from human rights to facebook, we all laughed, sighed and indulged our senses.

Good people, good coffee – that’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

-Melanie

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Sniff and Slurp

SLuuuuuuRP! – “It tastes like sawdust from a barn”

A bubbly inhale – “This one is like sand paper”

Slosh – “I’m getting bakers chocolate”

Spit – “Tomato sauce with lemon”

This morning I had the chance to participate in a super-fun and incredibly informative coffee cupping at Coffee Labs (say that 10 times fast!).

As part of her training and development at Coffee Labs (CL) Sara gets to participate in periodic “cuppings”. Cuppings for roasters are the rough equivalent of wine tastings for sommeliers. Here are links to two sites on cupping: one for a more detailed description of the process and another to Counter Culture Coffee’s virtual cupping room where you can read some of the adjectives that can accompany coffee. Thanks to Rasheed Jabr, the CL manager and Doug Wray the CL roaster for letting me crash the party!

Doug the RoasterHere’s Doug slurping…

Sara, Will (another CL staffer) and I sniffed, scooped, slurped and spit our way through three samples of Peru Norte. This particular coffee is full bodied, fair trade, shade grown and bird friendly.

Doug essentially “narrated” the event while we sampled beans from three different stages in the roasting process. While roasting, Doug pulled beans at times that were “way to early”, “a little to early” and “just right”. Goldie Locks, anyone? (Times and temps in the Geek-Out section at the bottom). He introduced each of the roasts and as we sipped we declared, sometimes tentatively, what our tongues were detecting. “Can coffee really taste like the smell of Giraffes at the zoo?”

Learning Moment: Cuppings usually happen in silence to prevent people from influencing each others “read” of the coffee. The silence is perfect when you know your way around a cupping table, but for a novice like myself it can be pretty intimidating. Today, Doug took notes on what we were saying and helped us develop a concise description of each sample.

During the cupping I gained an even greater appreciation for the mastery that is roasting. The coffee tasted incredibly different as we moved further along in its roasting time. The coffee bean, as it develops in a roaster has a clear path: first its hardly heated, it then moves up to an internally tumultuous adolescence, next it hits its prime perfection peak, after which it quickly falls off a cliff into a burnt waste land of over-roasted despair.

Its up to the roaster to know whats happening in the barrel and pull the bean as it peaks to capture the best qualities of that particular batch. The more I learn about roasting, the more intensely fascinated I am with that part of the process. I could watch someone roast all day long. (I also want to thank the crew of Mocha Joe’s for a great night of small batch roasting and subsequent cupping a few weeks back!)

Coffee Geek-Out Moment:

The beans first crack was at 374 degrees. Our first sample was taken at 11 minutes – 400 degrees, the second sample at 13 minutes – 410 degrees, and the last at 16 minutes and 441 degrees.

-Melanie

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Beep-Beep!

Cars..cars…cars…cars..cars. Besides pulling shots and getting side work done at Coffee Labs, all I think about is getting a diesel car. I had planned on checking out this 1987 Mercedes this afternoon, but sadly received an email this morning informing me that the car was sold yesterday.

We fell MADLY in love with an Old Mercedes Station Wagon – it was RED. The person selling it had an awesome way about her – good vibes, good vibes. But it was also in Pittsburgh and needed work done before it could pass an inspection. That made it a no go, and our hearts broke into a million pieces as we let her go. Sadface.

So now its back to square one. We are exploring different options, aka our friend Greg De Gunzberg – the corporate big-wig. CraigsList here we come!

-Sara Rose

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