Apr 23, 2015

What’s Your Starbucks Name?

What's Your Starbucks Name?

When you go to Starbucks – or many other coffee shops, for that matter – the baristas typically ask if they can add a name to your drink order. While not everyone likes to give out their names when ordering a cup of coffee, this system exists so that the baristas making your drink can be sure to serve you the correct beverage. It comes in handy on days when the coffee shop is packed full of people and all those lattes start to look the same. The odds are good that your name has been misheard by a barista at least once or twice. Sometimes this leads to the baristas just calling out your drink order at the pick up window, but other times this leads to a funny re-naming on your drink cup. The site What’s My Starbucks Name generates a variety of incorrectly heard names that have been associated with your own name at Starbucks. In short, pop in your name to see what other people who share your name ended up with at Starbucks.

I’m Norm, by the way. And, yes, this drink is something that I would actually order.

Apr 22, 2015

What are Single-Origin Coffees?

What are Single Origin Coffees?

Single-origin coffees are to coffee drinkers what single AVA or appellation wines are to wine lovers. Appellations, known as American Viticultural Areas here in the US, are specific geographical areas in which grapes are grown. It is a general rule to say that the smaller the area in which a wine is grown, the more distinctive and the more expensive it will be. You will be tasting the “terroir” of that particular area – and if it didn’t have a unique terroir to begin with, it wouldn’t have made it to an appellation classification in the first place.

Coffee-growing regions are not as strictly defined as wine-growing regions are, but the same idea applies. Different soils, different elevations and different orientations all effect the flavor of the finished coffee in just as distinct a way as they do for wine. The larger the region noted on the package, the more the coffee is blended with beans from various areas to create a particular flavor. In poor quality coffees, this flavor could be described as “coffee flavored.” The smaller the region, the more likely you are to identify unique flavor characteristics of that area because they will be much more prominent. The coffee beans will still be blended with other beans, but they will all come from growers in that area and the coffee roasters will likely be trying to highlight their unique flavors. In short, the coffee tasting notes on the coffee packaging will start to make a lot more sense because you will be able to pick them out easily as you sip your coffee.

To give an example of a single Origin coffee, we could start with a region like Sumatra, which is known for its deep, earth coffees. If you take a small slice of that region – Lake Toba, for instance, you will see aromatic spices that are distinct to that area start to come through, where they might be lost in a blend. This particular region is made up of many small growers, but since the coffee beans are grown at the same elevation in very similar conditions, they will exhibit the same primary flavors.

“Single origin” is not usually used to describe single plantation coffees (which would be the equivalent of single estate or single vineyard wines), as those coffees are so specialized that distributors and retailers always call direct attention to it. These coffees typically offer even more intense flavors

Apr 12, 2015

Pocket Coffee Espresso, reviewed

Pocket Coffee, reviewed

When I’m on the go, I often have coffee with me. I leave my house with coffee and often make a stop (or two) while I’m out to pick up a new cup – especially if I have a busy day without a lot of downtime or if I’m planning to spend a lot of time behind the wheel. When I first spotted Pocket Coffee, a coffee-filled chocolate bon bon made with real coffee, I thought  my days of hitting the drive through might be over, as the candies combine caffeine and a snack (albeit a small one) one a single bite.  Continue reading »

Apr 5, 2015

Finders Steepers Infuser

Finders Steepers Infuser

Tea infusers need to be functional, first and foremost, but if they can be functional and fun, that gives them the best of both worlds in my book. This adorable Finders Steepers Tea Infuser is the perfect little gift for anyone who has ever stared out their window drinking that first cup of tea, watching squirrels run around the yard in the brisk morning air. It definitely meets the criteria of both fun and functional.

The infuser is made of bright orange silicone. The infuser is actually the tail of the squirrel, which pops open to reveal a cavity just waiting to be stuffed with tea and is perforated to allow water to flow in and out of it. The squirrel body is more solid, and features a notch on the base that allows the squirrel to perch on the edge of your mug. The notch is large enough that it will work with most standard mugs, so unless you routinely use an exceptionally thick ceramic mug for your tea, you should be just fine with one of these. The squirrel is easy to clean, though hand washing is recommended, and he can make a nice little decoration in your kitchen when not in use.

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