I love a good single-origin coffee, whether from a specific region or a specific plantation, that has been roasted to bring out the very best qualities of that coffee. I’m not going to base my coffee choice on how dark or light the roast is as long as I know that the flavor of the beans has been taken into account and allowed to shine. I have noticed, over the past couple of years, that there has been a real trend for people to think that a darker roast = higher quality when it comes to coffee. I’ve had plenty of seriously over-roasted “gourmet” coffees that just about burned all the real flavor out of their beans.
On the flip side of this coin, I’ve also met many people who won’t touch any dark roast with a 10 foot pole because they believe that they will always been far to strong to taste good (hence why Peet’s and Starbucks are marketing new lighter roasts).
The reality is that a dark roast alone isn’t the mark of a high quality coffee, and it also isn’t the mark of a coffee that is going to make your spoon stand up in it. You can generalize that Indonesian coffees often work best with a dark roast and many Central American coffees work beautifully with a light roast. In the end, coffee should be roasted to bring out the best flavor profile of the beans, whether they’re a unique single-origin coffee or a blend of a variety of beans. As more coffee roasters take the time to promote this fact, more people are going to open up and try new coffees outside of their comfort zone – dark or light – and learn that the color of the coffee bean matters, but only if the color is the best fit for that particular bean.
Like most businesses, coffee shops are always looking to expand their market. For smaller shops, this often means bringing in specialty desserts or coffee beans. For larger chains, this means looking for new markets. Peet’s Coffee & Tea has long been a West Coast favorite – particularly for those in and around the San Francisco Bay Area – and they are setting their sights on the East coast markets where they’ll compete with favorites like Dunkin’ Donuts for consumers’ morning cup o’ joe.
The biggest obstacle that Peet’s has to face, according to the Wall Street Journal, is not the popularity of Dunkin’s Donuts, but the popularity of a medium roast coffee with East coast consumers. Roughly 30% of nationwide consumers prefer medium roast coffees, while about 40% of East coast consumers due. Peet’s is known for their dark roasts and has even introduced two brand new medium roasts especially to appeal to that East coast market. The new roasts are blends called Café Solano and Café Domingo and they’ll hit grocery stores before they hit the coffee shops soon.
Clearly, not all Dunkin’ fans are going to switch to Peet’s, even as more Peet’s stores open, but it will be interesting to hear if those medium roasts do manage to pull in a few new fans as Peet’s moves east. Only time – and whether the company continues to launch medium roasts – will tell.
Apple cider is one of my favorite winter drinks, not just because it’s tasty, but because like its seasonality. It is something that I only drink in the winder and I like it served piping hot. While there are many different brands of apple cider (and ways to make your own spiced cider), you don’t really get the variety of flavor with cider that you get with tea. Combining tea and cider seemed like an easy way to combine two of my favorite drinks into one new one that is perfect for a cold day.
This Chai Tea Spiced Cider is simply chai tea that is steeped in apple cider, as opposed to water. The spicy tea gives a lot of flavor – and a subtle tea note – to the sweet apple juice, and the combination of hot cider and spices is ideal for taking the chill off. It’s good enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up on the menu board at a few coffee shops. Using cider that is already spiced will yield an even spicier drink, though plain apple cider works perfectly with the chai tea. You can use any tea brand that you like and loose leaf works just as well as bagged tea. I use loose leaf for a larger batch, but will often use bagged tea for convenience when making just one cup.
Continue reading »
As more and more brands come out with K-cups for Keurig coffee makers, there has been a huge increase in the quality of the coffee pods. That means that I actually look forward to trying new brands these days, where once I just hoped to get something that was tolerable (as opposed to good).
A new entry into the K-cup market is Starbucks and they have put several of their most popular blends – House, French Roast, Breakfast Blend, Pike Place, Cafe Verona and Sumatra – into these single-serve sizes to appeal to K-Cup users. I was hoping that they would do as good a job getting the flavors of their coffee into the K Cups as they had done with Via and I was pretty pleased with the results after trying both the House Blend and the French Roast.
The French Roast is dark and smokey, with an almost minerally note to it. It actually tastes more like the espresso roast to me, when compared to regular Starbucks brewed beans, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The darkness of the roast is definitely the best thing about the French Roast because so many k-cup brands (although they call their products “extra dark”) just don’t make their coffee strong enough. I end up stepping down the size of my brew to get a more flavorful cup of coffee (or just one that doesn’t taste watery) and you definitely don’t have to do that with the French Roast. If you like your coffee with cream and sugar, it will hold up to that well, too.
The House Blend was bright and smooth, with a little less character than the French Roast, but very well balanced. This one worked well at both my large and medium Keurig settings and stayed consistently good. Again, when I compared it to similar “medium” roasts from other brands, this one was fuller flavored and tasted a lot fresher than some of my comparisons (Caribou Coffee, for instance).
The downside here is that the Starbucks K Cups are more expensive than some other K cup brands and – of course – are more expensive than getting whole bean or ground coffee. The upside is that you get convenience for that price and get the same flavor as you do from the ground coffee that you can also buy at the market. And that means that these will go on my list of K-cups that I’d buy again.