Starbucks created their House Blend coffee in 1971 and it has been a favorite with customers ever since. It is still one of their best selling blends, even though we typically see Pike Place brewing when we visit cafes these days. On Friday, April 19th, you’ll definitely see House blend brewing at Starbucks again because the company is celebrating 40+ years of House by offering free tall cups of House blend to all customers who stop by Starbucks before noon. It’s definitely worth dropping in for a cup on your way to work.
A few years ago, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf offered a summer drink called the Banana Caramel Ice Blended. It was essentially a caramel ice blended coffee drink with banana added to it. A few years before that, Starbucks had a Banana Mocha Frappuccino on their menu that was very similar. These drinks only lasted the season, but they had quite a few fans – including some friends of mine who are reminded of them every time they’re in the mood for a frappuccino. Fortunately, with a blender, some bananas and some coffee, I was able to put together an acceptable substitute to hold them over until they reappear on menu boards.
This Banana Mocha Ice Blended starts out like a regular blended mocha drink with a whole banana added to it. The banana alone might not seem like it goes well with coffee, but both coffee and bananas go very well with chocolate, and the three work together beautifully when combined. The drink is creamy, with a nice coffee kick and some extra sweetness from the banana. It’s very refreshing and the banana adds just enough of a nutritional punch that you could justify drinking one of these for breakast as well as an afternoon pick-me-up.
There are barista competitions that get a lot of press because consumers are interested in fancy coffee drinks, perfectly poured lattes and a little bit of flair that goes in to giving a customer a good experience. But tasting coffee comes before making coffee, and professional coffee tasters have their own championships, too. The U.S Cup Tasters Championship, held in Boston this past weekend, was a relatively low profile event by contrast. The event featured importers and buyers who pick out some of the best coffee beans in word competing to see whose palate was the best.
The two dozen competitors – from all over the country – had to taste eight three-cup sets of coffee and identify the odd one out in each set. “Some cups are so similar they come from the same region but from a different farm,” according the the Wall Street Journal. At the end of the day, one taster rose above the rest with a perfect score and a time that was nearly twice as fast as her closest rival, 26-year old Erin Wang, of ED&F Man unit Volcafe. Wang will be representing the US in the World Cup Tasters Championship in Nice, France, in June.
You really do need to be a pro to compete, but there are plenty of ways to practice by developing your own palate. Tasting coffees from the same or similar regions and comparing the differences – just like with wine tasting – will help you fine tune your palate for picking up those differences from one cup to the next.
You might have thought that squirrels got their seemingly endless energy for chasing each other, gathering nuts and taunting other animals naturally, but it turns out that squirrels might like coffee just as much as we do. Or at least they have a thing for coffee mugs. Archie McPhee sells a Squirrel Coffee Cup that is perfectly sized for our rodent friends. The porcelain cup measure 1-1/4″ x 1-1/4″ and is just the right size for a squirrel to pick up and sip from – as illustrated by this squirrel in A Squirrel’s Life, who certainly seems pleased with his.