California Coffee Roasters Caramel Nut

The wonderful folks at California Coffee Roasters provided me with a very wide range of samples, and today I picked one at random.

Caramel Nut. I like caramel, I like nuts, and I love coffee. This has potential. I’m going to go brew a cup of it now.

(time passes)

I’m back, coffee mug in hand. It smells like candy, which to me is not bad because I’m notorious for my sweet tooth. The taste … is flavored coffee. Well, yes. Of course. What did I expect, it to be magically not-flavored?

I’ll not judge a flavored coffee against non-flavored coffees, just like I wouldn’t compare a flavored malt beverage to a beer. They are two different animals. So…

This Caramel Nut is very good. The caramel taste rides high on the palate, surfing over the top of a smooth, well balanced coffee blend. As the taste fades, the last thing to bloom is a toasty harvest grain flavor, with maybe a hint of almond. So the coffee itself is sandwiched in a way, between caramel on one side and the nut on the other.

One thing I have noticed, is that if you are going to drink a flavored coffee, enjoy it while it’s hot. As it cools the flavor deteriorates rapidly, much faster than a non-flavored coffee. The sweetness breaks down and a unpleasant bitterness begins to bloom. That’s not just for this Caramel Nut. I’m making a broad, generalized sweeping comment covering flavors A-Z from any coffee roaster you’d care to name.

As for this one in particular, I’d have to say for a flavored coffee, it’s pretty darn groovy.

Groovy Coffee Factoid #2

091707-0245-groovycoffe1.pngGenerally speaking, the people who harvest the coffee beans in the various nations where it’s grown, make barely enough money with a day’s labor to buy one cup of coffee in the USA.
On the upside, though, they get all their coffee for free.  Now that’s what I call a perk!
(No pun intended.)

Great Value 100% Arabica

I didn’t go into this one automatically thinking it’s crap.
Wal-Mart’s “Great Value” generic products are usually high quality. Their bottled water is perfectly good, and their cereals, breads, and canned goods sometimes equal or surpass the name brands. So I thought, let’s give one of their coffees a shot. Who knows, I may be surprised.
So early this morning, before the kids were awake, I brewed a cup.
Notice it says 100% Arabica? That should count for something, right? They also had a French Roast that said it was 100% Arabica, but then they had a can of “100% Columbian” that stated nothing of the sort. Which means, of course, it’s not 100% Arabica. Which means it’s cut with Robusta beans.
Robusta beans are evil. EVIL.
So I take my first sip of Great Value 100% Arabica and taste … what?
Um. Oh my. Um.
Flashback to childhood. I’m a little kid, and the bad girl next door has taught me a new word. “Fart.” I remember playing with my dog Pepper, and he let off a stink bomb, and I exclaimed, “Pepper let a fart!”
My mom was for some reason quite upset at the word fart coming out of her little boy’s mouth, and proceeded to drag me into the bathroom where she washed my mouth out with a blue bar of Zest soap.
That’s what this coffee tastes like to me. Soap. And, no I checked, my cup was not contaminated nor was my Hotshot water boiler, nor was my little cup-top filter.
This coffee, which is not really that bad in any other way, has a distinctly soapy tang to it.
And that, my friends, is not groovy.

Café Valet Columbian Supremo

Let’s be honest. I’m coming into this with low expectations.

Here I am at a hotel again, facing another in-room coffee maker. This one is different though. It brews directly into a little 8 ounce Sweetheart Styrofoam cup using a disposable “Filter Pack and Brew Basket” that, to me, looks like a tea bag in a little plastic coffin.

The device itself is kind of neat. It’s designed to make a single small cup of coffee with no mess. In that one aspect, it works flawlessly.

The coffee is not that bad. Notice I’m not saying it’s good. It’s weak, but it doesn’t seem overly stale. There is a hint of a good coffee flavor, but ruined by a unpleasant bitter aftertaste that I suspect comes from some Robusta beans cut into the blend.

In other words, this is a last resort coffee source. Better than nothing, but not much.

Jalima H&A Coffee

This is a story of some very groovy coffee mojo.
It starts in Mexico, where Marcela celebrated a special birthday along with her recovery from a battle with breast cancer. She and her two good friends, Janet and Libe, were savoring some exceptionally good locally grown coffee, and a conversation came up which planted the seed of an idea. Months later the seed blossomed to a business: to promote and sell the little known and underappreciated organic Arabica beans grown in the high altitude cloud forests of Mexico.
Thus was born Jalima Coffee, the “Jalima” made up from Janet, Libe, and Marcela.
I’m drinking some right now, their H&A blend. The taste is fruity and naturally sweet, with an aggressive and complex flavor. There’s some wonderful wood-smoke notes, and an aftertaste akin to … well, you know when you have a really good breakfast, and you finish off that last piece of yummy bacon with a satisfying cup of coffee? That’s the aftertaste I’m getting, even without having had the bacon. It’s unique and interesting. I’ve never had anything like it.
I wish they’d sent more. I could drink it all day long.
There’s a lot of love in this coffee. You can taste it. These women have a passion for it and they give it loving care all the way through. It doesn’t just stop there, though.
Even if they don’t realize it, Jalima coffee practices the wonderful game theory economic model discovered by John Nash: Do what is good for yourself and everyone else. They give back, they share. They partner with organic farmers who are giving back to the land and the ecology. They donate a portion of their proceeds to a biosphere reserve and conservation fund in the areas they farm. They specifically employ handicapped workers in both Mexico and the US, helping them to acquire skills and become autonomous.
And they bring to us, the coffee drinkers of the world, an amazing coffee you can’t get anywhere else.
So it’s official. Jalima H&A has a lot of good karma and is most definitely a Groovy Brew.

GroovyBrew Coffee Maker Challenge!

To all coffee maker manufacturers out there, I put you on notice.

You are hereby officially challenged!

Prove to me that your coffee maker makes better coffee than my cheap little dollar store drip filter. Not “as good” but better.

The coffee must be made in my home, using my coffee and my bottled water. My contention is that you don’t have to pay high dollars to make excellent coffee, and that no drip maker at any price can make coffee that tastes better than this Zen little cup-top drip filter.

All challengers will be featured here on the site. Each will have its merits reviewed. The first manufacturer who proves me wrong will get free advertising for the life of this publication.

Those manufactures who turn down or ignore this challenge will also be listed.

Manufacturers Challenged So Far:

  • Black & Decker
  • Braun
  • Bunn
  • Cuisinart
  • DeLonghi
  • Farberware
  • Hamilton Beach
  • KitchenAid
  • Krups
  • Mr. Coffee
  • Sunbeam
  • West Bend

Berres Brothers Organic El Salvador

My love picked up this for me to review. “I know,” she said, “you’ll probably hate it.”

The outlook wasn’t good for two reasons. One, it was a pre-ground bag, and two, the bag reminded me of those horrid office and hotel coffees. Same size, same recommendation (good for 8 to 10 cups).

I knew nothing about Berres Brothers, except that the package read Organic. That doesn’t mean too much anymore. Marketing firms seem to be able to twist anything into an organic knot, and besides, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s not going to be stale as tomb dirt.

One morning before work we brewed up a pot. I took my first sip out of a small cup that was black without any sweetener, just to give it a chance to impress me.

Shock me, is what it did. Surprise me. It was good!

Since then I’ve visited their website and inquired about their other coffees. I also learned why the packaging looked so much like the dreaded office coffee packets — that’s how Barres Brothers started out. The company originated as a vending service by their father, and when the sons took over they expanded their services to include coffee. Not someone else’s old moldy discount coffee, but their own, roasted by them in small batches and delivered to stores and offices around Watertown, Wisconsin.

Imagine that. Quality coffee from a corporate coffee service. A sign that there is good in this world.

In 1997 they dumped the vending service and concentrated on coffee roasting.

Their Organic El Salvador brews up rich and smooth, with a nice chocolate nut nuance and a fruity overtone. I can imagine drinking it in an office all day long, and being happy and productive. I can also imagine drinking it on a beach with my feet up, with the early morning fog still swirling around the shore.

Thanks go out to my love for picking this up for me. It’s a groovy brew to be sure!

Coffeemaria’s Maragogype Guatemala

Elephant Beans!
Excuse me. I seem to be developing Tourette symptoms. The phrase has been stuck in my mind ever since I began studying Maragogype coffee beans. Some call them “elephant” beans because of their unnatural size.
They looked a little bit bigger to me, but not enough to refer to them as—
Elephant Beans!

Excuse me again. But, you know, I think I’ve discovered a new swear word. Or phrase, rather. Drop something on your toe, accidently hit a tree, fall over backwards because there’s a spider on your arm … what do you scream?
Elephant Beans!

It feels like a good swear, but yet, it won’t offend the local church lady.
The taste won’t offend her, either. A delicate citrus tang highlights Coffeemaria‘s Maragogype Guatemala. It’s light bodied yet rich in flavor, mixing a light chocolaty touch with a winey base. Exceptionally smooth, it goes down easy.
This is an all day drinking coffee, and would work nicely as a dessert coffee as well. It’s over the top delicious and hereby officially designated a Groovy Brew.
Even if they are Elephant Beans.

Coffeemaria’s Antigua Guatemala

This, the second in a trilogy of reviews featuring beans from Coffeemaria, comes at you from the sleepiness of an early afternoon.
Does that ever happen to you, too? You have a busy morning, there’s a lot to do, you rush off and have lunch and come back to dive in, pick up where you left off, and after about an hour or so you … you start to … lose focus, mind starts drifting, eyelids get heavy. A yawn or three erupt spontaneously from a suddenly dopey face.
Is this all too familiar? Well, my friends, what you’re suffering from is a common malady called Mid-Afternoon Low Caffeine Syndrome, or MALCS. There is an easy cure: brew up some coffee.
Afternoon coffee.
Coffeemaria’s Antigua Guatemala is a perfect afternoon coffee. Sharp, tangy and medium bodied, this brew rides high on the palate, founded on a delicate wood-smoke flavor tinged with a daring spiciness. If you’re especially well equipped, it’s also tasty as a light espresso.
That’s right, my coffee loving friends. It’s a perfect cure for MALCS.
It cured mine! I’m now wide awake. And so, it’s time to get back to work.
By the way, this coffee gets my official designation of Groovy Brew.

Coffeemaria’s Java Pancour

This coffee comes from one of my new top ten favorite roasters, Coffeemaria. Just by checking out their website you can see what they concentrate on : coffee. That’s it. They roast coffee.
Good coffee.
They’re so focused on what they do that they don’t even have a logo. At least, not on their website. For the art you see alongside this review, I actually scanned a gold foil sticker that was on the bag of beans.
This is the first of a trilogy of reviews of their coffee, all of which are excellent. Today’s subject … Java Pancour.
This coffee brews up tart, with an edgy, aggressive flavor featuring definite chocolaty notes. This is one of those lean back, close your eyes and smile coffees. It’s like riding your bike on a beautiful crisp fall morning, coming to the top of a long hill, and coasting all the way down with your feet out and the wind in your hair.
I’d classify this as a dessert coffee. The strong flavor and sweet finish lends itself to cookies, cake, ice cream, and pie.
Or be a rebel and drink it in the morning with your donuts.
Why not? Live on the edge!
It will probably not come as a surprise that I officially designate Coffeemaria’s Java Pancour as a Groovy Brew.

Big Black Java Monster

Monster is usually my energy drink of choice — based on effect instead of taste — as on long drives it seems better at keeping me alert. I wasn’t in a Monster mood this morning, though while standing in line at the store, the new can design caught my attention, as did the word “Java.”
My immediate reaction was a very intelligent and articulate, “Huh?”
I picked it up, saw the words “Coffee Energy” and knew I had to try it. My expectations were rather low, especially after some of my other less-than-spectacular run-ins with canned coffee.
I had intended on taking it home to drink and review, but I couldn’t help myself. I was too curious. I popped open the can in the car.
The entire can was gone in less than two miles.
The Big Black Java Monster is extremely smooth and very creamy. I was in shock. I loved it with first gulp, and have found my new favorite energy drink.
My friends, I have a sweet tooth, and this stuff is sweet as candy. It may be too sweet for some people. It’s just right for me.
What surprised me the most was the purity of the coffee flavor. I don’t know where they’re getting their coffee extract from, or if they’re making it themselves, but it suffers from no detectable dilution tang what-so-ever. It has a far better taste than even a Starbucks iced coffee, including those made in-store.
The can states that it has half the caffeine of ordinary coffee, but we all know it makes up for that with all their other infamous added stimulants.
This is the best canned coffee beverage I have ever had. It is hereby officially designated a Groovy Brew.