Sunday, April 08, 2007

Zambia Terranova Estate

Black Apron Exclusive
of 2007


J - "I don't know what I smell."

K - "Chocolate."

J - "Ya, I smell chocolate."

K - "And a little bit of plum."

J - "Plum???? No more like prune... although VERY slight."

The Taste

Coffee alone - Mildly acidic. Slightly apricotty. Rather tart.

With cherry cordial - this changes everything! RADICALLY!!! It is now sweet and smooth. Brightens the acidity.

Origin Notes

The farm itself is less than 20 years old and is located just down stream from Victoria Falls, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, located in Africa between Zimbabwe and Tanzania. It is grown on and contributes to a wild game reserve. It is not unlikely to find antelope, zebra, lion, and other exotic species wandering the farm's acreage. There use of sustainable practices such as use of shade trees and trellises allow them to keep this farm on a game reserve without negatively affecting the environment.

One of the problems associated with the location of this farm is the harsh dry season that is well known for the Serengeti. It had been drying their harvests much too quickly. The growers developed a process that slowed the drying and at the same time allowed the flavors within the bean to fully develop. These flavors contain notes of stone fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, etc.) and deep aromas and flavors of cocoa. It's a complexity that you can expect to find in a blend that was masterfully crafted, yet it is so surprising to find this occuring naturally. That is what makes this coffee so exotic. Unfortunately, an exotic flavor brings an exotic price. This blend retails for approximately $30 per pound.

Zambia Terranova Estate may be found online, at your local Starbucks establishment, and at the Vulhop household while supplies last. (probably until Wednesday)


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Arabian Mocha Sanani

This coffee has been a long time favorite of Starbuck's partners and is available year round. Unfortunately, of our free pound of coffee that we get as a fringe benefit, due to costs of this coffee, we are only allotted half a pound of this one. It is very rare for Starbuck's partners to get it, but I got some this week.

It's name is deceiving. MOCHA is not added to the coffee. The mocha flavors come from a natural bean drying process that is used with this coffee from Yemen. The rich desert soil and sun dried drying process allows this coffee to evolve with an equally rich chocolaty overtone and mild berry notes.

This coffee is all about the sun drying process. Most coffee beans are placed into something similar to a clothes dryer to dry the beans. This process allows for maximum consistency in the flavor of the beans. These beans, however, are layed out in the sun in a process similar to how raisins are dried. With coffee beans, this brings out an inconsistency in flavor due to weather creating the time needed for the drying process. Because of this inconsistency, it affects the availability of the beans and thus the price of the coffee. But also due to this inconsistency, each batch comes with its own surprises. I generally conduct a tasting of this coffee quarterly due to the ever changing flavors. Although the base of the coffee itself never changes, it tends to swing on a pendulum from mocha to berry. This batch seems to be rather balanced.

As the coffee swings from flavor to flavor, one must taste it before determining it's pairing dessert. I must emphasize that this is definitely a "Dessert" coffee. The best way to pair it is to locate the most subtle flavor and enjoy a dessert that will emphasize that flavor. For example, if the coffee is very strong in chocolate flavor, you don't need to eat a chocolate cake with it, but rather choose something like a blueberry pie to bring out the more hidden notes. This balanced batch would probably pair well with chocolate covered strawberries, something to emphasize both flavors.

As I said, this coffee is available year round at your local Starbucks and online, and for a limited time at the Vulhop household. BYOBM (Bring your own blueberry muffins)


Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Taste Of Heaven: Guatemala Casi Cielo

Casi Cielo: Almost heaven. That's what the phrase means and it couldn't be more aptly named. One waft of the aroma of this coffee will take you to the clouds. Lemony accents permiate the air while a subdued hint of cocoa and berries lingers upon your senses. The coffee smells deep and dark but this is just a feign to the reality of its smooth elegance. One can imagine the host of dishes that can be served with such a versatile coffee: savory cheeses, decadent chocolates, hearty appetizers, succulant prime rib, and plump, luscious berries. Ahhhhhhhhh.... Heaven, I'm in Heaven....
Oh, yeah, I suppose we should actually taste this elegant slice of heaven. Surprisingly, the lemony accents do not arrive on the taste buds at all, and defy the thought of a highly acidic coffee. It actually tends to be more mild on the taste buds, but I am sure that some citrusy desserts or meals (such as lemon herb chicken) will allow this to tantalize the senses. The hidden hints of cocoa and berry however, tend to be the most vibrant of flavors. A chocolate glazed raspberry cheesecake or even some dark chocolate cherry cordials would be a fantastic dessert to serve with this coffee. If served as an appetizer, one could substitute their fine wine with this coffee with a plate of water crackers, cheeses and ripe grapes. As I had guessed, the bold aromas of this coffee were faux, as the coffee does not linger in your mouth at all, and actually tends to be more mild and light bodied than expected.
Kudos to Starbucks on this elegant and refined pleasure that has been blended specifically for the culinary masters of the 4 and 5 star restaurants of the Seattle Area. However, for a limited time this heavenly brew is available at all Starbucks establishments, Starbucks online, and the Vulhop household. Hurry while supplies last!


Friday, December 22, 2006

Star Bucks Episode 2 1/2: Attack of the Jedi Clones

There is much unrest in the Galactic Barista Senate. Several thousand shoppers have declared their intentions to continually harrass the soldiers at the front lines with their incessant NEEDS of coffee and retail items. They need it and they need it now or they will leave the Republic of Starbucks.

This movement, led by the mysterious Snapshot Shopper, has made it difficult for the limited number of Baristas to maintain peace and order within the confines of those hopelessly lost in the Freedom Road system.

Senator Secret Santa, the mysterious partner of Starbucks, has returned to the Freedom Road System to assist the overwhelmed baristas by voting to create the Jedi Coffee Master...

But wait... the Jedi Coffee Master has brought with him a message. Let's see what it says.

Luke, you are not a Jedi Master yet...

I'm not Luke- I'm Keith! I'm a Coffee Master.

and he has brought with him the secret powers of the Roast to aleviate the insurmountable odds facing his fellow baristas. May the Force be with you.

Turn to the Dark Roast... Keith

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Moving on up!!!!!

To the east side..... lol. Well, things are going great for me in the company. Thankfully, I start training for my promotion tomorrow. I ran my first shift yesterday at work, and really surprised my manager. It was really complicated for me, because I was working in drive-thru. When in drive-thru it is very difficult to get a whole store perspective, because you are caught up in taking care of those customers solely. Nevertheless, I was asked to make sure that everyone was taking their meal breaks as well as their regular breaks, and I had to cover their positions while they did so. My manager was so impressed with the way that I handled everything that she gave me an on the spot MUG award, which comes with its own pin!!! My hat is starting to get heavy from all the pins I am wearing now. LOL. I now have 12 pins in my collection. My hat is starting to look like a Buckeyes football helmet.

Well, there is one more piece of good news about my promotion. It seems that I am not getting transfered to another store after all. I am excited about this because I am a part of the comraderie at the store I am located at. To get transferred would just completely change the dynamic of where I work, and who I work with. I love the crew that I am with and to be moved to a different location would be like stripping me from my family. So I am very glad that I am not moving. However, I also realize that when working for Starbucks, this is still a very real possibility, and even though it may sting a little to get transferred, I am more than willing to take one for the team as a whole. I need to look at the big picture, not be stuck in my one little store. As one of the ten commandments of special warfare goes (quoted from Richard Marcinko) "Thou dost not have to like it, Thou just hath to do it." So, what will be, will be. So, if I get transferred, I may not like it, but I will do it.

Holiday Hooplah

This week Starbucks started its holiday kick-off! It really started two weeks ago when we began receiving our holiday loot. It all came in boxes marked "No Sneak Peaks." Since I was doing the receiving for our store, I was the only one that got to see what we got. This was fun because I had a secret. Tuesday night after we closed Starbucks-Santa and her helpers came and put out all of our holiday merchandise. Many thanks to the mid-night crew at Freedom Road. When I walked in on Wednesday morning, it looked like a Christmas Tree blew up in our store. Christmas goodies everywhere! We have:

  • Tazo Tea kits - very cute
  • Christmas mugs with matching saucers - festive item
  • Holiday French Presses - Really awesome looking (hint hint)
  • Coffee solo packages - small variety of coffee, mug, & an assortment of chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate covered nuts, and chocolate drops - YUM
  • Christmas Blend Coffee - stay tuned...

This is a multi-regional blend of coffees from Latin America and Asia. This is different than holiday blends from years past, simply because Starbucks decided to use an aged Asian blend from Indonesia. These Asian beans sat in a warehouse for 5 years prior to roasting. The aging process results in a smokey and cedary aroma. This makes this coffee perfect for sharing after dinner dessert with your family infront of the fire place. The spices that are evident hints to a bit of cinnamon and a very slight undertone of nutmeg. As the coffee cools, the nutmeg becomes more evident. Try this one with a splash of egg nog instead of cream. This coffee pairs great with Starbucks pepperment brownies or cranberry bliss bar.

Sound festive? You can get some at your local Starbucks establishment, by clicking the link to Starbucks Store on the right, or by visiting the Vulhop homestead sometime before we drink it all ourselves.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

What is a Coffee Master????

Well, it is official now!!! After two months of training, tasting, and rigorous testing, I became a retail coffee master at my Starbucks store. What does a coffee master do, you may ask? Welllllllll............

First of all, I must be completely informed, inside and out, about all of the coffees that Starbucks offers. This includes the regional selections, .com and grocery store exclusives (though not as much), seasonal and limited availabilities as well as our core coffees (available anywhere Starbucks sells whole bean or grinded coffees). What do I need to know about the coffees? Where they are grown, what they taste like, how that particular bean is processed, and what the origin notes of any particular Starbucks coffee are (what is that particular growing community like).

I need to have detailed knowledge of the different brewing equipment that we sell in the retail stores. What is the difference between that coffee maker and this one, how does this grinder work, should I get this espresso maker or that one. If you are shopping for these kinds of items, I would be the person to go to.

Internally, I am also responsible for ensuring that the other partners (employees) at my particular store have a working knowledge of the coffees that are available at my store. I need to make sure that they know what they taste like, as well as maintain tasting and coffee training records of everyone in the store.... Coffee Master, believe it or not, is also an administrative posistion as well.

All of this working knowledge and responsibility will eventually come with a pay raise as well (Yippie!!!) as I also accepted a promotion approximately fifteen minutes after passing the grueling Coffee Master exam!!!!!

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