A Tea Party With Woman’s Day

April 16th, 2014 by

Woman's-DayFor a company that has always grown via word of mouth, we get very excited about media attention. We were especially thrilled when Woman’s Day Magazine reached out to us. They wanted to interview Anthony, our resident tea expert for an article titled “Tea & Company.” The goal of the article was to bring back the lost art of the tea party and they needed Anthony’s help to do it.

You probably haven’t met Anthony, but if you have, you know he can talk about tea for hours. This made him a perfect resource for Woman’s Day Senior Editor Taryn Mohrman. They started with the basics – how to steep the perfect cup of tea. After that was a lesson on how one plant can turn into so many different types of tea. What Woman’s Day was really interested in, however, was how to blend teas. Anthony and Taryn started with more than 10 basic teas and Anthony demonstrated all the many combinations that could be created. Earl Grey with rose petals? How about Dragonwell green tea with lemongrass? The best part is that Woman’s Day is giving away all the teas to five lucky winners!

Tea-Party

We’re featured in the May issue of Woman’s Day which is on sale now. Check out the article it’s full of DIY instructions for hosting a perfect tea party as well as tasty sounding recipes for sandwiches, cookies and frozen tea drinks.

Here’s the link to the tea giveaway in case you’re feeling lucky:

http://www.womansday.com/sweepstakes/29548

Goes Great with Coffee: Hummingbird Cake

April 11th, 2014 by

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In celebration of our April birthdays, staff member and culinary wizard Lori generously baked this gorgeous hummingbird cake which we devoured in a typical five minutes flat. A spring-y twist on carrot cake, hummingbird cake substitutes crushed pineapple for shredded carrot. It is fabulous with coffee or tea. The dried pineapple flowers ore optional, but impressive as heck and really pretty easy (tutorial here).

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Recipe:

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 3 large) mashed ripe banana
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (more for decorating, if desired)
  • 1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • Dried pineapple flowers, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out any excess; set pans aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

Place butter, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and pale yellow.

In a medium bowl, stir together banana, pineapple, nuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture, stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; blend well.

Divide mixture between prepared pans. Bake until golden brown, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

Transfer pans to a baking rack to cool. Let pans cool 15 minutes before unmolding. Loosen sides with a small metal spatula or a paring knife, and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent layers form splitting, invert again, so tops are up. Cool completely before assembling cake or wrapping airtight to freeze cake for later.

Using a serrated knife, trim the top of one layer (it is okay if the second layer is a bit rounded, for it becomes the top of the cake).

To assemble, place trimmed layer on serving platter. Spread the top with a 1/4-inch layer of frosting. Top with the untrimmed top layer. Lightly coat the assembled cake with a thin layer of frosting to protect against crumbs in the frosting. Finish with remaining frosting. Decorate with chopped pecans if desired and dried pineapple flowers, if desired. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

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Source: Martha Stewart Living, June 2003

What’s Really In Our Teas? Your Questions Answered

April 4th, 2014 by

Tea drinking has been linked to a multitude of benefits, from weight loss and improved digestion, to mental clarity and sparkling charisma (I made up that last one but looking around at our staff, it might be true). While we make no specific health claims about our teas, we are certainly encouraged to keep drinking. Our consumption levels around the office are completely out of hand, so I have our customers to thank for having some idea of how much tea the average consumer enjoys on a daily basis. And the answer is usually multiple cups. You all might not drink as much as we do, but you drink a lot. With anything you’re consuming a lot of (especially for health reasons,) it’s generally a good idea to know the ingredients involved and how they’re grown. So, here are some answers to your frequently asked tea questions, and a few new teas (with no artificial ingredients) to try!

Maple Bacon ChaiHow safe are your teas?
Teas cannot be imported without meeting the FDA’s standards. All of our teas are tested for pesticides, allergens, biological contamination, mold and moisture and we keep certificates of analysis on file for each tea. This certification does not provide the specific amount of residue that may or may not have been found in the tea, it simply states that the tea meets the federal government’s requirements for safe consumption. As mentioned earlier, we drink MANY cups a day and stand by the quality and safety of our teas.

Are any of your teas organically grown?
Our facility is in the process of receiving organic certification from the NJDA. Once this process is complete we will be able to label our organically grown products as such and look forward to expanding our line-up of organic teas. Below is a list of the teas we currently offer that are grown organically:

Assam Tonganagaon GFBOP Black Tea
Golden Nepal Black Tea
Pu-Erh Tea
CO2 Decaf Green Tea
Mao Jian Green Tea
Sencha Zhejiang Green Tea
West Lake Dragonwell Lung Ching Green Tea
Bai Mu Dan White Tea
Honeybush Herbal Tea
Hibiscus C/S
Yerba Mate Select Herbal Tea

Do you carry any teas with no artificial flavor or additives?
Yes! The ingredients list for most of our teas is quite simple – one ingredient each. For example, Assam black tea is simply Assam tea from India and Young Hyson green tea is Young Hyson green tea from China. There are no chemicals, flavors, preservatives or other additives. What about our flavored teas? Many of our teas are flavored with natural and artificial ingredients, all of which are FDA approved. While all are considered safe for consumption, we understand that some people choose to avoid these ingredients and so we make it a point to always offer a wide selection of teas with no additives as well. And while we have a good time concocting mad-scientist worthy flavor combinations like Maple Bacon Chai or Blueberry Lemon Cake Rooibos, we know tea purists like to have some fun too. That’s why we have some new teas for spring creatively flavored with herbs, spices, fruit pieces, and no artificial anything. We’re very proud of the results! Here they are with their ingredients:

Barefoot in the Woods: Sencha, Green Rooibos, elderberry, lemongrass, cardamom pods, cracked star anise

Lavender Lemonade: lemon myrtle, hibiscus, lavender, marigold petals

Spring Blossom: Mao Jian Green Tea, blackberry leaves, freeze-dried cherry pieces, dried cherry whole, barberry fruit, hibiscus, rose hips, rose petals

Peppermint Rose: peppermint, rose petals, rose hips, lemon verbena, hibiscus, orange pekoe

We’ve been getting a lot of these questions lately in response to a recent “Food Babe” article about toxins found in popular brands of tea. You can read it here. In the interest of fairness, you might also want to check out this chemistry-heavy (for the average liberal arts type, anyway) response to Food Babe’s blog. These posts might further answer your questions or they might spark a few more. We’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject, so please share your comments below!

Switching to decaf? This is for you!

March 5th, 2014 by

IMG_3007Some of the most common questions we get here from customers concern decaf: how our coffee is decaffeinated, how much caffeine is in our decaf, why would a person drink decaf, and the like. We hear from a lot of newly caffeine-free coffee lovers who want a little guidance in navigating this new world and maybe a shoulder to cry on.

There is so much more to love about coffee than caffeine alone, and we certainly do not share the “why bother” attitude about decaf of some coffee enthusiasts. As glorious as caffeine is, there are plenty of sound reasons why you might want to limit your intake. Starting with high-quality beans decaffeinated to preserve flavor, our decafs are given the same fresh roasted treatment as our regular coffees. If you’ve steered clear of decaf since the grim instant-only days, you’re in for a surprise.

Back to those questions.

How much caffeine is in our decaf?

It is impossible to remove all of the caffeine from coffee, but according to the industry standard, 97% or more of the original caffeine has been removed from all of our decaf coffee. Caffeine levels vary not only with the variety of coffee and roast level, but also with the grind level and brewing method. Generally speaking, Arabica coffees are lower in caffeine in Robusta. You’ll find some Robusta in many of our blends, including espressos. All of our single-origin coffees are 100% Arabica. Another general rule of thumb: the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content. Dark roast coffees have been exposed to more heat, which breaks down the caffeine molecule. Finally, preparation matters too. With a fine grind, more of the coffee comes in contact with the water during the brewing process (it’s a surface area thing), and more caffeine winds up in your cup. The longer the water is in contact with the grounds, the more caffeine you are getting. Sound complicated? That’s why we can’t answer that question in milligrams per cup, unfortunately. Once you know a little bit about the factors affecting caffeine content however, you might find that you have more options and more control over your caffeine consumption than you thought.

How is your coffee decaffeinated?

We currently offer coffees decaffeinated by three different methods: methylene chloride, carbon dioxide, and Swiss Water Process. Unless otherwise specified, our decafs are decaffeinated using the methylene chloride method. Methylene Chloride is a solvent that targets and removes caffeine more precisely than other methods, leaving more of the bean and more of the flavor behind. The FDA considers a residual amount of 10 parts Methylene Chloride per million safe for consumption, but far less remains prior to roasting, which removes the remaining traces. CO2 Decaffeination employs a similar technique, using carbon dioxide as the caffeine-extracting solvent. Water alone is the solvent in the Swiss Water Process method, which returns water-soluble flavor components to the beans (minus the caffeine) after extraction. SWP Decaf boasts the highest levels of caffeine removal and is a popular chemical-free alternative. Why do we offer all three? Methylene Chloride is considered by many to yield the most flavorful results, while CO2 and Swiss Water Decafs have many fans of their own as more natural alternatives.

Does all decaf coffee have no soul?

As a part of the pregnancy tidal wave that swept CBD in the last year, I had ample opportunity to explore our decaf options and overcome my bad attitude about decaf. Kind of. I still prefer caffeine, but it’s not about flavor. It’s about 1AM, 3AM, and 6AM feedings. For all you reluctant converts out there, it is possible to find a decaf you will look forward to drinking. To get started, try something similar in roast level and origin to what you already love. If you’re not sure what that is, our customer favorites include Decaf Colombian, Decaf Dark Sumatra, Decaf French Roast, and Decaf House Blend. Or try one of our pregnant staff favorites: Decaf Ethiopian on the lighter end, Decaf Dark Costa Rican for the dark drinkers. Still not sure? Give us a call, and we’re happy to point you in the right direction!

Delicious New Chai Flavors: Because winter is miserable.

January 22nd, 2014 by

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The holidays are over and the polar vortex is back. This time of year can be a total drag, which is why we all need Chai. A sweet, spicy cup of spiced chai is a delight. It soothes sore throats, warms frozen hands, and relieves seasonal affective blues.

Lots of people know chai as a super-sweet and creamy latte-style beverage, often made from a powdered mix or concentrate. The inspiration is Indian masala chai (literally “spiced tea”), a blend of strong black tea and fresh, whole spices prepared with milk and sugar. As far as shortcuts go, we think we do it right, perfecting our blend of spices and tea and retaining all the goodness of whole ingredients.

Why are whole leaves and spices better? Well, they’re probably healthier and definitely tastier. Both tea and spices are rich in antioxidants and may have protective effects against disease, increasing circulation, reducing inflammation and fighting infection. Broken down and ground, they go stale quickly. Aromatic oils are lost as well as antioxidants and other nutrients.

Of course, the health benefits of chai are probably offset slightly by the addition of cream and sugar (or whipped cream and chocolate). Skip the caloric syrupy concentrates and try the real thing on its own. You might be surprised at how flavorful it is. Add as much milk or sugar as you like or experiment with alternatives like coconut milk, rice milk or almond milk, and honey or other sweeteners.

One of the beautiful things about traditional masala chai is that there’s no standard recipe; every cook has their own. Our kitchen being very eclectic, we threw some rose petals, cacao nibs and the like into our traditional spice mix and invented some pretty adventurous new flavors: Mexican Hot Chocolate, French Toast, Honeybear, and more. Check them out here and let us know what you think!

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Want more? Check out our post on cooking with chai!

Statements on health benefits have not been evaluated by the FDA. While there are lots of promising studies, so far none have been confirmed. Either way, we’re not doctors, just thirsty people.

Matcha Cookies: A new spin on an old favorite

December 23rd, 2013 by

We all love to binge on our favorites this time of year; the same movies, songs, and recipes, over and over again until we can’t stand it anymore. I decided to try an update on a very old favorite this year: holiday sugar cookies.  You know the kind — you cut them out and decorate them like Santa or snowmen or dreidels or gelt. I found the simple recipe (below) in my mother’s battered copy of the Joy of Cooking. The vibrant color of our Yame Matcha green tea powder seemed full of festive possibilities, so I decided to throw some in and this happy-looking dough was the result:

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Just in case my experiment was a total flop, I made a batch the old-fashioned way. I couldn’t leave that alone either though, and I whipped up a batch of Matcha icing. My “recipe” was basically a cup of confectioner’s sugar, a few tablespoons of milk and Matcha powder until a screaming green color was achieved. I glazed both versions. The green icing on green cookies version was my favorite. The Matcha lends the cookies a delicate, slightly sweet green tea flavor. Next time I would nix or reduce the vanilla extract in the original recipe — the Matcha alone is flavor enough. I’m itching to make some witch fingers out of this stuff, or maybe some shamrocks in a few months. Here’s the recipe:

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Cream Together: 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C butter.

Beat in: 2 1/2 C sifted flour, 2 t baking powder, and 1/2 t salt.

Chill the dough 3-4 hours. Preheat the oven to 375 degree. Roll out and cut the dough, place on a greased cookie sheet and bake 7-12 minutes.

Once the cookies have cooled, add icing, sprinkles, etc.

How to Brew Coffee

November 5th, 2013 by

Who doesn’t know how to make coffee? Whether you’re interested in brewing the best tasting cup or you just need a stimulant in your system as soon as possible in the morning, most of us figure out how to make drinkable coffee at home. Most of us have also wondered at some point why the same coffee we make at home tastes better when we eat out or at a friend’s house. Or we wonder why whatever we’ve been doing for the last few years suddenly doesn’t do it for us anymore.

When I first started working here, keeping the coffee brewing in our office was a task that gave me secret anxiety. Making coffee is easy, right? I’ve been doing it every morning since I was a child, but maybe I’d been doing it wrong all along. Our office coffee makers are nothing fancy, but I noticed that this coffee was different, not like the sawdust I was used to using heaps of. My first few attempts were definitely off. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore.

Since then, countless customer emails and phone calls have taught me that many life-long coffee lovers are struggling with disappointment at home. Often, one variable changes and the magic ratio of coffee to water that has always worked suddenly doesn’t. Sometimes the explanation is obvious — your coffee is stale. Sometimes the source of the problem is harder to pinpoint. Maybe your grinder blade is getting dull, or your water is the wrong temperature. It’s not exactly complicated, but small changes make a big difference.

There are many ways to brew a pot of coffee, each with its virtues and devotees. Most have been around forever because they can deliver a great-tasting cup if you do it right. That means using fresh coffee (fresh-roasted and freshly brewed), the right grind and amount, good-tasting water, and a clean machine. Whether you’re trying something new or you want to get more out of your old brewer, this infographic from our graphic designer Jenn makes it easy.

How to brew coffee infographic

Chili Cook-Off and Crockpots Through the Ages

October 25th, 2013 by

Many of us at Coffee Bean Direct are foodies and pretty talented cooks — if you ask any of us we’d be happy to tell you just how talented. That’s why potlucks turn into cook-offs which turn into marathons of indigestion. Today’s chili cook-off is an especially happy occasion since Sandy put last year’s event on hold indefinitely and we all had to suffer through the storm bloat-free. The chili was delicious, of course.

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Also noteworthy was the collection crockpots, some museum-worthy.

The Crockpot bunch

The winning chili belonged to this beauty.

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The talent behind the winning dish is chef John, was kind enough to share his recipe using our Dark Sulawesi coffee. Here’s the quick and dirty version:

Cook 2lbs of chopped onions in bacon fat over low heat until translucent, remove from heat.

Brown 2lbs of meat (the winning batch was a ground pork and bison mix) and deglaze the pan with 1/2 pot of brewed Dark Sulawesi Kalossi.

Throw everything in a crock pot, add 2lbs of Anasazi beans (soaked overnight), 4 pints of dark beer, chili powder, molasses, salt, and sliced Szechuan chili peppers (feel free to get creative with the quantities).

Cook on high 4-6 hours.

 

 

Cooking with Tea

September 24th, 2013 by

Fall is official and our seasonal flavors are full of cinnamon, maple, pumpkin, and other things that are wonderful to cook with. My personal favorite is Pumpkin Chai, a beautiful blend of black, green, and herbal teas flavored with chai spices, caramel, and pumpkin. It smells so good I decided to find a way to eat it.

There are many ways to infuse foods with tea flavor, and I would like to try all of them. At the moment I’m too busy for a recipe that requires more than a few steps, so I decided to give a simple syrup recipe a try, inspired by the title. It is stupidly simple, and the end result is delicious and versatile. Here’s what you do:

  1. Brew a cup of strong tea. I used three teaspoons of the Pumpkin Chai in one cup of boiling water and let it steep for about five minutes.
  2. Strain the leaves and bring the tea to a boil in a small sauce pot.
  3. While the tea is boiling, add a cup of sugar and stir constantly for about two minutes. Syrup
  4. Let the mixture cool completely. Store in a container with a tight lid (a canning jar works great).

At room temperature the syrup will last about a week before it begins to crystallize. Refrigeration will extend the shelf life to about a month, probably longer, but chances are it won’t sit uneaten for that long.

What can you do with tea-infused simple syrup? Bake with it, poach with it, add it to an adult beverage, or drizzle it on whatever you want. I’m already planning a million variations on this theme.

Feeling under-challenged by simple syrup, I decided to keep going and make sundae sauce, adapting this recipe for wet walnuts, my favorite. I brought a half-and-half mixture of the simple syrup and maple syrup to a boil, along with the vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Then I stirred in chopped walnuts and let it cook for a few minutes. That’s all. Warm, on vanilla ice cream, it is mind-blowing. Warm, on pancakes, also mind-blowing. Cold, right out of the jar with a spoon, mind-blowing.

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Have you tried cooking with tea? We’d love some recipe suggestions!

Get to Know Green Coffee

September 9th, 2013 by

There’s something new and exciting happening here at Coffee Bean Direct: a new sister site, greencoffees.com. Perhaps you’ve noticed the new tab at the top of our home-page, or the link on the menu. Or our newsletter announcement and Facebook posts. Or perhaps you’re ignoring all that because what is green coffee anyway? Who is it for? Why would I bother with roasting at home? There are many reasons to give roasting a try and many, very accessible, ways to do it — see our DIY Guide for more on that. But first, we know there’s some confusion out there about green coffee, so let’s clear up a few misperceptions:

Green coffee is unripe coffee

Green can mean a lot of things, but in this context “green” refers to the color of the raw bean before roasting. Unlike a banana, green coffee is not unripe, just uncooked and bursting with potential. Raw coffee is greenish gray, yellow, or brown, and is covered with papery “chaff,” or skin. This burns off during the roasting process, as moisture is lost and sugars caramelize, producing the coffee color we know and love.

Varieties

Clockwise from top left: Decaf Colombian, Sulawesi Kalossi, Indian Monsooned Malabar, and Sumatra Mandheling.

Green coffee is like green tea, with a delicious flavor all its own

We sell green coffee for roasting, not for consumption as-is. Unroasted beans are hard as a rock. Literally. If you’re familiar with the Moh’s scale of mineral hardness, it’s about a 5, somewhere between Apatite and Feldspar (we did the test, because you asked). Pulverization might be possible, but your home grinder is not up to that task, and neither is ours. Even if you were somehow able to brew it, it would probably taste horrendously bitter. Roasting lowers acidity, releases aromatic compounds responsible for deliciousness, and is an all-around wonderful thing.

Home roasting requires something like this in my basement

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Like coffee brewing, coffee roasting equipment ranges from simple to high-tech. Fancy gadgets don’t necessarily produce a better end result — every method has its fans. Coffee beans have been roasted in a skillet, baking sheet, Dutch oven, popcorn popper, on a grill, etc. Heat and agitation are the main requirements. Chances are you already have what you need in your kitchen to give it a try.

Roasting is for coffee snobs

Roasting is for people who like fresh coffee. It’s easy to be a coffee lover without knowing much about what you’re drinking — many blends have names that reveal little about their ingredients (Breakfast Blend, Evening Fantasy, etc.). Home roasting is a great way to start exploring and discovering what you like. Flavor is partly the product of geography, and experimenting with single-origin coffees is a great place to begin. Starting with unroasted coffee allows you to experience how flavor develops as the roast progresses. You’ll gain an understanding of how each variable affects flavor, and how to produce the cup you want.

I don’t drink enough coffee to roast at home

If you can’t accommodate 50-lb burlap sacks in your kitchen, you should know that we also sell green coffee in 1-lb, 5-lb, and 25-lb bags. Unroasted coffee is less expensive per pound than roasted, and it has a shelf life of more than a year, as opposed to roasted coffee which, stored well, loses flavor after a few months. If you have the space for a larger bag, you can take advantage of bulk savings without worrying about your stockpile going to waste. Roast only what you need. Chances are, your home set-up will only be able to accommodate small batches anyway.

Coffee Bean Direct offers an abundance of affordable, fresh-roasted, coffee. The hard work of discovering the best blends and roast levels for each bean has already been done. I can’t improve upon perfection.

Perhaps once you’ve failed miserably at home roasting, you will forever appreciate just how amazing our roasted coffee is. But that’s not our objective. When it comes to roasting and blending, we know that what we offer is just the beginning. Like Liz, who keeps our office tremblingly productive with countless pots of coffee each day, you can get as creative as you want with blends like Yenya Rican (Yemen, Kenya, and Costa Rican) or Papua Guatzil (Papua New Guinea, Guatemalan, and Brazil). Some are hits, some are misses, but our palates are never bored and we’re wide awake.

New to roasting? Send us your questions or success stories!