Friday, January 15, 2016

Nitro Coffee, Nitrogen-Infused Coffee at StumpTown Coffee Roaster

Tap at Stmptown Coffee Roaster which pours Nitro Coffee

StumpTown Coffee Roasters, Portland OR (3356 SE Belmont Street Portland, OR 97214 Link) was the first to invent the concept of Nitro Coffee (or AKA Nitrogen-Infused Coffee). They introduced the beverage to the public in April 2015; since then, this trend has caught on fire among coffee lovers making some companies such as AC Beverages to start selling nitrogen infusion brewing equipment specifically for coffee called JoeTap (US$4,000-US$5,000).


What is Nitro Coffee? (or AKA Nitrogen-Infused Coffee)

Nitro Coffee served at Stumptown Coffee Roaster
Nitro Coffee is iced coffee infused with bubble of nitrogen air (N2). Infusing nitrogen has actually been common method used for pouring beer for long time.  Beer is usually infused with carbon monoxide (CO2), but infusing with nitrogen makes the taste more "smooth" with creamy feel because nitrogen does not dissolve well in water making the sensation you might be familiar with in beer such as Guinness.   The proportion of carbon monoxide and nitrogen is usually 75% carbon monoxide and 25 % nitrogen. The equipment used to infuse the nitrogen is called restrictor plate also known as "sparkler",  the liquid goes through these tiny holes with pressure of nitrogen air which creates the creamy bubble.  

Nitro Coffee at StumpTown Coffee, Portland

Outside Stumptown Coffee on Division St., Portland
So what is it like to visit SumpTown Coffee to have these original nitro coffee? You can refer our earlier post about StumpTown Coffee; they have 5 locations in Portland, and they also have branches in Seattle, Los Angels and New York. I have tried their coffee first time at Division Street branch.  Division Street branch is located in the middle of residential area in Portland. There are local pubs in few blocks and cozy place to walk around and hang out.

Neighborhood around StumpTown Coffee on Division Street.

The cafe is usually clouded with locals, but I do see some tourists coming in once in a while who wants to try the new coffee sensation.  The cafe has nice local feel to it, and it is a very pleasant place to sit and chat over coffee.  There are some outside seating which is nice during summer time especially with this nitro iced coffee. There are many customers with dogs sitting outside usually in the summer time.

Inside StumpTown Coffee on Division St.
StumpTown Coffee is known for their fine roasting, and you get to see their roaster inside the cafe.
    
Coffee Roaster displayed inside StumpTown Coffee on Divison St.

You can order the nitro coffee "on tap" or there are packaged coffee for you to take out as well.  I have tried the "on tap" method.  The barista was nice, and he let me try a little before I ordered one.  You can choose either 12 oz or 16 oz, and they will pour them on glass, or you can order a cup to go.

How Does Nitro Coffee Taste?

Honestly, I love it. I personally like beer and coffee, so this is like heaven for me.  The creamy sensation of the form is actually very pleasant over the aroma of coffee, almost feel like there are some milk inside, but there isn't any.   As with any other iced coffee, there are some acidity to the taste, but surprisingly less than what you would expect from iced coffee.  This is actually one of the effects of nitrogen not being dissolvable and less contents of oxygen available to bond to oxidize making the drink less acidic.

If you want to try nitro coffee yourself, you can try at any of StumpTown Coffee Roasters, and there are more and more cafes serving nitro coffee now.   I wonder how long it would take for the large coffee giants to catch up, I would imagine it will be very soon simply because it tastes great!


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Sunday, January 3, 2016

How People Drink Coffee in India

Espresso served at Coffee Shop, Barista in India 2006
Espresso served at Coffee Shop, Barista in India 2006
Espresso War 2006 vs 2015 in India
Above picture was taken at a popular coffee shop Barista in Chandigarh, India in 2006. Six years before first Starbucks opened in India in 2012, espresso drink of this type back then was very luxury item but people still visited these espresso shop to get very well made latte or capchino.  A cup in above picture costed about 300 Indian rupees for a cup (About US$6); it was considered luxury where a good meal with a soft drink could be purchased less than 200 Indian rupees easily back in 2006.  This type of espresso shops were usually new and very clean with often a door man opening door for you. You can see the quality of the drink and coffee shop just by looking at latte art in the picture!

Fast forward 9 years to the year of 2015. Espresso wars are hotter in India than some streets of Portland or Seattle now. Below left picture is one of the major player of UK base espresso bars Costa Coffee, right is Starbucks in India; you find them more often now at airport and major city corners.   You find these coffee shops and other coffee shops including Barista (where above picture was taken in 2006) all over city.  Other than the fact that Indian capchino has a lot more portion of milk then how Americans drink capchino, the drinks are made pretty much the same way in these coffee shops in India compared to ones in America.  The price is still about 300 Indian ruppees or so (US $5)  but with inflation and other factors, 300 ruppees are a lot more affordable price than back 9 years ago. Shops also look more casual now and less number of door man at a door.  

Starbucks in India, 2015
Starbucks in India, 2015
UK Base Costa Coffee in India, 2015
UK Base Costa Coffee in India, 2015

Seeing Indians as Foreigner
As you know, I am from Japan and I live in Portland, USA.  I had a very rare opportunity to visit both North and South India (Chandigarh and Chennai) for 1.5 months this year (2015) after living in the North (Chandigarh) in 2006 for over half an year.  This article is based on my experience living in India as foreigner. 

Coffee in Every Day India
Generally, espresso like mentioned above is still considered something you would have for occasion in most people in India. In fact, most people drink coffee very casual and quite a lot here. Drinking hot drink throughout day is part of most daily people's life. You find coffee/tea shops all over city and even on the street; in fact, you would be surprised to see how busy these tea boys are on the street!

In general, South Indians tend to drink more coffee, where North Indians have more preference of drinking tea instead of coffee.   This is also due to the fact that coffee production is in the south India mainly due to the climate reason. (Source: Wikipiedia - Coffee Production in India)  Either coffee or tea is commonly drank with milk and sugar. When you order coffee/tea blindly without telling anything on the street, they assume you want it with milk and sugar.

Most common way to prepare coffee at home or even on street is to boil milk and water with coffee to boil using pan.  Milk and water proportion varies depend on preference, I have seen 100% milk (no water) to somewhat like 6/4 portion of milk and water. When the water comes to boil, heat is reduced to avoid spill, but then increased again.  It is common to repeat this boil process for couple of times.  If a person prefers "dark" coffee, you would do it more (like 5-10 times); this way more flavor of milk goes into the drink. This cooking method require full attention of the cook to control the temperature of the coffee making it more labor intensive than American way of drip coffee.

Supermarket in India Coffee Section - a lot of instants...
Supermarket in India Coffee Section - a lot of instants...
Coffee in Indian Hotel
Coffee in Indian Hotel





















It is common to see grind coffee to be used in above boil method, but very often instant coffee is used. In fact, when you go to grocery shop; the coffee section isle you see many instants; very less of non-instant coffee.  This is sad reality of home coffee in India.  However, due to the way cooking is done in milk, the coffee actually taste very well in fact even it is instant. 

In the south, I found it very interesting that coffee is served in a metal cup and a bowl. You then flip coffee in the air to cool the coffee down to the temperature of your preference. I found it very difficult to do in the beginning, but got used to it over time.

Coffee is vegetarian, isn't it? 
It feels very natural in India to think either veg or non-veg as you find many Indians being vegetarian and a lot of options are available for vegetarian cuisines in India.   Coffee is no exception to the rule. In India, you find green circle symbol notating that the product is vegetarian.  Coffee usually also has the symbol indicating that it is vegetarian as well. I never consciously thought about it, but coffee is vegetarian isn't it?  I found it odd to find this symbol even on shampoo and toothbrush in India, but coffee is no exception!

Back of coffee provided at Indian Hotel, note the green symbol notifying vegetarian.
Back of coffee provided at Indian Hotel, note the green symbol notifying vegetarian.
Green circle symbols are used everywhere in  India notating that the product is vegetarian.
Green circle symbols are used everywhere in
India notating that the product is vegetarian.

Indian Coffee at Delhi Airport
On the way back from India, I found that India Delhi Duty Free sells variety of Indian Coffee and Tea.  It is a good spot to get clean souvenir.  The price is little hiked up from the price at local shops, but the quality of the products seem to be very well you only find well packaged items which can easily be gift.

Delhi International Airport carries Indian Coffee and Tea
Delhi International Airport carries Indian Coffee and Tea
Duty Free selling Indian Coffee & Tea
Duty Free selling Indian Coffee & Tea
I decided to buy coffee from Blue Tokai Coffee Roaster (Link) at the Duty Free shop.   I thought US$12 for 100g of coffee is quite expensive and it is very unfortunate that they only provide ground coffee. No un-grounded beans were option at duty free. (In fact, very less people in India own coffee grinder, so you almost never see coffee sold un-grounded in India which is another sad point to note...)

Below are some pictures of Blue Tokai Coffee Roaster (Link) I got. It has very strong coffee smell which is very good especially when it is drunk with milk in a way like mentioned above.  The roast of this particular one was lightly roasted, and ground very fine so that it was very hard to use in french press, but again it tasted very well in milk, yes the Indian way!

Blue Tokai Coffee
Blue Tokai Coffee - Back

Blue Tokai Coffee
Blue Tokai Coffee - Front



Blue Tokai Coffee
Blue Tokai Coffee - Bottom

Blue Tokai Coffee
Blue Tokai Coffee

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Extracto Coffee Roasters, Portland Oregon - Fruity Coffee Perfection

Extracto Coffee Roasters, Portland OR
A lovely neighborhood coffee shop that roasts and serves excellent coffee, Extracto Coffee Roaster is now one of my favorite Portland Coffee Roasters.

Extracto Coffee Roaster (2921 NE Killingsworth St. Portland, OR 97211) is located on Killingsworth St which I have been passing all the time, I did not notice the shop until I read the on my favorite book Left Coast Roast: A Guide to the Best Coffee and Roasters from San Francisco to Seattle. The book calls the shop "Nostalgic Neighborhood Cafe"; and truthfully so, inside the shop is very comfortable nice coffee shop colored in pleasant yellow.


I like the Killingworth St. neighborhood a lot. The neighborhood looks like there are just all residential houses around, but hidden within them are great restaurants, cafe and shops.  My personal favorite BBQ restaurant Podnah's Pit BBQ is just few blocks of a walk, so my usual course is to get BBQ and then have a nice walk to get coffee at Extracto Coffee Roaster. 

Easy to miss, but you do not want to miss their coffee
Located right across from neighborhood bar and shop
 
When I visited this time, I asked which coffee goes well with milk, and they suggested 11 which is their signature blend. Moment I put first sip, smell of fruits fill my mouth.  I love their coffee!


If you are looking for some nice BBQ lunch + coffee in Portland, or just looking for fruitful tasty coffee, I suggest trying Extracto Coffee Roaster.


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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Journey to the World of Consumer Coffee - Part 2- Target

After I found out and got disappointed by how World Market sales coffee,, I was curious about other US supermarkets how coffee is sold.   Coffee is extremely time sensitive  material where the peak of the taste is known to be from a day to 2 weeks.  Yet, I found out that World Market sells coffee with label of "best before" for months.I got curious to see how other supermarkets sell coffee in the United States. I tried to see how Target sells coffee.

Target is US based retail giant having close to 2000 retail locations in US (source: Wikipedia).  They tend to target middle to upper class consumers, so I was hoping to find something better than World Mart, but that was not the case.

Coffee at Target


There is a whole isle of coffee section at Target.   Comparing to World Market, they surely carry a lot more variety of coffee.  The left side of the isle is all the packaged coffee and right side of isle is filled with K-cup coffee.  It is amazing to see how quickly K-cups are gaining momentum in such short period of time; few years ago people didn't even hear about K-cups now half of coffee section is filled with K-cup. I personally don't mind about K-cup, and I especially like how the coffee is sealed airtight to eliminate being stale.

Target Coffee K-cup
Half of coffee section at Target is K-Cup
There are many different brand you find on the shelf; well-known names such as Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are being carried. Unfortunately, just like World Market; majority of the coffee packaged at Target are ground coffee, it is difficult to find whole bean coffee. I reach to a whole bean Starbucks coffee, and looked the back. I do not see roasted date like what I saw on Starbucks Reserve.  They must have date somewhere; I looked and looked and found a printed letters which is very hard to find is indicating "BEST BEFORE: 19DEC2015".  December 2015 is 6 months from now.

Starbucks coffee sold at Target
You can imagine my disappointment when I saw it.  The coffee specialist that I like is selling 6 months old coffee.  I looked further but I found no coffee with "roasted date" at Target either.  All coffee has "Best Before" without mentioning the roasted date.


Maybe all supermarket sells coffee this way... I almost feel betrayed as coffee consumer.  I now really want to try digging deeper into how the real world of consumer coffee is.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Journey to the World of Consumer Coffee - Part 1 - World Market

Everyone has that time, right? Out of coffee. It is also known as emergency.

With all the visits to the local roasters and roasting my own coffee, I thought I would never run out of coffee, but I did.  Worst of all, I did not have time to go to any roasters. Starbucks was an option, but for some reason I wanted to try out something new.  So I tried World Market, and found something surprising.

 

Coffee From World Market


World Market has a section dedicated for coffee
I like World Market. They often have "wired" stuffs from all over the world, and I tend to enjoy browsing around for some unusual stuffs.  Because of it, I was curious to see what World Market has to offer for their coffee selection. 

World Market has two shelves dedicated to coffee in the food section, great!  They also have section for their tea which is about the same size as coffee section.

Not Much Selection For Whole Bean

My first disappointment comes when I try to see each of the package to select which bean to pick. All the bags I see are already ground. Really? For all the coffee lovers, you know what ground coffee means : stale.  I have to admit that these shops are targeting regular consumers who might not have grinders. Out of about 30+ selections of coffee, only 5 are whole beans.

$2 More For Fair Trade Certified

Out of 5 available options for whole beans, there are two colors : brown and green.  The difference? Green one is two dollars more ($8.99 vs $6.99) and it is labeled as "Fair Trade Certified".  OK, it is pretty common these days to pay extra for "fairness", but I always wonder how non-fair coffees are purchased in that case.

World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee

After serious consideration between 5 selections, I picked Costa Rican Terrazu, the only fair trade certified whole bean option available in the entire World Market.
World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee
World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee
World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee - Back
World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee - Back
World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee - Their roast is darker roasted
World Market Costa Rican Tarrazu Coffee - Their roast is darker roasted

 

No Roast Date?


I noticed something seriously wrong after I got home and looked at the package again.  I have been going to all the serious coffee roasters around and I always see Roast Date noted on all the coffee I buy.

World Market does not have Roast Date.

Instead, there is "Best Before" next to mechanical bar code indicating "Best Before" four months from today. Wow!  Who knows how long has this coffee have been on the shelf before today.  Coffee is known to have the peak of its taste for about a week after roasting.  Four months. Really?


Is this how the large companies treat coffee and distribute?  Do they keep coffee on shelf for months without telling consumers when the coffee was actually roasted?

I decided to explore how other "Consumer Coffee" are being distributed by these large companies.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Search for A Perfect Coffee Gift Bag - Part 5 (Sweet Marias Gold Valv Coffee Bag)



This coffee bag from Sweet Maria's which is quite similar to the clear one but has gold on the back which is quite stylish. Their quality is pretty much identical to the clear one which I reviewed earlier.



There are two sizes available for gold back coffee gift bag:

Foil coffee bag - 1 lb value bag Gold - 0.95c


Foil coffee bag - 8 oz value bag Gold - 0.75c

and here are pictures of them:  







 

If you like this, you might also want to check the clear one which I reviewed earlier. You can see my previous post about clear bag, click here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Blue House Cafe, Vernonia, OR - Little Known Great Greek Coffee in A Little Kown City Near Portland

Greek Coffee at Blue House Cafe, Vernonia, OR
I love how Greek people drink coffee.  I just happened to have an opportunity to try a very good Greek coffee at Blue House Cafe in Vernonia, OR (919 Bridge St Vernonia, Oregon 97064  link)  Blue House Cafe is a Greek Restaurant and Cafe at Vernonia, they roast their own coffee, and their Greek coffee is a must stop.  Only an hour away from Portland, there is a hidden treasure for coffee lovers, especially if you love Greek Coffee!

Vernonia, OR - Little Known City

Vernonia is 1 hour Northwest of Portland, "rustic city" is how I want to describe it; very cute little town
Vernonia  (population 2000) is a very little town in beautiful mountain about an hour Northwest from Portland. (Vernonia, OR - Wikipedia) The town is well-known for biker's community as Banks-Vernonia State Trail is one of the most beautiful biking trails close to Portland. It is a great one day get-away; you can just have a walk in nature or rent a bike for just a day.
 
Banks-Vernonia State Trail is beautiful 21 miles bike and walking trail

Blue House Cafe - Little Known Greek Cafe
Above entrance of Blue House Cafe, using cork as decoration - such a nice idea!

In the middle of your get-away day in nature, you can stop by at Blue House Cafe for a great cup of Greek Coffee.
Blue House Cafe is located in Vernonia "Downtown."  Since the whole city of Vernonia is just few blocks wide, you do not miss the cafe if you visit the city. 

Here is quote from their menu about their coffee:

"We use 100 % Arabica peaberry shade grown coffee beans from the Karnataka region of India which are milder, have less caffeine and more beneficial enzymes. The coffee beans are roasted in house.  We only use organic milk and brown sugar for our beverages."

Based on this article about Greek Coffee (very good article) Greek Coffee should be roasted at specific temperature, and the bean itself has to be very specific as well.  Blue House follow the tradition all the way from the coffee bean to roasting to serving.

Greek Coffee at Blue House Cafe
The Greek Coffee at Blue House Cafe is served with traditional briki and the aroma and the whole sensation is just to die for. It is served with date; the combination of aroma created by date and coffee just perfectly matches.

Greek Coffee at Blue House Cafe, Vernonia, OR

Traditional briki is used to serve coffee at Blue House Cafe

If you are looking for a one day get-away trip, I strongly suggest to have a hike or bike in great nature at and around Vernonia, and try serious Greek coffee that you don't find anywhere else.

And... by the way, when you visit Blue House Cafe, make sure to use their bathroom; it is one of the most unique bathroom I have ever seen!

View from Stub Stewart State Park (15 minutes drive from Vernonia, OR)