Archive for August, 2009

What’s Good?: Cold Brewed Purple Jade Oolong

Our baristas all have a favorite of the moment; What’s Good? hopes to get the word out about what we’re all drinking. This installment comes from Goodrich at the Millenium Park location.

He looks so happy with that cold brewed Purple Jade Oolong!

Goodrich looks so happy with that cold brewed Purple Jade Oolong!

Cold Brewed Purple Jade Oolong

I stopped drinking about five months ago (DON’T JUDGE ME!). So I didn’t think I’d taste hops ever again. Then I cold brewed this tea. Blam! Sweet, honey hops like I had never even tasted in my favorite IPA.

There you have it folks. A ringing endorsement of the Hario Iced Teapot.  If you ever see Goodrich at the Millenium Park store, ask him about cold brewing through one of these babies, and he’ll set you up so you can create the results at home!

Stray Thoughts: Meditations on Coffee Writing

millpark14

A distinct pour, concentric, and technical.

Back when I first starting writing about music, I read a biography about Lester Bangs and came up with a quote where he talked about music and writing. I don’t remember it word for word, but the gist of was that there was nothing more exhilarating than staying up all night listening to music and feverishly writing about it.

Well, when I did stay up all night, it was mainly to play videogames or to watch bad TV. But I understood the sentiment. There’s something awfully romantic about scratching away at a typewriter while experiencing something and directly translating those emotions into words as a way of helping others achieve the same experience. Good music writing should be like listening to a guided museum tour through headphones while sitting in your basement: you should know what it’s all about, have a good amount of background information, but a part of you should be just dying to experience it yourself.

I was recently thinking about whether this applied to coffee as well. Did reading coffee writing really help my experience it better? Is this blog worth maintaining?

My thoughts drifted back four years ago when I lived in Lakeview and went to the Broadway store from time to time. My co-worker at the record store I worked at told me I was dumb for always getting a French Roast all the time because there was a whole world of coffee I wasn’t experiencing. He suggested an African coffee. After buying a bag of Sumatra (and a lesson in geography), I came upon a bag of Ethiopia Yergecheffe.

I was sipping at a cup that I had just made from a french press, and I got an extremely distinct flavor coming through. I wasn’t sure what it was, and so I checked the bag: “melon rind finish” was one of the descriptors and it was exactly what I was getting.

And while a simple, descriptive sentence isn’t exactly a three page diagnostic thesis on the coffee, it perfectly described what I had experienced, and put it into words I could not find myself. Maybe there is something to coffee writing.

The Lab: Syphoning the Finca Matalapa

Best fwends!

Best fwends!

One of the things I love about working here is the constant experimentation. When I first started, Charles ran Juliet and Curtis and I through a quick training of all the different brewing methods we had.  He said two things about the syphon pot that I consistently remember: the first being that syphon coffee has a distinct rhythm to it, and that it tends to bring out a lot of sweetness in washed Central or South American coffees in which it isn’t immediately apparent.

The rhythm was very apparent. On the first sip, after the coffee cooled a bit, you could feel it rolling on your tongue. The body almost pulsed in perfect time with the acidity. But as to whether or not Charles was blowing smoke up my behind about the sweetness, well, I wasn’t sure.

When we first got the Los Inmortales, El Salvador Finca Matalapa in, the first time I tried it was as a single origin espresso macchiato. Rachel, who was on bar, warned me that to her it was very savory and almost tasted like marinara sauce. As a macchiato, it was a bit like a spaghetti dinner. On the cupping table, the Matalapa had tones of fresh hay, herbs, and a bit of an earthy, full body.

So when Goodrich wanted to try the Matalapa five different ways (Cafe Solo, syphon pot, Chemex, cupped, and, uh, Aeropress) in our “lab” (see: Pedway storefront), we were knocked on our bottoms (the same bottoms up which Charles had apparently not blown smoke). On the syphon, the Matalapa was like drinking a dark, rich cup of honey. The syphon pot had brought out the sweetness in a washed Central or South American coffee that wasn’t before apparent.

It was quite the revelation, and since then, it’s given me a flavor profile to shoot for when dialing in the Matalapa on the Clover.

As for the Aeropress, well, neither Goodrich nor I really knew how to use it. But in our defense, it’s made by a frisbee company and we lost the directions a long time ago.