Looking For Roasters? The 2021 Good Food Awards Are Coming Up

I’ve taken a look at several coffee roasters this year in my decaf specialty coffee review series Decaf, Decaf Everywhere. Despite this, I’ve only scratched the surface!

The United States is home to thousands of coffee roasters. Some work in wholesale and provide the selection you see while shopping for the month’s groceries. Others are small-batch microroasteries who are strictly local. The 2021 Good Food Awards is here to help you narrow things down a little while you browse for your next pick-me-up: they’re judging today’s American coffee roasters on quality, sustainability, and social impact.

I’m thrilled to see some of my personal favorites here, like Onyx Coffee Lab and PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. There are also several on the list I’ve been planning on checking out, like Mr. Espresso, Bird Rock Coffee and Peach Coffee Roasters. This year’s coffee selection has a wider range of origins compared to the past (though it really is no surprise Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, reigns supreme). The final verdict will be announced live on January 22nd, if you feel like tuning in.

While I’ll be making a holiday tier list soon to help promote my favorite decaf coffee roasters, this is a useful resource to start whittling down your gift list.

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Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. Huerta Del Rio Decaf

Do you blank out when asked about your favorite coffee origin? It’s all right. I did, too.

It’s a common enough reaction when your cheap coffee bag advertises its convenience or its smoothness more than where it comes from. Whether or not origin is worth knowing about is another source of contention depending on the kind of drinker you are. More casual drinkers might dip into a cafe once in a while. Others may brew daily for a morning caffeine boost. Yet more might use coffee as a warm and cozy pick-me-up, not unlike a mug of tea.

No matter where you land on the coffee aficionado scale, this is a topic you’ll want to brush up on. Learning about coffee origins and what, precisely, they offer each harvest has been one of the most enjoyable and illuminating parts of my journey. What makes Mexican coffee special? We’re going to get another showcase on what this origin, and region, have to offer with PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. If you haven’t read my previous reviews, check out my directory for all things specialty decaf coffee.

I’m excited to talk about this bag, so let’s go:

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Get Buzzed On Good Art: Beer Can Appreciation Day

Better late than never! This beer can art appreciation post cropped up last year, but it’s a whirlwind of inspiration.

If you know anything about me and this blog, it’s that I love packaging design. It’s a deceptively simple creation we easily take for granted, blending appealing colors and psychology into one…well, package. It’s not enough to just look pretty. Packaging design needs to communicate intent. It needs to stand out from the others on the shelf. It needs to have some artistic flair to make you want to show it off or even keep it around. That’s a tall order, one many breweries have risen to.

This fun list from Just Beer App shows off fifteen unique can designs and what makes them special. They go into the details behind each brewery or pub, then cross-reference how they get across their identity visually. Some local designs use environmental shorthands to show their love for a particular city or state, while others craft original characters to represent the ‘character’ of a unique brew. I’m pleasantly blown away by Noble Rey Brewing Co.: their design creates a full illustration if you stack each beer can on top of the other.

This is a great time to mention I designed a seasonal beer can this year, which I’ll be showing off here soon. In the meantime, get buzzed on some good art.

The best coffee gifts for 2020

This list really got me in the mood to go make some coffee. If you need coffee gift suggestions, this is a great place to start.

Coffee with the Queen

Two great things about 2020? More time at home with those we love, and more time for enjoying the small moments that bring joy and comfort to our day, including the time to make a delicious cup of coffee. Today, we are translating results from Mintel’s, Minetta’s, and Melitta North America’s 2020 coffee trends studies into thoughtful, useful coffee gift ideas for this holiday season. From coffee brewing newbies to budding baristas, we have gifts that will please all your favorite coffee lovers.


The coffee shop convert

According to the 2020 Mintel study1, individuals in their 20s and 30s, who traditionally consumed most of their coffee in and / or from a coffee shop are turning to home brewing. The study goes on to state that many of these coffee drinkers enjoy high-quality coffee, are brand-neutral, and seek sensory experiences. For these newbies, we recommend:

Sampler (variety) packs:

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Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Bicycle Coffee Co’s Water Process Decaf

Roasters are between a serious rock and a hard place right now. Just look at all the sales and discounts going on.

If I’m not seeing a small roastery offering a large discount after signing up for their newsletter, I’m seeing a medium-sized roastery offering a free shipping and special sales code combo. While all businesses will dip into sales from time-to-time to incentivize new and repeat customers alike, these past several months have veered from canny to desperate. Which sounds preferable: maintaining the same prices and approach for a dwindling audience or offering a slew of discounts on a ‘some money is better than no money’ threshold?

As such, I want to try these discounted coffees for more than one reason: save myself some money while helping keep businesses afloat. Bicycle Coffee Co. is exemplary of this pandemic marketing savvy, with several discounts stacked on top of one another, and with charming packaging design, to boot. Better yet? They offer Mexican coffee, an origin I’ve been very eager to try. If you haven’t read my previous posts in the series, check out my directory for some insight into today’s best decaf specialty coffee.

Let’s see what this roastery has to offer:

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Surviving Winter: US Coffee Shop Owner Survey Finds Financial Worry, Adaptability — Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

More than half (57%) of coffee shop owners and managers participating in a U.S. nationwide survey expressed worry that they will not be able to maintain enough revenue to survive…

Surviving Winter: US Coffee Shop Owner Survey Finds Financial Worry, Adaptability — Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

Cafes are much beloved for their soothing atmosphere, delicious menus, and (usually) free Wi-Fi. The behind-the-scenes, though, is often pretty hectic.

Despite coffee being one of the most economically resilient global industries, this year hasn’t been kind. Daily Coffee News has a very insightful summary of a recent survey filled out by seventy coffee shop owners and managers. They reveal their thoughts on the convenience of technology, their fears for the future, and their current handling of the pandemic, among others. Many cafes have quickly adapted to online and local delivery, though I’m not thrilled to see just 84% require customers to wear masks.

All it takes is one sick person to start an outbreak, remember? One step forward, one step backwards…

Know A Barista Who Needs Help? Go Fund Bean Has A New Fundraiser

If you’re a barista, or know someone who is, this is a post you’ll want to share.

The role of the barista is an often romanticized, and deeply unappreciated, position. It’s an average day when I’m seeing a viral video of yet another customer harassing a part-time worker over something or another. Hope is not all lost, thankfully: there’s a new grant going around called Go Fund Bean designed to help hourly barista workers. It’s going until November 15th in batches of $500 per person. That’s enough to pay off shared rent or put a dent in food bills.

(also, I absolutely adore their name)

Originally starting out as a humble tip jar, Go Fund Bean has since set their aspirations higher. Crowdfunding has been filling in the gaps left by federal aid nicely: these grants have come to fruition through the combined efforts of several businesses you may already know about, such as Seattle Coffee Gear, Torani and JNP Coffee. Priority is going to coffee workers who are in danger of losing housing, too. Good stuff, all in all.

If you know any hourly coffee workers, or are one yourself, please share! You could be giving someone a much-needed breather.

An Up-Close Look At Californian Vineyards Saving Their Crops

It’s more important than ever to keep an ear to the ground. Becoming emotionally detached in this stressful snowball of a year is a helpful short-term reaction, but a devastating long-term one.

This behind-the-scenes peek from Insider News shows the hard — and often desperate — work being put in to protect Californian vineyards from wildfires. Many of these yields aren’t even fully ripe, but it’s either that or risk the entire crop being tainted by smoke and ash. They don’t even need to be on fire to have their flavor changed entirely from all the changes in the air. According to multiple historians, these wildfires could very well be California’s worst in history.

Wine farmers and businessowners are given a rock and a hard place: let the grapes rot and file an insurance claim or try to sell what little they can.

When I visited one of Townshend’s local winetasting events early this year (right before COVID-19 started making waves), I tried some wildfire-tainted wine myself. It’s no minor side-effect: at best it has a smoky tang that drowns out the bottle’s subtle flavor notes. At worst it’s like trying to drink a cigarette. Just one sip and I was coughing. While this was from one experimental barrel surrounded by successful harvests, this video shows just how heartbreaking it is to see months (even years) of love and toil whisked away.

History in the making sounds grand on paper, but it’s usually an exhausting, demoralizing affair. If you’re thinking of buying wine soon, go for the smaller, local businesses. There are some truly stellar brands out there that don’t have grocery wholesale or household names on their side that could use your support.

Americans Still Love Their Coffee…Just Not In The Same Way

America is still a nation that runs on coffee. It’s just mostly at home.

This report from Daily Coffee News pretty much confirms what I’ve been seeing left and right these past several months. Homebrewing has become the cream of the crop, deemed both safer and cheaper in the long run. While cafes aren’t completely out of the picture, they estimated as much as 20% fewer Americans are visiting in-person. Larger roasters with e-commerce or wholesale grocery delivery on their side are also doing much better compared to their smaller peers.

There’s another important detail here, too, that anticipates how things may still change this year. Many Americans still crave sitting at a cafe, which could be good news…and bad news. This pandemic is still in full swing, with some states reporting record highs of hospitalized patients and schools still struggling to stay open for any period of time. How can coffee remain a source of comfort without being a hazard?

I miss cafes, too, but my homebrewing station has filled the gap quite nicely. In some ways? I like it even better. I can craft my drink to personal perfection, save money and enjoy the process at my own pace.

How about you? Have your coffee drinking habits changed in 2020?

Upcoming Budget Wine Review Series

I’ve been reviewing a lot of decaf coffee lately, but I definitely haven’t forgotten about wine. It’s kind of impossible in these pandemic times.

Just in the past week I’ve been gifted some bottles, supplemented with a few grocery store purchases, and I’m eager to share. That Ava Grace Vineyards rosé was perfect with a bowl of pot roast and I’m already a longtime fan of Dreaming Tree. There is a ton of goodness out there that doesn’t require you break the bank. As such, I’ll be starting a budget wine review series to supplement my decaf coffee review series. Red wine, white wine, blushing wine: all of them at $30 or less.

It’s all about spreading the good word and saving money these days. These reviews will explore flavor notes, aroma, mouthfeel, packaging design, and food pairings. The rare time I step out of my $30 threshold and purchase a more expensive wine I’ll still review the bottle, but separately. If you like wine, or want to get into it, stay tuned. If not, I’ve still got plenty of coffee-related pieces on the way.