Variety Is The Spice Of Life: Five Interesting Products Made From Coffee Supplies

One of the most common starting points for sustainability conversations are building materials: the ingredients we use to craft where we live and how we move.

To recycle something is to keep valuable materials out of toxic landfills and back into the hands of the people and businesses that need it. You don’t have to be a sustainability expert to know about the viability of recycled cardboard for storage. In fact, one of my earliest school memories was making my own paper out of recycled bits! Things get a little interesting when you see just how many materials can be reused and for what. Since this is a beverage blog (and I put the hook in the title), you can likely guess where this is going.

Coffee is a daily staple. A lifestyle and, for many, a passion. The old coffee grounds, as well as coffee-related supplies, can be a practical ingredient for all sorts of products. Let’s take a look at whether this is mere novelty or an actual change to get excited about.

Continue reading

How to support local cafés and businesses during quarantine — Coffee with the Queen

“A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in.” -Nicole Snow This statement by Nicole Snow is true — but, as a small business owner, I think she only captured half of what it means to be a small business. Small businesses contribute to their […]

How to support local cafés and businesses during quarantine — Coffee with the Queen

A quick little guide on how to support your love of coffee beyond the (increasingly) rare trip to the grocery store.

I recently bought some decaf beans from local roasters (which I’ll be reviewing within the next month), as well as some much needed coffee equipment for my kitchen. With the American economy already showing similar statistics to the Great Depression, though, I’ll also emphasize you don’t need money to show your support. An email or supportive comment on social media will go a long way to show these cafes and roasters you’re thinking of them.

Beer Doesn’t Have The Appeal It Used To

Left and right I see the shrinking appeal of alcohol. I’ve even felt it myself.

Once or twice a week I dip into my alcohol stores. I’ll crack open a hard cider over a baked potato for dinner. Pour myself an inch of wine during a lazy Sunday in front of a movie. As time goes on, however, I find myself getting more selective with what I put in the fridge. How many calories it has, how it lines up with my current diet and exercise regimen. This is a far cry from a few years ago, where I was less picky as long as it tasted good.

While the United States has been seeing a consistent dip in beer and wine sales (with the reasons usually lining up with health concerns), it’s far from an American phenomenon. This analysis from The Guardian goes into a similar trend in the U.K., exploring how younger drinkers are starting to skew toward lighter beer or no beer at all. Craft beer, beloved for its unique local varieties and limited-edition offers, is starting to dip after a strong past five years.

This is lining up with another prod to the beer-making bubble: a lack of CO2 connected to the ethanol industry’s current struggles. While recent spikes in beer purchases have been attributed to COVID-19, those numbers are not going to be easy to maintain when breweries don’t have the supplies they need. Combined with an overall shrinking interest in party culture and binge-drinking, this is a slope that will only get steeper. Drinks are going to have to continue getting creative (and healthy) to keep people’s attention.

What about you? Do you see your beer-drinking habits changing this year?

A Coffee A Day Won’t Keep The Doctor Away: Social Distancing And Coffee Shops

I had a dream about a delicious latte earlier this week.

In the fields of my subconscious I visited a latte event beneath the overhang of a highway (dreams are funny like that) and rubbed shoulders with local roasters and farmers alike. Later I would sit down with a monster of a mug, filled with a predominantly arabica blend and topped off with a thick, creamy foam that clung to my upper lip. The dream would end up taking another odd turn as I went behind the counter and started making my own espresso shots to judge them on their crema. Seems my barista roots are as strong as ever.

I’m not going to be able to make my dream come true any time soon, as coffee stores left and right are shutting down…or considering it. Blue Bottle Coffee, for starters, has temporarily shut down its stores around the nation. The chain made an exception for South Korea and Japan, however, due to their more rigorous response to the coronavirus and much more accessible healthcare system. Starbucks, on the other hand, is currently debating whether or not to close.

They’ve gone at length to stress rigorous cleaning protocols to manage the coronavirus spread, which still might not put a dent in viral rates in the West. I may love a fresh, hot latte as much as the next person, but this stubborn response is just hazardous.

Makes me wonder just how popular home brewing will become in the coming months of social distancing and health awareness. There are a lot of benefits to be had: saving money (especially for those who have a morning commute), having more control over the coffee itself and reducing the chance of getting sick. I myself have been squirreling away spare change in order to buy a hybrid coffeemaker for my kitchen. What about you?

Do you miss cafes or do you prefer making coffee at home?

The Flipside To The Staple: Starbucks Under Fire For Lacking Caffeine

Starbucks is a coffee behemoth, unavoidable on a global level as a staple of morning commutes and casual lunches everywhere. As a Washingtonian, Starbucks is extra unavoidable. It originated here, after all.

Hearing about their lawsuits is triply unavoidable, with yet another alleging that Starbucks is falsely advertising the amount of caffeine in their drinks. More specifically, larger drinks that apparently don’t have larger amounts of caffeine: just more milk, foam or ice. While I don’t drink caffeine — I stopped several years ago for health reasons — I can see why this would be frustrating for customers. Coffee habits aren’t exactly kind on the wallet unless you exclusively brew from home, and even then, you still have to shell out extra money for the right equipment and quality beans.

To anyone who drinks coffee on-the-go: what do you think?

Is a lawsuit on a lack of caffeine valid in an industry already buckling under dishonest marketing or should this be a lesser concern?

When Water Runs Red: A Pleasant Surprise For A Small Italian Village

The truth really is stranger than fiction.

Heard this interesting little story through the grapevine: a village in Italy got a pretty grape surprise a few days back when their pipes got filled with wine instead of water. While this sounds like a barrel of fun, the residents were all too aware of how this spill can create long-term damage. Irregardless, some weren’t wining, finding this a dream come true and even bottling up the flow in home water bottles.

…I have no shame.

party clinking wine glasses

What Improves Wine Quality? It’s Not Just The Aging Process That Brings Out The Flavor

‘A little goes a long way’ is an age-old adage many of us are familiar with. It stresses the need for appreciating smaller details and how they make up a better whole. It’s why my mother’s chai tea always tastes better than anything I could get in a cafe: there’s nothing quite like a dollop of love.

This mentality stretches far and wide, up to and including the wine industry. Unsurprising, as a mere year difference in the barrel can completely transform flavor notes and aroma. Viticulture, in particular, is rising as a subtle and extremely important touch-up to the winemaking process: it involves tiny changes in how vines interact with their environment, from sunlight exposure to leaf trimming. Even fruit thinning, an idea that can seem odd at a glance in a quantity-focused world, is considered paramount in creating robust, subtle flavors.

If you’re looking for a little more insight into the ever complex winemaking process, give this Forbes piece a look. It’s a little lengthy, but all the better for it. I’m walking away this afternoon with a whole new appreciation for how the little things add up.

Better Late Than Never: Starting Off The Year With A Visit To The Townshend Winery

Ever since taking on wine alongside coffee and tea, I’m facing up again with just how little I know.

So many French and Italian names! So many decades! So much variety! This classic drink has thousands of years to its name and even the most experienced in the industry continue to learn new things about the craft. With the wine industry being faced with a more nebulous interest by several demographics, proposed tariffs and the ongoing impact of environmental changes, I expect everyone is going to see their intimate wine know-how challenged moving forward.

As for me, well…I don’t plan on sitting on my laurels.

My friend’s mother invited me to a Townshend winetasting event in January, set up to celebrate their different varieties and stir up some buzz. It was a night of firsts: I’ve never been to a winetasting event (unless you count my roommate and I popping open a bottle on a Friday night), nor had I ever tried wine straight out of the barrel. Consider me excited to continue seeing what local Washington wine culture is all about.

Continue reading

Happy National Wine Day! How Much Do You Know About The Drink?

National Wine Day is upon us. That means being given a more plausible excuse to pour yourself a glass at three in the afternoon.

I got a real kick out of this piece earlier today: ABC’s short video talks about common misconceptions about wine, as well as validates what are thought to be misconceptions. Swirling the drink? It’s not just for show, as the oxygen brings out the wine’s flavor. Need to spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle? Probably not. The $15-20 price range is actually pretty good for most occasions.

I can definitely attest to that. Shout-out to my local Washington wine brands: you keep me buzzed.

For those that are getting into wine and struggling to figure out how to pair it with their meals, I like to look at wine flavors like a painting: just add contrast! If you’re eating something salty, pair it with a sweet wine. If you’re eating something savory, pair it with a fruity or tart wine. The more different the flavor notes, the more they bring out each other’s best. Don’t let a lack of knowledge keep you from trying new things. Even today’s leading wine experts are still learning something new about this old and delicious craft.

If you’re feeling like wine isn’t for you, for whatever reason, consider giving it a try this year. It’s a lot easier to get into than it seems and there’s a wine variety for just about everyone. All the French and Italian terminology will come later.