12 Jan 2010
Do you know where your coffee comes from? With words like Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Organic and Third Wave thrown around the coffee industry without much regulation, how can you trust where your coffee comes from?
DOMA (a name mash up of the owner’s sons Dominic and Marco) Coffee Roasting Company of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is the ONLY member of the exclusive Cooperative Coffees in the Northwest (one of 22 in the US). What does this mean? DOMA has a direct relationship with the farmer who grows the coffee. By direct, we mean so direct as to physically spend time with the farmer helping them with farming practices, sharing growing and roasting information and actually working on the farm at different times. There is NO middle man. DOMA even provides proof of shipping records, receipts, and prices paid through www.fairtradeproof.org Can your coffee company say that?
In talking with owners Terry and Rebecca Patano it is evident that three things are important to them; the environment, quality, and relationships.
Some companies advertise organic coffee as a means to jump on the ‘green’ money train. DOMA lives sustainability in every aspect of their business. Certified organic roaster, 100% biodegradable bags, compost or recycle all waste material, all print materials are on recycled paper, non toxic cleaning agents and roasting on a Loring Smart Roaster (saves the equiv. of 2000 gallons of natural gas per year). All of this is in addition to the direct relationship with the farmers (as mentioned above). These efforts lead to better coffee.
While at DOMA Coffee Roasting Company, I had the privilege of watching a roasting. The 50lb batch was treated with care from the loading of the green beans to the frequent monitoring of the roaster while the temperature rose to 400 degrees. Every few minutes the beans were checked for color, quality, and aroma to ensure the perfect quality roast. At just the right moment, Jim (the roaster), smelled and saw what he was looking for and stopped the machine releasing the beautiful beans into the container. I’ve got to tell you that this was THE single most beautiful coffee smell I have ever encountered. The direct relationship ensures the quality of the original product, DOMA “takes and turns it into something special,” says Terry.
The focus on quality continues with the relationships they have with the retailers who use and sell their coffee. Each coffee stand, café, and coffee shop must go through a training program, led by trainer Greg Hjort. Greg teaches the proper techniques for brewing, pulling shots, service, and even fancy espresso art! DOMA will work with new businesses to get their systems in place, provide input on counter set up, and more. Greg makes his rounds for quality control and to provide continuing education. What does this mean to you? It means that you will always get a quality cup of coffee or espresso wherever DOMA is sold.
When I asked what was on the horizon for DOMA Coffee Roasting Company as they celebrated their 10th year in business, Rebecca spoke to the continued desire to get better and refine the quality of the product, training and relationships they have. The whole Patano family is getting ready for an upcoming trip to a Peruvian farm to work side by side with the farmers for two weeks. Terry and Rebecca also swore me to secrecy about an upcoming “change” that they were super excited for. They also have visions of a new ‘green’ certified location at some point in the future.
When you’re out for coffee and you see the DOMA Coffee Roasting Company name, trust that you’re going to get a GREAT product that has been grown with care, tested and refined with passion, roasted with quality, and brewed with consistency.
Visit them on the internet at www.domacoffee.com and soon in the Social Media world!
18 Dec 2009
The thermometer read a brisk 20 degrees and my shoes were wet from the snow piled up on the streets. The place was filling up. Jane mentioned to a customer that she didn’t think they would be busy this morning with the frightful weather. The customer replied, “well, the food is just that good.”
The food is “just that good.” This beautiful jewel at 180 S. Howard in Downtown Spokane is a savory and sweet treat not to be missed.
Taste Cafe & Gourmet To Go opened their doors in February 2009. Mother and daughter, Jane and Hannah Heber, dreamed of providing a modern comfortable atmosphere where people can get quality food (to stay or to go)! Jane, a British native by way of Laguna Beach, spent 17 years dealing in British antiquities prior to moving to Spokane in 2007. Hannah, slaving away in the big city corporate world of San Francisco, jumped at the opportunity to explore her baking passions. She attended culinary school in Spokane prior to opening Taste Cafe.
The atmosphere is modern, elegant and comfortable. Photography by Todd Sackmann adorns the exposed brick to the left, while beautiful modern art paintings on display from Ed Gilmore line the remaining walls. See the video for the visual tour. Taste Cafe offers sweet morning treats from sticky buns, scones, muffins and the amazing twice baked almond croissant to afternoon sweets like cookies, cakes, tarts and pies. For the savory side of morning you can enjoy sausage rolls and assorted baguettes. Stop by in the afternoon or on the way home for dinner and dine on a rotating assortment of soups, salads, paninis, lasagna, pot pies and more.
In my review, I feel that there are three things that set Taste Cafe apart as a top notch business in Spokane; 1) Impeccable taste – in atmosphere, decoration, design (logo & print) and food. Everything is made with fresh ingredients and from what I ate, I can only assume that everything is amazing. Jane and Hannah wanted to give special recognition to their brand, web and print consultants, The Purple Turtle 2) Beer and Wine service – it is more common to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with lunch. The selection of each was small but included quality offerings for discerning customers. 3) To Go! – Being in a downtown urban core, there is not a lot of opportunity for drive by coffee service, but getting amazing breakfast and lunch delivered to your downtown business is perfect. Not only can Taste Cafe cater (and host) your office event or party, they are available to cater weddings, birthdays, and other special events.
- Taste Cafe is open 7am – 4pm Monday – Friday and on Saturday for brunch (and their regular menu) from 8am – 3pm.
Brunch is definitely on my upcoming calendar of things to do. Taste Cafe is a perfect excuse to head downtown on a Saturday morning for brunch before going shopping at River Park Square. Give them a call when planning your next event or party too. Let them prepare the sweet and savory, so you can enjoy your guests.
- www.facebook.com/tastecafespokane and www.twitter.com/tastybuns
- 180 S. Howard 468-2929 www.tastecafespokane.com
The Coffee: Taste Cafe serves Doma Roasting Company coffee. I enjoyed an Americano from their Vito’s Espresso blend.
- The Swirl: The cup was not clear but from what I could tell the color was very dark and was obviously a dark roast blend
- The Sniff: Great aroma – scores very high on the wake you up in the morning meter. Got a little dark chocolate and forest on the sniff
- The Sip: Much smoother than I expected. Not bitter like big brand espresso roasts. Finished with that hint of chocolate.
- The Score: Top notch a high 4
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends. Stop by Taste Cafe, order up some coffee, wine or beer and DRINK.HAPPY!
14 Dec 2009
I realized it had been a while since I’ve done a coffee review. I’ve visited some great local coffee shops (Coffee Social – see review and Taste Cafe - review coming soon) and I’m excited about the local scene.
I was in a small local market picking up some wine for review and saw a display stand of coffee I’ve never tried. Moka Joe roasters is from Bellingham, WA. They import and roast only Fair Trade sustainably grown coffee. While some coffees designated as ‘Fair Trade’ may be a marketing ploy, the concept does provide greater profits to the local co-ops of farmers that participate. Traditional imported coffee is largely controlled by middle eastern religious groups that only funnel 1-2% of the profits go back to the local farmers. Farm profits for fair trade coffee run around 10%.
The coffee’s tasted in this episode are both $10.95 for 12oz and can be purchased online at http://shop.mokajoe.com
Why review? I think these reviews not only help me, but they help YOU decide what to buy. These are my opinions. I often taste things I have little or no experience with. The side by side comparisons facilitate the decision-making process when you see the product in the store.
Cafe Feminino Peru – Medium Roast
- The Swirl: Milk chocolate in color, cloudy
- The Sniff: Mild aroma with characteristics of earthiness, mocha, and nutty. Decent, but only a medium low on the wake me up in the morning meter.
- The Sip: Smooth with mild acidity.
- The Score: If you like smooth coffee I would give it a 3+. Typically a higher premium for Fair Trade coffee, so at $10.95 per 12oz you may want to look for a better deal.
After the review, learned from the web site that this coffee is made by Peruvian women high in the Andes: (From Web Site) This is the story of women. Not just the women of rural Peru, but women throughout developing nations. Many of these women have no rights, are abandoned, are abused, and alone with children and no income.
Bolivian – Medium Dark Roast
- The Swirl: Darker than the previous coffee with less cloudiness
- The Sniff: Much more aromatic. Hints of cocoa, woodiness, and cherry fruit. Scores much higher on the wake me up in the morning meter
- The Sip: BAM – this coffee woke me up. While the other was boring to me, this one had spice, acidity, and a more bold nutty chocolate flavor.
- The Score: At $10.95 per 12oz I score this coffee a 4- I would buy it again to try in my single brew machine to see what flavor I get there.
Both coffee’s can be purchased at the Rocket Market on 43rd and Grand in Spokane or on the company web site.
Brew some coffee and enjoy life with friends and remember to DRINK.HAPPY!
21 Nov 2009
Combine passion, a lifelong dream, and social consciousness and you have Coffee Social. Owner Rachel Young pursued her dreams and has a hit on her hands. Centrally located near Gonzaga University and the bustle of Division / Ruby, is a coffee shop with a conscience.
Spokane transplant, via Post Falls then Seattle, Rachel opened Coffee Social 14 months ago. Through the economic down turn and recession she has managed to grind and brew her way to success. In my opinion, part of that success comes from providing a good, consistent product. Coffee Social makes all its products with organic locally sourced ingredients. From what I tried, that formula equals yummy! Check out the NectarView review and read more of my review below!
Coffee Social sits in an older, non-descript renovated building just 1 block West of Division (113 W. Indiana to be exact). Parking is tight on the sides, but there is more around back. Upon entry, you are greeted with a warm simple interior that will perk you up as much as the coffee. Beyond the lobby and register is a fantastic seating area where you can enjoy games and the free WiFi with your coffee and food. The space is cozy without being overly opulent and large without feeling cavernous.
Wow! I purposely did not eat breakfast because I had a hunch that I would find “all kinds of yumminess” (a direct quote from Rachel). Coffee Social keeps their menu simple and direct with a selection of quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries. Follow them on Twitter (@coffeesocial) and you know exactly when the good stuff comes out of the oven. My ham and cheese Quiche was a perfect choice for breakfast. The texture was perfect with the dish cooked all the way through (which is tough for a Quiche sometimes) and the crust still light and flakey. While looking in the food case, an egg nog chocolate pie captured my attention. “All in the name of being a good reviewer,” I told myself, “I must try it.” This is truly a must have! If you’re reading this, STOP, and head straight to Coffee Social and order a slice – in fact, I bet you could order the whole pie for Thanksgiving dinner if you hurry.
DOMA coffee roasters provides the eco-friendly coffee for Coffee Social. (Check out their site to learn more about their roasting process and vision). Their certified organic, fair trade coffee was exceptional. I ordered their Columbian roast, and as always drank it black. The flavor was good with caramel and vanilla undertones. What struck me most was how smooth the finish was. There was zero bitterness on the aftertaste. My next trip to the Social, I’ll have to test Rachael’s barista abilities with a latte or macchiatto.
The restroom was basic and could use some updating. Being a young business start-up, I’m sure Rachel wanted to put her money elsewhere.
Coffee Social truly does support going ‘green.’ Several discounts are offered if you show proof of arriving via bus, riding your bike, or walking (honor system). Rachel also gives back to the community by supporting several local programs with at least 5% of the profits.
This business is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for a number of reasons! Great food, great coffee, supporting local businesses and farmers, eco-friendly, and a great location. Spread the word! Not only will you get a great cup of coffee, you’ll feel good doing it.
As always – enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
16 Nov 2009
Vegas hotel, 9:30 AM after a very long and mildly successful evening at the Craps table – I was in need of coffee. My choices, wander around the hotel with my hair mussed up, breath smelling bad, and slightly stank from the night before; order $3 room service coffee while my caffeine withdraw headache starts to set in, turn the tap water on super hot and use the convenient VIA packet for the starter cup of the day.
Scenario two – corporate America, anywhere USA. Employee needing an afternoon pick me up heads into the breakroom only to find the last ounce of coffee boiling on the hot plate. Need I say more?
Let me start by saying this is not a commercial for Starbucks VIA. I’m not here to debate the atrocities of big corporate america. In fact, I’m quite impressed with the Starbucks model, although they have taken some wrong turns that show their vulnerability. Most owners of drive up coffee stands, local coffee shops, etc have Starbucks to thank for the immense rise in popularity of the huge margin $5 coffee drink.
With that out of the way, it’s time for the honest review of Starbucks VIA. Since I bought my DeLonghi espresso machine, I’ve probably only spent $50 at Starbucks in the last 2 years. Recently, they have given me a new reason to visit their store. In mid-October, I went into Starbucks to exhaust a gift card received for my birthday. Like most patrons I was invited to participate in a ‘blind’ taste test. After tasting the brew versus the roast, I made my selection only to learn that I selected wrong. Don’t discredit my review from that statement. In hind sight, both drinks were so dang hot that it was truly difficult to identify the flavors. I decided to buy a three pack.
The next day, I investigated my purchase. I heated up some water and put the cute, convenient packet to the test. This is NOT gourmet coffee. This is NOT my normal strong Americano with a hint of crema on top. This is, however, a quality instant coffee that rivals what most people get from their Mr. Coffee.
In spite of the recent negative press the VIA push is receiving, my taste buds say that Starbucks has a good product here. Do they risk alienating their customers with the sales push? Are they diluting their custom coffee brand? Are they weakening the brand or providing an on the go alternative that will give them more strength? Only time will tell, but it seems obvious that Starbucks is committed to this promotion (their first ever single product promotion campaign).
- The swirl (ok, no swirling the coffee, but…): Good color, no crema upon stir, good consistency, all coffee seems to dissolve in the water
- The sniff: Good earthy smell, caramel and little spice
- The sip: Smooth, good flavor, acidic, probably worthy of the name Starbucks
- Value: I’m not sure at $1 per packet is a good deal for the convenience. Get it down to .60 cents per packet and I’d probably have 4-5 cups of it per week in various situations.
I not interested in the story on how they did it (some micro-grind technology). I’m not swayed by the clever packets and earthy icons telling me all they ways I can drink VIA. I care that it tastes good. If it tastes good and is a good value, it will sell. Bottom line, the taste is there. The value is almost there.
If anyone at Starbucks is listening – skip the hard sell, save your money on the TV, media blitz. Capitalize on your millions + daily customers and get it in the hands of the consumers by giving them a free three pack. If they like it, they’ll be back
DOTD (drink of the day) – Tonight – dinner at mom’s house. Wine was your basic 2008 Yellow Tail Cabernet Merlot blend. Not much to say about it other than it was very fruity on the front end and spicey on the back end. A very young wine that obviously did not spend much time in the wine-making process and rushed to market. You?