Minggu, 18 November 2012

The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Beans

Going to purchase coffee seems like it is becoming an increasingly confusing task each day, what with the huge selection now being offered, with varieties from around the world that all claim to be the very best. You have organic coffee versus non-organic, estate coffee versus blends, and oftentimes a choice between Arabica beans and Robusta beans. The following is a brief breakdown of some of the most important differences between the two species to help guide your purchasing decisions.


Let's begin with the difference you probably care about the most, taste. Arabica beans come in a much wider range of flavors. The mildest varieties are soft and sweet and the most robust are tangy and sharp. Before they are roasted they give off a scent that is oddly berry-like, and roasted they take on a bit stronger of a sugary sweetness. Robusta beans have less variety, and though delicious Robusta coffees are certainly out there, many find the taste to be a bit harsh and less complex.


Robusta coffee is considered a much hardier plant than Arabica, because it can stand up to surprisingly harsh environments, including low altitudes, hungry insects and other pests, as well as rough handling. This makes it quite cheap to grow in large quantities, and thus very available at much lower prices. Arabica coffee is a bit trickier. These plants crave cool and moist (usually subtropical) conditions, and are only found at much higher altitudes. Usually somewhere between 600 and 2000 meters is the right elevation. They require both shade and sun regularly, and though they like the cool, they will wither in the cold. It is because of these conditions that they are often lower in acidity, and therefore less bitter. A perfect example of a region made for growing Arabica is the Jamaican Blue Mountains, where the world famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is grown.


Because Robusta beans are so cheap and easy to grow, if you pick up a can of coffee at the grocery store, you are often getting more robusta than arabica. A higher quality blend from a specialty shop or a gourmet coffee purveyor will most likely contain a high percentage of Arabica. It is not, however, necessarily as simple as Arabica being better. Once of the most defining qualities of this species is its range, so many coffees and coffee blends of this type may be inferior to certain Robusta selections.

Robusta is used in many European espresso blends to both increase the "crema" and lower the cost of the coffee. Used sparingly, it will not hurt the flavor much, but too much Robusta means a less complex espresso.

Unfortunately, this means you still may have some research ahead of you in your quest to choose the right brew for you! As a rule of thumb, though, the best coffees are not blends at all (so nothing you do not know about can be snuck in there), and will be labeled saying exactly where they are from.

Vacationing in Jamaica

Traveling to Jamaica is a truly wonderful experience, largely because of its long, rich, culture-filled history. So many different peoples have contributed to making this island nation what it is today, beginning with the Arawak and Taino indigenous peoples, as far back as 4000 BC. The following are a few pointers on how to make the most of your Jamaican vacation, taking in all the natural beauty and culture that you can.

What to Eat

The national dish of this island nation, called ackee and saltfish, is a must try. Ackee is a local fruit that has a taste like nothing you have had before and here it is paired with a mix of dried codfish, onions, and tomatoes. You really will not be able to find this meal anywhere else, so be sure to give it at least a taste. Another local treat, known as bammy, is a creation of the Arawak Indians. It is most similar to a pancake, yet with more of a cornbread taste and consistency, and makes for a very popular breakfast item. If you have a craving for meat, you should go for the jerk chicken or pork, which will be sold in stands lining the highways. Though it may be a bit drier than you expect, this is done purposefully (Jamaicans tend to like their food a bit more well done than we do), and it is very flavorful. If you are in for a real culinary adventure, skip the fancy tourist restaurants and seek out a specialty place to sample some ital dishes. Ital is food made for practicing Rastafarians, and are prepared without the use of meat, oil, or salt (but are still somehow delicious!).

What to Drink

If you have not yet heard of the sensation that Jamaican coffee is causing all around the world, then you are in for a treat! Jamaican coffee (and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, in particular) is one of the most desirable and difficult to import luxury items there is. When you are there, be sure that you try at least a cup. It is known for its incredibly mild and smooth flavor, thanks to beans cultivated in the cool, misty climate of the Blue Mountains. Chances are that when you return, you won't be able to switch back to your usual brew! You should also be sure to check out the interesting local colas. You can cool down with one of these ice cold treats in exotic flavors like champagne, grapefruit, and pineapple.

What to Do

Definitely make it a priority to take a day trip up to the Blue Mountains (if you are able to tear yourself away from the beach). This is a less well known feature of the island's natural beauty, and not something you want to miss. And, if you have already tried the coffee famous for growing on these peaks, you can enjoy a tour of one of the coffee estates and see where it all happens. Of course, don't forget to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, and all of the other must-do water activities on the beautiful beaches.

Rabu, 31 Oktober 2012

A Brief History of Coffee Grinders

Coffee beans were discovered around 900 A.D. and were first used as a beverage in Yeman. It is also where the coffee beans were first ground. Before we talk about the grinding, we need to step back and look at how coffee cherries were first turned into coffee beans. Coffee cherries were first picked from coffee bushes or trees depending on how well they grew. These Arabica coffee cherries were picked when the cherries were a bright color. They were then put in the fire and roasted until the cherries burst open. This process produced two roasted coffee beans from each coffee cherry.

Now, lets talk about how they were ground. People in the Middle East were already grinding grains and spices. They were grinding them by simply pounding between two rocks or using a pestle and mortar. The pestle and mortar were made mainly from stone and wood because they had resistance to absorbing the chemicals that left flavors and scents of various foods. Coffee beans, although much tougher, were also ground by this method. However, even though they were boiled first because they were tougher than grains and spices, they were not ground very fine. The coarsely ground beans were put in a special copper or brass coffee maker called an Ibrik. An Ibrik is somewhat round on the bottom half and then had a straight body the rest of the way up. There was a long fairly wide spout at the top and a metal strap handle in the shape of a large C connected to the pot. Drinkers strained the coffee through their teeth to get the full flavor of the coffee. Today, some still grind the coffee beans with a pestle and mortar. To get the consistency of a drip grind, it takes up to ten hours of grinding with a stone pestle and mortar by hand.

As the coffee beans were exported by traders to different parts of the world, coffee grinders were created using some other kind of apparatus. When coffee reached Europe, spice grinders that were already being used were the first step towards the mechanical coffee grinder. It is believed that the first bean grinder was produced as early as the 14th century in Europe. The first known coffee grinder was mass produced in the early 1800's in France, but the inventor remains unknown.

By the mid-1800s, various coffee grinders were seen in almost every home in Europe and America. Most of the coffee grinders had a grinding handle on the top of a box that was set inside a bowl shaped holder of roasted coffee beans. The bottom of the box had a drawer that held the coffee beans after being ground. Some grinders were elaborately made and decorated. Today's household coffee grinders are mainly electric and use ceramic burrs or stainless steel blades to grind coffee. Commercial use grinders however use only ceramic burrs.

Sabtu, 13 Oktober 2012

Terroir and Coffee

The term terroir, borrowed from the French, is a romantic sounding word, even in our rough translation, "a sense of place." However, behind this romanticism there is quite a bit of science. The way a growing location's different features can affect a plant, interacting with the way its genetic features are expressed, can have an incredible impact on the food and drink we make from these plants. Any experienced wine drinker will confirm this and, now more than ever, coffee drinkers may have something to say as well. Terroir can have a noticeable effect on the taste of your coffee, especially if you are drinking the right kind.

Terroir of a Single Estate

Single estate coffee is a relatively new trend in which coffee is sourced from one single farm, rather than from a region, or a blend from more than one region. The benefits of this practice are taste that can develop a unique complexity unlike any other. For single estate coffee, terroir is key, and only with single estate coffee can terroir be truly appreciated. This is because the microclimate of an estate, and this is particularly so on the very small estates where coffee beans are grown, will have such a unique character. Every detail, major and minor, from climate down to what types of plants are growing nearby, will contribute to the distinct flavors, which will only be expressed at full strength when not mixed into a blend.

Jamaica Blue Mountain Terroir

One of the finest examples of terroir in the coffee world can be found in Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans. Grown high above sea level, at elevations between 1,800 and 5,500 feet, these peaks are a treasure trove because they just happen to boast the perfect growing climate for coffee. At the elevations where authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain is grown (export regulations are very strict), it is a green lush paradise, and perfectly mild, cool, and misty. The terroir interacts with the beans to create low levels of acidity that are unheard of anywhere else, all but removing the bitterness found in most coffees. A smoothness and mildness that has the rest of the world desperate to get some in their mugs is the result. Any coffee drinker should try this delicious phenomenon at least once, but if you are in the market for some Jamaican Blue Mountain, use caution. There are not many in the United States that are authorized to import it, and many that will try to pass over cheap blends that include just a little of the real stuff, cut with less expensive beans. Check your labels carefully, and look for single estate. You will be able to taste the difference.

Jumat, 14 September 2012

5 Benefits of the Pour Over Coffee Method

Have you ever heard of the pour over coffee method for brewing coffee? Well, it has certainly gained a lot of attention and notoriety in recent years. They are even using this method in coffee shops but the real draw is for the individual consumer who may not have direct access to a coffee maker, but wants to brew a great cup of coffee.

This method of brewing coffee involves a pour over coffee cone into which you insert a regular coffee filter. The cone rests on top of your favorite coffee cup. Into the coffee filter you add your favorite ground coffee. Then you boil up some water with a microwave, stove top, electric tea kettle, or a campfire. After the water comes to a boil, let it rest for about a minute so that the temperature of the water, which at boiling is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, drops to roughly 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That will take roughly a minute or two. Then you simply pour the water into the cone and the coffee will drip into the mug beneath it.

So, what are the benefits of using the pour over coffee method?

1. Low Tech 
These days all you have to do is look on Amazon or in any kitchen store and you can find a huge assortment of various coffee makers available for purchase. You can find coffee makers that grind your beans automatically and brew the coffee before you wake up each morning. You can buy custom restaurant-grade espresso and cappuccino coffee makers. You can buy a Keurig coffee maker for your home that uses the ever-popular K-cup.

With pour over coffee, all you need to purchase is a ceramic or a plastic cone. As long as you have ground coffee and water and a way to heat up that water, you can have a great cup of coffee.

2. Portability 
My wife and I always bring our ceramic pour over coffee cone with us when we travel. At most hotels and motels, you typically find Keurig coffee makers which force you into using whatever brand is in the K-cup. We are very particular about our brand of coffee that we drink each day so, when we travel, there usually is a microwave in the room to heat up water. That's all we need to make a great cup of pour over coffee with the brand of coffee that we love!

3. Don't Need Electricity 
If you are an outdoorsman and love to camp, you can have a great cup of pour over coffee as long as you can heat up water over a campfire or a propane camping stove. Also, if you own a propane grill and the power goes off at your house, you can always heat up water in a pot on the grill or on a side burner if you have one. You don't need electricity to brew yourself up a great cup of Joe!

4. Price is Right 
The ceramic cones are a little more expensive than the plastic but you don't have to pay more than $10 for a ceramic cone and the plastic will be half the price. My daughter bought a plastic Melitta pour over coffee cone for $5 and she loves it. We love our Hario ceramic cone but, to be honest, if we dropped it on our ceramic tile kitchen floor, we could end up with a broken tile in the floor as well as a smashed ceramic pour over coffee cone. With the plastic cone, there would be no harm done at all and it costs half the price and makes coffee just as well.

5. Great for Making Coffee for One 
I leave for work early in the morning on a daily basis. I usually wait until I get to work to have my first cup of coffee. My wife, on the other hand, wakes up a bit later. Instead of using the electric automatic drip coffee maker at home, she will use the pour over coffee method. It takes about 3 minutes to heat a cup of water in the microwave and about a minute for it to drain into her awaiting coffee mug from the cone. So, within about 5 minutes she is enjoying a great cup of coffee and the only cleanup needed is to rinse out the ceramic cone and toss out the grounds in the garbage.

If you haven't yet explored the pour over coffee method, you may want to do so. Even if you only use it every now and then, you will always have a method to satisfy your caffeinated desires at home or on the road!

Bob Bessette is the owner of Totally Unique Life, a site geared toward practical solutions, tips, and advice for your life. This site covers everything from financial and time management tips, college advice for parents and students, and solutions to everyday life issues.

Kamis, 13 September 2012

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee 101

You know a product is good when tons of companies are trying to sell cheap imitations with subtly misleading packaging. This is what has been happening with one of the world's finest coffees, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. Though it is fairly simple to package convincing imitations, the taste-smooth, complex, and without a trace of bitterness-is not something that can be replicated. Here are all the basics that you should know about Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.

Where It Grows

The Blue Mountains of Jamaica run in a range from north to south, with the southernmost parts in Kingston, stretching up towards Port Antonio. At the highest points of these majestic mountains, at elevations of over 5,500, no coffee is cultivated. This is because the land there is strictly preserved forestland where farming is prohibited in order to protect the natural beauty of the landscape. Just below these precious reserves, between elevations of 3,000 and 5,500 feet, on small, sloping fields, coffee trees dot the landscape. Here lies the region where true Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is grown.

What It's Like

The most notable characteristic of this delicacy is its absence of bitterness. It is mild and smooth, yet incredibly complex in flavor. Even without milk or sugar, seasoned coffee drinkers and rookies alike find it particularly easy to drink.

How It Gets Here

Traveling to you is the most complicated part of this coffee's life cycle. Because it is such a high-demand item, all Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee must be inspected and certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica prior to exportation. The inspection process is surprisingly rigorous; though grades of the beans can vary, each grade selected as good enough to wear the label must have beans with any noticeable defects numbering less than 2 percent. In addition, anyone who would like to import the stuff needs to be an approved importer; these importers, like the coffee itself, also need the approval of the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. You can be sure you are getting the real thing by checking to make sure the importer of your beans has their approval.

How to Take Care of It

Once you have gotten your hands on this special treat, be sure to care for it well so you can taste it as it was meant to be tasted. This means you should buy whole beans, if you can, and only grind them just as you are about to brew. Before you brew, keep them stored in a cool, dry, and dark location in a container that is air tight. Another tip to prolong freshness is to purchase from a source that holds off from roasting them until just before they are shipped.

Jumat, 31 Agustus 2012

Hot Chocolate Machines: A Blessing

It's a cold wintery night and you're crumbled up cozily on the couch along with your loved ones. You're mesmerized by the sight of the dancing flames in the fireplace and you're lost in the blissfulness of the evening. But suddenly, you realize something is missing: a rich hot chocolate drink to sweeten your tongue and warm your core.

Then, you say to yourself, "Why haven't I bought a Hot Chocolate Machine yet?"

Preparing chocolate the old-fashioned way, using the pot and stove, isn't quite enjoyable and pleasant. You'll have to waste five minutes of your time just waiting for the water to heat up. You'll have worry about the clumps of cocoa mix that won't dissolve into the milk. You'll have to keep whisking and stirring so that the drink turns out smooth. And finally, you'll have to guess when the temperature is quite right so that you turn off the stove. To top all that, the chocolate never turns out to be as you wanted it to be.

However, making that mouthwatering drink is super easy using a chocolate machine or dispenser. All you have to do is put the ingredients (milk, shaved chocolate or powdered cocoa) into the chamber, set it and forget it. The machine will heat up the mixture to the perfect temperature and blend it until it's smooth and fuzzy. You'll then dispense the heavenly drink into your cup, top it with some whipped cream, chocolate chips or marshmallows and enjoy its cozy rich taste.

Not all commercial chocolate machines are the same though; some have advantages over the others. To begin with, a hot chocolate machine automatically turns off when the drink is ready. If the drink isn't served right away, it will cool and the whole essence of "hot chocolate" will be ruined. To solve this problem, some hot chocolate machines, like the Cocoa Latte, are programmed to periodically reheat the drink back to the perfect drinking temperature. Thus, you won't have to worry about returning to a cold drink. But not all machines have this function. For instance, the Mr. Coffee Cocomotion doesn't reheat the drink unless you press the "on" button again.

Also, using some machines, you'll have to pick up the whole pitcher in order to pour the drink into your cup. However, others contain a dispenser which makes them spill-proof and kids-friendly.

Moreover, some chocolate machines or dispenser can be used for preparing other drinks such as chai, tea and latte. Some of them, including the Bialetti Chocolate Maker, even have a cold setting by which you can froth cold drinks. These additional functions add immense value to the machine.

Hot chocolate machines are pretty affordable with prices ranging from 30$ to 100$. So if you haven't got a hot chocolate machine yet, then don't postpone buying one any further.

Rabu, 15 Agustus 2012

A Lavazza Blue To Make Your Day

No day is the same; no hour goes by just like any other hour. In every single moment in our lives, there's something unique and special, that is all its own. That's what I remember about Lavazza Blue - no matter what time of day, what mood I'm in, what's going on around me, there's a recently brewed cup of bliss that suits.

Lavazza Blue Tea Capsules

If you've been around here for long, you should know I'm a coffee fan... nothing quite brightens up my day quite like a hot mug of java. There are moments, though, when tea is the perfect answer. Lavazza Blue tea capsules are a treat anytime, and the superbly designed brewing system makes it amusing to process.

If I'm feeling like something entertaining and fruity, the Di Piu Peach Tea capsules are perfect. Bold black tea sweetened with sugar and infused with peach juice - it's a fresh peach explosion in my mouth. Once dinner is over, I like the Mint Tea capsules, with the bold aroma of black tea and powerful mint intensity. For the purist in me, nothing really beats my Lavazza Blue Lemon Tea capsules for those times when I feel like relaxing and enjoying a great book. The heady citrus blends with the premium black tea to offer a classic flavor with a modern twist.

Chamomile, berry, or green mint tea, anyone? Lavazza Blue capsules come in a magnificent variety of flavors, there's one for just about any mood or taste. I prefer buying the variety pack, so that there's almost always something new and fun to try.

Espresso, Espresso, Espresso

Of course, we can't overlook the heavenly espresso packaged in the Lavazza Blue capsules. The Intenso Espresso is just what you would expect from the brand: a high powered espresso blend of Brazilian Arabica and Robustas from Central America and Indonesia. Looking for robust flavor without the caffeine? Try the Decaffeinato capsule for total bodied and sweet flavor with a velvety texture and a rich, persistent crema.

When I'm in that delightful mood for something chocolate, I reach for the Ricco espresso capsules; dense and articulate, the blend provides you with chocolate undertones that make for a truly satisfying drink experience. And for a sweet, fragrant aroma, the Arabica espresso capsules can't be beat. Made from premium Arabic beans, the taste is smooth and the aroma heavenly.

Coffee, Tea, or... Soup?

Lavazza Blue goes well beyond the standard coffee maker fare. On top of their delicious teas, they also have a powdered milk capsule for a rich and yummy drink, and a consommé capsule that brews a subtle yet full flavored clear soup. A mouthwatering treat any time of the day, it makes a wonderful quick lunch that is satisfying and wholesome.

There is just so much to enjoy about the Lavazza Blue brewing system. The basic but stylish design of the brewer makes it fun to use. And the wide array of blends and beverages keeps up with my ever changing moods. It's just like having a full time barista at my command, ready at a moment's notice to create the perfect warm beverage.

That reminds me; it's time for my little cup of something wonderful... now if only I could choose! Tea, coffee, consommé, hot milk, espresso... there are so few hours in the day!

Selasa, 31 Juli 2012

Top Ten Tips for Coffee Lovers

Anyone who loves their coffee knows that if you simply grab a mug, fill it with instant and quickly drink it before rushing off, that you are not fully appreciating or enjoying the wonder that is a properly made coffee drink. Take your time, get to know your coffee and follow these top ten tips for getting the most out of your drinking time.

1. Don't grab the first packet off the shelf in the supermarket and stick with it. Remember that there are a wealth of quality coffee types available and you will need to experiment with different types such as Colombia coffee or flavoured varieties, and strength before you find the ones that work best for you.

2. When first made coffee is at its best so ensure that you drink it within twenty minutes at the most, otherwise the flavour with start to diminish.

3. In line with number 2, don't ever reheat your coffee. Microwave cooked coffee is a poor imitation. Similarly leaving your pot simmering on the coffee machine will have the same diluting effect.

4. Maintain your coffee machine properly. It doesn't matter what type of machine you have and whether it is a "pod" machine or a filter coffee piece of equipment, an unclean machine will not produce the luxury coffee effect that you are looking for. All parts of the machine should be thoroughly cleaned.

5. Use the right level of ground coffee. It is easy to waste coffee and not really get to enjoy the full flavour due to your own brew being too weak or too strong. Follow the amount instructions on each packet then carefully adjust afterwards to achieve your optimum cup level.

6. Have a good sniff. Part of the enjoyment that comes with enjoy a quality cup of coffee is the aroma, that heady scent that hits you when you walk into your favourite coffee shop. Take a moment before taking that first sip to fully appreciate the scented steam from your favourite blend.

7. Use nice water when making a pot or cup of coffee. The majority of what makes up your coffee is water. Use filtered water for the perfect tasty cup and you can enjoy the full flavour of your coffee without the artificial taste that comes from using some tap waters.

8. Have a favourite cup or mug. For some people the only way to drink a coffee is from a cup and saucer. For others being able to wrap their arms around a cup or mug is the only way to comfortably enjoy their drink.

9. Why not decorate your own lattes? Fancy coffee shop baristas will hand you a coffee with beautifully decorated froth which depict hearts, flowers and all sorts. Why not do a little internet research and see if you can recreate this skill yourself? It makes enjoying your coffee all the more special.

10. Take your time. In order to properly enjoy a cup of coffee you need to take your time. Make yourself comfortable, reduce the noise and distractions and just enjoy the aroma and taste of your favourite luxury coffee.

Montes de Oro are producers of premium high altitude coffee, grown in the Gold Mountain of Honduras. Through this coffee they ensure better living and working conditions for the people of Honduras and offer their chocolate tasting supreme slowly matured ground coffee to the world.

Kamis, 12 Juli 2012

The Best Accompaniments for Your Cup of Coffee

Sometimes all that you need is a steaming cup of your favourite quality coffee and five minutes of peace and quiet. There are other times however that you find that you need something else, an accompaniment to your favourite beverage, and these are great examples to choose from.

The Muffin 
There is a reason that coffee shops sell so many muffins these days. Clearly customers have recognised that a muffin goes really well with their latte, Americano, Colombian coffee or flat white. Whether you are a chocolate muffin person or crave a blueberry muffin, either will work well with your favourite blend. Of course the hardest decision here is whether you should go for the small bite sized ones or throw calorie caution to the wind and indulge in a "Grande" muffin.

There are few cakes that don't work well with coffee; the two even sound great together, "Coffee and Cake". Two types of cake that go particularly well with a steaming hot mug-full of aromatic coffee is the carrot cake (moist but still firm) or a walnut cake, with or without cream. A slice of either if in a coffee shop or in company is perfectly acceptable. A wedge does the job just as well should you be home alone.

This is a difficult one. Usually biscuits are associated with tea, and with dunking. While many assume that dunking in coffee is OK, it really isn't. Soggy crumbs floating on the top of a cup, or worse still, a broken off chunk which has sunk to the bottom are both ways to ruin a perfect fantastic luxury coffee. Italian biscuits, fig rolls and even a bourbon biscuit will make a suitable accompaniment here, no rich teas or digestive should ever be considered.

Cookies are different to biscuits, they are indeed in a class of their own. Whether your cookie of choice is a white chocolate, chocolate, double chocolate or some other combination of soft crumbly goodness, it is safe to say that any of these treats will work well.

Fruits, provided they aren't too sour work fantastically with coffee drinks. Whether they are dipped in chocolate or form some part of a fruit tart, with or without cream, they certainly look healthier than a biscuit or slab of cake. One could argue of course that such a treat could even form part of your five a day.

Coffee and chocolate are both said to contain antioxidants and no-one could ever have too many antioxidants surely? The type of chocolate that you indulge with depends on the type and blend of coffee that you are enjoying as some combinations work better than others. Many enjoy a piece or two of an almost bitter dark chocolate alongside their favourite ground coffee.

Should you be looking for a different type of accompaniment one of the most highly recommended includes a good book, a comfortable sofa and a roaring fire. These coupled with a fabulously aromatic mug of coffee is just perfect.

Montes de Oro are producers of premium high altitude coffee, grown in the Gold Mountain of Honduras. Through this coffee they ensure better living and working conditions for the people of Honduras and offer their chocolate tasting supreme slowly matured ground coffee to the world.