This past weekend was rad.
Before we get to the cool stuff, though, I'd like to say that we thoroughly missed attending the kickoff of Summit's first farmers market of the season. We have so much fun handing out beverages and chatting with passersby underneath our tent, and we're looking forward to doing just that with every week moving forward! So why did we skip town this Sunday?
I'm glad you asked.
A bundle of the Boxwood Crew had some important work to attend to this weekend. Said work involved climbing into a big metal bird and hurdling across the county to the fantastic and wonderful city of Seattle Washington. It just so happened that the Global Specialty Coffee Expo 2017 was filling the convention hall to the brim, and we were fortunate enough to jump on the opportunity to attend. This was our first venture to such an involved convention, the goal was to soak up as much information as possible, network, play with new toys, and drink a lot of coffee. Suffice to say, it was a successful trip.
The floor of the center was like walking into a Willy Wonka's factory, and we were four kids with golden tickets. Vendors, idols, experiments, theories, machines, and new designs were everywhere we looked, it took us a few walk-throughs to even think about where to begin. The sensory overload was only calmed by the innumerable strange hands kindly offering samples of coffee. Even in a convention hall dedicated to the stuff, the familiar gesture of being offered a coffee is something to make the soul warm and cozy. Once our taste buds and minds were primed and buzzing we went to work investigating everything new and exciting about our industry. There were plenty of names we recognized and new ones that we were seeing for the first time, showing off brewers that triple rinsed coffee grounds or automated pour-over devices. As clever and new-wave a lot of these more incredulous looking machines were, our priorities were more focused on investigating those things that could more realistically impact our approach to create better coffee rather than simply touting a new shiny doo-dad to do something we already know how to accomplish.
We took tours on espresso machine factories including Synesso, Mavam, and Slayer, who showed us a variety of approaches on both espresso brewing and milk steaming. Getting to see these great machines being built and listen to the theories behind each companies' method of machine performance was inspiring and invigorating, and sampling the fruits of their labors was incredibly compelling. Using techniques that are far too boring to write about, these companies are transforming the way this industry thinks about espresso by pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box. I wish I could show you what a Slayer shot tastes like through a webpage...
Lucky for me, the roasting world had an awesome presence at the expo as well. I stumbled around the stands of manufacturers, ogling sleek Lorings, badass Giesens and the forever trustworthy Diedrichs. Don't get me wrong, I adore my little Mill City 2 kilo “Ruby” roaster, but times are looking like a upgrade in size and tech will become more of a necessity than a luxury. Heat stability, moisture retention and built-in chaff collectors are a few of the things that are very boring to write about in a blog but a few things that excite me greatly as a roaster. Basically, these are things that would make my job much easier and allow me to produce better coffee with what it available. Also, the idea of being able to roast six times my current maximum capacity is top-tier daydream material. Well, I can at least dream for now...
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I continue to talk about all the cool things we saw, ate and drank while wandering around Seattle!
It's been a whirlwind around here lately, but then again when isn't it?
As usual, the Boxwood crew has been busy with developing new ideas, trying them out, realizing they suck, going back to the drawing board because it sucked, and then finally hammering out something else we're proud to put our name on. Our efforts to develop a rocking espresso blend is taking longer than planned, but because we're constantly taking shot after shot of crappy test espresso, we aren't tired yet! A few new ideas and a lot of slurping later and we can feel success at our fingertips, so be ready for some rad shots pouring into your cup sooner rather than later.
While we taste-tested more coffees for shots, we've also found some really cool hidden gems for sipping java in a more relaxed setting. As it finally begins to warm up a bit, we change our wawrdrobe. Sweater Weather is getting hung up for the season, but we will make way for a beautiful new coffee from Central American that will be perfect for the cool mornings early Spring has begun to offer us. This Gutemalan Huehuetenango Adiesto is easy to drink, sweet, fruity, floral and just a little bit nutty like we are. It will also be sad to say goodbye to our beloved Burundi Bocomo as it will be running out of stock soon, but in it's place will arrive some sort of new and exciting blend! Why can't I describe it? Because I haven't figured out what's in it yet.
We've got a large stock of rad coffees, all of which have interesting qualities that cater themselves to be mixed and matched. So for the next two weeks I'll be pulling a Jackson Pollock and throwing coffee wildly together until something sticks and I'll call it art. We're all about transparency here, right? I've got a few ideas up my sleeve, just trust me on this one ;)
This morning I found myself climbing over mountains of Ziploc bags filled with pounds and pounds of coffee, furiously grinding beans by hand, heating pots and kettles with and endless supply of water and feverishly attempting to keep the area clean from loose grinds, spills and spent paper towels. Screeching steam, unsightly slurps and crunching beans drove the dogs into the other rooms and my family seemed mildly frightened to enter the impromptu lab space. I was working.
This past week has left me incredibly caffeinated and motivated, and the fact that I came home last night with about 10 pounds of coffee under my arm was a hefty dose of fuel to keep me going for a while. I have just wrapped up my second SCA roasting class, and it has continued to show me how vast, incredible and occasionally daunting the world of coffee and coffee roasting can be. The more I continue my education in coffee the more I want to keep seeking more information, and the more I am motivated to be better and better at my craft.
So this morning I continued my efforts to taste and to create, toying with practice coffee roasted on a beautiful Loring roaster much too nice for me to. I was testing for espresso, cupping different ratios of blends and attempting to pull something resembling a decent shot with my super manual ROK espresso maker. It went okay.
Espresso, to me, is horrifying. It is an incredibly violent brewing method that exposes both everything that is right and wrong with the coffee being used. Grind consistency, dosing of coffee, tamp level and pressure, water temperature, water pressure and brew time are all things that need to be calibrated accurately to pull a proper shot of espresso. Even then, the coffee itself must be a coffee that is suited for espresso, cared for properly and roasted to a certain specification consistently in order for the resulting shot to be delicious and serviceable. If anything is off, the espresso may be mediocre, terrible or just not the right recipe for the perceived goal. this can be said for any variety of brewed coffee, but because espresso is such a potent representation of coffee that makes up a great deal of a cafe's menu's drinks, errors can make themselves more apparent to the drinker and more difficult to correct.
Because of these reasons along with productivity of workflow, espresso has been a personal white whale of mine. As a young and relatively new coffee roaster, I knew that jumping right into roasting espresso for the cafe when I first began my work at Boxwood I would be met with varying degrees of uncertainty and a lack of consistency in the final product I offered to clients and customers. But with a lot of learning, trial and error, patience and stubbornness, espresso is appearing less daunting to me, and soon enough I'll have my shots exactly where I want them.
It's been a little while since we talked, but there's good reason for that! At Boxwood we've been increasing our brain power and honing our skill sot continue to bring you all better coffee than ever before.
Two weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Roaster Pathway 1 course provided by the SCA and hosted by our partners in crime at Royal Coffee New York! I, along with five other thirsty students got to soak up an incredible amount of knowledge and hands-on experience with the guidance of the lovely Candice Madison as we drank the warehouse out of coffee. Coffee growing, processing, storage, cupping, flavor wheels, roasting profiles, temperature curves and a whole lot of jargon were just a few of the things we hammered into our skulls that week, and that's not to mention the fleet of ridiculously hi-tech equipment and machinery we got to work with!
As a group, we became able to perform proper coffee cuppings, identify traits and flaws in coffees and how to control those traits as a roaster to gain the best possible qualities from the bean. Many of the things we learned were things that I had a bit of experience with, but more importantly many of the thing we learned were things I didn't know that I didn't know. Prior to this class I was happy with my coffee, and without sounding boastful I do believe that it was a better quality than Boxwood's immediate competitors. After, though, I now knew that the level of quality I could grow to acheive woud be something I never really understood before, and I became excited to challenge myself.
Now I'm not saying that I took one class and now thing of myself as a coffee god, there is a lot of practice to be made and probably a lot f wasted coffee as I tinker and toy with my machine back home. Acheiving next level standards of quality nd controll will take time and patience and more resources, but I know a lot more than I did before and I know how to seek out the information that I don't know. I find myself very lucky to be where I am and I love the fact that I can share my experiences and offerings with an incredible crowd of customers who will give me feedback. At Boxwood we value every word that each one of you say, and we use both praise and critique to fuel ourfire to keep of making better and better coffee for all of you.
Stay tuned for more info about the behind the scenes stuff and also for some fresh beans hitting the shelf! Ethiopia is out of stock, but I am picking up a beautiful Kenyan on Monday to stock the shelves very soon. Until then stay cool everyone!
And all through the shop
Not a bag of coffee remained
Not even a drop.
Customers cleared shelves
And grabbed every bag
To keep stockings stuffed
Or to wrap up and tag
The owners were frantic
The roaster ran amok
Baristas did their best
To keep pushing their luck
Their hands moved like lightning
As orders piled high
But stock was running low
Cups would soon be bone dry
The roaster donned is jacket
And wool knitted cap
And bid them farewell
Into the cold winter snap
He trundled to Newark
In his old Chevy beater
To fire up the engine
Of his shiny bean-heater
He roasted and roasted
All through the night
Green beans turned brown
Under lightbulb sunlight
And at dawn's first rays
The shop was lit up
With shelves fully stocked
And overflowing cup
The workers were tired
And lacking caffeine
But their mission was finished
For the love of the bean
The store was soon flooded
With plenty of shoppers
Happy to witness
Fresh coffee in hoppers
Each one was serviced
With a greeting and smile
Plenty was to be shared
In true holiday style
The weary roaster retired
To the comforts of his bed
So dreams of cortados
could dance in his head
But before his eyes closed
He murmered a call
That echoed his room
And all down the hall
A voice came to the shoppers
And made them look up
"Merry Christmas to all
And to all a hot cup!"
Happy Holidays to all of our fantastic, amazing customers that have made our dreams come true! Everything we do, we do for you, and it is so worth it when hear your prais and when we see coffee flying of the shelves (even if that means I need to go roast a few emergency batches late at night)! All of Boxwood wishes you a great holiday season and hopes that you spend time with family and loved ones and to keep on being merry. We'll see you all net year!
It's stupid cold out if you haven't noticed, but we're staying nice and cozy warm inside the shop! Peppermint mochas, hot chocolates and Sweater Weather pour overs will help you forget the blistering weather that awaits your frantic commute back to your car, so you might as well stay in the cafe for just a few more minutes.
We're too excited to let the cold bother us right now though, we've got new projects to work on and cool things to do! I've talked a lot about our plans for expansion and growth, and we've been busy making those rad things happen. This week Ruby the Roaster and I found a new big fancy workspace to pump out hundreds of pounds of incredible coffee! This is a cool thing, because we previously were operating out of a much smaller facility that was little more than a fancy garage. In the new operating location, a warehouse in Newark, we will have increased space and resources to offer more services on the storefront end of business. Plans to upgrade equipment, streamline cold brewing and distribution are all that much closer to becoming realities, and the added benefit of better environment control means I will be able to fine-tune my roasts to an even higher quality! Espresso will be the next big mountain to climb, but be on the lookout for a few new roasts in the coming weeks.
With the approaching frigid holidays, be sure to stay safe and warm in the shop or in your home. If you're still looking for a few gift ideas we might be able to help! A coffee subscription is a great way to enable someone to get a steady supply of craft coffee delivered right to their door, and the store is bursting at the seams with loads of retail products including new glass and cork Keep Cups with our logo on it! They also come in an array of swanky color combos, so be sure to stop by the shop and chek them out!
Stay warm, and Happy Holidays!
I type this blog still overstuffed from the monstrous quantities of poultry and carbs I slobbered over Thursday's Thanksgiving and exhausted from the nonstop action of yesterday's Black Friday. It was a crazy busy day in the shop, but we had a blast pumping out pour overs, lattes, and hot chocolates to all of those braving the storms of American consumption!
Now that I have a morning to be a bit lazy before getting back at it, I would like to take the time to reflect on how incredible a journey it has been for Boxwood and its family this past year. We are so incredibly thankful to all of our customers and fans that gave the new, hip coffee shop a chance to show what we can do and who continually support us in our efforts. Finding a niche in a community that allows us to express our passion so wonderfully is a rare thing in this world, and without it I have no idea where I would be. A year ago I was just a geek in a college apartment praying that I could somehow swindle life into handing me a career in coffee, and somehow it worked. It worked because I stumble into some incredible people with an amazing consumer base, people with love and drive and passion.
As Boxwood's brand grows and reaches more people, we continue to be fueled by the love for coffee. The love comes from us as much as it does from all of you, and we are reminded of it every time we see a smile in our shop. I am so thankful for everyone that has ever bought a cup of our coffee or given us a compliment on how they like what we are doing. You are the ones that make it possible, and you are the ones that make it worth it.
Thank you :)
My parents' coffee maker broke, and it's causing rifts to form in the household.
Who would've guessed?
For years I have been trying to convert them to my own (oh so enlightened) ways of utilizing burr grinders and fancy kettles and cones for the perfect pour-over for their morning cup with no avail. Tested and true, they stuck by their all-in-one, blade-bean-smasher, perma-stained-metal-carafe hunk of a machine that made a bland and burnt cup most of the times you put any type of coffee in it. It was easy, they just put in water, beans, a filter and then they hit a button. After a few minutes of sounds resembling a jet engine wrestling a grizzly bear with a sinus infection, there was coffee! Sure, it wasn't the greatest, but it was convenient.
The water reservoir broke, and into the trash flew the sopping wet hunk of stained "stainless" steel. This was my chance.
I had finally weened my family to start drinking really good coffee a few months ago, or at least the coffee I was roasting as opposed to the bulk bags that came from Costco, and now I could finally convert them to caffeine nirvana by throwing in my own two cents about what should replace their broken brewer. I know they have seen my extensive collection of coffee paraphernalia and I have witnessed their eyes bug out looking over the absurd lengths I can occasionally go to in order to make myself a single cup, so off the bat I know there is no way I'm going to sell them a method that was inconvenienced by slow, tedious, manual processes. They wanted something easy to brew with, easy to clean, could make a lot of coffee in one batch, and took up as little counter space as possible. My mother was set on having and all-in-one machine again, but my dad was sick of not being able to successfully clean it.
The rift grows.
Now the thing with coffee, like many other facets of food, beverage and consumer products, is that there is often an inverse when you compare quality with convenience. As opposed to what a commercial may say, I can confidently tell you that you will (probably) never get the best cup of coffee you've ever had at the simple touch of a button. The most convenient thing you can do to get an amazing cup of coffee is probably pay a barista to make it for you. Seeing as how I can't always be the barista on-call at the house, there was going to need to be some level of automation involved.
My solution to them was a nicer version of a drip machine for a few extra bucks. The Bonavita 8-Cup Brewer (glass carafe for a cleaner pot!) is a fine machine for regular house-hold use that can make a pretty decent cup with minimal effort and cleanup. My parents nodded in affirmation, until I suggested the addition of a dedicated burr grinder. The idea of another appliance that took an extra step in the morning wasn't attractive to them, but I told them of this imbalance of quality and convenience and decided to leave it up to them to decide the caffeinated fate. Ease of use, or really good coffee; it was up to them. Just because you show someone your religion doesn't mean they will convert to it, they have to want it as much as you in order to transition to another stage of enlightenment.
In the end, they decided on using a small blade grinder and a percolator.
So it goes...
Since the beginning of this summer, Boxwood has been undergoing a lot of changes in the way we produce and create coffee and other products and services to all of you, our wonderful customers. We began our own brand of roasted coffee, set up a farmer's market stall and overall have been revamping and rethinking a lot about how we serve coffee and tea to do the very best we can.
With a new season upon us, resting and settling down for a little while may sound enticing after the rush of summer, but we are looking forward too much to what else is to come to get too comfortable where we are right now. Improving quality, modes of expansion and superior offerings will always be on the horizon we chase, and we are excited to be making each vision a reality bit by bit.
Recently Boxwood became a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, or the SCAA and I myself have become a member of the Roasters Guild. These memberships are incredible new assets for us, and offer us a multitude of virtual and real world resources that can educate us more about coffee and train us in how we can do what we do even better. This will also put us in the loop with a lot of great people and businesses in the specialty coffee industry and grant us some street cred towards being recognized among our peers for all our efforts of product offerings, service and growth. We hope to use this membership to continue our endless efforts to educate ourselves and those around us about the importance of variables that create great coffee.
As we continue to grow internally, so do we externally. With winter approaching, my small, private roasting space with minimal heating won't be cutting it. Ruby the roaster and I will soon be relocating into a new space with a lot more physical resources for us to capitalize on and provide us with room to grow. The space is TBD, but from what we've gotten to look at already, it's going to be a great transition for us. Cooler digs and more space will mean a lot more flexibility in workflow, opportunities to train staff and clients and provide us with our own form of a coffee lab that will allow us to cultivate incredible new offerings to unveil to our customers. We may even be able to offer classes and roasting tours to those who would be interested!
It is really crazy to think that only a few months ago we were just figuring out how to turn a roaster on, and already we are feverishly feeding our minds with more knowledge than ever and fueling this business into a fantastic position to offer great coffee to everyone. We don't plan on slowing down anytime soon, and we'd love for you to stick around and see just where we end up.
Fall is upon us once again, and everyone is getting into the mood.
We've unleashed our house made pumpkin spiced syrup for all, the baristas are beginning to don cardigans and beanies, and we've decked out the whole store like it's Salem at midnight. Things are getting festive, and coincidentally we stumbled onto a new blend to make the whole thing a wrap.
As we phase certain coffees in and out of rotation, we usually seek a varietal somewhat reminiscent of whatever has run out of stock to replace it in an effort to keep things interesting while maintaining some level of familiarity. As our juicy bags of Colombia Asojardin begin to dwindle (only a few left, you better snag 'em quick!) we set out to find a replacement single origin. Something sweet, festive, and worthy of the harvest season. Of course, once we got to the cupping table priorities quickly changed when we discovered a bright and shiny Mexican coffee highlighted a deep and syrupy offering from Bali in the most beautiful way. We fell in love, things began moving fast and the next thing I knew I was bringing back more coffee with me than we knew what to do with.
This was a good idea.
Our new Sweater Weather Harvest Blend will be hitting shelves this week, and we're super psyched about it. Incredibly balanced, sweet and syrupy, this blend is the perfect cozy companion on a chilly autumn afternoon. Just grab a thick blanket, a good book and watch the colors of the leaves change with this delightful cup to keep you warm! It also pairs great with holiday desserts, so break out the pumpkin pie while you're at it.
I think this sleepy Saturday I'll enjoy my cup while listening to some Alexi Murdoch, how about you?