Coffee Notes From All Over

How do you love Peet’s? Peet’s wants you to count the ways. Share your story of Peetnickety devotion, and you could win free coffee for a year — for you and five of your friends. The “Why I Love Peet’s” contest is part of the company’s Founder’s Day activities honoring Alfred Peet, the grandfather of specialty coffee. While I suspect it might be something of a conflict of interest for me to participate, myself, feel free to count me among your friends. 😉 Survey says… According to a recent NCA survey, more Americans are drinking specialty coffee, but the amount being consumed every day is falling. Could it be that folks are starting to wake up to a bit of an economic pinch? Surely not. And remember, your beloved leader wants you to click your heels three times and say, “We’re not in recession. We’re not in recession. We’re not…” Resisting the Siren… The Colombian profiles four independent Vancouver coffee shops who’ve each found themselves pitted against Starbucks, and — so far — are living to tell the tale. After conferring with Taylor Clark — author of Starbucked — the Columbian looked for just what these shops were doing right: “Clark’s research revealed, and the Columbian’s anecdotal reporting confirmed, that successful coffee shops develop a loyal customer base that prefer s the independent coffee maker’s brew over Starbucks’. They maintain a narrow focus and don’t try to imitate Starbucks in look or products. They benefit from a segment of consumers who will drink anything but Starbucks. And, perhaps most importantly, coffee has become a part of daily life for...

The Holidays Already? Peet’s Holiday Blend 2007

Rating: [rating:4/5] I tend to wax rhapsodic about single-origin coffees. It’s much more rare I do the same for a coffee blend. There’s a reason for that. Let me ‘splain. Some folks (read, all of the Big Four — Sara Lee, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Nestlé — and any number of other roasters who care more about their bottom line than your good taste) blend coffees for reasons of economy. You take a bit of the good stuff — high grown beans with lots of flavor and aroma — and blend it with as much as 90% “C” grade not-great-but-not-offensive coffee and voilà: you have a commercial blend. Slap a romantic name on and sell the hell out of it. Have a nice day. Other folks — folks with integrity, and talent — take an excellent coffee from over here, a great coffee from over there, put them together and . . . wow. When it’s done really well, it sings. It resonates. When it’s done really well, the whole — that final blend — is greater than the sum of its parts. For three year’s running I’ve been able to trust that Peet’s will deliver just such a tasty treat for their seasonal Holiday Blend. True to form, once again they’ve delivered. Peet’s Holiday Blend 2007 is one smooth operator — from its dusky, saddle-leather bass line to its malted chocolate middles all the way up to a berry-and-flowers topnote. The Sumatra Lintong on the bottom is remarkable for its super-clean flavors, with absolutely none of the metallic tang that’s tended to sour Lintong coffees of late...
Passages: Alfred Peet, 1920 – 2007

Passages: Alfred Peet, 1920 – 2007

Alfred Peet — founder of Peet’s Coffee, grandfather of specialty coffee in the U.S. — died this week. Mr. Peet opened his coffee shop at the corner of Walnut and Vine in Berkeley, California in 1966, and awakened the American palate to the high-grown, high quality coffees of Costa Rica, Guatemala and East Africa… coffees that his father had roasted in the Netherlands prior to World War II. More, he helped to establish a uniquely American coffee house culture. Walnut and Vine became a gathering place; a hang-out for musicians and artists, writers and radicals. Alfred was an inspiration to most everybody in the specialty coffee trade. He famously schooled Starbucks’ founders Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl on the fundamentals of coffee roasting when they were purchasing more coffee for their Seattle store than Peet could roast, himself. His signature deep coffee roast — pungent, smoky, but still distinctive of its origin — became the hallmark of “West-coast” styled roasting. Alfred Peet always wanted his coffee to tell his story. For forty years it’s done just that. Thanks,...

Peet’s Colombia Caracol: Voluptuous Magnificence

Rating: [rating:4.5/5] Nuanced, balanced and complex with a lip-smacking semi-sweet finish. Peet’s current Special Offering — a limited run of a Colombian Caracol (peaberry, en Español) — is an heirloom bean (typica, a very low yield, high quality varietal) from the Huila region of Colombia, and it’s a lovely cup, indeed. Its deep chocolate and flowers fragrance gives way to chocolate, smoke and leather with a subtle grapefruit acid zing. It’s body is liquid velvet — so smooth, so luxurious — and the slightly impatient, astringent nip in its musky-sweet finish just leaves you wanting more. In a press this is Sappho in a cup; its poetry is only slightly muted with a manual drip method. (We won’t tell Mr. coffee, okay?) Highly recommended. Get it while you can. (Maybe dab some behind your ears on Friday night and get...

Tasting: Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend

There are hoards of Peetniks up and down the Left Coast, but how will Peet’s signature deep-as-night roast style play in New England? Time will tell. Meanwhile, I spied one of their displays in the neighborhood grocery this week, and thought I’d give ’em a try. Peet’s grocery packaging differs from their retail store and home delivery options. Their bags are 12 ounces versus the full pound you’ll find in outlets they own, nitrogen-flushed and sport a one-way valve. The bag of Major Dickason’s Blend® I picked up assured freshness “for 90 days” from roasting. That’s something of a departure from their home delivery “roast to order” guarantee. Actually, that’s a whale of a departure, and I’d wager there’s some gnashing of teeth in Berkeley over it. The Coffee It’s rather redundant to say that this offering from Peet’s is a dark roast. Of course it’s a dark roast! The beans gleam with a sheen of surface oils — though not so much as on, say, their French Roast — and the beans are a deep mahogany hue. Ground, the coffee offers fragrance of leather and loam, earth and cocoa, and a distilled hint of citrus blossom. This last is fleeting, and is gone the moment the coffee is wetted in brewing. Then, leather and moist earth aromas dominate. Acidity? Hah! Major Dickason laughs at the thought… there’s virtually none here. There is, in the pleasantly round-bodied cup, dark chocolate and earth. There’s a touch of bitter orange, too, that can be teased from the brew in a press (but evades manual drip brewing completely) and under it all...
Tasting: Peet’s Blend 101

Tasting: Peet’s Blend 101

[rating:4/5] What is it about Peet’s coffee that bends its will toward a French Press? That refuses to really bloom — to show its complexity and depth and subtle acidity — unless it’s had a good soak in a cafetiere? Consider — Recently a pound of Peet’s Blend 101 found its way to the office coffee table… which is outfitted with various bits of coffee-making gear: a Zojirushi drip brewer, a Bodum eSantos vacuum pot, various single-cup brewers (tricked-out Keurig machines and austere Melitta pour-over filter cones), the occasional espresso machine and the oddest assortment of curious coffee brewing apparati sent to us by folks who’d really, really like to be in the catalog, pretty please. In the Zoji — a truly capable drip brewer, even more so outfitted with a SwissGold filter cone — I got nothin’. Really. I got a muddy brew that didn’t reveal much about its origins, nor did it invite one to linger and contemplate them. I double-checked the grind — no worries there… the Capresso Infinity yields a very uniform grind and virtually no dust or fines — and tried again using a Melitta pour-over cone. Worse! Still altogether indistinct and unremarkable… and now it had a bit of a cardboard taste, too. Hmm. Next up, the eSantos. There’s virtually no coffee that can’t be enhanced by a vacuum pot’s unique method of brewing, which at once maintains precise brewing temperatures, allows water and coffee thoroughly interact and — with either a nylon mesh or glass filter — allows aromatic coffee oils to pass through to the cup unhindered. Plus, it’s just fun...

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