Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why We Love Coffee of the Month

July's Coffee of the Month carries some personal weight with it. I have never been more excited about one of our coffees, and it's hard to fit that excitement onto a 3" x 3.75" label on the bag.

I'll admit that I'm totally spoiled when it comes to coffee. Sometimes I take it for granted that every day when I go down to the Lab I can have any of our 21 different origins for my morning cup. It's become hard to impress me.

In May, while talking to one of our brokers who knows I'm always on the lookout for "whatever's new and exciting," for coffee of the month, she told me that I might be interested in some of their Fair-Trade Organic Dominican Republic coffee.

I don't know that my eyes had glowed so much since that Christmas morning when I unwrapped my first NES (or that surprise party my friends threw a few years ago, buying me a new PS2 after mine was stolen).

"What size bag is it? How much does it cost? Can I buy one bag now and more later if we like it, or do you not have very much so I should buy it all right now?" All of this kinda fell out of my mouth, because I wanted this coffee. Having always wanted to visit Hispañola, and never had anything to do with it (except for extensive reserach on Hatian voudon practices), this was my first real-world, physical connection to it.

I called David who had about the same reaction I had, disbelief and stirring excitement. You see, neither of us ever even realized we could get coffee from the Dominican Republic. I had certainly never seen or heard about it. It's like all of a sudden there was a treasure map that fell from the sky.

And having been sipping this coffee once a week for the past month, I have to impart how much of a treasure it really is.

As with most of our coffees, we're roasting this one to right at the start of the second crack. We call this "medium," you may have some other name for it. Although it's a medium roast, you'd never guess it after sipping.

The FTO Dominican Republic packs a punch. It's big and it's full, but also incredibly smooth, like it's already got some Half n' Half in. Personally, I pulled dried plum, cracked pepper, and semi-sweet chocolate. Like a rich dessert you'd probably pay too much for in a nice restaurant.

It's a well-balanced coffee, although the acid content may spike a bit above the other characteristics as far as balance is concerned. While pleasing on the palate, weaker-stomached individuals should probably not drink more than a liter or so. I say this as someone who would happily drink an entire pot of this had I steel-lined stomach myself. As it is, I have a hard time handling mere pepperocinis.


Now the sales pitch: This coffee will be available in our shop through all of July (shop hours: T-F 8.00-10.30, Sat 7.30-Noon) and we will also have it available for brewing and for retail at the South of the James Market this coming Saturday (7/3). Ellwood Thompson's Coffee Shop also has some, and if you catch them on the right day, they'll even have it available on the Clover (which I haven't even had yet, so tell us how it is!).

Also feel free to email me and order some. We ship anywhere in the U.S., and shipping's free if you get 5 lbs. or more.

Over and out,

sic luceat lux

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Customer Profile Dairy Bar

The spring we were very proud to start serving our coffee at the Dairy Bar. If you haven't been to this Richmond institution you need to head over and check it out. It was written up in Southern Living Magazine as one of the 5 best breakfast spots in Virginia. Also San Francisco food blogger Urban Stomach was in town and had this to say.
I was here for a traditional country breakfast of ham, eggs, grits and a biscuit and I wasn’t disappointed. The standout was the ham, fattier and saltier than I’m used to. If this ham was served in a San Francisco brunch spot, there’d be a health police rally going on outside. In Richmond, I enjoyed every bite in peace and quiet. Calories don’t count when away from home. The bonus surprise at The Dairy Bar was the peanut butter and chocolate milkshake. Made of Garber’s ice cream from Winchester, VA, this shake blew my mind. Maybe the best thing that I ate in Richmond.

The Dairy Bar opened in 1946 as a cafeteria for the Curles Neck Dairy plant workers. It continued to operate this way until the plant closed down in the mid 1980’s. After the plant closed the cafe expanded to become a full service restaurant. It has only changed hands once and continues to be a Richmond landmark for over 60 years.[via]

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coffee Tattoos

I have a few tattoos but no coffee tattoos yet. The tat above is my favorite from this Barista thread. There are some great tattoos to check out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Free Coffee with the Secret Twitter Word

Hey you with the sweat mustache. Do you want a free iced coffee? or are you not hot enough and want some fresh hot coffee? You tired of having to pay? Well, you have come to the right blog. If you follow us on twitter @drinkblanchards we will announce the top secret SOTJFM Super Secret Twitter Word. I promise to come up with a better name soon. As a special bonus for faithful blog readers I am going to give you this week's Secret Twitter Word: solstice. Next week though you will have to get the word off Twitter.

If you are one of the first ten (10) people to say "solstice" to the folks working at the Farmers Market you get either an iced coffee or a hot coffee for free.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Avoid Magic Power Coffee

Chance are if you are reading this blog you don't buy instant coffee off the internet. Apparently there are people that do and hope that this coffee helps them in other ways. Check out this warning from the FDA via the Associated Press;
The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday urged consumers to stop using an instant coffee product that is being marketed as a sexual aphrodisiac, saying it could dangerously lower blood pressure.

In a statement, the FDA said Magic Power Coffee contains a chemical that could interact with some prescription drugs to significantly lower blood pressure. When blood pressure drops suddenly, the brain is deprived of an adequate blood supply, which can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness.

"Because this product is an instant coffee labeled as an 'all natural dietary supplement,' consumers may assume it is harmless and poses no health risk," said Deborah M. Autor, director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Office of Compliance. "In fact, Magic Power Coffee can cause serious harm."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tasting Notes

Last weekend, I went to a wine tasting with my family at Naked Mountain Vineyard in Markham, Virginia (Visit them at: A disclosure, though: I have no developed palate for wine. I rarely drink it and know nothing about it, save it’s alcoholic and may have come in contact with some viticulturist’s feet.

Nevertheless, I was engrossed in the descriptions on the wine menu at Naked Mountain, noting the flavors within different wines, be it a Chardonnay with pineapple and lemon or a Merlot with leather and tobacco. In this way, being a dedicated coffee drinker and coffee roaster in training made me feel like I could get a grip on wine tasting. Simply, coffee and wine sales both rely heavily on marketing the differences in flavor between their respective varieties.

My impression, however, is that most people are the opposite of me, that is, the average wine drinker is more comfortable describing the taste of a glass of wine than the average coffee drinker would a cup of coffee. Bearing this in mind, I wanted to put together some thoughts about tasting notes for coffee that, while far from being universal, could help stimulate your coffee-splashed taste buds.

Here are, strangely enough, descriptions of common descriptors in coffee tasting:

“citrusy” – Tangerine, lemon and other citrus fruit flavors are easily detectable in high-acid, medium roast coffees, such as Tanzanian Peaberry or Kenyan AA
“floral” – Also common among high-acid, East African coffees, these lighter roasts flaunt their fragrance and may even have a chopped-up, flower-like residual resembling tea leaves when ground
“earthy” – Customary in describing Indonesian coffees, these low-acid, medium roasts can taste and smell like a day in the sun spent gardening amid damp soil and friendly fungus
“smoky” – Dark-roast coffees and their added carbon content should cleanse the palate with a bold, almost burnt finishing taste that defines traditional European tastes
“grassy” – Latin American coffees often carry this tasting note, evocative of something fibrous that a grazing animal would eat, like hay or roots
“nutty” – Like trail nuts, an oily or viscous feel can pervade the finishing tastes of many Asian or Latin American coffees
“spicy” – Reminiscent of baked goods or incense rather than Mexican food, medium roasts can tingle the tongue with cinnamon, clove or pepper
“sweet” – Coffees that fall between dark and medium roasts often carry a mellow, sweet taste without tartness, like chocolate or caramel

So next time you visit Blanchard’s and pick up a pound, make sure to give us some feedback on your own opinions, likes, and dislikes of the coffees you’ve tried…because no matter what the baristas say, at the end of the day, everyone gets something a little different out of their cup.

Post jotted by Java Junkie Jonathan

Thursday, June 17, 2010

So You Think You Drink a Lot of Coffee?

Spending money everyday in a shop to get your fix can add up. Check out this chart published in the WSJ (put together by to see which city racks up the biggest bills. Look how much more Seattle spends. As a transplant from the Pacific NW I can tell the two biggest factors in those numbers are the weather (miserable) and number of places to get coffee. You can't go more than a mile without hitting a coffee shop or drive-thru coffee stand.

The article is about saving money and one way would be to buy your beans from a local roaster and make that latte at home.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coffee Bag Computer Sleeve

This is so freaky deaky cool I can't control myself. Mary at Contrary Garden made this awesome computer sleeve out of one of our old coffee bags. Check out the link for details on how she made it complete with pictures. Also check out her jewelry since it is equally awesome. Now if I can only get a tuxedo jacket made out of coffee bags.

P.S. - That is not a picture of Mary holding the computer sleeve.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Market View 6/12

While some us were sitting in a dark pub waiting for the US take on England in the World Cup others like Dena were working at the South of the James Farmers Market making sure that some of you could get a cup of the best coffee in the city. Below is Dena's latest Market update.
The South of the James Farmer's Market season is off to a booming start! Thanks to all of you, the Blanchard's booth is selling our fresh roasted coffee almost faster than we can brew it! It is wonderful to see your familiar faces each Saturday.

We have some new faces helping at the booth this summer, in fact we have been so busy I've gotten a little friend to help us keep up with the cream and sugar station. Her name is Emma and those of you that saw her last week know what a great helper she is!

Our cold brewed ice coffee is a favorite! Tom has doubled the amount he prepares to match the market demand for this refreshingly delicious drink.

Look forward to seeing you!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Stumptown & Duane Sorenson

The NY Magazine has a very interesting article on Stumptown’s Duane Sorenson and how he is bringing a level of coffee worship/respect to New York. Sorenson is from Seattle where he operates five cafés, two café-roasteries, and one stand-alone roastery. To say he is a bit obsessive is an understand but the results of his passion or incredible. Be warned while there is no swearing in the bit I am posting Duane does favor some adult language.
Coffee quality can be objectively measured, to a point. There are professionals who evaluate a coffee just as one would a wine. They study the flavor profile; the cleaner and sweeter it is, the higher it will rank on a 100-point scale. Top specialty roasters buy coffees rated 85 or above, but once you’re that high in the rankings, how much of what you’re tasting is real and how much perception? Sarah Allen, the editor of Barista magazine, says that a top roaster like Stumptown goes to such extraordinary lengths to find the perfect coffee that it becomes personal. “It’s like when you think to yourself that your child is special in a way no other child is,” she says. “That’s how people like Duane feel about their coffee.”

Which means, of course, that he won’t let just anybody buy his beans. Sorenson approaches potential clients like he’s on a blind date, and he’s not afraid to say “sorry.” “I don’t want to sell my coffee to everyone,” he says. “It’s not for everyone.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Shot of Coffee Macroeconomics

A large part of the coffee industry is marketing coffee on the basis of its national origin. In the Blanchard’s coffee roasting room, for example, there is coffee from Ethiopia, Perú, Mexico, Tanzania, Indonesia, India, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras – just to name a handful. Whatever the reasons may be for such geographic diversity, a coffee’s origin has tremendous weight in determining the value of a bag of beans and how many are sold worldwide.

So in the spirit of investigation, I have selected data on coffee exports from the International Coffee Organization (ICO), an London-based organization that compiles an array of impressive statistics related to global coffee trading. Visit their website (and/or do some fact checking) at:

Before you scroll down, however, take a guess as to the largest exporter of coffee from the list of countries I provided above. When you’re ready, take a look at the information below. The data was compiled for exports from October 2009-March 2010 and the quantities refer to 60-kilo (approx. 132 lbs.) bags of coffee.

Drum roll…

Some stats from the countries in our roasting room.
Indonesia – 2,205,000 bags
India – 1,990,000
Honduras – 1,719,000
Perú – 1,343,000
Mexico – 1,302,000
Nicaragua – 720,000
Ethiopia – 706,000
Tanzania – 458,000
Kenya – 282,000
Dominican Republic – 18,000

A friendly reminder: If you want freshly roasted coffee from one or more of these featured countries, you can come by the shop during regular hours, order online (, call in (804.687.9443) or e-mail ( Whether it’s widely traded like Indonesian coffees or comparatively rare like Dominican coffee, we’ll be roasting it fresh for you.

Written by the Czar of Coffee - Jonathan Lesko

Monday, June 7, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Top This

There is little in life cooler than a fez. Yes I said that with a straight face. I own three but might have to make it four after seeing this beaut.

Made by the folks of Fez-O-Rama and even their description is awesome.
Avast ye lubber! Get me a cup o' the steaming black before I see you to Davy Jones!

This week we bring you the coffee and crossbones, the timeless symbol of the early morning pirate. Give your co-workers ample warning not to look you in the eyes until they've placed a cup of joe in your hand. Remember, it's not an addiction, it's a career choice!

For $45 this fine fez can be yours.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

No First Morning Buzz for Regular Coffee Drinkers

From a study conducted of 379 volunteers in England.

The researchers asked the volunteers to abstain from consuming any caffeine for 16 hours and then gave them either caffeine or a placebo. Each participant then rated their levels of anxiety, alertness and whether they got a headache.

Those who consumed medium to high amounts of caffeine reported they were less alert and more likely to get a headache when they took the placebo but not when they got their caffeine fix, the researchers report in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Those who got caffeine reported levels of alertness that were no higher than those who typically don’t get much caffeine who received a placebo. That suggests that caffeine only brings coffee drinkers back up to their normal state, probably because they develop a tolerance for its effects over time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

3rd Barista Jam is June 9th

The text below is unashamedly stolen from the RVA Barista Jam website;
Folks are already registering for RVA Barista Jam on June 9th at Cafe Gutenberg. Want to compete? Judge? Attend? let us know! Keep up with the latest on our Facebook page

What you might not know is that you can follow RVA Barista Jam on Twitter. Back to the original point of the post, you should go to this Barista Jam for the following reasons; 1) totally cool people watching, judging and competing, 2)Cafe Gutenberg is a nice place to go hang out, and 3)all the hip people are going and you want to be hip don't you? You might also be curious about the time of the event, its from 6 pm to 10 pm.