Wednesday, September 29, 2010

October Coffee of the Month: Yirg Two Ways

They say you can't reinvent the wheel. You can, however, try out new treads to see what works best according to the weather.

The way we roast the Yirgacheffe is, quite plainly, a warm weather coffee. It's light-bodied, floral, and full of fruit. This month we wanted to try something a little different, however, and decided to have some fun with our tried and true favorite.

We've done a darker roasted Yirgacheffe and blended it with our light-roasted classic, and the result is pleasing.

It's got all the fruit and flowers you know and love, but with the addition of some toasted coconut and toffee. It's a nice transition coffee, so far as the weather is concerned. As the tail end of summer lingers on into...well, probably January, so do the lighter notes of the Yirg Two Ways, but with a touch of winter warmth that brings you back to your flannel pajamas.

Drink up, and keep brewing!


sic luceat lux

Saturday, September 25, 2010

SproFit: Our Answer to "What Did You Do This Weekend?"

Hey folks, Tom here.

When David proposed back in July that I should train for a Half Ironman triathlon, pledging Blanchard's as a sponsor if I were to do so, I wasn't really sure what to do with that information except...well, start training.

I worked with David to develop the Iron Blend and the Aluminum Blend as a way to fund-raise for (and this is the part that has always bothered me) myself. I wondered what kind of spoiled brat says "Buy this coffee so I can go destroy my body in Puerto Rico," and why anyone would be motivated to do that. Except, of course, for the great coffee.

David reassured me that working to promote the coffee, and having a great product, was all anyone would really expect. I suppose he was right in that regard.

That didn't stave off the feeling that I should be doing something more however. So, once our quaint little coffee shop upstairs went into its cocoon to become a butterfly, and our life down in the roastery got a little more stable, I took on a project.

Its name is SproFit.

And it's a much bigger project than I realized when I started.

I have been really impressed with VCU's fitness incentive programs, and thought that we at Blanchard's could sponsor similar activities. Things that are free to sign up for, don't require meetings, and have prizes at the end. What the what? Yeah, for serious.

There is no membership fee to take part. The incentive programs don't have any fees, either. We encourage you to help support the program by drinking Aluminum and Iron Blends (which can be found online, at Ellwood Thompson's, and at 3 Sports). A portion of the sales of those two blends goes into my sponsorship fund, but because I want SproFit to thrive, I'm using some of that to give back to others who also think fitness is pretty neat.

So, despite the fact that SproFit has the word "profit" in it, know that this isn't about getting you to dole out more dollars to Blanchard's. It's about doing our part to keep our community living healthy.

Some fun single-day events on the calendar:

* 50 Mile Group Ride (Sunday, 10/3)
* October Run & Bunn (Sunday 10/17) [3 mile fun run with coffee social hour afterward]
* Half Marathon Time Trial (Sunday, 11/7) [Bring your own stop watch; we'll provide the coffee and water after]

We also have two ongoing incentive programs starting October 1.

*Autumn Mileage Rack-Up - Sign up and ride your bike. Whoever bikes the most gets 2 bags of coffee.

*Halloween Half Ironman Challenge - Complete the cumulative total of a Half Ironman between October 1 and October 31. If you rack up more miles in all three events than anyone else, you get $25 to 3Sports (I'll be competing in this too...I won't take the gift certificate, but I will try and stop you from getting it.)

We've had one sign-up for Half Ironman challenge already. So you're already not alone!

We're also taking pre-orders for Blanchard's Coffee Company cycling kits! One short sleeve jersey and one pair of bib shorts. We'll be ordering on October 3 and will receive them at the beginning of December (Just in time for the holidays! You can check someone off your list already!) is all you need to remember. Feel free to use all the links above also. Get out your running shoes, lube up your chain, and hit the road!


sic luceat lux

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Think Healthy Live Better

Check out SproFit a new project that Tom is heading up. SproFit is an incentive program to help anyone interested in thinking healthy and living better. Check out the link to learn more including how to get this awesome bicycling jersey. As you might have guessed by the jersey Blanchard's is happy to be helping out in this effort to get more people off the couch.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chasing the Perfect Cup

I'll be honest with you, most of this post went straight over my head but I thought some of you geek types might like it, so here it is. Gizmodo has an article on ExtractMojo and MoJoToGo, gadgets that quantify a cup of coffee's flavor.

The perfect cup of coffee has a brew strength (or TDS) of 1.15-1.50 percent and an extraction rate of 18-22 percent. It's a remarkably tiny spot to hit. But uh, how do you get there? If the brewing control chart is a map, ExtractMoJo and MoJoToGo are the GPS.

ExtractMoJo is, very simply, a refractometer paired with the universal brewing control chart, an updated version of the original chart from the 1960s. MoJoToGo repackages the ExtractMojo software into a superhandy iPhone app. The VST coffee refractometer is designed to measure coffee's concentration by measuring its refractive index. (It reads the speed of light through a liquid medium to around 5 decimal places). Not so long ago, a refractometer of the caliber would've cost around $10,000, says Vince, but thanks to the increasing power of digital camera resolutions, he was able to create a handheld model that's just a couple hundreds bucks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blanchard's Retail Space to Be Reborn

We at Blanchard's were recently approached by a long-time supporter of our company with some fresh ideas for our retail space. Those of you who frequent this space know that our company's focus has always been on our wholesale business, but we've enjoyed our limited hours as a way to connect to the people who make what we do everyday possible.

As our wholesale business has grown over the years, we've been able to focus less and less on our retail space, and as I'm sure you remember, resorted to limiting the hours even further at the beginning of this year in order to cope with the increased demands of our wholesale clients.

When Ben Spencer came to us with an interest in revitalizing the coffee shop and turning it into something greater, along with a stronger partnership with Chocolates by Kelly, we were pleased to see that an outsider's perspective is often exactly what is necessary to get the ball rolling.

After our normal hours this Saturday, September 11th, the shop will only offer drip coffee and bulk beans for a short period of time before a grand re-opening in October.

TaZa Coffee & Crème will be proudly operating the shop under the Blanchard's umbrella, and we'll still be roasting just downstairs. In addition, TaZa will have a selection of chocolates from Chocolates by Kelly, locally-made pastries, and ice cream.

Starting October 4th, the new hours will be Monday-Saturday, 6:30am-6:00pm. Along with a new set of comfy furniture and an expanded selection of food, TaZa will also offer curbside service if you're in a rush.

We talk often at Blanchard's about how there's never a dull moment, and we're excited for this new chapter in our company history. The folks of TaZa are also excited to make Blanchard's Coffee more readily available, and we're thrilled to continue moving forward. Blanchard's Coffee Company will still offer online ordering and our Coffee of the Month program, along with the same quality product you're used to in Martin's, Ellwood's and all our other retail outlets. TaZa will also continue to offer your favorites in bulk in the redone retail space as well.

We're forever grateful for the support we've received in our neighborhood, and can't wait to work with TaZa to offer more to the folks who've given us so much over the years.

(Questions? Feel free to contact someone below!)

Blanchard's Coffee Co.

Tom Thorogood

Chocolates by Kelly
Kelly Walker

TaZa Coffee & Crème
Ben Spencer

Thanks all!
- The Blanchard's Crew

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blanchard's and the VMFA

Did you know that soon Blanchard's coffee will be available at all of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts locations? Well Gay RVA does and Stephen Robertson wrote up a great post a part of which is below.
Blanchard’s coffee maintains a constant commitment to local businesses and organizations making the VMFA a natural fit. “We are very excited to be providing coffee to the VMFA. Clearly they are committed to excellence and creating a ‘third space’ for Richmond to enjoy not only art, but community to its fullest” commented Blanchard after our walk through the museum grounds. He went on to cite Danny Ayers’ obvious passion for both the culinary and visual arts as proof that great coffee and great art share the simple trait of fostering conversation which, in turn, builds community.
Check out the full post at the link above or more of Stephen's words of wisdom at his coffee blog, RVA Coffee.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Different Type of Coffee Shop

I don't know about you but when I head to a coffee shop I am usually in one of two modes. Mode one grab and run. This is when I have a place to be and need some fuel to get there. Mode two drink and chill. This mode is drink a brew and hang with friends, even been known to break out the chess board. There is however a trend in NY that is only giving you one option and that is Mode One.
Hers is one of a growing number of coffee bars that have opened recently around the country, particularly in New York. Instead of idling at a chair, customers at these establishments stand or perch on a stool to down a cappuccino or an iced coffee at the counter. By doing away with the comfy seats, roomy tables and working outlets that many customers now seem to believe are included in the price of a macchiato, the new coffee bars challenge the archetypal American cafe.

Coffee-bar owners say that while space and rent can be considerations, they’re installing counters because they create a lively environment where it’s easy to have a quick, convivial exchange. “There’s clearly a philosophy behind the coffee bar,” said Christian Geckeler, who describes his ongoing odyssey to taste the country’s best coffee on “It puts the emphasis on the coffee and the barista.”
[via NY Times]
I'm not a fan. Coffee should be an experience not just pitstop. I'm not convinced that a counter will lead to more conversation. It might increase the interaction between barista and customer but won't increase the interaction between customers.