Monday, February 28, 2011

Warm Weather Coffee

If you're like me, the weather drastically affects your eating and drinking habits; once the mercury tops the 80 degree mark I find myself living on fresh vegetables, the occasional piece of grilled meat, chilled white wine and, of course, cold-brew iced coffee.
Today, in Richmond, we're not going to top 80 degrees (thank goodness, because it is still February) but we'll get pretty darn close. The unseasonably warm forecast has gotten me thinking about interim climate coffee; those days in the early spring and autumn when a cool damp morning lends to a hot cup of coffee but warm afternoons might discourage that three o'clock booster.
During these climate-confused months I generally tend to lean towards sticking with hot coffee; though I'm not sure exactly why, I think it comes down to the more ritualistic nature of preparing hot coffee, not to mention the steam and aroma factor. Still, I find my deep-winter obsession with full bodied brews and dark roasts ends up leaving me wishing I had gone the way of the Oscars and opted for afternoon tea instead of weighing down with heavy coffee.

The answer? I certainly have no desire to give up on coffee while waiting for South of the James Farmer's Market iced coffee season to begin, so I turn to my roster of light-bodied, brightly acidic coffees to keep the hot, but not heavy java flowing. I am an unabashed lover of all coffees African but though most African beans share a floral, fruity character, they don't all fit the mold of "light". For this, I turn to a perennial Blanchard's favorite, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The Blanchard's Yirgacheffe is the perfect spring-time coffee with a bright, almost sparkling acidity and notes of sweet flowers and tangerine. The Yirg is one of the most aromatic coffees readily available and simply begs you to have another cup--something you probably won't regret! I also fall back on another, sometimes less touted, Blanchard's favorite, the Fair-trade Organic Peruvian. The FTO Peru is, as Blanchard's own Joe O'Hallaron says, "just a great cup of coffee". I agree with Joe, this is the kind of coffee anyone can love just about any time of day. Why is it so enjoyable? Peruvian coffee is extremely balanced in acidity, sweetness and the nutty character so many South American coffees exhibit. The effervescent acidity sparkles off the tongue and I always end up not only satisfied, but refreshed.

So when you're nodding off at your desk this afternoon wishing you were outside enjoying the warm pre-spring day (considering we're not amidst forecasted tornados and deluge), don't let overbearing palate busting coffees discourage you from your afternoon cup; branch out and discover the world of light bodied, brightly acidic coffees--you'll be glad you've discovered these gems once we're in the throes of Richmond heat.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coffee & Technology

We don't use a ton of cutting edge technology when producing fresh Blanchard's coffee for you; it really comes down to fire and air. We are, however, very eager to find cool new ways to do what we love to do the most: talk to anyone and everyone about our great, fresh roasted coffee.

We really like the idea of using tons of different types of media to reach folks who might want to learn more about our coffees or follow what we're doing in the social media worlds of Facebook, Twitter & more. With that in mind, we're starting to play with QR Codes.
Here is an example of the first one we created:

Here's how it works: If you have a smartphone you can download a free app that will read bar codes and QR codes; I personally like ShopSavvy because it is also an interactive shopping tool that helps me find the lowest prices on items I scan. Once you have the app you simply scan this code and it redirects you to a page we associate with the code. This one, as you'll see when you scan it, takes you to a generic page we created that allows you to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, view a short video of our roaster in action and visit our website.

Eventually you'll start to see these on coffee bags and signage in all the places you find our coffee. Each type of coffee will have its own code that will tell you about the coffee you've chosen, give you ways to interact with us and that product like tasting notes or brewing tips, and perhaps offer special deals with the product and the location you've scanned it. It is sort of like a coffee education adventure!

Keep you eye out for codes popping up anywhere you find Blanchard's coffee, and happy scanning!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blanchard's Coffee Co. News!

We've been very busy at Blanchard's Coffee Co. for the past few weeks and lots of exciting things are on the horizon. We really appreciate all of our loyal fans and followers and we want to keep you informed about all the neat stuff we're getting into... well maybe not all of it, just the PG-13 stuff!

First up, we're super excited to roll out this year's first RVA Barista Jam this Wednesday, February 23rd from 6-8:00pm at Ellwood's Cafe in Carytown. If you've never been to an RVA Barista Jam event you should definitely check it out. Baristas compete in the skills of their trade while we watch, drink good coffee and wine, and hob-nob with other coffee loving folks. Get all the details at the RVA Barista Jam website or email with specific questions.

Blanchard's is showing up in some new spots, places we're VERY excited to partner with on various coffee projects. Some of the new places to enjoy a cup of fresh roasted Blanchard's coffee are still top secret but we'll tell you what we can for now. Mamma Zu's and Edo's Squid are now proudly brewing their own Mamma Zu's blend roasted here at Blanchard's; amazing food and awesome coffee, what a pair! You can buy our retail coffee beans at Tom Leonard's Market in the West End now, go check out our brand new coffee display front and center as you walk through the door; we're beside the beautiful pineapples! We are also providing retail coffee for Longhorn and Lager in Midlothian and Farm to Family wherever the bus goes! We're also happy to be brewing coffee at The Lounge Bar & Grill and Addis Ethiopian Restaurant in the Bottom. There are a lot more exciting places to have a cup of Blanchard's Coffee coming soon; we'll keep you posted.

Finally, we're hosting a silent auction benefitting the River City Cycling Collective that features wares of local artisans the evening of March 4th. We're also having a gathering with live music, coffee and good friends of coffee, get all the details at the Blanchard's Coffee Community Site.

We're looking forward to seeing you at all of these neat places and events. Come out, say hi and find out why we're the coolest coffee company in Richmond!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Coffee Tip::Getting Green

At Blanchard's Coffee Co. we pride ourselves in being fairly kind to the environment even though our daily roasting does crank out some smoke on to Forest Hill Avenue. Is that causing harm? Likely a little bit but we work hard to make up for that in other ways. People say the movement towards greening businesses is a toothless fad that doesn't hold a lot of true meaning or value; this may be true for oil giants and manufacturing companies but in small business a little bit of effort can go a long way. We're already doing a lot but we can do a lot more.

Current Efforts
We recycle everything we can. As much as we'd love to be a paperless business, we end up having to print out orders to keep everything straight, so we make sure those print-outs get to a recycling facility.

We are huge proponents of the re-use strategy; here are some things we currently re-use until they're completely destroyed: boxes, coffee bags, cups, java jackets and containers of all sorts.

We also love to repurpose a lot of our waste. Burlap bags that are used to ship green coffee, make excellent display material for many of our clients who creatively merchandise our products. We also end up with a lot of bio-mass from roasting and brewing coffee which we offer for free to home gardeners and farmers.

Plans to do Better
Our first order of business is to switch all of our disposable paper products to Green Duck Compostables so our paper footprint isn't as extensive.
One of our biggest initiatives this year is the idea of bringing together local businesses, crafts-people and community members to promote and support local happenings and causes. This is sort of a far reaching project that includes a ton of different avenues. For example, we will be sponsoring and hosting events such as our upcoming Community Night in the Roastery that brings folks into the Blanchard's roastery for a fun evening with coffee, other beverages, food and a silent auction featuring local crafts-people benefiting a local organization. We are also ramping up for a great 2011 RVA Barista Jam season beginning with our first event on 23 February 2011 at Ellwood's Cafe from 6:00-8:00pm. This year we're kicking up the event with raffle prizes and a slightly different format but it still promises to be great coffee-social fun!
We're also working on creative ways to bring the coffee community of Richmond together to support more sustainable business practices. Collectively, all of the coffee businesses in town put a lot of coffee related bio-mass in the garbage. At the same time, many local farmers are paying for similar bio-mass to aerate their soil or feed their composts. We aim to organize as many coffee houses and roasters in town as possible to set their bio-waste aside to be picked up and donated to local farmers. Heck, if we're lucky we might even get a few vegetables out of the deal!

We're probably just at the tip of the iceberg of what we could do to make our operation more sustainable and green, so our ears and eyes are always open to ideas and suggestions to make our community and our world a little better.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sneak Peak

What do coffee people do while riding shotgun from Richmond to Rockville, MD? Make coffee videos of course! Here's a little look at what we do at Blanchard's every day. That happy looking guy dropping the beans is Jonathan; say hi to him sometime soon.