Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What the Heck is Chicory?

Yesterday someone asked me if Blanchard's Coffee Co. offered chicory coffee.
The answer is no, we do not offer chicory coffee.
The reason is that chicory is an additive and one of our philosophies at Blanchard's is to do our best to honor the natural, inherent characteristics of each coffee we roast. This is why we shy away from any flavor additives in general--if you like hazelnut flavors with your coffee that is perfectly fine, just add it in your cup!

That is my personal form answer to the additive and flavor question that inevitably pops up at least once or twice a day. I've been saying it for the past ten years that I've called coffee my career so I hardly even think about it anymore. That is, until yesterday when this person followed the chicory question with another: "what, exactly, is chicory anyway?"
I noted again that it was an additive, blah blah blah, but this obviously didn't answer the question with any substance so I admitted I had no earthly clue what chicory really was and I promised I would do some research and find out.

I was surprised by what my research turned up and I think many of you will be too.

Chicory is a root--I knew this much--and that root is baked slowly until it is completely dry, then it is ground and added to coffee. Originally this practice was to basically dilute the amount of coffee used because chicory root was cheaper than coffee at the time so, without drastically altering the flavor of the coffee, a good deal of money was saved. Over time, as with chicken feet and chitterlings, the folks brewing chicory coffee became attached to the flavor and thus a tradition is born.

So if chicory is a root, what is the plant that grows from it? I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two of my favorite vegetables are actually products of the chicory root: Radicchio and Endive, as well as another leafy plant called Sugarloaf are all sprouts of the chicory root. Admittedly, I don't particularly care for chicory coffee but I now have a much greater appreciation for it just knowing the plant's whole story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coffee Oddities from Abroad

As you know, we're purists when it comes to coffee; at Blanchard's we want our coffee fresh and delicious, and that pretty much sums it up.

With that said, its always fun to stumble across oddities of the vast and diverse coffee world--even if they don't meet our simple criteria for good coffee.

Our good friends Carly and Melissa, owners of The Empress on Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia recently closed down their restaurant for a much deserved summer vacation to Italy.

We were flattered when we heard they had gotten us a tiny gift--a fascinating coffee oddity from the espresso capital of the world--Pocket Espresso!

Thats right, this is a plastic cup with a foil lid similar to what holds your chicken nugget dipping sauce. Yes, that is a target dot that says "pierce here" as in with a straw--a very tiny straw that is included with the cup!

Carly and Melissa told us these little guys were everywhere and though the urge was strong to hold on to such a strange product, curiosity won us over.

Last night while out with several friends (some coffee lovers some not) we decided to taste test the Pocket Espresso.

The espresso juice-box was assembled and we were ready to taste--some one called it a ketchup tub.

First sip? Lets go with intense...

Whatever concoction is held in that little cup tastes like sucking Hersey's Syrup with the faintest hint of coffee through a straw.

Everyone had the same reaction, that of wide eyed startle!

I'm not sure I'd call Pocket Espresso "coffee"      per se, but it certainly was a great conversation starter, an interesting product and a thoughtful gift from great friends; so if you look at it that way, its just as good as any coffee.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Loss to Our Community

We were very sad to hear of the loss of one of the brightest and most talented members of the Richmond coffee community today.

As reported by, Robert Fisher, 26, was killed in a car crash early Saturday morning.

Robert was one the most talented baristas this city has ever produced. He had a passion for coffee that was evident in every drink he created.

Most recently, he exhibited his skill and creativity at Demolition Coffee in Petersburg, Virginia.

Our thoughts go out to Robert's family and friends during this time of certain shock and sadness.

--Blanchard's Coffee Co.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Road Trip

We're taking Blanchard's on the road!
Step one has been finding some out-of-towners who were willing to give Blanchard's Coffee a shot. We've found some great folks like Para Coffee in Charlottesville, VA, The Java Shack in Arlington, VA, and Waveriders in Nags Head, NC to start representing our brand and now, we're heading to the Shenandoah Valley for a huge presentation in front of hundreds of folks eager to learn about Blanchard's.

We put together this little video to go along with part of our talk and thought it'd be nice to share it with al of you. Enjoy!