Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coffee Cupping 101

Saying Woodberry Kitchen is our second home is an understatement at best. The super benefit is that I get to use the restaurant in creative ways to bring people to Baltimore. I've had a few luncheons, private dinners and a few cooking demonstrations in the past four years with Spike and Amy @WKRestaurant. Recently I had the idea that it would be amazing to introduce our clients to the mystery of coffee cupping. After surveying friends many had never heard of a coffee cupping. Eric is the one who introduced me to this treasure trove of goodness. So I had to check one out for myself.

Every Friday at 10:00 am, all across the land, baristas everywhere perform the ritualistic coffee cupping. Eric knew about Counter Culture from DC and their regional training center in Adams Morgan. This is how we found Woodberry Kitchen originally I'm sure. He went to his first Counter Culture cupping at Belvedere Square. When we travel E. picks the location based on what coffee they serve. 

It was great being at Woodberry Kitchen this early in the morning.

I met one of the bakers, Beverly, and got to watch her in action. She was rotating the Sourdough loaves in the brick oven.

Allie gathered all of the new staff members and me, the only lay person, and introduced us to our first cupping. The coffee program at Woodberry Kitchen is like no other restaurant I've experienced. They have a full barista bar and each coffee is made to order, via French Press or espresso. The staff is required to undergo training so they know how to articulate the coffee options.

We were given tasting note forms and clipboards.

Allie is a great teacher and so passionate about her craft. We cussed and discussed coffee. She asked us where we bought coffee and informed us to look a the roast date verses expiration date. Coffee beans are no longer "servable" past two weeks. That means most every bean you buy at the grocery store is more or less stale. We buy our coffee from Belvedere Square and at Spro. Our friend just brought us beans from Intelligencia and feel pretty spoiled when it comes to good coffee options in Baltimore. This coffee is more expensive. It is important to me that it is more expensive. The farmers are getting 19% more money per pound based on the fact that they are growing the beans in shade, rotating their crops and are overall farming more sustainably. You want to look for Direct Trade Certified Coffee. Spike was even flown to meet one of the farmers with Counter Culture to Nicaragua. That's about as local as it gets for this farm to table restaurant, meeting the farmers who grow the beans!

She explained the points on the clip board.
FRAGRANCE: smell when ground
AROMA: smell when hot water is added
BREAK: when CO2 is added
BRIGHTNESS: taste, pleasing acidity, pucker, how does it affect you
FLAVOR: chocolate, cherry, figs, cedar, vegetal (keep thoughts to yourself) write whatever comes to your mind
BODY: how does it feel in your mouth. Cream vs. apple juice. Thin vs. heavy
AFTERTASTE: heavy, good, fruit, bad lasts

First step, observe beans, smell ground up coffee beans and write down the fragrance you smell.

When you smell the beans, write the first thing that comes to your mind on your clip board. The most important thing is not to share your thoughts. Coffee cuppings are very subjective and honestly, pretty intense. I felt like I had NO IDEA what I was smelling. The differences were ever so subtle and I honestly felt like I couldn't find the words to describe what I was smelling. Ummm...they all smelled like ground coffee beans. My first thoughts for #1 was pork. #3 smelled like horses. Just had to push beyond the coffee smell and really get down to my deeper coffee cupping vocab. 

Next, add hot water.

Smell and mark the aroma.

Hey there Nancy! It's your birthday.

It smelled so different from the ground bean version. 

Allie then explained how to "break" the coffee. At this point you take the back of the spoon and break the "crust" that forms. The minute you break the coffee you inhale and write down the first thing that the smell conjures up for you. Nancy once smelled White Diamonds, the perfume. This is called retronasal stimulation. When your brain remembers things based on smell.

There is a vacuum of smell that lifts from the break. I think this has something to do with the CO2.

We all got to break one of the coffees. It can only be done once.

Then the crust is removed and we tasted the coffee.

Dip your spoon for a sample.

And slurp. I mean SLURP. Coat your mouth with the spoonful of coffee so you can experience it on every section of your tongue and mouth. Then try to articulate what you are tasting. To say this was hard is an understatement. Allie made sure we all knew that no description was wrong because we all have our own experiences but it was intense. I admit I LOVE to be right and I just didn't have a language to really articulate what I was tasting. I need to experience it again so I can have this experience behind me and find some words. 

cru of the coffee world.

I don't know if I liked #1 the most or if it was just that I managed to smell and taste something that I could discuss. This one had a sweet pork smell to me and I smelled black pepper after the break. I wrote "almond" for flavor.

We had a question and answer session and I asked questions about terroir. I'm a seasoned wine taster....chuckle. But seriously, I've been to multiple wine tastings for my job and I still know very, very little about the art of wine making. There is just so much to learn and oh so many wines out there. But I know that where the grapes are grown make a huge difference in how the wine tastes. A rocky vineyard in Burgundy is going to make it harder for the grapes to grow, forcing them to struggle and work harder to produce grapes. Same goes for coffee. Organic top soil makes a difference. Shade verses sun grown makes a difference for the environment.

Did you know coffee is a fruit? This is an non-roasted bean. I won't begin to try and explain the process. There are tons of documentaries that show you the process from red coffee berry to the roasted bean. 

This is Allie's coffee plant in her "office".

This video is of a cupping done in Nicaragua with the growers. I love the woman's descriptors of her coffee. Woodberry Kitchen and Belvedere Square have cuppings every Friday at 10:00 am. If you can take the time, go and experience it for yourselves. Search the word cupping to find classes in your area.

Allie thanks so much for your passion and compassion for coffee. I learned so much and want to come back for a second try. You are awesome! Our clients appreciated this experience so much. Spike and Amy, thank you for your coffee program. You know how much we love you guys, but it is the fact that you are helping these farmers worlds away to have a better lifestyle that makes such a difference. It's these little things that change the world. We are thankful a great cup of coffee is just blocks away from Stone Hill.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Cindy from Champagne & Sundays tagged me in her stylish blogger award yesterday. I couldn't be more tickled. Her friend tagged her and she tagged seven of her favorite blogs. I swear this is why I love this blog thing. These connections upon connections. I have been following Holiday but now have six other blogs to check out. Thanks so much Cindy!!!

Once tagged you are supposed to share seven interesting things about yourself. So here it goes. Prepare yourself to go around the world a few times for my stories.

1. I love the number seven and was married on 7-7-07. It was a pure miracle our church and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts was available that day!

2. My husband is an entire foot taller than I am. He is 6' 4". I guess that isn't about me but I think it's interesting and hilarious. Honey, you look smokin' hot in this photo.

3. I bought a 650 sq. foot condo in DuPont Circle in 2000. E. proposed to me on the deck in 2006. Everyone calls it The Nook including our renter. Someday I want to have it all paid off and use it as our city house. (This is such an old photo you can see cigarettes on the cafe table, Momma!!!)

4. I was a wedding photographer's assistant college summers in The Zoo and as a second job my first years out of college. I LOVE taking wedding photos and still enjoy taking nearly 2000 photographs a month. I have to figure out a better way to store these photos because I've eaten all the disk space on E's Mac. This is a to do, but not a huge priority so the blog is taking a back seat for now and I'm recyling a few photos.

Governor Lady: The Life and Times of Nellie Tayloe Ross (MISSOURI BIOGRAPHY SERIES)

5. I was named for three women named Nelle. My two great grandmothers, Nell Bond and Nelle (pronounced Nellie) Tayloe and my great aunt, Nellie Tayloe Ross who was the first woman governor of the United States (WY). Nelle Tayloe and Nellie Tayloe Ross (grandfather Tayloe's sister) were best friends and they wrote the most incredible letters to each other. Grandmother Tayloe saved all of Aunt Nellie's letters. My great grandmother wrote to my granddaddy when he was at W&L that went something like this: "Dearest Howdy, We had so much fun with Aunt Nellie today. We rode behind her in the parade." She was referring to the Inaugural parade!!! My great grandmother was in the inaugural parade for Calvin Coolidge. How cool is that? Momma would visit Aunt Nellie during spring breaks from Randolph-Macon Women's College in Washington when Aunt Nellie was the Director of the U.S. Mint, under Roosevelt. Needless to say, there are deeper reasons for my love of Washington, not just The Nook. Click the book above to purchase "Governor Lady" to learn about this amazing woman who lived to be 101 years old.

6. My parents owned a little shop called Forty Carrots in Kalamazoo where Burdick's is now. My grandparents had one in Memphis in Overton Square Garden. It was a gourmet kitchen and gift shop. I have the most incredible memories of my grandmother teaching people how to cook in her cooking school and my mother making home made peanut butter in the Cuisinart. I am a passionate cook because of my family and my earliest memories of this dreamlike place. Nearly everyone I know from my childhood, many of whom are loyal readers of this blog, worked for my parents. 

7. I went through what the Episcopal church calls the discernment process to become a priest. I withdrew, feeling clearly that I was called by God to be an event planner. That sounds hilarious but it is the truth. I had to work in the church three years, move to Ireland and move home before I went back to event planning. Stuart, our priest came to a party I gave at The Nook and said, "You truly have the gift of hospitality." It is one of my favorite compliments. I think hospitality is to know what people need before they know they need something. It is stressful as all hell sometimes but so worth it. I love my job working for the tourism bureau in Baltimore. I get to do what I love and serve people with a hospitable heart.

Now, here are a few bloggers I would love to know more about and I'm sure who probably have received this fun award already. Had to pick eleven and I could have tagged all of my Good Figs. 
Thanks again sweet Cindy. You've been an angel helping me figure this blog thing out with email lessons and html hints. I love that you went to Ole Miss (even if you didn't know my brother) and that we've both been caught "blog stalking" the hell out of each other. Hotty Toddy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Papa wanted to be a Pip and Daddy's on a Midnight Train to Georgia

Since Uncle Charlie has been busier than a one armed paper hanger I have had to keep myself busy during his late nights. Our dear friends invited me over for a casual soup dinner last week. Mind you, soup at James' and John's house is not your ordinary run of the mill soup. It was the most awesome Greek Lemon Soup from the Silver Palate Cookbook and one I haven't tried yet. You've met them before here a few months ago. Their kids are still beautiful and just a joy. Miss E. and A. were in the youth group we taught once and were the best behaved kids on the block!!!

When I arrived James gave me marching orders to assist with some chopping of parsley, lemons and butter in the newly updated kitchen. All were to be neatly displayed in ramekins. I poured milk into a glass jug and cider into a fabulous ceramic pitcher. God forbid a carton of milk land on this beautiful table.  I love when I'm invited to help in the kitchen. It makes me feel so at home. We were called to the table and James dished out this perfectly wonderful soup and I pulled out my camera!

I brought fresh bread from The Wine Source that Carrie reserved especially for me. I've been when there were just crumbs left on the bread shelf and I was left sniffing all the way home sad, and hungry. Better to be safe and call ahead. Thanks again sweet Carrie!!!

My plan was to do a step by step of this recipe but I have also been a bit busy and haven't had the time yet. So the lesson will come in a later post.

A. had just gotten back from fencing class and was excited to tell us about his day.

Miss E. and I had an impromptu salt and pepper etiquette class where Papa and Daddy chimed in. If someone asks to pass the salt, you also pass the pepper. Salt and Pepper shouldn't be separated. No idea why but I feel like there is a rhyme and something about the two being married to each other. You should never catch the two in the air. You must let the passer place them on the table before you can use them. No idea why. Also, never, ever, ever use the salt and/or pepper if you've been asked to pass them, before you pass. Rude

Daddy gave everyone seconds the soup was so good. I love the Le Cruset Dutch Oven in the classic "flame" color!

Papa tried to keep Miss E. from drowning the salad in vinegar. She is a fool for vinaigrette this child. She would drink vinegar straight from the bottle if we'd let her. I could eat her with a spoon. When she goes missing they will know to come knocking in Stone Hill. Both of their children are wonderful, but it is no surprise, so are their parents.

At every dinner table in the world, parents are probably embarrassing their kids with the least bit of effort. I hope one day to embarrass my future children singing in a restaurant and reliving the story at the dinner table!

Papa, I know you'd make a better Pip than Jack Black but thought this was too funny not to post. Keep on singing you darling family. James, for A.'s sake remember those aren't Grammy's but Emmy's you've won! Thanks so much for the wonderful meal and fellowship. We look forward to having you all at Stone Hill soon.