Monday, March 31, 2008

On Shelves Now!

Just did a dropoff of some fresh and delicious coffee at Lena's Cafe and Confections in New Haven. They have us on their shelves right by the door where you can't help but smell the beans as soon as you walk in, and now they are also brewing our coffee to-go, or with a meal. They have an amazing brunch menu and I'm really psyched this store is selling our coffee by the cup.

At Fuel last week I did a tea sampling / demonstration. Tea is a big part of what we do at Bean & Leaf. I mean, it's right there in the name, exactly half of it! In fact, we have far more teas in the shop than we do types of coffee. Although in truth some are tisanes, botanicals, pooers, rooibuses (rooibi?) or yerba mate, all which are most definitely not actually teas. To be a tea, you must be Camellia Sinensis. The rest are herbal teas.

So last week, I pranced into Fuel with my delightful tea basket, laid out some table cloths and then started unloading the implements-of-tea. The owner and I were sitting at a table towards the back, but as I took out the various cups and packets, the rest of the staff gathered around. We tasted 1 tea, 3 botanicals, some macha tea and a yerba mate. It was really tons of fun. I knew Fuel was a good place to do this for the first time because the staff there is awesome and it's just a cool local place. They were way into it and one of the guys that works there knew quite a bit about teas and herbal teas, so it was a great conversation all around.

One thing I mentioned during the presentation is how interesting it is to see people drink their tea at Bean & Leaf. People pop in for a coffee to go or get some lattes to sit with their friends and chat, but the tea people are cut from a slightly different cloth. There is a process and a ritual to their beverage. They have a timer. They add and adjust water, then fine tune with honey. It is clear they are enjoying their tea in a different way than you would a cup of coffee, and it's amazing to see. Obviously this isn't everyone, but because of the elegant way we give people this beverage, they do seem to respond in kind.

There is no tea equivalent to the espresso. It's just not the way things are done!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Busy Bagging Beans

Whew! What a week! Wednesday was the first weekday Farmer's Market at Fiddleheads, and to be honest, it was a little slow. There's talk of moving it deeper into the afternoon going forward, and I do think that'll help. We did start to get a pop right around lunch and after, but if we were still up there at 5pm when people were leaving work, I think we would definitely see more traffic. Letting all that delicious coffee go un-drunk is criminal!

Spent that afternoon roasting away, then labeling, then waiting for more labels, then a mad-dash race to Staples before it closed that I couldn't even find, then a futile search through Wal-Mart for the right labels, then glorious success when Missy found some printable stickers that weren't exactly the right size, but actually worked perfectly.

That my 8:55pm dash through New London in a vain search for Staples and labels actually led me to the parking lot of a barely-open liquor store was well-timed and correct. As a result we were able to sip Harpoons while weighing beans and the mad-dashery of the day was left behind as we banged out bags and got psyched for all the happy people that would have our coffee the next day.

Thursday I did a tea tasting and demonstration for a local coffee shop that went really well. More on that tomorrow.

Then Friday -> Saturday happened
, which should never be spoken of again.

Today I was back in action and off to the shop ready to roast some more. Tomorrow I have a meeting with Steven Winter Associates in Norwalk and I am very much looking forward to tasting some coffee with them and talking about why SWA and Bean & Leaf are a perfect match.

As I mixed our House Blend I listened to some amazing poetry at the shop today, and that happens every Sunday afternoon. So please stop on by and listen in, and if you're feeling brave get up there and speak some words. One of these days I may even take the stage and torture you with some scrambled metaphors and elusive imagery of my own.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roast & Bag, Then Repeat

We've got over 65 lbs of coffee to roast, bag and then deliver this week. That's good, but it's not good enough. I want to be pumping out at least 200 lbs a week in the next few months. More than anything we need a coffeeshop to go ahead and sign on up to let us roast coffee for them. We'll be oh so good at it!

If anyone hears of any coffeeshop opening anywhere in the great state of CT, we want to know about it. You can send me an email here (but fix the @ sign as I don't want the robots scooping up my email address), or tell someone at the shop.

Also, next time you stop by, make sure you ask for the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. We roasted a batch on Sunday that is just delicious. Robust, well balanced with a slight hint of chocolate right in the middle of the flavor explosion, it is a cup you will want to keep on sipping long after you are done.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Get Cracking

I was at the Bean three days this week. It's starting to feel like a second home, and I like it. Roasted and bagged on Thursday while the puppets played onstage. Then Saturday Lu and I were in there early to fill up some Bunn's with delicious brew, bag a few more beans and then head over to Foodworks II for a late-morning tasting. Met some great customers and sold a bunch of Yirgacheffe and Guatemalan bags. It was a lot of fun to tell them about the shop, about how and why we roast the beans the way we do, and invite them to stop by say hello. Lu was selling bags left and right. No one got away without being specifically directed to exactly the coffee they were looking for, and they were psyched to have our help.

Learning to describe the taste of the coffee properly is challenging but fun. To educate myself I keep taking little sips of each brew, trying hard to identify the flavors and differences. By the time I'm done with a tasting, the fresh caffeine has filled me with superpowers and I go out of the place through the window and then run down the block with my car on my back. I feel as though I have 'been shot out of a cannon' as my brother likes to say.

I've also enjoyed learning to identify the beans on sight. Some have a lighter crease, others are uniformly dark, while still others have a larger variation in size within a batch. There is so much to learn about coffee that doing this work isn't just fun with lots of potential, I also feel like I'm expanding my understanding of the world. Until Bean & Leaf I had no idea that oil was the only thing humans love more than coffee.

We roasted a batch not-quite-to-French today for espresso. According to this guide it was probably a Vienna roast. It was the first time I've roasted into second crack, and I was shocked at how quickly the beans went black and oily. Those are getting brewed tomorrow as part of my assault on the tastebuds of coffeelovers throughout the state of Connecticut.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Proof is in the Puppets

The Boxcutter Cabaret was at the shop tonight, and as I drove north on I95 only 4 exits down the road I realized I had left my camera at home. But no matter, I figured, there would be photos. Then I would speak to the person who took them and give them my email address and ask them nicely for some copies of their wonderful photographs for this blog. And, at the very least, Missy would have her camera, obviously.

But you'll notice something about this post. There are no photos. That is because no one had a camera. And looking back at tonight's raucous, raggedly, lively and wonderful puppet show I can see how photographs would have diminished and flattened the loose and hilarious essence of this night.

Sometimes, you just have to be there to see what happens. Sometimes, the live event is all that matters.

And a lot of people did show up. Packed, in fact, would be the way I would describe the shop tonight. Standing room only, even! But you'll not believe me, I know. Which is why the photographs would have come in handy, to prove the packedness of the place tonight. It was amazing to hear the applause and laughter and see vibrant theater tonight, in the Bean & Leaf shop.

Thanks for coming down if you were in the crowd, and if not this time we can't wait to see you next.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The latest Roasting Bean e-news letter is out, and you can find it here.

The Roasting Bean archive now lives over to the right, under Links.

Update: We're MySpaced over to the right now, as well. Friend us up yo! We like friends. And if you're on Facebook please join the Bean & Leaf group. (that link won't work unless you're a memberduh) Truly there is nothing better than getting poked by your customers. Unless it's getting superpoked. Obviously.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Looking Forward

We have a lot of plans for this blog, so we hope you stop by often.

We are going to have a customer profile every week where we talk about some of the people that have been stopping by the shop since it opened. We will also have interviews with some of the fantastic vendors that are selling our beans in their shops.

Since I am new to the whole coffee thing, I have a lot of catching up to do. I need to fully understand the entire life-cycle of coffee--from seed to cup--in order to properly represent Bean & Leaf. As I delve into that research I will write up what I find so that together we can have a deeper appreciation for this ancient beverage. If you know of a particular book that I should be reading, please let me know in the comments.

There are lots of goings on at the shop so you can expect to hear recaps of all the fun we're having, as well as reports on tastings, markets and outside events where our coffee and tea are served.

This blog is also about the people that created this business, so very soon it will be time to tell the stories of Chris & Missy and their wonderful kids, as well as Hugh, Missy's father and Katie, her sister. Employee awesomeness will be mentioned here, and if there's time you may even get to hear a bit about me, too.

Of course, another thing that I've got to cover in this blog is the coffee itself. New origins, particularly good roasts, a blend we find divine, all of that will be fully documented here on Freshly Roasted.

The only things we ask are that you use that comment link and tell us what you think, that you send us any pictures of Bean & Leaf events, and that you stop by the shop and try the new offerings and say hello.

Coffee and tea are community beverages, drinks to be shared with friends with lively discussion and lots of laughter. We would love for this blog to reflect and enhance the amazing community already centered around our shop, and we need your help to do it!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Essence of Earth

Bean & Leaf loves farmer's markets. Not only because it's a great chance to offer our organic coffee to exactly the type of people that want to drink it, but also because we just love fresh, delicious produce. It is a chance to meet the people that work hard every day to grow amazing food, and that is so much fun. There is nothing better than eating food that was picked only a few days or maybe even a few hours earlier. That essence-from-the-earth adds a depth and richness to the meal that is unmistakable. It is exactly the same ethos we bring to roasting our beans and steeping our tea, and we hope you can taste it in every cup.

Solving Coffee Problems

Decisions are never easy, but I guess when it comes to selecting the house blend you will offer under your own name, it gets even tougher. Foodworks II had three blends from us: earth, perfect and moonless. The staff got together and tasted them, and across a handful of people the answer came back... tied. Well, earth and moonless tied, and perfect lost by 1. But now we have to figure out a way to help them decide between the two blends.

Perhaps a public tasting will solve the problem for them. We'll go into the store, make a big pot of each blend and let their customers sort it out. After all, this isn't only about what the staff at the store likes, but what their patrons will enjoy, as well. And if it has to come to blows, so be it. In the end, one blend will stand above.

Went to GreenDrinks tonight at iPark and it was a great event. Talked to some people who have horrid coffee in their office and so I'm going to go in let them taste how good it can be. They will be floored by the naturally occurring flavors. They are a green building company, and so they need to have our beans.

Also met the owners of a village store that is *the* morning stop-off in their town. Their building is a protected historical location and they want to fill it with organic and sustainable products, including fresh coffee and tea. We can help them do that. They seemed very excited about the idea of biodegradable cups, lids, stirrers, etc. Little do they know they won't even need sugar or cream.

Our coffee is sweet and delicious all on its own.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rare and Delicious

I cannot wait until the day I get to walk into a new store or coffee shop and start talking to them about our coffee, and I get to say to them, "Here, try this. I roasted these yesterday." And then watch their eyes light up when the sweet brew first hits their lips. Coffee that fresh doesn't appear very often.

Luckily, I won't have to wait long. Got a second lesson on the roaster and next time I'm on my own. It is a fairly straightforward process, but there are a lot of variables that can change the outcome of a roast. The amount of beans, how hot the roaster is before you start, vents, flame level, all kinds of little adjustments that will change the way they taste after they have cooled. I am very excited to learn the subtle intricacies of a perfectly roasted bean.

Also had to do a delivery this morning, and it was tons of fun. They were so happy to have our bags arrive. Foodworks II is a great natural food store on Main Street in Old Saybrook, and we are thrilled to be selling there. Right now they are also trying three different blends, and one of them will become their specialty house blend. We'll have a tasting there in 2 weeks (Sat March 21).

Speaking of tastings, the Whitneyville one Saturday went great. Even though it was pouring out the store was quite busy and a lot of people had a sample. We served Huehuetenango and Rwandan and the huehue only won out by a bit. 11 bags, total, out the door, and lots more ready on the shelves in a great central location. The pics, obviously, are from that event.

Tons more great stuff is coming up for Bean & Leaf. We're working on getting into several more stores and we hope to have some caterers serving our beans before too long. But the day we get a local coffee shop to carry our beans exclusively will be a very good day indeed. I'm certain it will happen soon.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tales From the Road

Traffic is off the hook in this little town of New Haven. Was just over in West Haven talking to a potential tea-buyer and the roads were clogged all the way back to the apartment. The return trip should have taken ten minutes but instead took nearly thirty. But no matter, that's how it's got to be. The only way to get people to purchase our beans is to go there and show them how amazing they taste. You cannot sell coffee or tea over the phone.

Then the there's the issue of the sale itself. Every one is a different experience, and I have to make sure to approach each person as an individual. That's easy. That's what I do. Some want to know about the source of the beans. Others want to know about our roasting process. Their questions determine what I focus on. The most disconcerting experiences are when the person I'm selling to knows more about coffee than I do. That will change the more I do this, obviously. Already I can identify individual origins by taste.

However, the one thing I have to keep an eye on is my tendency to talk quickly. I like to tell people everything about our beans and all the reasons they should have them in their store and how great it is that we use wind-power to run our store, that we have compostable bags, special house blends and everything else all at top speed because I've had, yup, you guessed it, lots and lots of coffee. I have to remember to slow it down and let it flow.

Really, all I have to do is hand them some huehue and let the beans speak for themselves. I'm just there to carry them around. Fast.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Flavors Buzz

Coffee is good for you.

It's even better when it's grown without pesticides and chemicals. And when the growers are compensated fairly for their amazing beans, their lives improve.

They get the beans to us and we roast them perfectly.

But the best part is when the just-cooled beans are shredded between burrs, then saturated with water, allowed to drip into your cup and then splashed across your tastebuds causing a cascade of flavor that keeps you up till 2:30am thinking about it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hamden Coffee Tasting

Bean & Leaf will be doing a coffee tasting on Saturday March 9 at the Whitneyville Food Center, located at 1248 Whitney Ave, Hamden, CT. We'll be serving at least 2 of our favorite coffees, one of which will definitely be the amazing Huehuetenango and the other will probably be our perfectly balanced House Blend.

We will be there from 9:30am to whenever the coffee runs out, but fear not, our beans will be available on the shelves starting that day.

It is a rare experience to have a chance to taste a variety of coffees at the same time. Usually you stop in for a cup, drink it and call it a day. On the weekend maybe you brew up a pot and enjoy it with the paper. But how how often to you brew up 3 pots, each made of different amazing beans, and then taste them side by side?

Much like wine, coffee has subtle and surprising flavors that truly come to light when you can taste one after the other. So if you are in the area, come on down and taste some beans roasted only hours before they are brewed for you.