Brandon's Notepad

June 15, 2020

Volcanic Red Coffee’s Sumatran Reserve

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 3:03 pm
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I happened across a bag of Volcanic Red Coffee’s Sumatran Reserve in the clearance section at the store one day. It was marked down to $3.99 (USD) per 12 oz. (340g) bag, so I figured it was worth a try. The description on the label reads: A full-bodied coffee, thick and syrupy, with dark chocolate notes and a hint of smokiness in the finish. Honestly, this is one of the best coffees I have ever tasted. Full-bodied is an accurate description and there is no dryness and no bad aftertaste at all. I also agree with the “chocolate” assessment as well. I have tried it black, creamed, and iced, and never once did it disappoint. Sadly, I do not see the “Sumatran Reserve” in the company’s online shop, but there is an Organic Sumatran offering and I will be looking for other roasts from this company in the future.

February 12, 2020

Pecan Coffee: Cameron’s Toasted Southern Pecan K-Cups

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 9:48 am
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To follow-up to the Cameron’s Toasted Southern Pecan ground coffee, I picked up a box of the K-Cups for the Keurig in the breakroom. As I’ve stated in other posts, I don’t expect much from K-Cups, but in this case I was completely blown away! The results were equivalent if not better than with the ground coffee. I can’t help but believe that this was due in part to the use of the Cameron’s EcoPod, which boasts a paper lid and compostable ring and filter instead of a plastic cup. The other part is just good coffee. To Cameron’s, the Keurig space isn’t a place to skimp on quality.

If that weren’t enough, I must relate what happened when I brewed a cup on the way out one evening. As I crossed the short walkway between the building and the parking garage, I was stopped by one of the executives. He asked me what kind of coffee I was drinking. I happily shared the name of the brand and flavor. He told me that the smell was amazing and he was surprised how well it lingered in the air. Now, it was a bit cool out and the air was moist, which accounts for why the aroma carried so well, but compliment on the smell can only be attributed to the quality of the coffee itself. Good job, Cameron’s!

February 10, 2020

Pecan Coffee: Cameron’s Toasted Southern Pecan

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 7:14 pm
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On a mildly-chilly day in mid-December, I broke out the trusty Melitta cup-top and a #2 filter and opened a new bag of Cameron’s Toasted Southern Pecan. I wasn’t expecting to try this one next, but I needed to replace my grinder at work and this one was already ground, so, why not?

Prior to this challenge, I didn’t know this brand at all. The company website states that it was founded in 1978 and was subsequently acquired in 1993. It is headquartered in Shakopee, Minnesota, a small suburb of Minneapolis. Maybe the branding changed recently or maybe it has taken this long for their coffees to reach the shelves in Texas, I don’t really know, but I don’t recall ever seeing it before. At this time, I can find it readily at Albertsons and Sprouts Farmers Market.

First impressions? The packaging is very nice. I like the style of the branding, especially the clipart-style steam lion emanating from the cup on the logo. The creamy white and bright red color scheme works well. The only element that doesn’t appear to be SVG is the photograph of the two pecan halves next to the flavor name on the front, but it works well in breaking up the composition and even adds pop.

Medium-light colored grounds confirm that the roast is indeed ‘light’ as labeled. The scent of the grounds was good when the bag was first opened, but nothing about it really screamed pecan. It became more rich when I broke up the brick that had formed in the bag. After that, it was impossible to escape the aroma.

Once brewed, the smell is nothing short of awesome! It doesn’t quite fill the room or anything, but it was there. It’s sweet and creamy smell, not stark or overpowering. The color is a beautiful reddish-brown, and not thin at all! One of my coffee mugs has speckles on the inside that can no longer be seen if more than a quarter-inch below the surface with this coffee. It feels full in the mouth and it goes down easy with no perceptible difference in aftertaste. I think it lives up to the motto “Always smooth, never bitter”. Very clean finish. Seriously, no bitter coffee face! I could easily drink this at my desk all day.

February 3, 2020

Pecan Coffee: Sprouts Toasted Pecan Coffee

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 5:38 pm
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We shop at Sprouts Farmers Market all the time! It is our primary grocery store and our primary source of coffee at home. The beans in the bulk dispensers is normally $10.99 per pound, but it is often on sale for $7 to $9, and the organic is often, but not always, the same price as the regular. Each store typically has three pump dispensers with different roasts/flavors for free taste-testing samples, though larger cups are available for a very reasonable price (I think it’s 99¢). This pecan coffee was regularly available as a sample in November and December and was inspiration for this tasting challenge.

The beans are matte, not shiny, indicating a shorter roast, the pecan flavor is present but not overpowering, and the taste of the coffee is good overall. It definitely doesn’t possess a chemical quality, but is much more natural-tasting than other flavored coffees. The only downside is that the aftertaste lingers, leaving the back of tongue dry. All of this makes it a really good “everyday” coffee, but it also means that there is nothing great to note about it. There is nothing that makes it stand out as an excellent pecan coffee.

January 31, 2020

Texas Pecan Coffee Challenge Extended

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 10:18 pm
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As usual, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry, or at least that’s Steinbeck’s take on life and in this case it has turned out to be true. I did get to taste quite a few of the pecan coffees before the end of the year, but I found no time to write about them as I had hoped. I felt very rushed and thought it would be better to spend a little more time getting to know each coffee than originally allotted. What’s more, there were a few surprises along the way that required some sorting out. Please watch for new posts next week for the next set of reviews.

December 17, 2019

Pecan Coffee: Green Mountain K-Cups

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 11:59 pm
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We switched to Keurig machines at work years ago. They are handy, efficient, and require less work for the day porters to maintain. The company supplies a variety of K-Cups, usually about 8 different kinds of coffee/tea at each coffee station. Most of the coffee is Starbucks brand and the remainder is typically Green Mountain. Based on this experience, I’ve learned to never expect much from the K-Cups in general, and much less from the Green Mountain selections (Dark Magic may be the one exception).

I managed to find two pecan coffees made by Green Mountain in K-Cup format: “Southern Pecan” and “Maple Pecan”. The Southern Pecan is a standard flavor available at the grocery store all year. The maple variety, however, is marked “Limited Edition” and was stocked with other seasonal foods, so I expect it will be unavailable in a month or so. I bought both on sale for approximately $7 for a 12-cup box.

Given my low expectations, I decided that I couldn’t judge these coffees too harshly, so my basis for evaluation is whether or not these are good enough to (a) buy my own coffee and bring it to work and/or (b) recommend that they swap out one of the existing selections for one of these (even if only temporarily for the seasonal maple variety).

One might expect to get one regular-sized cup of coffee from one K-Cup, so I brewed both of the coffees at the largest (10oz) setting. Both turned out to be very thin! The pecan scent is present, but the cup has to be close to the nose to be perceptible. The maple pecan has a slight syrup smell and taste, but it doesn’t add much over the southern pecan. Both are pretty much lifeless. So, I brewed another set at the smallest (4oz) setting, which made both a bit overpowering. Definitely too much maple! I added some milk (last resort) and that helped some, but I have become accustomed to taking my coffee black and adding cream and sugar just hides the taste of the coffee.

The verdict? Would I drink these regularly at work? No, definitely not, especially considering that they are competing with free Starbucks coffee. I will be leaving the leftover K-Cups in the breakroom for others to try.

December 16, 2019

Pecan Coffee: The Quick Fix Options

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 3:50 pm
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I’ve been busy for the last week collecting samples for my pecan coffee challenge. In the meantime, I thought it would be good to check on the availability of a few “quick fix” options for those on the go. I started looking around for pecan coffee at the big-name coffee shops and convenience stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and here is what I found.

A word of warning, this review is probably not for the real coffee aficionados out there, especially the ones that snub anything that isn’t natural, non-flavored whole beans roasted within the last 72 hours and packaged in a brown paper bag (delivered by drone in the pitch-black night of a new moon, etc., etc.). This post is for the busy people who yearn for pecan coffee but have no time to grind and brew for themselves. I’ll be covering the better options soon enough in subsequent posts.

The elephant in the room is obviously Starbucks, so we’ll address that one first. They do not have a pecan coffee on the regular menu, but they did offer a Fall seasonal Maple Pecan Latte in both 2017 and 2018. This was not a flavored coffee bean! It was an espresso-based drink sweetened with their Maple Pecan Sauce. The page for that drink is no longer available on the Starbucks website, but it can be found here on the Wayback Machine. The ingredients list clearly shows that no pecans are used in the sauce unless they are included in the “Natural Flavors”.

Next up is Dunkin’ Donuts. The only references I could find to pecan coffee at Dunkin’ online were for the Butter Pecan Swirl and Maple Pecan Swirl iced coffee drinks. Just to be sure, I called about a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts locations and asked if they have regular pecan coffee on the menu. The answer was no. I’m not really interested in their iced coffees for the purposes of this challenge, which doesn’t really matter, because they are seasonal drinks and not currently in the stores at the moment anyway.

IHOP and Waffle House seemed like good candidates, but no luck at either. Of the two, I thought that IHOP would be more likely to carry it, so again, I called a few of the restaurants and got several confirmations that they don’t offer it now, nor have they ever. If you find yourself there and are really hard up for a cup, I suppose (judiciously) using their butter pecan syrup as a sweetener might work in a pinch.

7-Eleven is always a good standby for coffee. The company does take their coffee seriously and they do sell a solid product with extra marks for variety and consistency. Yes, they have Texas Pecan coffee! And yes, it’s good! And very affordable! Now, please be aware that all of these factors (consistency, taste, price, etc.) are not accidental. Some dislike 7-Eleven coffee because it tastes engineered, or in other words, it doesn’t taste like real coffee. There are far more who obviously don’t care. All they know is that it tastes good, has a great price point, and doesn’t require standing in a long queue or drive-thru.

QuikTrip (QT) gas stations offer a huge variety of drinks, hot and cold. Ignoring the instant coffee makers (that also dispense various hot chocolates), each store sports about 6 to 8 self-service hot-coffee machines that brew from traditional coffee grounds. Typically, these contain different roasts plus decaf options, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flavored coffee, probably because that aspect is covered by the “Flavor Center” creamer dispensers. So, no pecan there either.

RaceTrac is QT’s closest competitor in the gas station food market, and their store layout is now almost identical. I hadn’t been in one for a few years, so I dropped by today to find more self-service coffee dispensers (that appear to grind beans on the spot as well), none of which contained pecan coffee.

The only place other than 7-Eleven where I found pecan coffee to go was at the coffee bar at (H-E-B) Central Market. They usually have about half a dozen roasts or flavors to choose from in metal thermal pump-style carafes. They serve Texas Coffee Traders brand coffee and their site reveals that all of their flavored offerings are based on light roast beans from Latin America and that the flavoring is done “in-house” which I assume means in Auston where the company is headquartered. Incidentally, it goes for $13.50 per pound online at the time of this writing.

So there we have it, two big-name stores that regularly serve pecan coffee “to go” in the DFW area. If you happen to know of any place that serves it that I missed, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

December 6, 2019

Texas Pecan Coffee Challenge

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 5:21 pm
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Nothing says “Autumn” to me like a hot mug of pecan coffee. Yes, pumpkin spice has been all the rage in recent years thanks to a certain big-name coffee shop chain, but pecan coffee became a signature taste of the Southern United States long before that. Besides the baseline “Texas”, “Georgia” and “Southern” pecan coffees, there are variants such as butter, cinnamon, caramel, praline, bourbon and rum. I typically steer away from flavored coffees, but pecan coffee is a standing exception to that rule.

This year, the cravings started just before Thanksgiving with a grocery store sample. I thought it would be nice to have some at home during the upcoming holidays, but the question was, which one? I immediately pulled out my phone and started looking for options, but with so many to choose from, I just couldn’t decide. I wanted to try them all! And why not? It sounded like a fun challenge: to try as many as I could before the end of the year. So far, I have found about ten different brands that I could reasonably sample in that amount of time without breaking the bank.

In accepting this challenge, I have also decided to revitalize my Tea & Coffee Journal concept. For over half a decade, I kept a series of journals on my blog primarily containing reviews of various coffees and teas. I stopped this practice several years ago because it was too difficult to maintain in the format I was using and my plans for elaborate taste tests were starting to exceed my capacity in terms of both time and budget. Something that was started for fun was turning into a real chore, so I had to walk away from it for a time.  Now that I have set up a proper site for this sort of content, I can blog more freely about my hot beverage experiences and then aggregate the posts in an annual digest there.

On that note, if you would like to read more about this little adventure as it unfolds, please follow me here on WordPress, and/or on Twitter, and leave any pecan coffee recommendations you may have in the comments section below.

March 9, 2016

Tea 2016

Filed under: Food & Drink,Tea — Brandon @ 4:52 pm
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Home > My Lists > Food & Drink > Tea > 2016

The teas I tasted in A.D. 2016 and what I thought about them. Prices are per pound.

Journal Contents

#1 Tiesta Tea
#2 Tiesta Fruity Pebbles
#3 Tiesta Kokomate
#4 Tiesta Blueberry Wild Child
#5 Tiesta Fireberry
#6 Tiesta Passion Berry Jolt
#7 Tiesta Nutty Almond Cream
#8 Tea Year in Review

Teas Highlighted

Tiesta Tea

  • Fruity Pebbles
  • Kokomate
  • Blueberry Wild Child
  • Fireberry
  • Passion Berry Jolt
  • Nutty Almond Cream


tea reviews

Journal Entries

#1 – March 9, 2016 – Tiesta Tea
As with my 2016 Coffee Journal, I got a really late start this year on my tea reviews as well. And while I still have several bags of Teavana loose leaf left to write about, I felt like writing about something new. The good news is, while I was too busy with other adventures to write here on a regular basis, I didn’t stop drinking tea and coffee, so I’ve been able to spend a little time with the Tiesta line of teas I picked up at Sprouts Farmers Market late last year, and can hopefully crank out a few reviews in relatively short order.

#2 – March 10, 2016 – Tiesta Fruity Pebbles
With a name like Fruity Pebbles, how could this not be the first Tiesta tea to be reviewed? I was once a big fan of the breakfast cereal by the same name. Unfortunately, without an ample dose of sweetener, the tea and the cereal don’t have a lot in common. The ingredients are listed plainly on the front of the pouch: green and white teas, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, and rose petals. Honestly, I didn’t like it at first. The leaves resemble an imperial cut, though more crushed and fragmented in appearance, and the little fruit bits make it too bitter for my taste. If you’ve read my reviews from previous years, you’ll remember that I like strong tea. The trick to this one is to steep it a tad on the weak side. Pour it into the cup while it is still a pale yellow-green and clear. Sweetener is a must, but only a little is needed to liven up the weaker brew. I tried both sugar and Truvia, and both worked equally well (no pun intended). Fruity Pebbles is part of Tiesta’s Slenderizer line, so if your intent is diet control, go easy on the sugar or use one of the the extracts.

#3 – March 24, 2016 – Tiesta Kokomate
The next Tiesta Tea on my list is Kokomate, part of the Energizer line. Rated high in caffeine content, the ingredients for this blend are yerba mate, rooibos, coconut, and cinnamon. I can’t give this one high marks for two reasons. First, I’m not a fan of rooibos. I know, why did I bother buying it then, right? Because the rooibos in some teas isn’t overpowering and actually blends well with the other flavors. And, I do like yerba mate, which is (IMHO) an aquired taste. This blend, however, is not to my liking. It seems to accentuate the properties of both teas that I do not find favorable, and the coconut and cinnamon aren’t strong enough to make up for it. To state it plainly, it is bland. The other reason is that the mixture is chopped up so fine that even my French press cannot filter the particles. A film of green bits float at the top of the cup and it is difficult, if not impossible, to skim all of them off. It’s no fun when one of the particles hits the back of the throat on the way down…especially when it sticks…right…there. Yeah, I’m done with this one.

#4 – October 18, 2016 – Tiesta Blueberry Wild Child
After a long summer hiatus from tea, I’m ready for cooler temperatures and a return to one of my favorite ways of staying warm. It’s already mid-October and we haven’t had that first “sweater day” in Texas yet. You know, that day when you step out in the morning and seriously consider whether you should go back in to grab a sweater. Nonetheless, I felt like having some tea this afternoon, so I dug into my stash and retrieved the baby blue bag of Tiesta Blueberry Wild Child. This blend is fully herbal – blueberries, hibiscus, elderberries, apple, and pomegranate, but no actual tea – and thus is completely free of caffeine. Its part of the Eternity line, which is comprised of teas full of superfruits and antioxidants. I really like this one! It has a great bold taste, and it does need a little sweetener to counter the bitterness. It is very good hot, like mulled wine of brewed strong enough, and the iced version is a nice substitute for sugary fruit drinks.

#5 – November 10, 2016 – Tiesta Fireberry
This flavor is from Tiesta’s Immunity line. It contains hibiscus, rooibos, currants, rosehips, elderberries and cranberries…and no actual tea, so there is also no caffeine. It brews to a beautiful red and does require some sweetener, though not a lot. The taste resembles red wine. The rooibos is there, but it is sufficiently obscured by the other ingredients. My only complaint is the floaters. If you use a tea ball, you may consider using paper filters for this tea instead.

#6 – November 11, 2016 – Tiesta Passion Berry Jolt
This is a very solid black tea. The only other ingredients are raspberry and passion fruit flavoring, marigolds, and cornflowers, and a quick inspection of the leaves reveals that the flower petals are used sparingly. The non-tea ingredients level out the bitterness with mild overtones, but other than that, it’s just a good basic black tea. Interestingly, Passion Berry Jolt is part of the Energizer line (as one might guess from the name) and the caffeine level is indicated as “high” on the bag, but if it’s just black tea, shouldn’t it be labelled as “normal”?

#7 – December 6, 2016 – Tiesta Nutty Almond Cream
Of all the Tiesta teas I tried this year, the Nutty Almond Cream just isn’t really my — well — cup of tea. It’s very mild with a cloudy after taste that reminds me of apple cider. It contains apple pieces, crushed almonds, cinnamon, and beetroot. The bright red and clear brew contrasts with both the taste as well as the lavender bag. I was definitely expecting something more…brown, I guess. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from trying it, because it isn’t bad, but it’s just not my thing.

#8 – December 30, 2016 – Tea Year in Review
As I mentioned in my Coffee Journal for this year, I had very little time to write and I look forward to doing a better job next year. I was glad to finally taste the Tiesta Tea offerings, though. I like the packaging and how they aren’t afraid to show the product in a little window that spans the front of the bad. And honestly, most of the flavors are quite good. In all, it was a good year, even if I didn’t get to taste as many teas as I had hoped.

March 2, 2016

Coffee 2016

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Home > My Lists > Food & Drink > Tea & Coffee > Coffee Journals > 2016

Coffee-related journal containing info, news, opinions, recipes, tips, tricks, hacks, and reviews for the year 2016.

Journal Contents

#1 Kindred Coffee Company
#2 Butter…in Coffee?
#3 East African Peaberry Coffee
#4 Central Market Tanzania Peaberry
#5 Addison Ethiopia Sidamo Peaberry
#6 Stir Crazy
#7 Addison Kenya Peaberry
#8 Coffee Year in Review

Journal Entries

#1 – March 2, 2016 – Kindred Coffee Company
I thought I’d kick off my 2016 Coffee journal on a positive note and write a review of one of my favorite North Texas coffee establishments, Kindred Coffee Company in North Richland Hills. Formerly named La Familglia Caffe, this spacious restaurant occupies a store front on the Southwest corner of Davis Boulevard and North Tarrant Parkway on the northern fringes of town. Spacious is, of course, a relative term, as it is huge in comparison to your typical coffee bar. The exposed ceiling and full length wrap-around windows really open up the place and the posh ’60s-retro furnishings add the sophistication of an upscale diner. Despite the chalkboard menus and burlap coffee bean sack decor, this is not your cozy sit-on-the-couch-by-the-fire coffee house. And I think that is what I like most about the place: atmosphere. The level of conversation in the room is usually constant but quiet, making it easy to chat with the person you are with or even just to get lost in your thoughts for a while. Yes, there is free Wi-Fi, but the password is posted on a wall, presumably to detract folks from taking up parking spaces without coming in for a drink. Speaking of the drinks, I have tried most of their espresso-based offerings and have yet to be disappointed. I have it on good authority that the Turkish coffee is made the “right” way, and I must agree that it is pretty tasty. The coffee of the day, usually a blend, is good too, and they make a mean matcha green tea latte. My wife and I usually split a dessert, which like the coffee, has not failed to impress. For breakfast, they offer what most (non-Czech) Texans incorrectly refer to as kolaches (it’s called a klobasnek, people), but theirs is made from a two- to three-inch hunk of smoked sausage wrapped in a croissant and heated to just the right temperature. I have yet to try the ham and swiss “kolache” (which actually looks more like a Hot Pocket) but I’m sure it’s up to par as well. And, if you are just too busy to sit for a spell and soak it all in, you can text your order directly to the kitchen and they will deliver it to your car when you arrive. Now that’s service!

#2 – March 30, 2016 – Butter…in Coffee?
I first discovered this trend via social media. It was listed in one of those “17 Things You Should Try” type of write-ups, only this one was about popular coffee hacks. As you can imagine, there is must debate surrounding the wisdom of consuming large quantities of butter, especially in lieu of a healthy breakfast, but I won’t be able to settle any of that here. If you want to read more about that, I recommend starting with Nextshark’s 5 Reasons Why Everyone Is Suddenly Putting Butter In Their Coffee, and Kris Gunnars’ 3 Reasons Why Bulletproof Coffee is a Bad Idea, and then move on from there. You will eventually find references to a man named Dave Asprey, who is a self-proclaimed biohacker and the creator of Bulletproof Coffee, a recipe consisting mainly of butter, MCT oil, and some magic coffee beans he found one day (though legend has it that he may have gotten them in a trade for an old organically-raised grass-fed cow). He was featured by Bloomberg in the article Buttered Coffee Could Make You Invincible and This Man Very Rich. So, maybe it is healthy for those on a low-carb diet, or maybe not. Perhaps science will eventually tell us. My big question is “How does it taste?” I hadn’t thought much about this until recently, when I happened to be in possession of some Kerrygold Irish Butter. Why is this relevant? Because you aren’t supposed to use just any butter. It’s only “healthy” if you use butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows. And despite the photos attached to just about every story on the topic, if you have a pat of butter floating around in a cup of Folgers, then you are doing it wrong. The butter must be blended into the coffee, and most authors (who, like myself are coffee snobs writing articles for the reading pleasure of other coffee snobs) will tell you to use only the highest quality beans, or at least a nice strong pot of your favorite roast. The butter is used, of course, in lieu of cream and sugar. To be honest, it isn’t bad at all, quite good actually. The mixture is velvety with no sign of an oil slick on top. I have grown accustomed to drinking coffee without sugar, so that doesn’t bother me, and while I won’t claim that the butter made the coffee sweet, I can say that it wasn’t nearly as bitter as usual. In short, it’s worth a try at least once, but like other skeptics, I wouldn’t make this a frequent luxury (much less a daily part of a hardcore diet) until some conclusive health studies have been conducted.

#3 – April 9, 2016 – East African Peaberry Coffee
I was perusing the bulk bins at Central Market the other day, looking for an interesting coffee to review, and three things jumped out at me: peaberries, Africa, and Texas. Not literally, of course. I just happened to notice that the word peaberry kept showing up on the bin labels and I realized that I didn’t know exactly what that really meant. I looked it up using my smart phone. Peaberry coffee beans come from cherries in which only one of the the two seeds is fertilized, resulting in a single roundish bean instead of two beans with flat sides. This is a natural mutation which can occur in any region, and the resulting brew is typically more acidic and complex, though lighter than that of the more common double bean. There are tons of websites that explain this, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to link any particular one here. I would like to point out an article by the Coffee Detective that warns the consumer that while peaberries do produce a different taste, that difference is not necessarily dramatic enough to warrant a higher price. In other words, the hype over peaberry coffees is just that: marketing hype. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth trying, so I started looking for peaberry coffees to sample. That’s when I noticed that almost (if not) all of the choices available came from African origins, and specifically East African. What was it I said about Texas you ask? Well, it just so happens that Central Market favors local roasters, and by that I don’t mean just Dallas-based companies, but roasters from all around the state. The coffee roasting business seems to be particularly popular in Austin, which seems fitting when one considers the food and art scene there. So that’s my theme for upcoming journal entries, a focus on East African beans, peaberries in particular, roasted right here in the Lone Star State.

#4 – April 25, 2016 – Central Market Tanzania Peaberry
I started my excursion into East Africa with Central Market’s own “In-House!” brand Tanzania Peaberry, which originates in the Mbeye region of Tanzania and is roasted in Austin, Texas. Based on what I have read so far, I should expect more from the Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees, and this being a store brand, I figured that I would start with the lowest perceived quality and move up. The bin label in the store described this coffee as “sweet and tangy with flavors of vanilla, lemon, honeydew, and toffee.” The only one of these flavors that I could really pick up on initially was the toffee. The brew was very light with a weak body, even in the French Press, and the overall taste was tangy. After several cups I was about to give up on this one, and then I tried it cold. Using no sugar or creamer, I simple poured a cooled cup over ice. The flavor really came out, and I could finally taste the hints of vanilla and lemon. The aftertaste, which was not to my liking when served warm, became sharp and crisp. The light body was now an asset, making this iced brew a refreshing rival to iced tea.

#5 – May 5, 2016 – Addison Ethiopia Sidamo Peaberry
The Sidamo Peaberry, roasted by Addison Coffee Roasters located in (you guessed it) Addison, Texas, just north of Dallas, led to a completely different experience than the Tanzanian variety. The brew is much deeper and redder in color, and the taste much more bold. The aftertaste is smooth, not nearly as acidic, and the flavor far more balanced, giving it a pleasant aftertaste. It rolls in the mouth very easily. I was pleased with the taste brewed black, with no cream or sugar. I tried this one iced as well, with less than satisfactory results, so I don’t recommend it. This is labeled as a limited edition, which may be why it is not currently listed on their website.

#6 – July 29, 2016 – Stir Crazy
There has been a movement in the last few years to revive some of Fort Worth’s older neighborhoods, especially around the arts and medical districts. Magnolia Street in the Fairmount District is one of these, as new restaurants and other shops seem to have sprung up almost overnight. Looking for an afternoon treat one day, we ventured into Stir Crazy Baked Goods at the corner of Magnolia and 5th. I make it a point not to review an establishment after the first visit (unless I don’t see myself returning) and this is no exception, but I left that day wanting to write something to their praise. I resisted. Now, after a few more visits, I feel confident in recommending this as a great place to grab a piece of cake and cup of coffee with a few friends. The building they occupy was built in 1923, and though I have no idea what businesses were located there before, it is easy to imagine the place as a diner, soda shop, barbershop, or clothing boutique. Huge plate glass windows allow light to flood the dining room. Walls and fixtures are painted in a low-sheen black to contrast the white tin ceiling tiles and ductwork. And nothing screams “local start-up” like a mishmash of wooden tables and chairs from various genres of dining room furniture. The pastry case contains a medley of sweet offerings, but I am rather partial to the cakes displayed in glass domes above. As for the coffee, they serve locally-owned Avoca coffee, which I have not had time to review yet, but it is on my list. It is served from steel, self-service, pump-action airport dispensers in porcelain tea and coffee cups (if you are staying). And the coffee tends to be a bit on the weak side for my taste. That’s it? That’s my big rave? Yep. Sometimes its not about the coffee, but about the coffee experience. This place has a great atmosphere, and to be fair, they don’t claim to be a coffee house. It is a bakery that serves coffee. And it is great.

#7 – September 7, 2016 – Addison Kenya Peaberry
This is my third and last sampling of East African Peaberry coffees. I purchased the beans last Spring, along with the others, tasted it, formed my opinion, took notes, and then got too engulfed in the stuff of daily life to write the journal entry. The summer passed. I lost my notes, probably while cleaning my desk, and had to start over. Usually, when I sample several coffees like this, I buy just enough beans of each kind to make two or three small cups. However, when I went back for more Addison Kenya Peaberry, I knew that I was low on coffee at work so I filled a larger bag with about a quarter of a pound of beans, a decision I would eventually regret. Had I not lost my notes, I would have remembered that I did not like this particular coffee. This is nothing against Addison, as I rather liked their Ethiopian Sidamo. The profile of this coffee is different than the other two. It is not tangy like the Tanzanian, and not as smooth as the Ethiopian. It is very bold and I do not care for the aroma of the grounds. With enough beans on hand, I started to experiment. In the end, I found that a very light brew made with half of the coffee I usually use and creamed with frothed milk (no sugar) made for a very nice cup. Even then, this is far from my favorite coffee.

#8 – December 30, 2016 – Coffee Year in Review
As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on things that went well this year and things that could’ve been better. Professional development dominated my time and attention, which was a big plus, but it cost me the freedom to read and blog at my leisure. As a result, my backlog of research topics grew and I often had no choice but to save off information with no real plan for integrating it into my work. All I could do was make a promise to myself that I would eventually get back on task. This coffee journal is no exception. I was pleased to expand my entries to include reviews of local coffee establishments and I enjoyed the dive into East African coffee, but I had plans for much more than I managed to accomplish. Hopefully, 2017 will bring about some pleasant changes.

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