Two Unrelated Points About Coffee

If you truly love coffee and you’ve written Kaldi’s off, don’t!

While I’ve personally been critical of them in the past, I’ve never disliked them as a roaster and it’s time for an update because over the last couple years, as they’ve gotten into direct sourcing of green coffee and consumer education, they’ve raised the bar in regards to what coffee can be in St. Louis. Many of these beans have been fantastic and Kaldi’s regularly hosts educational cuppings and brewing demonstrations in each of their locations to teach you about what the various regions and varietals of coffee taste like, and how to get the most from them at home.

Additionally,

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Get it Fresh: Intelligentsia Zirikana @ Whole Foods

Delivered Monday to Whole Foods Brentwood was a Direct Trade Intelligentsia coffee, the Zirikana, Rwanda: Bufcafe, that was roasted 2010.02.04.

Here’s what Intelligentsia has to say about the coffee..

Extremely fruit-forward and sincere. Peach nectar precedes a honeyed mouthfeel and an extended flavor of grape, lime and nectarine. A finish of cacao and walnut frame the experience.

Get it while it’s fresh…and sorry I didn’t mention it sooner.

Note: Because coffee is so much better fresh, I welcome any coffee roaster or merchant of specialty coffee in St. Louis, that has dated roasted products, to email me when you have a freshly roasted coffee.  I will post it for people to snatch up at its best.

Buckle Up For Caffeine Insanity*

Linea Espresso Machine
Pi’s 2-group Linea w/ PID rebuilt by Barry Jarrett–formerly of Riley’s.

Due to the unfortunate closing of the Central West End location of Companion Bake House, today was to mark the opening of Chris Sommers’ new Pi Coffee Bar–located under the loft of Pi’s new Central West End location.  Teaming up with Matt Herren and Debbie Sultan of Edwardsville’s Goshen Coffee and 222 Artisan Bakery, the plan was to begin carrying a full line of Goshen’s coffee and teas as well as Sultan’s award winning pastries.

Of course, to run a great coffee bar, you need a great manager and barista, and when the topic of who to run the bar came up last Thursday, Herren told Sommers there was only one choice: Alex Brooks.  In a whirlwind of a day, the call went out, and an offer was made, mulled over, and accepted by Brooks.

For St. Louis coffee fans, this is great news.  A more passionate coffee professional you will rarely find.  It does, however, mean that the opening has been delayed as Sommers feels it wouldn’t be right to open without Brooks at the helm.  Sommers is, after all,  hoping to raise the level of what coffee can be in the Central West End saying about the Brooks acquisition, “I can’t afford him, but I can’t afford not too.”

Speaking with Brooks last week, he is currently putting the finishing touches on his employment in Portland and is excited for the opportunity to be back amongst his friends putting his mark on St. Louis coffee.

At this time, the plans are to now open Monday, February 8, with the hours being Monday-Saturday 6-11AM.  Be sure to stop in to welcome Alex home.

Full Disclosure: Alex Brooks, Matt Herren, Chris Sommers, and Debbie Sultan are all friends of mine.

* The title is lifted from a text message Sommers sent to me.

Coffee Shops: A Public Debate

Who knew this would be the one to get me to dust off that seldom used computer keyboard?

A response to Brooke Foster’s, Annoyed, Party of One

Brooke (or anyone else for that matter minus the first paragraph),

I know you.  I like you.  Alot actually.  You and your husband, frankly, rock.  You make St. Louis better.  But for the sake of debate (I love to argue) I offer a rebuttal:

First, the parented-by-conservatives in me has never been able to remove myself from the fact that at best, a jumbo super latte is like $6.00.  Having people hang around for 3 hours when they’ve spent $6.00 doesn’t exactly spell “good business practice”.

Second, as an admitted coffee snob, I actually hate shops with this kind of loitering.  Many times I have gone into the Carondelet Kaldi’s to (for once) enjoy my cappuccino “for here.”  Met with an endless sea of MacBook* toting students intent on sipping $6.00 lattes for hours, however, I had to take it “to go.”  I do not blame Kaldi’s for this in any way.  Their Carondelet shop is still the best coffee shop in St. Louis, MO proper, but it is annoying just the same.

Third, I do not know where you live, but I have an idea of where you live.  As I don’t see you patronizing the sewer of St. Louis coffee (MoKabe’s**), I offer to Gut Check readers both Hartford and Shaw’s as possibilities.  If you, in fact, enjoy coffee, Hartford should probably be avoided anyway because they don’t particularly try to make good coffee.  When last I went they had a super-automatic espresso machine.  Though, perhaps, that makes it a good solution to studying and paperwork as there won’t be all those pesky coffee lovers to contend with.

Lastly, the $6 latte is not coffee.  If the $6 latte is your preferred drink of choice–or worse still you like your $6 latte iced–you could just go get yourself a coffee flavored milk shake at Jack In the Box and do your work there.  It’s not a very big fast food restaurant though, so the tables might still be too small to really spread out.

* I tote both a MacBook and an iPhone so I have no room to talk.

** If you’re sitting there thinking, “Fuck that Bill Burge.  He doesn’t know what MoKabe’s does for Gay and Lesbian rights in St. Louis!”  The reality is I do know what they do.  I applaud what they do.  But that doesn’t make their shop any cleaner, or their coffee any better.  As a coffee shop, it still sucks.

Goshen Coffee @ Foundation Grounds

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And in still more local coffee news, Ian Froeb and Melody Meiners of toastedrav.com reported that Foundation Grounds is now open in Maplewood. Between the two of them they covered most of the W’s (like it’s being Green) except for one: Foundation Grounds is another Missouri notch for Edwardsville’s Goshen Coffee.

Continuing to increase their West-Side presence, their drip and espresso coffees are becoming increasingly easy to find around town as prominent spots like Pi, Winslow’s Home, Local Harvest Cafe, The Good Pie and Niche turn to them for service.

Event: Midwest Regional Barista Competition

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In other Kaldi’s Coffee news, don’t forget they are once again hosting the SCAA’s Midwest Regional Barista Competition. Last year’s event, held at Third Degree Glass factory, was a huge success and this year’s is shaping up to be even better. Changing venues to the Soulard Preservation Hall, I’ve heard rumors that several baristas from local shops not represented last year will be competing. For coffeegeeks, this is exciting news, and I’m hoping it will add a new dimension to the local barista pool. However, with the depth of talent at the Crescent Kaldi’s, and two top five performances for them last year, Kaldi’s is still the local shop to beat.

Kaldi’s, however, has a formidable opponent in the PT’s Coffee crew who will once again be rolling in from Topeka, KS. Taking first and third last year, their barista, Pete Licata, took the the top spot before going on to receive second place nationally in the United States Barista Competition. (It seems Pete works for Kaldi’s now) Additionally–though not barista news–another strong showing for them would be like icing on the cake as they were recently named the 2008 Roast Magazine [Macro] Roaster of the Year.

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As for the remaining spot in last year’s top five, it went to a barista from one of Kansas City’s top shops, The Roasterie. Like last year, their competitors should be good and relaxed for the event as, even when they aren’t bagging trophies, they prove they know how to ride in style.

Full details on the competition can be found at kaldiscoffee.com, but the general break down of the weekends events is as follows:

  • Friday, January 30, 2009: Round 1: Day 1
  • Saturday, January 31, 2009: Round 1: Day 2
  • Sunday, February 1, 2009: Final Round

After the jump, check out Pete Licata’s winning performance from last year.

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Kaldi’s Coffee Series @ Whole Foods

KaldsDine.pngWhat’s that? You love coffee but you wish you knew more about it? Well then you’re in luck because the Galleria Whole Foods will be hosting a three part class with Kaldi’s Coffee starting later this month.

Held one Saturday a month from January to March, the classes will be led by Kaldi’s roaster and coffee buyer, Tyler Zimmer, and head barista trainer Mike Marquard. Together they will cover what it takes to get coffee from the farm and into your cup (January 24), how to brew the best possible cup at home (February 28), and espresso (March 21). Marquard will, no doubt, be leading the espresso class as he came in 21st (out of 50) in last years United States Barista Championship in Minneapolis. This makes him one of the more qualified locals to talk to you about quality espresso (and the reason I signed up). With class size limited, and registrants basically getting a 50% discount in the form of a free bag of coffee, sign up soon if you’re interested!

You can register online at wholefoodsmarket.com and, full details (and a bonus) can be found after the jump.

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Weird Consumerism

Starbucks ornaments
Now granted, I realize I was the one in Starbucks this morning, but still, who are the people that buy Starbucks Christmas ornaments?

The Boobs are Back

starbucksThey shut stores down to discuss quality and renew “focus on espresso standards.”

They bought the Clover prompting coffeegeeks to shudder and Stumptown to pull them from their stores.

And starting yesterday the original topless logo has returned to signal Starbucks commitment to quality along with their new Pike Place Roast which Howard Schultz says “is truly one of the best coffees we have offered our customers in our 37-year history and it will reinvent brewed coffee.”

They have also migrated to “30-minute hold times for brewed coffee” and with a renewed focus on quality say that The Pike Place blend is both “Fresh” and “Hand-Scooped.” With all the bags on display in the shop I went to having roasted dates of 3/24 though, it was already two weeks old the minute it arrived.

So take note when you go to buy that next bag of coffee that while local roasters like Goshen, Kaldi’s and Northwest may not have topless logos, they do have fresh roasted coffee that was hand-scooped all along.

Do you think they’ll have to change all those green signs to brown now? 

St. Louis Community Farmers’ Market Saturday

stlcfarmmarkDon’t forget the St. Louis Community Farmers’ Market is this Saturday.

Here’s a message from Market Manager Mike McLellan

Hello again everyone!

Spring is just around the corner, sprouts are springing, buds are bursting… um, wait a sec, now it’s snowing :(

Things can be unpredictable this time of year but this I promise – it’s time for another session of the St. Louis Community Farmers’ Market!

Don’t forget to bring your bags, coffee cups, and a friend this Saturday! This week we will keep the doors open until 12:30pm to accommodate all of the latecomers.

For more information, including the latest updates to this week’s vendor list, click here: February 8th

You can view a complete list of vendors at the Market’s Google Groups page for the event, but here’s the skinny:

What: St. Louis Community Farmer’s Market
When: Saturday, Mar 8th; 8:30 am – 12:30pm
Where: Indoors at St. John’s Episcopal Church
3664 Arsenal
St. Louis, MO 63116