The lastest from Gregorys Blog

The Greggies 2015

Posted on June 26, 2015

Last Saturday we were a no-show beyond 2pm at all stores usually open at that hour. But with very good reason. Months in advance, the day was set as the 24-hour mark for celebrating all employees and attempting to validate the immeasurable work they do to deliver top-notch coffee and a ceaselessly positive environment.

Greg like "yo"

Gregory, attempting composure in anticipation.

The occasion was also a red-ribbon moment of sorts, as everyone bar Gregory got a first look at what's soon to be a roastery - the Gregorys Roastery. Still somewhat hush hush as to when we're officially up and running with it, but we got to observe the massive space and creep up on some roasters that you might mistake for a train. Our excitement could be deemed similar: train-like in its capacity to bulldoze our common standing and fall over ourselves in rapture.  Even still, we must compose ourselves and appreciate the current state of our wonderful relationship with Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, who allow us to exercise an effective complete control over our coffees, and be with the roaster at every step of the way in deciding upon (i.e. tweaking fanatically) the final roast profile for the coffees that land in our stores.

Anyhow, enough of the future and some more on last Saturday: a feast was set, glasses were raised and dances married body and soul. There were also prizes. But before we get to that, let's have a look at some of the cast:

39th and Fash

Here's 39th and Fash looking, well, fashionable - and Phillipe (not of Fash) taking care of lighting.

31st and Sixth

Here's most of the 31st St. crew - Esther missed the group shot, and was duly photoshopped into existence thereafter.

80 Broad

The ladies of 80 Broad, and Gregg (yes, Gregg) photobombing - but more on him later.

33rd and Park

33rd and Park, out in force - Phillipe, once again, out of place.

40th and Madison

BUT, here's Phillipe and Zenda, representing 40th and Mad as assistant manager and manager respectively.

With these wonderful folks flocking to the Greggies, the setting was quickly saturated with chitter-chat and clinking cutlery. A few hours of this and Maciej (Director of Coffee), Bailey (Director of Education), and Gregory (Gregory) then took center-stage to dish out prizes for all those baristas worthy in a specific (sometimes silly) feat of going above and beyond in all-round good service:

The Trio

The Trio

The prizes went from most likely to say "I'm Dead" (with laughter) to a lifetime achievement award (with no "I'm Dead" in sight, thankfully); there was a broad appeal to a sense of fun, matched by a high-spirited sense of appreciation on all fronts. Here are a few of the victors:

Ecstatic Reactions

Ecstatic Reactions - here's Duane with Cookie Monster on high; he won best vocal performance, Hardcore/Metalcore.

Greg and Ariel

Ariel won the "Customer Helper" award for the all-day arm and leg he gives; he got a Star Wars set cus he's a real... Trooper?

Adriana Wins

Adriana won the Lifetime Achievement Award; she's manager over at 80 Broad and <3 married to Carlos, manager at 39th and Fash. She even taught coffee-buff Maciej how to steam a latte back in the day.

Gigi, Gigi, how you doin' ha

Here's Gigi with Greg, breaking all kinds of no-flex barriers; Gigi won the award for most indomitable ego, which came in the form of a book by founder of analytical psychology, C. G. Jung. She claims that she hasn't got an ego, that it's just "real talk" #staywoke, so it's unlikely to go down well when Jung tries to tell her everyone has an ego: "Do you even lift, young Jung? Do. You. Even."

There was another camera guy stationed outdoors - usually stationed behind bar at 31st Street - by the name of Samuel Lopez. He managed to take a number of lovely profiles of some lovely baristas. He also does weddings:

Mark and Alvar

Here's manager Mark and assistant Alvar, who can be found taking care of business over at 31st Street. Both resemble Garfiend and Jon Arbuckle in equal parts; it's hard to know at what time they'll be down for no-nonsense or down to get down. Mark won the Manager of the Year Award, so thank him if you stop by 31st - although Alvar also deserves praise, being so equal-and-opposite.

Emma and Darren

It's Emma and Darren i.e. Darma (?). Emma's manager over at 33rd and Park, while Darren's worked in just about every location, but currently spends most time assisting Maciej and Bailey over at 31st Street in the Training Center - makes sure people know everything about each new coffee that comes in, and spills the beans on various facets of the coffee world in monthly lectures.

Gregg

Last but not least, here's Gregg (yes, Gregg) who was something of an unsung hero at the event. Manager over at 24th and Park, he is soon to take the mantle of Head Roaster over at - where else - The Gregorys Roastery. Once again, this is hush hush, but Gregg is currently undergoing some rigorous training to roast to the taste's content. We've got to reiterate that we can't wait for everything to be ready; once it is, Gregg will be leading the charge in appeasing "The Trinity" (Greg, Maciej, and Bailey) and making sure the coffee tastes profound and is deliverable to any one of our stores in under a heartbeat. Exciting times at Ridgemont High, or like... Gregorys. Look forward to where we'll be at the next annual Greggies!

Gregory at 1st Greggies

"That's all for now"

New Single Origins

Posted on June 25, 2015

With the month of June upon us, we've had to start shifting gears - air conditioning on and much bigger batches of cold brew being prepped - but it's not just a matter of function and adaptability, we're also concerned with the sense of summer and our sense of taste. With that in mind, including our general interest in switching things up - introducing new and exciting coffees for palates to go budding mad over at regular intervals - we've selected three new single origins, brewed to produce distinct clarity and lightness of body (already perfect for the summer) over at the aeropress bar. Here are the latest:

Santiago

Origin: Guatemala

Tasting Notes: Clementine; Hazelnut; Lemon Meringue Pie; Macadamia Nut.

This creamy coffee of gentle citrus acidity stems from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. Said region is a key word in the coffee-growing vocabulary, being renowned for sweet and elegant coffees such as this. Those with an orthographic eye that registers sound through spelling, may pronounce the first two syllables like a pompous chuckle, but it's actually "WAY-WAY-te-NAN-go" - Far out. Maciej, Director of Coffee, hits the nail on the head with this coffee in saying: "It’s creamy, it’s complex, and we love it".

You should also consider stopping by 100 Wall Street; there's a Santiago who works there, and he has promised to sell this coffee to the moon and back.

Beriti

Origin: Ethiopia

Tasting Notes: Watermelon; Jasmine; Peach; Lemon.

Every time we have a coffee in from Ethiopia, we feel it necessary to state the facts a bit: Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and the most biodiverse coffee-growing region on the face of the planet. The Beriti comes from the region Yirgacheffe, the contemporaneous favorite for all coffee buffs living in the present day. Washed Yirgacheffes (for what we mean by "washed", a look at our Coffee Processing Class would fully instruct) are known to be floral and delicate with tea-like bodies and gentle acidity. This describes the Beriti coffee perfectly. Field Marshal Maciej has this to say: "There’s a little tropical fruit in this one as well, making it as fine a coffee as any to relax with in the summer."

These two coffees belong to the Gregorys Select program, meaning we source the beans ourselves and select the roast profile with the assistance of good judgment and our friends over at Irving Farm, who have lent us the talent and facilities of their roastery - in this way, we get to introduce you to some stellar coffees, roasted in a way that brings out flavors once dreamed of, at a price most beneficent for keeping bank.

Mamuto AB

Origin: Kenya

Tasting Notes: Raspberry; Lime; Blackberry.

Third and final on this updated list is from our guest roaster, George Howell. That well-rounded name brings roundness in the shape of a smile whenever uttered; George Howell, needless to say, is a bit of a boss on the coffee circuit. He invented the frappuccino, but, a man of artful contradictions, he believes firmly in the gift of the land - terroir - and would love if all the world were to join his philosophy of loving coffees that make the shortest distance from crop to your cup (in terms of the number of hands and tamperings it goes through), with all inherent flavors remaining intact. He also calls coffee a "30 minute pleasure trip", emphasizing that there is much to be observed and enjoyed as your coffee's brewed hot and cools over time. The Mamuto inhabits these ideas perfectly, giving plenty of flavor to take that 30-minute mull over. You can observe his exact thoughts on this coffee in the following link. As for Maciej, he has this here to say: "Great Kenyan coffees often have strong citrus acidity and notes of bright red berries. This one has all of that and unmatched sweetness and clarity."

Maciej has much more to say on these coffees, and as Director of Coffee he puts it more succinctly than most; a lot about the way these coffees move hands and preserve their uniquely delicious quality can be observed by clicking this here link

Education Time: Palate Development

Posted on June 5, 2015

In the month of May, Gregorys folk made their way to our coffee lab to be instructed on that of the utmost to all invested in coffee's possibilities: palate development. We can roast beans until the cows come home and make milk for our lattes, but without that exploratory reward derived from consuming cup after cup, it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to feel compelled to improve upon the coffee we brew. The makeup of our impressions are the font to our imagination, and without the latter there would be little urge to seek finer coffee and improve upon what's already there. Imagination is spurred by the impression of taste in this case (although "taste", as we'll soon see, is not the most well-comported term to turn to), the sense giving structure to our delight - not only self-delighting, but serving to mould the collective ambitions of all those with hearts that pore over the cultivation of coffee cherry.  

With this in mind, let's get to you and your palate. Bailey, Director of Education at Gregorys, relied on words from friends to introduce the matter; she voiced Julie Housh from Intelligentsia Coffee in saying:

“In the most basic of terms, palate development is simply taking the time to really think about a food or a fragrance, and to better store its qualities away for recall at a later time.”

She appended this last phrase with the strain that refers to the notion mentioned previously, that "taste" is not the encompassing term we might think: "Taste may be innate, but flavor is learned."

Now, let's get to picking these statements apart. Why give such credence to flavor? Because this is the developmental side of eating; the side in which we gather individuated preferences. Taste is there and it stays there. There are five kinds of basic tastes, which we'll get to, but it's also necessary to address why thinking while eating ("consuming" seems encompassing enough for this think/drink activity) is important for developing tastes, and why the power to recount these thought-of-flavors at a later date governs so much of what we enjoy. Taste and smell are strongly indebted to memory; in this here link, you'll be brought to another blog post of ours in which all the info is imparted on how the limbic system (the part of the brain devoted to memory and emotion) does some severe gymnastics in order to get you on track with your likes and dislikes. Please read if you are looking to see the key to all epicurean inclinations.

Now to taste.

So, we have five basic tastes that identify certain characteristics in all the food we consume: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami/savory. All look overly familiar, apart from maybe the last of them. But what is meant by each?

Sweetness is found in simple carbohydrate compounds such as sucrose i.e. sugar. Sugar is a quick source of calories/caloric energy, so we are naturally predisposed to seek it out like "yoo-hoo". Hence the fact that "sweet" can be used in relation to one's attractive nature, or to express the self-satisfied sigh of someone enjoying a breeze/life ongoing. Foods accused of sweetness are sugar, fruit (fructose), dairy (lactose), plants (glucose), and artificial sweeteners (sucralose).

Sourness is ascribed to the taste of acidity. While commonly mistaken for something undesirable, acidity is usually pleasant, but can become unpleasant at high levels; under-extracted coffee is leaning towards the no-side of acidity, while we often tout the exciting acidity to be found in our single origins menu. Those acids doing time for being incessantly acerbic: citric, acetic, lactic, malic, phosphoric, etc.

Bitter is next, and less defensible when it come to desirability, though we shall do our best to dispute. Barb Stuckey, author of Taste: Surprising Stories and Science about Why Food Tastes Good, notes how our ability to denote bitterness helps us identify toxic substances. Not such good news for caffeine, which is inherently bitter... BUT, that's where the art of coffee pulls through: we consume coffee nonetheless, making sure we hit that sweet spot when getting the espresso perfectly extracted, and giving ourselves the option of adding milk - that lactose-sweet goodness - of varying shapes and foams. Day saved. We can enjoy the caffeine-boost and the richly complex flavor of coffee. Other bitters among the usual suspects: citrus peel, alkaloids, unsweetened cocoa, and most compounds with medicinal effects.

Coffeeeeee

Coffee - where sweet beats bitter.

A most exceedingly popular taste next: salty. Like sugar, a chemical imbalance drives our inclinations to seek it out; since our bodies can't store excess sodium, we look for seafood, celery, and sodium chloride like those with an arguably unhealthy attraction to those behind bars.

Umami/savory is the last and least regarded of the series, but just as essential. Likely under-looked for the reasons that it was only recently identified and exists as a loanword from the Japanese; it was first observed by Kikunae Ikeda, a professor of the Tokyo Imperial University, in 1908. People taste umami through receptors for glutamates/amino acids, and often describe it as brothy, or meaty. This taste of adumbrated definition is far more guilty than it lets on, accounting for some of the delicious flavors to be found in beef, mushrooms, seaweed, parmesan cheese and cooked tomatoes.

With these five tastes under our belts in theory, we were all passed a concentrated dose of each to be sipped with tea spoons. For this, there was very good reason: to get calibrated. Sounds like when the Power Rangers go "It's morphin' time!", but it's far more important to us coffee snoots than a potential end-of-the-world scenario. Calibration is how we get to the point of 'using the same standards for evaluation, separate from personal experience.' (Counter Culture Cupping Calibration ProDev, 2015). There are a number of skill-based cupping programs and certifications, established to cup and grade the coffee, settinging standards for excellence that get great coffee the recognition it deserves.

Assisting professionals and neophytes alike, the SCAA  (Specialty Coffee Association of America) developed the coffee taster's flavor wheel, not unlike those used in the wine and cheese industries. There's plenty on the flavor wheel contained in our Sensory Class blog post, but the basic gist is that the wheel establishes a common vocabulary with which to trace our sensations; a set of non-arbitrary flavor descriptors to use while cupping. This is important for people in the same company, people in different companies, different parts of the industry (roaster, barista), and different countries (roaster or importer, producer at origin) to all be able to speak the same “language” so to speak - to refer back to the same standards. These standards can then surpass the building blocks of taste and come to terms with the unique flavors in the coffees we come across; like Proust's madeleine cake, we find this lingo can assist us in retrieving past sensations and - not just that - conform it to tastes and memories stemming from beyond our own impressions. Beat that Proust.

SCAA Flavor Wheel

Beyond Good Fortune

To top off the lecture, we drank our current single origins, but not without first tasting the physical manifestations of their tasting notes. For example, chocolate, oranges, and graham crackers preceded our sample of the Eraulo & Lauana. It would be neat to transmit this experience via the blog, but technology has its limits. Wa waa. Nevertheless, it may be a pretty great exercise to take part in yourself: just tag along one of our retail bags and try brewing it at home - our Aeropress comes at the nifty price of $27.99 and brews coffee of distinct clarity. Tasting the components beforehand (fistfuls of chocolate, orange and graham crackers) may direct some interesting impressions and reveal hitherto unnoticed aspects in your cup. The tastiest of experiments. Enjoy!

Hudson Valley's Fresh: Gregorys' Field/Farm Trip

Posted on May 21, 2015

Road triiiiip: Gregorys have just wrapped up a day-trip to Hudson Valley Fresh, proud preservers of the agricultural heritage of the Hudson River Valley. We are, likewise, proud providers of their product by way of all the assistance that milk lends to delicious coffee. But milk is no monolith--we are not required by default to praise the curve of its undivided syllable. Sometimes milk is not the mirror of a bucolic reverie, but a silent inhabiter of artificial growth hormones and equal inhibitor to a cow's happiness. Hudson Valley Fresh are of the philosophy that a healthy cow = a happy cow = a source of great milk. This may sound like some shtick that sticks to Brooklynites who take their dogs to yoga classes, but it's got well-to-do facts to back it up; something Hudson Valley Fresh were only too happy to impart.

D.J. and Cow

Mr. D.J. meets Cow

First step to a happy camper/cow is a rich and varied diet. Hudson Valley Fresh feed their cows alfalfa, oats, barley, soybeans, corn silage and "lots and lots of hay". Why the emphasis on that last part? Because hay is great for the immune system and has the cow chewing away at a greater rate. Hay and healthy chewing mean more omega-3 fatty acids, a better ratio between omega 3 and 6, and a better quality cream. Omega-3 is good for all the good stuff: crucial for normal growth, brain function and development; known to reduce inflammation, and can lower the risk of heart disease as well as other chronic dilapidations. It seems that syzygetic (if you were up on your dictionary.com last week?) formula that Hudson Valley Fresh has going is proving its worth: healthy cow = happy cow = great source of milk.

One particular point of pride for Hudson's milk is their record-low level of somatic cells in the milk that they produce. Somatic cell counts (SCC) are an essential quality to monitor in herds. Each tank of milk produced is checked in order to give an early indication of infection; somatic cells being leucocytes (white blood cells) that mobilize in order to  ensure that milk is without such infection. Cows with unhealthy udders are going to produce milk with a higher SCC in order to save you from themselves--quite a dire state, and surely not so good for any conscientious cow with Buddha-like inclinations towards moral equanimity.

The federal government’s SCC legal limit on bulk milk is 750,000 cells per milliliter; most industrial and organic dairy farms have an average of 420,000 cells per milliliter. The somatic cell count of every one of Hudson Valley Fresh’s farms is under 200,000 per mm at all times--and actually the range is from 45,000 to 160,000 per mm, which is unheard of in the industry. This is a indicator of cleaner milk, a healthier cow, and better taste; after all, the milk, containing more of what is essentially good and sweet for us, is going to be of great benefit to a flavorful latte. The great coffee-tasters over at the labs of Cornell University will back Hudson Valley Fresh up on that.

Assistant Manager Andie

Assistant Manager Andie + Cow having DMC (deep meaningful conversation)

One last godsend when it comes to low somatic cell counts, lending a hand both in terms of flavor and healthful disambiguation: Hudson Valley Fresh do not ultra-pasteurize their milk; they pasteurize for 20 seconds at 166 degrees.  That’s in contrast to much industrial and organic milk, which is ultra-pasteurized i.e. heated to 280F. This not only effects the flavor of the milk, but the nature of the protein. Over at Hudson, the problem is confronted before it's created: lipase and protease, undesirable enzymes which rise proportionally with SCC, have no need to be broken down by such excessive heat. Sure this unnatural process might give the milk a longer lease of life, but it's also rendered flavorless; Hudson's milk arrives to our stores within 36 hours of being produced, and we have away with it in no time at all--with our combined efforts, the milk'll be in your cup before you can say "goldfish's memory".

For more on Hudson Valley Fresh and all they have to offer, click here

Gesha By Golly Wow

Posted on May 11, 2015

 

If you pay any attention to our coffee menu, first of all, thanks; second of all, you might have noticed that our lineup of three single origin coffees, more often than not, changes all at once. But, occasionally, coffee being a finitely available product, there just isn't any more to sell, and we have to do a little switcheroo. So it goes with our Amor de Dios, which was delicious and will be missed. But that does give us to get an opportunity to get one of our favorite things: new delicious coffee. And the coffee we're going to start serving you this week is most definitely delicious. It's a Gesha variety coffee from the famous (coffee famous anyways) Hacienda la Esmaralda in Panama.

Before we go any further, let's break down that last sentence a little. Much like apples or grapes, coffee cherry can grow in different varieties, which grow better or worse in different climates, have more or less disease resistance, have higher or lower yields, and, most importantly for our understanding here, taste differently. Coffee has so many factors that influence its taste - where it was grown, the processing, the roasting, and the preparation, to name a few - that we barely get to talk about variety on the consumer level. However, when a variety is as distinct as Gesha, we have no choice but to bring attention to it.

The Gesha variety is named after the town in Ethiopia where it was first discovered. As many varieties do, it traveled the world, eventually finding its way to Central America. After decades of being planted mainly for its disease resistance and mixed in with other coffees, it was cupped in 2005 by Daniel Peterson from Hacienda la Esmeralda in Panama, and thus began its journey from largely an afterthought in specialty coffee to the most coveted, expensive variety in the world. Good Geshas are super aromatic, sweet, floral, and dynamic. It changes flavor as it cools, even more than other coffees, and it somehow manages to taste like everything all at once (maybe a touch of an overstatement) while still having those flavor notes ring out distinctly. Now, like I said, variety is only a small part of the flavor puzzle, so a Gesha that isn't taken good care of at origin and in the roaster won't live up to the hype. The first part of that puzzle we've got covered: this Gesha comes from Hacienda la Esmeralda, the same place this coffee originally came to prominence. As far as the roasting, let me introduce you to our new friends at Square One Coffee!

We've been dying to work with Lancaster, PA-based Square One for a while now, ever since we first tasted their delicious coffees and met Jess Steffy, who owns Square One with her husband Josh and is basically the coolest coffee person we know. It took a few months of back and forth to match one of their coffees with one of our needs, but when we reached out to Jess in early April they were just about to launch this absolutely gorgeous coffee and it was basically a done deal. From the moment we first tasted it in the lab, we knew it would take something crazy for us not to buy it, and that craziness never arrived. We're very proud to bring you this awesome coffee; it's certainly the most expensive thing we've served since our last Gesha and, as with that coffee, we're very confident that it's worth it. Come ask our baristas about it and try a cup, starting tomorrow (Tuesday, 5/12) morning!

- Maciej, Director of Coffee, Gregorys

Beware of Growler

Posted on May 8, 2015

Now the sun is shining, the growler can hardly be contained. A rambunctious, highly irritable fellow during the winter months, the budding weather we are currently experiencing makes for a serendipitous change - the growler suddenly becomes useful and pacified. This is due to the hypnotizing effect of our cold brew. If only we possessed love of such clarity for the travails of a single heart's beat, we might have an off-shoot of empathy to last us a lifetime. In support of the growler's ideal adoration, we have decided to waive the $5 fee of its purchase, so long as the customer pays to have it filled to the brim with our slowly-brewed iced coffee. Then you can reunite the two, time and again, with refills upon fills, ad infinitum.

 

Bad-Boy Growler

We weren't joking - this Growler takes no guff.

So with spring settled, let love in and cool down with the cold brew; the growler is as sturdy as it is tough - a perfect accomplice for any gathering (office meeting, bout in the park etc.) in which something cold, delicious and caffeinated is on the cards.

 

ooh oooh, it's the sound of the police

Professionalism? Courtesy? Respect? That ain't me.

 

Education Time: Iced Coffee

Posted on April 23, 2015

Summer's coming, Spring's already here, so iced coffee is starting to get relevant and vie with the delights of your steamy latte. Here at Gregorys, the brother/sister of sorts to your standard drip is coined as the 'Cold Brew', but why? For good reason. Class in session! Read on to discover the principal brewing methods for an iced cup, while observing the factors that influences that all-important factor: which method makes for great-tasting coffee.

Method #1 - Refrigerated Hot Coffee

Coffee is brewed at regular temperature and then put in the refrigerator to cool. The most straight-forward, but does convenience measure well in this instance?

Method #2 - Cold Brew

A familiar term for any Gregular with a taste for iced coffee. This fellow is brewed overnight using room temperature water; as colder water takes much longer to extract, we let a coarse grind sit in said water for 12 hours.

Emma with Cold Brew

Lovely assistant Emma exhibiting the Cold Brew in all its glory.

Method #3 - Cold Brew with Hot Bloom

'Bloom' refers to what happens when hot water first hits coffee. At this point of contact, gases start escaping from the coffee, which makes it easier for the water to get into the coffee and extract from it. More on the effects of this process later; what's important in sealing the definition is the fact that once bloomed a bit with hot water, ice water is added to continue the trend of a regular cold brew.

Method #4 - Slow Drip (a.k.a. Kyoto Drip)

Ice-cold water is dripped through a chamber of ground coffee and then a (usually ceramic) filter. This method is a bit fiddly, demanding constant attention and adjustment to the nozzle that allows water to pass through to the chamber of coffee - it's to be maintained at, in our recipe, 50 drops per minute. To put it simple, this is like a vertical cold brew that requires a test of patience.

Kyoto Drip

Going Kyoto

Method #5 - Ice-Brew (a.k.a. Japanese method or hot-over-ice brew):

Coffee is brewed directly over ice, usually extra-strong, to allow for immediate melting of the ice. This method can be brewed to order and observed over at our aeropress bar where we serve our single origins.

Gregory showing off the aeropress

Gregory, deep in coffee-brewing mode.

Now for the fun facts to tell your friends as you order the 'Cold Brew' with a pointed wink barista-ward, showing you know exactly what's going down.

What's clearest in the above list of brewing methods is that temperature is an intrinsic factor. The following is a breakdown of the components that make this such a heated issue:

Speaking of breakdown, brewing with cold water doesn't break down all of the same flavor compounds that brewing with hot water does; the outcome generally carries less of that acidity people find so inviting in their hot coffee.

Coffee comes with a make-up of chlorogenic acid. Once brewing begins, this compound degrades into two constituents: quinic and caffeic acids. Sourness, bitterness and astringency ensue over time and the tongue does not register these acids favorably once held to the light of the mind. Time and temperature are partners in this case, as the degradation occurs faster at higher temperature - this explains why we toss out all our hot drip coffee after 30 minutes.

Chlorogenics

Chlorogenics

Oxygen tangos with temperature next in a process known as oxidation: oils exposed to oxygen get rancid and develop off-flavors; once again this happens faster at higher temperatures and accounts for the fact that we toss out hot coffee after that fatal thirty-minute mark.

Volatility: This is the potential for a liquid to turn into a gas. If you follow the link through our archives, you'll note a coffee lecture on smell and its dioramic effect on taste, sending messages to all parts of the brain, sustaining the flavor upon the instant and storing it, via the limbic system, into the deepest reaches and trickster-currents of the brain. Volatility increases with heat, so you're forgiven for not picking up much of a smell from iced coffee - but all's not lost. If you cool the iced coffee quickly, you reduce that volatility, and then you can access some of those sequestered aromatics through the retro-nasal cavity as the coffee heats back up upon hitting the back of your throat.

Hydrolysis: Akin to giving your low-rider a mean hydraulic supplement, this is the process in which hemicellulose (a carbohydrate which is not water-soluble) is broken down into soluble reducing sugars, adding caramel and savory sweetness to the mix. Hydrolysis doesn't happen without both heat and time.

So heat is certainly quite the unstable additive, but it provides a whole delicious mess of flavors for the coffee-drinker to frolic about with; that's one good reason why hot coffee will never go out of fashion, rain or shine. But then again, there's got to be room for iced coffee, especially with an onslaught of summer heat, so what should you be set to order?

Refrigerated coffee comes in last place (sorry) and that's what you may get when you order "iced coffee" somewhere that doesn't preempt the lesser option by omitting it entirely. To be safe, ask if they have "cold brew" - no need to at Gregorys where we've omitted away - and here's why: Because with refrigerated coffee, the coffee isn't cooled immediately; even in the fridge there's a lot of warm time in which acids can break down and those pesky quinic and caffeics come into play. By avoiding this downtime, cold brew avoids the astringent onslaught, producing something much smoother for all interested in a cooling ice coffee nonetheless.

There is still the factor of a loss of acidity in iced coffee, which the cold brew with hot bloom is theoretically supposed to amend; certain flavor compounds should be accessed that give coffee its pleasant acidity and fruitiness. While a shame that this method doesn't support the same accessibility to sustainable quantities (for a sustainable flow of customers with finite patience) as a straight-forward cold brew, the latter option does provide a neutral, smooth, rich flavor not to be missed. The slow drip, while fancy-looking as can be, provides coffee similar to the cold brew, but at much greater inconvenience to whoever has to keep it in check.

But we've saved the best for last: The hot-over-ice brew, staple of the aeropress bar when you're looking for something cooling, presents the best of both worlds. Brewing the coffee immediately over ice slows degradation of acids and oxidation - both of which attract unwelcome flavors - while also capturing all those volatile aromatics that can then reappear as we drink the coffee. Brewing with hot coffee also allows access to that illusive acidity and fruitiness in iced coffee, and the extra suspension provided by hydrolysis.

Emma and the Aeropress

Assistant Emma likes what she sees on the Aeropress front; Sam acts the affectionate dork.

The single origins are our favorite way of presenting the broad and dynamic flavors that coffee offers to a morning routine or daily appreciation of fine drinking. By supporting what these single origins have to offer, the hot-over-ice method is the only way we would have them sold to customers. It's also something that our customers can manage in their own kitchens, provided they carry an aeropress (sold in-store for $24.99), some coffee (also within our domain), and ice. Just check with one of our baristas, or Gregory himself in the following link, and they'll give you a run-down on how to do it best.

Also, pro-tip: Iced Americanos. If you delight in our espresso, you should have no qualms with this - it's hot coffee being cooled immediately, after all.

So whether at home or scurrying through NY streets, iced coffee can be covered for without the need for a refrigerator - except for the whole business of requiring ice. Take that onboard and with that take the summer in a hearty, caffeinated stride!

 

Education Time: Terroir

Posted on March 27, 2015

Even the greatest egotism can be filtered out in comfortably digestible hearsay and happenstance. It gathers credence in demurred commentary and even lays foundations outside of ourselves - it also helps when the bragging is no boast. Such was the case in Burgundy, France, during the 14th and 15th centuries, where the local population were convinced of the fact that their product, their divine wine, was superior to all others:

"But, have you checked out the..."

"Nope, don't talk to me."

With that settled, the nobles of the time donated what they considered to be the best vineyards to the church in order to buy their stairway to heaven: an age-old sleight of hand in which territory and the heavenly bodies become entangled and capital gets its contours. But moneymakers aren't always men in suits out to step on your flowers; sometimes they're men in capes and cassocks, ready to advance the definition of the class in session: Terroir.

Monk Life

Monk Lyf

The monks of these churches had their heads set to the horizon. They observed how these so-called "best" vineyards were all situated on the east-to-southeast slopes and were above the most concave part of the slope. What's more, food for thought/thought for food, there was a strange concurrence between the quality of these vineyards and their elevation above the valley floor; there was also a season's greetings by way of the wine tasting more alcoholic during the warmer growing months. But how to account for all this? The monks found a trivalent solution through a combination of elevation, climate, and the blessings of God.

Fast forwards 6-7 centuries and times have changed: we now have a plethora of factors, minus the multiplicities of a higher power. Besides soil, elevation, and climate, we are now also informed on subsurface geology, rooting depth, soil pH, clay content, and soil permeability. More words, but where is the Word? Who/what best to thank for these gifts: deus or machina? On what side of Occam's razor (the principle that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected) do we stand? Wherein lies the simplest solution? Simplicity, a twofold beast, may sway in opposing directions: a simpler description may refer to a more complex hypothesis; a more complex description, a simpler hypothesis. How to be sure? Are these questions for the Tibetan druids or a hadron collider?

Questions, questions. All we, your humble coffee suppliers, can do is centre ourselves and let taste breach the outside world. Whether it be scientific innovation or pluck-of-clock by an ubiquitous hand, it's a highly-adjustable conscience that sustains the light of the mind in procession with "I'll go on" that leads terroir into new territory.  And new territory it has found: the term can now also be applied to tea, honey, olive oil, cheese, and - all important - coffee.

Beans in Cherries

Beans n' Cherries

So what is terroir, simply put? It is a French word denoting influence of place on the overall taste experience of an agricultural product. Its Latin root, terra, means land - think terracotta, terrestrial, extraterrestrial. Sorted.

Scratch your head, stare at the soil. Soil - being hands-on - seems like a good place to start when getting to grips with terroir, as it affects productivity and bean quality; the level of organic matter, minerals, trace elements, microorganisms and acidity are powerful contributors to a coffee tree’s vigor and to the flavor profile potential of its beans. That's a lot to cover, but for a while a soil's contents can be "corrected" (insofar as man and coffee are concerned) with inputs such as fertilizers and lime. Science, that formidable (but unquestionable?) adhesive, has lent a hand in helping us determine the natural presence of nutrients in the soil - with this info, we know which fertilizers work best:

a. Nitrogen (N) feeds leaves.

b. Phosphorus (P) feeds roots, wood, and buds.

c. Potassium (K) feeds the fruit.

No Problem, K?

Something like that.

A handful of loamy, crumbly, permeable, high-oxygen-content soil is most desired i.e. it has the qualities well-regarded by coffee-lovers with a judicious and adoring eye. Loam is soil that is composed mostly of sand, silt, and a smaller amount of clay (roughly 40%, 40%, 20%). Soil, if it is to withstand droughts - which it often does in coffee-growing regions - is to be deeply deep, though it is assisted by the natural powers of the coffee plant. Said plant has the capacity to burrow at least ten feet (three meters) down, allowing it  to withstand dry seasons lasting up to six months if the soil manages to retain some moisture.

Seeds Sowing

Sowing Seeds

Herman Melville referred to nature as "God's great, unflattering laureate". Withstanding religious/scientific dichotomizing (although this computer seems quite incapable), it is easy to identify in these lines an enduring struggle between us humans and our climate. The previously mentioned droughts are just a partner in the clime; coffee-lovers need heed a number of other facets that often fly in the face of one another, making a tricky task for the coffee-grower.

First off, the weather must be warm and humid. This has necessitated the fact that coffee grow in the tropics, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn: we call this the "Coffee Belt", or the "Bean Belt". Besides some noteworthy sartorial implications, these terms refer to the fact that coffee grows where temperature ranges between 45-90 degrees °F.

World Map

Back to droughts and lack thereof, precipitation/rainfall is also of the utmost importance. Moderate rainfall - not too much, not too little, just right - is ideal when growing coffee, once it is distributed in the right way. Think upon this wet dream: a dry season during and after harvest, followed by "blossom showers" which soak the earth just enough to initiate simultaneous flowering of all coffee plants. Then - go away, not today - the rain must be off for a while so that the fruits will set i.e. the plant will produce a seed, and a berry to protect the seed. With this established, the rain ideally crops up in the afternoon after a dry morning, then stops sometime before sunset. Rinse and repeat every day for seven to eight months and voilà: you have some (hopefully) flawless green coffee beans. Certain places, like the Pacific-facing mountains of Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala can be like this. Ideal.

But can ideals ever be so unilateral? Contrasting but still competing: Colombia, Kenya, and Uganda are directly on the equator, which causes them to have very different rain patterns yet still produce great results. In these locales, we find that rainfall is evenly distributed over the year with no dry season. This results in multiple flowerings and two major harvests each year; one as the main harvest and one called a “mitaca” harvest.

Then it comes to those critters throwing shade: the clouds. Plants grown at high elevations are subject to greater, rainier cloud cover than those grown at lower elevations. When considering shade, there is no definitive answer for more or less that we can infer to be best. More sun leads to more nutrients and more productivity; more shade leads to slower maturation. Slower maturation is desired, as the longer the bean has to stay rooted, the more likely it is to develop the aromatic compounds that inform greater floral and bright-fruit flavors. Nutrients, productivity, and flavor all sound appetizing, and so it's left to the one shoe that fits all to decide: individual taste with a light sprinkle of collective restraint. Farms - those bucolic dreamboats - appear to be politic in such a case study; their workforce harboring the wizened spirit and love of land that assists in providing the perfect solution to the clouds' blessings.

There is, however, only so much a farm can do to count and counter its blessings. The aspect of the land - the compass direction that a hillside or slope faces - provides quite an affront to the farmer looking to settle; they must consider that the Sun's rays are in the west at the hottest time of day - the afternoon - which causes a west-facing slope to be further warm at that heady hour than an east-facing slope.

Aspect Color-Compass

Not Predator-Vision: Aspect

Elevation is more than just a U2 music video in which the band and Lara Croft fight the forces of evil - themselves; it's also a major consideration for all coffee-growers. The majority of high-quality coffee tends to grow between 1,000 to 1,800+ meters (although, it is worth noting exceptions: Most coffee in Hawaii is grown so far north of the equator that it is too cold to grow above 600 meters). Surely there must be a reason for this stratifying dose of fact? There is, and it is to be divulged presently:

Plants grown at high elevations are subject to very intense periods of sun in the daytime with colder temperatures at night, because climate conditions generally become colder as altitude increases - air pressure decreases at altitude increases; less dense air holds less heat. The span between this hot heat and freezing cold, the daytime highs and nighttime lows, is known as the diurnal temperature. An ideal mountainous region of high diurnal temperature will bring forth coffee a of slower maturation, essential for those aromatic compounds. Mmmmm... compounds. As previously considered, this generally equates to more complex flavor profiles; more fruity/herby/flowery flavor tones to mull over. Our baristas are informed on the elevation of each of our single origins, so they can give you an idea on the heights our coffees have achieved to get to your cup. Aguacate, just out the door for the new single origin board (sad face), is such a variety - very high indeed.

El-a-vation (Whooo-oo)

El-a-vation (Whooo-oo)

Elevation is a pertinent way of explicating the onerous effects of climate change on the coffee industry. It causes the Troposphere to retain more heat, and as general temperatures rise, diurnal temperature lowers, forcing farmers to plant at higher elevations in order to maintain slow development within the bean. The higher you go, the more total land you lose, the more difficulties you face as a farmer.

Coffees grown at higher elevations tend to be more expensive and difficult to maintain due to such variables as a steep slope’s lessened accessibility, proneness to erosion and powerful winds; this also means more difficulty accessing and maintaining roads, and greater difficulty planting and harvesting. Maybe those old-Franco gentry were on to something with that buying their stairway to heaven mythos.  

Less zest in your press doesn't necessarily mean your coffee is to be less worthwhile. This blog has previously gotten to grips with coffee's tubular condition; "variety as the spice of life" as the dictum for coffee varietals. Certain countries with lower elevations–such as the Cerrado of Brazil–can be very flat and ideal for mass production, including mechanical harvesting. The Oberon, which is the base of our espresso blend, is a Cerrado coffee; it's a great example of a lower elevation coffee that is low in acidity and high in chocolateyness.

Another benefit for team lower-elevation (though not low low, more like medium/high) is that a lack of rainfall is a problem that can be amended: Those Cerrado beans can be supplied with water via rivers near the Amazon to the north. This application can promote even-flowering and an even-ripening harvest in conditions of extreme dryness. Positives with negatives - excess heat and poor drainage can lead to severe quality problems and lack of more complex flavors in the cup

So there you go: terroir to be as tricky as the "pseudo" in God's gifts and scientific advancement. As far as growth and cultivation is concerned, there's no downright right answer in mother nature's actions and our reactions, just a whole lotta method; an ever-invigorating supplication by able hands in hope and expectation of delectable coffees and finer-dining. Here's to that as you embellish your next cup with a sip!  

Credit where it's due: We must thank George Howell and the lovely folks at Nobletree who gave a lecture on Coffee Agriculture at MANE last year. Also on the list is James Hoffman's book, The World Atlas of Coffee, for its wealth of information, and Erika Vonie (of Everyman Espresso) for her wisdom on climate change. 

Remembering Steven Smith

Posted on March 25, 2015

We woud like to express our sincere condolences for the loss of Steven Smith, the teamaker, who passed away on Monday. 

Steven Smith 

Co-founder of Smith Teamakers along with his wife, Kim, we have been proud to supply his blends to our customers whenever coffee wasn't on the agenda. 

Click here to visit Smith Teamaker's memorial for the uncommon man who finds an enduring legacy in a company committed to producing excellence in the premium tea category.

Education Time: Sensory Class

Posted on February 13, 2015

Over the last few week at Gregorys we've been prompted with the question: "What is flavor?" Hold on one sec while I grab my thesis (...) Okay, so it's a bit of a trick question: one simply put in order to confound with its overturing scope. Nevertheless, it's a question that allows us to doublethink - contrary to the Orwellian - and reevaluate something seemingly mastered once you got a grip of knife and fork. At the root of this question are two terms: gustation (taste) and olfaction (smell).

Gustation: if something does not become a liquid, we cannot taste it.

Odd to think, but it's only in liquids that sensory information is gathered by the taste buds, sent along cranial nerves, and processed in the cerebral cortex. As Bailey, Director of Education, astutely observed while lecturing, even solids like mugs have a taste, but only due to whatever unseen "water-soluble matter" clings to the surface. Slightly gross, so we'll not look back at such pragmatic fact--embrace the word and move on.

In rather logical fashion (logos, you tireless animal!) more taste buds = more information/more taste. Like those blessed to suffer by their own genius, some of us are born with - and maintain - a set of taste buds that only make the most suitable for pickiness sufficient: it's a crippling affair when no $1 slices do the trick due to detected sweetness from high fructose corn syrup in bomb-shelter-worthy canned tomato sauce. On the other hand, taste can be a lucrative and invigorating experience; Tetley just insured one of their tea taster's taste buds for $1.6 million.

Olfaction: if something does not become a gas, we cannot smell it.

Compounds that are volatile - that can go airborne - stimulate our olfactory receptors in a twofold manner: they are inhaled as gases by sniffing and exhaled as vapors by swallowing. This is the start of its path along the limbic system, a set of brain structures in which the emotional life of you or I is largely housed. With the limbic system involved, smell maintains strong links with emotion, motivation and memory--ever smelt dew-soaked leaves in fall and zoned back to the Hyde Park of Dear Old Blighty, ruminating over how far your little legs could carry you before your parents bore the compassion, desperately sought, to get themselves to the playground at your selfsame speed? Maybe it's just this as-yet uncreated keyboard...

Whatever the case may be, "sense memory" is essential here. A person's anatomy, physiology, and psychology come into play and allow aromatic experience to vary from person-to-person, or even time-to-time for the same person. Having trouble deciphering the flavor notes on your Chemex-brewed coffee of pure clarity? Solution: Eat more, think while you taste, and develop some serious sense memory.

Now, getting down to the act of coffee olfaction and how to define it in those trusty symbols of a foregone conclusion: words.

First, there lies a problem. When two or more olfactory stimuli (aromas) are present in coffee - which is always the case - there are a handful of possibilities that present a seemingly limitless quandary--so much so that some stratifying bullet-points are required to hem the flow of alternatives in danger of falling to mush in the mind's eye:

·         a single newodor, blending the characteristics of each, may be perceived.

·         dissimilar odors may be perceived, with one being dominant.

·         odors may be smelled alternately.

·         odors may be simultaneously experienced but separately.

·         one odor may mask another.

·         one odor may neutralize another.

Lucky for our devotion to the spoken word, these possibilities can be honed on a Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel.

Flavor Wheel

The Wheel

This wheel is designed to direct our senses so that we can categorize the tastes/smells coming our way. The Specialty Coffee Association of America  (SCAA) have put their name to this particular lexicon of delight, but that is in no way for the purpose of delimiting our imagination; Counter Culture Coffee have a flavor wheel of their own to benefit the interface between body and brain--with taste, all is up for grabs; it's a dialectic of discovery. In fact, if you're particularly interested in discovery, here's 'A Guide to the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel'excerpted from Roast Magazine, exhibiting both the history of the wheel and its deductive capabilities for coffee cuppers seeking words for the tip of their tongue.

Our SCAA-approved flavor wheel shows two wheel-like figurations, but our focus resides with the right side of the right wheel; the left wheel deals with the effects of coffee faults and taints--the negative nancy side of things detailed in the above guide--while the left side of the right wheel is all about taste. Since this post is somewhat partial to space and an emphasis on olfaction, we'll proceed with aroma.

The aromatic side of the wheel is segmented into three sources, each outlining where the smell we inhale/exhale comes from.

The first of these categories is enzymatic: aromatic compounds that are the result of enzyme reactions occurring in the coffee bean while it is a living organism. It is the most volatile set, and is most often discerned in the dry aroma of freshly ground coffee.

Second up is sugar browning: aromatic compounds that are the result of the caramelization that occurs during the roasting process. It is moderately volatile, found in the cup aroma of freshly brewed coffee, as well as the vapors as the coffee is swallowed i.e. the aftertaste.

Thirdly, dry distillation: aromatic compounds that result from the burning reaction of bean fiber during roasting. This is the least volatile and is most often found in the vapors (aftertaste) of freshly brewed coffee.

With these three sources in tow, we proceed further outfield in our aromatic half-hexagon: we find all the honey-like, camphoric, basmati rice flavors we ever assumed impossible in our morning cup and find that we actually like it - love it - and couldn't be without all these possibilities i.e. variety is the spice of life.

Here's a lovely fact to reward you for your time and interest in this keyboard's findings: the total aromatic profile of coffee is known as a bouquet. Coffee, like wine and liqueurs, adheres to this expression derived from a fold of flowers. By sound it could settle Woolf's flighty London or Wilde's aphoristic ego - a bouquet to correct the imbalance of humankind and nature; the dictum - mistakenly attributed to Goethe by Yeats - that 'art is art because it is not nature'. Coffee says nay.

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