Mom's mug

Playing Favourites: Some nostalgia with my coffee, please

Mom's mug

My mug collection is made up of a wide variety of mismatched receptacles. They were all either given to me as gifts, purchased as souvenirs, or inherited from my mom’s house when she passed away over four years ago.

This particular one is the smallest of my “coffee” mugs, and not necessarily the most attractive. It also can’t be microwaved because of the gold coating (unless you want to risk an explosion while enjoying the strange crackle and pop noises), but I love drinking out of this mug.

Perhaps I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but this mug was not only my mom’s, but is an anniversary mug from her Alma Mater, what was then called Ontario Bible College (OBC) (now called Tyndale University College). It would have been special to her, and so every time I pour my reductionist Americano into it, I think of her just a little bit.

My mom also loved coffee. In fact, I started drinking coffee because she drank it. She wouldn’t have been able to keep up with my progressively snobby tastes, but drinking coffee together with my mom is one of my favourite memories.

Raise a mug with me…. happy Monday!

Wee cuppa

Playing Favourites: Reductionist Americano

Wee cuppa
My wee cuppa java

Contrary to the bold and bright magnet on my fridge, I am not a coffee slut.

I don’t think.

I’m pretty sure what I actually am is a coffee snob.

If you ask Johnathan, he’ll tell you that I’m snobby about a lot of things, but I continue to maintain that I merely have discriminating taste. And, sometimes, I’m a snob.

Coffee is one of those cases.

It’s not that I want to hate sub-par coffees. I have just been ruined for the ordinary.

I blame someone named Dan for introducing me to awesome coffee, back when I lived in Mexico. Then there grew to be a wee gang of us: Dan, Roger, Matt, and I. Not sure why none of the other ladies really got on board. Hmm.

Funny thing is that Dan no longer drinks coffee. Go figure.

Dan et al introduced me to what I like to call “real” coffee: fair trade, organic, freshly-roasted, freshly-ground, strong, French press, and all that good stuff. They introduced me to Cuban coffee. And to Jamaican Blue Mountain. And to Kona coffee, which I believe is the best in the world. Alright, alright, it can share the limelight with Jamaican Blue Mountain.

Thus began my true love affair with “black gold,” and it continues unabated years later.

These days, I find myself unimpressed with most drip-brewed coffees (that’s your regular everyday coffee, if you’re not up on your java terminology). It’s too weak. It doesn’t have enough flavour, enough depth, enough richness. (Told you I was a snob!)

I haven’t used my fancy-schmancy coffee maker for months and months now.

Fancy-schmancy coffee maker
My fancy-schmancy coffee maker (Cuisinart Grind & Brew)

What I am using surprises even me: a cheap espresso maker and a handful of other implements.

Every morning, I grind up a mix of 2/3 decaf and 1/3 “high-test” Coastal Coffee Company (fair trade/direct trade, organic) beans (not “espresso” beans, but usually dark roast beans) until they are very finely ground. I would highly recommend grinding your own coffee beans at home. It’s a cheap, easy way of boosting the flavour and freshness in your cup. You can get a basic grinder for about $10-$15 at your local department store. Mine looks like this.

I then use a heavy-duty coffee measuring spoon that I got at Starbuck’s to scoop the ground coffee into the part of the espresso maker where the grounds go (highly technical language here). You don’t need any fancy spoons. Any spoon will do.

Part of the brilliance of espresso has to do with tamping the coffee down tightly into a disc. Some fancy-schmancy espresso makers or espresso grinders come with these, but I don’t have one. So I make do with a straight-sided shot glass. True story. It’s fiddly and a touch messy, but it works. I do it over the sink ’cause I always spill grounds over the side.

While my little espresso machine heats its water and spits out a shot or two of “espresso”, I turn the kettle on.

The final product is what I call a Reductionist Americano: roughly equal parts “espresso” and hot water, depending on how strong the brew is that my little machine produces (read: the stronger the better).

When I need a coffee fix away from home, I wish I could just say “reductionist Americano” and know that the barista will understand, but alas! such an official name doesn’t exist yet. So I continue to ask for an Americano with just as much water as espresso and no more.

They don’t always get it right, but 95% of the time, it’s better than a drip coffee any day.

McCafe $1 off

Gratitude á la First World

McCafe $1 off
This is not a promo. I repeat, this is not a promo.

I am grateful for being a Canadian, a citizen of a country where I am free to do so many things people of other countries cannot.

I am grateful for OSAP, which makes it possible for me to go to university, even though I will have debt after I graduate.

I am grateful for the technology which allows me to communicate with family and friends far and wide.

I am grateful for the chance to have a voice about things that matter, should I so choose to take it.

I am grateful for Tax-Free Savings Accounts.

I am grateful for nieces.

I am grateful for cousins.

I am grateful for freedom of speech, even though I have recently learned few things are as democratic as they sound.

I am grateful for good old-fashioned bacon and eggs.

I am grateful to be from a rural, agricultural area: farmers truly do feed cities.

I am grateful to know many truly talented people, and to be able to celebrate them in their successes.

I am grateful to have friends on at least 4 continents.

I am grateful for friends that I can have deep, thoughtful conversations with.

I am grateful for the knowledge that I will never run out of books to read.

I am grateful for the many resources I have to help me be healthy.

I am grateful for McDonald’s’ $1-off McCafe days, in competition with Tim Horton’s Roll-up-the-Rim, especially since, believe it or not, McD’s is currently the best place to go to study in my hometown!

Playing Favourites: Coastal Coffee Company

*List of retailers updated March 16, 2012. Stay tuned for a few more being announced soon!

To introduce what I hope will be a new series appearing every Monday, Playing Favourites, I have chosen what is a relatively new favourite in a category that will always be on top of my list, coffee. Coastal Coffee Company coffee, to be precise.

Coastal Coffee Company

This local company is owned by a childhood friend, Ben, who was raised in the tradition of organic farming, so it was only natural for him to find a passion that incorporated those values.

Meet Ben and his wife Bri:

Owners of Coastal Coffee Company

A few years in the making, Coastal Coffee Company started with a popcorn popper and some green beans, in Ben’s garage in a small town on the coast of Lake Huron in Ontario. Friends and family began to ask Ben to roast batches for them, and so Ben began producing bags of locally-roasted beans.

Today, Ben has a small but beautiful roasting machine that he imported, not without aggravation, from Turkey, and a new shed in his backyard pretty much completely devoted to roasting coffee beans.

I have stopped buying coffee roasted anywhere else, partly because I believe it’s important to buy local, but mostly because Ben’s coffee is delicious!

This is what I drank today:

Nicaraguan Cafe Diego

In the last year, Coastal Coffee Co. has begun to sell beans in several nearby towns (Goderich, Exeter, Clinton, Grand Bend, Bayfield, etc.), in locally-owned stores and at farmer’s markets. You can find these tasty beans at the following locations:

And, you can enjoy delicious food and Coastal Coffee in your cup at Eddington’s of Exeter restaurant.

If you’re not going to be near any of these locations but would REALLY like to try my favourite coffee, let me know and I’ll pick some up for you. Of course, this only really makes sense if it’s feasible that I could deliver it. No, I won’t be road-tripping to other provinces or countries anytime soon. Sorry. But perhaps Ben does shipping!
You can also find Coastal Coffee at local events such as the Zurich Bean Festival and the county-wide culinary festival Taste of Huron, among others.

If you’re a coffee-drinker, consider giving up over-processed, pre-ground, imported cheap coffee in exchange for fair-trade or direct-trade organic, locally-roasted beans. They’re better for you, better for our community, and better for coffee growers.

Coastal Coffee table at outdoor event

Learn more about the “Fair Trade” certification and why it’s important: http://www.5min.com/Video/Learn-About-Fair-Trade-Coffee-517049684

“Like” Coastal Coffee Company on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coastal-Coffee-Company-Roasted-on-Ontarios-West-Coast/180368545350175

For more information or to make a custom order, email Ben at coastalcoffeecompany@gmail.com.