Category Archives: Coffee, Tea, Drinks

Rewriting the Portrait, Coffee

Atlanta pastor John Onwuchekwa has a side angle in trying to start a coffee business in the city’s west end. They got off the ground just before the shutdown hit us.

“Initially our business plan and marketing were built off this idea of building community through pop-ups and in-person events,” founder and barista Aaron Fender said. But with those options shot for a few months, they considered other ideas.

“We started doing a lot of Instagram Live interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, and thinkers to build community. We started a coffee delivery service to your doorstep. We made a coffee club coffee subscription.”

Onwuchekwa explained the vision of Portrait Coffee to Atlanta Magazine. “One of the first things Frederick Douglass did when he finally learned how to read and write was [to write] a narrative of his life. It was a way for him to insert himself back into a history that was often too eager to forget the people who helped build it. As we think of coffee, we tend to feel like the industry as a whole is the exact same thing. We wanted to start a shop, trying to pour a new narrative of the picture that comes to mind when you think of specialty coffee.”

Plantations Rebranding

Several days ago, I wrote about Osayi Endolyn’s questions about products that brand themselves with the word plantation. She was specifically interested in Plantation Rum, an excellent French brand with a pineapple rum she loved. I heard her story on an episode of The Sporkful, and today I learned Plantation Rum would be rebranding to get away from the negative connotations of that word in American markets (also via The Sporkful).

Bigelow Tea has changed the name of it’s Plantation Mint to Perfectly Mint. It owns the Charleston Tea Plantation brand, which it has now rebranded at the Charleston Tea Garden.

Changing brand names looks like a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure about changing living history museums and state parks, like Plimoth Plantation changing to Plimoth Patuxet. This reminds me of a tweet I saw this week, saying we are asking for civil equality and they are just naming things Martin Luther King crabs.

What Is Meant by Branding a Product “Plantation”?

When someone introduced food writer Osayi Endolyn to Plantation Pineapple Rum, she says she was immediately suspicious. Plantation was not a neutral word for her because her grandparents had fled from the Jim Crow South years ago. But the rum was good enough to put those thoughts aside for a while.

Later she asked a bartender for the name of the pineapple rum in her drink. The woman seemed embarrassed to admit it was Plantation Rum.

Why would anyone be embarrassed about a brand called plantation? What would a company mean by choosing that name? Bigelow sells a Plantation Mint tea and Charleston Tea Plantation sells a variety teas. Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield sells gourmet peanuts grown in Virginia. Carolina Plantation sells rice. Many recipes have plantation in their name, such as Plantation Skillet Cake and Auntie Crae’s Plantation Chews, so surely the word connotes an idea or mood the owners wish to convey to others.

Endolyn dug into the meaning by talking to the owners of the brand and learning a bit of French and Barbadian history that supported using the word plantation over the equivalent farmland. What would you expect from those words in food brands? Are they interchangeably applicable to rice, butter, peanuts, leaf tobacco, bread flour, and beef?

For a short time, you can listen to an episode of The Sporkful in which they ask about this idea to as many brand owners as will take their questions. Bigelow, for example, wouldn’t talk about it. But some people said the words calls back to an easier way of life. When you think of it that way, you may start to ask whether life was easier and for whom.

ew, When Did You Last Wash that Mug?

Starbucks, Intelligentsia, and Peet’s Coffee have stopped accepting a personal tumbler or mug in which to put your special brew. Concerns over spreading the coronavirus have lead to changed practices and a few store closures.

If you’re thinking all the talk of coronavirus sounds fun, I encourage you to skip this one. It’s a real drag; not like the old days when you could count a popular bug or flu to get things swinging. Ahem.

Your home or office coffeemaker could be hatin’ on you with mold and bacteria. A 2011 study found 50 percent of the coffeemaker water tanks tested had mold or yeast inside. The Chicago Sun-Times has recommendations for cleaning your favorite kitchen device as well as other nasty substances people have found in coffeemakers.

Panera hopes you’ll skip a germ-ridden cup o’ joe at home and have it with them instead. They have launched a subscription plan that will provide free coffee and tea to patrons willing to part with $9/month via the MyPanera app. Mary didn’t like it enough, though it could have advantages if it ran smoothly in your area.

Photo by Mazniha Mohd Ali Noh on Unsplash

Everyone Loves Food

“While I was writing The Lost Family, I cooked a lot—to meditate on the day’s writing as well as to kitchen-test all the recipes I then featured on the book’s menu. Some of my favorite lines for the book would bubble up that way, as if from a Magic 8-Ball, and one of them was ‘vegetables have no language.’ I revised this slightly for the novel, but it means that food is universal. The produce and spices will vary from country to country and cuisine to cuisine, but if you love food, you have a vast family out there. We can all communicate about how our beloved dishes are different—and how they are the same.” – Jenna Blum, The Lost Family

Crystal King, whose book about Vatican chef Bartolomeo Scappi, The Chef’s Secret, came out this year, quotes eleven authors on including food in their writing.

“Writing, in a way, is an extension of my cooking, and vice versa. Cooking taught me how to create, that I needed to create.” – Phillip Kazan

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Coffee Is a Slow Poison, Voltaire

Dear Quote Investigator: Coffee enthusiasts enjoy sharing an anecdote about Voltaire who savored the aromatic beverage throughout his life. The famous philosopher’s physician warned him that coffee was a slow poison. He replied, “Yes, it is a remarkably slow poison. I have been drinking it every day for more than seventy-five years”.

But did this exchange occur between Voltaire and his doctor or was it someone else and someone else’s doctor? What are the facts interfering with this story? The Quote Investigator spells it out.

What America Loves Most: Ice Cream

When you think of American wealth, what evidence comes to mind? If it’s not on your list already, jot this one down: the abundance of ice cream.

In Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide, authors Robin and Carolyn Weir explore the history of ice cream and how it was a dessert of luxury 200 years ago. In Colonial America, a pint of ice cream could have cost a week’s wages.

In 1921, The Soda Fountain, a monthly trade magazine to the soda industry, published an article touting “Ice Cream as Americanization Aid,” declaring that serving ice cream to [immigrants] on Ellis Island would help them acquire “a taste for the characteristic American dish even before they set foot in the streets of New York.” This would not only help new immigrants assimilate to the American “standard of living,” but it would also inculcate American values: “Who could imagine a man who is genuinely fond of ice cream becoming a Bolshevik?

I can’t say what results any field tests of this idea might have been produced, but it came at a time when America was starting to crank ice cream as if it would churn up a great, big, beautiful tomorrow.

During Prohibition [1920-1933], ice cream parlors filled some of the void left by closed bars, and brewers, including Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch, re-opened their operations as ice cream factories. The Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers could not have been happier — members reportedly sang a chorus at their conventions that went, “[Father] brings a brick of ice cream home instead of beer!”

(via Prufrock News)

What’s the Best Coffeeshop in Your State?

Food & Wine magazine offers this list of the best places to buy coffee in every state, plus one runner-up. Is your favorite place on the list? I have consumed several wonderful cups from Mad Priest in Chattanooga, so I’m happy to see they made runner-up in Tennessee. Naturally our readers in Delaware will expect to see Brandywine Coffee Roasters and their Brew HaHa! stores in top place for their state (our cultural influence knows no bounds).

And the best place for coffee in Minnesota is Culver’s.  j/k

For Dickens, Good People Drink Tea

British food historian Pen Vogler has brewed up a book of sixty recipes that appear in Dickens’ stories or figured into his life. She suggests Dickens put coffee into the hands of wicked people and tea in cups of the right, moral, and good.

Take Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House.

“She neglects her feminine role as mother and wife, whilst she writes coffee-fueled letters long into the night, to promote her coffee-growing charity,” says Vogler. “It is funny, but, as with all Dickens’ bad mothers, it has a chilling ring of his own unhappy experience. He could never forgive his mother for wanting him to continue to work at the blacking factory, rather than go to school, even after his father was released from debtors’ prison.”

By contrast, Joe Gargery in Great Expectations is “as truly humble and good as Uriah Heep is not” and “a natural tea-drinker.” (via Prufrock News)

National Coffee Day: Get Coffee by Drone

Today is national coffee day. I don’t know why this very special day is always overrun in the stores by Halloween or Fall decorations. Where are the family values?

Mercedes-Benz is testing a drone-delivery system in Zurich, Switzerland, to speed up coffee delivery. Their current plan combines drones and vans to get the coffee into your hands, which in a world without flying cars is about what we should expect. When I first saw this news, I hoped they would be testing a system of delivering coffee to your moving car during your morning commute. But maybe self-driving cars would be a prerequisite to avoid collisions.

In honor of the day, let me recommend some coffee roasters you may not have heard about. These guys have skills and unique personalities behind their companies and coffee.

  1. Lagares Coffee Roasters, the proud sponsors of the Happy Rant Podcast. Hector Lagares is one of those marvelous men in a small community who works an uplifting magic that can smooth away your worries. He offers a few blends and a few single origin coffees, so check him out.
  2. Mad Priest Coffee uses their business to employ refugees resettled in the Chattanooga area. As the name suggests, they’re a little crazy. Here’s how they describe their Dark Night of the Soul blend. “It’s been a dark night. A very long dark night (St. John of the Cross thought so). But never fear, this dark roast blend will help awaken you to the dawn of a glorious new day. Flavor Notes: Sunshine, Sigh of Relief, Puppy Kisses.”
  3. Goodman Coffee, also Chattanooga-based, is definitely a good-to-the-last-drop roaster. Ian Goodman raised the bar for delicious coffee in our city back in 1995 with the establishment of Greyfriar’s on Broad Street. This is my favorite brand.

You can order from any of these companies at the websites I’ve linked, but deliveries will not come by drone this year. If you’re ordering from Minnesota or Iowa, you’ll have to use your typical pony express.

Death Wish Coffee Could Kill You

Demonstrating that the gods of irony will not take time off, Death Wish Coffee‘s cans of nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee are being recalled for possible botox contamination. Yes, apparently our federal watchdogs are okay with allowing it to be injected in your face but not growing in your coffee. The toxic effects of Botulinum include but are not limited to death.

But then, you’re drinking Death Wish Coffee, so…

Actually, the lede is far stronger than the reality. The coffee is being recalled because a tester raised a flag on the possibility of botulinum growing. He did not find it there and no one has become sick… yet.

Of course, this could end up being a publicity boon for the company.

In completely unrelated news, Atlanta’s newspaper asks if it’s possible to overdose on caffeine. They say it would be very hard to die by drinking too much coffee, adding that people can safely consume ten cans of cola per day. Really? If it’s not caffeine that makes ten cans unhealthy for you, maybe it’s the sugar.

Nestlé Now Majority Owner of Blue Bottle

This is big news in the business world of coffee. Nestlé, the makers of Nescafé and Taster’s Choice instant coffees, has put millions of dollars into buying a majority share of third wave coffee leader Blue Bottle. For many coffee lovers, Blue Bottle offers the kind of flavor they wish they could get everywhere. Now it will be owned by the people whose coffee they left to the seventies.

Naturally, Nestlé won’t nix this new coffee kid; it just wants the money.

And speaking of instant coffee, I just heard of a new company with what is rumored to be wonderful, flavorful, and instant coffee: Sudden Coffee. If you’d like to up your coffee convenience game with something tasty, this is for you.