Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's A Coffee Kind of Season

   No matter how much coffee I have in my house, I always appreciate more!  I have mentioned before that I am a coffee junkie.  I feel weird that I haven't had any yet today.  (Our cleaning lady is here and I don't like messing with things while she's around... so I just have to wait.)  Coffee may seem like an impersonal gift, but it is only impersonal, if you make it that way.  For example, my mom got brother just a simple $5 bag of Archer Farm (Target's upscale brand) Nicaraguan coffee.  At first seems impersonal, but she thought about this.  1)  It is a secondary gift to go with the coffee pot she bought him.  2)  She matched the roast to his preferences:  dark and robust.  3)  We adore Central American single origins!  If I was getting someone just coffee as a gift, it would not be Archer Farm even though it is perfectly delicious every day coffee.

   For my birthday my sister-in-law got me a wonderful bag of fair trade coffee from Equal Exchange.  It was the (organic) Mind, Body, and Soul.  Actually that is the perfect way to describe this medium/Vienna roast.  It's a very complex blended roast but crowd pleasing.  The acid is nicely balanced and the rich, prominent caramely, nutty notes are those that most people find the most appealing in all coffees  The fact that Equal Exchange is an amazing organization is a bonus!  Many farmers are cheated out of the money that is owed to them from big companies for their crop.  "Fair Trade" means that the farmers, who are often under-educated and not extremely business savvy, get their fair share of the deal.  Because, lets face it, they do all of the hard work.  Roasting and packaging is definitely the easy part.

   Another brand of coffee that I have recently discovered, is Tennessee's own Ugly Mug Coffee.  It's a Memphis company with a sense of humor and a huge heart.  Like Equal Exchange, all the coffees are fairly traded and organic.  While Equal Exchange works to help the farmers, Ugly Mug gets a little more local.  They do school fundraising.  Which is how I found out about them.  Two adorable little teenage boys showed up on our doorstep nervous as hell to be asking people to buy stuff from them.  They were selected for an honor band that tours Europe over the summer.  Ugly Mug was the chosen fundraiser.  WAY better than wrapping paper or popcorn, especially since the coffee is delicious!  We bought a bag of "Hardy Passion" which is a rich, dark roast.  Nothing terribly special except that is a perfect coffee.  And we got the "Butter Moon".  I can't be sure of how we arrived at this decision, but I am glad we did!  It is a flavored variety with an amazing vanilla-y, almond-y, caramel-y flavor, natural flavors but added.  The crazy thing is that is has a butter taste, but not in a bad way!  It's like the caramel flavor they used was a really good caramel sauce that had butter stirred in at the end.

Tips for Buying Coffee as a Gift
  1. Step away from the Maxwell House!!!  Head over to the other coffee section down the aisle.  Yes, more of than not, grocery stores have two coffee sections.
  2. What is their favorite place in the world:  Italy, Hawaii, Brazil, France, Costa Rica?  Match the coffee with their favorite place.
  3. Does the giftee like deep, bold, aggressive flavors or lighter, more understated notes?  Roasts vary a lot,so pay attention to the strength of coffee you are buying.
  4. The good companies out there are not flavoring their beans with artificial chemicals.  Go ahead and buy a flavored coffee if your loved one loves vanilla, hazelnut, or cinnamon.  Responsible companies are using pure extracts to compliment their coffees.
  5. Is the future recipient passionate about a cause?  Many companies give part of their proceeds to such worthy causes as rain forests, orphans, land preservation, pandas... you name it and there is probably a coffee product benefiting it.

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