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#CoffeeYesCoffee

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Disclosure: The fine folks at Click sent me a canister of CLICK All-In-One Coffee and Protein Drink Mix (caramel, nomnom!), a canister of CLICK Active All-In-One Coffee and Protein Drink Mix, two sample packets of other flavors, and a CLICK logo Blender Bottle. They are also generously providing a giveaway prize! As always, this review is my work, and contains my opinions. I wrote this–there is no ghost-written or “sponsored” content in this post.

Ice, shaker, CLICK, water, GO!

#CoffeeYesCoffee #ButFirstCoffee

Coffee is one of the greatest things on Earth. (If you disagree, you might be reading the wrong blog.) I love, love, love coffee. The best part of my Saturday (after sleeping in!) is grinding whole beans and making a fresh pot, then settling in for a mini-staycation. Coffee, however, is not breakfast. Even with milk and “fixin’s” coffee just doesn’t have the staying power I wish it did, and it definitely doesn’t have the nutrition to be a meal–if you’re drinking a coffeehouse coffee in the morning, it’s basically a sugar-bomb; if you’re drinking it non-fat to “save calories” you’re removing part of what could help your tummy feel satisfied even if I do get that you don’t need your mocha to have 450 calories (that’s a venti Starbucks mocha with 2% milk and whipped cream).

Right before I moved from Oakland to Portland, a friend told me about CLICK, a new drink mix that is real coffee with protein. Not coffee-flavored protein, but coffee with protein. Actual coffee, not faux-coffee. Protein is an important part of breakfast because it helps you feel full. Intrigued, I dashed off an email to the founders to learn more. Naturally the box with the goodies arrived right as I was moving and everything was in chaos, so I set it aside instead of tearing into it immediately. (This was not easy. I love opening boxes!)  I decided to wait until the road trip part of the move, for two reasons. One, taking CLICK with me meant I would have an easy breakfast every day. (Important when you are driving hundreds of miles with a cat and his many accessories.) Two, there is some data that starting a new habit while away from home will help you carry that habit over when you get home. (If you’ve read any books about habits and willpower, I’m sure you already know a few things about habit change. If you haven’t, I highly recommend Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonical, and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. They tread some of the same ground, but approach the topic from different angles.)

With traffic at a dead-stop for the visible mile ahead, so glad I had breakfast with me!

As an adult, I’ve become a serial breakfast skipper. (Or should that be cereal? I snap, crackle, pop myself up!) I know my body pretty well, and I can definitely feel my work and workouts suffer when I skip breakfast or just have coffee. When I skip breakfast, I am generally super ravenous by the time lunch rolls around, ready to stuff All The Foods into my face. As annoying as moving is–don’t ever move, ever–I decided to leverage the move as a life re-set. In “my new life” I have enough breakfast to make my body happy until lunch. While I doubted the CLICK literature asking if my coffee pot felt neglected (because no way am I giving up coffee!), I was game to try it.

Wait, what’s in CLICK? CLICK is an instant drink mix made from real coffee. (I promise, it tastes NOTHING like that bland “instant coffee” or “freeze dried coffee” stuff your parents had in the 1970s.) CLICK is intended to be a breakfast (or other meal or snack) replacement, though you can drink it in place of any regular coffee drink (saving calories and adding nutrition). In addition to two shots of espresso, CLICK has protein and 23 essential vitamins and minerals. Yes, it has sugar, but not much (5g per serving). If you make it with water, a serving is 110 or 120 calories, depending on which flavor you choose and how much you use. (If two scoops is too much flavor for you, try using just one scoop. My sweet spot is around one and a half scoops.) To make CLICK, you put CLICK in water and shake/stir. You can make it with milk or a milk substitute. You can make it hot or cold. You can make it fancier in a blender. You can make it in a box, you can make it with a fox! Oh, wait. Wrong story. Carrying on… CLICK is NOT for you if: One, you are vegan. CLICK contains milk. (If you’re interested and enough other people pester them too, I bet a vegan CLICK could be in the works.) Two, you are allergic to soy. CLICK contains soy-based ingredients. Three, you hate coffee. CLICK is coffee. If you hate coffee, can we even be friends?!?

The first taste test: cold-ish. It sounds silly now, but the first time I mixed CLICK I panicked. What if I don’t like it? What if it tastes weird? It sounds silly for many reasons, but at that moment I was on a very tight budget and this is what I had planned for breakfast. (Plus I had agreed to write an honest review, and no one likes to have to tell someone “hey I tried your product and it was icky.”) To me, a yucky breakfast is almost worse than no breakfast at all. The number one thing I fear in a drink mix is grittiness, and most drinks mix better in warmer rather than colder water, so I started with cold-ish water. I was particularly worried  because I was using water as a base, which would make any grit even grittier. If you’ve ever had protein powder, I’m sure you know what I mean–there’s nothing like drinking a glass of sand. Cautiously, I put the shaker ball into the Blender Bottle, added CLICK, added water, closed the lid (very important step!), and gave it a few shakes. It quickly dissolved. I took a deep breath, followed by an itty-bitty baby sip and…

IT WAS DELICIOUS!

First, the flavor was delicious. The caramel tasted like a fancy cold coffee drink treat. Second, CLICK dissolved completely. The resulting drink had a 100% smooth, completely liquid consistency without any lumps. There was NO grittiness at all, not even a little bit, and no weird crunchy bits left at the bottom (you know, those weird protein powder dregs). I quickly hoovered the remainder. Afterwards I felt like I’d had a coffee drink, and a little breakfast. My tummy was happy until lunch.

Icy cold coffee! The next day, I decided to try iced CLICK. The container said I could ice it, but I wasn’t sure I believed (yet). Also, some drinks are much better if you make them hot and ice them later. Since this was a test, I put the mixer ball in the Blender Bottle, filled the cup with ice, added CLICK, and then filled the cup with water (as cold as the tap would allow). After putting on the lid and shaking, I was shocked that CLICK dissolved completely! Even though it dissolved well at room temperature, I honestly thought it would be a little sandy-tasting when iced. Nope! I really like CLICK icy cold, so this is how I have been making it ever since. I’m still amazed that a powdered drink mix with protein dissolves this well without using an electric blender.

How much do I love CLICK?

Portability is key for breakfast on the go

For starters, I’ve continued to start every work day with iced CLICK (except the days I have been out of town–I need to get some little containers to put single servings in so I’m not relying on single-serve packets or plastic bags). I had planned to try making a hot CLICK, but Portland has been pretty warm since I moved and the thought of commuting on MAX with a hot beverage is not appealing. (That will change, I know!) When I reached the bottom of the canister, I hustled over to the website for more. As a result, I’m happy to report the vanilla latte flavor is also very yummy. (I haven’t opened the chocolate yet, as it seems overly decadent to have three canisters open at once.) Not only did I spend my own money on this–no special discount code or anything–I opted to buy the four-pack of canisters (and it comes with a cute hot drink mug). This is not a fling, my friends, this is a long-term relationship. I might need to go change my Facebook status. (My coffee pot is super jealous. I haven’t purchased a single bag of coffee beans since I moved.)

CLICK Active is another super yummy coffee-based drink mix with protein. CLICK Active is designed to take advantage of that magical post-workout “window of opportunity” when your (now worked-out and tired) muscles are extra-ready to suck in the nutrition to help repair and build muscle. You can read more about post-workout nutrition in general on my favorite nutrition site, Precision Nutrition. In a a nutshell, in a post-workout situation, nutrition helps the body to replenish glycogen, decrease protein breakdown, and increase protein synthesis. That’s what CLICK Active aims to do–and it’s still a better plan nutritionally than a venti mocha. CLICK Active has protein plus branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are the building blocks of protein, and therefore also of muscles. BCAAs are more easily digested than protein (which your body has to work to break down into amino acids before your body can use them).

The difference between CLICK and CLICK Active is basically the difference between a meal replacement drink and a recovery drink. No, the two are NOT the same thing! Think of CLICK as a low calorie breakfast or snack to help keep you on track nutritionally, and CLICK Active as a post-workout drink that helps your muscles recover. You can read more about the difference on the CLICK website’s blog. The CLICK website has all sorts of useful information, including a weight-loss plan (focused on portion sizes, making good choices, and exercise!) and recipes for shakes and snacks (coffee protein CLICK pop, anyone?).

My cat observed, “She haz a sad.”

How much do YOU love CLICK?

You won’t know until you try it, right? So you should enter to win it!

My new friends at CLICK are offering one prize: your choice of a canister of CLICK or CLICK Active, in the flavor of your choice (assuming availability) and a snazzy purple CLICK branded Blender Bottle to go with it.

Since I practice law and all, here are the rules: (1) this contest is not sponsored or endorsed or in any way affiliated with any social media outlet (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap, Tumblr, Pinterest, mySpace, Livejournal, or anything else you can name); (2) there is no purchase necessary to enter; (3) entrants must be 18 or older because I don’t want to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and because in the U.S. minors can’t enter into a binding contract, and because teenagers don’t need to start the day with two shots of espresso; (4) there is one prize and will be one winner, who will be required to submit their shipping address for prize delivery purposes; (5) the winning entrant will be contacted by email, and must respond to that email within three days or a new winner will be selected; (6) this contest is void where prohibited (I’m pretty sure that still includes Quebec, sorry!); (7) if I missed any major legal points I reserve the right to add them here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: this post is not in any way sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise connected with Monthly Java. I paid for my own subscription. I chose to write about the Arizona Monthly Java because I love coffee, not because Monthly Java paid me. (Though if they wanted to pay me to write for them, I wouldn’t be opposed!) If you check out Monthly Java, would you let them know you found them through my review? They might not notice, but it can’t hurt to let them know, right?

Don't be afraid to climb out of bed--coffee is waiting!
Don’t be afraid to climb out of bed–coffee is waiting!

Have you heard the good news about coffee?

While procrastinating–wait, I mean researching!–on social media, I happened to run into Monthly Java. It’s a subscription coffee box and like other subscription coffee boxes, it sends you coffee each month. Unlike other boxes, a Monthly Java box contains coffee from local roasters (not big, well-known ones), and each box has two bags from different roasters in the same state. The roasters package the coffee, so it comes to your house in the same packaging as if you’d bought it directly from them (not in some Monthly Java branded package). That means you might get a pound (16 oz) or you might get 12 oz (which seems to be the most common package size on shelves right now), depending on how the roaster packages their beans.

Monthly Java, revealed
Monthly Java, revealed

My first box had two coffees from Arizona roasters. Also included were two bookmark-sized brief dossiers on the roasters, some supplemental material from one roaster, and a handwritten thank you note. I liked the low-key, no-fuss packaging. (Hey, I subscribed for the coffee. I don’t need or want ridiculous packaging–I want my money going into the coffee.)

Cartel's beans
Cartel’s beans

Cartel Coffee Lab

The Roaster. Funny thing, I was already familiar with Cartel, a roaster based in Tempe, AZ, because they have a cafe in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. (Thank god they do. The first time I flew through Phoenix there was literally NO coffee in the nearby terminals. While there’s a Starbucks in the airport now, I prefer the Austin/Portland model of putting local businesses in the airport.) Cartel included the “Cartel Coffee Lab Brew Guide” which lays out the optimal amounts of coffee and water, as well as the process, for making coffee in the Aeropress, Hario V60, Clever, or Chemex. (I have a no-frills $10 4 cup and an Aeropress, but didn’t get around to trying it in the Aeropress.) The website contains all sorts of information about Cartel and coffee in general. Cartel also included a decal, because they think I’m cool enough to have something to put decals on.

The Cartel Package
The Cartel Package

The Facts. The bookmark dossier indicated this Cartel coffee came from Coban, Guatemala from a farm at an elevation of 1400-1600 meters. (It’s not in the online store right now, but other beans are.) The beans were processed using the “washed” process. Since I had no clue what that meant, I visited the Cartel site for an explanation: “Washed coffees are popular where there is an abundance of fresh water. The cherries have an outer layer mechanically stripped off and the inner pulp is allowed to ferment for a prescribed time. The fermented pulp layer is then removed with fresh flowing water.” During my time in Guatemala, I’m pretty sure I saw the residents of El Durazno using this method on their small family plots; they had received clean water only a few months before I was there, and had previously used water carried by hand from a river.

Appearance. Cartel’s beans came in a lined brown bag with a card of coffee info held to the front of the package with a rubber bracelet type thingy (which, it turns out, was just a bit too big to be a bracelet–but it worked great for holding the info card to the mason jar I stored the coffee in.)

When I opened the package and took out the beans, the first thing I noticed is that the beans were a lighter shade of brown than most beans I buy. In addition, the beans had a dry, not oily, appearance and feel. When I put them in my coffee grinder, a few pulses revealed an even lighter interior bean color.

Taste. The bookmark’s tasting notes said “dark chocolate & cranberry.” I’m not sure I got the cranberry, but the aroma was definitely chocolate. I used my usual five scoops per pot (four cup pot, so 1 scoop per cup + “one for the pot”) method. Unadultered, the coffee had a medium level of intensity, and low-to-no feel of acidity. If you are a coffee purist you could drink this straight and be happy. If you are a coffee snob (like me) but like to mess with your coffee (say, by adding milk and a smidge of high-quality hot cocoa mix), that works out very well too.

 

Peixoto's beans and coffee
Peixoto’s beans and the coffee package

Peixoto Coffee

The Roaster. I had never heard of Peixoto Coffee before, and the bookmark only told me that they source beans from a family farm and are the fourth generation in their coffee-growing family. (How cool is that?) So I went to the website, which has gorgeous pictures of the coffee fruit, and the story of the Peixoto family legacy. (Side note, ye gods do I love the internet. I can get a DIY PhD in coffee right in my living room.) One of the benefits of buying from a family operation like Peixoto Coffee is that the supply chain is short–they grow, roast it, and sell it. That means all of your dollar is paying for the coffee (and the work it took to produce it), instead of intermediate distributors, warehousing, etc. Any coffee Peixoto roasts that doesn’t come from their own farm–such as their Ethiopian beans–is Direct Trade (which is sort of like Fair Trade but with higher standards). Like Cartel, Peix0to also has retail locations, and you can buy online.

The Facts. This particular Peixoto coffee is the yellow catucai, from the Peixoto family’s coffee farm, Fazenda Sao José da Boa Vista, in Alta Mogiana, Brazil. The website has some pictures to give you an idea of what the farm l0oks like, and one of the sliding header photos on the main page shows yellow catucai–the coffee fruit is actually yellow!  The beans were processed using the “natural” process. Since I had no idea what that meant, I relied on the Cartel site’s description: “Natural coffees do not use any water and are therefore associated primarily with producing regions that tend to be dryer. With naturals, the fruit is left to shrivel like a raisin before being removed through milling.” Hm, maybe this is the process I observed in Guatemala?

Peixoto peeking out of the box
Peixoto peeking out of the box

Appearance. Most notable to me, the beans are irregular sizes. You know when you open a typical bag of coffee, all the beans are basically identical? These beans are a mix of the size you expect to see plus all sorts of smaller sizes. I didn’t even need to put them through the grinder to see they had a lighter interior than many beans I use. They had a medium brown external appearance, mostly dry but with a little bit of oiliness. (The oiliness is evident in the empty bag.)

Taste. The bookmark’s tasting notes say “chocolate, mandarin, hazelnut” (the package says “sweet, milk chocolate, hazelnut”). I can definitely understand the milk chocolate–both from the color and the scent of the beans–and the nuttiness. I’m not sure I get “mandarin,” as I didn’t detect the tart citrus taste I expect to go with that word. To the extent “mandarin” is supposed to mean a very slightly sweet, “bright” note, that I do get. Unadultered, this coffee was medium in terms of color (using the exact same process I have described above). It wasn’t 100% acidity-free, as it did have a little citrus-like aspect to it, but the brew also wasn’t so acidic that you could feel it in your teeth. (Monthly Java does advertise that it chooses light to medium roasts, so if you fear the dark, you can still enjoy Monthly Java.) If you’re a purist, this is a fine choice all by itself. It also made a great base for my preferred coffee drink.

The beans, side by side; can you tell which is which?
The beans, side by side; can you tell which is which?

What do you think?

Have you tried Monthly Java or another coffee subscription service? (If not, would you?)

I’ll be the first to admit that a Monthly Java subscription isn’t cheap. Pricing for a single month is $48, paying three months at once brings the cost to $46.56 per month, and the six month plan works out to $45.60 per month. Yet even on the most expensive plan, I would save money–$48 would maybe cover a venti Starbucks mocha for ten days, yet Monthly Java brings me two bags of beans for that cost. Even adding in the most decadent cocoa mix I might use (approx. $10, lasts a month) and the cost of milk, making my drink at home still puts me ahead.

 

Coffee is love
Coffee is love

Disclosure: if you’ve read the other two #Buffalove posts, you know I got the opportunity to run and help promote the Buffalo Marathon because I am on the BibRave Pro Team. (If you haven’t read them, why not?!?) This post is a continuation of my adventures in Buffalo. This post has no sponsors or sponsored content. BibRave, Buffalo Marathon, and Spot don’t even know I’m going to write it.

Coffee and compression socks for the win
Coffee and compression socks for the win

As you may have figured out, I love a good cup of coffee. (Yes, I have a Starbucks Gold Card; when you travel for work as much as I do, it is often the only place to get coffee and/or the only place with reliable wifi…and sometimes I am not feeling adventurous.) When I travel for fun, I like to check out the local variations on the bean of life. It gives me an excuse to explore a little, and usually a place to check my email, start my race review, and otherwise kick back a little. In Buffalo, I checked out Spot Coffee. Spot has coffee and the usual coffee place menu (e.g. baked goods) but also serves real food (like breakfast, burritos/wraps, sandwiches, pizza, salads, and other things that are not just sweet little noshes to go with coffee).

 

 

 

Spot's welcome chalkboard
Spot’s welcome chalkboard

The Spot I visited was smack in the middle of downtown; I ran past it during the marathon, and made a mental note of the name so I could look it up later. (Okay so I lost that note and had to google, but hey.) There is a Starbucks literally across the street, and yet both times I was there (you know I like coffee, right?) it had plenty of customers. The chalkboard marquis distracted me from my immediate goal (get coffee inside me, pronto) and enticed me to walk past the bags of freshly roasted coffee. That turns out well for you, as there is a chance to win a bag at the end of this post!

Before I left, I saw the roasting room. I didn’t have time to beg for a tour (I had a plane to catch) but I did stop to ogle the equipment and try not to drool.

But back to the Spot experience. There is a lot of real estate that could support a line to wait to order, but on the Tuesday after a holiday weekend (and not during a rush hour) there was no wait to belly up to the coffee bar. There were more choices than I expected, and the staff were kind and friendly as I dithered about what to get.

Sorry this shot turned out so dark--next time I'll try a filter! (Yes, that was my attempt at a coffee joke.)
Sorry this shot turned out so dark–next time I’ll try a filter! (Yes, that was my attempt at a coffee joke.)

The decor was a funky mix, with unique lighting fixtures (I don’t think any two of the chandeliers over the tables matched each other), a mural covering one wall, and all sorts of seating. The main room (the part surrounding the bar, above) included tables and bar-style window seats. There were two outdoor areas, one reserved for smoking and the other non-smoking. Also, bonus, lots of places to plug in gadgets (since I started playing Ingress, my iPhone is always in need of a charge). The back room had a few bigger tables, some chairs and lamps, and a few booths. I like how there were many different types of seating; there was something suitable for every possible purpose at a cafe from study alone or read the paper to hosting a group meeting.

Chandelier and purple wall!
Chandelier and purple wall!

Aside from the mural, there were also various pieces of art hung around the cafe. I really enjoy visual art, and appreciate it when cafes support artists by hosting shows, or serving as a temporary art gallery. Another thing I like about checking out the local cafes is that there is usually a literature and brochure area. Sure, I did read The Buffalo News while in town, but I also like to read the alternative papers. It was fun to see postcards and papers out for other local races, Pride events, art shows, churches, and community groups. (Sometimes there is more than one place for these items, and sometimes there is a bulletin board as well. I find it is a way to get a different, less touristy, feel for a place I’m visiting.) Several of the fun runs sounded like I’d enjoy them, but since I live in California I knew they’d be a no-go.

 

 

 

Condiment bar with sriracha? Yes, please!
Condiment bar with sriracha? Yes, please!

My first go at Spot, I had a (hot) mocha. I’m pretty sure the barista thought I was insane for ordering a hot drink on a hot day; if he saw the marathon medal that should have confirmed my insanity right there. It was made with a strong, dark espresso and wasn’t overly sweet. Tuesday I tried a variation, adding a shot of hazelnut (because as soon as I saw they had it, I had a major jones for hazelnut syrup). Yes, that made my drink taste more like a candy bar, but I loved every sip of it!

For a list of locations in Buffalo and elsewhere, try the Spot Coffee website. It also lists contact information and hours for each cafe.

 

 

Now the part you’ve been waiting for: win some coffee! This giveaway has two prizes. Prize #1 is Spot Coffee Company’s “House” coffee. The label identifies notes of milk chocolate, nougat, and cream. Prize #2 is Spot Coffee Company’s “Espresso” coffee. The label says it has notes of dark chocolate, stonefruit, and “syrupy” (which I believe refers to the consistency or mouth-feel after brewing). These are both 12 oz., sealed packages of whole-bean coffee roasted by Spot in Buffalo, NY.

Win this coffee!
Win this coffee!

Enter using the Rafflecopter below. Please note this contest is void where prohibited by law. I will happily ship prizes to addresses in the U.S. and Canada. Winners will be notified and must respond within 7 days or forfeit. There is only one of each prize, and the first winner drawn will get to choose which prize they would prefer.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite jokes:

Q: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

A: Pilgrims!

I thought this was hilarious. (It probably didn’t hurt that I grew up in a town named Plymouth, and the main fancy hotel downtown was The Mayflower Hotel. Every joke about pilgrims was hilarious.)

As May approaches and I’m writing my May #ButFirstCoffee post, I wondered if the Mayflower also brought coffee. I mean, we all learned in elementary school that the people on the Mayflower drank tea, because it played a big role in one of our most cherished national folktales, the Boston Tea Party. But did they have coffee?

Short answer: Yes. Or rather, maybe.

So wait…how did the colonists have coffee? It isn’t exactly a Spanish or British crop. While there are whole books that examine the history of coffee (none of which I read for this post), the most popular origin legend goes something like this:

Once upon a time–maybe it was a thousand years ago, or 850 A.D., or the 10th century–there lived a shepherd. His name was Kaldi, and he lived in a land far, far, away–either lived in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia, or somewhere in “Arabia,” or on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. One day, Kaldi observed his normally sanguine goats dancing around joyously. Upon further investigation, Kaldi saw they were eating bright red berries from a bush/tree with shiny green leaves. Kaldi tried some of the berries and joined his happy dancing goats. Because coffee.

Personally, I’m going to go with an earlier year versus a later one, as The Atlantic (see below) reported “the first person known to write about coffee was a Persian physician and philosopher named Rhazes or Razi (850 to 922 AD), who characterized it as a medicine.”

The legend continues–perhaps this is an add-on to combat suspicious Europeans’ description of coffee as “the bitter invention of Satan” or as a Christianization of the fact that Muslims used coffee to maintain wakefulness during long prayer sessions :

Some time later, a sleepy monk happened upon Kaldi and his happy goats. The monk asked Kaldi about the goats, and Kaldi told the monk about the effect the red berries had on the goats. The monk, who had a tendency to fall asleep while reciting his prayers, saw this as a gift from God (because coffee!) and tried the magic berries. Indeed they did help him stay awake during his prayers. The monk took the berries back to his monastery where he came up with the idea of drying the berries to make a tea to drink before prayers. He shared it with other monks, and monasteries began to cultivate coffee, beginning the spread across Europe.

IMG_4094

At some point, it becomes easier to tell what is likely fact, and what is a legend. (Don’t ask me how.) According to Tori Avery (PBS, see below), modern roasted coffee originated in Arabia and was popular during the 13th century. She reports the tradition is that not a single coffee plant existed outside of Arabia or Africa until the 1600s, when an Indian pilgrim (Baba Budan), left Mecca with some hidden fertile beans and introduced them to Europe. (Most of the sources I looked at noted that the Arabian businessmen who were exporting coffee to Europe deliberately parched the coffee beans so that they would be infertile. Think about that the next time you accuse Monsanto of coming up with new ways to be evil.) The Atlantic gives roughly the same timeframe, but pinpoints the cause of the spread of coffee as the Turkish conquest of the Arabian peninsula.

Conquest played a role in the spread of coffee, which is true of pretty much every type of agricultural and cultural cross-pollination I’ve read about. Coffee just spread from there. Avery writes that the Dutch founded the European-owned coffee estates in Sri Lanka (1616), then Ceylon, then Java (1696). As the European age of exploration and conquest continued, it makes sense that they planted coffee on plantations in each new location with a suitable climate (the French in the Caribbean, the Spanish in Central America, the Portuguese in Brazil). While I didn’t research this specifically, I’d bet my next ten cups that slavery played a huge role in coffee production for hundreds of years.

By the mid-1600s, the Dutch settlers brought coffee to New Amsterdam (nka New York). The National Coffee Association summaries what later ensued. “Though coffee houses rapidly began to appear, tea continued to be the favored drink in the New World until 1773, when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. The revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee.” Drinking tea was now unpatriotic.

According to the Rainforest Alliance, the United States is only 25th in consumption of coffee. Trust me, I’m doing my share!

 

P.S. According to Avery, the natural caffeine in coffee acts as an insecticide. (Consider that the next time you assume anything that kills bugs must also be bad for people.)

IMG_4096 (1)

For further investigation

Books (that I have not read) about the history of coffee:

  • Steward Lee Allen, The Devil’s Cup: Coffee, the Driving.
  • Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. Revised Second Edition. New York: Basic Books, 2010.
  • William H. Ukers, All About Coffee. New York: The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Company, 1922.

Selected Online Resources:

Sells a variety of coffees (this is NOT an affiliate link, I get no love from them) and includes coffee reviews and articles about health, business, history, and the arts as related to coffee.

The RA works with small farmers to teach them agricultural methods to boost yields and keep the land productive for future generations. The Rainforest Alliance certification involves social and economic criteria in addition to environmental ones.

 

As a kid, I thought coffee was disgusting. As an adult, I learned that drip coffee made from ground beans so old they’ve been in the metal can longer than most wine is aged, that’s disgusting. Good coffee? Mmmm, I love coffee.

This month, I’m giving a jolt of caffeine to the But First Coffee blogger linkup: every month, we start with coffee. No April foolin’, just posts about coffee. (If you’re a blogger and want to join, just reach out.)

53x11 direct to me!
53×11 direct to me!

Last year, while I was researching the impact of caffeine consumption on distance athletes, I learned that Hammer Nutrition has their own line of USDA certified organic and Fair Trade coffee, called 53×11. (Based on the graphics, I assume 53×11 is some super-secret cycling reference intended to taunt me into doing a triathlon. Nice try, but still NO.) According to Hammer, “Originally created by cyclists, for cyclists, 53×11 Coffee today is dedicated purely to delivering the best cup of organic, fair-trade coffee in the world. We utilize only sustainable organic, pesticide-free farms, and support trade wages and direct purchasing to give more to those growing the beans.” That, plus if you join the coffee club (2 bags/month on autoship) you get some freebies and perks (pun intended).

There are four blends in the Hammer coffee line-up: Chain Breaker, Big Ring, Early Break, and Downshift (which is decaff, so why would I bother??). All blends come in the standard 12 oz. bag–word to the wise, nobody seems to sell coffee by the pound anymore–and in whole bean or ground. Personally, I think the money I invested in my coffee grinder has paid dividends in better-tasting brews, and I recommend doing the same. (I bought mine at Target for about $15; Hammer sells a fancier model for just under $30.)  I ordered the obvious three and here are my thoughts.

IMG_3171Chain Breaker: Our signature espresso blend is the perfect choice for those who favor a darker roast. This rich, nutty blend is equally extraordinary for espresso or drip use. The Chain Breaker consists of beans from Africa, Indonesia, and the Americas which results in a complex, yet smooth cup. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean.

Much to my surprise, this is the coffee I liked the least out of the three–and I expected it to be my favorite! I usually make dark roast coffee like an espresso blend, quite strong, and then add some form of milk and a little cocoa to it. (Exceptions for exceptionally smooth, low-acid coffee, like the Jamaican coffee I had while actually in Jamaica.) Generally speaking, the darker the better. This is definitely DARK coffee. It isn’t as acidic as most of the dark roasts I like, and I suspect that threw off the flavor profile at least as far as my taste buds were concerned. Don’t misinterpret that–this coffee was just fine. If you like strong coffee before a run (or ride or whatever) but the acidity messes with your stomach, this is a great choice.

IMG_3169

Big Ring: Our 100% organic Sumatra single origin coffee, medium roasted and shade grown under a canopy of diverse species of trees that provide a viable habitat for migratory birds. The Big Ring represents the classic Sumatran flavor profile with low acidity and full body. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean.

This coffee is delicious! It is definitely my favorite of the three…so much so that when I switch to two bags a month, I might make them both The Big Ring. If I made this coffee at Midwestern strength, I could probably drink it without anything added. Life on the Left Coast has led me to prefer my coffee made just strong enough to start to dissolve the spoon (kidding!), so that’s unlikely.

What I liked most about The Big Ring is that it delivered exactly what it promised: a full-bodied flavor with low acidity. If you’re only going to try one of Hammer’s coffees, THIS is the one.

IMG_3170Early Break: A morning staple at the 53×11 office. This medium-roasted blend of Central, South American, and Sumatran beans represents a well-rounded, mildly acidic cup with a clean finish. The Early Break is a great “everyday” coffee. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean.

Again, this one promised what it delivered: balanced body, rich flavor. (That’s on the label, but if you’re a Runner of a Certain Age like I am, you might not be able to read it.) It’s also low in acidity. When I brew this one I up the amount of coffee in the coffee-to-milk ratio. I like this one with some Califia almond milk and a small splash of quality vanilla extract. (Feeling daring? Try a dash of cinnamon too.) I like this one for the weekends, when I want to sit down and get to work while drinking more than one giant mug of coffee. (That would be a a BAD idea with the Chain Breaker, at least for me…I might get more done, but I’m pretty sure the typo level would increase dramatically!)

As I mentioned previously, I didn’t try the decaff blend. Seriously, what is the point of unleaded coffee? In case you’re curious, here’s how Hammer describes it: Down Shift: A decaffeinated version of our beloved Chain Breaker signature espresso blend. No shortcuts were taken here. This blend represents the four major coffee growing regions as well, resulting in a remarkable decaf. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean. Based on the other three, I’m sure it is lovely, but I don’t see the point.

In addition to the four coffees, Hammer can also hook you up with an electric kettle (great for making drip coffee at the office), a refillable Keurig cup (because seriously K-cups are the most wasteful, non-recyclable, non-compostable thing on the planet), a french press pot, and pretty much anything else you might need to partake of the coffees. Join the coffee club for a free mug, coffee filters, and drip-into-that-mug maker, plus lower prices.

By the way, Hammer makes all manner of other nutrition products for athletes. I’m working my way through the ones that are appropriate for me–and they have actual, real, live people to talk on the phone or chat online if you need help deciding what is best for your personal goals. So far, customer service has been GREAT. Before every coffee club shipment, I get an email reminding me that it’s about to ship, and have the option to delay or modify the order. The Hammer website also has loads of information on nutrition and endurance sports. If you’re thinking about making your first order, might I suggest you use my referral code? If you do, you’ll get 15% off your first order and a special packet of goodies including samples of some of the most popular Hammer products. Just place your order, and in the “referred by” section: Elizabeth Bain, email address bananafishie AT gmail, and code 252426. Voila!

Want to try before you buy?

Enter to win a bag of Hammer 53×11 coffee from Train With Bain! Just follow along on the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note the following: (1) This giveaway is in no way sponsored by Hammer Nutrition (or any other company or person or animal or alien), it’s 100% Train With Bain, baby. (2) I will happily ship to you for free within the US and Canada. If you’re in another country, I’ll have to look at postage…if it is extreme, I might ask you to help pay for it (or donate to a charity in lieu of paying postage). (3) Winners have to contact me with their shipping details within a reasonable amount of time–if I haven’t heard from you in a week, I’ll assume you are not interested.

Prizes: one bag of Hammer 53×11 coffee (new, unopened, fresh). The first winner to get back to me gets first pick of the blends!

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Like coffee? Why not take a spin around the April But First Coffee loop? It’s a short one this month! Next in line is Endure, Run Conquer

If you’re anything like me, you probably see all sorts of articles about coffee.  This week it’s good for preventing colon cancer, last week it was bad for your heart or your stomach or something. I’m going to start filing those studies and read the actual papers…later. In practice, I LOVE coffee. In moderation, of course.

Speaking of courses, if you’ve read my reviews for Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas and Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco, you know I’m not above making a java stop during a race. It turns out there are others out there who firmly believe that coffee and running (hello, coffee and anything!) are a great mix. At one of my recent races, my goody bag had a flyer for Hammer Strength Nutrition coffee. No joke! Nice to know I’m not the only one crossing the streams.

Then something crossed my social media stream called the Rook Run 5k. The logo was so cute that I just HAD to look for more information. (A little rook bird wearing a headband and sneakers!)

Seriously, is this not adorable? (Credit: Rook Run website.)
Seriously, is this not adorable?       (Credit: Rook Run website.)

A wee bit of research reveals that the run is not only a charity run for a worthy cause–The Valerie Fund, which helps provide comprehensive care for children with cancer and blood disorders–but the “Rook” part is a coffee company. If I lived in New Jersey, I’d be there like white on rice. (By the way, you can donate to The Rook Run’s fundraising for The Valerie Fund by clicking here.)

I knew right away I had to order some coffee from Rook. (You should, too. Rook Coffee turned out to be delicious!) Rook offers light, medium, and dark roasts. Since I add a little hot chocolate (or cocoa and sugar) and about as much milk as coffee, I tend to stick to dark roasts. After reading the coffee descriptions, I settled on the Bali roast.

Two very cool things about ordering from Rook Coffee: One, shipping is FREE. Two, you can choose from whole beans or ground coffee, and if you want it ground you can specify fine, drip, auto drip, french press, espresso, electric percolator, or stovetop percolater. Did I mention you can also order a five pound bag? Since I’m just testing–and I plan to be trying a lot of coffee over the next few months–I decided to stick with the 12 oz. bag.

When the coffee arrived, I was impressed to discover it had a birthdate on it! (Okay, technically it isn’t labelled birthdate. If you’re a coffee lover, you know that coffee can actually go bad, and freshly roasted coffee is way better than stale coffee.) It was roasted pretty much right before they put it into the package to send to me.

Birth date AND social
Birth date AND social

It also came with a hand-written note. Seriously, when is the last time you ordered something online and it came with a note from a real person?

A coffee love note!
A coffee love note!

The beans are a gorgeous, dark color. The Bali coffee has such a delicious scent that I kind of wanted to just sit around and sniff the bag. Actually, I could smell the coffee perfume before I even opened the package. I could have just hugged it. But I had to make some coffee with the beans! Fortunately, grinding the beans also releases that delectable scent, so I got to savor the scent as I made my first cup.

Rook Coffee before it was roasted
Rook Coffee before it was roasted

While I’m not sure I get the strawberries (go read the description), I do get the chocolate. Rook’s Bali coffee is quite delicious with just a smidge of chocolate and some milk. I can’t quite go as far as to say this is my favorite coffee, but it is definitely right in my coffee-love-wheelhouse.

In celebration of all things #CoffeeYesCoffee, why not take a trip around a few other cofffee-related blog posts? Think of it as a Coffee Shop Blog Hop. Next in line is MCM Mama Runs. Rumor has it she’s writing about coffee beans, too. (Bonus: head there next, then follow the link at the bottom of her post…you’ll eventually end up back here.)

So really, which coffee do I try next? Do you have a running-related coffee to recommend?

 

But if you absolutely insist on going out of order, here are a few other coffee-ish delights to caffeinate your Monday…