Reviews of coffee shops and roasters in Minnesota.

Coffee or Tea? The Answer is Green Alert.

Green Alert, a new proprietary blend of fair trade organic coffee and tea, keeps caffeine drinkers energetic all day.

When I first heard about Green Alert I was skeptical. Very, very skeptical. My love affair with coffee and my newfound appreciation for tea have rarely intersected, and I’ve never once considered mixing the two. Nonetheless, the idea piqued my interest and I reached out to them for a review sample.

I received both versions of the product that Green Alert is raising money on Kickstarter to get to market: Primal and Refresh. Primal is a mix of Wulu Green Tea and a darkly roasted Sumatran Coffee, while Refresh combines Moroccan Mint Tea with Ethiopian coffee – also roasted dark. I’m not the biggest fan of dark roasts in the first place, and combining that with loose-leaf tea just seemed like a horrible idea to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Snapshot

Lucas Rayala invented Green Alert the way all great things are invented: by messing around. One morning he decided to mix his morning coffee grounds with green tea in a French Press, and after a self-described “tentative sip” he was hooked. Even better – he didn’t experience the seemingly-inevitable afternoon caffeine crash, nor was he jittery throughout his workday.

He began experimenting with different coffees and various types of tea, inviting friends over to taste and give feedback. Pretty soon, he found some killer combos and wanted to share his findings.

On his company’s Kickstarter page, Lucas talks about why he believes Green Alert is so effective, but yields differing results from drinking coffee or tea independently. “When you combine coffee and green tea,” he writes, “you actually get more caffeine than your regular brew. Green tea also contains a substance called theanine. Caffeine and theanine are the key ingredients in typical energy drinks like Redbull, but Green Alert is made from organic, fair trade ingredients without any preservatives or additives — an energy drink you can feel good about drinking.”

An energy drink you can feel good about drinking.

He also goes on to talk about the antioxidants found in Green Alert, and the health benefits associated with both coffee and tea, including improved memory, lower cholesterol, and improved blood flow.

Green Alert

The Coffee, er Tea, er Whatever

I was able to try both the Primal and the Refresh blends. Because I’m just dipping my toe into the world of tea, I shared them with a close friend who’s been a tea drinker his entire life. Surprisingly, our notes were very close.

Lucas recommends brewing Green Alert at about 180ºF in a French Press with a 3.5 minute steep time. In our tests, we found that closer to 200ºF worked just as well and that you can play around with the steep time to taste.

I expected that while brewing Green Alert I would experience neither coffee nor tea – I figured that the smells and flavor profile would be a new beverage that I would either love or hate. Quite frankly, I expected to hate it.

The reality was exactly the opposite. While brewing, both the Primal and the Refresh smelled like you were simply brewing coffee and tea right next to each other. The Primal specifically gave off both the smell of fresh dark coffee, and the light freshness of green tea all at once, yet these odors complimented and danced around each other in a most pleasant way.

8682072828d8715d7575e24e4944e4ae_originalThe actual flavor of Green Alert was similar; while I expected a brand-new beverage that would perhaps have elements of coffee and tea, I found that both taste profiles were completely whole in my cup. I could taste the dark Sumatran – which was clearly roasted well – as well as the Wulu Green Tea all at once, and neither flavor crowded or influenced the other. I can’t express how surprised I was to discover this, and how happy it made me!

The Refresh was much the same. I’ve never been a big mint person, but I found the Moroccan Mint Tea to be as subtle as it was tasty, and a perfect compliment to Ethiopian dark roast. It was refreshing, crisp, and full of flavor.

I wasn’t able to test Green Alert using other brew methods, and I’m curious how a paper filter might impact the final taste results. Using an immersion brew method like the inverted Aeropress or the Clever Drip Brewer would be something worth looking into – though I suspect a big reason the French Press works so well is due to the nature of brewing tea. Nonetheless, I look forward to experimenting with Green Alert more – and perhaps that, more than anything, shows that I’m sold.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think my expectations have ever been proven more wrong than they were with Green Alert. On top of that, in no way was it an acquired taste. If you like coffee and you like tea, you’re going to like Green Alert – it’s as easy as that. Lucas Rayala and his team have seemingly done the impossible – they’ve managed to do both coffee and tea justice simultaneously. The result is a beverage that exceeds expectations and – according to their findings – leaves you without jitters or a crash.

I pledged money to Green Alert’s Kickstarter campaign, and I encourage you to as well. They are good people with a great product,   and they aren’t asking for much. As of this writing they have 16 days to go and have already reached almost 80% of their goal. I hope that you’ll help them get to 100%.

The Coffee Guy

Spyhouse Coffee Review

The best coffee shops that I have experienced have been focused and unflinching in their drive to make the best cup of coffee possible. They realize that a great cup of Joe is more than simply the sum of its parts: every aspect works together in a creative and powerful way. Making concessions and compromising on one aspect can break the whole process. One barista that isn’t committed to his or her craft can negatively influence the atmosphere of an entire coffee shop, for instance.

Spyhouse Coffee is one coffee shop that knows their trade, and knows it well. On their website they lay out their mission:

Since the inception of The Spyhouse in 2000, our primary goals have been to ensure quality, sustainability, education, and a commitment to producing the finest coffee and espresso drinks while sourcing from the most artisanal micro-roasters, both locally and nationally. Our daily operations consist of working with local distributors and extensive barista training to produce high-quality drinks that are ultimately served with professionalism to you, the customer.

Spyhouse Coffee doesn’t roast their own coffee, but they source from some of the highest quality roasters in the country: Verve Coffee Roasters, Ritual Coffee Roasters, Coava Coffee Roasters, and Tea Source. They’ve done their research, each and every one of these roasters is time-tested and well known throughout the coffee industry.

One of my favorite things about Spyhouse Coffee is that they offer several brewing methods in-house. This is a trend that’s starting to pick up among cafes and coffee shops, and I love it. Not only do they offer staple methods like drip and French Press, but in addition they provide Hario V60 Pour-Over and Cafe Solo methods.

While I haven’t had the chance to visit either of the Spyhouse Coffee shop locations (they’re in downtown Minneapolis), they were gracious enough to send me two coffees to review. They sent me the “Streetlevel Espresso” from Verve and a Light/Medium roast originating from Honduras from Coava. I found both to be delightful coffees, each great in their own rite.

Verve’s Streetlevel Espresso is a blend of three coffees of Guatemalan origins. While I haven’t had the chance to run it through an espresso machine yet, I’ve found that my Aeropress does a fine job of testing out Espresso coffee when I adjust the water to coffee ratio properly. I found this coffee to have a delicious start and finish with earthy notes between each. The coffee was quite sweet actually – making for great espresso to be sure. The taste in between the start and finish is difficult to place, but reminds me of some sort of secret, secluded area in a forest. As if this coffee demands mysteriousness. Bold, yet sweet. Earthy, yet delicious.

The Light/Medium roast from Coava originates from Honduras. As is typical of light coffees, this was packed with a caffeine punch not to be trifled with. With notes of caramel, this coffee was exceedingly bright in every aspect. It was acidic, to be sure, but in the best possible way. Light and fun, this coffee was the perfect start to my day when I enjoyed it in the morning. Unlike the Streetlevel Espresso, this coffee was constant throughout, starting and finishing on the same strong bright note.

Spyhouse Coffee has an amazing website full of information about all things coffee, and more. In their Coffee and Brewing Methods section they discuss their roasters and offer brief descriptions of their various available brewing methods. Their photo gallery has some great images showing shots being pulled, coffee art, and some pictures of their locations. Perhaps most intriguing of all is their Staff Statistics page which has a fascinating infographic about their baristas.

Another aspect of their website is incredibly revealing about Spyhouse Coffee’s values. On their About page they talk about “Our Community.” They discuss what it looks like to help out and give back to their community by doing small things like recycling and riding a bike to work.

Spyhouse Coffee sees the big picture. They realize that to make great coffee you need great people. They see that part of being a part of a community is giving back to that community. And they understand that the ends of a great cup of coffee do not justify the means. Spyhouse Coffee earns high marks in my book, and I strongly recommend hitting up one of their two locations next time you’re in Minneapolis. In addition, their social media links are below.

The Coffee Guy

Spyhouse: Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr