Tag Archives: review

Allann Bros Coffee: Evolution in Motion

3b8fa39

Allann Bros Coffee was founded in 1972 in Ashland, Oregon – just north of the California/Oregon border. Like most of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has a broad coffee culture with a brew-thirsty population. To fill this demand, it’s not uncommon to see coffeehouses come and go with some frequency. When a coffee shop, cafe, or roaster sticks around for any length of time, it generally means they have rapport with people in the area, and a great product. It’s important to keep this in mind when I say that Allann Bros has been in business for over 40 years – that’s no small task. My first question was how they managed to accomplish this. The answer? Evolution.

Allann Bros coffee bags

The Snapshot

Allann Bros. has undergone some serious changes and image overhauls since their founding. As best I can tell, the overarching spirit of the company has stayed the same while employees, coffees, and even growers/farms have changed. That’s fine – and I imagine just about any coffee company with Allann Bros. longevity has experienced similar changes. Coffee, after all, is a very different today than it was 40 years ago – at least in the minds of consumers.

If Allann Bros’ recent blog posts are any indication, the most recent changes to the company have likely been the most massive. The most recent post – from July 27th – has this to say:

For over a decade, Allan Bros has worked diligently to keep the price of our specialty coffee in check. As a commodity, coffee often undergoes significant price changes… often on a daily basis! Since 2008, we have absorbed much of the cost in serving fantastic coffee. As we approach the end of 2015, we have had to make changes to some of our cost structures, including adjusting pricing to be in line with acquiring and roasting some of the world’s finest green beans. While we regret that this can result in a negative reaction, please be assured that we work tirelessly to keep prices down, without sacrificing quality.

Read: “Prices are probably going to go up, but that’s because we’re changing who and where we’re buying beans from. In the end, it will mean better coffee.”

Personally, this is great news to me. Allann Bros clearly has a customer base that is accustomed to paying a certain amount of money for a drink, or a bag of coffee. These new changes may mean losing those customers that simply want cheap coffee. The fact that Allann Bros cares more about putting out a great product than keeping it at a specific price point speaks volumes to me. So, how does that product taste?

The Coffee

Allann Bros Coffee sent me two blends: “Phoenix and the Turtle,” a medium roast, and “Maestro’s Blend,” a dark roast. My thoughts on each are below.

Phoenix and the TurtlePhoenix and the Turtle
I’ll be upfront and honest: I did not enjoy this coffee very much. I
brewed several cups in my Chemex, and found the end taste to be very bitter, albeit with a slightly pleasant aftertaste. While Allann Bros claims this blend to be a medium roast, I found it to be far closer to a dark roast, and the taste profile backs this up. I found cocoa notes to be fairly clear, but besides that I largely found the taste to be smoky and earthy.

Phoenix and the Turtle had a mild mouthfeel, and reminded me more of smoking a smooth cigar than drinking a cup of coffee. The smoky, bitter taste combined with a smooth finish may have gone better late at night than first-thing in the morning.

Maestro’s Blendmaestros
After finding that I didn’t enjoy The Phoenix and the Turtle as much as I thought I would, I was sure I would hate the Maestro’s Blend. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a huge fan of dark roasts. This coffee, however, won me over in the end.

I brewed this blend in a variety of methods including my stovetop Moka pot, my Aeropress and a large French-Press. I found the end-results to be largely the same, but the methods that didn’t use the paper filter yielded a less bitter product.

The coffee was tangy, which is fairly uncharacteristic for a dark roast. While it was bitter on the back of my tongue, I found it to be a fairly mild taste at first sip. This shifting taste of mild to bitter, combined with the tangy spiciness made me want to take another sip…and another…then pour another cup. I found myself checking the bag to make sure this was indeed a dark roast, and not some imposter.

Final Thoughts

Allann Bros Coffee surprised me. I expected to find a Peet’s Coffee knockoff with a rich history and a shallow product. Instead, I found something in mid-evolution. I found a coffee company that isn’t afraid to grow and change. And, even better, I found that they can put out a truly intriguing product that I enjoyed. While Phoenix and the Turtle may not have been my favorite blend, Maestro’s Blend was absolutley something I would consider Specialty Coffee. It was roasted by folks who love the craft and have been doing it for decades, and the final result was a cup that I kept coming back for; it made me want to try their Single Origin roasts to see what else they can do.

If you’re interested in trying coffee that tends to be roasted on the darker side (at least in my experience), I would certainly recommend giving Allann Bros a shot. Based on their blog post from earlier this year, I’m excited to see where the company is going. If the small glimpse of their products is any indication, they’re headed in the right direction.

The Coffee Guy

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

Caffe Dalí Is More Than A Coffee Company

Caffe DaliSometimes a coffee shop is just a coffee shop; they do one thing: make coffee and sell it. This isn’t a bad venture by any means – some people see coffee as another market with a demand, and they see a coffee shop as a way to make money and provide the supply. This is business, and often it works great. But sometimes a coffee company is more than a coffee company. Sometimes these coffee shops and roasters choose to interact with their community and with the world in a meaningful way that has the potential to make a difference in the lives of people that sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee.

When I typically write about coffee, I like to stress the importance of local coffee shops that are making a tangible difference in their city and community.  The best coffee shops I’ve visited host events, sponsor local artists and musicians, and act as a destination location for those seeking a great conversation and those looking to get some work done alike. Cafes have been a part of the social bedrock from ancient times until today, and there’s nothing I appreciate more than a small business that steps up and takes this mantle on with vigor.

Caffe Dalí takes this notion of a coffee company that is more than a coffee company to the next level. And while they haven’t poured their heart into a local community in the form of a brick-and-mortar coffee shop, they are doing much, much more with the resources they have amassed.

The Snapshot

Caffe Dalí sent me a number of pamphlets with phrases like “Can a Cup of Coffee Change a Life?” and “So good…it’s surreal!” While skeptical of the actual claims and message, I was intrigued. I navigated over to their website and found a host of material and links that made everything make more sense. Let’s start with their first big promise.

Caffe Dalí will directly impact the lives of the most innocent and the most vulnerable: Kids around the world who are orphans, infected with AIDS, and those young girls who have been sold into horrific sex trafficking industry. A minimum of 20% of all Caffe Dali’s profit will go directly toward rescuing these kids.

Along with this amazing pledge, Caffe Dalí uses phrases like “innovative marketing strategy” and “innovative business plan” to describe how they are getting their message to the world at large. Unfortunately, with the exception of the above quoted promise, Caffe Dalí doesn’t offer specifics as to how they plan to bring their good cause to the public at large. It is possible, however,  to glean some specifics from a separate page on their website titled Opportunity.

Caffe Dalí has a host of opportunities for people and businesses in nearly every sector of life. Their overarching categories include restaurants, educational organizations, non-profits, and religious organizations (including churches, synagogues, and mosques). Essentially, if any of the above organizational structures want an alternative way of making money, Caffe Dalí is eager to step in and fill that gap by providing coffee, and help you set up a business plan to boot.

Their website appears a mile wide and an inch deep in some respects, but I think it’s due to their understanding that every business and every person has a unique situation. Nearly every page has a form to fill out in order to get in touch with them, and this availability makes me hopeful that they are focusing on less talk and more do.

So, what about the actual coffee? Is it any good?

The Coffee

Apocalypto BlendCaffe Dalí sent me their “Apocalypto Blend” which is a mix of beans originating from Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Brazil. It’s a dark roast.

I brewed the Apocalypto Blend in my Hario v60, using my standard coffee:water ratio of 28:415grams. While brewing I noted that it had a nice bloom – a sign of freshness. My brew time was about 3 minutes when all was said and done.

Now I must put a disclaimer here: I’m not really a fan of dark roasts. It’s not that I think there is anything intrinsically wrong with them, I just prefer the flavors that tend to shine in lighter roasts. Knowing my predisposed feelings towards dark roasts, I went into tasting this coffee with as much of a blank slate in my mind as I could muster. I’ve had some pretty nasty dark roasted coffee before – but I’ve also had some pretty great ones. Clearing my head as I poured my first cup, I was ready for whatever Caffe Dalí had for me.

Omelette with Caffe Dalí dark roastAnd you know what? Their Apocalypto Blend was pretty great. It had a somewhat nutty initial taste, with a light bitterness all the way through the taste. But this bitterness wasn’t the sharp, dirty bitterness that I find all too often in Starbucks brews. No, this was a back-of-the-tongue bitterness that had just a hint of the earthy tones that make dark roasts unique. I found this bitterness was much less noticeable when I paired the coffee with spicy or oily foods (like, say, a pepper jack cheese omelette and avocado).

The coffee is much more pleasant than a Starbucks dark roast, or really any 2nd Wave coffee. That being said, I think this coffee suffered from what so many blends do – it tries to do too much with too many types of coffee from various regions. We could debate the merits of single-origin vs. blended coffees all day, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the far side of blends – like when you mix too many paint colors and end up with a gross brown or a completely undesired gray. This coffee isn’t gross, but neither is it very different from other upper-level dark roasts. This is only a small ding, however, because these upper-level dark roasts are some of the best of that genre.

In all, I applaud Caffe Dalí for sending me a dark roast that I didn’t hate – and more than that – one that I actually found myself enjoying.

Final Thoughts

The one thing missing from Caffe Dalí big promises and hopeful verbiage is a page of success stories. They don’t list businesses or churches that have used Caffe Dalí to increase their profits, nor do they have any pictures of real people who are selling their product. Caffe Dalí has only been around since 2013, so it’s likely that they are still waiting on those success stories to roll in.

Based on what I’ve tasted, what I’ve read, and the information I’ve been given, I hope Caffe Dalí is successful. Lord knows, our world could use more coffee shops that are more than coffee shops.

The Coffee Guy