Six Coffees to Buy For the Packaging

Packaging at the 2017 Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle, Wa.

Packaging at the 2017 Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle, Wa.

It’s an unspoken, semi-snobbish rule that you shouldn’t buy coffee or wine by the label. I get it, we should focus on the quality, region, and artisanship of the specialty food and drinks we purchase. But, as a consumer with a diminishing attention span, I run into a few problems here:

1) I’m a sucker for a good graphic and a sick font. Bonus points for anything resembling Pop art.       2) Most coffee and wine labels tell you less about the product than my dog can. (He is pretty smart, and I’m not biased.)

For problem two, I recognize that many coffee producers are getting better at describing where and how their coffee is sourced, as well as including tasting notes on the packaging. As consumers demand transparency, I suspect we’ll see an increase of (hopefully relevant) information on coffee packaging.

Back in April, I attended the Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle. I could share with you some very serious, official sounding tasting notes. But, because sick fonts look cooler and attention spans are short, below are six coffees from the event that I would unabashedly buy for their aesthetic merit alone.

Seattle Coffee Works "Seattle Space Blend"

What I'm drinking: Seattle Coffee Works "Seattle Space Blend"  

How they describe it: Milk Chocolate, Key Lime, Mixed Berry

How I describe it: This is the coffee I would choose when I'm stranded on that deserted island. (Does yours have one palm tree and a case of rum, too?)

I could drink this all day, every day. It's sweet, earthy, unfussy, and the smooth chocolate notes and hint of lime would pair well with those coconuts lying around.

The coffee is an award-winning blend of Direct-Trade Guatemala (57%) a Natural Ethiopia (30%) and Direct Trade Kenya (13%), but it's not the type to brag. It's just really good. Can't make it to Seattle? Order it at the link above.

Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

What else I'm currently into: Marimekko flower prints. It might be because it's spring, but I also like the organic, whimsy-ness of the prints. During times like these, I think we could all use a little flower power. 

Zen & the Art of Pour-Over Coffee

I don’t meditate or do yoga, but I do make pour-over coffee.

I’m convinced they have the same effects, except when making coffee there’s little chance of snoring in a room full of strangers.

Coffee used to be something I consumed in desperation, and I made it in the same fashion. Eyes half-closed, brain still in bed, I dumped unmeasured amounts of water and grounds into a Mr. Coffee maker I was lugging around since my dorm room days.

I never understood what people meant by a great cup of coffee because I was drinking a grainy, tar-like substance made by a frantic madwoman.

And then I learned about the pour-over method.

If I were Gwyneth Paltrow (unlikely) or a person who is a sucker for buzzwords (v. likely), I’d call it “intentional coffee, or intentional coffee making.”

Because it’s impossible to make pour-over coffee quickly (I’ve tried), you notice the details: the science experiment like bloom, the continuous patter from a steady stream of water, the change in smell of the coffee through the brewing process – milk chocolate to earthiness to floral notes in between.

If you’ve been skipping yoga classes (here’s to New Years Resolutions dying in March) or mediation apps aren’t your thing, try the pour-over method as a daily ritual. You may just get a good cup of coffee out of it, too.

Starbuck’s 1912 Pike blog has a step-by-step video that’s easy to follow: 

Agree, disagree? Figured out how to meditate without falling asleep? Lemme know!

Paris of the Pacific Northwest

12 HOURS IN PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON

Port Townsend, established in 1851, is called the "City of Dreams" because it was once slated to be the largest city on the West CoAst.

Port Townsend, established in 1851, is called the "City of Dreams" because it was once slated to be the largest city on the West CoAst.

There are places in the world that are so good, that selfishly, we want to keep them a secret.

Port Townsend, a Victorian-era seaport located on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula is one of mine. The other is a tiny, dark wood bar in downtown Seattle that serves cocktails that Hemingway would approve of. That’s all I’m divulging on the latter, but I’ll be generous with Port Townsend - the cat is out of the bag.

The seafaring town made Sunset Magazine’s list of “The West’s Best Small Towns” in 2016. It’s been called the “Paris of the Pacific Northwest” and the New York Times Frugal Traveler wrote about his visit in November.

Seattlites that have lived in the area pre-Amazon will describe Port Townsend as “what Seattle used to be”, i.e. hippies, artists, eccentrics and boat people.

If you go, and you should, here's how to spend a day.

Coffee

In true Pacific Northwest fashion, the coffee shops are plentiful. Better Living Through Coffee nearly touches the Puget Sound, and with its large windows, it’s easy to feel you’re on a schooner going crabbing –  which we all do in our spare time.

BLTC is one of the first coffee shops I noticed using the pour over method for its drip coffee ($2.95 for a 12oz). The coffee is organic, fair traded and roasted locally. Typically, I go for a chocolate torte with my coffee, but for those with willpower, the salads are good too. 

Other coffee shops to check out: Velocity, Sunrise Coffee Company (also a roaster).

 

Eats

Port Townsend has a variety of locally owned cafes and restaurants to discover. However, I always find myself at Sirens for its view, unfussy pub food, and local beer ($5.00 for a pint). It’s the kind of place where you can post up at the bar and find yourself in conversation with a fisherman just returning from Alaska, a poet, and a Shaman.

Living in college towns for a generous portion of my adult life, I’ve become a devotee of hippy cafes that speak in organic tongues. The Owl Sprit Café fulfills the requirements with kombucha, sprouts on everything, homemade soups, brightly colored walls and a friendly, soft-spoken staff.

 

Books

Five bookstores occupy the downtown corridor of the town with a population of less than 10,000. For bibliophiles looking to get their fix, the old book smell is heady at William James Bookseller (829 Water Street). The bookstore has an impressive collection of vintage and collectibles, histories of the Pacific Northwest, and coffee table art books.

Outside Insatiables Books, one of Five Bookstores Downtown Port Townsend.

Outside Insatiables Books, one of Five Bookstores Downtown Port Townsend.

Beach & Park

Fort Worden State Park, two miles from downtown, originally was a military base designed to protect the Puget Sound (the park is a backdrop in the 1982 movie An Officer & a Gentleman). It now offers visitors sweeping views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, hiking paths and a shoreline that varies from rocky cliffs to beach chair sand.

Coffee Cat

CoffeeCat

This is the unveiling of the blog Montana Coffee Collective, and instead of a slow start and a stodgy memoir, we're going to pounce and jump right into it. Here's what you need to know: I love coffee - the culture, the intricacies of it, and the people involved in making it. As the most consumed beverage in the world, it creates community and unifies people across cultures and space.

I'm no coffee guru (or a ninja/wizard/expert of anything), and yep, I've never been a barista. But, I am excited to unearth and share a few of the countless stories coffee has to tell. I hope you'll join me with your favorite mug in hand.

What I'm drinking: Caffè Umbria Sumatra Boru Batak, Single Origin                                               

How they describe it: Cedar, Strawberry, Rhubarb, Honey

How I describe it: Same. Caffè Umbria is not Pinocchio-ing in their tasting notes. The coffee reminds me of running through strawberry fields in June if I actually did that sort of thing. For the skeptics, which included me, the strawberry and honey notes are easy to pick up. The coffee is balanced, delicate and calls for a late morning scone with strawberry rhubarb jam.

What I'm reading: A back issue of the Financial Times from January 7th. The weekend edition is brilliant (I was compelled to use brilliant because it's published in London), and it includes sections like Food & Drink, Arts, Travel, Style, Books, and House & Home. I hear the finance and business articles are great too, full stop. The paper is also pink and elevates your look as an accoutrement. Carry at your next job interview, art opening, etc., etc.

Is there a coffee you love? Tell me what I should drink next in the comments below.