Coffee 101 in Atlanta

Costa Rica coffee

Atlanta is fortunate to have two major coffee roasters in town who are more than happy to give the coffee-drinking masses opportunities to learn more about beans and brewing. Counter Culture Coffee, who supplies places like Octane with a variety of beans, has weekly “cuppings” – every Friday at 10am – at their King Plow Arts Center facility. And YOU are invited. It’s a fun experience, and you will definitely learn a few things from David and the crew – each week is different depending on what beans are coming in the door. A few hours later each Friday (1pm), across town in Decatur at their Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters is running their own cuppings – and you’re invited to those, too.

Now, if that’s not enough, both of those roasters also go above and beyond with other learning opportunities every once and a while. Batdorf & Bronson just so happened to offer a free “Coffee 101” tour of their roasting facility this week, and Thirsty South was there to learn from Jason, “head of Bean Knowledgy.” We learned about the primary coffee growing regions, the microlot challenges in Ethiopia right now, processing and roasting techniques, and most importantly got to witness “coffee-roasting Elvis.” Actually, Jason probably topped Elvis with some highly caffeinated insights – where else will you get a comparison of Central American vs. African coffees as a battle between Bob Marley and Mike Tyson? You heard me – Central American coffees tend to go in the direction of laid-back, mellow flavors; while African coffees tend towards “all up in your face, bite your ears off” power. Don’t believe me? Give a few of the different Batdorf & Bronson coffees a spin, and see if you can spot Iron Mike.

Here are a few photos to give you a feel for the Batdorf & Bronson roasting facility. First up, industrial chic on Carroll Street off Marietta Road:
Batdorf & Bronson

Beans – some very happy and buzzed “trash cans”, followed by Ethiopian Harar ready to brew (good stuff, we tasted this at the end of the tour):
Dancing Goats
Ethiopia Harar

And to top it off, the veritable crema on the espresso, a collage: (clockwise from upper right) pouring into the aeropress, Jason demonstrating superior pumping action, “coffee-roasting Elvis,” and a beautiful machine – the Probat small batch roaster:
Batdorf

For more information, please visit the websites of Counter Culture Coffee and Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters. Call ahead or email them to confirm cuppings and other events.

Cocktails: Apple Season in a Glass

Summer is still hanging on with a vengeance, sunny hot days melting into cool September nights. Despite the heat, autumn is around the corner, and apple season is already here. Just head up to North Georgia and the apple trees are bountiful with fruit. In honor of cooler days to come and the heavenly aroma of apple pies inundating the air in lucky kitchens, we bring you a simple cocktail recipe sure to elicit mental visions of such glory: Apple Season in a Glass.

Apple Season in a Glass

The key ingredient here is Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie liqueur. An inexpensive (though still hard to find in the South) bottle of liqueur built on apples, spices and neutral grain spirits. On its own, it’s sweet, sticky, and almost impossibly true to the aroma and flavor of apple pie. It’s like taking a pie in the face, and it begs for balance. A nice rye (or bourbon, to each his own) will do just the trick. We like Russell’s Reserve Rye (6 year old) as a nice cocktail mixer. It brings a nice toastiness and slight bitterness to the table. A dash of Peychaud’s bitters adds a touch of aromatic complexity, again balancing out the sweetness of the liqueur. There are certainly more complex and challenging recipes that will get you a similar taste of apple season, but this is a nice and easy way to help your mind escape the lingering summer heat and swing into Fall.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur
Peychaud’s bitters to taste

Preparation:
Shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass half-filled with broken ice.

Notes:
Adding cinnamon or nutmeg will be overkill on top of the liqueur, though a cinnamon stick would be a nice visual touch.

When the Wine List Meets the iPad

WinePhone

The New York Times today featured Atlanta’s own Bone’s restaurant and its trailblazing use of iPads in replacement of their traditional wine list. We love Bone’s for their great wine cellar, not to mention the steaks or the very friendly corkage policy, and now they are pushing the envelope in evolving the traditional wine list to something more in tune with today’s wine drinker.

At home, wine collectors can easily hop over to websites like Cellartracker or Cork’d to look up tasting notes and prices on almost any given wine. In retail wine shops, buyers can almost as easily pull up the same information on mobile phone apps like Cor.kz which actually ties in to the Cellartracker database. Do other wine drinkers agree with the 95 point score from “Joe Winereviewer”? Is that special on Chardonnay X really a good deal? Cor.kz even lets you scan the barcode on the back label to pull up prices at other retailers. This is great for the wine buyer, but will clearly put pressure on wine retailers to offer competitive prices as consumer adoption of such services increases. In the end, a more informed, more engaged wine buyer (in the company of a knowledgable and engaged wine retailer) is a good thing for everyone – more appreciation of the wines, more dialog with the wine retailer, more desire to seek out interesting winemakers.

So far, few restaurant diners are so bold as to pull out their iPhone or Blackberry and look up every wine listed on a restaurant menu. First, it’s socially awkward. Second, it’s not so quickly done. Third, you risk suspicious glances from the restaurant staff. But now, as restaurants like Bone’s are doing, if the RESTAURANT enables the technology, those problems all go away. The practice is endorsed by the restaurant, the technology is geared specifically to their list and informing the diner, and it hopefully creates a stronger dialog between the diner choosing a wine and the restaurant’s staff. It’s a win-win situation, and the New York Times notes that Bone’s and other restaurants employing similar technology are seeing increased wine sales as a result.

The question for restaurants to figure out is what type of information will best serve that win-win opportunity. How can they give the diner the right type of and amount of information that will help them choose a great wine from the list? How can they best highlight the strengths of their wine list (even relative to other restaurants in town)? Scores from Robert Parker are one thing, but how about going a step further and including the option to view other diners’ tasting notes? How about letting diners enter their tasting notes at the end of the meal for future reference or for other diners to see? What a way to build loyalty between the restaurant and its patrons.

Technology is an opportunity for wine drinkers, restaurants and retailers alike. The key is understanding that it must serve all sides to really be a success.