I’ve mentioned in the past that my prefered morning coffee is the mud that my french press prepares.  This can be a little bit misleading because that is not at all how press pot coffee should be, and is infact a property of my crummy coffee grinder (which is fine for drip coffee, but not much else), and not an actual property of press pot coffee in general.

Today I’m going to talk a little bit about how French Press coffee SHOULD be.

For those of you who are unaware... this is what a coffee press looks like.

For those of you who are unaware, this is what a coffee press looks like.

1. Boil your water before you grind your beans. Take the water off the stove (or unplug your electric kettle) before you start.  This, from my experience, gets you pretty close to the perfect temperature.

2.  You really should be grinding your own coffee.  I know that I’ve said this before, but it SIGNIFICANTLY improves the quality of any brewed coffee if you grind your own beans right before you brew them.  If you’re smelling coffee aromas from the grounds they are already going stale.

If this isn’t possible, take your bag of beans to your local cafe (most of them will happily grind coffee for you), and let them know that you want the most course grind possible.  You want fairly consistent sized chunks of coffee.  The same goes if you’re grinding your own coffee.

3.  Put one rounded tablespoon of coffee grounds per “cup” of coffee into the press pot. (A “coffee cup” is about 6 oz)

4.  Slowly, and steadily add your hot water.

5. Use a coffee stirrer (or chopsticks!) to stir the slurry.

6.  Put the filter mechanism on top (don’t plunge yet!), and wait 3-5 minutes.

7. Push down on the plunger evenly, making sure that the filter stays flat.

8.  Hold down the lid, and plunger as you pour, making sure not to let the grounds at the bottom escape.

9. Voila!  Perfect french press!

If there is too much “mud” (I know, I know… so technical) in your cup it’s either because you ground your coffee too fine, or because the grinder is too uneven, and you ended up with “dust” in your grounds.

A little bit of grounds in your cup is considered acceptable in a press pot brew (but NEVER in drip coffee or espresso), so if that’s not your thing, I suggest that you avoid this method.

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While I may not necessairly agree with the labels most personality tests stick me with, I am still unexplicably drawn to them, and I like to think that my coffee DOES say something about me.  Generally I like to think that my stronger than battery acid morning coffee makes me seem tough and rugged, and my milder afternoon Americano makes me seem somehow sophisticated.  None of those fancy schamncy syrups for me thank you very much!

According to this test however, I am apparently just boring and predictable.

What do you think that your coffee drink of choice says about you?  Anything? Or does your everyday mocha just say “I like mochas?”

My quiz results are after the break.

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Starbucks Christmas 2007 mug with gingerbread men on it

An adorable, and timely Christmas tumbler. This one is from Starbucks' 2007 Christmas series.

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when all of the cafes bring out their cute little christmas mugs.  While these are nice and seasonal right now, many people will carry these around long into the summer months.  Snowflakes don’t belong in July, unless you’re in Australia.

Shamrocks are not applicable to the fall months, and seriously? Jack-o-Lanterns in April? Please folks: Keep seasonal mugs to their respective seasons.

I’m actually guilty of breaking this rule.  I carried a Blenz Valentine’s Day mug around for my entire first year university.  My excuse however, is that it was a gift, and I felt guilty NOT using it.  Also, I was a poor first year student at the time, and it was the only travel mug I owned.  I now have many, and also know better.

I’ve had a few people question me about my dislike for Tim Hortons’ coffee lately, and I’ve decided that it’s time to explain myself.

1.  Their sizes are weird.

I can think of no better term for it.  Their medium would be a small anywhere else, and their large (which is just 2 oz. bigger than the medium) barely qualifies as a medium.  The staff are also incapable of converting Tim Hortons sizes to normal units of measurement.  If asked “How big is your medium coffee?” the counter person will promptly hold up a cup and say “This big.”  Not terribly useful.  I had to actually go to an outside website to finally find their size information.  Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right place.  I don’t know.

2. Their travel mugs are ugly

The issue with their sizes wouldn’t be an issue if I wasn’t so fond of carrying around my own mug.  If the clerk doesn’t know the sizes of their coffees, how will I be able to know what size fits in my mug?  They DO however sell travel mugs that correspond to their sizes.  Normally I’d be happy to buckle down and buy one of their mugs simply to adapt to this, but a) I don’t drink their coffee often enough to both and b) Those travel mugs are dead ugly. (oh looky… their shop has some real measurement units, I’m actually kind of surprised)  Also, on top of being less than environmentally sustainable, NOTHING tastes the same out of a paper cup.

d8d9_1

A photo of a mug just like my current favourite travel mug (I have about 5. They seem to multiply). This is obviously MUCH prettier than the ones from Tim Hortons.

3. They put CREAM in their coffee as a default

For someone who grew up on Skim Milk and “Equal” this is an absolute no-no.  I’ve learned to adapt to real sugar (the fake kind apparently gives you cancer, but what doesn’t?) if I absolutely have to, or Splenda if I can do so without feeling like everyone thinks that I’m dieting/doing something completely unnatural (I live in Kitsilano.  It’s not uncommon for people to give me strange looks, or give me snide comments for not using raw sugar.  I can never get the stuff to dissolve properly though).  I’ve never figured out cream.  I can’t stand the texture of it.  Even the 2% milk that I can opt for instead is pushing the boundaries for me a little bit.

4. Their coffee is just gross

A lot of people respond to this statement, by commenting that I’m just a snob.  This is true.  However, my “snobbiness” has nothing to do with the price of the coffee.  I have nothing against cheap coffee.  I will be one of the first to admit that I really like McDonald’s coffee.  Tim Hortons’ coffee just doesn’t have enough flavour for my liking.  And no, I don’t mean flavour like Vanilla, or whatever their other disgustingly sweet “flavoured” coffees are.

5. They don’t grind their beans on location

Yes, I’m aware that this is just more of my snobbiness coming into play, but this is largely WHY Tim Hortons’ coffee tastes so muted and bland.  Freshly ground coffee beans make a BIG difference.  (Before you ask: Yes, I do grind my own beans at home, or rather, my coffee machine does it for me.)

What do you guys think?  Am I somewhat justified?  Or is this just more irrational coffee snobbery on my behalf?

(btw.  The word of the day is definitely maverick snob.)

They’re often compared to a “Canadian Starbucks”, but Blenz is swiftly becoming a force of it’s own.  With over 48 locations in Canada (all of the current ones in British Columbia), and 35 more world wide, there may not be one on every block, but they’re still commonly enough found to be one of the first places we think of for our morning cup of joe.

A Bit of History

blenz-coffee-robson-and-burrard1

The first Blenz location opened in 1992 at Robson and Burrard st in Vancouver, BC

The first store opened in 1992 on the corner of Robson and Burrard in Vancouver, using the motto “Never Burnt, Never Bitter”, and by the year 2000, they had opened their first international location in Aoyama, Japan.  In 2006 they also acquired the Seattle’s Best Coffee franchise in British Columbia.

The Drinks

The tough standards for the roasting of their beans is one of Blenz’ most famous attributes, but the really amazing thing about their beverages is their use of natural ingredients.  Their hot chocolate and mochas are made with real belgian chocolate chips, their apple cider with Okanogan cold press spartan apples, and all of their “Chillo”s are made with real fruit.

Locally

There are currently 3 locations in the Point Grey/Kitsilano area, including one in the UBC village.  All of them have free wireless internet for their customers, and most are open as late as 11pm.

A couple days ago, my oh-so-loving husband decided to point out to me exactly how much coffee I drink in a day (this of course was just the coffee that he sees and knows about, and not what I drink while I’m at work or school).  Based on this, I thought it was probably time to cut back.  You find me now on day 3.

Days 1 and 2 I decided to go cold turkey.  This was NOT the best idea I have had all year.  I was cranky and

Empty coffee mugs- frighteningly fewer than I would go through in a day.

Empty coffee mugs- somewhat fewer than I would go through in a day.

irritable.  By the end of day one I had a massive migraine.  I tried to tough it out.  Then, at one point on day two, I actually yelled at my poor husband for chewing too loudly.  Oops.  Okay, so… maybe I am a little bit caffeine dependent.

Seeing as my original plan didn’t work, I decided to research it a bit.

The first thing I noticed was that there seems to be quite a bit of debate over whether or not caffeine is infact an addictive substance.  UK researchers largely believe that it is, the Americans not so much.  There is however no debate over the fact that one can develop a dependency upon it.

What’s the difference?  According to author and addiction management specialist Dr. Jennifer Schneider, dependence is the physical response to a drug (including withdrawal symptoms), while addiction is a psychological phenomenon.

“That’s what physical dependence is — it has nothing to do with addiction. Addiction is not necessarily a physical thing. Addiction is a psychological phenomenon consisting of three elements. One is loss of control…the second is continuation despite significant adverse consequences …the third element of addiction is the preoccupation or obsession with obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of the drug.”

-Interview with the National Pain Foundation

Interesting, though not terribly helpful in my plight.  In fact, for something that is considered the most used psychoactive stimulant drug worldwide, there are very few resources on actually beating a caffeine dependency (with the exception of a number of questionable hypnosis advertisements).  If even half of the health concerns thought to be tied to caffeine overuse are accurate though, my body (as well as my bank account) will thank me in the long run.

This morning I decided that maybe I should have just one cup.  We’ll see how it goes.

As winter approaches and the wind begins to chill (or for those of us here in Vancouver: it just continues to rain), people start to reach for their favourite hot cocoa.  I on the other hand, require a little bit of an extra boost.

The title of this entry is actually quite deceptive.  I don’t actually believe that the perfect mocha exists, I do however have a few personal favourites.

For years my absolute favourite was Blenz’ dark chocolate mocha.  Made with real chocolate, rather than a syrup, and DARK chocolate to boot, there’s really nothing to complain about.  This of course was before I moved to Kits. This was BEFORE The Wired Monk became the nearest coffee shop to where I live, and a short walk from where I work as well.  Their traditional mocha (“Wired” size of course) is absolutely divine, and as a good Scottish girl (and as a university student), I find that I must also appreciate their “Malibu Mocha”.

As a bit of a side note: I believe that this is one of very few traditional style cafes I’ve ever been to in Vancouver that sells “specialty” coffees.

Secondary side note: I also love the fact that their website is in 4 different languages.

Now, being a poor student myself, I realize that not everyone can afford to spend $5 on a large mocha to keep themselves warm.  While it’s difficult to make a mocha at home without an espresso machine (it just doesn’t taste right with drip coffee), I have discovered a somewhat adequate substitution*:

  • 2 tablespoons sweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1 cup milk (the heavier the better)
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over the stove until just before boiling
  2. Place the dry ingredients in your favourite mug
  3. SLOWLY add the milk, stirring well
  4. Top with whipped cream if desired

*It is impossible for me to endorse this method as I believe that instant coffee is absolutely blasphemous, and should never be drunk by anyone….ever.  That being said… this does taste okay.