Making great coffee while traveling

by Mischa Hedges, Project Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

Mischa enjoys a cappuccino

Mischa enjoys a coffee in Mendocino

I like traveling, and I love the natural world. When I’m not working, I spend my time adventuring outdoors: biking, surfing, trail running, camping and hiking. Growing up on the Mendocino Coast, I took wild places for granted, but now appreciate and respect the North Coast of California more than ever.

I also love great coffee and tea…but traveling and great coffee/tea don’t always go together, especially when you’re far from an urban center with fancy cappuccinos, pour-over bars, competition-level baristas and tea houses.

When I travel, coffee is what keeps me going – especially through camping and strenuous outdoor adventures. Finding a good cup while you’re on the road often means traveling far out of your way just for some less-bad coffee, or buying from large food-service chains, just for consistency’s sake.

diner coffee on the road

Diner coffee is hit or miss…

I’ve settled for some pretty terrible coffee while traveling (I’m guessing you have too), and at some point I took it upon myself to find the perfect brewing method for traveling that didn’t take up too much valuable backpack space, time or effort. I also wanted something that was easy to clean for camping trips.

In my search, I saw and tried all sorts of camping brewers, from unbreakable plastic French Presses, plastic or metal folding drip cones and cloth filters, strainers, mini espresso machines and percolators.

Brewing Camp Coffee

There are many brewing methods to choose from

All of these methods work, but they’re not always simple, small or convenient.

This June, I traveled across the country in a small truck camper with my partner Lillie. We spent 3 weeks on the road and covered over 4,000 miles, exploring America’s backroads, National Parks and wild places by foot, bike and watercraft. For our trip this summer, I wanted something without a lot of moving parts or accessories, and I didn’t want to use/buy filters (they’re hard to keep dry while camping).

Mischa and Lillie's roadtrip

On the road in Glacier National Park

While we were on the road, we made great coffee, tea and cold brewed coffee almost every day using this simple setup:

Hario’s Mini Mill hand-grinderHario Mini Mill ($28.95)

I love this grinder. It holds enough beans to make 2 cups of coffee, and takes about a minute to grind. It’s a fully adjustable burr grinder, and the handle comes off to save space. When space is extremely limited, I leave this at home and pre-grind my coffee to somewhere between french press and drip-grind.

Kleen Kanteen’s 16-oz  insulated wide-mouth bottleKleen Kanteen Insulated Bottle (27.95)

This is my everything bottle. I use it to make my morning Maté, late-morning coffee, and keep my water cool. I’ve used it to collect berries, roll out bread dough and pound out tent stakes. These bottles never let me down (but I’m on my 4th one, since I’m always losing mine!). You can get a couple different styles of loop caps, and a cafe cap for easy drinking on the go.

GSI’s H2Jo filter/infuserGSI H2JO ($12.95)

THE solution. It’s a fine-mesh filter that screws onto most wide-mouth water bottles/thermoses. I’ve only tried it on Nalgene bottles and Kleen Kanteens, but it works very well. It doesn’t always seal perfectly, but as long as it’s not buried in your luggage, you can keep it on your bottle to save backpack space and keep it clean. GSI recommends two methods for brewing coffee or tea using their H2Jo filter:

“Paul’s Blend” from Thanksgiving CoffeePaul's Blend ($14.50)

Smooth, creamy and chocolatey (and this season’s blend has notes of berry as well!). Paul’s blend is the ultimate balance of sweet, rich and savory…the natural-processed beans in this blend really make it exceptional for infusion-brewing and cold-brewed coffee.

 

GSI recommends two different brewing methods using this setup:

Our simple setup

Our simple coffee brewing setup

The Infusion Method:
Add hot water to your bottle, screw on the filter, add 2 heaping Tb ground coffee or 1 TB loose leaf tea per cup of water, cover and steep for 3-4 minutes. Then remove the filter and dump spent grounds or tea, replace and enjoy!

The Strainer/Cowboy Method:
Add 2 heaping Tb ground coffee or 1 Tb loose leaf tea per cup of water directly to your bottle, screw on the filter, add hot water, cover and steep for 3-4 minutes. You can drink straight from the bottle without removing filter, or pour into another vessel to enjoy later so you don’t over-extract the grounds.

NOTE – either method can be used to make cold-brewed coffee or tea as well! Just let it infuse overnight – at least 8 hours

Breakfast in Camp

Breakfast in Camp, with some delicious Paul’s Blend!


This worked SO well for us.
  There are no moving parts, no filters to pack, no stovetop brewer to clean, all you need is coffee beans and hot water to brew. When my insulated bottle is empty, I rinse out the spent grounds or tea and re-fill it with my water for the day, eliminating the need for multiple bottles/thermoses!

When I’m camping, we boil water for our coffee using a camp stove and kettle. While traveling by plane, train, bus or car, rest stops and food establishments will usually give you hot water for free. We keep small bags of coffee and tea in our backpacks, and can brew 2 cups in just a few minutes.

What’s your secret to making great coffee and tea while camping or traveling?

Lillie makes our morning coffee

Lillie making breakfast in camp

Share your tips in the comments below!

 

Brewing 101: Mason Jar Cold-Brewed Coffee

Part 6 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

With summer in full swing, now is the time to enjoy a cup of iced coffee. Cold brewing is the best way to chill your brew, but we realize that not everyone has all the proper brewing equipment. And so, with a bit of experimenting, we present the easiest method to make delicious cold-brewed coffee with materials most everyone should have around their kitchen.
jar_coffee-web

Mason Jar
Cold-Brewed
Coffee Recipe

 

What you’ll need:
• coffee, coarsely ground
• quart (32oz) mason jar
• strainer
• large bowl
• coffee filter

 

1. Use ~14 tablespoons (70g) of coarsely ground coffee beans (French Press grind setting). Pour the grounds into your jar and fill it half way with cold water. Stir the mixture to ensure all the grounds are wet, then fill the jar the rest of the way with water.

2. Put the lid on the mason jar with the coffee mixture, and place it in your refrigerator. Allow the coffee to steep for 12 – 16 hours, it’s a good idea to set this up in the evening and let it steep overnight. Be aware that the longer it steeps, the stronger your coffee will be.

3. Set your strainer over the large bowl and place a coffee filter in the strainer. Pour the cold coffee mixture through the filter to catch the grounds. Rinse your jar out, and transfer the cold coffee from the bowl back into the jar for storage.

NOTE: Coffee brewed this way may be stronger then you are used to. Try it straight and then dilute the coffee to your liking.

Learn more about cold coffee online at: ThanksgivingCoffee.com/ColdCoffee

We made our mason jar cold coffee with Guaya’b – Vienna Roast. The resulting cold brew was silky smooth and full bodied, which allowed for the rich chocolate notes of the coffee to come through even with the addition of milk! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!

Brewing 101: Cold SoftBrew

Part 5 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

Our last Brewing 101 post was about the SoftBrew method, which can also be used to make delicious iced coffee with ease. The amount of coffee to water will differ depending on the size of your brewer, but we recommend a ratio of 2g of coffee for every 1oz of water for cold brew.

Here’s how it works:

and here’s the text version of how it works:

  1. Grind your coffee beans at a French Press setting for nice coarse grounds.
  2. Add the freshly ground beans into the filter.
  3. Add half of the total water taking care to evenly soak the grounds.
  4. Stir for an even mixture and allow the bloom to settle.
  5. Add the rest of the water and give the  grounds another good stir.
  6. Put the lid on the pot and place it in your refrigerator for 12-16 hours (overnight).
  7. Remove the filter.
  8. Pour and enjoy!

 

Get your SoftBrew system at Sowden.

We made our Cold SoftBrew coffee with Guaya’b – Vienna Roast. The resulting cold brew was rich and full bodied, which allowed for the complexity of the coffee to come through even with the addition of milk! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!

 

A new way to connect with your coffee farmer!

By Mischa Hedges, Director of Communications

At Thanksgiving Coffee Company, we’re always talking about how to connect our coffee community. We strive to create a space for dialogue between coffee drinkers and coffee farmers – space that allows for gratitude, appreciation and knowledge about coffee to be shared. With social media and increased global connectivity, it’s becoming much easier than it used to be to do that. For instance, check out this new feature on our website:

Connecting coffee drinkers with coffee farmers

Farmer FeedbackIf you’ve enjoyed one of our single origin coffees recently, you can visit our “Farmers” page and write a message to the coffee farmer or cooperative who grew it. 

Traveling to your coffee’s country of origin and meeting your coffee farmer in person is the richest way to connect, but that’s not an option for most people. We’re hoping this new feature on our website will enable you to deepen your relationship with your coffee.

Some of the farmers and cooperatives we partner with are Facebook users, and can respond directly to your messages! In other cases, we’ll gather and send your messages to the farmers and cooperatives we work with so they can see your appreciation.

Let us know what you think of this new feature…

Guest Post: Ethical Consumerism Trips

Last month, the good folks at Operation Groundswell let us know about the fantastic trips they lead to Central America to reconnect people with where their food comes from. Their trips are inspiring, educational and adventurous, and often end up in coffee country…so we thought you’d like to hear about them. Enjoy!

-The team at Thanksgiving Coffee Co.

From Seed to Shelf, Ethical Consumerism From The Ground Up

Guest Post: by Lindsey Berk, Operation Groundswell

adventureshot

“Eating is an agricultural act.”

– Wendell Berry, American novelist, activist, cultural critic, and farmer

Lindsey Berk with CarrotsWe seem to have forgotten that…

At least, I had forgotten that until I left my corporate job and my NYC apartment in 2011 to begin a three-year journey around Latin America and Australia. Working on a winery in Mendoza, Argentina during its harvest taught me the importance of a farmer’s vigilance and dedication – as well as how fickle a crop can be. WWOOFing on an organic farm in Byron Bay, Australia, brought out my inner child as I delighted in pulling carrots, radishes and peanuts out of the ground.

Volunteering at a coffee cooperative in Guatemala instilled in me the importance of fair wages and food justice. This was the same girl who had grown up with a plethora of food in the pantry, always answering the slightest hunger rumble with a more-than sufficient meal without giving a second thought to how that food got there.

But now I know how food gets to us. I know that a cup of coffee is never just a cup of coffee.

I know that every ingredient has its own journey, and that frankly, not all journeys are created equal. Local or industrial; organic or conventional; commodity crop or Fair Trade, slow food or fast food. These words were not just created by marketers; they have a real impact on the way we eat. That’s why I teamed up with Operation Groundswell to lead From Seed to Shelf: Ethical Consumerism from the Ground Up in Guatemala this fall.

volcanoFrom Seed to Shelf is a nine-day exploration of where our food, and coffee, comes from and what it goes through before hitting the shelves of our local grocery store.

We’ll go into the jungle to taste raw cacao straight out of the pod. We’ll farm alongside coffee farmers while hearing about their daily struggle to live off the world’s second-most traded commodity. We will peel back the curtain of industrial agriculture and see the challenges our food producers face every day. We will research issues such as food justice, land distribution, and malnutrition in real time and with real people who face these issues every day, every week, every year.

Coffee farmer in HueHuetenangoGuatemala’s unique political and economic landscape will serve as the setting for our adventure. We will get our hands dirty working on a community-initiated project, stretch our legs as we ascend an active volcano, and cleanse our minds in the beautiful hot springs of Fuentes Georginas.

We created this program knowing full well that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” But ignorance is not bliss; come to Guatemala this fall and take a step towards closing our food knowledge gap.

Operation Groundswell is a non-profit organization committed to providing authentic, ethical, and affordable travel opportunities to people all over the world. For seven years, OG has facilitated backpacking and service-learning programs to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America carrying out small scale development projects and building a community of travelers that are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in.

For more information on the Seed to Shelf Program, click here.

 

Brewing 101: SoftBrew

SoftBrew_blogpics-01

Part 4 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

While pour-over/manual brewing methods continue to gain popularity, SoftBrew offers a simple alternative for making a stellar cup of coffee.

In my opinion, this high-tech but easy to use brewing method provides the purest expression of the coffee’s flavor. The mouth-feel is similar to that of a French Press, but with a better range of flavors and less sediment in your cup.

The porcelain pot is great for serving, but it does not retain heat for very long. To enjoy hot coffee throughout the day, transfer the brew to an insulated pot.

Here’s how it works:

SoftBrew_how-to

and here’s the text version of how it works:

  1. Preheat the pot and filter with about 4oz of hot water.
  2. Empty the preheat water and add 65g of freshly ground beans into the filter.
  3. Add half of the total water (16oz), taking care to evenly soak the grounds.  The ideal temperature is 196° for dark roasts, 200° for light roasts.
  4. Stir for an even mixture and allow the bloom to settle.
  5. Add the rest of the water (16oz) and give the grounds another good stir.
  6. Put the lid on the pot and let the coffee brew for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Remove the filter.
  8. Pour and enjoy!

 

Miel de Cajamarca, PERU

Get your SoftBrew system at Sowden.

We made our first pot of SoftBrew with Miel de Cajamarca and the flavor was fantastic! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!

 

Coffee, from the farm to your cup

Great coffee is the result of incredible care taken at every step along the way. Finding, sampling, selecting, shipping, roasting, packaging and selling coffees from Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America is what we do – but there is so much more involved in an excellent cup of coffee. We created this poster to tell the story of the journey of our coffee from the farm to your cup.

Coffee: from farm to cup

Coffee: from farm to cup – poster designed by Sven Sandberg Studio


Steps 1-4

Farmers grow coffee trees, which take about 5 years to fully mature. They nurture the trees, which flower and produce cherries, which are harvested by hand as they ripen over several months.

Steps 5-8
In the wet process, the sweet, red fruit is removed from the coffee bean and the beans are washed, dried in the sun and hand sorted for defects.

Steps 9-12
After aging, the outer “parchment” is removed, and the green beans are put into sacks for export and shipped from origin to the port of Oakland. A truck carries them to our warehouse in Fort Bragg where we roast and craft our many blends.

Steps 13-16
We cup our coffees a final time before filling 12 ounce bags for grocery stores and our online customers, and the 5 pound bags we send to cafes, restaurants and bulk bins at grocery stores. The last 2 steps are crucial. It’s up to you to let the magic out of your bag of coffee and enjoy it.

As you sip your coffee, think about all of the people and hard work it took to bring this precious drink from the farm to your cup. For tips on letting the magic out of a fresh bag of coffee, check out our Brewing Guide.

The New Exploratorium opens @ Pier 15 in San Francisco

by Kim Moore, Director of Business Development

The new Exploratorium at Pier 15

The new Exploratorium at Pier 15

My favorite sign at the new Exploratorium is posted above one of the main entrances. It reads:

“HERE IS BEING CREATED THE EXPLORATORIUM, A COMMUNITY MUSEUM DEDICATED TO AWARENESS”

If you’ve never visited the Exploratorium or know what it is…now is the time to visit. It is, in the words of the Exploratorium, “an eye-opening, always-changing, playful place….with thought-provoking exhibits, tools, programs, and experiences that ignite curiosity, encourage exploration, and lead to profound learning.”

The Exploratorium from above

The Exploratorium from above

 

Pier 15, which extends out into San Francisco Bay, has been converted from a legacy marine freight and passenger terminus into a world-class “learning lab” museum for tourists and local visitors.

If you’ve heard that the Exploratorium is for kids, well, it is – for kids of all ages! People who love to wonder will appreciate the Exploratorium experience.

Having said that, the majority of the Exploratorium’s visitors are adults with no young people in tow. Check it out during your next SF visit!

 

Seaglass restaraunt

The Seaglass Restaurant

Clay Reynolds & Loretta Kellar of Coco500 are the culinary team behind the Seaglass Restaurant and the Seismic Joint Grill & Coffee Café at the Exploratorium, operated by Bon Appetit Management Co.

In addition to the stellar cuisine, both restaurants serve Exploratorium Blend Coffee and Espresso, developed in collaboration with Thanksgiving Coffee as their proprietary blend. Both eateries are accessible without paid entrance to the museum.

The New Exploratorium and the Seaglass Restaurant/Seismic Joint Grill and Café  are now open  at Pier 15 in San Francisco, exciting the minds and palates of new and returning visitors, with mind-expanding exhibits, sumptuous cuisine and smooth, delicious specially-roasted and blended coffee and espresso.

Learn more at: www.exploratorium.edu/visit/restaurant-cafe

La Roya: rust that kills coffee trees

by Paul Katzeff | CEO, Thanksgiving Coffee

Roya affecting coffee trees in Nicaragua

“Rust” is a word with an ominous sound. It ruins older cars, renders tools useless, and is a major reason for the use of paint to preserve everything made from iron. In Central America there are two kinds of rust. The kind that corrodes iron and the kind that kills coffee trees. The latter rust, called “La Roya” is a Fungus that is pernicious. It lives on the leaves, sucking the life out of them. They fall off and do not return. Coffee cherries never ripen, and the tree eventually dies. This is not a good thing for a coffee farmer whose survival depends on coffee.

Unripened coffee cherries on a rust-affected tree.La Roya is worse than a 60 cent per pound market price, which is a monumental crisis, but there is always another season, and hope for higher prices for the farmer. La Roya is no crop, then three to five years of rehabilitation of the coffee farm. In other words, it is the end of family life on the farm. It is the end of a way of life, of culture, of living on the land. It means hunger, it means migration to the cities, it means over crowding and the deterioration of family life as country people are forced to work in urban factories making clothing for two dollars a day.

La Roya is here and unless a major battle is waged to beat it back, Central American coffee will be a thing of the past, and coffee prices will rise as the supply of quality coffee is diminished.  This is not Chicken Little talking here. This is absolutely a disaster about to happen – this year.

Alexa and her sonsThis February, I was in the Nuevo Segovia Region of Nicaragua on a coffee buying trip. I visited the farm of a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative. Alexa and her two teenage sons live two kilometers from the Honduras boarder. Many of their coffee trees are affected by La Roya, and are starting to lose their leaves. They got a crop this year, but next year they expect to get 50% less. I have no idea how they will be able to continue making a living. They produced 10 sacks (1500 lbs) this year, for which we paid $ 2.75 per pound. That was double the world price and the highest we could afford to pay.

Alexa views the damage to her farmAlexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive. We want her to be able to refresh her trees and beat the Rust. Next year, she will need to get $ 5.50/lb. to survive on her farm. Will you support our effort by paying $2.75 more per pound for her coffee next year? Would you pay more than $15.00 for a bag of her coffee?

Well, first you have to taste it. We will present her coffee to our public in July when it arrives. It is going to cost her about $8,000 to rehabilitate her farm. We are going to try to raise that money between now and December.

That’s the way Direct Trade works – we are all in this coffee thing together.

Paul Katzeff, CEO
Thanksgiving Coffee Company

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