Knowing that many producers never actually get to taste their own coffee, we decided to create a way to do just that - send it back, roasted. We are super excited about this program and the excitement and support we've received so far is incredible. We will be doing several Send Backs each year, so stay tuned for future origins!
Our first official Coffee Send Back of 2015 was to Brasil. Part I of the send back featured CarmoCoffees in Carmo de Minas, Minas Gerais. The event was held at Unique Cafes where the producers were able to taste their own coffees roasted by: Detour Coffee, Bow Truss, Modest Coffee, Lineage Roasting, Passenger Coffee, Coffee Hound, Square One, Boxcar, and Hansa Coffee.
We'd like to say a huge thank you to CarmoCoffees and the producers for all the hard work in producing some truly amazing coffees. Their dedication to quality and passion for innovation are inspiring and so greatly appreciated. Also to all the roasters that were able to participate in this first round, a huge thank you for supporting this program by sharing your craft and fostering the coffee community from seed to cup. We can't wait to grow this program and get as many roasters involved as possible.
More to come! Rumor has it some nice fresh Colombians are flying out the door...
- Caitlin Cooreman and the Cafe Imports CS Team
CarmoCoffees made this video to showcase the event and relay their experience → back to the roasters (this is the coolest thing ever):
and here are some more photos from the event:
In our usual course of walking around a coffee farm with a producer and talking about his or her coffee; the layout of the farm, the distance between trees, pruning, fertilizing, yield, varieties, life and things like that, we sometimes come across interesting items; like a 75 year old tree in Brazil, a small field of Pacas in Mexico or a family of Possums living on the farm under a tree.
Last Month in Colombia we happened upon a field of Pink Bourbon, yes Pink. We bought all 20 bags.
Later that day we met three small producers in Alto Del Obispo region who all happened to produce Yellow Bourbon. I've never seen that much Yellow Bourbon in Colombia, a tree here and there but not enough to produce a hundred bags.
We've had producers with pure Castillo that got 91 points on the cupping table, a pure Absynnian varietal from Sumatra and 100% Pacamara from Mexico for example and for these interesting reasons, we have decided to launch a new little program called "Variety Select" In this program we will work with our producer/export partners to keep these varieties separate throughout the picking washing, drying, milling, bagging and shipping process so that we can offer a variety of variety specific coffees from around the world.
Yellow Bourbon - Colombia
Yellow Bourbon is a natural cross between Red Bourbon and Amarelo de Botacuto, which is labelled as a Typica variant with yellow fruit. Bourbon resulted from selections made by French botanists in wild Yemeni coffee groves. Moved to controlled fields for propagation, the relatively humble stock produced a remarkable variety and was given the namesake of its nursery - Bourbon Island - upon its introduction to South America. Under expanded cultivation in Brazil, a yellow mutant with a unique flavor profile expressed itself and was isolated, expanded, and named for its color.
Pink Bourbon - Colombia
Cultivated from hybridizations of Red and Yellow Bourbon - very rare but the producer said it is quite resistant to Rust. Pink and Orange Bourbons are very difficult to produce with consistency. The recessive genes leading to the expression of these colors are easily thwarted by the presence of yellow and red genes in a given pollen grain. A carefully isolated and contained lot can do quite well and preserve the unique color and character of this variety, though this is quite hard to find.
Laurina or Bourbon Pointu
Laurina is a Bourbon derivative originating from Reunion Island with a recessive gene mutation that gives it a dwarf-like habit, small leaves, small, pointed seeds and very low caffeine concentration: as low as 0.6% when compared to the 1.2% of Arabica and 2.2% found in Robusta. The Laurina is also parent to Mokka varieties, known for uniquely small beans and even more exotic flavors.
Rume Sudan RS-510 was selected from the wild population on the Bome Plateau, in the Rume Valley of south east Sudan. Predating the extraction of Typica and Bourbon genetic material, the Sudanese (and Ethiopian) accessions draw on a much broader genetic pool than their more strenuously selected nieces and nephews. Rume Sudan has long interested genetic and hybrid development researchers due to the broader genetic base and disease resistance it offers, and continues to appear in new hybrids today. Low yields and small bean size have limited Rume Sudan's popularity with farmers, making it rare to find as a standalone variety. We're excited to be offering this interesting look into coffee's history... and it's future.
An Ethiopian descendent, Geisha had been trialed in Latin America since the mid 50's by researches seeking new means of disease resistance. Shelved for poor cup quality and yield due to being grown at too low of altitudes, the Geisha variety did not come to prominence until Price Peterson won the Best of Panama contest with it in 2006. In the decade since, the Geisha variety has ascended to the ranks of coffee variety superstardom. Geisha coffee typically offers a very floral cup with loads of citrus acidity. While Central American Geishas are commonly described as tea-like, with a lighter body and moderate sugar levels, those grown in Colombia frequently have a heavier mouthfeel and sweeter cup.
And check out these Beanologies of the Variety Select coffees we have coming:
As roasters there are few things more exciting and frightening than when we get our hands on a fresh green coffee that we have been anticipating for months. We try to put aside the anxiety, the fear of burning these precious few seeds, the scandal of letting our supply chain down, the heartbreak of knowing our peers will taste a sub-par example of the coffee, and the financial knowledge of our responsibility. But, in the back of our minds resides that whisper of exactly how much money resides in that drum, the fact that we are fallible, the mystery of what is really happening in each individual coffee seed, and the fact that this is our first go at this particular coffee and it could be a disaster. Yet, we do it. We evenhandedly...
With a deep breath...
Pull the lever...
Hear the coffee clatter in the drum...
Put all of my knowledge to work, and humbly...
There is a particular coffee (and group of coffees, which I will get into later) that has revitalized my humility of late. Mr. Fabian Lomas' Sidra variety has been an incredible champion on our cupping table, full of wild flavors that I have truly not experienced in coffee before: crab apple, deeply savory floral aromas that I have previously rarely found in coffee, coconut, pineapple. The list goes on and on. Yet, when I have roasted this coffee, on a few occasions it has come out of the drum lacking the blissful aromatics found on our cupping table. Along with this, there is a waft of mesquite, cloves, dark chocolate and more experiences that point to my having had a heavy hand with the heat.
My first time roasting this coffee was early last year (2014). I was lucky enough (more due to sponsorship than ability) to roast the coffee that was used for the World Aeropress Championship. It was a no brainer for us to choose this coffee when we tasted it on the cupping table. I scored it a 93. Ian Fretheim, our Sensory Analysis Director, opened the ink flow on his pen and graced his page with a blatant 95, his highest score that we had witnessed. I was too timid, as usually is the case for most of us tasters in the cupping room, to go that high. I did not disagree with his score, but my fear held me back. Needless to say, this coffee had our attention loud and clear.
We rush-shipped in a couple of bags for some projects we were working on, such as the Aeropress Championship. I was giddy with joy to roast it and bring it to my buddies in the office and home to my wife (who is of Ecuadorian decent). I roasted it, kept it "light and bright", right around what most would consider a city to city+ roast, about 2-2.5 minutes of "development (another blog will likely address my problems with this term) time". I allowed the coffee to off-gas until the next morning. I was so eager to share this the next day that I got to the office and brewed it before most everyone else was around in order to make sure my brew was on point.
Tragedy. It tasted "over-roasted".
Now, I know that this is a controversial term for me to use. I know that "roast" is not a taste, it is a cooking method. But, you all get what I am saying, right? I mean, it tasted as though I had taken it well beyond the level of roast that I thought I had, and certainly much darker than I had intended. We had a very limited amount of coffee to work with, and I needed this to be nailed for our sponsorship. This was the first time, since working at Café Imports that I had not hit a roast where I wanted to, or at least very close to it.
Usual roasting process at the office: I typically roast coffee just a touch beyond where I personally prefer it, somewhat in between where we see what some of the roasters who love to roast super light bring to the table, and where we see some of the roasters who have a more nostalgic touch to their roasts do. We like to see a bit of both sides of the coin in order to be better communicators about our coffees, especially since we see them at such starkly light roasts on our cupping table (67+ Agtron).
But, this was the first time that my peers raised that eye-brow. This was a very inopportune time for this to be the case.
I sat down with Noah Namowicz and discussed the issue:
"Noah, don't worry. I will unlock this coffee, and we will send a great roast off. I am stunned this tastes as dark as it does. I have a plan, and I will get this coffee singing in no time."
Noah, along with my other friends in the office, had nothing but confidence in me. We roasters need that, right? We need to know that our team will support us and trust us, even (and especially) when things are not quite adding up.
Fast forward: I ended up sending out coffee that I was still shaky about. I still felt that I had left something on the table in my roast. This coffee is such a gem, however, that it still tasted glorious.
We recently received this season's harvest of the same coffee. While this time around we found the cup was not quite in the same league with the early harvest of this spring, the coffee is still incredibly unique and delicious. I had to sink my roasting teeth into and redeem myself from the previous harvest. This year, I set up a simple roasting experiment that many of you perform with all of your new coffees (or should). Usually I only get one crack at a coffee.
This time, I needed more.
-I roasted this coffee five times with an assistant, Dan Jensen, one of our Sales Associates who has been doing a lot of roasting work with me of late. Two heads are always better than one.
-We used the Diedrich IR 2.5K.
-We roasted four pounds of green coffee per batch.
-We attempted to repeat the beginning and middle of the roast as closely as possible each of the five roasts, only changing when I would end the roast.
-First Crack is typically around 360-363F on my probe, with the end of First being around 385F. I also try to see first, even on a Diedrich, around 8-10 minutes, at the LATEST. We shot for 9:00 on all of these batches, and this was fairly consistent, with the exception of batch #2, which went long. We were trying to go bit slower, since I assumed the roaster would be bit hotter after batch #1. Turns out I had properly warmed up before #1 and should have just stuck with the program.
-I am not perfect, and conditions are never perfect, so there were some slight variations in the beginning and middle of the roasts, thus we do not call this a scientifically rigorous experiment, and admit that this is anecdotal. I mean, five batches is really not much in the grand scheme of things. That said, there was such wide variance in flavors and mild variance in roast profiles that I feel our findings are valid.
-We did not use a data logging system, but rather took notes the old fashioned way, with paper and pencil.
-We cupped this coffee, as did others in my office, but we did not score the coffee on a green coffee cupping form. I wanted to keep this open to preference, not just analysis. I called in people who were not fully aware of the process, the coffee, and even cupping to give feedback.
-In order to not belabor the information too much, I will only be highlighting differences in the roasts that I feel are pertinent. If you have a particular question about one roast against the others, I am open to further follow-up dialogue.
This roast was close to the profile that I used first early last spring when I first roasted this coffee. My drop time and temp were 12:26 @ 393. This would be around city+ with a "typical" (high grown, quality, hard bean) coffee.
The Cup: The fragrance was burnt toast. The flavors were bittersweet cocoa, charcoal, mesquite, sunflower seed. This was most people's least favorite coffee. It was flat and lifeless, tasting like a generic coffee that was a bit "roasty". Everything we love about this coffee had been destroyed or buried. *Note: This was nowhere close to entering second crack, but had all of the sensory sins of having hit second crack.
This is the roast that was a bit slower overall. That said, we hit first at 10:00, first ended at 12:00, drop time and temp was 13:37 at 390F
The Cup: the fragrance was fruit jam and toast. Cup was a bit floral with some "gamey-ness" present, like lamb or goat's milk, nut, cream, creamy texture, toast, potato chip, salt, earth and spice. While much more flavorful, for me personally, many of these flavors either don't jive, or were frankly off-putting. If anyone did not choose roast #1 as their least favorite, they did choose this roast.
Roast 1 and 2 were hated on.
This roast went well and right along the plan, just like 4 and 5, which follow. First Crack was at 9 minutes, ending at 11:30, drop time and temp were 388F at 12:27.
The Cup: the fragrance was toasty/malty with cacao. Flavor opened to roasted tree nut, fruits like sweet grape, lemon, orange, and cherry. This cup also exhibited a lot more floral aroma and a lot more snappy brightness. One taster found this to be their favorite.
Very slightly over-roasted
Again, First Crack hit at 9:00, basically finishing at 11:00. Drop time and temp were 11:10 at 386.8F. There were still some lingering pops from First in the cooling tray.
The Cup: The fragrance was ripe fresh fruit, butter, honey. The flavors we found were tons of rich sweet fruit, sweet oolong tea, crab apple (FOUND IT!!), deeply savory floral aromas, lively acidity that was popping, wild flower honey, lemon, and panela. This cup was banging and sweet. I loved it. I picked this as my favorite cup.
Yet... with this roast I had broken a roaster's rule of thumb. I dropped this batch before first crack had completely finished.
Everything with this roast went according to plan up to just before first crack we saw a bit of lag, landing its start at 9:15. This led to a bit slower development, with a drop temp and time of 10:56 at 378.2F. We were in the thick of first crack, still bursting pretty strongly.
The Cup: The fragrance we found on this cup was much fuller, bursting with ripe fruit. The acidity was dazzling almost toward effervescent. The tart crab apple turned a bit more toward green apple, the oolong toward a ripe green tea, slightly "peasy", with a very subtle straw to grass aroma present. Yet the body was very rich and thick. Sweetness was still strongly present in this cup, and the floral aromas were still extraordinary. Had I not tasted the roast before it, this would have been my favorite.
It is no surprise that in order to get the "best" roast of a particular coffee (whatever that means) you need to run some trials and find some errors. I am not re-inventing the wheel here. But I do have a point here.
This is a very odd bird coffee. In order to find its peak, or what I personally think its peak can be, we had to break some rules a bit. I had to step outside of my comfort zone and trust my eyes and nose, while denying my ears and past experiences.
I also want to save you some time, money, and those raised eye-brows. This roasting experience is not unique to this lot of coffee. We are finding this same trend in many of the coffees from Ecuador. Many of our customers have been able to tap into the wild flavors and aromas these coffees can offer. At the same time, we have had folks who explain their experiences very similarly to ours in roast three or four, somewhat flat, nutty; not as overwhelmingly pleasing as we have described in roasts 3-5.
We want you to have the option to taste what we taste. We don't ask that you like what we like all of the time, but we do hope that you at least get the chance to try it. I hope this has helped you get to that point.
follow along with Joe on twitter and instagram @roasterjoe
For more on Fabian Lomas, the producer of this remarkable coffee, watch this video, from the source:
Just before the holidays, we had an action packed origin trip to Ethiopia and Kenya - The trip left us in very high spirits; the 2014 crop was looking just as consistent as ever, and we cant wait to duke out these stellar coffees in our cupping lab. We have lots of exciting content to come including videos, interviews, updated beanologies, an Ethiopia field report, and of course 2015 offerings. But for now, sink your teeth into these two new origin photo albums to curb your unruly coffee desires (click for gallery link):
Following a simple set of standard processing procedures, Kigeyo Washing Station, a COOPAC coffee Co-op in Lake Kivu, has produced some of the finest coffees that we have encountered this harvest out of Rwanda.
Check our current offerings for Kigeyo and View the Beanology HERE
As one of Brazil's most consistently excellent coffee farms, Fazenda Recreio delivers a cup reflecting evolved processing methods for quality coffee production dating all the way back to 1890. After 5 generations of managing Fezenda Recreio in his family, Diogo Machaedo is now in charge, and he plans to maintain the historic farms exceptional reputation as the world of Specialty Coffee continues to blossom. Look for Fazenda Recreio in our offerings now! View the Beanology
Watch this video from our most recent trip for an on location view of Recreio's beautiful production, and an Interview with Diogo Machaedo:
"This can be a stressful time of year. If you're like me, this can make getting to sleep difficult. Well, and lack of sleep only adds to the stress, creating a truly vicious cycle that nobody wants to fall into.
Thankfully, the Nordic Roaster Forum has posted a talk that I gave at their 2014 event in Copenhagen earlier this November to the interwebs. Before you cozy up and drift off to sweet slumber in the warm glow of your phone's screen, I can offer just a few words. Q & A style.
What is the NRF? The Nordic Roaster Forum is an annual gathering of predominantly Scandinavian based coffee roasters and cuppers for the purpose of "creating a forum in which people can meet, bond, and achieve further knowledge." There were about 60 people at this event, many varied and interesting lectures, much cupping, much conversation, and much enjoyment.
Great, so what were you doing there? This year they invited me to come and discuss the work on Water Activity in green coffee that we've been doing here at Café Imports over the last couple of years.
The lecture is conveniently broken into five videos, though you shouldn't need but one or two for ordinary seasonal sleeplessness (see your doctor if you find yourself needing more than four or five at a time).
Ok. That should about cover it. So go ahead, snuggle up in your favorite fleece with a nice warm mug of milk and honey and just push play.
Sweet dreams and be well."
Ian Fretheim is Director of Cafe Imports' Sensory Analysis department
Get ready Europe! Cafe Imports, Finca Las Nubes, and Banexport have created an exclusive partnership to bring this amazing coffee to market from our European warehouse. We have three specific variety separations shipping from this harvest: Geisha, Rume Sudan, and Laurina
We view this as an amazing opportunity to highlight variety specific attributes in the cup side by side.
The attention to detail and processing techniques executed by Camilo and his staff at Finca Las Nubes are world class. We are seeing some of the most extreme examples of innovation at the farm level in Colombia.
We are so excited for you to taste this coffee! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get your hands on this.
click for Beanologies:
Las Nubes Lauriña - *Lauriña is a naturally low caffeine content variety of arabica, at .6% compared to 1-1.2%.
It's Fall - the season of apples, pumpkins and #BigCentral. All of us here at Café Imports headquarters are thrilled to be hosting this event again. We are looking forward to unveiling the new office space and to inviting two more coffee professionals to join us in Colombia next year.
BIG CENTRAL EVENTS AND PARTIES
Thursday, November 6th
Café Imports Open House
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
2617 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55413
A Film About Coffee Screening
Co-Sponsored by Café Imports and Spyhouse
St. Anthony Main Theatre
115 SE Main St, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Doors 6:30 pm
Screening 7:00 pm
Tickets HERE ($10)
Friday, November 7th
Rope-A-Dope: A Big Central Coffee Competition Party
Presented by: Café Imports, Colectivo Coffee and Curtis
1330 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
7:00 pm - Midnight
Food from Natedogs and AZ Canteen
Beer by Colectivo Coffee Roasters
Music from Marah in the Mainsail
Saturday, November 8th
Five Watt Coffee and Kickapoo Coffee Party
3745 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409
Starts at 7:00 pm
Central Region Aeropress Championship at 7:00 pm
Latte Art Throwdown at 7:30 pm
Food from Butch Salt
Some of you that will be journeying out to the Mini Apple are old pros around our city. However, there are some who brand new to town. To help you out, we've decided to present to you "Minneapolis Five Ways".
Where to Stay - The Depot
The Depot, as the name might suggest, was a freight and passenger train depot until 1971. Today the building serves as a hotel, waterpark, event center and ice rink (the rink doesn't open until Thanksgiving Day). This historic hotel is located at the edge of Downtown, with easy access to theaters and museums.
Morning Walk and Brunch - Start your morning off with a nice walk across the Stonearch Bridge. The bridge will take you across the Mississippi River to the St. Anthony Main area of the city. Be sure to pause along your crossing to observe the St. Anthony Falls. Be sure to dress warm, as the wind really picks up on the bridge. Once you are in St. Anthony Main, walk on over to Wilde Roast Café. You may have a bit of a wait at this Oscar Wilde themed joint, but it is well worth it. Their Crab Cake Benedict is delicious, as are the huevos rancheros. Don't feel like breakfast food? Try a flatbread pizza or their famous mac & cheese. When you're done with brunch, take a stroll around St. Anthony Main. You won't regret it.
Lunch- Head over to Midtown Global Market. This public market is home to an array of restaurants and shops. With over 20 restaurants and cafes, there is something for everyone. There is no other place in the city where you can get a gyro, tacos and a camel burger under one room. Not feeling food? Poke around the shops for gifts to take home.
Midday Options - If you're into history, we recommend checking out the Mill City Museum. The museum is built into the ruins of the old Washburn A Mill, and offers an interactive learning experience. Start with the Flour Tour, catch a showing of Kevin Kling's 19-minute history of Minneapolis, mill around the main exhibit area and finish with a stop on the 9th floor observatory. Mill City Museum is a great stop for families.
If learning and museums aren't the kind of culture that you had in mind for your visit, head over to Sociable Cider Werks. Sociable is conveniently located just minutes from Uppercut Boxing Gym. The team at this cider house transformed an old industrial warehouse into a gorgeous taproom, worthy of the fine ciders and beers they brew up. If you're interested in a complimentary tour, be at Sociable by 12:30 pm. They just ask that you bring a canned food item with you, to benefit the Southern Anoka Community Assistance Food Shelf.
Dinner - You'll be transported from the frigid Minneapolis November and find yourself in tropical weather at Marla's Caribbean Cuisine. The jerk chicken and oxtails are to die for. They are a favorite among Café Imports staff. Be sure to order the fried plantains and save room for the sweet potato pie. When it comes to spice, Marla's means business. Think about your heat threshold, and order a level down from that. Marla's does not take reservations, so plan on a wait or arrive for an early dinner.
Evening Outing - Minneapolis is home to a slew of great local bands and amazing venues. Whether you like jazz, hip-hop, punk, rock or opera, there is bound to be a show in town for you. First Avenue & 7th St Entry is the most famous of our venues, thanks to Purple Rain and its consistent national rankings as one of the top venues in the US. First Ave also owns St. Paul venue, the Turf Club, which hosts a variety of local and national touring acts. If you are feeling a bit jazzy, check out the show listing at Dakota Jazz Club. Many of the jazz greats stop here when passing through Minneapolis. The venue also boasts an amazing food menu. For the punk rockers and metalheads, check out the calendar at the Triple Rock Social Club. They host indie rock concerts as well, but are known for their roots in the dark arts. If it is opera or classical music is more your pace, you have some wonderful options. The Minnesota Orchestra will be hosting The Art of Russia: Energy and Elegance, while the Minnesota Opera will be performing a darkened version of Hansel and Gretel.
Full Music Calendar - City Pages
Where to Stay - The W at Foshay Tower
This historic hotel is located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Completed just months before the stock market crash in 1929, this gorgeous Art Deco building was the tallest building in Minneapolis until 1971. Wilbur Foshay had the building modeled after the Washington Monument, and he spared no expense in its construction. While staying at Foshay Tower, be sure to take a journey to the 30th floor Observation Deck and museum for a brief history into the extravagancies of the building and its opening. Also check out Prohibition on the 27th Floor. It's a pricey bar, but the backdrop is worth a wander.
Breakfast - For an adventurous start to your day, head over to Haute Dish in the North Loop district of Minneapolis. There are entrees and plates to share. Start with a breakfast corndog, share the breakfast potstickers and order the Ropa Vieja or the Chicken & Waffles for yourself. It's hard to go wrong with any dish here. Haute Dish is famous for the Bloody Marys. Try a classic version, or be bold and try the Bourbon. Reservations are encouraged.
Morning - We picked a great weekend for Big Central for all of you donut lovers. On Saturday, November 8th, you could be a part of the first official Twin Cities Donut Crawl! The event starts at 9:30 am, and will feature your favorite deep-fried rings by some of the best shops in town. Tickets are $25.00 and include a custom t-shirt, coffee, one donut per participating shop, a punch card with coupons for local coffee shops and a "guaranteed sugar high". All proceeds will be donated to Second Harvest.
Lunch - If you like meat, head over to Kramarczuk's (pronounced Krah-MAR-chucks). While Minnesota is known for its Scandinavian roots, there are many here with Eastern European backgrounds. Kramarczuk's is part meat counter, part restaurant and part small grocer. This delicatessen has been serving up Eastern European favorites since 1954. If you order up a sausage sandwich, we highly recommend the polish sausage or bratwurst served with the traditional sauerkraut. They make one mean varenyky if you're looking for a dumpling side dish.
Afternoon Tap - We sent the culturists over to Sociable Cider Werks. You will wash down your sausage and kraut with brews and a tour at Harriet Brewing. Tours are on Saturday at 1pm, and kick off with a tasting. You'll get a behind-the-scenes look at how Harriet brews as well as a tour of their art gallery. Tours are free and family-friendly (though you must be 21 or older to participate in the tastings). If your group is larger than eight, contact the brewery about a private tour. Be sure to stay for a pint or grab a growler on your way out.
Dinner - Gourmets, this is choose your own adventure time. We have two suggestions based on your preference of a casual atmosphere or a dressier atmosphere.
Casual, like I like my barista performances - Journey over to the Midtown Global Market and enjoy an experience inspired by Korean street food at The Rabbit Hole. An absolute must on your table (at least for the carnivores) is the Wangs. These chicken wings have the perfect texture and flavor combination for a one-two-punch that'll knock your socks off. Just ask Joe Marrocco and Dan Jensen, our resident Wingxperts. Feeling adventurous and a little Canadian? Try The Harold & Kumar Poutine, which puts a Korean twist on this Great White North classic. You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.
Fancy, like my pants - Restaurant Alma will provide you with hand-crafted, seasonal dishes, made with fresh, organic and local ingredients. Three course tasting menus are available. Your mouth will water as you read over their menu, created by James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Roberts. This is a great place to go for a little vacation date or for a celebratory dinner. Be sure to save room for dessert! Reservations are STRONGLY encouraged.
Night Cap - Those who drink booze and those who prefer soda (or pop, while you're in Minneapolis) will all appreciate the concoctions at Eat Street Social. These master crafters of the finest cocktails in the Twin Cities will blow you away with their unique mixtures. If you're serving as the DD for the night, ask for one of Eat Street Social's amazing sodas. They are made to order and won't disappoint! Sorry under 21-ers - If it's after 9 pm, you'll need to be of drinking age to enter.
NEW TO THE MIDWEST
Where to Stay - Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
The Hyatt Regency is located on the edge of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. You'll be within walking distance of everything Downtown has to offer. The hotel is also located on the Loring Greenway, which connects Nicollet Mall with Loring Park.
Breakfast - For a morning culinary experience with a Minnesotan twist, check out brunch at Hell's Kitchen (breakfast is served on weekdays too!). No, there's no relation to Gordon Ramsay. Hell's Kitchen is appropriately located in an underground lair. The walls are peppered with artwork by Ralph Steadman (famous for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson), making this one hell of a place to start your day. Brunch on the weekends is served up with live, local music. The Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes are the most popular breakfast item, and they won't disappoint! Fancy yourself a morning libation? The Bloody Hell was voted the best bloody in the Twin Cities. If tomato juice isn't your thing, check out their peach mimosa. Be sure to pick up a jar of Hell's Kitchen's peanut butter on your way out. Reservations are encouraged.
Daytime Stroll - Minneapolis is a combination of the Dakota Sioux word for "water" (mni) and the Greek word for "city" (polis). We simply call our home the "City of Lakes". Take a stroll/run/bike ride around the Chain of Lakes, a 13.3 mile series of four connected lakes. There is a path that is part of the larger Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, which you can follow. The Chain of Lakes is a popular destination in Minneapolis, both in the summer and the winter.
Lunch/Midday Adventure - Stop at FIKA, voted the "Best Lunch in Minnesota" and the "Best Place to Eat Out with Your Kids in Minneapolis". This café is a part of the American Swedish Institute, and serves up a lunch of Nordic-inspired cuisine. The menu is seasonally-driven, and showcases regional ingredients. They even host one of "America's Best Sandwiches" (Travel + Leisure, Radish Smörgås). While you're there, be sure to check out the American Swedish Institute to learn more about Minnesota's Swedish roots.
Dinner - Many people may think that Prince's pancakes are the city dish of Minneapolis. The truth is that the Jucy (we spell it without an 'i') Lucy is our plate of pride. Some genius (or maybe geniuses) have taken the burger patty and stuffed it with cheese. The classic is made with good ol' American cheese. There has been some debate as which restaurant is responsible for this molten cheese-filled burger. If you're looking for a classic, greasy Jucy Lucy, Matt's Bar is the place for you. Be prepared to wait in line at this neighborhood bar. It is well worth it. If you are looking for some cheese choices or a place with more variety, you will want to test out the 5-8 Club. These two restaurants have been duking it out for creation rights since the beginning of the Jucy Lucy. We may never know who began this art, but both places make a strong case for tastiest Jucy Lucy.
After Dinner Party - You've experienced the best of Minnesota today, so let's throw in a Wisconsin pastime to finish off your night. Nye's Polonaise is a step back in time. With two rooms, you can choose between piano karaoke in an old fashion supper club or the sweet sounds of The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band in the Polka Lounge. One thing is for certain, this place gets busy on Fridays and Saturdays. For a real taste of Wisconsin, be sure to order up a brandy old fashion sweet. It pairs quite well with polka. If you're in need of a late night treat, order up some pierogi.
ON THE CHEAP
Where to Stay - Airbnb or a Friend's Couch
Airbnb is a great place to find a cheap room to rent if you don't have any Minneapolitan friends (don't worry, you will by the end of Big Central).
Breakfast - There is a reason that Al's Breakfast is a staple on the University of Minnesota campus. It's cheap, it's delicious and it will fill you up! Be sure to keep your eyes open for the blue and white awning. You might miss this narrow restaurant, thinking it's an alleyway. You'll go for the food and stay for the laughs at Al's. Expect to see a line out the door, as this breakfast joint (yes, they are only open until 1pm for BREAKFAST) seats 14. Bring cash, as this gem only takes cash.
Daytime - Take a stroll through the U of M campus and enjoy the sites of frantic students and even more frantic squirrels running about the mall. You'll walk over to the Weisman Art Museum, where admission is always free. The first thing you'll notice is that the building is itself a work of art. Look familiar? Why yes, Frank Gehry is the architect! Inside WAM, you'll find a large collection of contemporary art.
Lunch - You'll leave WAM and walk across the Mississippi River's pedestrian bridge to the West Bank. Once through the campus, you'll be looking for your lunch destination - Hard Times Café. Hard Times is collectively owned and 100% vegetarian. The café hosts people from all walks of life - anarchists, artists, students, parents and even City Council members. It's a little bit of a dive, but the food is fantastic. If you're a fan of seitan, be sure to try the Philly or the Gyro. This is another cash only establishment.
Afternoon Jaunt - Head toward Minnehaha Park, one of the oldest and most popular destinations in the city. In addition to providing smiles while saying its name aloud, the park offers some of the most breathtaking sights in the area. You may even forget that you are in a metropolitan area. Hike toward Minnehaha Falls (a 53-foot waterfall), and take in the limestone bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River.
Dinner - If you're staying with friends, pay them back by cooking up a nice meal. The Twin Cities are home to a fair share of co-ops where you can find local, seasonal ingredients. Check out the following: Eastside Food Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, Mississippi Market (two St. Paul locations), Seward Co-Op, and The Wedge Co-op. Show off a popular dish from your home state, or try cooking up some Minnesota classics - hot dish, anyone?
Night Shenanigans - If you're looking to do something away from the coffee parties of the weekend, check out bowling at Memory Lanes. After 5 PM, bowling is $5.50 + tax per game. After 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, $9.00 gets you shoes and unlimited bowling. On Friday evenings, your strikes and spares will be accompanied by live music by local bands.
ST. PAUL CURIOUS
Where to Stay - For an historical and elegant visit, check into the St. Paul Hotel. This hotel has been providing luxurious accommodations in downtown St. Paul since 1910. Located on Rice Park, this hotel is within walking distance from the Mississippi River, the Xcel Energy Center and the Ordway Theatre.
Breakfast - Mickey's Dining Car is a classic breakfast joint just minutes from the St. Paul Hotel. This diner was one of the first to be built in the Art Deco style and was designed to resemble a railroad dining car. You may recognize it from its appearance in all three Mighty Ducks movies, Jingle All the Way and various Food Network series. Mickey's is a must stop for anyone who is a little St. Paul curious. If you don't feel like breakfast, have no fear. The diner has been operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for nearly 70 years.
Meander in the Morning - Take a stroll along the Mississippi River. No matter which way you go, or how long you stay on the paths, you'll find many gorgeous sites. If you decide to head east along the river, you will come across the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary Park. The park was once a significant spiritual site for the Dakota. Today it is a sight of ongoing restoration. If you venture the other way, head toward Crosby Farm Park. The park is a great place for fishing and wildlife watching. As you take in the view of the bluffs, be sure to keep an eye out for bald eagles, white-tailed deer and beavers.
Lunch - Grand Avenue is a destination for many weekend shoppers and diners. We recommend that you treat your taste buds to Everest on Grand. This Nepali and Tibetan cuisine restaurant claims "the tallest taste", and they aren't joking. The Weekend Lunch Buffet is $12.00 of flavor. If you prefer to order off the menu, do know that their food runs a bit on the spicier side of the spectrum. Feeling extra adventurous? Try the yak!
Afternoon Delight - You'll find fun for the whole family at Como Park. There are many activities to choose from at the park. There are 2.3 miles of trails, a golf course, a conservatory complete with coffee trees, an amusement park, a lake AND a zoo. Earlier this year, the zoo became home to a baby zebra. Currently, St. Paulites are eagerly awaiting the birth of a baby gorilla. This will be the first member of the species to be born in the zoo. The watch began on October 18th and will continue into early December.
Dinner - Experience the restaurant consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities. Strip Club Meat & Fish (fondly known by locals as The Strip Club) will make you wish you lived in St. Paul. What should you order? The real question is, "How do I choose?" Start with the evening's Meat on a Stick selection a. Given the name, you know you can't go wrong with the New York Strip. You thought we just went for the food? We haven't even begun to go on about their drinks. The bar is fun to sit at, so if you can't get a table for dinner, try sitting at the bar. Reservations encouraged.
Nighttime in That Other City - If there is one thing that Minneapolitans wish, it's that Minnesota Public Radio could be claimed as theirs. MPR is based in St. Paul, making The Fitz(gerald) Theater home base for the great radio shows of Wits and A Prairie Home Companion. Prairie Home will be out of town in Duluth during Big Central, but you can catch an amazing Wits lineup on Saturday. Guests will be author Neil Gaiman and singer My Brightest Diamond. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and there is a chance that you will fall out of your chair from laugh crying so hard. When the Wits taping is done, grab a pint at Great Water Brewing Co. or catch the show at Amsterdam Bar and Hall.
If you didn't quite find what you were looking for in this list, check out last year's more comprehensive guide.
It is that time of year folks! our first 2014/2015 container from Peru arrived this week and we couldn't be more excited! (see photo below)
Keep an eye on our new arrivals as these quality Peru lots start showing up! In the meantime, enjoy this video from our August 2014 trip to Peru with CENFROCAFE.