Friday, December 21, 2007

Cinnamon Christmas

For the first time tonight, I've made our (mostly) famous Saturday cinnamon rolls. They stay locked away in the fridge overnight, so that is why my making them on Friday may seem strange. One of the prerequisites for our morning baked goods is that they must be able to be made the night before. The idea of waking at 4am to make rolls is horrifying (I've done it too--it never ends well). Usually Bethany or Jenny makes them, but tonight was my turn. I was a little nervous, but Bethany said, "You can do it. You are a good cook." I've never heard those words uttered about me before. Truth is, I didn't know how to cook or have the confidence to do it until this last year. My desire for independence and my desire for homemade combined with the shop to force me into the role of cook. We do make almost everything we serve here from scratch and we are always looking for ways to make more (I also learned how to make pop tarts from scratch today, yay!). Having everything hand-made, from scones to sandwiches to espresso drinks, is one way that we are trying to distinguish ourselves here in the Valley.

On that note, tomorrow enjoy our Saturday Cinnamons and then you'll have to wait until Thursday for our scones to reappear. We are closed Monday-Wednesday so that our staff and us might have time to celebrate. We'll see you bright and early Thursday, though.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Man, Machine, Coffee

Check out this picture here.

The Clover, the hottest toy in the coffee world, may get picked up by the world's largest coffee chain. The Clover is capable of producing some stellar brews and (of course) some lackluster ones. I've had both from well-trained professional hands. For the largest chain, this move makes a lot of sense: mechanical brewing that gives a concentrated amount of face-time with the customer. While the Clover does require training, I'm sure that it can produce brews up to the quality standards of said chain with a bare minimum. Not the full potential, mind you, but that isn't what mass marketing has ever been about.

As one astute commenter notes, if the chain picks up the Clover for all of its stores, it will introduce a new, potentially quality-increasing product to a large audience, which then will switch (statistically speaking) to the independent shops. Seems good for all.

However, my thought in general, not just about the Clover in particular, is that the introduction of mechanized technology into the equation does not make sense until the fundamentals of manual technology are at least understood, if not mastered. A Clover can produce a fine brew, but I've had just as good from a Chemex in regards to cleanness and just as good from a vac-pot in regards to taste clarity. In fact, I prefer almost all manual methods over commercial scale drip brewing (its that scale factor that gets me) and many over (shock! horror! gasp!) espresso brewing.

No doubt technology improves over time, but as Wendell Berry might say (if he were a Coffee Geek), the change from manual to mechanical isn't an improvement, it is a whole 'nother category. Technological improvement from manual methods involves redesigning carafes, fiddling with filters, and lots of training and cupping.

This isn't to say that mechanical brewing methods don't require skill: they do, even though an executive at the large aforementioned chain said even a "monkey can pull a double-shot" (don't get me started!). Pulling a shot of espresso is easy, pulling a decent (not to mention excellent) shot is doggedly hard. Manual methods, though, require a different skill and knowledge set than mechanical means. I think that, for the future of BFC&T at least, manual skills are what will set independents apart from the big boys, whether it is chains or grocery tin-cans.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pittsburgh Bar-Hopping

Jake, Erik, and I went bar-hopping today. Coffee bar-hopping.

Started at Tazza D'Oro in Highland Park. Hip joint, hopping when we were there. Couple of shots and a soy cappa (a huge number of our staff is lactose haters, I just don't get it...). Good espresso, the milk foam was sweet and almost looked like peanut butter. Still trying to figure how they did that.

Next was 21st Coffee & Tea. Cortado, cappa, and Clovered Kenya Chemo auction lot. Black Cat, from Intelligentsia, is good, but a little bitter for my tastes (I still like it though). The Kenya tasted just like pink grapefruit. For all of you who don't believe that coffee can taste like anything other than coffee, try this Clover brew. It will shock and awe you.

Third was La Prima. No drinks here. The line was incredibly long and we were pressed for time. Next time.

Fourth was AldoCoffee. Had lunch and then a semi-public introductory cupping. Went very well. Had more Kenya Chemo, although the taste was different because of the brewing methods; Intelly's Nicaragua, which had heavy dark chocolate notes (I love dark chocolate); 8 o'clock regular blend--I kid you not it tasted like cigarettes, it is one of the most popular mega-mart offering, question is, "why?". Finished with a vacpot demitasse of Peruvian beans from Caffe Amadeus in Indiana. Fresh-roasted salted peanuts was the dominant flavor.

Thanks to all the shops for letting us in and talking with us (if possible). A special kudos to Aldo for holding the cupping! Pictures from Jake are forthcoming, so stay tuned.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Does Coffee Go Stale?

I love watching crema levels. A day after roasting, our espresso blend is so crem-tastic as to include little actual coffee. Three weeks after, the ratios have reversed. About 4-7 days into a batch, I think that the crema sweet spot has been reached. Taste-wise also. Knowing this allows me to alter how I make a shot and also when to order (we only like keeping around coffee for about a week).

With all the espresso evaluation stuff that has been going on, some defining is being refined, especially at (I post here because no new members are allowed there). What I still haven't seen, though, is what exactly "stale" means. How do we know when a coffee has gone stale? How does roast level affect this? Transportation methods? Green quality? What about rates of staling whole versus ground? (I've heard that ground coffee goes stale in 30 seconds, but have yet to see anyone reference any scientific data).

That, I think, is the crux of the issue: science. Most barista/shop owners don't have the fancy-schmancy equipment needed to get past the anecdotal level. Do I think our espresso goes stale after two weeks? Actually, no. But that is my opinion from working with/tasting it. I'm sure others would disagree, both other professionals and customers. The only people who do seem to have the equipment live in Italy at Illy Cafe, but their research skews towards pod brewing--conveniently considering they produce a lot of pods. There is no independent, third-party scientific research going on that I know of. It is frustrating, especially since espresso preparation requires so many steps to achieve a decent, not to mention a superb, shot. Like I said in the last post, where's the beef with polishing? I've been dabbling this week and haven't noticed a huge difference: the bottom of my tamper is scuffed up anyways because I'm a complete newb (Chris Deferio pointed that out to me, analogizing the tamper with the pupil of the eye), so what sort of "polishing" is going on anyway? Add to this my lack of current financial means to afford a Scace device (have you seen the price of the Scace2? Wowsa.) and no PID control on our machine. But we still pull lots of good shots.

I do have hope, though. One of my professorial friends, a Chemistry teacher at Geneva College here in Beaver Falls, is interested in coffee science. Maybe some day I'll have access to fancy-schmancy equipment, or, better yet, a chemistry intern to do some research for me. In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away trying to bring you the best tasting espresso we can. Bottoms up.

PS--When someone asks what drip brewed coffees you have available that day, is it bad form to say "On tap today we have House Blend and Sumatra..." I said that today, even though I do not recall actually tapping a keg/airpot. I stopped midsentence (the ellipsis in the quote above) and stared dumbfounded at the customer until he assured me that he understood, despite my (apparent) best efforts to confuse myself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thoughts on Espresso Preparation

I was wondering, as I do, about "polishing" the espresso before brewing. For all those that aren't baristas or at-home-baristas, after you pack the coffee into the brewing device (the portafilter), many spin their tamper to "polish" the top of the espresso. The question, of course, is why?

Before that got to me, though, I was wondering about proper polishing technique. Pressure or no pressure? Back and forth or unidirectional? 360, 580, 720 degrees around or just a little teaser?

I wound up here. I can't post on Coffeed (I'm not part of the club), but I do read it from time to time. Basically, what I learned from this thread confirmed in my mind the number one rule of espresso preparation:

Everything is relative.

Does it taste better with a pressurized spin? Then do it. A convex tamper? Then do it. An expensive tamping grinder? Then do it. No spin? Then do(n't) it. Digging your finger into the middle like a mole? Then do it. With little bits of hair? Then due it. With yellow soda? Then Dew it. And so on.

The strange thing about espresso, and one of its most wonderful qualities, is that it is a mystery, even to those who have worked with it for a long time. What is polishing for? Maybe to lock in the oils, maybe to develop an intricate architectual framework for water passage, maybe to keep the puck clean, and maybe for nothing. There is no scientific basis for any of the conclusions, except taste. That fickle, subjective, allusive, elusive property that snagged me in the last post.

It makes it hard to train folks, however. It takes awhile before someone is ready to start experimenting with their technique; a lot longer to break habits (over and over again). The uncertainty is hard to deal with. Especially when there are so many other factors that go into making a decent, not to even mention an excellent, shot of espresso.

The one factor that I didn't notice having mention in the thread was one of blend. Do different beans, roasted at different levels, need different preparation techniques to bring out their best? I guess this relates more to the last post, but it is something that should be considered.

Here's to chasing that delicious shot! Bottoms up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thoughts on Espresso Evaluation

There has been a lot of debate going on, especially at wunder-sites CoffeeGeek and Coffeed, concerning what methodologies, boundaries, limits, variances, etc. are appropriate for evaluating espresso blends much like single origins and cupping. For what it is worth, here's my take.

Coffee, whether green, roasted, ground, or brewed, is an extremely volatile product. The guys at Barismo would be the first to tell you that if the pre-roasted green is skanked, then no level of roasting mastery will make a good cup of coffee. The crop, the level of moisture, the storage, the transportation from farm to processing to warehouse to wholesaler to roaster, the depulping method, the geographical location (both regional and down to the individual farm), and much more! all affect the way that the coffee will roast and taste down the line.

The roast can happen in too humid of conditions, too dry of conditions, type of roaster affects taste, length of time, change in air stability, cleanliness of machine, and whether the roaster has a cold all affect the final product.

Time from roaster to grinder, whether too long or too short, affect it, although I've never seen any hard data on this, just a lot of assertion.

Time from grinder to brewing device (in this case the overly complicated, Gnostic-like-initiation-needed espresso machine) affects it, although everyone's opinion on this seems to differ (30 seconds to staling, 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 weeks; I've never actually seen any hard data on this, just my own experience and, you guessed it, assertion).

Time in said brewing device, temperature, tamping, leveling, dosing, distributing, barista competence, all affect the final product.

Not to mention those overly subjective taste buds--they just won't bow down to the canons of modern science!

One weak in the chain makes a weak product. The question is, can any entire company or roaster be judged on one lot of coffee? Many variables are beyond the roaster's or the barista's control. Even the best can have bad days. Or not "dial it in" well enough. Let's not forget transportation from one place to another. Yes, coffee from Italy is going to stale before it reaches the states, but probably also coffee that has sat (sitten?) in a hot UPS truck for one day is going to be adversely affected or one that has flown in a cold hulled FedEx plane. How much difference? It is hard to tell, but there is a difference, even in color.

More than any possible (and possibly uncontrollable) weak link in the chain, it is this transportation issue that bothers me the most (green storage is the second, but the guys are pretty tight-lipped about their experiments). If we know that transportation affects the beans "adversely", why do we continue to send them long distances for evaluation and expect a fair hearing? The quality of the product has changed and the score has dropped, possibly plummeted. One reason, money. If you ship your beans farther, more people can buy them, which turns into cha-ching. Two reason, branding and furtherance of your name/philosophy. Intelligentsia is a great example of this, and please notice that I don't think any of these reasons are bad reasons, I respect Intelli and have had great coffee from their providers in the Pittsburgh area. Three reason, everybody's doing it. I have yet to meet a roaster that refuses to ship farther than a day away "as the UPS drives". I'm sure they are out there; that is going to be my policy when I start roasting (getting ever closer!), although that might be more from my regional bias than anything else. I'm sure there are other reasons, also, all of which make a formidable barrier to the idea of not shipping. But what about the quality?

I realize that my own Achilles-heel is showing; our drip provider, Grounds for Change, is located way far away (more than a day, that's for sure). However, I'm not using them for evaluation, I'm using them for the taste that I get, even after transportation (which is pretty good, otherwise I wouldn't serve it).

But I don't know if evaluation quality can be maintained through transportation. Imagine if the slighted Italian roasters (just check out their scores!) would agree that the American/Canadian "upstarts" are better than them. They might be right, but only locationally. If an Italian CoffeeGeek had the same test, with the same provisions and methodologies followed by Mark Prince, then I assure you the scores would be reversed. You just can't compare things that have had such divergent histories. It is like comparing a McCormick Reaper (which a great-grandpa of mine had a patent on) to a modern John Deere corn-harvesting-zip-code-having-eat-all-massive-soil-compacting-behemoth tractor in how efficiently they harvest corn. Well, what are the factors? Are we talking large, industrial field, or small, tight, hilly field? Etc. Etc. Etc. (Yul Brenner cameo). So, the results there, at least the Italian stuff, doesn't mean a whole lot. Plus, the initial impetus, the infamous Ken David's review, had a less transparent methodology, so we aren't sure why the Italians fared better: did he have access to fresher Italian roasts or older American roasts; was that batch of BlackCat an off-batch, etc. etc.?

Do I think it is possible to accurately review and evaluated espresso? Sure, but the methodology should be tightened up significantly. Here are my thoughts (with, of course, a provisio that should have been placed at the beginning perhaps: I'm not an accomplished cupper and I'm still working on "dialing in" my shop's espresso, so I'm no expert):

Batches with similar histories since roast should be evaluated, not ones that might have been roasted weeks or months apart.

Anonymous batches should be selected, that is, no roaster should have the opportunity to dress up their roast for the competition while they offer their customers something different.

A disclaimer should proceed all such evaluations of the volatile nature of said reviews. Roasts change from batch to batch, taste buds change, etc. In other words, this is an art, not a science. You cannot, I know, make people actually believe or listen to this disclaimer, but it should be there anyway.

As for the rest, I generally agree with Mark Prince's evaluation criteria and methodology, although I think more than three tasters, and preferably less than half of them related by blood or marriage, should be the rule.

Well, if you've made it this far, I thank you and would greatly appreciate your feedback. Bottom's up!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Something Exciting is Coming Soon!

Keep your eyes out this week at BFC&T.

New things are happening.

More soon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Distilling Coffee

I am watching one of my favorite TV shows right now, Alton Brown's Good Eats. Tonight's episode is about making beef jerky. One of the ingredients he adds to his marinade is liquid smoke, which he says he likes to make himself. The process is basically the same as stilling whiskey. He creates a homemade still (did I mention I love this show?) and throws charcoals in the still along with properly moistened wood chips to make the smoke. It got me to thinking...

What if, instead of moistened wood chips, a vaned drum roaster was used to produce coffee roasting smoke to turn into liquid? Coffee aroma essence! This I've gotta try...

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Best?

First of, congratulations to our friends in Mt. Lebanon, Aldo Coffee for being voted "Best Baristas" in Pittsburgh. Way to go!

Today, something frightening happened in the shop. No, it wasn't that the pastry case broke (again, second time in a week) or that some metal was mixed in with our decaf Sumatra beans--stopping the grinder until I could take the whole thing apart and reassemble (should have taken pictures). Instead it was two customers who asked for straight espresso shots. We take a lot of pride here in our espresso and our preparation technique, as does our roaster/blender TJ from the Commonplace Coffeehouse in Indiana, PA. The lady of the sibling pair told me that she has a Francis!Francis! home espresso machine in which she uses Illy beans, considered some of the finest in the world. Understandably, I was nervous--a lot rides on that initial impression, especially in a business so dependent on good word-of-mouth.

She told me it was the "finest espresso I've ever tasted." Her brother agreed. I was both relieved and made even more nervous. I had done well with this gift given to me. I had brought out its full potential (as far as I know--I did taste the leftover ounce of the single and it was sweet and delicious). But, that sort of experience can easily lead to pride--to snobbery, which leads to an inferior product and inferior customer service. Neither of which, honestly, I have any desire to be associated with.

It did bring out a question I've had about marketing for a long time. Who has the authority to say something is "the best"? There was a (now defunct) local shop that touted itself on its website as having "America's best espressos, americanos, etc..." According to whom? The owner? The critics? The customers? I don't know in this case.

The lady that I spoke of before asked for something, though, before she drank her shot. Somewhat sheepishly, she asked for cream. Many in the coffee world would cringe at such a request, because (possibly) it is easy to forget that we aren't doing gallery art that shall forever remain forbidden territory. We are preparing culinary art that is meant, above all, to taste good. Does she want cream? I may not take cream in my espresso, but I don't have the right to pronounce on the "proper" way to taste something, especially since everyone has different tastes. Even with the cream, she said it was darn good. In the end, the only ones who really have the authority to say whether something is the "best" or not is the taster. Critics have their place due to (hopefully) refined palates, but they are not the only ones to consider. Every customer is tasting and will vote with their hard-earned dollars and precious time. I want every one of them to have the best tasting (and dining) experience every time they come in. Even so, we won't be the objective best, but we'll all be getting better together.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Excitement in Building

Within a week here, most all of the returning/new Geneva College students will be here. Slowly and steadily the daily business has been increasing over the last couple of weeks, as professors find their way back, students discover Beaver Falls again, and staff keep us company. This is the beginning of an exciting season here at BFC&T. So many folks from the college have brought much to the proverbial table here, whether a kind word, a suggestion, a recipe, or a regularly scheduled class to use our backroom.

Welcome back everyone! Hope this year produces much academic fruit; we'll brew the coffee that fuels the intellectual engines.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's "Cooler" Than Ever to Hang Out at BFC&T!

The sweltering summer heat has let up for a few days, but it is ready to charge back on through again. To combat this, we have installed another air conditioner here at BFC&T to improve your comfort. Whether you're coming for the drinks or the company, or just to get out of the heat for awhile, stop on in! Relax, cool yourself, and enjoy any number of our iced or blended drinks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Dawning of a New Day

Today marks the first time I've ever roasted coffee beans. I jimmy-rigged a popcorn popper with a candy thermometer and went to town (with the help of What an incredible process! The smell is lingering, even now, in my nostrils. Wonderful. I'm going to try brewing it tomorrow, so we'll see if it is any good. If not, I'll try again. If so, I'll try again. Eventually the goal is to start roasting in house, so you will be able to get fresh coffee to order. Someday...

Friday, July 27, 2007

In Search of the Perfect Pastry

I've been thinking about microbreweries a lot lately (but not necessarily for that reason!). The offer a wonderful, hand-crafted, unique product, much like coffeeshops do. However, one major difference is that rarely, in my experience at least, are micros just breweries or bars. Usually, they have a restaurant menu, chock full of delicious foods that compliment their beers. Coffeeshops, especially in smaller towns like Beaver Falls, often try to just be bars--just the beverages and maybe a few little things on the side. However, for us here at BFC&T, things didn't work out that way. We offer a nice sized lunch menu and would like to eventually expand it to a "made to order" style, more cafe-ish. But that, actually, isn't my point tonight.

Returning to the micros, they carefully select their menu items to compliment their beverages. Focus on the beverage, but food isn't an afterthought. That is similar to what we are trying to do here. We've gotten raves about our scones and they are good stand-alone, but they really do compliment either a small cup of drip brewed coffee (especially Yirgacheffe) or (even better) a double normal shot of espresso. Great little breakfast or mid-morning snack. However, scones aren't the only pasty on our radar. We keep plugging away at perfecting a biscotti recipe. Biscotti is, probably, the ultimate coffee compliment pastry. It is like they were meant for each other. Hopefully by the time school starts up again we'll have a nice selection on the floor for you.

The pastry that I'm having the hardest time with, though, is cinnamon rolls. What wonderful creations that scream "Have a cafe au lait or cappacino with me!" However, each time I've made them it has been an unmitigated disaster. This week, I made them for a catering job, rising up early at 430am to make them. By 630am, it was clear that the rolls did not want to be made. Sigh. However, the will happen. That is where you come in. Part of the problem, I think, is that I haven't found a good recipe for cinnamon rolls. If you have one, I would love to try it out, and if we decide to use it in the shop, we'll make sure to put your name on the menu beside it.

I hope when you stop by that our selection of sandwiches, soups, and pastries compliments your drink perfectly. If not, please tell us what we can do to make it so.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Live Sound" This Saturday!

"Live Sound", brought to you by the creators of Dodge Intrepid and the Pages of Time, will premier this Saturday, July 21st, at Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea. Along with being a hilarious comedic romp through Beaver County library-dom, Jason Panella, our very own singer-brewer, will perform between episodes. Admission is free, but come a little early to get your favorite drinks or to try something new! The show begins at 7:30PM.

Also, our address is 3219 4th Avenue, not 3912 as reported in the Time, nor 3214 as reported on our own website! Too much caffeine I suppose...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Artists in Residence

If you haven't had a chance yet, come into the shop and check out the beautiful photography provided by local artists Rebecca Michalik and Alex LaSala! Each wonderful photography is for sale. Soon we will have a page on the website where you can see the photos. These ladies do delightful work and we are glad to have their work grace our walls.

Monday, May 7, 2007

New Summer Items!

Homemade lemonade (and may I emphasize the homemade, no mixes or powders allowed)
Root beer floats
New Italian Soda flavors (raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate, lemon, lime, coconut, watermelon, wildberry, ruby red grapefruit, apple, orange, and add a little vanilla to make it a creme soda or combine one or more flavors to create your own)
Flavored colas (add vanilla, lemon, lime or any other flavor to your Boylan's soda)
The Crans (add a flavor to a glass of cranberry juice to make cran-this or cran-that)

Also, don't forget the year-round cold favorites:
Iced Lattes/Mochas
Iced Coffee
Iced Chai
Iced Promised Land or Canaan Conquest (Milk, honey, cinnamon with or without the espresso)
Iced Teas (Honey Lemon Green or Mango Passionfruit Green with more on the way)
Blended Fruit Tea Smoothies (Strawberry, Wildberry, Mango, Pineapple Coconut, Lemon, Banana, Pomegranate-Blueberry, Peach or any combination thereof)
Blended Icespressos (various flavors from Vanilla to Mocha and back again)
Organic Juice boxes (for the kids or the kid in you)

Monday, April 9, 2007

How May I Help You?

Seth Godin, a marketer that I have been reading (recommended by my good friend Tim Edris) raises an interesting point in a recent blog post. For those who don't buy from BFC&T, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to say, "Why not?" The don't, to use Seth's terms (yes, I know it is improper to speak about someone you don't know in the first person), have a coffee "problem" that needs to be fixed. A better question might be, "What could I do to make you a customer?" In other words, how can I make them have a coffee problem? Most people in our area have their coffee problem solved, hence the reason that much of our business consists of college students, who tend to have lots of problems, one of which I can fix.

Some folks, with coffee otaku, as (once again) Seth would put it, are always looking for new and creative (and better quality) solutions to their coffee problem. One customer that I spoke to today had a massive coffee problem: she came from an area where she had ten coffeeshops to choose from and moved here where there is one. I have helped her she likes the coffee.

Another customer I spoke to, though, didn't have a coffee problem. He would get whatever whenever. That changed, though, when he came with some friends to the shop. Now he has a coffee problem and says that we are the only acceptable solution. He's the kind of customer that is the hardest to reach, since he could have taken one look at the shop and said, "I don't need that. I've got all my coffee needs met." I'm glad he's here, though, since he is one of our best promulgators about the shop.

I'm currently toying with some ways to make the coffee problem deeper here in the Falls. I'm excited about the combination of community, coffee, and comfort that we offer here and I want to extend it to all my local neighbors--that is the point of the shop and the point of all problem-making that I might go about.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Tyranny of the "Short"

We currently serve our drinks in small (12oz), medium (16oz), and large (20oz). In Seattle terminology, for what I understand of it, there is a missing size, the 8oz or 'short' (hence the reason that at some other places the 'small' is called the 'tall'). I purchased some 8oz cups (one latte bowl, one macchiato cup) and started trying to do art pours with single shots. I pulled off some amazingly beginner rosettas, something that has eluded me with the 12oz cups. I began to realize why...

The single shot ristretto is meant for the short, not for the tall. The blend and balance of espresso to milk is spot on, while on the 12oz they often taste too milky and pours are hard to do since the vast overpowering of milk tends to destroy too much of the crema (either that, or I just really need work on this). The double shot ristretto, however, doesn't work well in the 12oz, but works perfectly in the 16oz. In other words, the 12oz is a strange anamoly in the espresso world. Very few American consumers are going to get an 8oz drink, even pop comes in 12oz standard. However, folks want something smaller than 16oz.

I really like the short, though. It is the perfect amount for a latte or any espresso-based beverage, at least for my tastes. I like to drink my beverages fast and enjoy the mingle of foam, steamed milk, and espresso dance quickly over my tongue. The short gives me that ability.

Interesting, though, is our recent, unrelated decision, to only offer cappuccinos in the short variety. The reason being that if it isn't a short, it isn't a true Italian cappuccino--we are trying for integrity in all of our drinks and this is a short step towards it. Plus, trying to accurately foam a 20oz cappa can easily lead to burnt milk and poorly done foam. A short cappa is hard enough to do as it is.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Beaver Falls Celebration Week

We love Beaver Falls. It is a great place to live and work and worship. So, in light of that, this week is Celebrate Beaver Falls Week at BFC&T. Bring a friend who has never been to the shop and receive 25% off of your drink. Also, be shopping at select other local businessess and you may receive another 15% off a drink order! Lastly, this week only, come in for a delicious lunch and receive a free drip-brewed coffee.


Because we love Beaver Falls and hope you do too!

Friday, March 2, 2007

A Ringing in My Ears

At BFCAT we have Sirius satellite radio. Well, sometimes we have Sirius satellite radio. More often than not it seems we are "Acquiring Signal" than enjoying commercial free music from outer space.

Anyway, when it does work, it seems we rotate through a select couple of channels. They include, but are not limited to: Coffeehouse (ironically enough), Left of Center, Sirius Disorder and, at least when I'm working, Symphony Hall.

Coffehouse is an annoying channel that plays way too much Indigo girls and not enough of anything else.

Left of Center is your typical college-indie-rock channel that plays some iffy songs in the lyrics department.

Sirius Disorder is usually the best bet. The songs are "safer" yet not laden with girls of any color, be they indigo or anything else. Today, however, they played an Indigo girls song forcing me to switch over to...

Symphony Hall. More and more I'm liking this channel. Classical music allows you to sit and enjoy the environment of the coffee shop without being focused on the song itself. It truly is background music at its finest.

So if you're enjoying a tasty beverage at BFCAT and wondering why you're stuck listening to Bach instead of the Indigo Girls and you see me working, then you'll know that I just want some inspirational music playing while I plot out how I'm going to kidnap the Indigo Girls thus never allowing them to create new music ever again.

But I digress, my break is over and I'd better get back to work.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


All of the employees and owners of BFC&T have been working on what is known as Latte Art. Jason has some pictures of his work on his site. This strange blend of physics, chemistry, and dexterity produces some beautiful cups of espresso. The ability to make rosettes and hearts is considered by many to be the mark of a true barista. The thing that every wannabe wants to hear is, "This is so beautiful I don't think I can drink it!"


In our culture of rush-rush-rush, a cup of coffee must be fast and frill-less. Folks who are used to a home brewing experience of instaneousness find it hard to wait in a line at a coffeeshop while a barista is making a cup. Many times I've found myself in that same position, looking at my watch, wondering what is taking them so darn long. Latte art, while not actually taking that much longer than the production of a non-art latte, serves as a justification for the wait. If your barista/entry-leverer does not provide the visual stimulation (or doesn't try, at the least--nobody said art was easy) for your wait, there is a legitimacy to the grumble. However, if your barista tries--sees coffee and milk and their combination as a gift--then hopefully the rush-rush-rush will for a second slow down for a wonderfully fully-orbed experience of coffee. And maybe, just maybe, the gift can be passed on.

We're trying it here and we hope you like it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

BFCAT vs. The World

In many ways I feel quite fortunate to be working at a place like BFCAT (yes, I refuse to include the "i" as I feel it is unnecessary and causes too much confusion). First and foremost: it's a well known fact that only the coolest people can work in coffee shops (see: Russ, Jason and myself. I rest my case.) Second, I get free drinks. I am personally well-acquainted with several people who would shed innocent blood for this kind of perk. Third, well, Russ summed it up pretty nicely with his previous post about Mr. DeFerio's article.

But fourth and finally, I love the big picture behind it all.

Beaver Falls is not known for making good first impressions. A number of Geneva College students leave with negative feelings towards this town and maybe those negative feelings are warranted. Afterall, Beaver Falls does not offer much in terms of a night life, or a cultural district, or a music scene, or... well... you get the idea. The simple fact remains that Beaver Falls is downright depressing. Are you going to tell me I'm wrong?

Like many Americans I am good at figuring out the problem, but what do you do next?

Sadly, the answer seems to be, more often than not, "Not much." We assess the problem, then promptly shake our heads as if to say, "What can you do?" and proceed with our lives that probably exist well outside the realm of Beaver County. It's an arduous task to find people willing to tackle the problems of a depressed city when they have bills of their own, mortgages to pay, work to be done, lawns to be mowed... And besides, what can one man do?

This is where places like BFCAT come in. On the surface of BFCAT is a place where students come to study, mothers come to meet, good coffee is served and "baristas" work on their latte "art". But if you ask Russ or Bethany you'll find there's more going on here. You see, BFCAT is ideally just the beginning: the beginning of many shops that add character to a community, that focus on service as an act of worship, that want to promote relationships, that want to instill a bit of pride in a town that desperately needs it. Hopefully, BFCAT is an inspiration that, with the help of projects like City House and places like Pine Valley Bible Camp, will foster the type of love and dedication that give people a respect for the place where they live. People in Beaver Falls need to know they live in a unique place. They need to know their community is worth effort and hard work. They need to know that if they're willing then they'll find others who are willing too. Otherwise they are left to wallow in self-pity while things cease to change.

Want to talk about it more? Come find us at the coffee shop.

It's a lofty goal, but one worth striving towards. Could it be possible that a cup of coffee leads to a prosperous community? Only time will tell.

Coffee as a Gift

I'm reflecting on an article by Chris DeFerio about what it means for him to be a barista. At one point, he says:
Coffee beans are practically vibrating with potential. Throughout its history, centuries of species migration and cultivation, hundreds of steps and stages in the processing of the green bean, the roasting of the bean to develop its potential further--all of it leads to differences from bean to bean. Then the barista recieves this little package and is responsible fro creating an accurate representation of all that has gone into that coffee....I feel priveleged to be a professional barista because I am the last link between grower and consumer, and it is my job to expose the bean's potential to the world.
As a potential barista (my quality level is not quite there yet, but getting better everyday), I like knowing the same thing.

It involves a certain understanding that the barista has received a gift. Many corporate/entry level "barista" treat the bean like most Americans treat everything else: disposable. But to think of the work, love, and time that has been expended to get the bean to the barista is staggering. How can we not approach it with a level of humility and gentleness?

Even in a capitalist system, commodities do not need to be viewed as bought (and abusable) property, but rather as gifts. All things that are created are given to us by the Father God, so regardless if we have paid for them or not, thanks must be shown in our dealings with everything. Imagine the difference between a cup of coffee prepared by someone who views all beans as expendable foodstuffs or one who is passionately grateful for the product and the opportunity to make that product shine especially for you.

Drink for thought.

Already but Not Yet

Since we are waiting for the website to become fully functional, I thought I'd start doing some coffee blogging here. I've invited both Jason and Brett to join, we'll see what happens. Thanks for viewing and try the Americano, it's great.