Tag Archives: Austin

Roasting Coffee Beans with Kohana Coffee in Austin

Disclaimer: When I visited Kohana Coffee in Austin for this interview, they supplied me with four pounds of coffee and two 16 oz. bottles of cold brew to take home at no charge. However, all the opinions in this article are mine and gratis products did not sway my views.

I love coffee. There is something about opening a fragrant bag of freshly roasted beans, grinding some up, adding the ground beans to my press, and pouring in steaming, hot water from my kettle. It’s a morning ritual shared, using one method or another, by many of us.

Several years ago, I was writing a coffee and tea blog for a large network. I happened to see a little blurb about a small, artisan coffee roaster in Austin. I contacted Kohana Coffee and asked if they’d send me a sample of their coffee to review. I loved the coffee, and the rest is history.

Over the next several years, I got to know Piper Jones and the Kohana team through email, Facebook, and Twitter. We became friends and, thrill of thrills, I got to name one of their coffees, Alamo Joe.

So what if it’s not in production anymore – I named it.

I really wanted to visit Kohana and spend the day photographing the roasting process. Every year I swore I would do it and every year I didn’t. Until now. Emails were sent, plans were made, and my husband, my daughter, my son in law, and me hopped in the van and began the three hour drive.

 

The Beginning

The idea for Kohana was birthed while Piper and her partner were in Hawaii. As they sipped coffee in a local coffee shop, they became interested in the roasting process. Piper met with the roaster and learned about roasting, the characteristics of different beans, and all the other secrets of making the perfect cup of coffee. She learned her craft well. Kohana is one of the best coffees I’ve ever tasted.

 

The Roaster – That Sucker Is Big, Y’all

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the roaster. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t a huge, red contraption that was so tall you had to climb a ladder to add the beans!

Coffee roaster at Kohana Coffee in Austin.
The large coffee roaster.

The roaster has two parts. The part where the beans are roasted is attached to an afterburner. It’s a tall cylinder that cleans the fumes from the roasting process. It makes the roaster cleaner and more environmentally friendly.

Bags of green coffee beans at Kohana Coffee in Austin.
Bags of green coffee beans.

The room was full of bags of green coffee beans and, as you can imagine, it smelled heavenly. Piper let my daughter, Erin, and me choose which coffee to roast.

Measuring coffee beans at Kohana Coffee in Austin.
Measuring coffee beans.

Piper showed us how the beans were carefully weighed for each batch. I climbed the tall ladder and poured the beans into the roaster.

Once I was off the ladder, Piper let me push the lever that sent the beans down into the roasting chamber. Every once in a while, Piper would pull a piece out of the chamber to check on the progress.

Coffee goes through stages where you can hear the beans pop and crack. Someone with experience roasting can tell what’s going on by how it sounds. Kohana makes it look easy, but I think there’s a coffee Zen that happens where the roaster knows instinctively when each variety has reached perfection.

Cooling the roasted beans at Kohana Coffee in Austin.
Cooling the roasted beans.

Once the coffee is roasted, it has to be cooled. The beans are released from the machine and fall into a pan that looks like a colander. A huge brush moves the darkened beans around to cool them quickly.

 

The Part Where I Learned About Cupping

Coffee cupping at Kohana Coffee in Austin.
Coffee cupping.

While the beans roasted and cooled, we went into the other room to learn about cupping. I knew cupping was similar to wine tasting in that you sniff, you slurp, you spit. It definitely is much more involved and scientific than it sounds.

Piper put the same ground coffee into three cups. She carefully weighed the coffee to make sure that each cup was the same. Next, she poured hot water over the grounds and let them steep. At that point, we sniffed the cups and tried to describe what we were smelling.

The reason three cups are used is to ensure that if there happens to be a bad bean in one of the cups, the other two would be alright. Using a spoon, you dip into the cup and get a spoonful of coffee. Then you pull the coffee into your mouth with a quick, loud slurp. This allows you to pull in as much oxygen as possible. The coffee also spreads over your entire tongue and each of your taste buds. Hopefully, you can do this without choking yourself, but it isn’t easy. You rinse the spoon in water between tasting cups.

Describing coffee is difficult. I have a pretty good vocabulary, but using words like tobacco, dirt, and wood to elaborate about flavors, for me, is like speaking a foreign language. Luckily, Kohana had three, large posters on the wall with tons of words representing various flavors. You’d think tobacco would be a nasty flavor but it wasn’t. It reminded me of the way my uncle’s pipe used to smell. It was comforting.

After cupping, we went back into the roasting area to bag up our coffee. It should sit for several hours after roasting to allow the gasses to dissipate. That’s why there are those plastic vents on coffee bags. They let the gas out but don’t let air in.

 

Try It, You’ll Like It

Did you know coffee beans have different characteristics depending on the type, where they are grown, how they are handled, and what the weather was like?

It’s true.

Some of Kohana’s coffees are blended and others are from one plantation. I like all of the flavors Kohana has.  If I had to choose one, however, I’d recommend Rockin’ Like Austin. If you prefer a dark roast that doesn’t taste burnt, you’ll love this coffee. It’s an East Indies and Central American blend that is smooth, sweet, and winey.

Piper Jones with coffee at Kohana Coffee in Austin.
Piper Jones with coffee at Kohana Coffee in Austin.

The first time I tried Rockin’ Like Austin, I described it like this:

The aroma was interesting, just a hint of citrus with a full fruity aroma. First sip was smooth with a definite milk chocolate essence followed by a hint of pepper and orange. This is a sweet brew in more ways than one. Not quite the sexiness of an Italian roast…more like a Boho poet. Romantic and deep, with flashes of the unexpected. This is a barefoot coffee, one for gazing at sunrises and sunsets, walking barefoot in the park, listening to jazz with your best friend. For me it was a gypsy skirt and leather fringe.

See? I loved it.

Another dark roast I loved is Panama. It’s silky-smooth and tastes like a combination of smoked cinnamon and rose. If I ever create a signature perfume, it will smell like this.

The most popular coffee is the Kohana Blend. If you buy the beans, they are so pretty you may be tempted to store them in a glass canister on the counter. Don’t do it, though. It’s not good for the coffee. The Kohana Blend is mild and smooth. The beans are a beautiful mixture of light, medium, and dark roasted beans that are individually craft roasted. You know what that means? It means that Kohana took a lot of time to make their coffee special.

 

The First Shelf Stable Cold Brew Coffee

Piper Jones of Kohana Coffee in Austin.
Piper Jones

Kohana has grown by leaps and bounds since I first discovered them. The coffees are now in many Whole Foods stores around Texas, and in several Austin coffee shops.

One of the most popular items Kohana Coffee makes is a cold brew coffee. This coffee is a concentrated liquid that can be used for coffee drinks, baking, cocktails, and hot coffee.

The cold brew is made from organic, Fair Trade coffee and pure, filtered water. The masterminds at Kohana got together with some engineers and came up with the first shelf stable, cold brew coffee. The patented process was used to conjure up several versions – French Roast, Decaf, French Vanilla, and a regular cold brewed coffee.

The people who make up the Kohana team are perfectionists. You can taste it in the coffee but you can also see it in the way the business is run, the knowledge the team has, and the lengthy process they go through to come up with the best roast for each type of coffee bean they buy. No doubt Kohana is already planning their next coffee coupe as you read this.

 

Where to Find Kohana Coffee

Kohana coffee is available in Austin, of course. You can also find it at Whole Foods, Central Market, and Specs. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it from Kohana’s website.

 

Wrapping It Up

Was it worth six hours in the car round trip? It sure was. We had a blast! It was a nice micro-mini vacation for the four of us. I got to roast coffee for the first time ever, I got to meet an online friend in person, and I got to hang out in Austin for the day. I am just so grateful to Piper for showing us how it’s done!

I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour. Be sure to stop by Kohana’s website and check out their coffee. And tell them I said, “Hi!”

 

Takeaway

Kohana Coffee’s office is located on 1221 S. Mopac Expressway, Suite 100, in Austin, Texas 78746. The phone number is 512/904-1174. Kohana’s email address is info@kohanacoffee.com. The website is here and the company’s Facebook page is here.

 

Images courtesy of Marye Audet.

Get Ready, Austin – Dover Saddlery Opens Soon!

Newspaper Taxi - Jenny Paisley Riding ClinicDover Saddlery is coming to Austin! The grand opening weekend is November 8-10, 2013. This is an exciting time for Austin equestrians.

Since I began riding again in 2005, Dover Saddlery’s been a favorite tack shop stop. I’ve not had the privilege of going to an actual Dover store because they are too far away. The internet, once again, levels the playing field. I love shopping at Dover’s online store. (Afriel and I have a wish list two miles long!)

What keeps Dover rockin’ with the equestrian scene is the tack store’s ability to warehouse and supply so damned many items. Everything from medication to supplements, saddles to barn equipment, and a plethora of equestrian attire. And more! Dover really has cornered the market with 1) inventory and 2) price.

I’ve heard a few people complain about Dover on Chronicle of the Horse forums, but I’ve Double Jeopardy - Blue Ribbon Summer Festival IInever had a problem. Twice, in all the years I’ve ordered from Dover, items went missing en route to my home. Not a problem, however. Dover’s excellent customer service team apologized and reshipped immediately. Now that’s how you handle customers you value.

Now Dover Saddlery has made its way to Central Texas. It’s great for us because I’d love to visit the storefront and meet the team running it. We also have very little competition with the few tiny tack stores, so this is good for business. I hope to see Dover trailers at the horse shows in Zone 7, too.

Dover, is that going to happen?

I’ve received my special invitation to the store’s private VIP reception. I’ve also received other literature compiling some grand opening specials. This Dover store will cater to the following disciplines: hunter/jumper, eventing, and dressage (no surprise). Check out the goodies! When you come for the grand opening weekend, you may win a $500 shopping spree. Every equestrian knows $500 won’t go too far – ha! – but this is a mighty generous prize from a great brand.

There will also be door prizes, samples, giveaways, and the opportunity to meet Dover Saddlery product advisors.

Thanks for a fantastic year of riding, Dover! You were a BIG part of the success I found with Newspaper Taxi and Double Jeopardy.

Double Jeopardy - Blue Ribbon Summer Festival II    Newspaper Taxi - Jenny Paisley Riding Clinic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takeaway

Dover Saddlery is located at 8820 Burnet Road in Austin, Texas 78758. The phone number is 512-452-8100. Store hours are Monday thru Thursday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

 

Clean Up With the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

Dirty car? No problem! Clean up with the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas.In spite of a mediocre rating on Yelp (and many complaints), we visited the Finish Line car wash. My daughter’s little car was dirty inside and out. Trips to the barn, trips to school, and traveling out of town plus normal wear and tear had the Dodge a complete mess.

One filthy car. A team of workers. Massive equipment with soap, water, and brushes. Could the Finish Line rise to the challenge of making our car look brand new?

Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

There’s an array of services to choose from, which can give a cause to pause when you’re in a hurry. I hadn’t been to the Finish Line in over 10 years. To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement.

Various services at the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

We picked a package, drove up, and were immediately swarmed by the first team of workers. We got our stuff out of the car and walked inside.

Inside the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

What I remember (from prior visits) was the service and friendly atmosphere the Finish Line offered. While the service and friendliness remained, there’s now gratis massage, shoe shining, and refreshments. What more could two girls want?

We skipped having massages and cleaning our shoes (we were wearing sandals – too bad!), but we did linger and watch our car go through the indoor washing cycle. I’m a sucker for car washes. And yes, you can deduce that I’m easily amused.

Satisfied that the car had been washed, I went to the front desk to pay the bill. The young woman at the desk greeted me with a big smile. I got warm fuzzies because this, folks, is customer service at its finest. I chatted with her a bit, paid the bill, and began looking at all the goodies we could partake in.

Refreshments at the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

The Finish Line certainly treats its customers well. We didn’t partake in any of the refreshments, but other people lounged while sipping coffee and eating ice cream cones. What’s really cool is you can leave a donation for the Finish Line’s charity of the month when you choose your refreshment. When we visited, Habitat for Humanity was the chosen charity.

Gotta add that the Finish Line is CLEAN. Something else I look for when I frequent a business.

Service with a smile, gratis food and drink, soothing massages, and clean shoes. Oh, and a sparkling clean car, too.

Yep. The Finish Line did a spectacular job of cleaning the car, inside and out. If I had to be grouchy and complain, it would be that the place was so darn busy, it took some time to get the car finished. I’m not going to gripe about that, however. The crews were working as quickly and efficiently as they could.

My thoughts? The impression I’m left with is how nice everyone was. Even the guys who shooed us out of our car, when we drove up, were smiling. The front desk representative was personable, gracious, and friendly. The guy who gave us back our sparkling clean car was a gentleman. That’s professionalism, folks, pure and simple. Professionalism means smiling and doing the best job that you can. Professionalism means treating your customers right. The Finish Line gets several gold stars for fostering a great environment that’s conducive to good business.

Takeaway

The Finish Line is located at 2900 Bee Cave Road in Austin, Texas 78746. The phone number is (512) 328-9274. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Winter hours are posted on the company’s website. During this season, the Finish Line closes at 5:30 p.m.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side of Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas

Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas
Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

You probably came here thinking you’d learn more about one of Austin’s treasures – Barton Springs Pool. Believe me, what you’ll find when you watch this YouTube video will teach you quite a bit about what goes on at Barton Springs.

Need a laugh? I came across a little gem in the Austinist’s daily newsletter, and it’s something I have to share. If you’ve ever gone to Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas, then you get the scene. Ha!

Thanks to John “Jinx” McGee and Taylor Powell for the video. Sequel, please!

God damn, I love this city!!

If you’d like to purchase Jinx’s music, “Barton Sprangs” is now available on iTunes.

Keeping Austin weird, wonderful, and WILD!

The original Austinist article is found here. I recommend subscribing to the Austinist to keep up with politics, ATX news, and funny stories.

What are your experiences at Barton Sprangs? Don’t be shy – share what you’ve seen and experienced.

Central Market in Austin, Texas – A Pictorial Review

Central Market on Foodio54

Central Market in Austin, Texas, is alive and well. We visited mid-morning, late last summer, and the store was fairly quiet.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Still beautiful after all these years, the Lamar Street location was built in 1992, and was the first Central Market to open.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Dig the avocados and fresh guacamole. Too busy to create the guac of your dreams? No problem – you’ve got two different sizes of fresh guacamole to choose from.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

The hardest part of shopping at Central Market? I want everything!

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Figs, figs, and more figs. Why not take a little of each?

Central Market in Austin, Texas

It’s easy to buy the perfect wine with the plethora of vintages available. Still not sure which bottle to choose? No problem. Central Market’s wine experts are on hand to help.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

The wine department is huge.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

My favorite area – the seafood market.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Fresh fish.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Shrimp.

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Why shop anywhere else?

Central Market in Austin, Texas

Are you really into food?

Visit Central Market for additional information. You can sign up for the eFoodie newsletter, follow Central Market on Twitter, and like the store on Facebook. Additionally, the site offers information about cooking classes, recipes and entertaining, a blog, and what’s happening in the store.

Central Market also features an in-store cafe. Me? I adore the sushi, which is what my next post is all about.

Dig shopping online? Click here.

Central Market in Austin, Texas, has two locations:

4477 South Lamar Boulevard

Austin, Texas 78745

512/899-4300

and

4001 North Lamar Boulevard

Austin, Texas 78756

512/206-1000