What’s your favorite slang for coffee? Dunno what mine is, but over the years I’ve discovered that I really prefer coffee over tea for my first morning cuppa – especially with steamed milk – in the form of a latte or a cappuccino. Coffee has robustness to it that I’ve always found lacking in tea, especially as a get-the-morning-going-kick-start to the day.
Prior to 1993, I drank only loose-leaf tea (no milk or sugar), as I hated the coffee offerings that were readily available in the local grocery store. Truly, I can’t stand the pre-ground or flavored products out there like Folgers or Maxwell House… never have and never will. Then in 1993 – when I was in the O’Hare terminal in Chicago – I was introduced to a totally new (to me) taste sensation… Starbucks (derisively known by some as Charbucks for their very dark espresso roasts). It totally changed the beginning to my mornings. And I wasn’t the only one, as my younger brother and sister eventually became addicted to them as well. Fast forward a few years to when my brother starts harassing me about home-roasted coffee. Now one thing you have to know about me is that I dig doing things the hard way. Why? Call it the stubborn German in me…
- Woodworking? I do it as much as possible with hand tools.
- Painting? Hand brushes.
- Bread making? I buy wheat berries and other grains, grind or roll them myself, separate the flour from the bran with big manual sifters, and make the bread by hand.
- Cooking? All by hand.
- Boating? Sail, of course, and with as little motoring and electronics as Cindy will let me get away with.
So, when it came to home-roasted coffee, I was initially hesitant, as I associated home-brewed coffee with the swill of years past. Then my brother sent me a one-pound batch of home-roasted coffee as a gift, opened my eyes to the possibilities of home-roasted java nirvana and I was hooked. Within a short time, Cindy had set me up with a home-roasting starter kit from Sweet Maria’s and I was off like a shot.
Now – many years later – I generally roast green coffee beans purchased from Sweet Maria’s, grind them fresh each morning in a hand grinder and make daily cappuccinos with a small Saeco espresso machine that a good friend gave me for helping him get a business venture off the ground a long while ago. I say generally because I also buy pre-roasted beans from various sources on occasion… just to see what the commercial competition is like and whether they can match what I like in terms of flavor and price, as I can make my own superior-tasting roast for quite a bit less than the cost of Folgers in the local market.
Which brings me to this post, as I recently found a local coffee roaster based out of Crofton, Maryland offering their wares in the local Whole Foods Market – the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company has been around since 2002, but I’d never heard of them until now. They have a generous give-back-to-the-community program, but that really doesn’t do much for me, as I’m all about the taste of the product (what’s the point in buying from any business if the product doesn’t measure up?).
So… how is it? Not bad, not bad at all!
Not as good as freshly home-roasted, of course, but certainly on par with the best that other commercial roasters have to offer, plus they have the benefit of being local, which I always like to support. In fact, I like the offerings from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company better than those of another local roasting company, Mayorga Coffee, which I feel has a flavor similar to Starbucks in many ways (not that it’s bad… I just like mine roasted differently).
One thing to note through all of this; I do not make espresso on the boat. Yet. The space requirements for all the associated hardware is too dear, so I’ve left all of it at home for now.
So, once the morning eye-openers have been prepared and made ready for consumption, it’s out on the road for me, as I normally get to drink coffee at home only on the weekends.
Cindy got me started with a tiny air roaster that’s no longer carried. It had all sorts of issues, but failed within several years. The one I use now, a Behmor 1600, works great and delivers consistent results. I just stick it outside (the smoke reduction system doesn’t work as effectively as we would like) and let it roast eight ounces of coffee beans at a time – and it’ll roast them from extremely light to Starbucks-level black.
Sadly, Cindy can only tolerate occasional sips of any variety of coffee, even decafe. Instead, we searched high and low for a coffee substitute that tasted good to her. After several years of trying different products, she finally declared Kaffree Roma to be the answer to her morning coffee prayers. It has a surprisingly good coffee-like flavor, absolutely zero caffeine and none of the bitterness or acids associated with coffee. And – wouldn’t you know it – we can only find it locally at Whole Foods Market. We just took a bottle of Roma down to the boat last weekend and Cindy was happy as a clam with her delightfully warm beverage of choice.
However, I still require the real deal for my morning java and the Starbucks VIA Colombia instant coffee, along with a tiny box of UHT milk and a small amount of sugar, is adequate for my needs at present. Once we get everything setup for normal use on the boat, I’ll begin to explore what’s available for use in our tiny little galley.