blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Essence of parenting

Last night, my two daughters and I were watching "Mission Organization" on HGTV, which is a show about re-organizing a problem area in a home with spectacular results. Charlotte and Veronica were quite impressed with the transformation that this particular professional organizer had brought about in this family's home office. After seeing the effects of turquoise walls, new built-in cabinets and multi-colored organizational boxes neatly arranged on the new shelves Charlotte (aged 8) enthusiastically offered "WOW! I wish I had a Mom like that!" After a moment's pause, while I silently digested my daughter's enthusiasm, Veronica (aged 7) added sympathetically, "Or like you, Mom," and even reached over and patted my knee.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hawaiian Coffee Crisis leads to Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto Discovery

Last week we found out that we will not be able to get either Hawaiian Kauai or Hawaiian Kona coffee for another two months. The 2004-5 harvest is sold out and the '05-'06 harvest isn't in yet. This is a crisis as we have many customers (retail and wholesale) who love these coffees! Actually, we've been out of Kona since last winter, but the Kauai is a real staple for us.

So we started looking around for an equally delicious and also premium-priced coffee that might stand in for a few months. And we discovered Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto. We ordered a bag last week, it arrived Thursday, and we had it roasted and in stores on Friday. The beans are incredibly fragrant. We're selling it for $9.95 for a half pound. It's all packaged in valve bags, so to experience the aroma, you'll need to squeeze the bag and force some of the air out of the valve with your nose nearby. AAAHH!!!

This coffee has a relatively mild body, similarly smooth as the Kauai, but it also has some interesting chocolate undertones and also subtle hints of cinnamon. The cinnamon is more noticeable as the cup cools. The acidity is mild, but not absent. Just enough to set off the body and keep the flavor dynamic.

I woke up with this Sunday morning, and its excellence propelled my daughter Veronica and I an hour long bike ride through Forest Hills Park.

Available at both Superior and Lee Road. Soon to be online.

Shaker Square needs a coffee-centric local coffee shop

We're thinking its time to begin looking for the next Phoenix Coffee retail location. I want to locate somewhere relatively urban, diverse demographic mix, and lots of foot traffic. I don't want to go to the 'burbs, to a strip mall or new suburban development. Although, strictly financially speaking, that would probably be a good idea. But look at where Phoenix Coffee is located now, and look at who we are. Cleveland Heights, Downtown, Lakewood. Nice store distribution. Inner ring suburbs. Urban, edgy, creative. What other location would keep this theme going?

Shaker Square.

Which is currently being redeveloped by Peter Rubin and The Coral Company. After our customer Sergio Abramof of Sergio's at University Circle told us that he was not going to do a coffee shop there, we called Coral Company to find out what spaces were available and at what prices. Lisa Weiner kindly showed us a couple of spaces, but after our meeting would not forward us a lease proposal (with rates, etc).

Now we have heard from a couple of different sources that Coral Company is in negotiations with The Popcorn Shop from Chagrin Falls. I think Dewey's shop would make a great addition to the Square, and he does sell coffee.

What Phoenix Coffee could bring to the square is a more coffee-centric gathering place that would appeal more directly to dyed-in-the-wool coffee fanatics who are often the creative class of people. We also offer our free wireless internet service, which encourages hanging out, and also appeals to a diverse crowd.

Some people may also remember that Carl Jones, my husband, committed to locating at Shaker Square back when he owned Arabica. Many would argue that his decision to locate at the Square in the 80s was instrumental to turning the Square around at a time when it was a transient neighborhood at best.

We'd like to be part of the second Renaissance. Carl called Peter last week to tell him that, but he didn't seem interested.

Please let Peter know if you agree that Phoenix Coffee would be a good addition to the tenant mix at the Square.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

To Lid or Not to Lid

I would rather hand you a hot cup of coffee if it has a lid on it. It makes me feel more confident that I will not be responsible for burning you, and more confident that I am handing you a Finished Product. For your $1.45 (for 12 ounces) you are about to consume the culimination of the Phoenix Coffee process, from our careful green bean buying, to our artisan roasting, then grinding, measuring, brewing and pouring. But if you are handed a cup of coffee without a lid, it feels like you are getting a work-in-progress that you have to finish up yourself. Like leaving the listener to fill in the punch line on an elaborately told joke.

But of course if I apply the lid myself (as your Barista), there are Ramifications and Implications. Which are as follows. When I applied the lid, I used my hands. Which hopefully were clean. And if you are a half-n-half or skim or soy or whole milk or sugar or honey or sugar substitute user, you will have to carefully, so as not to burn yourself, remove the lid and add said condiments. And then you will need to re-apply the lid if your coffee is to-go. If your coffee wasn't to go, I apologize, as it should have been served in a ceramic mug in the first place. So assuming your coffee is to go, the lid has to be re-applied. These lids are not an engineering marvel. They have their weaknesses and do not necessarily do well with being removed and re-applied.

If you have ordered a specialty drink, such as a cappuccino or a latte or a mocha, the situation is different. With a mocha, I should hope that you are not planning on adding sugar. So applying a lid would probably be a good idea. Unless, of course, your mocha came with whipped cream and maybe chocolate sprinkles. In that case, it is difficult to enjoy the whipped cream through the narrow opening of a domed cappuccino lid. Whipped cream enjoyment requires a large mouthful of whipped cream. At least in my book it does.

Sympathetic magic

Last week, Kiley and Dawn released one fully fledged monarch butterfly outside our Superior Avenue store. Its wings still slightly soft, its movements tentative, it landed on Dawn several times before taking flight. This past Sunday, orange and black velvety wings fluttered from Marcie's fingers into the urban jungle of the parking lot behind our Lee Road store. The remarkable thing about releasing monarchs is that they always seem to turn and look at you before they flutter off, their scratchy legs catching on the miniscule ridges of your skin. It's as if they are taking mental note of the being that gave them their freedom.

The last chrysalis of the summer is hanging inside a biscotti-jar-turned-butterfly-incubator at the Lee Road store. Luminescent emerald green, with metallic gold stripe and spots, it would look appropriate as an elegant pendant or ring in a jeweler's case. And it only gets more spectacular as the chrysalis skin turns transparent and the jet black, deep pumpkin orange and crisp white of the soon-to-be-wings shine through.

Marcie said she almost cried as the monarch flew off. Indeed, the first time I saw one hatch, I did cry. Inviting this incredibly delicate incarnation of life force into our lives proves to be a powerful demonstration of nature's intelligence. What sympathetic, seemingly magical transformation can the butterfly awaken in us?

"[This Principle] embodies the truth that there is always a Correspondence between the laws and phenomena of the various planes of Being and Life. As above, so below."

Monday, August 22, 2005

shamelessly stolen from

Check out this gorgeous shot!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

travel mug artwork

Any thoughts? You like?

Grovewood Tavern NEEDS Espresso

Will all of you who read this blog and who have been to the Grovewood and who agree with me about this please email Beth at the Grovewood Tavern and tell them that they need an espresso machine?

They serve fantastic food, from perfectly cooked calamari to their chicken adobo to their filet and crab cake entree... after a fantastic meal, I bet there are many Grovewood diners who would really enjoy a great cup of coffee and a delicious espresso. Saeco machines start at $500! It would pay for itself so quickly! I know Carl would certainly be much more willing to go the Grovewood if they had our Blonde Espresso and richly brewed Carl's Blend. Both Steve and I have spoken with Beth and Tadas about this, but so far, no go. Help!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

They won't take me alive

Let me tell you about how it feels to hear the gruff words of the city bailiff "There is a warrant out for your arrest" on your voice mail, since probably, hopefully, most of you will never have that experience. I certainly never thought I would have that experience. But last Thursday, at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, I stood corrected. As I held the phone to my ear, every nerve synapse in my body seemed to fire at once. The physical impulses included the urge to tighten every muscle in my legs, arms and abdomen and begin to flail about like a small child laying on the floor having a temper tantrum. And throwing the phone across the room, in order to distance myself from the utter insanity of the news it had just delivered, ahh, that seemed soothing. Next flash: me, with my hair in a ponytail and my arms handcuffed behind my back, surrounded by bright lights, cameras and TV anchors firing questions at me all at once.

It took all my maturity to stifle these impulses and calmly dial the number the bailiff left for the Clerk of Courts. The next morning, it took all the maturity I could muster, as I stood at the counter in the Clerk's Office, handing the clerk my credit card in order to post bond so they won't arrest me, to not turn into a raving lunatic and have my aforementioned temper tantrum right there on the floor of the clerk's office, yelling so loudly that everyone behind the double pane of bureaucratic glass could hear me.

It was a small comfort that as I explained to the clerk the nature of my case, a gentleman in the adjacent line let out an audible chuckle. "You mean there's a warrant out for your arrest because of a sign you put in front of your store?" Yes, that's it, I explained, except that the sign was taken down more than two weeks ago. The city indirectly benefits from the sign's purpose "NOW OPEN EVENINGS" because when we are open evenings, we have more labor hours and pay more payroll taxes. He shook his head at the injustice. I reveled in his agreement.

Apparently, the problem arose not only with my criminally hung banner, but because I failed to show up for my second court date. I didn't think I had to show up. As long as I complied with the city's request, and took my sign down, I thought that was enough. As I sat in housing court on July 7th and watched other cases being dismissed, I thought I had observed that the defendents were not present as their cases were dismissed. This recollection was obviously the result of my over-active imagination and my desire to construct the world the way I think it ought to be, rather than the way it actually is, because it was not accurate. When I didn't show up for my court date on July 21st, they rescheduled another court date for August 4th. The notice of the new court date and the court date itself occured while I was in the Adirondack Mountains on vacation. So the court assumed I was ignoring them and sent out a warrant for my arrest.

Like it or not, the warrant got my attention. Not only did I have to post bond, but I had to drive down to Parma to get my driver's license reinstated. I keep thinking about the Purity Test that I took my freshman year at college. The tradition is that you take the Purity Test your freshman year and then you take it again when you're a senior and you see how many points you lose as a result of your college experience. You lose Purity Points when you engage in sexual activity, drink a lot and have run-ins with the law. Whatever Purity Points I didn't lose when I was in college, I think I just lost.

The question is: is my loss of Purity justified by this worthy struggle to promote the interests of small business owners and make a Case out of my "NOW OPEN EVENINGS" banner? Only if I continue the battle and write a letter to council about getting this law changed. Remind me again, how did David beat Goliath?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mocha Marcie at Lee Road

Thursday, August 11, 2005

fractionated shot

Espresso is a multiphasic beverage. What does this mean? During different parts of the brewing process, different things happen.

First 1/3 : the volatiles and the aromatics are extracted. So when you use stale coffee or coffee that has been ground for a while, this is the fraction of the shot that suffers the most. This is the most intense, syrupy part of the shot. It's the heart and soul.

Second 1/3 : the sugars and solubles are extracted. This is the body of the shot. This is where a shot becomes sweet, or if you're using crappy or over-roasted coffee, not so sweet.

Last 1/3 : here come the solids, astringents and caffeine. And most of the crema is also formed here. This is the mildest part of the shot. If you overbrew, you get more of this part, which is not necessarily desireable.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Does anyone else find this intriguing?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

720 degree polish... why do it?

Because if you polish your shot 720 degrees (that's two complete turns of the tamper for those of you who are math illiterate) you are more likely to get a nice uniform pack of your portafilter basket. What you are basically doing is coaxing the finely ground coffee particles into more uniform proximity to each other, and therefore getting a better extraction, in most cases. As Steve Goldberg, our Espresso Evangelist, intelligently pointed out at a training session at Cafe Limbo this afternoon, when he started polishing his shots consistently, he started getting more consistently good shots. So polish, all you baristas, polish well!

Bear Latte Art