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Lem Butler, Sam Lewontin Win at Big Eastern Coffee Competition

On November 21-23, around 80 coffee professionals from the East Coast participated in the Big Eastern Coffee Competition in Durham, North Carolina. Lem Butler, Counter Culture’s head of wholesale customer support and barista trainer of the Carolinas, placed first in the Southeast Regional Barista Competition, his fifth win in his coffee career. Butler has worked with Counter Culture in Durham since 2007. Sam Lewontin, barista at NYC’s Everyman Espresso, won the Northeast Regional Barista Competition using Counter Culture coffee. Butler and Lewontin will advance to the U.S. Coffee Championships with a first-round bye in Long Beach, California, in February 2015.
Twelve baristas competed using Counter Culture’s coffees, and in addition to Butler and Lewontin, seven of these competitors made it to the finals. In the SERBC: Anna Utevsky from Joule Coffee (Raleigh, North Carolina) came in third; Nathan Nerswick of Empire State South (Atlanta) came in fourth; and Micah Sherer of Tandem Creperie & Coffeehouse (Travelers Rest, South Carolina) came in fifth. In the NERBC: Carlos Morales from Third Rail Coffee (New York City) placed third and Erika Vonie from Everyman Espresso (New York City) finished fourth. In the Southeast Regional Brewers Cup: Jack Snyder of Northside Social (Arlington, Virginia) finished fourth and Henry Boyd of Morning Times (Raleigh, North Carolina) came in sixth. Additional competitors using Counter Culture coffees included: Jenny Bonchak, Slingshot Coffee (Raleigh, North Carolina); Steph Caronna, La Farm Bakery (Cary, North Carolina); Seth Cook, Northside Social (Arlington, Virginia); Timm Jones, Jubala Coffee (Raleigh, North Carolina); and Joshua Maitz, Peregrine Espresso (Washington, D.C.). See link here for full list of results.
At the Barista Competition, baristas competed in front of four sensory judges, two technical judges and one head judge as they prepared and served four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature espresso beverages during a 15-minute race against the clock. Butler competed with AA-grade Thiriku (Nyeri, Kenya), roasted by Counter Culture’s Eddie Green and Kyle Tush, as his espresso for his signature beverage. For his cappuccinos, Butler combined 70 percent AA grade with 30 percent AB grade that was roasted two points darker “to focus more on balancing between sweetness and body in the cappuccino.” Butler was previously named Southeast Regional Barista in 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2012. Lewontin competed with Counter Culture’s Finca Los Alpes from Aida Battle in El Salvador (also roasted by Kyle Tush) as his espresso, noting that the “nectarine and grapefruit” notes balanced a “beautiful sweetness and crisp acidity.”
At the Brewers Cup, competitors were judged in two rounds by skilled coffee tasters. The first round was a blind tasting; the competitors all brewed the same coffee on their chosen manual brewing devices. Those who advanced to the second round brewed and presented their chosen coffee to the judges’ panel.
The Big Eastern Event is one of three Super Regional Coffee Competitions taking place across the country. The Big Western took place October 7-10 in Rancho Mirage, California, and the Big Central took place November 7-9 in Minneapolis. The winners of each competition go on to compete in the U.S. Coffee Championships at the SCAA’s 27th Annual Event, February 19-22, 2015, in Long Beach, California. The winner of each U.S. Coffee Championship moves on to compete in the 2015 World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup in Seattle, April 9-12, 2015.
Open to the public and free to attend, the event also hosted opportunities for attendees to learn more about the world of specialty coffee and to taste coffee from local and regional roasters. The Big Eastern was sponsored by Counter Culture Coffee and Wilbur Custis Co. and produced by the Barista Guild of America and the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Paso Robles Wine Country to Celebrate Inaugural BlendFest on the Coast

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA), in conjunction with the Cambria Tourism Board, San Simeon Tourism Board and Wine Coast Country announced a new partnership to bring a Paso Robles wine event to the north coast of San Luis Obispo County. On February 21, 2015 the 1st Annual Paso BlendFest on the Coast will showcase the best characteristics of each partner, combining the scenic beauty of the coast with Paso Robles Wine Country, only miles away. Held during off season, BlendFest is sure to become an annual marquee event helping to promote stays at the area’s lodging properties and celebrate Paso Robles Wine Country in a beautiful setting.

BlendFest will invite visitors to San Simeon and Cambria to Grow Wild beyond a glass of everyday wine and will feature 25-30 of Paso Robles’ renowned wineries, each featuring two distinct blends! Held at The Cavalier Resort in San Simeon, guests will be able to enjoy spectacular wines, only surpassed by the stunning coastal views.

“As evidenced by Paso’s recent honor as Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, the region has become known for rule breaking, unconventional blends,” said Jennifer Porter, Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “It is now time those blends got their own dedicated festival!”

Read the rest of this story at Food & Food Equipment News, another publication of Oser Communications Group. You might also be interested in this story about Mollydooker wines.

Mondelez International to Expand Tassimo Beverage Capsule Production

Mondelez International has announced plans to invest $50 million (£30 million) in its Banbury, UK factory to build two new lines that will manufacture Tassimo beverage capsules. Tassimo is Europe’s fastest growing single-serve system, brewing a wide variety of beverages including Jacobs and Costa coffees and Cadbury hot chocolate.

The decision is part of Mondelez International’s multi-year investment in European manufacturing, under which $1.5 billion has been invested since 2010. The planned investment will create close to 80 roles and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Banbury factory, which produces coffee brands such as Kenco, Carte Noire and Maxwell House. The Tassimo capsules produced in Banbury will be exported to Western European coffee markets in France and Spain as well as distributed in the UK.

“Tassimo is a key driver of growth for our European coffee business, so this $50 million opportunity is a great one for Banbury,” said Phil Hodges, Senior Vice President, Integrated Supply Chain, Mondelez Europe.  “Over the past 18 months, we’ve made similar investments in Bournville and Sheffield, underscoring our commitment to UK manufacturing. The proposed investment is part of our vision to manufacture our products on state-of-the-art lines that will enable us to meet growing demand while increasing our competitiveness.”

Click here to read more Gourmet News stories about coffee.

Continued investment in the plant has created an efficient and modern factory capable of producing both instant and capsule coffees for Mondelez International’s brands. The $50 million investment, conditional on commitments to flexibility and cost competitiveness, will fund two new Tassimo coffee production lines to be installed in 2015.

The Tassimo beverage system, which was developed in Banbury prior to its launch in Europe in 2004, uses barcode technology to calculate the right amount of water, brewing time, and temperature for the specific beverage. Over the past five years, Tassimo achieved strong double-digit growth in Europe through a winning formula of convenience, an unrivalled brand portfolio and quality coffee.

“The proposed investment opportunity demonstrates that, in an increasingly competitive environment, the UK continues to be a prime location for large-scale manufacturing,” said Paul Sinclair, Head of Manufacturing at the Mondelez International Banbury site.  “We’re committed to securing this investment for Banbury by increasing flexibility and competitiveness, and we’re excited about showcasing the quality we can deliver to coffee drinkers in the UK and abroad by producing Tassimo in our factory.”

“This investment opportunity in Banbury is part of our ongoing supply chain reinvention plan,” said Hodges. “We’re implementing several such initiatives around the world to capitalize on growing demand, while also reducing costs and improving productivity.”

Mondelez International’s supply chain reinvention plan is expected to deliver $3 billion in gross-productivity savings, $1.5 billion in net savings and $1 billion in incremental cash over the next three years.  The investment follows Mondelez Europe’s announced $100 million commitment to build a state-of-the-art biscuit factory in Czech Republic earlier this year, as well as the potential new investment of approximately $100 million for the Bournville chocolate manufacturing site in Birmingham, UK.

Mollydooker 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz Named #1 Wine and #1 Shiraz in Australia and New Zealand for 2014

South Australia wine producer, Mollydooker Wines from McLaren Vale has just been honored by Winestate magazine at the 2014 Australasian Winestate Awards, held on  November 14, 2014 at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

The Mollydooker 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz was awarded twice as the 2014 Wine of the Year for Australia and New Zealand and the 2014 Shiraz Wine of the Year for Australia and New Zealand.

Owners and winemakers, Sarah and Sparky Marquis, have been wine industry innovators and have triumphed over moments of near disasters in the competitive, global wine marketplace for over 20 years in Australia.

Winestate, the prestigious and oldest wine publication of Australia, awarded Mollydooker Wines and their 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz from over 2,400 Australian and New Zealand wine producers and over 11,000 wine entries.

Limited-Edition Holiday Coffee from Counter Culture Coffee Now Available

Counter Culture Coffee has announced its annual, limited-edition Holiday Coffee featuring harvests from Peru and Ethiopia with a smooth, approachable flavor profile of brown sugar, bittersweet chocolate, and pecan. The coffee is 85 percent Cenfrocafe from Jaén, Peru and 15 percent Idido Washed from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. Priced at $14.25/12-ounce box and available as of November 1 on Counter Culture’s website and at all retailers, the coffee is packaged in a sleek recycled paper box printed with linseed oil-based inks conceptualized by Counter Culture’s in-house design team.

This holiday season, Counter Culture will collect a nickel per pound of all coffees sold—including the 2014 Holiday Coffee—to fund forthcoming coffee-growing community betterment initiatives through its SEEDS program (Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source). This holiday allocation reflects a significant increase from the penny per pound Counter Culture donates throughout the year to support improvement projects in coffee-producing communities around the world, including agricultural training and research programs, through SEEDS.

Counter Culture’s SEEDS program was created to structure and define the company’s monetary contributions to projects benefitting its coffee-producing partners and families, who may not be directly related with the coffee itself. Since 2011, SEEDS has supported 12 projects in eight countries and contributed more than $65,000 (not including sales from Holiday Coffee) to coffee-growing communities.

Counter Culture’s strong relationships with the farmers and communities who create their coffees epitomize its commitment to environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability. Under Coffee Buyer & Sustainability Manger Kim Elena Ionescu’s leadership, Counter Culture encourages all coffee growers to practice organic agriculture on their farms. The company supports farms and co-ops willing to pursue organic certification, which requires effort, money, and a full three years of transition time before the coffee can be labeled organic. Eighty-five percent of the coffee that Counter Culture purchases is certified organic, and the company is constantly working to increase that percentage.

Last year, a portion of Counter Culture’s Holiday Coffee proceeds helped to jumpstart the process required for organic certification for coffee producers from Burundi whose coffee the roaster has purchased for a number of years. Two years ago, the proceeds funded a two-day organic composting workshop in Ethiopia that was attended by 30 farmers from Haru, Idido, and Biloya villages.

Strong Bloody Mary Market Garnished by Spicy Heat and Unexpected Flavors

By David Bernard

Last month, as the St. Regis New York Hotel was busy celebrating the 80th anniversary of the U.S. debut of the bloody mary in the hotels King Cole Bar, a bartender at Todd English P.U.B. in Las Vegas was busy adding a skewer of corn dog pup and crispy chicken wing to a $35 bloody mary already stacked with a slider, chilled shrimp and pickled asparagus, among other garnishes. Still popular decades after its creation and continuously reinterpreted, bartender Fernand Petiot would no doubt be pleased with the legacy of the perennial cocktail classic he first mixed in Paris in 1921 before serving it at the St. Regis in 1934.

Capitalizing on consumer hunger, a thirst for spice and the growing desire for healthy ingredients, retailers of all things bloody mary, including mixes, seasoning blends and rimmers, are finding a wealth of products to choose from and a strong market to which to sell.Some retailers and producers describe two distinct markets for bloody marys. Jerry Ciesielski, Fine Foods Buyer for Premier Gourmet in Buffalo, New York, noted that a lot of the stores older customers stick with what they know, buying mixes that are more representative of the classic bloody mary recipe. For the younger customers coming in, its all about spicy hot,” he said.

Of the 16 brands of mixes sold in Ciesielski’s store, Tabasco Extra Spicy has become the second best-seller – up from fourth place. Tabasco Extra Spicy is followed by another spicy offering, the horseradish-flavored Mr & Mrs T Premium Blend. The top-seller at the store, as well as one of the leaders nationwide, is the medium-hot Zing Zang.Ciesielski said that customer requests, along with the trend toward spicy across many food categories, spurred the stores move toward spicier offerings. “Im looking for more and varied spicy mixes,” he said.

The good news for retailers like Ciesielski is that there is certainly no shortage of spicy bloody mary mixes on the market today from which to choose. The Murphs Famous Bloody Mary Mix, based in Long Island, New York, already had a successful, more traditional mix sold in 26 states when it decided to add a spicy version a year ago. The response has been amazing, said Stephen Murphy, CEO of The Murphs Famous Bloody Mary Mix. The new mix includes cayenne, horseradish and black pepper. When we did production runs initially, we thought it out and made 70 percent of the original mix and 30 percent hot and spicy. Within six months, it was 50-50. And now were 60-40 hot and spicy.”

Murphy got the idea for The Murphs Hot & Spicy Bloody Mary Mix, which recently won a Chile Pepper Magazine award for Best Bloody Mary Mix, after attending a number of hot sauce trade shows. As a sponsor himself of the New York City Hot Sauce Expo, which doubled its attendance to more than 10,000 this year, Murphy has observed firsthand the trend toward spicy. I have really seen, particularly among 21-35 year olds, that its all about hot sauce and different flavors of hot foods and sauces,” he said.

One of the countrys top bloody mary seasoning producers, Demitris of Seattle, Washington, happened upon its spiciest flavor, chipotle-habanero, quite by accident. According to founder Demitri Pallis, the company, which has won 25 Scovie Awards since 2012, created the extra-hot variety as a marketing stunt for the 2010 Nightclub & Bar Show Convention in Las Vegas. We kind of told the joke on ourselves,” said Pallis. “The response came back so well that, while we didnt intend to actually put a label on it, we decided to go ahead and add it to our lineup. While the chipotle-habanero blend is too hot for most bars to stock as their house mix, it does very well on the retail shelf, just as has done another of Demitris spicy offerings, Chilies and Peppers, which has increased in popularity in recent years.

While some retailers stick to a two-fold offering of more traditional mixes in addition to hot and peppery options, producers today are stepping up with unique flavors as well. Jason Poole, Brine Boss at Preservation & co. in Sacramento, California, recently turned a Dijon mustard-caper-balsamic-pickling-brine recipe he perfected as a bartender into a successful product sold in 150 California locations. (Expansion to surrounding states is in the works.) Developed for entry into the national Absolut Vodka Bloody Mary Search contest, in which it took second place, the viscous mix also contains sriracha.

The thing that would really frustrate me about bloody marys as a bartender was that people would drink about three-fourths of their drink and wouldnt finish it, because, by the end, it would be too diluted and it wouldnt have the flavor it began with, said Poole. Our goal was to create a drink where they could actually enjoy the whole thing. By making the mix thick and adding heat with sriracha, Poole created a buffer against the dilution that comes from adding ice and vodka, ultimately preserving the mixs briny/tangy and sweet tones.

Preservation & co., which produces a variety of pickled and other vegetable products and seasonings, also offers a sriracha salt bloody mary rimmer. Spicy rimmers like this one have risen in popularity alongside spicy mixes. Bacon-flavored rimmers are also trending.

Just a year old, Austin, Texas-based Bloody Revolution, has taken variety to a new level, recently expanding its reach to over 600 locations, including gourmet shops and major retailers, like one of the largest grocers in the state, HEB. The company offers five mixes, with the unique twist that none of the four variation flavors are based on the company’s original recipe. The company’s four co-founders started Bloody Revolution to fill what it saw as a gap in the marketplace, crafting unique flavors like wasabi ginger, ribeye, pickle zing and smoked habanero.

We had the idea to do something totally different from what wed ever seen, said Chantz Hoover, Managing Partner of Bloody Revolution. We decided to mix things up. While the company’s more unique flavors have proven a hit among adventurous cocktail enthusiasts, Bloody Revolution’s standby original and smoked habanero offerings serve as a point of entry for bloody mary beginners. Customers will try the original or the smoked habanero first, Hoover said. “Retailers are telling us that they come back and say, Hey, that was awesome, Im ready to try one of these other flavors now.’”

Bloody Revolution’s offerings fit perfectly with another bloody mary trend: the bloody mary bar within a bar” concept. Restaurants and bars across the country are setting up a bloody mary carts or mini-bars where customers can choose their own garnishes, extra spices and rimmers. While establishments typically offer only one or two mixes at the front of the cart, Bloody Revolution clients have found success when they choose to offer all five of the companys mixes. The renowned Austin hotel, The Driskill, whose popular Saturday Bloody Mary bar had featured two housemade original mixes for 30 to 40 years, recently added three Bloody Revolution mixes, with impressive results.

Their beverage director said, This is going to take our bloody mary bar to another level,’” said Hoover. And now, six months later, its gone really well for them. Theyve given us great feedback.The companys mixes have performed similarly well at other clients bloody mary bars.

The growing preference among consumers for natural and healthy products is also driving today’s bloody mary market. While the drink uses vodka or another type of alcohol, it also contains a healthy dose of tomato juice and often cayenne and other beneficial spices.

I find that a lot of our customers are vegetarians, said Mel Gonzalez, COO of Backyard Mary, a Huntington Beach, California company whose medium heat mix is sold in four western states. They look at it as a liquid salad, basically as a meal in a drink. Backyard Mary Bloody Mary Mixer, which carries just enough heat derived from horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and peppers, gives the drinker a light kick, yet it is still bright and flavorful. The mixer was a Platinum Best of Class winner at the Spirit International Prestige Awards.

Of course, some bloody marys are not so healthy, and consumers can thank the blogosphere in part for that. Spurred on in a “can-you-top-this fashion, some restaurants, bloody mary bloggers and individual consumers are carving out a spot at the bar (or on the internet) by posting outrageous pictures of lavishly garnished bloody marys. A bacon cheeseburger, King Crab claw, and chicken and waffles are just a few of the indulgent garnishes that demonstrate how the bloody mary can serve as a meal in a glass.

While possibly alarming some fans of the classic recipe, elaborate versions of this classic cocktail may be contributing to an overall boost in the category. Id say the Bloody Mary is getting more popular, said Shelley Buchanan, author of The Drunken Tomato: A Definitive Guide to the Best Bloody Marys in Los Angeles and Orange County. Especially with everyone sharing all these pictures of the crazy garnishes, bloody marys are really coming out in social media a lot more, and theyre getting more attention that way.

Read more about bloody marys here, about hot sauces here and about Bolder Beans here.

This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

Arrowhead Farms Cocktail Mix Gift Sets

4-Arrowhead FarmsFILL-GWArrowhead Farms is the passionate company behind an extensive line of artisanal cocktail mixers and salad dressings. The company offers a variety of cocktail mix gift sets that are the perfect treat to present to any cocktail loving party host. Arrowhead Farms’ Complete Cocktail Mix Gift Set features the company’s cult-classic Hellfire Club Bloody Mary Mix, the spicy Spitfire Margarita Mix and the company’s three newest mixers: Dark Harbor Southside Mix, Mexican House Margarita Mix and Giovanni’s Nectar of the Gods Bellini Mix. Each mix contains 25 delicious ounces. The Complete Cocktail Mix Gift Set comes in Arrowhead Farms signature gift packaging. In addition, Arrowhead Farms offers a number of other gift sets, including the Ultimate Deluxe Decadence Gift Set (five cocktail mixers and three salad dressings), the Morning After Cocktail Mix Gift Set (Hellfire Club Bloody Mary Mix and Nectar of the Gods Bellini Mix) and the Margarita Cocktail Mix Gift Set (Spitfire Margarita Mix and Mexican House Margarita Mix).

For more information on Arrowhead Farms or to see a complete list of the products the company offers, visit www.arrowheadfarms.com.

Beerology a Must-Read for Beer Lovers

3-BeerologyFILL-GWMirella Amato’s tome Beerology is a must-buy gift for anyone who enjoys the pleasure of a pint. It bills itself as the ultimate unpretentious guide to understanding and enjoying the world of beer. There is truly a beer for every food, mood and occasion, and with the growing number of beer festivals and microbreweries popping up worldwide, beer is finally getting the attention and appreciation it deserves. For fans of this complex beverage, the overwhelming choices, brewing styles and traditions can be confusing to say the least. Enter Amato, one of only seven Certified Master Cicerones in the world. With an advanced brewing certificate to her name, readers are in expert hands as they navigate the multifaceted world of beer, guided by Amato’s refreshingly accessible style. The book is broken down into fun, easy-to-read chapters starting with an introduction to beer and progressing into a complete guide to properly tasting the beverage, as well as tips for throwing beer parties, making beer cocktails and pairing beer with food.

For more information on Mirella Amato’s Beerology, visit http://beerology.ca.

Hella Bitter’s Craft Your Own Bitters Kit

2-Hella Bitters FILL-GWBrooklyn, N.Y.-based Hella Bitter’s new Craft Your Own Bitters kit combines a passion for craft, creativity and delicious cocktails into an innovative kit that enables any cocktail enthusiast to make his or her own unique bitters at home. Seeking to change the way people think about what they drink, the Craft Your Own Bitters Kit makes it easy to add a touch of bitterness to everything from the perfect old fashioned to homemade marinades. With sophisticated modern palates craving bitter flavors, the kit helps consumers imagine up new flavor combinations that they might not have yet considered. The Hella Bitter Craft Your Own Bitters kit includes a custom funnel, a fine mesh steel strainer, two infusion jars, four dropper bottles and two spice blends – an aromatic blend and a citrus blend. The Craft Your Own Bitters kit offers an artisanal handcrafted alternative to the mass-produced bitters that have their place at nearly every home bar.

For more information on Hella Bitter’s Craft Your Own Bitters kit or to view the company’s other products, visit http://hellabitters.com.

Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack

1-Craft BeerExplorerFILL-GWCraft Brew Alliance, an independent craft brewer, recently announced that its second Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack is now available in markets across the United States. The newest Craft Beer Explorer Pack, a concept which was introduced earlier this year, features exclusive limited-release beers from Kona Brewing, Redhook Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing. The hand-selected, small batch beers are available nationally only in this cross-brand package, offering beer drinkers a unique opportunity to try special release beers from three different craft breweries. The latest version of the package includes Kona Lemongrass Luau Blonde Ale, Redhook Fat Chance Light IPA and Widmer Brothers Double M.A.C. Session IPA. The Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack features seasonally relevant specialty beers that are typically on tap at the brewery’s pubs but not yet available in broader distribution. For instance, many of the popular and unique craft beers from Kona Brewing in Hawaii never make it to mainland retail shelves. In this way, the Explorer Pack creates a unique opportunity for CBA to introduce new beers outside of their home markets.

For more information, visit www.craftbrew.com.

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