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Adventures in Coffee Tasting

August 26, 2010

Amanda and I have spent the past two days down in DC at the Counter Culture Training Center maxing out on caffeine until our heads and tummys exploded. On Tuesday we took a Beginners Espresso Class offered by CCC to train new baristas on the art of espresso and whip seasoned baristas (like Amanda and I) back into shape after working at less than suitable cafes where we developed many a bad habit.

The best part of the class is that we were able to use a machine somewhat similar to the one we just purchased! The CCC Linea was a three group and had some upgrades like teflon steam wands, but the look and feel of it will be similar to our soon to be arriving machine.

Here are some of the cappuccinos that I poured:

The classes were taught by our CCC rep and old co-worker Alex as well as the CCC technician Brian. It was much needed practice and we both learned some new tricks and pointers. We also found out that we were inadvertantly on the track to becoming CCC certified baristas. After two more classes, Milk Chemistry and Intermediate Espresso, we will be able to take a test and have excess street cred in the barista world. In addition we get sweet personalized tampers for completion of the course and passing the test which includes pouring two good shots of espresso, making two good cappuccinos, creating a signature drink and completing a written test.

We both decided that we should come back next week and take the Milk Chemistry course and start working on our certifications.

Wednesday we had plans to meet up with Alex to do some tasting for our house brew and espresso blend. It was pretty hard work, but obviously enjoyable at the same time. We had the pleasure of trying out CCC’s newest espresso blend, Apollo, which we had heard a lot about. Although we really enjoyed Apollo once it was dialed in and pulled perfectly, we both fell in love with Toscano the day before and decided that it was what we would be using in the shop. Toscano is an amazingly sweet and mellow blend which drinks wonderfully as both an espresso or mixed in with milk in a cappuccino or latte.

After multiple tastings, we came to the conclusion of Finca Nueva Armenia as our house roast. FNA hails from Guatemala and is very much a coffee drinker’s coffee: smooth, slightly bitter, but with great taste all around. This coffee is great black, but will also lend well to milk and sugar for those who roll that way. Also it is certified organic and falls under CCC’s strict Direct Trade Standards.

We can not wait to serve both these and and many more coffees and foods to all of you. The anticipation in the group is reaching a critical mass and fortunately we will be able to relieve ourselves once our doors open in the very near future.

Amanda and I both had a blast these past couple of days and are definitely excited about our next class next week, however we are both less than enthused about the friendly DC traffic…perhaps the Marc train will be in order for our next trip. Keep posted for more updates as our opening date approaches!

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May 27th Ottobar Event

June 18, 2010

So almost a month ago we sponsored a really awesome event at our gracious neighboring Baltimore mainstay, The Ottobar. It was one of many events that we hope to sponsor in the future and it went off with a bang. We had food for sale, coffee to try out (provided by our awesome roaster Counter Culture and brewed by our good friend and CC rep, Alex) and some amazing bands providing the entertainment – Birthmarks, The Matrimonials, Pansori, Beard and DJed by the Mustache Crew.

The event was so much fun and those in attendance got to try out some of our future goodies and had chances to win some AMAZING prizes

Here are some photos from the event, more can be found here on our flickr page. Special thanks to Megan Lloyd for snapping these shots!


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Coffee Nerd Talk

April 28, 2010

So for a cafe which aspires to win next years Best of Baltimore award for Best Cup of Coffee and Best Coffee Shop, there has been very little coffee talk here on our little blog. This ends today!

While we at Charmington’s will be very focused on offering you the best cup of coffee that Baltimore (and one day, the World) has to offer, please do not mistake us for your typical elitist shop forcing our ideals of “good” coffee on everyone unexpectedly┬ástumbling through our doors. We want to be a center of coffee education for those interested parties who would like to learn more about this substance that so many of us obsessively consume daily. At the same time, we want to be the place where you can order a coffee simply by saying “coffee, please” rather than reciting a scientific formula.

As much as we would love for you to buy all of your coffee drinks from us, we also want to educate you on how to brew great coffee in the confines of your own home with the equipment you already own because lets face it, supporting a habit such as this can get pretty pricey.

Cara has already given you readers a quick run down on the roaster we plan to use (Counter Culture Coffee), and why we plan to use them (because they are awesome). Coffee is much like wine in the sense that if it is prepared correctly you can taste the different characteristics and flavors which it inherently possesses. Picking up on all of the flavors that a wine or coffee may have takes a well trained palette, but there are a lot that can be picked up easily. Please do not confuse these flavors with flavored coffee, for these are not chemicals sprayed on inferior beans but rather traits centered around the origin of the coffee plant. A well roasted and brewed coffee bean will both taste like great coffee and at the same time possess notes of other flavors such as caramel, chocolate, and even strawberry or blueberry (remember, coffee beans are the seeds of the fruit found on coffee trees).

The coffees that will be provided by Counter Culture will all have detailed descriptions which will refer its flavors and characteristics . If you happen to get a cup and do not taste all of them, do not fret! Most of us don’t taste all of the flavors either. The most important thing is that you taste a great cup of coffee.

I will leave you with the link to a video from Counter Culture going through the cupping of one of their espresso blends, Espresso Toscano, which was apparently blended to taste similar to a Snickers bar…how awesome is that?!