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New Teas for a June Afternoon

Our tea buyer assures us that the new crop Chinese green teas are on their way. While we wait for the samples to arrive, we've added two teas that are back in stock with our supplier:

Sencha

Sencha is a classic Japanese bittersweet green tea from Japan with a grassy aroma and slightly nutty flavor, specifically one made without grinding the tea leaves. Our sencha is less aggressive in its bite than the karigane. 6oz pot, multiple infusions.

Blend 333

Intelligentsia's blend of peppermint, chamomile, and rose hips. Soothing, yet refreshing.

Black Cat Project: Single Origin Bolivia Anjilanaka Espresso

Here's where we really start geeking out over coffee, in a (hopefully) nerdy-but-interesting way. When you ask people "what makes espresso coffee espresso?," most are at a loss to really nail down a definition. It isn't the roast level; although certain Italian espresso roasts are on the dark side, the idea that espresso roasts need to be dark and oily is just a myth. There's more truth to the idea that espresso roasts are a blend, although you can argue all night long about just what comprises an espresso blend. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, an espresso blend is "any combination of 'single-origin' coffees. Because few single-origin coffees provide all the flavors and aromas necessary for good espresso, baristas often blend several coffees together to achieve the taste they desire." Most espresso roasts blend together at least two different origins (like blending an Ethiopian and a Brazilian); many espresso blends also include different roast levels for the individual origins.

Every so often, a single-origin coffee contains the right combination of flavors, acidity, and mouthfeel that it can be used to create a "single origin" espresso. Single origin can mean single country of origin (drawing from many farmers or regions), single geographic region within a country, or single growing cooperative. With Intelligentsia, it more often means a directly traded coffee that involves a single farmer's crop. To celebrate the amazing work of these farmers, Intelligentsia has created a new program called the Black Cat Project. From the Black Cat Project website:

This project is rooted in our belief that espresso brewing is still coffee brewing and that only the best coffees can make the best espressos. We want to push the boundaries on flavor. We want you to experience amazing single origin, Micro-Lot and seasonal espressos with truly distinct flavor profiles that reach far beyond “chocolate” or “caramel”.

A few weeks ago, Volta was able to acquire enough of the micro-lot Black Cat Project Finca Matalapa espresso to offer it as an extremely limited espresso. Our supply lasted for about a day and a half.

This morning we received enough of the Black Cat Project Bolivia Anjilanaka to be able to offer it as a choice for any of our espresso drinks for the next week. We have many, many fans of the Anjilanaka as we serve it as a brewed coffee from the Clover. It is an entirely different beast when developed as an espresso shot. Taken as a ristretto shot, the Anjilanaka has a malty-caramel sweetness ahead of a bright mango tartness. As a cappuccino or latte, the Anjilanaka takes on a profound almond-walnut flavor.

The Black Cat Project Bolivia Anjilanaka is available served as any of our espresso drinks for a 25-cent upgrade.

Panama: El Machete

We're very excited by Intelligentsia's commitment to seasonality in their coffee offerings, but it means that familiar favorites will only be available for a month or two at a time. The upside is that new coffees are always appearing on the horizon. The first new coffee of the summer season is now available at Volta: the direct trade Panama El Machete. To quote from Intelligentsia's overview of the coffee,

El Machete bursts forth with notes of berry and candied maple without hesitation. Its body is round, buttery and smooth, complementing the acidity of sweet citrus fruits. The finish champions the juiciness of its acidity as cocoa notes surface in the finish in tandem with immensely tantalizing floral notes.

Our take on El Machete? Yowza! It is one of those coffees that elicits an immediate "I didn't know that coffee could taste like that." Or, as of of our barista says, "sharp and classy."

With a new offering from Nicaragua available to us next week, we'll be waiting a few more days before we schedule the next public cupping.

Vosges Refresh

The Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar was one of the first chocolate bars to sell out at Volta. Really. There's much love for chocolate and bacon in Gainesville. As Aufeya would say, how can you go wrong with crunchy, bacon-y goodness mixed with a medium-dark chocolate. The bacon bar is back in stock, and we've added two flavors that didn't make it into our first stocking order. The Naga bar was named and inspired by the tribes of Northeast India. The Naga melds the flavors of toasted milk, sweet Indian curry, nutty coconut and an overall sensation of warm, rounded spice. Next up? The Woolloomooloo bar. As Vosges describes it, this chocolate bar is named after the famed suburb Woolloomooloo in Sydney and meant to honor the Aboriginal claim to the scrumptious macadamia nut. Hemp seeds are the true secret weapon in this bar—packed with essential fatty acids vital to your body. Boost your vanity too; hemp oil will provide softer skin, stronger nails and thicker hair. Shine inside and out.

We've also picked up a new assortment of the indulgent Vosges exotic caramels. This sampler includes the Brazil nut and cocoa nib caramel, the guajillo chile, licorice root, and pumpkin seed caramel, the Hawaiian red sea salt caramel, and the anise myrtle carmel.

Just in time/Out of time

A quick update on available coffees: we received our final shipment Rwanda Zirakana today. The Zirakana has been one of the staff and customer favorites since we opened, and we will miss its citrus spice in the mornings when we dial in the Clover. We picked up enough Zirakana that we can also offer it as a bulk coffee, whole bean or ground to order, for $14 a pound.

We also received one final shipment of the amazing Los Inmortales micro-lot coffee from the Finca Matalapa. We previously featured Los Inmortales as our first reserve offering, and it sold out in two days. We have enough this time to last about the week, but it could go faster. Los Inmortales is available for $3.50.

Next up: Panama El Machete. We'll schedule a public cupping as soon as we have an arrival date.

Neurology and the love of the cookie tin

Volta is pleased to announce a showing of collage works by John Patterson. John's work is the first organized exhibition of local artwork to grace the walls of the shop (not counting the "Volta permanent collection" of a flock of birds by Katie Levy over on the chocolate wall).

John's work involves the meticulous cutting of advertising tins to create the material for large-scale collages. We'll be posting an extensive essay by another of our customers to provide some historical context for appreciating John's work. In his own words, here's how John explains his approach:

This body of work is the result of my layman study of neurology and my love of the cookie tin. In the last 20 years or so the field of neurology has exploded with fresh insight and spectacular advances, unraveling the mysterious underpinnings of our own cognitive life. Along with all of this has come a great many books that ride a line between the purely academic and what the rest of us can grasp. Add in a crafty ghost writer and you might be surprised how entertaining the brain can be.
The pieces on display are not meant to be an abstract representation of a brain; rather, they are a thought. They represent a sampling of the myriad associations our subconscious mind uses to tell our consciousness what is going on.

A key factor I wanted to get across was the nonlinear aspect of the organization, that connections can sprout in any direction. I chose cookie tins to work with because of their durability, because the art would not need to be put behind glass. The process was also so labor intensive and somewhat dangerous (paper cuts are nothing!) that I will not have to worry about competition...

Sold Out

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we've sold out of our allotment of Black Cat Project single origin El Salvador espresso. We'd like to thank our friends at Intelligentsia for giving us the chance to serve a unique single origin espresso; I think we were able to do justice to an amazing coffee. My own first shot was full of maple-spice goodness that was both unexpected in its intensity and yet subtle and pleasing in body and aftertaste. We are almost sold out of the Brazil pulp natural (we might have six or seven cups left), but we're working on bringing in one more batch of the Los Inmortales micro-lot to serve up on the Clover.

We've also sold out of all of the jamaica that I had in stock. We've ordered in several pounds of new hibiscus flowers, but we won't know if the quality is up to par until the shipment arrives next week. I'm certainly hoping so-- we sold out of every batch that we made this week.

Special Offering: Single Origin Black Cat Espresso, Finca Matalapa

I supposed you can make an analogy between single origin espresso and single-malt Scotches. In both coffee and whiskey, blends are developed to smooth out rough edges from elements that might be considered too overbearing on their own. Improperly handled, single origin espressos can be overbearing: blindingly bright, one-note flavor bombs that don't necessarily warrant repeated tastings. But in the hands of a master roaster, a non-blended, single origin espresso can reach incredible heights, just like a great single malt.

Intelligentsia's Black Cat espresso is a dynamic blend-- individual components might change through the year, but the goal is to develop a consistently great espresso with a similar profile. What happens when the roasters from Intelli set their sights on taking one of the best coffees of the season to develop a single-origin espresso roast? For starters, they end up with a barista that takes 1st place in the US Barista Championships. Kyle Glanville, from Intelligentsia's LA roasting works, just took home the trophy with a performance centered on using a single origin espresso developed from the amazing crop harvested at the Finca Matalapa in El Salvador. Here is what Kyle had to say about the coffee:

I first encountered this coffee on the cupping table and knew it would make a great espresso. It was clean and sweet, with an undeniable maple character. The Finca Matalapa truly delivers as espresso what it promises in the cup. Using about 18g of coffee for a double shot, it reveals sweet floral aromatics and intense lime acidity underscored by notes of dark muscovado sugar. Its intense sweetness and balance are the fuel that propelled me to victory at the 2008 United States Barista Championship. I hope you enjoy this coffee as much as I have enjoyed using it. It’s a gem.

To celebrate Kyle's championship, Intelligentsia created a very small run of the identical roast used at the USBC. The Black Cat Project USBC/Matalapa Single Origin Espresso was roasted for one day only, for one commercial release. Volta will be featuring this amazing coffee for three days as our guest espresso, from June 3 until June 7 (or as soon as our supply runs out-- it could be gone by mid-day of the 3rd...). We will only be offering it as either an espresso ($3) or as a macchiato ($3.25).

Single Origin Black Cat Espresso, Finca Matalapa

  • Acidity: Bursting lime and Clementine
  • Flavor: Maple, pipe tobacco, dark muscovado sugar
  • Finish: Clean, sweet, citric

Agua Fresca: Jamaica

If you are going to open an espresso and tea bar in Gainesville in the middle of summer, you had better be ready with some cold drinks to battle the long, hot days. Our iced teas have been a hit (with Oolong Ginger Plum being the crowd favorite), and people are discovering how amazing iced coffees and mochas can be when made with cold-brewed coffee.

We love big flavors at Volta, and I've been thinking about some of the more obscure hot-weather drinks from around the world that I've always wanted to have when back in Gainesville. Top of the list: an agua fresca from Mexico called jamaica (just say Huh-MY-ih-kuh). Jamaica is a sweet-tart cooler made by boiling dried hibiscus flowers with turbinado sugar and a touch of vanilla. The resulting drink is a vermilion-red "agua fresca" served iced. My own introduction to Jamaica was while I was staying in Akumal, Mexico, while filming a cave diving expedition with Global Underwater Explorers. Every morning's breakfast was in an outdoor cafe just off the main square. The coffee tasted like sawdust, the orange juice was bitter Brazilian concentrate, but the jamaica was the stuff that kept us coming back every day. If you have never had an agua fresca jamaica, the flavors will startle you. Think cranberry sweet tart, with enough acidity to cut through the hot day like the best lemonaide.

Volta will be offering jamaica for as long as we have access to high-quality dried hibiscus. Look for it on the specials board, under Iced Drinks.

New Limited Offering: Reserve Coffees

Every so often our roaster comes up with a coffee that rates high enough-- and is of such limited availability-- that they present it as a special reserve offering. These coffees are often only available in lots of hundreds of pounds (as opposed to the tons of more traditional lots of coffee), and are highly sought after at auction. It can be daunting to purchase these coffees at retail: they can cost well upward of $20 a pound (not counting shipping), and are often sold out as quickly as they are made available. Volta is pleased to be able to offer two of these rare coffees, beginning Memorial Day weekend. Supplies are extremely limited, so come by the shop soon if you want to try one of these reserve coffees.

Los Inmortales, El Salvador Finca Matalapa

El Salvador Matalapa has been the best-selling coffee that we've had in stock for the last two weeks. The Inmortales variation is a micro-lot selection that represents the highest grade of coffee from this season's harvest at the Finca Matalapa. Los Inmortales is only roasted in small batches, once a week, at Intelligentsia's Chicago roasting facility. Full of grace and nuance, the Finca Matalapa Micro-Lot introduces itself with delicate floral aromatics. The juicy citrus acidity sits aside notes of sweet apple and white grape as the body glides like silk into a finish of cane sugar and vanilla. We are offering Los Inmortales for $3.50 per cup.

Fazenda do Sertão, Brazil

A pulped natural from the Carmo de Minas growing region, Fazendo do Sertão lends itself to an atypical complexity that wins the hearts of washed coffee lovers. The body is smooth and silky as notes of caramel and toffee wash across the palate. The acidity is subtle but worth noting with its Clementine orange juiciness and dried mango fruit tang. Leading into the buttery finish are nuances of cardamom and honey as the end note of Dutch chocolate plays pleasantly on the tongue. We are offering Fazenda do Sertã for $3.25 per cup.

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