Morning inventions

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So. I feel like it’s time that we admit something to you. Hopefully at this point, it’s become apparent that roasting coffee is what we do. We love roasting, preparing, drinking, smelling, talking about and generally obsessing over coffee. It’s our profession, and we try to do it as well as humanly possible. But it’s not all we do. We’re also inventors. We, being Jim and Matt, show up to work every day at about 5:30 am. I usually arrive a few minutes before Jim, turn on the lights, make a cup of coffee and fire up the roaster, because we like to let it warm up for a bit before we actually start roasting.  Jim having arrived, we drink our coffee, and while waiting for the roaster to get warmed up, we invent things. Generally speaking, we are fairly observant folks, Jim and I. We look at the world and see niches, and Ideas. We see the products that are being offered to the general public, and then we look past that to all of the niches that have not yet been filled, and we invent products to fill those said niches. Take this morning for example. These days, Jim and I notice more and more people taking advantage of blue tooth technology, and although Jim and I embrace modern technology to a certain degree, the blue tooth is not for us, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that these ear-embedded phones are rather popular.

Now that’s all fine and dandy, and although this guy looks quite fetching with his ear piece, it still isn’t for us. We’re just not really huge phone talkers. We’re more coffee drinkers. But this morning, shortly past 5:30, an amazing idea popped into our noggins, and we got to work on it. We call this, the “Blue Cup.”

I know I know. It’s genius. Now mind you, this is just the prototype, but honestly, it just doesn’t need many changes. It worked perfectly.  Jim was effectively able to work away, roasting coffee, computer work, cleaning, all while drinking his cup of coffee, hands free.  We think that in time, you’ll see a lot of people using Bluecups, and when you do, think of us, and how we thought of it first. Until then, keep drinking coffee, and enjoy the spring.

BCRC is now certified organic!

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Yes It’s true! We’ve received our organic certification from the Montana Department of Agriculture, and USDA. We are really excited about it, and it’s been many months of work. A huge thanks to Ella, without whom this project would have taken a lot longer than it did.

This seems like a great time to talk a little bit about a question that we are continuously asked, which is: “Where does black coffee stand when it comes to Organic and Fair Trade Coffees?” It’s a great question, and one that we’ve talked and thought a lot about. Here is the answer. We feel very strongly about both fair trade and organics, not only when it comes to coffee, but also in every element of life. That’s one of the reasons that we love living in Missoula so much. I moved here in 1997, and Jim had already been living here for several years at that point. I moved here from Boston (go red sox) and traveled around a bit before finally settling in Missoula, and never before had I ever lived in a community so committed to supporting local businesses, sustainable practices, and low impact living. When we started our business, we knew without question that we wanted to support sustainable coffee growers, and provide missoula with great tasting coffee, that they could feel good about purchasing.

We’ve been buying certain Organically grown coffees ever since we opened our doors, but because we as a business weren’t certified, we could not call any of our coffee “organic.” As soon as an organic coffee bean touched our roaster, it would no longer be organic. Now that we are certified we can actually label our coffee as Organic, which you will start to see soon. At this point, about 75% of our beans are Organic beans, and we’re starting to phase out almost all of our conventionally grown beans with time. Our plan is for 95% of our beans to be organic by summer.

Why don’t we say 100% of our beans? It’s for several reasons. First of all, we know as much as anyone that the process of becoming certified takes a lot of time, and costs a lot of money. There are a lot of coffee farms that are trying to get to the point of being certified, but don’t have the money. Without coffee roasters and importers support, those farms would never get there. We want to help those farms get where they want to be.  Secondly, there are a lot of farmers out there who are practicing organic growing, and who are getting paid fair trade prices, but who don’t want to get certified, because perhaps they don’t feel like that certification represents them as well as say, becoming a part of a co-op, or creating direct trade relationships with coffee importers and roasters. Things are a lot more confusing now than they used to be when it comes to organics. Even in Montana, organic farmers are foregoing organic certification, and joining other groups. check out: www.homegrownmontana.org  for an example of just such a group. Well organizations like homegrown are going to start popping up all over the world, which means that you can buy ethically, sustainably produced products, that are not necessarily certified organic.

Another thing we’re considering is that if we were to go 100% organic, some of our coffees that we’ve been able to keep relatively affordable, would go up in price. This is something that we’d love some feedback on. Would you rather see Black Coffee Roasting Co. go 100% organic, and have all of our prices increase, or have us continue to try to source certain beans that are not certified organic, but are (we feel) ethically grown and traded? Please give us a call, or stop in to tell us your opinion. For the time being,  we will continue  shifting towards organically grown coffees in lieu of non organic, and will continue to provide you with fantastic tasting coffee, that you can feel great about buying. Thanks for all of your support, and again, stop in monday-friday, 7:30 am – Noon.

DRIFT

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Just in time for the winter solstice, our Drift coffee drinks like dark chocolate.  These beans were grown organically at a high altitude and make the perfect cup of winter coffee.  Some smokiness and honey-butterscotch notes are accentuated with mild brightness of stonefruit and apricot.  The overriding flavor profile though is deep, dark coco… it even has a slight grit in the mouthfeel.  This limited, seasonal coffee is one not to miss.  Andy Smetanka designed our print for this coffee, and the bags were printed downtown at Noteworthy on their letterpress.

Thermos Mugs

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Two mugs in one place. Its cold and wet, in fact raining in Missoula tonight. Days and nights like this are the very reason we at Black Coffee Roasting Company set to the task of finding a good insulated coffee mug. In the summer and warmer seasons I often use one my favorite house mugs to transport my coffee along with me. But I am not a fast coffee drinker. Notoriously slow, in fact. Methods learned in minimizing fuel consuption while living in a fire tower. I am oddly nostolgic for room temperature coffees that have been sitting in a nice window sill overlooking mountains for some time to age a little.
But winter is here. It is slushy and my shoes sometimes get wet. Hot is for now, the best way to enjoy coffee.
So we turned to a friend in the business to find the right mug. We tried many. We avoided even more. A mug is a particular thing and needs to fit a specific niche. It needs to be portable. It needs to keep things hot. Ideally, if designed by the right individual it will also carry a certain asthetic. Ugly and functional things are fine, but there is a certain charm to the thing that has both functional value and asthetic appeal. It needs to be durable. There is no reason one should have to buy a new mug every year. And it needs to be comfortable to hold and fit in practical places.

We think we have found them.
The Shorter One: The Nissan Stainless Steel Backpack Tumbler is made by Thermos. Thermos uses a double wall vacuum insulation, utilitizing stainless steel for both the inside and outside rendering this mug nearly indestructable. One of our main criteria was “Sealability.” This one has it. Since getting this mug I have tossed it numerous times in backpacks, in car seats, under car seats, in my back pocket and the pocket of my jacket… never once has it leaked a drop, and I don’t anticipate it ever will. You do have to take the lid off to access the goods inside, but even then it is not threatening, as the inside of the lip sports a splash-deck. You could go horseback riding with th is mug without thinking twice about it.
And it keeps the coffee hot (another one of our top criteria.) We were amazed at how many coffee travel mugs failed miserably at this simple test. In addition to sealing and keeping things warm, this mug also fits conveniently in places, like your bike’s water bottle holder, or your jacket pocket or in the beverage holder of your car, or your backpack. This handy mug has a non-slip, scratch-resistant base and stands under 8 inches high. With a 3.1″ diameter it fits in any just about anywhere in a car, the glove box, between the seats, under the seats, or even in the beverage holder.
In short: This is a great mug.

The Tall One
The second mug we picked, not because the first lacked, but because we think there are at least two distinct capacities that coffee drinkers enjoy carrying their drink in. 12 oz is perfect for a lot of days, but, if for example, I am driving down to Lost Trail to ski for the day… 12 oz is insufficient. I am going to need more. While 4 oz. does not seem all that much, for me, it holds the break even point. Especially since I am prone to have a coffee before leaving the house, the 16 oz. mug works perfect and sometimes even allows me to have a few sips when I get back in the car at the end of the day. And in situations like this, the Sipp Vacuum Tumbler works flawlessly.
It seals completely with the simple push down of the lid, so there is no risk taking while you open it. This mug is a little larger, which many have said is too much for their day to day, BUT, for a lot of people, especially those who are in their car driving the roads out beyond the reach of a parking lot espresso stand, this is a perfect mug. Its a little taller than the Shorter One, standing around 8 inches, but it is very pleasant to hold.
And its number one feature: It keeps coffee hotter than any other mug I’ve had. This “TherMax” technology that Thermos is implementing in mugs is outstanding, truly brilliant. This mug is rugged and can be washed like any other in the dishwasher. And while it costs a little more than the Shorter One, it also offers a little more, if you have the space to spare.
All said and done, these are great mugs. I feel lucky to have found them. In a world filled with so much cheap plastic stuff, it is refreshing to find someone building a product meant to last and to be exposed to the elements, and that can actually deliver on its intended purposes. Drink Great. Be Great.

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