Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Holiday Gift Post


It's that time of year again when people swarm the malls and people all over wait to the last minute to give adequate thought to giving amazing gifts.
Thus, of the coffee and tea world, here's some ideas I would recommend for someone in your life that loves coffee or tea:

I. Whole Bean Coffee
A simple gift, yet too often people either fear to get this because they know not where to start or they shop for something they would drink. So, before you attempt to buy whole bean coffee for someone, please do the following homework:

- Are you going to be able to get your gift to the Gift-ee fresh? Coffee has at worst a week of peak freshness and at best, will stay good for at least two weeks.
- Do they like a certain kind of roast? I personally find most dark roasts overpoweringly bitter and no good (as do many) but some people really like that taste (for some reason).
- What is important to them about their coffee? Taste is usually a given, but many people drink exclusively sustainable coffees (i.e. direct trade, fair trade, organic, etc.) or they really like a certain kind of coffee (geography, type of blend, etc).

Once you have the above information, than you should make sure you go with a good coffee roaster. If you have one nearby, you are superbly fortunate. If not, here's some amazing roasters I've had recently, listed alphabetically also with their roasting locations (in case you want to cut down on the carbon footprint of the shipping):
- Caffe Vita (Seattle)
- Counter Culture Coffee (Durham, NC)
- Crescent Moon Coffee & Tea (Mullica Hill, NJ)
- Gimme Coffee (Ithaca, NY and NYC)
- Intelligentsia Coffee (Chicago and LA)
- PT's Coffee (Topeka, KS)
- Stumptown Coffee (NYC and Portland, OR)
- Terroir Coffee (Boston area)
- Wicked Joe (Brunswick, Maine)
- Zoka (Seattle)

II. Tea
Good tea is something amazing that, much like good coffee, needs to be fresh and of good quality. Fortunately, tea that is stored air tight and out of light will keep for about a year.

Tea also has a much more recognizable versatility than coffee, as tea is broken down into the categories of white, green, oolong, black, red and herbal. You can also buy tea free leaf (much better) or pre-bagged (a bit of a crap shoot).

Thus, if you have little knowledge of what you can get, than it's a good idea to go to a knowledgeable tea purveyor nearby, you can try one of these places below (also alphabetical) or check some of the coffeehouses above as many also sell tea:
- Golden Moon Tea (Virginia)
- Peli Teas (California)
- Q Trade Teas (California)
- Rishi Tea (Wisconsin)
- Teas Etc (Florida)
- Tea Beyond (NJ)
- Teavana (many retail locations all over too)

III. Espresso Stuff
This here category is possibly the most daunting unless you were given a specific item from the person you are shopping for. So, I would highly recommend not buying someone an espresso machine on a whim as a really good espresso machine requires a really good grinder, skill and a lot of dedication.

take the easy way out by getting a pod espresso machine, an automatic machine or basically anything easily obtained at a department store UNLESS you know that's what the person wants. I can't even begin to mourn over how many of these machines are returned or destroyed by coffee fanatics each year...
You can check out some of the following resources to help in determining a good buy:
- CoffeeGeek Espresso Forum
- Coffeed Espresso Forum
- Espresso Parts (more a commercial resource)
- Home

IV. Grinders
An essential item in any coffee fanatic's kitchen, whether for espresso or regular drip. For non-espresso, you have either blade grinders (cheaper but less consistent in grind) or burr grinders (the more consistent the grind, the more expensive). For espresso, you absolutely must have a good burr grinder.

This topic also is fraught with many selections, so if you're simply looking for a grinder for your Mr Coffee, than most burr grinders will do. But if you're looking for a quality grinder, check out the following:
- CoffeeGeek Grinder Reviews
- All the above links under "espresso stuff"

V. Coffee Makers
Also a very diverse topic, as there are many ways to make your morning cup. Instead of rewriting a lot here, check out Sweet Maria's page on coffee brewers.

VI. Coffee Roasting
A great hobby for any coffee enthusiast, you'll need a roaster and green beans. Once again, this can be a good gift if the desire is there, but don't just randomly buy someone a coffee roaster and 20 lbs of green coffee (I personally use my oven, so less is more to some of us).
So if this happens to be a wise gifting path, here's some resources to aid in your selections:
- Sweet Maria's (look around, as they have a lot on the topic)
- Coffee Project
Note that many coffee roasters will sell you green beans as well.

VII. Mugs
What good is drinking coffee from a boring cup? While I can recommend such brands as miam miam and Lux-Delux (as seen with Gimme), I would also recommend checking out your local ceramic studios (many Universitiy art departments have mug sales around the Holidays) as well as a few random cup rankings (such as here, here or here).

VIII. Gift Cards:
Sure it's impersonal, but if you can't make a good decision, most people won't mind. Aside from the above, you can do a favorite local coffeehouse, a coffee roaster, a coffee club (like Coffee Roasters Club or Go Coffee Go) or tea house.

I hope this was helpful. If you happen to have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at !


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your information on this post. I currently get my coffee from Broad Ripple Coffee Company, an online store, and have been enjoying roasting my own beans as well. I'm thinking about introducing my friends to experimenting with roasting thier own fresh coffee as a holiday activity.

gourmet coffee snob said...

I wish someone would let the coffee drinking public know about what turns out to be a fantastic online coffee shop called spotajava coffee. They have a lot of gourmet coffee and a huge choice of flavored coffee.

Their signature house brand they even sell on Amazon is called premium connoisseur peaberry coffee

It's like blue mountain and cheaper than Hawaiian kona coffee. I think everyone should taste it and treat their taste buds.

gourmet coffee snob
always drink better coffee

meme said...

our mates in the office are considering pooling money together to raise funds and get a proper coffee machine for the office for as christmas gift. (the vending machine's crap) and we have all somewhat decided on this small coffee machine.

its a cheap coffee machine, seems decent and does the job... hmm. thoughts?

C.A. said...

A very useful post. You've definitely covered the entire gauntlet for holiday coffee and tea related gift ideas!

Bill said...


It's a nice looking machine but since it's an automatic espresso machine, it will put forth a bit better than the vending machine but won't give you great espresso or the equivalent of a good french pressed or filtered coffee.

For simplicity, I would just recommend a brace of french presses or a combo with a chemex.

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Steve said...

I love mugs as a holiday gift. I love getting them as well as receiving them. I heartily second the call to visit your local potter and support their efforts by purchasing a cool handmade mug.

Steve said...

There is nothing in the world like drinking good coffee from a homemade pottery mug.

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