COFFEE, TEA, MUGS, MACHINES and MORE
Our best bets in some of our favorite companies, plus teapots and travel cups, ceramic ware and more...
Breville Smart Grinder
Breville Smart Grinder
A perfect coffee grinder with Dosing IQ
This is without doubt, the best grinder I’ve ever tested and it’s almost sensational enough to make houseware-of-the-year. Why? It’s gorgeous, for one thing. Sleek, electronic, it tucks away on the counter and takes up little space yet houses about a half pound or a bit more, of coffee grinds. It features state-of-the-art conical burr grinders that is companion to an automatic dosing (Dosing IQ) system. Doses are calibrated as per how many ‘shots’ of coffee you need – so you only grind exactly enough for the amount and type of coffee you’re making. The backlit LCD Screen clearly displays the grind setting, number of cups shots as well as the selected grind amount (featuring 25 different grind settings!). There’s also a handy choice of two portafiler cradles that allows you to grind directly into the filer you’re using. Did we also mention, it’s one of the quietest grinders on the market? This is an exceptional product that is in its own category of quality, performance and design.
Breville, Espresso Sans Rival
The Breville ESP8XL Cafa Roma Espresso Machine
Want to look and feel like a barista without giving up your day job? Check out the Breville 800EXL Espresso Machine. It’s gleaming good looks say ‘pro’ at a glance but the sheer velocity with which it grants you a fresh, hot cappuccino or espresso, or scores you mellow latte is the deal maker. And all this at a fraction of the time waiting in line at your local Starbucks for a fraction of the price – needless to say.
Unlike some espresso maker manuals, Breville’s directions are clear, and easy to follow, so that your first (aka novice) cup is as perfect as all the ones that follow. For those that want espresso but are intimidated by the Euro slickness and choices of machines out there, Breville, as they do with all their products, has captured the intersection of style, performance, efficiency, and all the nifty options you could want – by a company that stands behind their products like no one else. (We also reviewed their one-cup coffee maker, similar to the Keurig system and without doubt, Breville’s is the best). Top off your espressos or lattes with some flavored syrups (that you can find at coffee supply stores) or swirl in some crushed ice for chilled coffee drinks extraordinaire.
Montreal's Treasure of a Coffee Roaster
49th Parallel Coffee from Vancouver, Coffee.
About the best coffee in the world - Fair trade, expertly roasted - totally awesome.
Chatsford Teapots from Upton Tea Imports? Over 50,000 teapots sold and still brewing….
Over 50,000 teapots sold says allot about this classic teapot, made in Thailand to the exact specifications of London Teapot Company. With a name like that, they certainly should know their teapots. And where do you get such a perfectly designed teapot? Upton Tea Company.
Now in it's 22nd year, Upton Tea is the place for teapots and tea accessories but also some of the finest tea I've ever tasted. The teapots come in 2, 4, 6 cup and 10 cup capacity, in various high-gloss colours (white, blue, green, white). They are also available in porcelain and boThe Series H teapots are fitted with a convenient tab for removal which is on the conventient mesh infuser basket which allows for complete and perfect infusion of the tea leaves. The Chatsford teapot makes the preparation of loose tea quick and easy for everyday use.
What could be more appropriate or more romantic - even fanciful, than teas from England, based on the characters in Jane Austen's novels? A stout Irish Breakfast tea called The Captain, Knightley or Willoughby tea? Each tea comes packed in a box that resembles a Jane Austen book but www.Bingsleysteas.com also offers art fruit teas, tissanes and more. A lovely gift tea.
Clever Coffee Dripper
Ah, Sweet Marias - Home of incredible coffee beans, the BeeHouse Dripper, Clever Dripper, Hario coffee drippers, and more information on coffee, and unique insights.
The Clever Coffer by Sweet Marias, is a good cross between the ceremony and full-bodied taste a Bodum offers, with the ease of a Melitta or Hario drip filter holder. In The Clever Coffee unit, you pour in the water, into the filter, filled with ground coffee. No coffe drips out (at this point). You can cover it to keep heat in and then give it a stir after 40-60 seconds. THEN, then you place the Clever Coffee unit on a mug, it releases the mechanism underneath, the trap door (as it were) opens and the hot, well-brewed coffee is released. Thus you have a more brewed taste, and a hotter coffee. It's simply brilliant;at the least clever. It retails for $15.00. There are other drippers brands to be considered but this was awesome.
Incredible single estate teas and exceptional blends, seasonal teas, and more, from the newest tea meister on the block, David Segal. His tea shops are popping up in Montreal and Toronto - the scent of freshly, brewed premium tea is bringing in the tea fans (doesn't hurt that you get a warm cup of free tea to sample the minute you step into the store).firstname.lastname@example.org or call the toll free phone number. 1-888-873-0006. David's Tea has a full gamut of exceptional Earl Grey teas alone but their Dulce Banana Tea is over the top, there's also Forever Nuts (so often sold out) and David's English Breakfast which is one of the best black teas I've ever had.
Coffee companies come and go but some are fixtures. Melitta, originally about paper filters and plastic cones to hold them in order to brew 1-6 cups of coffee has evolved. It still offers the simplest, best brewing systems (and most affordable and effective) but a whole line of organic and estate coffees. The coffee is excellent and the site is also a great place to stock up on your standard Melitta supplies. These days Melitta has returned to their roots and you can once again get their porcelain coffee dripper (it comes with a coffee pot as well). Alot of people are returning to ceramic or porcelain in coffe drippers (it's more elegant and retains the heat better than plastic).
Small batch, new brews.
We love their K-cup coffee and rich blends. Some of the BB favorites include Nantucket, Our Blend and Vermont Country and Breakfast Blend - 25 years and going! Their new coffees change each season and they are home to many wonderful Fair Trade coffees including renown Newman's Own. Do check out their Keurig Brewing Systems too,
Our source for great coffee, in K-Cups, organic and specialty blends. The BB Test Kitchen currently recommends a summery, berry blend, Raspberry Rhapsody and rich Summer Symphony, all delectably Fair Trade coffees. For exceptionally full bodied and bright coffee, head for Gautemala Chadjulense. We also love their mugs. Each season, Green Mountain Coffee offers commissioned pottery mugs from ceramic craftsman of note. These are two we love.
Get them now while they're hot! Come the fall, the offerings change. Both of these hold about 12 ounces of coffee or tea and are exceptionally beautiful to hold, look at and drink from. The mug on the left is a Chatsworth and the jazzy black and mauve one is a Dan Lasser creation. Visit www.GreenMountainCoffee.com to order.
If you can find a more perfect coffee company (great service, clearly, proudly Canadian, select offerings of the very best bean coffee, as well as gourmet pods, K-Cups, and ground coffee beans), let us know. Their Mexican Fair Trade Organic is about the best mellow, smooth coffee we have ever tasted. They sell coffee and tea makers and equipment, as well.
www.Adagio.com is one of our favorite tea companies. Firstly, they offer the most amazing teas from Whittard of Chelsea, including Sticky Toffee Tea, and Apple Crumble to name a few. We love their flowering teas, their Green Teas with Mandarin, Blueberry, Pear or Peach but especially this amazing glass tea pot with glass warmer. It is instant atmosphere. We also adore their IngenuiTea unit is one of the best new products of 2004. It makes 2 good cuppas of tea in seconds, using loose tea but withou the mess - sort of a filter tea maker with the good flavor of tea pot tea, but the convenience and no mess (!) of a filter coffee maker. It is ingenius and a must for any savvy tea drinker. Buy two -one as a gift. And order a slew of Adagio's Whittards Teas, from the many selections at their site as well as their own brand of fruit and herbal teas.
Tea Lollypops and Gauze Tea Bags
Another unusual oil burner place – which is really a treasure of a tea company, is our new friends over at Verithe www.verithe.com. This is one treasure of a company. They offer superb teas in beautiful gauze bags that come packed in cello envelopes bound with green silk cord. Each tea (teas bags as well as loose tea are available) comes with a bit about the tea’s heritage and directions to brew a fine cuppa. Aside from these aesthetic tea, Verithe should win a new product of the year award from the Fancy Food Association. They make a tea lollipop, that is, tea flavored (well, it is from real brewed tea and cane sugar) that is skewered on a rosemary twig, packed in a cellophane wrapper and tied in a green silk cord. The lollipops are luscious (they are deep amber color) and almost too pretty to eat. It is the sort of candy you might see at an upscale spa. Actually, a tub of Body Shop Blueberry Butter and one of these Verithe tea lollipops will make you feel you are at a spa! The company was sold out at Christmas but is now fully stocked with these sweets. They also just launched their own aroma jar, which burns teas. Check it all out at their site, which is as nicely designed as their product line, www.verithe.com. Like most of the companies we recommend, they are also a pleasure to deal with and most helpful. If you go for the pops, order a ton. They are perfect gifts.
www.fauchon.com This famed Parisien food shoppe is not as close as a click. There is nothing from this company that is not unusual, elegant, and downright tasty as all get out. Not that we cannot bake it ourselves but Fauchon stuff has a certain pedigree and unique approach to buttery Madeleines, incredible Chocolate Chip Palets and amazing jams, and hazelnut spread. The tins everything comes are are collector's items -the foodstuffs inside? A plus.We also recommend their aged Balsamic Vinegar and their baking chocolate tested 5 Stars in a Sachertorte testing. A sophisticated food company that lives up to its reputation. Their teas are the stuff of society events. We tried their Wedding Tea and it brought raves. We prefer their tea leaf tea but their linen and ties, tea bags are perfectly lovely and flavorful.
This Toronto tea shop is a landmark or at least, a must stop by place. We tried their famed O'Connors Blend tea, am ambrosial blend of almond, vanilla chips and walnuts in a strong leaf tea. This is not tea: this is an experience. Nicest folks to deal with, most exotic tea -if you do not know what you want - they will figure it out for you. Do check out BB's own tea recipes, for Cream Earl Grey and our version of O'Connors in our Complete Recipe Archives. Home blended teas are easy and perfectly delightly - as gifts for for company.
Contigo is probably the specialist in hot and cold travel cups - they must be for they rely on an unrivaled AutoSeal technology on their entire brand. Their hot thermos cups are sleek, urban affairs and their cold cups, whether it be for adults on the go, kids on the school bus, or athletes, are absolutely spill proof while allowing you to sip and go without mess. They are also entirely ‘green oriented’ for their products are also totally BPA free and high impact resistant – so each cup is an investment – no need to replace them unless you (and this is totally understable) want an assortment of from their extensive line. Visitwww.gocontigo.com to see the complete selection and retailers.
See the full line of Trudeau Housewares and Gourmet Ware but especially check out their gorgeous line of commuter travel coffee mugs. Their TeaTerrific Mug is a gorgeous mug that allows you to use premium leaf tea and tote the brew on the go. Trudeau has an incredible line of travel mugs, including some with leather-like jackets, bringing this whole line to a new level. There are carafe thermoses that are great for the home or corporate office. If you check out Starbucks and upscale gourmet coffee shops, Trudeau is usually the starring product. Go green, go gorgeous - choose Trudeau.
The Simple Human pod brewer features a superior flavor extraction system, which offers gourmet, fresh-brewed coffee with the simple press of a button. The brewer works with all standard-size pods, so it's easy to vary the type of coffee you want for superior flexibility and quality. Ergonomically designed with easy-to-use features. We tested this and were addicted! First to the design – it is art. Secondly – the temperature of the coffee – It delivers a HOT cup of coffee that is deeply brewed and incredibly satisfying. Thirdly, the Molto coffee that comes with it is one of the best coffees on the market. We love this unit for home office or traditional offices. The tea pods are a bonus but overall, this is sophisticated, affordable, an exceptionally high performance culinary product –and one that stands out in a competivie market. Simple Human also features about the best customer service on the Internet. We look forward to reviewing their own fine products, particularly, their waste basket and recycling unit. Stay tuned.
Cuisinart Cordless Electric 1 ¾ Quart Kettle
This is the perfect size in a kettle that looks gourmet/old-fashioned, sleekly stainless but conveniently electric. It has an anti-spatter spout, an ergonomic handle that stays cool, and a very visible on/off, light. Add 1500 watts ensuring this kettle has water for tea ready in minutes and a 3 year warranty and this kettle touches all the right notes in aesthetics and function. The traditional styling is what you love about old fashioned, range top kettles and now, that look but with a quicker, energy efficient, electric approach is available. This is a great kettle to replace your old one or an ideal wedding or engagement (and Mother’s Day) gift.
Where else are you going to find your own little bags to put leaf tea in? Fuss, free bags that come in various sizes, allowing you to make great, fresh, quality tea with disposable little custom tea bags.
More great do-it-yourself tea bags in various sizes. Think of this as Melitta filters for tea leaves. www.Harney.com
Tea from Harney and Sons never fails to amaze me afresh. Nothing but nothing beats their teas and I have tasted trunkfuls, of the years. Their black teas are an experience and you will find yourself drawn like a miner to gold with but one taste of their Supreme Breakfast, Indian Spice (a gourmet chai ), Earl Grey Supreme, their beautifully tinned Wedding Tea of White Tea with delicate Rose Buds, and appropriate for the holiday at hand, their Cranberry Autumn Tea. Of course, standbys like Palm Court, Malachi McCormick’s only further the Harney legend. Add to the line, a collection of single estate teas, herbals, green teas and their now famous ‘tea tasting white cup’ – the perfect design for sipping a cuppa masterful tea and you are all set. Any of the Harney teas makes a fine gift but sending along their anniversary silver plated tea tin is the final grace note. It houses a generous 2 cups of tea leaves and is that beautiful, hotel ware silver plate that makes your tea tin collection complete.
Touted by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and other companies, such as Canada’s Van Houtte Coffee company, this is about the easiest unit on the market. It is reliable, offers choices of 3-4 cup sizes, and works with any brand of K-Cup you can find (Green Mountain, Van Houtte, Timothy E). It looks commercial but still at home in a home environment (perfect for my own writer’s home office’) and delivers well-brewed, hot coffee. I especially like it for the occasional, one-cup of decaf coffee you want late at night. Like SimpleHuman, Keurig also doesn’t leave you hanging – if you need product support, they are on the job.
Le Cube by Nespresso is unbeatable for combing ease, one-cup brewing ability, (always a fresh cup of espresso), design, and great espresso in a one-cup delivery system that is turning heads. This makes something simple but often troublesome, a one-shot, foolproof deal that even a child can operate. The coffee is excellent and the unit takes up relatively little space. The coffee is also nicely hot! It is the 2006-2007 coffee maker of the year –with Nespresso putting a lot into PR and Nespresso spots opening up (yes, their own café) all around North America. Like most coffee companies, Nespresso as their ‘club’ with special offers and promotions, good for consumers and/or offices, and you can check out their other machine styles and options at their site.
|Alpenrost Home Coffee Roaster Roast Your Own Coffee
If you're a coffee nut like we are, perhaps you've given some thought to roasting your own beans? Coffee begins to lose its flavor within minutes of being roasted. After a few days, some 50% of the original flavor is lost. We've found a terrific drum-type roaster made by Swissmar.
The Alpenrost will tumble up to 8 ounces of coffee beans, and its settings provide you with 15 roasting levels. In order to derive the best results from the unit (according to your tastes), you will have to experiment a bit, but it's worth the effort (see below) There are other roasters on the market, and most of them function like hot air corn poppers. They are considerably less expensive than the Alpenrost. If you're serious about your home roasting, the Alpenrost is worth a look.
"I love the way coffee smells when it is ground. I wish it tasted the way it smelled when I drink it". How often have you heard that remark or thought it yourself whether you are a coffee lover or not. Well, the good news is - you can have the aroma in the cup and on your taste buds. The trick seems to be roasting your own, grinding it shortly thereafter, and brewing. Nothing, but nothing, beats the taste of a cup of Joe made "from scratch".
To roast coffee at home, you can opt for special equipment (more on that below), but you simply us a cast iron skillet, or a stovetop corn popper (see our notes on the Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper) and a pound or two of good quality green coffee beans. Green coffee beans taste like raw dried peas and look similar. Once they are roasted, they undergo an incredible transformation. Unlike pre-roasted coffee, which has a short shelf life (2 to 5 days, depending on how they are stored), green coffee is good for 1 to 2 years. So, you can stock up on Columbian or whatever else you like and not worry about freshness. Green beans will also cost you far less.
When you roast, you roast very slowly, and as evenly and gently as you can. Otherwise, you will scorch, not roast, the coffee. You can roast in a cast iron skillet set over the lowest heat possible or in a stovetop popcorn popper. If you use the former method, you must stand by and use a wood spoon to gently toss and rotate the coffee beans as they change from green to dull brown, and lose their husks. You may also use a machine like the Alpenrost (above). I tried all three methods. In the end, I would opt for the Alpenrost (above). Adjust the settings for type of roast, start the machine, and go away for 15 minutes. It cools the beans and stops by itself. If you blend varieties, it will take a bit of practice in order to achieve your preferred roast. Take notes.
Mixing green beans to create your own blend is fine, but it means you must pay attention. I prefer a mix of 80 / 20 (brown to black beans). I roast them in two batches to blend the beans afterwards. Truth is, roasting coffee is an art. It gives you new respect for professional roasters (like our friends at Schapira's) who work with enormous quantities every day, and keep the quality consistent.
Aside from the Alpenrost, there are other types of roasters available (which I have not tested). See the Sweet Maria's web site for advice and supplies. As far as green beans are concerned, not all places that sell roasted beans will sell you green beans. I found only two places in Montreal that would agree to sell me some. You may have to order online (from a site like Sweet Maria's). When it comes to grinding, I tested the superlative Peugeot mill (of salt and pepper fame, also provided by Swissmar). This is a nifty mill that grinds 1 - 2 cups worth of coffee quite briskly. Also look for the Zassenhaus brand (via Sweet Maria's) and grinders from the Robely Imports. They have hand-cranked mills in every size and style possible including some that allow you to grind the coffee directly into a vacuum canister for storage.
You can start with a stovetop method and see if you want to upgrade to an electric home roaster or other equipment. In the end, it can be complex and precise, or as modest and simple as you like. Roasting coffee is an experience that brings you closer to a natural process that has a long and fascinating history. I confess, next to bread baking, roasting coffee is as romantic and dramatic as it gets - in the kitchen, anyhow.
Tetsubin Cast Iron Tea Pots from Old Dutch www.olddutchco.com Cast iron teapots from Japan and China are the new rage in all the tea and cafes in these parts. We have been testing a few from Old Dutch. The pots come in 10, 16, and 20 ounce capacities, in many beautiful hues, and keep tea hot for ages. The tannic acid in tea reacts with the rust and forms a natural seal helping to prevent further rust (in other words, tea ‘cures’ the pot, once and for all). We use our pots for black and herbal teas and enjoy hot tea for a good hour or more, sans tea cozy. These are art that coincidentally host a great pot of tea. Prices range. For a gift, we suggest you match up a Tetsubin tea pot with a batch of BetterBaking.com biscotti, and some specialty loose teas, or herbals teas from an upscale tea purveyor. Tuck it all in a basket, with a bow, and you have a very special gift for anyone, any time. Check out the full line of cast iron teapots at www.olddutchco.com or these other online merchants.