Letters from Kopi: Joining the Family

I joined Team Kopi in January 2017, and as the newest member of the team, I have felt at times like I’m playing catch-up with my coworkers. While I am learning the ins and outs of Kopi, and struggling to remember many important details, I have also been feeling something else: lucky. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of such a wonderful team, especially because when a small company like Kopi chooses to hire someone new,  it’s like inviting them into the family. When people ask me, I say “This is my dream job, they pay me to mess around in a kitchen.” Really it’s so much more than that.

In the span of a few short months my job here evolved from handing out samples of cold brew in grocery stores,to encompass many of the different tasks necessary to keeping Kopi running smoothly. Now I also develop recipes for Kopi using our coffee in different dishes (i.e. “messing around in a kitchen”), create content and manage some of our social media, help in the development of a myriad of new projects, and manage customer accounts. Being a part of Kopi means that I try to help out in any way that I can to accomplish the many things that we do here.

When I first met Jessie, I had come to the Kopi offices as Carter’s guest to be part of a focus group taste testing new products for Kopi. Although it was a seemingly simple task, it was quite fascinating for me to experience, and I had a great time offering my compliments, criticisms , and comparisons of the products, as well as my opinions on the branding and design of the labels and bottles. Now I’m thrilled to be working on product development for Kopi in a more official capacity as we work on the launch of our cold brew pods! I think it’s wonderful that we will now be able to offer customers a simple solution to eliminate some of the issues they face when attempting cold brew at home. I’m looking forward to working on this new product as we invite our customers to become part of the Kopi family.

Letters from Kopi: Conquering the Last Mile

At Kopi, we’ve constantly puzzled over a key perennial question: how do we get our brew to you?

 As business school munchkins, Hannah and I are familiar with the struggle of conquering the last mile - bridging the gap between your shopping cart and your home. It’s not a problem then I thought I’d deal with, but things have a funny way of coming back to you.

Since pouring over case studies of the dot com era, things around have changed. Amazon, FreshDirect, Blue Apron have thrashed the problem at hand. But Kopi hasn’t grown up all the way yet, and this was still a very real problem for us. Our Cold Brew line is chubby with water weight and requires an ice-packed environment, meaning that to make it to you, it needs royal FedEx treatment: ice packed and overnight.

The burden of weight is a burden on our consumers - and we wanted to find a way to deliver Kopi in its simplest form.  

If the problem we faced was water we would remove it from the equation.

Cold Brew - Water = Coffee Beans

It was as though we had to walk backward to walk forward. Our first products had been beans, but at the time, we were too green to bring them to market. However, we also wanted to shorten the path from bean to brew - our customers were busy folks with NYC kitchens - beans somehow didn’t cut it.  

Cold Brew = Coffee Beans + Water + Time + Work (Grind + Clean)

We hardly have the power to manipulate your time, except to hope you find us on a shelf where our products have our time embedded. However, we could do the work for you - we therefore starting to develop our steeping pods.

Cold Brew Pod = Ground Coffee + Filter

Cold Brew Pod + Water + Time = Cold Brew

With the answer in hand, the team is full steam ahead on pods. In the next few weeks, we’ll open up our process from across the Kopi team. No day is ever the same at Kopi.

 

What's a grind level and how do I make it?

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When I was in elementary school my family owned a coffee grinder that had taped to it a piece of paper indicating how many seconds I should hold down the lid for various types of coffees. It was my first real window into the world of coffee grinding. For such a simple process - take beans, add water, get coffee - there are so many different points at which altering the process ever so slightly would actually make a world of difference. Grinding is one such step.

To remember how finely you should make your coffee, simply keep in mind one key fact: the finer the grind, the more you increase the extraction rate of the coffee (combining both time, since the grind slows down the flow of the water, as well as the surface area, by increasing the exposure of the coffee to the water). Everyone's exact favorite levels will differ from person to person, but it is safe to say that the faster the process of making the coffee, the finer you should grind it. As such, coffees like Turkish Coffee (which can be brewed in less than 45 seconds) or Espresso should have very fine grinds, whereas Cold Brew (taking upwards of 18+ hours) has the coarsest. 

While the type of grinder you have will generally affect how consistent the grind is, I am of the heretical opinion that most grinders will probably serve the average person well for a wide variety of purposes. 

Now that you've read this short intro, go out and grind!

The Experience of Coffee

Coffee is more than just the cup – it’s the experience.

One of my favorite ‘coffee memories’ – memories, basically, involving or centered around a cup of coffee – is meeting someone for the first time and bonding while running through the rain to get a cup of Intelligentsia coffee.

Another is running down the hot streets of Rome to have a refreshing shot of espresso that was clearly overbrewed. Normally, it would have been bitter and burnt, but in that sweltering heat, that cup was exactly what I needed.
 
The point is, good coffee is whatever you enjoy in that moment. Perhaps it is enjoying a perfectly steeped cup of Indonesian cold brew. But it may also be just a cup at your local diner with an overly sweet donut to match. It is, in other words, whatever accentuates your experience at the moment. Much like art, the term “good taste” is extremely subjective, and one that ‘connoisseurs’ would understand – as opposed to a snob, who would judge another for their tastes.
 
So this week, try taking out a bottle of Kopi cold and go out and hunt for Pokémon. Enjoy a concert. Whatever it is, make the moment memorable, and the beverage you are drinking at that point in time will taste just that much better. 

 

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States (The Bad Waitress — Coffee Shop and Diner) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States (The Bad Waitress — Coffee Shop and Diner) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Switching Over to Black

 

It’s summer!
 
This usually comes with the deluge of suggestions for how to get the “ideal bikini body”, or “how to lose weight fast!”.
 
One of the best ways to lose weight and start being healthier is to start drinking black coffee as opposed to regular coffee with milk and sugar. Not only is it refreshing in a different way from how cream and sugared coffee is, but it also comes with a whole host of health benefits!

But how do you start? Here are a couple of ideas for anyone wanting to switch over to actually enjoying a pitch black cup of joe!
 

  1. Try iced coffee: For whatever reason, having that a refreshingly cold beverage actually hit you in the hot summer sun is a perfect way to really start transitioning over to a black cup. Many people have found a ton of success simply by pouring their black coffees over a cup of ice - try it to see how refreshingly smooth it can be! 
  2. Aim for medium roast coffee beans, preferably from higher altitudes: Not only does the higher altitude allow for slightly sweeter (overall) beans, the medium roast will allow for less bitterness, and to top it all off, it has the best balance between the natural acidity of the bean as well as the body that generally gets introduced by the roasting process.
  3. When it doubt, cold brew it!: Due to the process of cold brewing coffees, the entire process overall allows for a much smoother flavor that is less harsh than your typical drip or iced brew. In its proper dilution ratios, the ready to drink variants will be mellow, without any of the harshness typically associated with black coffee. 

As always, check out the Kopi line up for something that showcases all of these!

Airplane Coffee - Looking into Mediocrity

Have you ever wondered to yourself why airplane coffee tastes terrible? It seems like everything on a flight really conspires against you. The cramped seats, the stuffy and dry air, the overly salted food, the passive aggressive fight over who gets which armrest… and the final kicker, that weak, super sour and acrid muck they serve as “coffee”.

But coffee is really simple: good beans with good water to the right temperature equal a wonderful cup of brew. So what could possibly go wrong?
 
Surprisingly enough, it isn’t actually the beans – several major roasters actually serve the airlines now, including other specialty roasters. The major issue with in-flight coffee is the actual water being used. Filled in tanks that only get cleaned out thoroughly once every six months, if not a year, it is no surprise that over 12% of commercial planes test positive for signs of bacteria likely to cause ailments like food poisoning.
 
Furthermore, the water itself doesn’t get heated properly either – at different altitudes, the actual boiling point of water is significantly lowered, meaning that the beans are never heated to the perfect temperature required to express the full potential of the beans used. It doesn’t help that the change in altitude (combined with other factors, like dry air and cabin pressure) also changes the perception of taste. Altogether, this equals one terribly crummy cup of muck.
 
So next time, grab a Kopi on your way to your flight – don’t risk that 12%!

A Closer Look at Indonesia's Coffee Culture

INDONESIA IS A TRULY AMAZING PLACE. COMPRISED OF OVER THIRTEEN THOUSAND ISLANDS, IT IS THE THIRD LARGEST DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD, THE FOURTH MOST POPULOUS NATION, AND THE LARGEST MUSLIM STATE. OVER SEVEN HUNDRED LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN, MEANING THAT INDONESIA HAS A LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY ALMOST AS IMPRESSIVE AS ITS BIODIVERSITY. IMPORTANTLY, INDONESIA IS ALSO ONE OF THE PREMIER COFFEE PRODUCING NATIONS ON EARTH.

Indonesia has a long and noble history stretching back millennia. Many of the ethnic groups in Indonesia have had mighty empires with stunning achievements in science, culture and architecture. The coffee history in Indonesia stretches back to the tail end of the 1600s.

The Dutch maritime empire had established itself on the island of Java for centuries when coffee became a sensation in Europe. Looking for ways to establish a monopoly on the trade and cut out Turkish competition, a coffee plantation was established in what is now Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. For centuries, until Brazilian coffee production ramped up in the middle of the 19th century, Indonesia produced most of the world’s coffee. This is why the word Java is synonymous with coffee.

Coffee production in Indonesia slowed during Japanese occupation in World War Two, and the newly independent nation did not prioritize coffee production as much as it could have. Thankfully, today’s Indonesia is once again a leader in coffee, producing a third of the world’s yield and much of its best. It is also a very equitable trade, roughly 90% of farms are small scale, often family-farms that give average Indonesians access to thirsty global markets.   

As a largely Muslim nation, coffee often replaces alcohol as the social lubricant of choice for Indonesians. The local coffee is so good that it is still exceedingly popular in the non-Muslim regions, like the predominantly Hindu Bali or more Christian Papua New Guinea. In fact, coffee, known as ‘kopi,’ in Bhasa Indonesia –the national language – is so integral to the culture that the term for breakfast literally translates to “before coffee.”

Indonesians are understandably particular when it comes to how they drink their coffee. Today the citizens of cities like Jakarta are happy to take their coffee in any of the assortment of modern methods, but the traditional and still most popular method of brewing coffee is called Kopi Tobruk. Kopi Tobruk is usually served in a beer mug where a tablespoon of fine Kopi Trading Co. grounds are placed in the bottom. Water is then brought to a boil and immediately poured onto the grinds, water that has reached a rolling boil can burn the coffee. The drink is stirred and then left to sit for 3-5 minutes. By then the coffee is cool enough to drink and the grounds have settled.

We look forward to exploring more of Indonesia’s beautiful islands and history with you through the lens of coffee.

 

New Amsterdam Market - Where do we go from here?

THIS PAST WEEK, I FOUND MYSELF IN SEATTLE FOR A BRIEF VISIT. FREE HOUSING FELL INTO MY LAP FOR A FEW DAYS, AND SO, EMBRACING MY NEW START-UP SCHEDULE, I PICKED UP AND FLEW OVER ON A GROOVY VIRGIN AMERICA FLIGHT.

 

While the location was not up to me, I was happy to see a new part of the States and one so in love with craft coffee. With that said, my heart was set on one place - PIke Place. Not the home of a questionable brew, but the sanctuary of food stalls and small vendors.

I walked everywhere and everywhere there were hills, but I was never far from a PIke Place dungeness crab cup. I had Beecher’s Mac and Cheese and fish cuisine of all kinds - I of course also revelled in coffee. It was a delightful pit stop, even as I was inundated by curious tourists. I was happily claustrophobic.

Coming home, it was a few days before the cravings set in. What else set in was the realization that we could have really had something with the revitalization of the Fulton Fish Market. The Kopi Trading Company found a pop-up home with the New Amsterdam Market, and with the closure, something is surely amiss. Being part of such a vibrant, creative community of small producers gave us hope that being small was not an obstacle to being great. The city’s resistance to creating such a public space means that we have one less place to find our footing.

I signed the New Amsterdam Market’s petition today (http://www.newamsterdammarket.org/seaport_vision.html and hope that others will support this vision. Help keep craft food at the seaport. 

Coffee for Education!

WE ARE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE TODAY THAT KOPI IS KICKING OFF A SUMMER FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN FOR THE WORLD IS JUST A BOOK AWAY (WIJABA), HELPING THE ORGANIZATION GROW ITS “ROOTS + SHOOTS” PROGRAM IN SIDOARJO, SUMATRA!  

Your donations not only help buy books and grow the program, it can earn you coffee and cuppings! Find out more at: kopiforwijaba.causevox.com!

We planted the seeds of this partnership at the beginning of this year. At that time, Kopi had moved on from its infancy and entered what I can only describe as its awkward teens. We didn’t know yet what we wanted to grow up to be and grappled with angst and the vague ideas that business school had imprinted on its creator.

One of the facets of Kopi's identity that we wanted to mature was our social roots. This too made us bashful, for we were little and had littler still to offer. Nonetheless, we stumbled ahead with the same accidental boldness that had started it all in the first place. 

We soon came across WIJABA, an organization based in Santa Monica building libraries and educational programs in Mexico and Indonesia. In just the first conversations we felt warm and welcome - from California they had reached a hand over inviting us to join their journey. 

We decided on contributing to the "Roots + Shoots" Environmental Education program, an incarnation of Jane Goodall’s original concept adapted to the nuances of Indonesia’s regions. While Kopi was born inspired by Indonesia’s dynamic growth, we know this too to be the force plundering the country of its natural riches. 

With stories and lessons to connect the new generation to the natural community around them, Roots + Shoots will empower children to preserve the lush world in which they live. Join our campaign and help us help WIJABA make a difference in their lives.