Monday, March 30, 2020

We Can All Help!

These are challenging times. We all can do something to help, whether it is just to bring a little cheer to a shut-in, or provide PPE to first responders and health care workers. And in our case, we will do both of these things and also commit to bringing you more affordable options for most of our highly popular coffees, including bulk packs with FREE shipping, and a constantly-populated new BUDGET PAGE with all coffees at $5 or less.

We are trying to put a wide variety of coffees on the Budget Page in every way we can to save you money during times when we all probably need to cut our budgets on everything, including (sigh) delicious coffee.

We will be exploring many things that we can do to help, including:

1. Discount coupons with every sale emailing.

2. The always-live Budget Page featuring $5 or less coffees with FREE SHIPPING packages. Note that the Free Shipping packages are near the bottom of the page, whereas the $5 coffees are above them.

3. We have donated some of our face mask inventory to the Beth Israel Hospital Nursing staff to help counter shortages in the hospital for non-coronavirus-patient nursing staff, who are not getting the same level of protection but need it.

4. We are recruiting people to make surgical-quality masks on sewing machines and supplying them with approved cotton material and filter paper so they can make reasonably effective (and fashionable) face masks. We expect to donate some of these to hospitals, but also we will be making them available to our customers through special Care Packages that you can send to people at risk who might need some delicious coffee and face masks for the times when they need to venture outside.

These are evolving efforts and we will keep you posted on them! If you have further suggestions as to how we might help, please let us know. Coffee's got your back!

- Len and the Crew at Len's Coffee

Monday, April 15, 2019

All That Coffee Hype

There is a lot of hype in the coffee industry. Companies vie for consumer dollars by making false claims or hyping coffee that is not equivalent to the hype. We recently attended SCA, the premier trade show for the coffee industry, in Boston, and made a lot of wonderful contacts from new origins and equipment manufacturers... but were also annoyed by the hype of some others.

We hope to bring you coffees from some new origins we are exploring, sold by the producers in Direct Trade, and all fabulously delicious. It will take some time after the show to arrange to try these coffees in house. We need to perform R&D on different roast levels so we can offer you the optimal roast options (or blends).

In regards to the hype, here are the top hypes of the show, and in the industry at this moment:

Geisha (Arabica subspecies):  Ever since a Geisha coffee from Costa Rica won a best of show at SCA, and Starbucks® featured the remainder of that specific lot in their New York locations at $7 a cup, producers have been trying to cash in. What are the facts?

1. Geisha: (currently misspelled due to popular usage, originally from the Gesha mountains in Africa) is a subspecies with unclear developmental history. It is likely another spontaneous mutation of an Arabica coffee, much like most unique variations we have today, and found its way across the globe, becoming popular in Central America. It is a delightful coffee with a smooth, low acid profile, and citrus tones. Is it inherently "better" or tastier than Bourbon or other subspecies? Depends entirely on your taste and whether the producer gave it special treatment and it grew at high altitude or not. For us, it is too light a profile, and appeals mostly to people with "front palate" preferences.

The SCA show featured a number of producers of Geisha coffee, who were trying to sell it at about 300% premiums over other species. Is it worth that? We don't feel so, and we don't think our customer base would enjoy spending $50 a pound to drink it.

Any species or subspecies of coffee can boast superior quality if it is coddled enough, and this is what wins awards. But is every lot of Geisha special? Well, think of the milk-fed 500-pound pumpkin at the county fair. It's a heck of a pumpkin. But not every pumpkin of that seed lot is going to be special.

Enough, already, on the hype about Geisha, please!

2. Microlots / unique origins:  We saw a lot of people with lovely graphics and presentation trying to get ridiculous prices per OUNCE for coffee, because it was a remote region or subtype. When we sampled it, it was usually an excellent cup of coffee. But at retail it might be $120 a pound. Was it worth $120 a pound? Nothing we tried was. We'd gladly challenge all those microlots in a cupping contest with our best origins on Len's Coffee.

So, we passed on many of these hyped up coffees, and will pursue connections with honest, hard working farmers looking for fair prices on their wonderful coffees. Stay tuned for some great new origins!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

JAZ Improv Coffees : Great New Fun

The restless muse that inspires our coffee R&D here at Len's cannot be contained, it can only be supplicated by periodic forays into uncharted ground.

When creating a new coffee blend, we often feel restricted by the normal process of testing and marketing to determine if a coffee will succeed and become a part of our permanent lineup. However, what if we take away that concern? What if we had a line of experimental coffees that explored some challenging (and even heroic*) themes involving first analyzing and categorizing each coffee origin's dominant taste characteristics - is it buttery? Is it caramely? Sweet? Citrusy? What dominant notes can we bring out and enhance with natural extracts to create a uniquely intense culinary experience? And then what if we said that we don't care if these coffees have a "career"?

"Plein air" paintings, sand castles, sidewalk art... none of these are repeatable or even permanent things. They capture an artisanal moment and can be appreciated while they last. That is the essence of JAZ Improv coffees! We also gave them away FREE in the holiday season because to us, they were a celebration of coffee creativity that we wanted to present as a thank you to our wonderful customers.

Our initial offering : JAZ Improv Pirate Series, embodied coffee themes that were Caribbean in origin (Parrot Bay / Butter Me Rum) and the coasts of Madagascar (Long Live Libertalia!) and even Polynesia Amnesia. Drawing from our unparalleled diversity in world coffee species and origins, and seeking new achievements in the blending arts, we had a great time and (we think) made some great coffees.

As of this writing we are working on a 3-coffee theme, JAZ Improv : Traveler Series. These coffees pay homage to culinary treasures from popular world locations and take coffee boldly where it has never gone before. Black Forest Blend captures the mystery of Germany's Der Schwarzwald (Black Forest) with its delightful dark, tart cherry-based desserts. More to come!

We've had many customers ask if they can buy these coffees after their release was over, and we have realized that we should make any remaining stock available to customers at the fun price of only $5 a bag, always... while supplies last on each coffee. So watch for the new JAZ Improv Coffee Page, coming soon, if you are looking for another hit on something that struck your fancy.

We'll keep creating it if you'll keep drinking it!

* You wouldn't believe the time and effort and creativity that goes into a new "themed" coffee. Sometimes we experiment with 20 iterations, testing each out with focus groups!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Direct Trade picks up speed

We are committed to buying our products from suppliers and avoiding middlemen, because traditionally only about 10-20% of the profit of coffee goes to the farmer when he sells to his local brokers. As a result, the lifestyle of coffee farmers is endangered around the globe. Farming families often live a subsistence lifestyle and can't afford schooling or medical care.

When farmers can find markets in the USA or other "end consumer" regions where buyers will pay them direct the price they ask, farmers get all the profit and the difference is amazing. Children go to school and get medical care, and farming communities stabilize because the life of the farmer looks more attractive and children are less likely to head off to the cities for opportunity, where their lack of education and skills usually results in exploitation.

Fair Trade does not accomplish the same results, as Fair Trade is based on a margin added to the broker price. The farmer still suffers and often lives in all-consuming debt. Only Direct Trade addresses the farmer's real needs.

We have campaigned for Direct Trade since our founding in 2005, and the noise we created seems to be helping bring about a sea change in the way buyers are seeing producers. Dozens of wonderful programs have opened up to empower farmers by improving their crops and methods and giving them access to major markets. Some of these programs are run by the large milling companies, who are beginning to realize (belatedly) that what is good for farmer communities is good for their own business. Others are run by third-party groups who make this their mission.

All told, the amount of coffee being purchased through Direct Trade has skyrocketed in the last two years, and it's beginning to have an impact of farming communities around the world. As we like to say, the USA/Canada coffee market is so big that if every North American coffee consumer had one cup of Direct Trade coffee a day, more than 10 million people around the globe would enjoy a better lifestyle, and millions of children would have a brighter future.

It's such an easy way to make a major difference in the world. Enjoy your cup of Direct Trade coffee from Len's Coffee today, and know that the smile it puts on your face is echoed somewhere in the coffee lands on a child's face.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Coffee Cancer Warning Flap in California

Well, apparently our next few months will be spent answering questions about this court ruling. First thing to remember is that rulings by courts have no informative value in terms of what reality is; it only means the plaintiff was able to successfully get a ruling in their favor.

In the case of the coffee cancer warning, the ruling means that studies that show that feeding acrylamide (a natural substance occurring in many foods, and coffee after roasting) in very high doses (1,000-100,000 times the amount people get through their diet) into mice can cause cancer, trump the evidence that coffee can help people live longer (as a recent NIH study confirmed), because nobody has yet performed a study that PROVES that mice live longer when they drink coffee :-)

(Note: For decades people avoided saccharin artificial sweetener because of studies done on rats, until more recent studies showed that the physiology of rats is different enough from humans that saccharin actual poses no known risk. Studies of this type are becoming increasingly suspect.)

Now we are getting tons of inquiries as to whether our coffee has acrylamide. Of course it does. All coffee that is roasted does. (Acrylamide is found in hundreds of foods, such as prunes, cereals, roasted potatoes, etc.) So now it is up to consumers whether they want to believe studies that show mice get cancer when injected with it are more valuable than the many studies done by the NIH and the National Cancer Institute and others, that show that coffee is overall a healthy contributor to diet.

Since the media will go absolute rabid with articles about the cancer warning, we don't need to provide links to that here. Instead, for any of our customers who would like more information, we suggest these links that support the overall health benefits of coffee:

We will also reproduce here the conclusion of the NIH study (the National Institute of Health is largely considered the most reliable agency in the country regarding consumer health):

"Older adults who drank coffee — caffeinated or decaffeinated — had a lower risk of death overall than others who did not drink coffee, according a study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and AARP.

Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, although the association was not seen for cancer. These results from a large study of older adults were observed after adjustment for the effects of other risk factors on mortality, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Researchers caution, however, that they can't be sure whether these associations mean that drinking coffee actually makes people live longer. The results of the study were published in the May 17, 2012 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine."

And also this study by Swedish institute:

"Coffee drinkers enjoy not only the taste of their coffee but also a reduced risk of cancer with their cuppa. New research shows that drinking coffee specifically reduces the risk of antiestrogen-resistant estrogen-receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer. "

And this one from American Gastroenterological Association:

"Coffee consumption reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40 percent, according to an up-to-date meta-analysis. Further, some data indicate that three cups of coffee per day reduce liver cancer risk by more than 50 percent."


Currently, the U.S. federal government does not classify acrylamide as a carcinogen when it’s in food.

If consumers have concerns about acrylamine, which apparently is the new latest thing to worry about, note that it is primarily formed when applying the highest heat. Which means that Dark Roast coffee will have more than Light Roast. It also means that green bean extracts are not considered a source of the substance because the beans are boiled at 212 degrees F.

Consumers have a confusing volume of studies and facts to face in learning about the health of coffee. It's a personal decision that we will all need to make as to what evidence we believe.

We personally believe that coffee is not a miracle drug that can cure cancer. We also don't believe that anybody has ever shown evidence of coffee in humans causing increased mortality. We think that in the end, it will be decided that coffee has many health-giving properties that seem to balance out any negative effects. Only time will tell if our own beliefs will be shown to be true, and the debate will probably go back and forth forever. Meanwhile, we will brew ourselves a delicious cup of COFFEE and carry on.

If you decide to avoid coffee because of acrylamide, you might want to just stop eating altogether. Here is a partial list of products with acrylamides: prunes, cereals (the biggest source in the American diet), bread, crackers, roasted potatoes, roasted nuts, olives, cocoa & chocolate, chili, tortillas, frogs legs, candied yams, pretzels, popcorn, veggie chips (has 6x as much as roasted coffee), peanut butter, pecan frangipan, pies, onion soup, Terra veggie chips... and my personal favorite, Lamb Weston Inland Valley Fajita Fries (not!).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Happy Place and Saigon Legend Civet

Cascara Hibiscus Rooibus BlendWe can't stop drinking these. Big hit at the Open House today... The Happy Place Cascara/Hibiscus Blend is astounding hot plain or as a latte, 50/50 with milk. Possibly the highest anti-oxidant drink on the planet at this point, with a tangy, fruity flavor that is out of this world. Cascara Hibiscus Rooibos Blend uses only three ingredients: Coffee Cascara (dried fruit), Hibiscus flowers, and Rooibos African tea. It comes with 6 brew bags to make it easily, and a recipe for a stunningly delicious latte.

The new Saigon Legend: Civet Edition is our "Magnum Opus" for 2017. It is the culmination of our research into the best coffee blends of Golden-Bean-Award-Winning Arabicas plus 20% genuine Philippine Civet Coffee from the "pampered Pet" plantation at Julia Campbell Forest Preserve in the Philippines. It is definitely a case of Happy Mouth, with its smooth body, chocolatey tones and haunting persistence on the palate.
It's packed in a pillow!
We created a cute Pillow Pack for small gifting or trying this extraordinary coffee. It includes a color insert with anecdotes about the coffee and its origins.
We also have a full size 8-oz bag in an attractive gloss gift box and 8 oz bags on their own. We made a small number of ground bags (we prefer the whole bean for ultimate freshness, as sometimes people will hold onto gifts for a long time waiting for that special moment to brew them... sigh). So mostly we have it in whole bean.

This is a definite Bucket List coffee.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Persistent Coffee Myths #142: Uniform Particle Size of Grind is Good

We had a customer walk in today who told us he read an interesting article about how you could achieve a more consistent particle size when grinding your beans if you freeze the beans first... Okay, where do we start?

First of all, please... never put coffee in the freezer. The foil and plastic bags get brittle at that temperature and allow the coffee to soak up odors from the freezer. What do you have sitting next to that coffee? Fish, garlic spinach... whatever it is, that's what your next cup of coffee will taste like. Coffee is one of nature's most efficient odor-absorbing substances, which is why they use spent coffee grinds to clean the floors in fish rendering plants. Yes, eeeeew. Also, freezers are not cold enough to stop the normal oxidation process, so it doesn't even help to keep your coffee fresh.

Somewhere at some time, some burr grinder manufacturer popularized the notion that burr grinders make uniform particles when they grind, and that uniform particles are for some reason optimum when brewing. There are two points to this, and both are wrong.

1. Burr grinders do not make uniform particle size. They do make a MORE uniform overall size than small countertop types, but not by much. I enjoy grinding some beans in our $900 Bunn burr grinder and showing it to customers along with some I ground in a $15 small blade grinder. They can readily see tons of "fines" in both samples. It is a comment on human nature that somebody makes this claim, and everybody copies and pastes and re-blogs it, but they never actually look at samples from both grinder types to see if it's true. It's simply not true.

2. Uniform particle sizes do not improve an average brewing. If you are lucky, it might improve the occasional brewing. This is simple math: Coffee grinds have a "sweet spot" for brew time. In a Press, that sweet spot is maybe 20 seconds, and is affected by the humidity that day, the temperature of your water, whether you stir it or not, etc. Since this sweet spot is very hard to hit on the button, except for odd people who want to watch all these variables and use a thermometer and stop watch, we might want to consider the math of non-uniform particle sizes.

The average person just adds hot water to a press or drip machine or pourover and does not have total control over these variables. That means they are more than likely missing that "sweet spot" most of the time. Now, if you have a 50% variance in particle size, your "sweet spot" gets broadened considerably. Yes, a few particles overbrew, and some underbrew, but here is the final funny thing: That's good. Because any time you are getting exact extraction from one particle size you are not getting as wide a range of elements in your brew as you would otherwise. The positives outweigh the negatives.

Summary: You will hit a "sweet spot" much more often with non-uniform particle size, and you will get a fuller range of tones extracted from the beans. As often, the simplest methods and the cheapest machines are fine for everyday use and enjoyment.