Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holiday Season

We have been working to come up with some incredible Black Friday specials. If you want to see our best deals, be sure to be on our email newsletter, which mails only once a month. We respect your email and never share the info with anybody else, nor do we mail you more than once a month, with our special savings that are not viewable by the general public.

Just a preview:

We are launching the Kopi Luwak Stocking Stuffer, a 2-ounce package of Bantai Civet Coffee in an organza bag package that is great as an economical way to send somebody a few servings of the world's best and rarest coffee.

We have sourced some mini-milks, the La Lecherita sweetened condensed milk in the 3.5 ounce can, making it possible to bring back a perennial favorite gift: The Vietnamese Coffee Mini-Kit!

We just got in the new harvest shipment of Philippine Liberica. This was a good season and this endangered coffee is in good supply. We will be running some nice specials on Liberica shortly.

We have been testing an heirloom coffee from Costa Rica. It's a little outside the usual for us, since it is not a Southeast Asian coffee, but it has an impressive history and meticulous cultivation, plus the owner/grower/producer of this small farm uses his business to provide charitable funds for a number of causes. One item we snapped up: Chocolate-covered coffee beans! We couldn't resist these beans, made from peaberry Arabica Catuai instead of the usual espresso. We expect these in around Thanksgiving.

We are also initiating a "Stocking Stuffer" page. Yes, it's politically incorrect, so just call this the "cute products page". We will have a number of items selected for unique and fun appeal and all priced at or under $3.00 (except for Bantai Civet Coffee!).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's the season for silly bar drinks

I love summer. It's a time of magic and solace, celebration and nature, and a time to be laid back simply because we need the break and this is the time to do it. It was the time to hide away under the trees somewhere and read a really good book that took you to India or Africa on an adventure.

For me, as a child , it was a time to get on my bike and explore places that couldn't be reached any other way. I wound up in more obscure paths in the woods, parks I never knew existed, cliff walks by the sea, and I think I even managed to find my way to another planet or two and back. In summer, with that balmy breeze blowing even at nightfall, anything was possible.

I have invented a drink for those special moments. Mix it up in secret and find a place where nobody can find you and let the summer breezes blow by while you brood and sip on the Heart of Darkness. "The horror, the horror!" You might want to mix up enough for two or three of them and hide a little longer. It's a black martini, of course...

Heart of Darkness

heart of darkness coffee cocktail recipe


  • 1.5 oz RTD Black
  • 3/4 oz Jose Cuervo Black Tequila
  • 1 oz Vodka
  • Dash of Cherry Brandy
  • Maraschino Cherry

Equipment: Shaker and ice


Use 1 cup ice to chill the mixture quickly (coffee should
be cold to start). Add ingredients, shake furiously and pour
through strainer. Pour into chilled glass. Add Maraschino
cherry (the heart). Optional: Garnish with orange slice.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ready To Drink Vietnamese Coffee

When we first were told that this product was in development our response was, loosely summarized, "that's not going to work." Highlands told us that their goal was to actually brew Vietnamese-style coffee into cans and somehow approximate the process of brewing through the small Phin filter like a traditional sit-down Vietnamese Coffee in a coffee café.

They had spoken with a lot of experts who no doubt told them that it couldn't be done and they would be better off doing what the other coffee companies had done, buy a commercial coffee extract and some commercial creamer and sugar and mix it into a bottle like a Yahoo milk drink. But they persisted with their goal of capturing fresh-brewed coffee in a can, in high production volume. The end result was worth two years of R&D. It led to the almost universally liked RTD (Ready To Drink) Highlands Vietnamese Coffee which is now, since its intro in December 2009, been snapped up in 21 countries as a "blockbuster product" (to quote the Australian RTD distributor who also distributes Red Bull).

Why is the RTD Vietnamese Iced Coffee such a likable product? Several reasons.

Taste. It's just not like any other coffee drink you have ever tasted. It's better and fresher by far.

Convenience. How could anything be more convenient than popping the top of a can for a fresh glass of iced coffee?

Portability. Unlike most coffee sources, RTD cans go almost anywhere. And even though they are "Iced Coffee", they can be enjoyed at any temperature. They require no other equipment to brew, mix or enjoy.

Versatility. We didn't appreciate this until we finally had the full shipment (didn't want to waste our precious advance samples on tests), but the RTD cans are not only a perfectly balanced coffee drink as they are, but they are a perfect base for smoothies, shakes, bar drinks and many things we probably haven't even tried yet.

We expected the RTD Iced Coffee to be a product we would sell to the commercial and wholesale market, but consumer reaction was so strong we put it on the web as a retail product and the response has been overwhelming. Then we thought people would buy single cans, but the first question always is, "How much is a case?". So we created a case price (24 cans) and a reduced shipping price compared to the singles.

We could go on and on about the RTD coffee, but after all, it would just be us enthusing about a product we tried ourselves. That never does much for anybody over the web. So first we made free samples available to the emailing list (preferred and repeat customers) and now we will offer it as one of our free samples to new customers, as soon as we can get the item programmed into the website.

We worked hard to obtain an exclusive distribution of this great new product in the USA. Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Here is a bar drink recipe from the new drink selection we have been working feverishly to perfect for that segment of the market (creating and sampling bar drinks is a rough job, but somebody has to do it! Volunteers are welcome, give us a call!) We intend to have a full recipe gallery for the RTD coffee as soon as we can manage it - bar drinks, non-alcoholic drinks, cooking recipes and more. Send us your own recipe, and if we use it we will pay you $50 and give you a gift certificate you can use on the website.


This drink needs a better, sexier name, but was given this moniker because drinking it gives you a serious case of HappyMouth and a smile that survives the worst afternoon or evening (even Mondays).

Ingredients: Highlands Iced Coffee, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Creme de Cacao, Kahlua Mocha
4 oz Highlands Black
1 oz Bailey’s Irish Creme
3/4 oz Creme de Cacao
1/2 oz Kahlua Mocha
(shake through ice and pour)

The secret to a good drink recipe is finding that perfect balance that allows the flavors to all be perceived without anything being overwhelming. This drink has the kind of magic that leaves you wondering what the dominant flavors are, but not really caring because the balance is so pleasing to the nose and palate.

If you don't have the ingredients above and don't want to rush out to the liquor store, and you have some Kahlua (coffee brandy) and Vodka (optional), try a Sombrero using a little Vodka and Kahlua with your RTD Coffee (Milk) over ice... 4 ounces Highlands RTD Milk, 2 ounces Kahlua, 1/2 ounce Vodka over ice. It's not the classic recipe of a "Kahlua & Cream", but its a lighter and more refreshing drink for upcoming summer weather.

For a non-alcoholic smoothie/shake, use the RTD Coffee (Milk version) as the base for your next protein shake. We suspect it also a good base for righteous coffee ice cream, but we haven't gotten there yet.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Battle of the instant(s)

A few years ago, Starbucks attempted to displace a number of indigenous coffee shops and brands in Vietnam and other regions of Southeast Asia. Due to a number of economic and societal factors, they were mostly unsuccessful. Not to be outdone, they decided to copy the success of the indigenous coffee companies and try to beat them at their own game. One result: Starbucks Via, the new instant that "tastes just like our brewed coffee". As to whether that is a good or bad thing, we will leave it up to Starbucks fans.

We purchased some Via to see what it was all about... reviews are really not enlightening because people don't usually understand the process technology or have much frame of reference for instant coffees.

Basically, the process uses roasted beans, and they simply powder them to make them soluble. That is why they really can claim that the instant tastes like their brewed coffee, to some extent, it's pretty much the same beans, just powdered.

They have an Italian Roast, which is totally mislabeled. It claims to be "Extra Bold" but it's actually much milder than the Columbian, which claims to be "Medium". In short, the Italian Roast is quite good, to my tastes, but the Columbian had all the worst that Starbucks has to offer -- it tasted like charcoal, and even a few sips produced indigestion in our tasters, due to the acids and indigestible burnt elements. They need to go back to the drawing board on the Columbian, at least, in the samples we tried. Who knows if the formula changes from batch to batch (another Starbucks specialty!)

Why is G7 Instant different from Via? It uses a proprietary technology to create powder from green coffee beans, roasting them in the process. When you capture the powder at the same point as roasting, apparently you eliminate loss of flavor and aroma and create an instant free of the typical bitterness and acidity of instants made from brewed coffee, as most are.

In our taste tests here at open coffee hours, people preferred the G7 to Via by a sizable margin. Many found the Italian Roast Via to be a good cup, but found it weak or too light a roast for their tastes.

Considering that the cost of a serving of G7 Black is about 1/6th that of Via, well.... what can we say. Pick your best value.

We also have brought out a new entré in the 3-in-1 genre, a brand called MaqRoma. We did this because we have learned through all our testing that some people really do have a palate taste preference for Arabica freeze-dried, as long as it is not bitter. There is a "tang" to it that is not in the G7, which could be better described as rich and mellow.

The MaqRoma is a very high quality coffee mix produced by Reviva, one of Southeast Asia's leading manufacturers of coffee for dispensing machines. In these countries, dispensers deliver truly gourmet quality. Some of the machines actually grind and brew a cup of coffee from whole beans while you wait! And the instant machines do not get a following unless people really like the cup they get. MaqRoma has been very successful, so we tested it here and liked it, and now offer it as the best Arabica freeze-dried instant we can find (out of over 40 brands).

Here's a fun thing to do: Mix a packet of G7 with a packet of MaqRoma and get a Robusta/Arabica mug-size brew that has the best of both worlds. Many people in our testing declared this truly the best instant cup of all.

Watch for a whole plethora of new instant coffees as the world discovers the potential of truly gourmet instant coffee!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

As we glide into 2010 we wish everybody a happy and prosperous New Year!

2009 was a difficult year for most people, a year in which most of us had to adjust our expenses and reassess our purchases of those things that bring us pleasure... coffee included! On our websites, we have done our best to freeze our prices and offer as many savings as possible on our sites throughout the year. Now we are getting a little help from vendors, whose costs have gone down in 2010 and thus there have been no price increases from them.

Shipping costs have continued to rise but we negotiated a slightly better discount from UPS for our Ground shipping, so we do not have to adjust our shipping costs for 2010, which is the first year that we have not had to increase costs for shipping (Post Office went up 40% in the last 18 months! And they just went up another 5% for Priority Mail but they promise no more increases for 2010.)

In 2009 we tripled the number of coffees we carry. It has been a great deal of fun to seek out the best vendors of the world's best Heirloom Coffees from Southeast Asia, a quest that led us to Sumatra, Thailand and the Philippines as well as to other producers from Vietnam. We also added 4 different versions of Kopi Luwak (civet coffee), which makes us the only reputable vendors in the world to carry more than one brand and origin of certified Kopi Luwak.

We await the new season for production of Liberica in the Philippines, a fabulous "lost" species of coffee that is making a comeback. We are looking forward to having the 100% Liberica back on the site. At the moment we have a wonderful blend of Liberica and Excelsa, which has been getting rave reviews from customers, but we do hope to have the 100% Liberica back soon.

In 2009 we also developed our own ESE pod, a joint venture with Indochine Estates, featuring their fine Bourbon Arabica and Excelsa blend of espresso in a 45 mm ESE pod. Pods are not just for brewing in pod machines, they are also a perfect serving for use in any espresso maker, just tear open the pod, pour it in and tamp and brew. Perfect espresso every time.

We hope you enjoy our new offerings and your old favorites in 2010 as we forge into the future trying to bring you a little more "coffee nirvana" all the time!