The Roosevelt has exceptional food - lets go ahead and get that out of the way. If you haven't eaten there yet, just take a moment to read some of the local and national press Chef Lee Gregory has led the restaurant to garner in the short time since it opened. The menu is inspired by traditional southern cuisine but tends to avoid being boxed in by any particular stylistic or genre norms - the food, as the Blanchard's Coffee Chief Roaster and Director of Operations would say, "tastes good, like food that tastes good tastes." Gregory and The Roosevelt master the art of making intelligent, creative, fantastically conceived and executed cuisine approachable and comfortable.
Food alone, however, does not, a restaurant, make. Yes, I said that, and I stand tall behind it. With the exception of the rare dive that is a success in spite of all the aesthetics done wrong - and some would argue the the total lack of aesthetic creates, in and of itself, an aesthetic - truly exceptional restaurants have a feel, a vibe, an intangible that makes you feel like you've arrived in the right place. This intangible is a consistent thread in the Places We Love, and its creation is an under appreciated art. I'm sure a lot of teamwork went into the conceptual creation of The Roosevelt, but my sneaking suspicion is that the intangible feeling of homefullness that washes over you when you walk in the Church Hill restaurant is, to a large degree, an extension of the soul owner Kendra Feather instills in all of her restaurants. Creating a room with a spirit of its own goes well beyond great design - it exudes from an environment surrounding a person or a group of people and I'm sure if you could bottle it and sell it you'd be wealthy beyond imagination. Fortunately, I think, that isn't possible - probably that is why it is such a gem when its found. The Roosevelt has it in spades which is why it is one of the Places We Love, and a place for which we're proud to roast one of our favorite coffees.
Have a special place you love? Tell us about it - we're always on the look out for the next great spot to experience.
adventurers would agree that one of the best parts of exploring a new place is finding the hidden gem - a place that captures a certain somewhere-ness that only works where it is, and it works perfectly.
Since opening in 2013, Salt Artisan Market outside of Charlottesville, Virginia has been one of those places for me and a whole lot of other people. A few short miles from Jefferson's Monticello and historic Michie Tavern, Salt makes its home in an old filling station on the Jefferson Vineyards estate. Its hard for me to place Salt in any generic category like restaurant, cafe, market, etc. - though it fills all of those roles with elegant simplicity. When I walk under the stone pillared roof over what used to be the filling station's car port, and through the nostalgically familiar screen door, it feels as if I'm walking in to someone's home - a feeling that only continues as I'm welcomed and fed.
Salt Artisan Market is a purposefully curated oasis for travelers and locals alike. On any given day, both weather-worn construction types and vineyard hopping out-of-towners alike can be seen perched in dainty antique tea-time-esque furniture or out on the patio around a wine barrel dining on an expertly crafted sandwich or sipping a cup of Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co. Dark as Dark.
Like the coffee, as much of Salt's fare as possible is sourced locally and chosen for its quality, its story and a close connection to the Salt team. Owner, Barrett Hightower proudly speaks personally of each craftsperson behind the products on her shelves and that pride shines through in every aspect of Salt.
One might easily drive past Salt Artisan Market on the way to a vineyard or historical site, or never even take the fifteen minute detour off of I64, but to do so would be to miss the rare opportunity to find that hidden gem of adventuring that is so seldom found or so often under appreciated. I hope you take the time to find Salt Artisan Market, grab a cup of coffee and soak in the beauty both inside and outside of this place we love.
Have a place you love? Share it with us and tell us why you love it - we're always on the look-out for new places to visit.
Though I love most things about Richmond, especially the scrappy, up-and-coming coffee scene, we are generally small and pale in the shadow of the big coffee towns like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. Coffee houses like Gasoline Alley Coffee in New York or Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland, California create their own tourism industry on the pilgrimage of people who often probably can't really afford their fifty dollar a week craft coffee habit. When you walk into a coffee house like that you know you are in for an incredible experience. Every detail of that experience is designed to communicate to your brain, consciously and subconsciously, that you are going to have an exceptional cup of coffee, and it is going to leave such an impression on you that years later, you'll still recount the eight minutes and twelve dollars you spent there as one of the best coffees you've ever had.
I hadn't really had that experience in Richmond yet. I've had some elements here and some elements there, but I have never walked into a room, made eye contact with a barista and known beyond any doubt that I was getting ready to experience something memorable.
When I opened the door to The Lab by Alchemy Coffee, I saw the coffee experience I had never seen in Richmond. I saw everything I love about my favorite coffee destinations throughout the USA and abroad. I drank a stunningly well crafted coffee, enjoyed conversation about the brewing science used to make it, soaked in clean, sleek design and smiled - a lot.
Eric Spivack, the man behind The Lab, has been peddling coffee out of his two-wheeled, wood-siding coffee trailer for the past few years. Though, as a colleague, a client and a friend, I watched Eric uncompromisingly devote himself to the craft of great coffee, I still always pictured the Alchemy Coffee experience tied to being outside with a paper cup and the steady hum of a Honda generator. I had no doubt Eric had the barista chops to take on anyone in the industry, but I didn't fully expect his venture into opening a brick and mortar shop to be so absolutely perfect. I am so very glad I was wrong.
What makes The Lab by Alchemy Coffee so good?
Great coffee is a good starting point. I'm proud that Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co. shares the Alchemy stage with Counter Culture Coffee. The next thing is knowledge - Eric has devoted himself to coffee knowledge and he thoughtfully sources the best coffees Blanchard's Coffee and Counter Culture have in their repertoire. Knowledge is followed by skill - Eric and his team of baristas are good and will only get better. They have the very best equipment on the market - something many shops pass up as soon as they see the price tag. The room, itself, is simply, sleekly and beautifully designed. The vibe of a room is one of the most overlooked intangibles for any business, especially one as intimate as a coffee house. Eric has enlisted the pastry talent of Drew Thomasson to offer an exceptional selection of edibles. Finally, the Alchemy Coffee team pulls it all together and places a well crafted cup of coffee in your hands, you take a sip and you know you'll be back and you'll share your experience with your friends.
I've said this for a number of years now, but I'm finally beginning to see it come true with The Lab by Alchemy Coffee: Richmond's coffee scene is on the verge of becoming something great. If you haven't had a chance to see the future of great coffee in Richmond, take a morning trip to 814 W. Broad Street and treat yourself to something memorable.
Sometimes we make mistakes - surely everyone can relate, right?
Lucky for you, when we make mistakes, you get a great deal on awesome fresh roasted coffee!
Here's the deal: we put together a few dozen bags of ground James River Blend for a customer but then realized they should have been whole bean. Thats a bummer, but not nearly as much of a bummer as it would be to waste all of that coffee - so, we want you to get it while it is fresh!
Until it is sold out, you can pick up as many bags as you like for $6.00 each. Go crazy. No really, go crazy, buy them all. Don't forget, over 5 bags gets free shipping.
These are sealed bags, so they'll stay fresh for you for a good long while once you get them home.
Guys, lets have some real talk about coffee and sustainability. Specifically, how coffee gets from the farm to your cup.
Fact: Coffee is the second most highly traded commodity in the world next to oil - let that seep in for just a second, folks.
The thing with commodities is that there are so many people involved in the business of trading them and getting them to the end user - and all of those people want to make as much money as possible - someone, or many people end up getting the short end of the monetary stick. When it comes to coffee, the people most often holding the short straw are the farmers who worked very hard to make your $5 macchiato possible.
Blanchard's Coffee Co. buys several coffees in the traditional manner on the commodities market with brokers. The coffees we source in this manner are excellent, quality-wise, and consistent. Many of these coffees are staple foundations for some of our most popular blends. Do the farmers harvesting these coffees get a fair price for their hard work? Well, they get industry standard pricing which keeps them living and farming, but we all know it could be better.
Several years ago, Blanchard's Coffee Co., recognizing that the system could, in fact, be better, earned its Fair Trade Certification. Fair Trade Certification ensures that a certain percentage of the coffee we source, roast and sell is Fair Trade Certified. It also ensures that there is oversight of this by a certification agency - in our case that is Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade Certified coffees are slightly more expensive and a larger percentage of the total purchase price goes back to the farmer, hopefully improving their life in some way.
We're proud to be a Fair Trade Certified roaster and it goes hand in hand with our corresponding USDA Organic Certification, but here's where the real straight talk comes in - of the $50,000+ we spent on Fair Trade Certified coffee in the past year, about $1,000 above and beyond standard pricing actually made it to the farm level. That is spread over six origin countries, by the way. It is something, yes, but once again, we think it can get a lot better.
Blanchard's Coffee Co. currently sources six different Direct Trade coffee varieties from five different countries. What is Direct Trade coffee? Pretty simple - we cut out the commodities market and all the middlemen and get as close to handing a farmer a wad of cash as possible. We work with three companies (Thrive Farmers, Sriwijawa Coffee and Tierra Alianza) to source our Direct Trade selections.
How does it work? These three companies all operate in a similar basic fashion - they either own or invest in farms with potential to produce top-end coffees. They work at the farm level to increase quality, sustainability and yield then they come back to craft roasters like Blanchard's Coffee Co. and sell directly.
What makes this better? For every single pound of Direct Trade coffee we purchase to roast, at least 75% of our purchase price goes directly into the farmers' hands. In context, that means if we buy and roast just two bags (300lb) of this coffee, which takes us about ten days, we have already surpassed the entire total farmer benefit for an entire year spread over six countries... FOR ONE FARMER.
The numbers, clearly, are staggering. Needless to say, given our mission of sustainability, we are pushing as hard as we can in the direction of Direct Trade coffee. The beautiful thing is that it barely affects the final price you pay at the store. Not only that, but these farmers are taking their earnings and investing them right back into their farms because they see how much easier it is to sell more coffee at better prices when the coffee is, simply, better; so your cup of coffee keeps getting better the more you support sustainability from soil to cup.
We really hope you'll join us in this movement.
With that said, here are our Direct Trade Coffees and a few places you can buy them:
San Rafael Urias Estate, Antigua, Guatemala
La Violeta, Tarrazu, Costa Rica
Organic Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic
Lintong Estate, Sumatra
Gayo Mountain, Gajah Estate, Sumatra
--more blends to come--
Ellwood Thompson Local Market
Dawson's Market (Rockville, MD)
The Blanchard's Coffee Co. Roast Lab
Select Kroger Locations
Whole Foods Market Short Pump
Crossroads Coffee, VCU
Last week we put out a newsletter with all the latest happenings and great news coming from Blanchard's Coffee Co. If you missed it, you can see it here (and you should definitely check it out).
So, if you did, in fact, miss our newsletter, that probably means you're not a member of our mailing list. I'm not really sure why that would be the case, but hey, everyone makes mistakes! The good news is, you can sign up here and never worry about missing out again!
Finally, we've said it before and we'll say it again; have a VERY HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!
July! Here already! Hard to believe, isn't it?
Well, we're pretty pumped about Independence Day - for the record, we'll be closed from 7/4 - 7/8 at the Roast Lab, but we will be at the South of the James Farmers Market, as usual.
Anyway, the 4th of July is one of our favorite holidays. I mean, come on, fireworks, cook-outs, summer, days off, ColdBrew, beer, friends and AMERICA - no brainer.
This year we decided to roast something special to celebrate how much we love the USA. We only roasted a small amount and we'll have it up for sale as long as we have it.
We call it: AMERICA BLEND ...duh.
It is a pretty awesome cup of coffee - bold, bright, full of flavor, intense - you know, all those things that make you think of love for your country. We totally dig it and we hope you'll snag some for your 4th of July festivities and beyond. Hint: AMERICA BLEND makes a stellar ColdBrew.
BUY SOME! And have a safe and happy 4th of July.
As many of you know, we recently held a pretty unique event here at the Blanchard's Coffee Co. Roast Lab. We teamed up with Grid Magazine, 804&1/2, Relay Foods and Thrive Coffee to hold a large coffee cupping for the purpose of using crowd sourcing to choose the next direct trade coffee and farm we would feature at Blanchard's. Additionally, that coffee will be featured in Grid Magazine's Makers series and we'll donate a portion of proceeds from sales to a local charity.
The event was a complete success. Nearly fifty coffee fans piled into the Blanchard's Coffee Co. Roast Lab and, after introductions, we dimmed the lights and talked, via Skype, with Raul Valdez of the San Rafael Urias Estate in the Antigua region of Guatemala. Raul's coffee was ultimately the favorite of the crowd compared to the excellent Costa Rican and Honduran coffees also on the list.
We had a blast and it was awesome to see so many folks coming together to cup coffee, especially sustainable coffee with direct ties and greater financial benefit to the farmers who grow it. We hope you'll enjoy some photos from the evening!
Malawi Washed AA Estate
I think it is a foregone conclusion that everyone likes a good compliment every now and again; we are certainly no exception. Recently, we've been noticing that one of our regular local customers has been ordering coffee to be sent to another gentleman out in Seattle--like, a lot of coffee. We didn't think a lot of it and just assumed it was a nice gesture to a friend or relative.
The other day, Woody, our local customer payed us a visit to pick up and order and share a note from his friend in Seattle. It seems they have been friends for years and the gentleman in Seattle used to be a Richmonder. I'd like to share what he had to say because it was incredibly kind and made us feel great.
"I am still very much enjoying the numerous coffees you sent my
We're glad you liked the coffee sir, and yes, the Mighty James is in much better shape these days! A big Thank You to our pal Woody, as well, for helping spread great, fresh roasted Blanchard's Coffee all over the country!