Tag Archives: education

Celebration Restaurant – Dinner with Dailogue

Monday, November 9, Celebration Restaurant  (4503 W. Lovers Lane) will be hosting their monthly Dinner with Dialogue event. This one is important to us because of the topic that will be covered, “Saving out Local Farmers’ Markets and Sustainable Agriculture in Texas.”  

Ed Lowe (owner of Celebration Restaurant) and Angela Hunt (District 14 councilwoman) are hosting this event and it is open to anyone. Guest speakers will be Pamela Walker, author of Growing Things to Eat, and Michael and Debby Sams, owners of Full Quiver Farms and Dairy.

The optional dinner will begin at 6 pm and end at 7 pm.  The presentations will last from 7 pm until 7:30 pm.  The dialogue will begin at 7:30 and the floor will be open for your questions and concerns.

To make reservations you can either call (214) 351 – 5681 or email Ed Lowe at edlowe@celebrationrestaurant.com.

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Save a Local Farmers’ Market & Save a Local Small Business!

I’m posting a letter that has been sent out concerning Local Farmers’ Markets.  It was written by Clyde Greenhouse, of Kessler Cookies (and me).  This is an important local issue for small business owners. 

Recently, the Celebration Restaurant Farmer’s Market was shut down by the City of Dallas for lacking the proper permitting.  And according to the manager of the food protection division, they intend to ‘root out’ other similar local Farmers’ Markets, like this one. 

The problem is this City Staff is supposed to be our servants.  They’re paid, by us, to benefit the public.  Often, they do this well.  But these Farmers’ Markets have been very popular, and the City Staff now finds itself in direct opposition to what the public seemingly wants.  It’s not feasible nor practicable for these markets to meet the permitting requirements, that were drawn up with nothing like them in mind. 

The claim is that they are protecting our food from a ‘strong possibility’ of cross-contamination and from wide-spread outbreaks of bacteria, etc.  Protection? Who defines ‘protection’, and when we need it?  Strong Possibility? Honestly?  How many small local farmers’ markets has this been a problem for?  And where do we draw the line on how much protection we need?  Can the city shut down my neighborhood backyard barbeque because I left my ketchup in an ice cooler as opposed to mechanical refrigeration.

Of course we want these markets to be safe!  Our business depends on that.  But at these markets, the owner and farmers are there…  they are present.  This isn’t McDonald’s or Tom Thumb, where the person serving you has no clue about the food they’re selling.  If you want to know how the farmer’s eggs have been stored, then ask him, or watch what he pulls them out of.  If you are not comfortable with his answer, then don’t buy it. 

Further information on the subject:

Celebration Market Info and Petition

Dallas Shutters Rogue Farmers’ Markets

Dallas News Article

Enough of my ranting… Here’s the letter, followed by short list of City Councilpeople,  please take some action with us:

Save a Local Farmers’ Market & Save a Local Small Business!

As small business owners in the City of Dallas, local farmers’ markets have provided us with an economical means of reaching potential customers in a very volatile business climate. As traditional methods of selling decline, local farmers’ markets have paved new avenues and bestowed a closer connection to customers. Going beyond the one-on-one with consumers, shopping at local farmers’ market benefits local businesses and strengthens our local communities. When you buy produce and products directly from a farmer or vendor, they benefit by cutting out cost like transportation and middle-men. These cost savings are reinvested in our local economy.

But now, local farmers’ markets are in danger of being shut down in the City of Dallas, as our antiquated permitting process has not caught up with the way we live today…locally. Please contact your City Council member and ask them to “quickly develop a permitting process to save our local farmers’ markets” and help save local small businesses.

Thank you for your support.

Clyde Greenhouse

Kessler Cookie Company

 

Shannon Neffendorf

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters

 

District 1 – Councilwoman Delia Jasso  (214) 670-4052

District 3 – Councilman David A. Neumann (214) 670-0776

District 14 – Councilwoman Angela Hunt (214) 670-5415

District 2 – Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano (214) 670-4048

District 13 – Councilwoman Ann Margolin (214) 670-3816

Labor Day in Austin – Local Coffee and Starbucks

From time to time, Jenni and I receive an envelope in the mail with a short note and newspaper clipping from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.  Her parents reside in Lubbock, and whenever her dad sees anything that might be of interest to us, he mails it our way.  Typically it’s a photo or story about someone we know, but most recently he sent us an article, by Jim Hightower, on a new concept that Starbucks is rolling out in attempt to ‘be local’.  This is just one of many ‘throw-it-atthe-wall-andsee-what-sticks’ corporate strategies they have executed in the past few years. 

Let me go ahead and say, I know many Starbucks’ bashers in the coffee industry, and I do not consider myself one of them.  Firstly, because I do not view them as direct competition to our business, as Starbucks competes more with the likes of McDonald’s than local high-quality roasters.  And secondly, because they helped to start the specialty coffee trend (before they diverted) that local roasters, like myself, are trying to implant and turn into something that is more than a trend. 

Now back to Mr. Hightower’s article, he explains that Starbucks, with their latest maneuver, is trying to fake authentic ‘local feels’ that many independent coffee shops create.  He asserts that it will fail because you cannot fake local.  According to Mr. Hightower, Starbucks hired market researchers to investigate and steal ‘community personality’ in other local coffee shops. 

He ends the article by contrasting Starbucks’ local approach with his nearby Starbucks, in Austin, that is adjacent to a Jiffy Lube.  He quips that it is seemingly functioning in a ‘symbiotic partnership’, which he calls a ‘poetic juxtaposition’.  The article is good and it poses an interesting question about the local movement, “Can you fake it?”  I am not sure I agree with the assertion that it is doomed to fail.  I have witnessed and read of uncountable ‘successful’ corporate deceptions in the coffee industry, and if anyone can pull it off, it is Starbucks.

Stay with me… this ties into my Labor Day trip, I promise.  This past weekend, Jenni, Blaise and I went to the Hill Country for a friend’s wedding, and we decided to extend it by a day or two and take our first mini-vacation since going to Panama last June (on a work-induced vacation).  You can imagine my excitement when, after blowing past our hotel’s exit, I hit a quick u-turn right in front of this poetic juxtaposition:

 

Jenni and Jiffybucks

Jenni and Jiffybucks

While in Austin, we were able to break away from the local Jiffybucks to visit some authentic coffee shops (which everyone should do when in Austin), so I’ll leave Starbucks alone for now… 

In Austin, many people know of Caffe Medici (which was good), but I had my first taste of two other shops that I really enjoyed, in particular.  Little City is on Congress near the Capital and Once Over Coffee Bar is on South 1st Street.  Rob, the owner of Once Over, was buzzing behind the bar, and he showed a much-appreciated intentional and methodical approach to his coffee brewing. 

Little City roasts their own beans (which will always get points in my book) and Once Over uses Cuvee Coffee (as does Caffe Medici and seemingly half of Austin’s coffee shops).  These two shops are definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in Austin.

Coffee’s Roast Date… Do You Know It?

One of the things that we do to promote excellent coffee-drinking is to stamp each bag of coffee with a ‘Roasted-On Date”.  It’s part of a committment to greater tranparency into our business and it gives you, as the purchaser, important information up which enables you to make a wiser purchase decision.  We believe every coffee roaster or coffee retailer should be able to tell you exactly when the coffee you are drinking was roasted. 

Coffee is not a product like milk, it will not sour or harm you if it is old.  It is a roasted product… comparable to baked bread, and it simply loses flavor and turns stale.   This fact enables most commercial coffee retailers to give you an expiration date that provides absolutely no valuable information.  Typically the expiration date is between 6 – 24 months from the roast date! 

Think about that…  You could buy a bag a coffee at the grocery store, then enroll in a junior college and graduate with your associate’s degree all before you reach the expiration date of that bag of coffee.  Does that sound tasty to you?

The biggest problem with all of this is that they do not tell you how far off the expiration date is from the actual roast date.  So you are left to guess or just grab a bag in ignorance.  Grocery stores are huge businesses, though, with a lot of inventory, so maybe we can overlook that and simply keep our expectations low about the quality of coffee it is possible to get at the grocery store. 

But what about coffee retailers?  Businesses who are supposedly primarily dedicated to this product.  Can they tell you when your coffee was roasted, so you can enjoy it somewhere during it’s peak of flavor (typically 3-14 days after roast)?  Ask them!  It is not an unreasonable question.  You wouldn’t buy month-old bread from your favorite bakery would you?  I know that I wouldn’t.

Transparency in business transactions is never easy, but it is necessary to run a respectable business with integrity.  We have had to give away (and rarely throw away) coffee that has gone too far past it’s roasted on date.  And we have no choice because the “Roasted-On Date” stamped on the bag is glaring at us… keeping us honest.  We do this because we want the best product to represent us and because we have a relationship with our customers that we value. 

So ask your coffee shop or coffee retailer when their coffee was roasted and expect an satisfactory answer!

Why Do You Only Sell Whole Bean Coffee?

“Why do you only sell whole bean coffee?  I don’t want to grind my coffee, but I’d like to support Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.” 

This is a question that we get from time to time in one form or another.  Lately, we have received quite a few emails or phone calls with similar comments.  I’d thought that I might address this in our blog, in order to have a better explanation than the brief one that we have on our website. 

Let me start by saying I appreciate the people who have called or emailed to inquire about pre-ground coffee and their desire to support us.  I am glad they took the time to find out why instead of simply writing us off.

We started this business, in part, because we are passionate about coffee.  We love it and we want people in our neighborhood to experience and appreciate good coffee, and it was impossible to get really good fresh coffee in Oak Cliff (unless you roast your own at home).  Coffee at our grocery stores and local restaurants are weeks if not months old and well-staled by the time we drink them.  So, we committed ourselves to changing that and offering customers fresh, high quality coffee that has been roasted within a day of when it arrives on their door. 

With our commitment to quality and freshness, we then had to address the question of convenience.  We knew that if we were truly committed to freshness and a quality product that we would be faced with turning down potential customers who wanted a convenient product.  Convenience can be a good thing, but it usually comes with a cost.  In the case of coffee, the cost is freshness and flavor. 

Coffee is a food product and, regardless of what the expiration date on a grocery store bag of coffee may tell you, it begins to stale with 2-3 weeks of roasting (in whole bean form).  But most coffees will date their expiration 6-12 months after roasting, and the coffee is usually stale by the time it hits the shelf.  Pre-grinding takes this to the extreme.  Once the bean is broken the coffee flavors begin to deteriorate within hours. 

If we were to pre-grind our coffee and then deliver it to our customers the coffee is already beginning to stale by the first time it is brewed and by the second or third time the staling process is more or less complete.  Therefore, we would be putting ourselves in the position of selling a stale product to our customers in the name of convenience.  Obviously, this is completely against our commitment to offering the best and freshest product that we can.  So we decided that we would be comfortable knowing that we will have to turn away some customers (even if we don’t like to) to dedicate ourselves to a great product. 

But we still would like everyone in Oak Cliff to enjoy our coffee.   So, in order to back up our commitment to good and fresh coffee, if you (or a neighbor) do not own a grinder but want to try great coffee, we will provide a blade grinder for free to anyone who subscribes to our delivery service.

We hope that you enjoy drinking our coffee as much as we enjoy roasting and delivering it to your door!

Grinding tip:  When brewing, if you measure your coffee in whole bean form before you grind it you can simply grind the coffee and dump the entire contents from the grinder into the brewing device.  This is much cleaner and easier, in my opinion, than measuring the coffee out after you have ground it. 

 

Going Beyond Fair Trade

The work and ministry of our friend (and distributor of our Guatemala Huehuetenango) has been featured in a recent article in Relevant Magazine.  Read the article here.  Also, click below to read more about the passion that created his coffee company.

Coffee Ambassadors Website

Coffee Ambassadors Website

Re-Education

Coffee is a product that has been the subject of a great deal of publicity and marketing over the past 100+ years, much of which has been deceptive and manipulative.  For years it has appealled to our slave-like love of the dollar.  This style of marketing has caused us to see coffee as a commodity and not a unique product that’s quality can vary greatly.  One of the reasons I started this blog is to help to educate our customers to good coffee and to begin to help us unlearn what American marketing has taught us. 

This re-education will be the subject of a series of upcoming blogs.  My desire is for our customers to understand what good coffee is.  This is important because it doesn’t just affect what we drink, but it affects millions of coffee farm laborers as well.  When coffee is turned into a commodity, our attention is focused on price because we have nothing, other than perhaps roast color, to base our purchase decision on.   The direct effect of this is for customers to buy the cheapest product available, which in turn encourages commercial coffee companies to put pressure on farmers and distributors to produce progressively cheaper coffee.  It’s easy to see how this progression can affect the lives of the laborers of less developed countries who have little in the way of human rights. 

What is a commodity, and how do we keep coffee from becoming a commodity? 

Merriam Webster defines a commodity as a mass produced, unspecialized product.  Almost any product can be made into a commodity, and commodities are very popular in America.  American culture values cheap repetitition with little regards to quality or character.  This why every town has a McDonald’s and a Wal-Mart.   And even though many people would admit to a disdain for both of these places, they continue to thrive. 

The best way to ‘un-commoditize’ a product is to expose the product’s identity.  If we think about coffee the way we think about wine we can begin to see this.  If it’s good wine, you don’t simply know the color and the country; you know the grape, the vineyard and the year it was harvested as well.  Coffee has an identity.  It has a region, a variety and a farm with laborers. 

As people begin to know the identity of coffees and experience the different tastes of these coffees, they may then begin to purchase specific coffees that suit their tastes or a certain ocassion.  The effect of this is that distributors will look for better coffees and, in return, pay farms for the quality of the bean rather than the quantity of the bean.  Good farms, like those we visited in Panama, then pay higher wages, because their quality is dependent on the effectiveness of the laborers. 

We desire to give our customers as much transparency as possible to know what they are purchasing.  I want us to be able understand and see the identity of coffees.    This begins my effort to expose coffee’s indentity and to help re-educate us on the product of coffee.