Friday, January 31, 2014


Oh Ula, how I love thee.

 I wish I lived closer to Ula Cafe, and if I am ever in the area, I always make sure I make a pitstop.

Ula Cafe is located in "The Brewery" complex,  an awesome nook in Jamaica Plains, MA, that was constructed by the JPNDC, a neighborhood development corporation.  Ula has been around for 7 years, and is a neighborhood staple.  It's a perfect spot for local businesses people, community members, non-profits, and students to meet up, which ties into their mission: to provide an inviting and comfortable space for the community to gather.  And that it is. It's an awesome space.

To me, Ula is the "trifecta" of a cafe that I want to frequent.  Highlight 1 is their space. Big, winding, and sunny, with plants and art displayed from local artists.

Highlight 2: besides the great space, Ula has another factor that keeps it's customers happy, both regular customers and new.  Besides tasty coffee and tea, with seasonal and inventive "guest drinks," they offer amazing food: both savory sandwiches and soup, and pastry, which is all made in-house.  That's right.  They have a whole back-of-the-house team that cranks out some delicious stuff- they pastry cases are always full and wonderful.

Which leads me to highlight number 3: the staff.  The staff at Ula are incredible.  New Harvest goes up to Ula every few months to train new staff members on the espresso machine, and since day 1 for me, it has always been a pleasure the meet the new people they bring onto their team.  There is a trend :  straight-up  friendly, engaging, interesting people.  They are the best, which says a lot for the space as a whole.  When places have a friendly staff that also get along with each other, that attitude in contagious.  Their mission is to provide a "fun, welcoming atmosphere for the locals," says manager Gray, and it certainly is that!


Check out ULA's website and blog, and "like" them on facebook : they post daily about what their specials are and upcomming events, like their new Open Mic Night on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, as well as a New Harvest public cupping on March 4th!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Big East Barista Competition

Big news in the coffee world coming up!  The Big Eastern Barista Competition is happening next weekend, January 17-19th.   This is a part of coffee culture that is awesome, and many times, is either unknown, or laughed at when someone hears about it for the first time.  However, this year is HUGE for New England, especially PROVIDENCE, as we have 2 competitors using New Harvest Coffee, and a few other familiar Providence faces competing this year!

So what is a Barista Competition?

   Described on the USBC website, "The United States Barista Championship (USBC) is a platform for baristas to enhance their espresso beverage making skills through an exciting and challenging competition. In 15 minutes, the barista must prepare and serve espressos, cappuccinos, and a personally designed signature beverage for four sensory judges; all while being assessed on their preparation abilities by two technical judges. The USBC is more than a competition; it’s a place to develop community and meet other coffee lovers from across the US. Throughout the year, baristas from all across the country compete in six regional competitions to qualify for this national event and the winner of the USBC will go on to represent the United States in the World Barista Championship (WBC)"

It is not just pulling some espresso shots-  it is crafting exceptional drinks, consistently, while keeping your station clean and preparing your espresso by strict SCAA standards, while being watched by technical judges on your every move, while talking to the sensory judges, who will be tasting and judging your drinks, about anything and everything about your coffee, while being timed, and filmed, and having an audience watch you...  and be charismatic and not look flustered...

 WHEW!  It is intense.

My favorite performance is from last year by  Matthew Perger, Australia's Barista Champion.  To get an idea of how in depth these competitions go, check out his performance via youtube:        


 (judges watching intently at his every move!)

As you can see, this takes skill, passion, and PRACTICE!

I had the fantastic opportunity this past week to help our East Coast competitors get some competition insight.  The event was hosted by the espresso machine company Nuova Simonelli , who also sponsors the USBC and WBC events, and by InterAmerican coffee.  Todd Mackey (of InterAmerican/ Coffee Solutions) and Luigi Barber (of Nuova Simonelli) had this idea to get the competitors together for a day of intense preparation.  Gerra Harrigan (InterAmerican) put the event together and asked for the help of some industry professionals:

Katie Carguilo, our USBC Champion last year, who works for Counter Culture Coffee.  Her performance was groundbreaking, and you can read about it here

Dan Streetman, who is the VP of Wholesale & Green Coffee Buyer at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, and has an impressive resume of being a past chair of the Barista Guild of America and a USBC Head Judge. 

Kari Guddek, from Wicked Joe Coffee and Bard Coffee from Portland, Maine, who also has involement in the SCAA and is a USBC Head Judge. 

Too boot, this event was held at Thee Red Fez in downtown Providence!!  (Giant THANK YOU!)


Competitors got time on the same machine and grinder that will be used at competition, and 15 minutes to have their espresso tasted and discussed by the people listed above, who also gave competitors a play by play of the score sheet that they will be judged on.

Then, competitors "cupped" their espresso-  we brewed the coffee and tasted it together to talk about flavors, balance, body, acidity- which might taste differently brewed as coffee than as espresso.  This helped competitors taste a side of their espresso they might not be familiar with- knowing your coffee in and out is necessary for competition!

This is not from the event, but is what a "cupping" looks like

Competitors then got a public speaking class to help with the presentation side...  then there was a great dinner and THEN the first Providence Coffee Society throwdown of the year!!

Our usual Throwdown, with a twist!  Competitors had to make competition style cappuccinos, using a technique called "Milk Sharing," where you steam one pitcher to make the two drinks-  it can be tricky!  Competitors were then judged on contrast, symmetry, and foam texture of the two drinks by Todd Mackey, Dan Streetman, and Rob Stephen (InterAmerican Coffee) 

It was a great day PACKED with great tips and lots of coffee tasting- a fantastic opportunity for the competitors.  I was very happy to be a part of it!

(will one of these be coming back to Rhode Island!?)

Mark your calendars! Although the event takes place in Durham, North Carolina, they are live streaming the competition!!

(especially our PVD crew- past and present!)

for more throwdown events, "like" us on

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ask New Harvest: Caffeine in Light Roast vs. Dark Roast

I am very happy to be starting new bi-weekly (when possible) blog posts about YOUR coffee questions!

This idea started recently when a friend of mine tweeted @nharvestcoffee and asked about dark roast coffee.  Many people have heard that dark roasted coffee actually contains less caffeine than light roast.  His question was, if you want lots of caffeine with a dark roast coffee, do you have to add more coffee than usual?

I want to note, as I will with many other posts, that when it comes to coffee, I am not a scientist, nor are many coffee theories scientifically proven.  Even googling this question, you are bombarded with many different theories on this question.  So I would like to answer on a basic level and hope it gives some insight!  

So, the question:

Does dark roast coffee contain LESS caffeine than light roast.

For background knowledge, to put it simply, it is what it sounds like: light roasted coffee is coffee roasted for less time, dark roasted coffee was roasted for longer (hence the smokey, roasty flavor notes).

Let’s not focus on what is going on inside the bean with these different roast levels, and instead, look at the outside, or physical appearance. Light roasted beans are slightly smaller and denser than their dark roasted counterparts, who come out of the roaster slightly more puffed up and lighter in weight.  Think popcorn.
Light roast on left, dark roast on right. 

And here is where our question is “answered.”  Dark roasted coffee beans are larger and weigh less, so if you were to use a 1 cup measuring cup, and scoop out a level 8 ounces of light roast coffee and  a level 8 ounces of dark roast coffee… voila!  There is actually LESS dark roasted coffee in that 8oz cup. Make sense? Although it looks like the same amount of coffee visually, there are less dark roast coffee beans due to their size and density.  If you were to brew those 8oz. samples and test the caffeine levels in the brewed coffee, MORE caffeine would be in the light roast as opposed to dark roast ( because there was actually more coffee in the 8oz. of light roast)

Here’s the thing.  Many places weigh their coffee.  I first encountered this while bagging coffee as a new New Harvester.  A pound of light roasted coffee fit into our one pound bags perfectly, with just enough space to roll down the top of the bag a few times and give it a nice presentation.  However the dark roasts always filled up the bag more, giving you only an inch of wiggle room to roll the bag down to make it look nice.  What’s going on? I put the same amount of coffee in the same size bag! Why is the French roast SO full??

It’s because of what we are talking about here, and it applies  to brewing.  When we brew coffee at New Harvest, we weigh out our coffee whole bean before grinding.  Here is a picture I took of 23 grams of a light roast coffee and 23 grams of a dark roast coffee in a drinking glass, which conveniently had lines on it…

Light Dark

It’s the same weighed amount of coffee, but there is slightly more dark roast coffee in that sample.  Now, if we were to brew these two samples, we would end up getting pretty much the same amount of caffeine in our cups! Because there are “more” coffee beans in our dark roast sample, but that equals the same  weight, so the same amount of caffeine content as our light roasted sample.  

So it’s actually not what is going on inside the bean, but more the fact that the caffeine is more spread out in the bigger, less dense dark roasted beans.  Thinking of it as the amount of surface area helps, too.  And when you are going to most cafes (or brewing at home with a scale!) this would be the result you would be getting : if it is weighed out it is going to be the same amount of caffeine.

Now with most coffee questions, this opens Pandora's box:  but what’s happening with the caffeine inside the bean when roasting?  Or the variety of bean?  What about grind SIZE!? etc, etc.  All of these are valid questions, however, the measurable impact of the caffeine difference will have on your body is tiny.   The most important thing is to enjoy whatever coffee you prefer!  If you are looking for that extra boost, have another cup!

If you have any other coffee questions, tweet them to @nharvestcoffee, or post on our facebook page.  Ana will post a quick response, but it could turn into a whole blog post!

Thanks for reading!