Friday, March 19, 2010

March Sip n Stitch

By now most of the March Sip n Stitch packages should have arrived and so I'd like to take a moment to share some information about the coffee company we selected for this month and the colorway inspiration. If you haven't received your package yet and don't want to be spoiled, please stop reading now!

The coffee roaster we selected for this shipment is Counter Culture Coffee located in Durham, NC. They are the largest of the roasters we used, but still only have about 30 employees and the owner is directly involved in every batch of coffee they roast. In addition to the roasting facility in Durham, Counter Culture has training centers in Asheville, Atlanta, Washington, NYC, Charlotte. And every Friday at 10am at all of their training centers they offer free cuppings. If you are near one of these locations, or will be traveling near one, I highly recommend that you spend a Friday morning tasting coffee with them. I did and I learned so much. I had no idea that the "cupping" process was so involved and was surprised at how difficult it was for me to put names to the smells and flavors of the different coffees. I think its something that you get better at with experience! But even though I had a hard time identifying the "notes of oak wood smoke" or "sweet, syrupy fig" I can tell you that all the coffee was GOOD! After going through the multi-step tasting and smelling process we compared notes- it was fun to see what other participants tasted or smelt in the same coffees-- things I never would have thought of but, in retrospect, were perfect descriptions!

Since I did my cupping at the Durham location we also got a tour of the roasting facility. Its so neat to see the big bags of green beans, bins of freshly roasted coffee and imposing roasting machines. I was impressed to find out that most of their coffee is shipped or picked up the same day as its roasted. You can't beat that for freshness!

All of the employees I talked to were so friendly and welcoming and seemed so passionate about the company and the product they produce. As I was leaving the owner was clearing off space in the cupping room for their weekly potluck lunch. If I ever decide to get out of the dyeing business, I know where I'll be sending my resume!

So now lets talk about the coffee we selected. All the Counter Culture coffees are great so I knew I couldn't really make a bad choice. We selected Valle del Santuario for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, its a great coffee. One of my all time favorites. Even the decaf version is good. It has just become available for the season so the beans are at their very best. I also love that it comes from a small community in the middle of nowhere in Peru. Because of their size and location these coffee farmers would likely be overlooked or underpaid by larger coffee companies but because Counter Culture is committed to the principles of fair trade we can be certain that the coffee farmers are being respected and fairly paid for their high quality product.

Since this coffee comes out of Peru, I thought I'd use the beautiful traditional clothing of the indigenous people to inspire the colorway. If you do a google image search for "Quechua" you'll find many examples of the clothing I'm talking about. This is one of my favorites since it also includes a llama. Traditional Quechua clothing usually has a deep red or magenta as the primary color with accents of teal, green, yellow and blue. You may find that some areas are lighter than others, this is on purpose as I was trying to get that worn, homespun look.

You can see a few more photos from my cupping and tour here. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

And the Winners Are...

Thanks to everyone who commented. It was so fun reading your ideal coffee sipping scenarios and dreaming of my own!

Our randomly selected winners are "Loren" and "InkDarkMoon". If you guys could make it easier on me and send me an email with your real names, I'll send your coasters right out!


Monday, December 14, 2009


By now you've probably finished off the bag of coffee you received (or in my case, emptied out several) and maybe even cast on with your yarn. And you are probably thinking that the fun is over until your next package arrives in January. But if so, you'd be wrong, because now its time for a contest! When I saw this coffee themed fabric on one of my many recent trips to the fabric store (several of this year's Christmas gifts are sewn) I couldn't resist buying a bit to make coasters. The coasters are crazy quilted out of 100% cotton with a layer of batting to make them heat and moisture absorbent. I'm going to divide the 4 coasters into two sets so that we can have two winners, so each winner will receive two coasters.

To enter, leave a comment on this post sharing with us your ideal coffee sipping scenario. It can be every-day ordinary or something that would only happen in a dream, use your imagination. This Friday we will randomly pick two winners from the comments.

Contest is only open to current Sip n Stitch members. You can leave as many comments as you want, but you'll only be entered in the drawing once.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Joe van Gogh

Our first coffee selection is the Holiday Blend from Joe van Gogh. Joe van Gogh is the coffee that we most often drink at my house. We are fortunate to have such a great coffee roasted right down the road from us. The Joe van Gogh roasting facility is 4 miles from my house and our local coffee shop stocks Joe van Gogh beans exclusively, plus its available in bags at all the nearby grocery stores. It may be a bit harder to find for those of you outside of North Carolina, but thankfully they have an online shop!

On a quest to find out more about Joe van Gogh I visited their roasting facility. I'm not sure what I was expecting- perhaps something like the large wineries I've taken tours of. Large stainless steel machines, towering stacks of boxed beans. Workers in plastic coveralls and booties. But what I found was a casual space filled with the aroma of roasting coffee that, other than the smell, reminded me quite a bit of my own studio! Everything was clean and tidy, of course, but without feeling cold and impersonal. The main roasting machine would look more at home in a museum or collector's gallery than an industrial factory and instead of regular staff break room there was an impressive collection of espresso machines! The day I visited was crisp and sunny with the natural beauty of early fall and one of the walls was opened up to let in the fresh air and sunshine. It amazes me that all the coffee beans that I have enjoyed so much have come from this small warehouse with its piles of bagged beans and its two roasting machines. Somehow its comforting to know that my coffee spent a time in a place that clearly encourages its employees to enjoy their craft and explore the beauty of coffee.

I was also able to get an interview with Robbie, the owner and master roaster.

Me: Can you tell us a little bit about how Joe van Gogh got its start?

Robbie: My friend and I started the first coffee roasting company in Raleigh in 1991. I landed in Greensboro with my own roasting company in 1994 and what we’re doing now is the evolution of that. We got here by way of Chapel Hill and now have stores in Durham as well. (my note: these are all cities in central North Carolina)

Me: How would you describe Joe Van Gogh’s values or motto?

Robbie: We want to be genuine in our artistry and in being a part of our local community.

Me: What do you hope to see in the future for Joe Van Gogh?

Robbie: We want to continue to grow and keep getting better at what we do. We’ll continue to seek out new and exciting coffees, learning and relearning about the coffee and how to do justice to each farmer’s work. We’ll enjoy working with other small business owners to help them and share with them the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through almost 20 years in the industry.

Me: Do you have a favorite type of bean?

Robbie: It changes with different crops but natural processed Ethiopians are always near the top of the list.

Me: What is your personal favorite roast?

Robbie: The one I’m doing right now! It depends on whether I’m in the mood for espresso or filtered coffee that morning. (My Note: this sounds familiar- its like asking Kelly or I what our favorite colorway is-- which everyone we are working on at the moment!)

Me: Do you visit the coffee farms?

Robbie: Yes, but not often. Every couple of years we make rounds to some of our favorite farms and continue to build on the relationships we’ve earned.

Me: Where/How did you learn to roast?

Robbie: I learned to roast at the roaster in the coffeehouse, day by day, roast by roast.
Roast it, drink it, change it the next day!

Me: Which of your coffees goes best with chocolate?

Robbie: Café Femenino Peru can be a chocolate lovers bomb. Almost any coffee will go great with chocolate! (my note: this is one of the coffees that we frequently buy from our local coffee shop. I've never tried it with chocolate but now I'll have to!)

Me: What is your personal favorite coffee drinking scenario?

Robbie: Getting off a plane in Milan and going to the first bar I can find and having an espresso every three hours thereafter! Cappuccinos for breakfast of course.

Me: Is there anything else we should know about Joe van Gogh or artisanal coffee in general?
Robbie: We roast every batch by hand –that is to say there is a roast master minding the coffee as it goes through the development and deciding when to call it done.Fresh coffee is the best coffee. And so we’re committed to roasting small batches to order and working with seasonally fresh green (raw) coffees. Roasting coffee truly is both an art and a science and we hold true toour passion for quality coffee….roast it, brew it, share it!

Now that you know a little bit about the company that roasted your coffee, I'd also like to tell you a bit about the coffee itself. The Home for the Holidays 2009 Blend was just released earlier this month and will only be available through the holiday season. It is a melange which means that it is a mix of darker and lighter roasts designed to bring out the flavors of the beans. If you sip it slowly you'll notice hints of cinnamon and chocolate - perfect for this time of year! But there is more to this coffee than just the great flavor. 10% of net profits of every bag sold are donated to the local branches of Habitat for Humanity. And like most Joe van Gogh coffees it also supports the people who grew the coffee beans. Unlike many larger commercial coffee brands which take advantage of the desperation of third world coffee growers, Joe van Gogh is careful to maintain positive relationships with their coffee farmers and go above and beyond what is required for Fair Trade certification. The Home for the Holidays 2009 Blend supports the coffee farmers of Nahuala, Guatamala as part of the Cafe Femenino Project. These female coffee growers use the sales of their coffee beans to support their communities and build schools and fund environmental projects.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mug Cozies

While you wait for the first shipment to arrive, why not get your mug ready by knitting it a warm and cozy coffee mug wrap? There are numerous free and for sale patterns available but my personal favorite is Danido Crafty's version. They are quick to knit out of dk or worsted weight yarn and work wonderfully for those little bits of handspun that are too precious to throw out. I apply little dots of puff paint to the back side to help grip the mug since most of my mugs are hand thrown and unevenly shaped. And I have to admit, one of my favorite things about this pattern is that it gives me an excuse to dig through my collection of old, mismatched buttons or the button bin at the craft store for the perfect button to seal the deal!

If you prefer a handle cozie, Danido has a pattern for that as well! I tend to cup my mugs in both hands for a full body coffee experience, so the mug wrap works best for me but if you are more of a little-finger-in-the-air-sipper then the handle sweater may be your cup of tea, er, coffee.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Welcome Sip 'n Stitchers! November will be here before we know it and with it will come our first shipment. I am busy coordinating all the yarn, fiber and coffee goodness and really looking forward to the official start of this club. Most of our clubs tend to be pretty chatty which makes them even more fun- we get to know you and vice versa but you also get to know your fellow club members and I know many of our club members have remained friends even after the club has ended. To make chatting easier, we have created a Ravelry group. We encourage you to use it and to feel free to start your own discussion threads. Kelly and I are both on Plurk and spend a lot of time chatting there with many of our customers. If that's your type of thing, we encourage you to join us there as well. Kelly is "Liisu" and Laura is "Painty" on Plurk. We can't wait to get to know you better!