Caribou Coffee Rwanda Nyakarenzo

I was introduced to Caribou Coffee on my first trip to Minnesota eons* ago. 

*by eons, I just mean decades. Point being: this love affair has been going on for awhile.

I have yet to meet a Caribou coffee that I don’t like. Granted, I don’t think I’ve tried any of their dark roasts because, well, I hate dark roasts. I will suck it up for tasting purposes, but thankfully Caribou has a wide variety of coffees in medium and light roasts, so I haven’t needed to venture into the dark roasts yet. Regardless, I would wager that my excitement in seeing a Caribou cafe rivals that of any Minnesotan.

Unfortunately, I live in a place where Starbucks and Dunkin’ reign supreme. However, I have April who is awesomely diligent in sending me regular care packages of Caribou coffee delight!

This is one of my favorites. April sent it to me after a trip we took to Rwanda. In addition to the mountain gorillas, I totally fell in love with all the coffee I drank there. As such, I think she knew it was a safe bet that I would enjoy it. She was definitely not wrong! In fact, I’d probably rank it as my second favorite of all Caribou coffees–and I have tried a lot of types of Caribou (especially for a Texan who lives in NYC!).

According to Caribou, Rwanda Nyakarenzo is a light roast single origin coffee with notes of blackberry, cherry, and aromatic spices with a juicy citrus finish.

My Notes:

  • Brew method: pour over
  • Smells: berries and a hint of sweet orange and lemon
  • Tastes: blackberries, bright, smooth, with light mouthfeel
  • Finishes: a dry cherry finish with a hint of orange and lemon
  • Pairs: with everything. Okay, okay….it pairs well with breakfast pastries, like cinnamon rolls, cheese danish, doughnuts–you know, all the good stuff!

Sadly, this coffee had a limited run and is not currently not available. BUT before you yell at me for piquing your interest in an unavailable coffee, I am hoping beyond hope that–like most Caribou specialty coffees–this will make its way back into stores soon.

I know you’re still annoyed, but here’s a picture of a cute baby gorilla to make you forget allllll about the coffee!

Coffee Talk: Water

I find it ironic that of all the things that contribute to making a great cup of coffee, the most important ingredient is the one most people tend to overlook: water.

Photo by Pixabay on

Yep, water. Everyone likes to obsess over roast or grind or even brewing method, however, if your water isn’t good, then adjusting your grind, changing your roast, or upgrading your machine isn’t going to help you brew a better cup of coffee.

So what kind of water should you use? General consensus is filtered water because chlorine is the archnemesis of coffee. The only exception is espresso, where distilled is preferred as even small amounts of chlorine can bleach the crema (ewwww….no thank you!). Espresso aside, if your water is too soft, the coffee will be less flavorful and if it’s too hard, your coffee will taste minerally and bitter (and also your coffee machine will get clogged up quickly with build-up and scaling).

Of course taste is subjective, but if you never seem able to make that perfect tasting cup of coffee, try switching up your water. In fact, try several different types of water. Regardless of whether it’s distilled, purified, mineral, or even tap that you prefer, you’ll definitely taste the difference!

Grounds for Divorce

Java. Joe.  Espresso. Brewed. Latte. Cappuccino. Mocha. Drip. French press. Melitta.  Black. Breve. Cream. Sugar. Light & Sweet.  No matter how you serve it, coffee is definitely something I could NOT dream of living without.  With reckless abandon, I ignore any medical advice telling me to cut back.  I tried that once, with disastrous results (in a night my college roommate, Emily, and a poor waitress will never forget!).

Do you know what I love about coffee?  I mean, aside from that first sip that touches your soul and makes everything right with the world?

It is a great equalizer.  Everyone drinks coffee, loves coffee, needs coffee, hates coffee, or sometimes is just apathetic about coffee.  Regardless, everyone knows something/has an opinion about coffee and it has absolutely nothing to do with your socioeconomic status, the color of your skin, where you went to school, who you choose to love, or any thoughts you may have on religion.

In all my travels, I have yet to come across anywhere that does not have at least one coffee shop (even my tiny hometown smack dab in the middle of Texas).  There is a reason Starbucks is $80 billion company.  They are everywhere and always busy.  In airports worldwide, there is almost always a Starbucks—except perhaps Minnesota, where Caribou Coffee is king—and there is always a line. Even in Dubai airport, there is a Starbucks—and even at 2am there is a line of people getting coffee.

But it’s not just about the big guys.  And if you’ve come here because you love all things Starbucks and are hoping that I will extol the divineness of the lovely siren’s coffee, boy are you in the wrong place!  But stick around, you might find something you love more…or equally as well…or not.

Every where there are small artisan coffee shops popping up and building a loyal following—and they have been doing so since 1530, when the first coffeehouse appeared in Damascus.  By the late 1500s, coffee and coffee houses made their way to Constantinople, where it became such an integral part of life that a wife could divorce her husband on the grounds (pun intended!) that he did not provide her with an adequate supply of coffee!  I mean, it certainly would be for me!

So tell me, what are your thoughts on coffee?

Peet’s Luminosa Breakfast Blend

I happened across this delight during a layover at Houston Hobby. I let the barista pick my coffee asking only that she not select dark roast. Instead she went to the opposite end of the roasting spectrum and gave me a blonde roast. Certainly IMHO blonde roasts are a gazillion times better than dark roasts, however, sometimes they are too light and taste a bit thin. Certainly not the case with Peet’s Luminosa.

It is a blend of Colombian and Ethiopian beans, which, according to Peet’s, layers “subtle sweetness from Colombia with just the right touch of Ethiopia floral aromatics and a flavor profile of passionflower, stone fruit, and cacao.”

My Notes:

  • Brew method: commercial brewer
  • Smells: creamy with peaches and raspberries
  • Tastes: raspberries and chocolate, bright, smooth, with light mouthfeel
  • Finishes: chocolate with a hint of sweet smoke on the finish
  • Pairs: milk chocolate, especially a Snickers bar, cream pastries

As I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised with this coffee–both in terms of the depth of the coffee despite it being a blonde roast and that I found it at an airport, where I rarely have luck with ordering coffee. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who like bright and flavorful coffees.

Starbucks Guatemala Antigua

Because most of Starbucks coffees tend to be darker roasts (don’t get me started on their French roast!), there aren’t many Starbucks coffees that I like to drink regularly, especially since they took Kenya out of the line-up. But their Guatemala Antigua is always a go-to choice for me. It’s from the Antigua Valley and according to Starbucks it tastes like “lemon, chocolate and soft spice notes with an elegant mouthfeel unique.”

My Notes:

  • Brew method: pour over
  • Smells: raspberries, lemon, and chocolate
  • Tastes: raspberries and chocolate with medium mouth feel. As it cools, the chocolate and cardamom become more pronounced along with cinnamon
  • Finishes: lingering cardamom and lemon, but as it cools less lemon and more cinnamon.
  • Pairs: brownies, berry & cream tarts, French toast/waffles/pancakes

Overall, this is a great coffee for brunch–it’s strong enough to pair well with most brunch foods and yet mild enough not to overpower any of the flavors of the food. With their propensity to pull medium roasts when they feel like shaking things up, fingers crossed Starbucks leaves this one in the lineup.

Christmas Tidings

What are the holiday celebrations without a bit of imbibing in something decadent?

For me, aside from a well curated charcuterie board and cheese cake, this is means adding a bit of sumpin’ sumpin’ extra special in my coffee. Honestly it’s usually a nice pour of Kahlua with a splash of cream, but if you want it to be extra special you should try a traditional Irish Coffee, which brings both the decadence AND the sumpin’ sumpin’!

Since it’s Christmas and I’d like to get back to some decadent imbibing of my own, I thought I’d share with you a post I wrote several years back on EpicuriousTexan (click on the ET link to go back in time to the original post!) about some theories of the history of this popular drink, along with the all important recipe to make your own without even changing out of your jammies or leaving the house! Also now is the time to perfect yours because in exactly a month–January 25–it will be National Irish Coffee Day and time to show off your IC skills.

Until next time, Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Why Are Irish Eyes Smiling?

Because they have Irish Coffee!

What?  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Of course, everyone knows my position of coffee (nectar of the gods–in case you’re new here!), but when you add cream and whiskey, well, kids, it just becomes magical!

There are several theories as to who created this wonderful drink.  The most accepted theory was created in 1942 by Joe Sheridan who added whiskey to the coffee for passengers stranded at Foynes airbase.  When someone asked if the coffee was Brazilian, good ol’ Joe responded with “no, it’s Irish Coffee.”  He even coined the following when asked for the recipe:

Cream – Rich as an Irish Brogue  
Coffee – 
Strong as a Friendly Hand
Sugar – 
Sweet as the tongue of a Rogue
Whiskey – 
Smooth as the Wit of the Land.

Just don’t tell Joe Jackson that, he claimed to have created it year before Sheridan’s famous airbase interaction.  I personally think a nod to both Joes are in order, then again, maybe that’s why we call it a cup of joe?

With St. Patrick’s day only a day away, if you have never indulged in this delectable treat now it the time.  For the rest of us, Sunday brunch is as good of time as any!

How to make it?  Well, everyone tweaks it here and there, but the base is what good ol’ Joe Sheridan described.  The National Irish Coffee Day website breaks it down for us:

and in practical terms here’s how to make one:  Pre-heat a clear stemmed glass with very hot water. Empty the water, and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Now add some freshly brewed rich coffee and stir. As soon as the sugar is melted, add a generous measure of Irish whiskey (about 4 to 6 teaspoons). Stir again, and then wait for the brew to still. Now take a hot teaspoon and pour gently whipped fresh cream slowly over the back of the spoon. The cream should be not too stiff and not too liquid. A perfect Irish Coffee should look pretty much like that other famous Irish drink – Guinness! And remember never stir it because the coffee is meant to be enjoyed as you sip the warm, sweet nectar through the luxurious cream.

Speaking of National Irish Coffee Day, which is a real thing, it’s on January 25th–plenty of time to hone your Irish coffee making skills! Slainte!