New Year, New Coffee! (Is that a thing? We're making it a thing.)
WE MADE IT! The old year has ended, and we have taken the first breaths of a new year. I know, I know, it's only the matter of a few hours, but the first day of a new calendar year feels different. It feels new. It feels hopeful. It feels like I need a cup of coffee. Out with the old, in with the...
Wait a minute. How do you find a new coffee that's, well, actually tasty? You could pick one at random off the grocery shelf like I used to: "Ooo, that red bag on sale looks interesting!" (Spoiler: it was not interesting. It was stale. That's why it was on sale.) You could hop on your favorite search engine and grab a 5 pound bag of something that comes with prime shipping. If it's good, hallelujah! Coffee for weeks! If not... time to scroll Pinterest for "ways to reuse coffee." I recommend pouring the beans in a glass jar and sticking a candle in the top. You're welcome. But I digress. Back to finding good, fresh coffee that doesn't have a promising future in home decor.
Starting next week, I will be introducing you to a new roast every week. All the coffee you find at Red Eye Bistro has been carefully curated (tasted and critiqued by actual coffee-loving humans) from small roasters in Tennessee.
Why small roasters?
Small roasters generally buy smaller lots of higher quality coffee. They can be very selective about what they get, when, from where, and how it's processed (more on all those variables in later posts). They also tend to have a more direct sales path, meaning less time between grower, roaster, and your mug. This means...
Not only do small roasters have the opportunity to shorten that time frame between farm and table, er, mug, in general, they can also get beans from their roastery to us coffee drinkers in short order. For many roasters, they ship their beans to customers with 3 days of roasting. Some ship next day or even the day of.
How does that compare to your average grocery store brand? Next time you scan the shelves on the coffee/tea/pasta aisle, notice the date a few bags of coffee. More often than not, you'll see a "sell by" or "best used by" date, not a "roasted on" date. That date may be about 3 months out from the day the bag hits the shelf. So? Does that really matter?
Coffee nerd moment. To be fair, how much it matters depends on what you're after. If your goal is a cheap bag of caffeine juice, you're better off buying whatever is on the weekly special. But if you're after flavorful coffee, freshness is going to matter. Coffee experts argue on the ideal time length between roasting and consuming coffee, but the general consensus is that between 2-9 days is ideal. Interestingly, that window of ideal tastiness stretches longer for lighter roasts, up to a month.
Regardless of roast level, ground beans lose flavor much more quickly than whole bean. For the best flavor, always grind beans right before brewing your coffee.
This final reason is huge for me personally and for Red Eye Bistro as a business. If you've followed us for any length of time, you may have seen the series we did on social media in 2019, just as the pandemic was shutting down businesses en masse for the first time. We spent a month featuring roasters, highlighting what they do so well, and telling our followers ways to help them make it through the economic hardship that came with the public health crisis. Why?
On a statistical level, when small businesses thrive, the economy thrives. For our favorite local businesses to survive and be the catalyst in economic recovery, we need to be intentionally patronizing them however we can. Helping small businesses helps us all. One could even argue it is our patriotic duty.
But that excuse is sterile and impersonal, true though it may be. Yes, we can support small businesses in the interest of economic recovery, but really, this is relational. What we all tend to love about small businesses is how they make us feel seen and heard. Whether they know us by name or not, they make us feel like they do. These are our neighbors. This is their livelihood. A $30 sale is a tank of gas in their car. Buying gift cards or subscription plan as a gift to a friend allows that business the confidence that they'll make payroll next month and won't have to lay off (more) employees. As world events have kept us reeling the last year, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. "So much is going wrong, and I'm just one person. What can I possibly do?" For Red Eye Bistro, one thing we can do to make a positive impact is to support our small business neighbors by using them as our roasters and vendors as often as possible. When you buy from us, you're supporting them also.
Back to that question of where to find new coffee. I will be highlighting a roast a week for the next several weeks, telling you all the juicy, mouthwatering details. If what I describe sounds like a coffee you MUST try (I'm betting it will), you'll be able to find it on Red Eye Bistro's shop. If you're impatient and need coffee now, you can hop over to the shop and start exploring for yourself. All the coffees you see there are from small roasters in Tennessee, shipping soon after roasting for optimal freshness.
One last thing: if you're keen on jumping down the rabbit hole of coffee from small roasters, there's a highlight reel titled #WhatsInYourMug on @RedEyeBistro's Instagram page. You'll see the names of dozens of roasters and roasts from across Tennessee, and one from California.
New year, new coffee! So, what's in your mug?
Amy, Founder of Red Eye Bistro