Monday, April 15, 2019

Seed to Cup to Can: New Orleans Coffee Shop Doesn’t Have a Trash Bin?

by Emily Jean McCollister

HEY Coffee Co. is a New Orleans roastery and coffee shop producing high quality coffee with an emphasis on traceability from seed to cup to trash can. With two locations, one on Magazine St. and one on the Lafitte Greenway, the folks at Hey Coffee Co. are not your average micro-roaster. They are also a living example of a business that has an extremely low landfill dependency.

Photo: Emily Jean McCollister
Photo: Emily Jean McCollister

The discussion of “seed-to-cup” is a familiar one in the specialty coffee scene. Simply put, seed to cup is the consideration of coffee from a seed planted in a nursery, through growth, harvesting, processing, sorting, bagging, exporting and finally, roasting and brewing. Thinking intentionally about all the hands involved in those steps, and caring about their quality of life, a specialty coffee shop wants to present a cup to their customer that’s more than just coffee: it’s a story. Although many shops think critically about where their coffee and materials come from, very rarely do they think about where things go when we’re done with them.

Easily the most eco-conscious coffee shop in South Louisiana, HEY Coffee Co. strives to be more and more sustainable with every day that passes. In 2018, they were recognized by Rubicon Global as Best in Louisiana, they then advanced as national finalists alongside 14 other environmentally conscious businesses in the United States for Best Business in America

Photo: Emily Jean McCollister
Photo: Emily Jean McCollister

Tommy LeBlanc, one of the shop’s owners, started zeroing in on their composting program when he had difficulty with a city garbage contract in 2009. They began composting in partnership with Schmelly’s Dirt Farms. Today, nine years later, they have no trash can in either of their stores, at all.

Composting all food and coffee grinds is a radically positive environmental practice. Even if that were all a coffee shop did, it would have a dramatic impact. Food waste is one of the largest drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, when food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane - a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Embodying creativity, HEY Coffee Co. not only recycles and composts but also trades with local stores and secures homes for items like burlap and pallets, sending very little to the landfill.

Although LeBlanc has always been a nature lover who enjoyed camping and the great outdoors, he was once a standard American consumer. He certainly did not set out to operate an eco-friendly coffee shop when he opened Hey! Cafe. In 2009, he realized how incredibly dependent businesses were on waste pickup, and how much they were sending to the landfill. “We didn’t think about lowering our landfill dependency until the garbage company stopped picking up my trash, even though I was paying my bill,” LeBlanc remarked.

Through trying to get out of his contract with the waste disposal company he was using, he started research other waste disposal companies. “I realized that disposal companies are crooked. In addition to them being crooked toward me, they buy land near communities and essentially poison the areas nearby,” LeBlanc asserted, “In my research, I learned about all these lawsuits against waste companies and I wanted to challenge our need for them.”

Photo: Emily Jean McCollister
Photo: Emily Jean McCollister

Traditional to-go cups at coffee shops are not recyclable at all. Disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic polyethylene, which makes the cups waterproof and able to hold liquid. Offering an in-house option of reusable cups, plates and utensils, HEY Coffee Co. is able to cut down on the waste. If you need your coffee or food to-go, you’ll receive a compostable option.

In more recent years, the team at HEY Coffee Co. has set up their own sparkling water to run through a tap line, totally knocking out the need for bottles and the waste that accompanies that, especially because New Orleans does not recycle glass.

They receive their whole milk from Progress Milk Barn in glass containers that are picked up on delivery and reused. They provide non-dairy milk options, some of which they make themselves. 

Photo: Emily Jean McCollister
Photo: Emily Jean McCollister

The shop offers noodle straws, and a small stash of plastic ones, should you require one. They sell their roasted coffee in brown paper bags, they sell merchandise like coffee mugs and shirts, and they sell coffee equipment and even a few reusable containers.

The baristas sort waste in buckets behind the bar as they go. Removing the ability for a customer to accidentally sort incorrectly, and removing the weight of responsibility from their customers, they simply instruct you to place all your items in the bus bin. HEY Coffee employees sort out all waste at dish pit: compost, recycling, reusables, and landfill trash. 

Photo: Emily Jean McCollister
Photo: Emily Jean McCollister

Today, HEY Coffee Co. does it all. Their mission statement from their website reads as follows
“presenting the utmost in community, hospitality and quality while advocating for equity and environmental justice at all levels of the coffee industry through radical conservation and supporting sustainable, traceable and ethical farming practices.”

Treating every customer as a friend, LeBlanc is kind, quick to laugh, and easy to talk to. Incredibly gracious and unassuming, you would maybe never know the great strides they take to make HEY Coffee a shop with low landfill dependency. Considering every step from seed, to cup, to waste bin -- HEY Coffee Co. is a neighborhood eco-friendly hot spot in New Orleans.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wakey Whiskey: Glenfiddich 14-Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

By Eric Ducote

Good morning everyone, and welcome to a special International Whisk(e)y Day edition of #WakeyWhiskey!  International Whisk(e)y Day is celebrated every year on March 27th, which happens to be the birthday of Michael Jackson.  No, not that Michael Jackson, but the famous whiskey writer and beer hunter.  The day is celebrated in his honor in support of Parkinson's disease, so if you are feeling generous, maybe offer up a donation with your toast?  

To celebrate this year I figured I'd go international so I broke out a sample of Glenfiddich 14, which a little research tells me is a bourbon barrel reserve, aged 14 years in used bourbon barrels and then finished off in new charred American oak barrels.  It's not unusual at all for scotch to be aged in used bourbon barrels, but the finishing barrel is less common.  

The 14-year expression is bottled at 86 proof and available in 750ml bottles for usually around $50 if you can find it.  The scotch pours a deep golden hue, certainly not as dark as a bourbon that would have been aged 14 years, but darker than a typical Speyside scotch.  

Glenfiddich 14-Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The nose has a lot of honey, vanilla, and molasses, but not overly sweet.  The taste is smooth, with the oak coming through stronger then on the nose and a good char on the finish.  This scotch goes down easy, extremely pleasing, and I think a bourbon drinker looking to get into scotch would really enjoy this offering.  

Cheers! And happy International Whisk(e)y Day! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wakey Whiskey: St. Augustine Single Barrel Select Florida Bourbon

By Eric Ducote

Good morning everyone and welcome to 2019!  As if the dawn of a new year wouldn't be enough reason for a wakey whiskey, it's also LSU Gameday!  There are a few firsts going on in the game... it will be LSU's first ever Fiesta Bowl appearance, as well as the first ever meeting between LSU and UCF.  Going into this season, I'd have been thrilled with a Fiesta Bowl appearance, so this is the most excited I've been about a bowl game in several seasons.  

Back at Thanksgiving I was in Florida, obviously before anyone knew that it was going to be an LSU/UCF matchup, but I picked up a bottle of St. Augustine Distillery's Single Barrel Select Florida Straight Bourbon Whiskey from the Total Wine & More in Sarasota, Florida.  This is a 96 proof straight bourbon (aged at least two years) blended and bottled exclusively for Total Wine & More.  According to the employees I talked to, St. Augustine Distillery is the only distillery in the state that distills, ages, and bottles their own bourbon.  I saw a few other sourced options from the state, but ultimately settled on this barrel pick.  

St. Augustine Single Barrel Select Bourbon

Although this bourbon doesn't have a distinct age labeling, it must be at least 2 years old to be labeled as straight, and the darker color makes me think that it's mostly older.  It could also be aged in smaller oak barrels which increases the surface area to volume ratio which accelerates the maturation process.  The result is a darker deep caramel colored bourbon that has an incredible oakey aroma with hints of vanilla and molasses.  The flavor is well developed, with strong oak flavors, a pleasant backing of sweetness, and a clean finish.  This drinks like an older mature bourbon, which is a fantastic compliment.  I had never heard of St. Augustine Distillery before, but if you find yourself in Florida and see some, don't hesitate to make a purchase.

Cheers, and GEAUX TIGERS! 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Feature Beer Friday: Melvin's 2X4 Double IPA

By Eric Ducote

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Feature Beer Friday!  This might be my last one for a few weeks due to upcoming knee surgery, but it certainly won't be my last post ever.  This week's feature is the 2X4 DIPA from Melvin Brewing out of Alpine, Wyoming.  I found a selection of their beers last weekend in Florida at a Total Wine store.  Apparently Total Wine in Florida contracted with Melvin a large enough order to make a one-time distribution to the state.  A pretty good idea if you ask me, if the demand is there for a certain brewery and that brewery can meet the supply, why not make a special order?  

Melvin Brewing started off as a nanobrewery in the back of a Thai restaurant and has grown into a powerhouse in the NW part of our country.  The 2X4 DIPA, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012 to really put Melvin Brewing on the map nationally.  It's a 10% ABV, 100+ IBU beer loaded with American hops such as Columbus, Centennial, Citra, and Simcoe.

Melvin Brewing's 2X4 DIPA

The first thing I notice is the slight haze to the pour.  This is certainly not brewed in the NEIPA style, but it's not filtered clear either.  It's a little on the copper/orange side for color, with as you can see a prominent frothy head.  The aroma is pure hop joy, with pine notes coming through strong as well as citrus.  It's an excellent blend of hops, with multiple layers of flavor shining through, and that extends to the taste as well.  The malts are there, but they lay low and allow the hops to shine through, with even more pine and citrus flavors bursting through every sip.  This is a phenomenal DIPA, and I feel like it really serves as a bridge between the old school malty IBU heavy double IPAs and the trendy hazy NEIPAs.  This beer really allows the hops to shine through without making them the only performer in the show.

I know this one won't be easy to find around Baton Rouge, but if you do see some or get the chance to try it, don't pass it up.  Cheers! 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wakey Whiskey: Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon

By Eric Ducote

Good morning everyone and a happy last (regular season) LSU football gameday to you all!  Not too long ago I saw a post on social media about the old fashioned cocktails at Mouton at White Star Market being fantastic and being made with Old Forester, so when I saw some Old Forester on the shelf when out running errands last weekend I decided it was a good time to grab some and give it a try. 

Old Forester has been around since 1870 and makes the claim to be the first ever bottled bourbon.  It's distilled in Louisville, Kentucky and is owned by Brown-Forman, one of the largest American companies in the alcoholic beverage industry.  Among their brands are Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Coopers' Craft, Korbel, and many more throughout the industry.  The company started in Louisville with the Old Forester label and obviously has grown significantly since then. 

Old Forester Classic 86 Proof Bourbon

This particular whiskey is the Old Forester Classic 86 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  It's the base expression of Old Forester bourbon, and as usual I gave it a first try neat.  The aroma is pretty strong, a burn stronger than expected for 86 proof with notes of oak, vanilla, and a floral character.  The taste is sharp as well, with a noticeable alcohol burn and a good bit of sweet corn flavor to go with the oak.  Honestly, I'm not a fan of this one as a neat sipper.  

After a glass of Old Forester neat, I checked on what I had on hand to make a cocktail and gave it a bastardized attempt at an old fashioned, with some cherries and simple syrup.  As a cocktail bourbon, this definitely comes closer to hitting the mark, the strong flavors come through but blend well with the rest of the cocktail to give a distinct bourbon flavor without being lost in the mix.

With that, the regular season editions of #wakeywhiskey is over, so let's all hope for an LSU win tonight, and look forward to some holiday and bowl game wakey whiskeys in the near future!