Monday, November 28, 2016

Mood & Mind - Asheville, North Carolina -

Mood & Mind is a company that has not seen the last of me. I am a person who enjoys variety and doesn’t just want to try one thing from one company. I believe that businesses are about more than one product they sell. There’s a reason why they have so many products in their inventory. Each product says something about them and all the products put together tell the whole story. I want to hear the whole story. I don’t want one piece of it. The story is so much more complex when you’re dealing with coffee or tea companies.

I enjoyed every single tea I received from Mood & Mind. Their teas are fragrant and taste even better than they smell. They have teas for calming you down and teas for picking you up. They even have an instant coffee drink that pulled off the impossible. It made me want to drink something with instant coffee for the first time in my life. From the moment I tried this concoction, I made it a point to mix it with every cup of coffee thereafter. This mixture produced a cup that was like a mocha coffee with some spice undertones. I found it to be quite addictive.

I love doing business with companies that sell a wide range of a particular product. Mood & Mind fits the bill as a one stop shop for tea lovers. They have their teas and accessories like their travel cup, which I love, and their Tea Man tea infuser, which I also love and have a hard time getting away from my children. I would love to tell you about some of their other products, but I haven’t tried them. I would love to do so and turn that experience into a follow-up piece.

I don’t write reviews with the idea of them being one shot profiles in mind. I aspire to follow companies throughout every step of their progression. I feel like there are great things coming for Mood & Mind. I’m hoping that the support they receive grows exponentially going forward. I know that I will be paying attention to what they do regardless of whether they decide to establish a long-term relationship with me. You should check them out right away if you haven’t done so already. Pick up a bag of tea or two. Their products make wonderful gifts at any point during the year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

On Chain Restaurants/Coffee Shops and Your Freedom of Choice

I hate going to chain restaurants because they’re not accountable. Their corporate structure diverts any pressure away from decision makers to people who work in the individual locations. These individuals might have the best of intentions, but they’re not given the power to solve any real problems. Corporate demigods make halfhearted efforts to please people who are unhappy with them. We take these advances hook, line, and sinker, filling out their feedback forms and getting lost in their endless phone banks in the hopes that something productive will happen. Nothing ever happens and we’re left as unhappy as we were when the process started.

Why do we keep returning to these places? They have perfected a formula that maximizes their profits, which is understandable since they’re running businesses; however, this formula can be reached with sacrificing the quality of the product in the process. That’s not something that most chain restaurants are interested in doing. They feel like their product is high quality, even if the public is saying otherwise. Their bottom line is telling them that they’re doing great, so that’s the only thing they worry about. We make it so they don’t have any other worries.

We need to stop complaining about businesses online and start taking our business to the independent restaurants that need it. The same goes for coffee shops. Instead of going to Starbucks, you should go to an independent coffee shop and buy a cheaper, higher quality cup of coffee. Every major chain restaurant or coffee shop started as a hole in the wall place struggling to gain footing. We complain about not having alternatives when there are so many alternatives around us. If we don’t like Starbucks, we could go to another coffee shop and make them the new Starbucks.

I would never say I hope for the downfall of all the major chains. I go to them from time to time because there are so many around. You can’t drive down the street in most cities without tripping over a handful of Starbucks locations. That’s how they get you. Major chains know that you’re strapped for time, so they crowd the landscape until you see far more of them than their competitors. Look beyond the hoard of cookie cutter establishments and go off the beaten path. Never rest or settle until you have an experience that makes you a satisfied customer.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sweeto Burrito - Riverdale, Utah -

Sweeto Burrito and I have a complicated relationship. I had no knowledge of them prior their opening in Riverdale, Utah, a city that was once around the corner from where I lived. I jump at the chance to try anything new, especially when it comes in the form of something I enjoy eating or drinking.

I followed their Facebook page leading up to opening day. I was surprised to find out that they were having a first come, first serve event to introduce themselves to the public. I went to their event way before it was set to open. I arrived to find a parking lot full of people and cars 30 minutes to an hour before they were set to open their doors. I am a patient guy, so I thought I could squeeze in. I didn’t care if I had to wait for a long time. I was in it for the long haul.

I walked up to their door. Before I could reach for the handle, a woman on the other end opened it for me. She asked if I was here for the event and I told her that I was. She first says that the wait was between 30 minutes to an hour. I have waited that much before, so I didn’t care. I told her that was fine. An annoyed look came over her face. She quickly said “Well, we’re full in here” and told me that I should return on opening day.

I was livid. I went to their Facebook and bombarded them with all sorts of negative comments. I went overboard. I have a tendency to do that. I am trying to get better at that, but that’s another matter altogether. I just feel strongly that any company who sets out to serve the public should treat the public with a tremendous level of respect. I felt disrespected and I wanted them to know that. They got the message.

Their reply was very nice. They wanted to make it right and offered to provide me with lunch at no cost. I took them up on their offer and came back shortly after their location finally opened. I kind of liked what they gave me. I vowed I would come back later on.

A few months later I returned to order some of the other items on the menu. The food was wildly inconsistent, leaving my mouth confused in the process. I was left to struggle with the idea of coming back for a third visit or ditching the idea of Sweeto and me reconvening in the future. I forgot about this dilemma until my wife brought up the idea of getting one of their breakfast burritos a little while after that.

This is where things went south. My wife was not pleased with what we got from this visit. I liked it and became a fan of Sweeto because of it. I stopped going there because the people around me didn’t share this notion. I have this thing where I can’t bring myself to order food from a place when I know that I’m the only person who’s going to be eating it. I want to eat with other people.

I would love to open a formal line of communication between myself and Sweeto Burrito to initiate a formal review. We got off on the wrong foot and my past actions were regrettable. I am hoping that we can put these times behind us and become great friends going forward.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hopped Up Coffee - Fort Collins, Colorado -

Hopped Up Coffee from Flat Hat Coffee and Old Town Spice Shop completely changed my world. Naturally, as someone who has a coffee blog, I have tried more types of coffee than I can count. Most of the coffee I've tried smells, looks, and tastes like how I think coffee should smell, look, and taste. That all changed the moment I opened my first bag of Hopped Up Coffee. For one, the grounds had more of a Tea look to them with several different ingredients thrown into the mix. It didn't smell like coffee either. Regardless, I forged on and made a pot.

Before I go any further, I want to outline the only objection I have about Hopped Up Coffee. The bags in the box I received were too small. It only allowed me to enjoy this unique experience for a short time. Drinking this coffee is like watching a good movie that comes to a screeching halt, leaving you with nothing but rolling credits and disappointment. The only difference is that you have the option to watch the movie again. The same can't be said for when you slug down every bit of the coffee you have in front of you.

I don't fault the makers of Hopped Up Coffee for this issue. They make a great product and I hope to establish a stellar long term relationship with them. That being said, I do not recommend buying Hopped Up Coffee in the smaller size if you're buying it for yourself. The sampler pack is perfect as a gift. If you get someone you care about this sampler for Christmas, you definitely need to recommend that they level up if they like it.

My favorite flavor in the sampler pack was the Black IPA. It had the boldness I like and all the interesting flavors that come with this type of coffee. The other flavors were fantastic as well. I went through the whole sampler in three days.

Hopped Up Coffee is a testament of why you should venture into the world of coffee with an open mind. There will be some things that will challenge your preconceived notions of what should be. And that's good. You should never go too long without having your firmly entrenched ideals thrown on their head. You never know what you will experience until you get up the courage to venture outside of your comfort zone.

Weed Coffee Roasting - Weed, California -

I enjoyed Weed Coffee Roasting for one of several reasons. First, the way the bags were lined up in the box was very eye catching. I know that seems weird. After all, the way bags are lined up in a box shouldn't matter. Much more emphasis is placed on the quality or look of the products themselves rather than how they're presented. I think that's wrong. I think more companies need to go out of their way to make their products look better and not just in the packaging.

I have mentioned several times that I love the way a product's packaging looks. I feel like it's awesome when a company chooses to perfect their products in every sense of the word. Every company needs to approach their business in this way. I couldn't even begin to tell you how many companies have sent me products with some of the most creative designs I have seen anywhere and not just in the world of coffee.

When I opened the box that contained their products, I was greeted with the most magnificent smell. I always know I'm in for a treat with a certain type of coffee by the way it smells. Out of all the kinds they sent me, I liked their XX Mud variety the most. The smell of that coffee was so bold I had to crack the bag open and brew myself a pot immediately. The resulting coffee was so dark it was almost demonic...but in a good way. I was flying high for the rest of the day after drinking a couple more cups.

As I opened bag after bag, I was taken into a world of wonderful tasting, smooth coffees. I didn't know what to think going into testing their coffee. I had never heard of Weed Coffee Roasting before. I wish I had heard about them sooner. I would've had more time to indulge myself and make their coffee a more prominent part of my life.

I continue to savor what's left of the package I got from Weed Coffee Roasting like it's the last coffee they will ever make. I don't know how much longer it will last. What I do know is I will enjoy every minute of it. I hope that I can establish some sort of relationship with Weed Coffee Roasting and this review is just the first in a series of many.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Fancy Accent Tea Company - Grayland, Washington -

The Fancy Accent Tea Company was one of the few companies that left me wanting more. They sent over a sampler of a number of their flavors. I was worried when I picked out my first blend. The bag felt light and only had a small amount of tea in it. I dipped it into some hot water. The resulting tea tasted great, but it was dreadfully weak. The same thing happened with all subsequent tastings. I had to resort to combining several flavors into the same cup to get tea that was anywhere close to how strong I like it.

Apparently, The Fancy Tea Company has a loose leaf option, which would have been better for this review. Rather than taking a hard stance and saying negative about this company, I am going to render this review inconclusive. This means that I made a good faith effort to test this product and my results were underwhelming due to the lack of materials I had available. I hope to revisit this company if they’re willing to send more materials for a subsequent review. I understand if they refused to do so. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion because I felt that this company deserved that respect.

I apologize to The Fancy Tea Company for being unable to make any declaration regarding their product. They are ran by some of the nicest people I have ever come across. I blame myself for not being specific enough about what I needed to complete my tests. I like to leave the decision making process up to the companies I’m contacting. Perhaps that was a mistake. In the future, I will specify which products I want and the quantity I need of each of them. I don’t like doing this because it makes me feel like I’m being bossy.

This post is not the last you will hear from me about The Fancy Tea Company. I never reach out to the company with the idea of doing anything other than completing a review I’m happy with. This doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of delivering a bad review of a company. On the contrary, I am nothing but 100% honest with every word I put on the page.

I will denounce a company if they’re worthy of being denounced. The problem is that everyone in this industry knows what they’re doing. This puts me in a position where I am tasked to describe various shades of excellence. I feel like The Fancy Tea Company is just as excellent as many of its competitors.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Baltimore Coffee and Tea

I have a thing for coffee and tea superstores. They have such a wide range of products and each one has taught me a great deal about this world. My luck with each of them has varied.

Coffee Bean Direct maintains regular contact. I've reviewed their coffee on several occasions and I'm currently working on reviewing some of their teas. I adore relationship I've had with them and I'm hoping it continues for as long as possible.

Fresh Roasted Coffee was receptive at first. I wrote a review about their coffee and sent it to them. They didn't give me any feedback on the review. Since that time, I have received no word from them. I am disappointed. I would love to re-open dialogue and re-review their coffee while also covering their various teas.

That brings me to Baltimore Coffee and Tea. This company has so many different products that they could be the superstore of all superstores. Normally, I fling messages off to any and every company. I approached things differently with them. I didn't want to blow this opportunity.

I'm not sure how much time actually passed before I wrote Baltimore Coffee and Tea. It seemed like forever. I fired off a message to them, expecting that it would be a long time before I got a reply. My wait wasn't too long, but it was long enough for me to forget about my original message.

I was ecstatic when I got a reply. They were suspicious as many companies have been in the past. I did my best to ease their mind. It must have worked because I later got a message from the president of Baltimore Coffee and Tea. I never knew that it'd be the last message I'd receive from their president and the company as a whole.

The message from their president centered on what products I was interested in. I replied with a list. No response. I kept sending messages periodically to make sure they knew that my list was a series of suggestions, not demands. It was no use.

I'm despondent over the fact that things have gone so poorly with Baltimore Coffee and Tea. I'm not sure what went wrong. I'm interested in doing whatever I can to fix it. You can add them to the list of companies I will never stop writing about, even if they don't give me the time of day.