What we do

How we brew

posted on Monday, January 12, 2015 - 11:45am by Michael Harwood

Erin pouring

You may have noticed a new face around the roastery cafe as of late.

We are proud to welcome Erin R. as Ceremony's new coffeehouse manager! Erin has already won us over with her desire to lead, drive to be a student of coffee, and ability to make us laugh. Originally from Maryland, Erin spent her recent past in Portland, Oregon, managing a non-profit coffeehouse that offers a welcoming space for children, caregivers, and the surrounding community. We feel lucky to have her and look forward to you meeting her!

So that you can get to know her a little better, we asked her a few questions:

MH What got you into coffee?

ER I wish I could say that there was a particular moment or a cup of coffee that got me hooked, but that's not the case. I fell into coffee. I had no experience when I started my first barista job, but I quickly realized how well-suited I was for the industry. I've always been both left-brained and right-brained, and a good coffee experience combines art, science, human interaction and everything in between.

MH What is something that people might not know about you?

ER I grew up in Maryland. I've been referred to a lot recently as the girl from Portland, but until six years ago I was living on the eastern shore enjoying hot crab/cold beer summers. I miss Portland, but not as much as I missed Maryland while I was away. Another fun fact: my sister is a baker at Baker's & Co. We're planning to take over Annapolis.

MH What is your favorite coffee and brewing method combination right now?

ER You'll usually find me drinking a cappuccino or a long black made with whatever espresso we have on bar, but that's because I'm so busy. Haha. If I had time to kill, I'd probably make myself a pourover of our Kenya Gondo. The new Sumatra Sabri is great, too!

MH With the New Year upon us, what is one resolution you'd like to make for the cafe?

ER While living in Portland I worked for a nonprofit coffeehouse. Our goal was to provide resources to families in the community, so hospitality was of utmost importance. You can always improve on customer service! I'm excited to continue educating our customers about our products and what we are trying to achieve at Ceremony because it is truly fascinating. I'd like the level of hospitality in the cafe to match the quality of the product that the rest of the team works so hard to produce. In a phrase - that fourth wave coffee experience!

MH If we theoretically hybridized the SL-28, Yellow Bourbon, and Pacamara cultivars together, what would you call the new variety?

ER Winter Vaca (28 days in February, Bourbon...self-explanatory, and the Pacamara was actually referred to in one article as an "exotic superstar," a combination of two other varietals - sounds like a party to me)

MH Thanks, Erin!

Now that you know her a little better, don't be shy, say hi the next time you're in!

Until next time, happy brewing!

posted on Monday, November 17, 2014 - 10:00am

So! Friday Nov 7th was our Aussie Cupping – we tasted 17 coffees from 10 of the Best Aussie Roasters. Nearly 90 people crammed into the Roastery café to sniff and slurp some delicious coffees from Central America, Kenya and Ethiopia. I was able to briefly share about the Specialty Coffee Industry in Australia and the similarities and differences between AU and the US. The place was buzzing with chit chat about the coffee, our delicious collab beer from our friends at Union Brewing and Jailbreak, and the ever growing Ceremony Coffee community. We were super stoked to share this experience with some of our wholesale partners, industry folk, friends and family.

Tap Selection
The Roasters
Cupping in Full Swing
Outside Looking In
Our Aussies

posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 4:45pm by Michael Harwood

Decaf Colombia green bag

I won't lie. I am not typically a fan of decaf. Most of the decafs I've tried taste more like tennis balls and musty sacks than specialty coffees. There have been a few exceptions along the way and thankfully, quality seems to be trending up; but why are so many decafs flavor duds?

Let's face it - decaffeination removes some of a coffee's essence. Look at how the green seeds are processed - getting soaked with water, hit with chemicals, or gas-blasted. This isn't to be critical of those who decaffeinate or those who enjoy it - the custody chain is doing its best with the technology and processes we have (and many of us don't want/need the caffeine all the time!). At the end of the day though, decaffeination seems to subtract some inherent goodness from the coffee.

Before last month, I hadn't tried a brew that tasted as if the decaffeination process actually added something positive; but when we cupped a Colombian coffee that had undergone the Sugar Cane E.A. process, I was happily taken aback. The profile of the coffee tasted intact - there were distinct flavors, a lively acidity, and full body. On top of that, the coffee was quite sweet, if a touch savory. I quickly researched what this coffee and process are all about.

Decaf House Colombia Tasting Board

It turns out that Sugar Cane E.A. processing (aka "The Natural Decaffeination Method") starts by fermenting molasses derived from sugar cane to create ethanol (which you'd find in adult beverages). This alcohol is then mixed with acetic acid, which you'd find in vinegar, to create the compound ethyl acetate. In Colombia, where a lot of sugar cane is grown, it makes sense to use this naturally occurring solvent to complement their thriving coffee growing/processing industry. E.A. may sound scary, but you find it in wine, beer, fruit, vegetables, and other food and beverage.

First, the coffee is steamed to open up its pores. Next, the E.A. is applied via water, which dissolves the caffeine in the green seeds. Then, the caffeine is separated and filtered from the tank. Finally, the now-decaffeinated seeds are steamed again to remove any residual E.A. before being dried and shipped. This method avoids excessive heat or pressure, which can radically disrupt a green seed's cellular structure. One downside of this process is that since the pores of the seed are opened up through steaming (think of the pores on your skin in a sauna), the coffee does tend to age more quickly (both as roasted and green) than our regular offerings. You may notice this via the "sweaty", darker appearance of the roasted seeds. Don't worry, it doesn't taste roasty and though sweaty, is still delicious!

Decaf Espresso Colombia Tasting Board

The coffee itself is a washed varietal blend sourced by our friends at Cafe Imports from high-quality farms across southern Colombia. Coffees from this area often display lovely balance and full bodies. This selection is no different. As a filter coffee, it gives us root beer aromatics with candied bacon and pear in a sweet, full-bodied cup. The slightly-more-developed espresso roast gives us root beer aromatics and hickory-smoked (pear balsamic) shrub syrup with a creamy caramel sweetness and body. You can find both here: http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/ If you don't know what a shrub syrup is, look it up - http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/06/cocktail-101-how-to-make-shrub-syr... . You don't know what you're missing!

We're really excited about this change and hope you are too! No longer is decaf an exclusive refuge for those of us who would prefer to sleep! Bring us your refined palate and we'll show you an amazing coffee.

Until next time, happy brewing!

posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 4:30pm by Michael Harwood

You've seen them buzzing around, roasting & packaging delicious coffee. You know their helpful voices from when you call in with a question or an order. They've crafted you exceptional drinks time and again. Starting here and with each subsequent interview, you'll get to better know one of our team members through what we call the Ceremony Spotlight.

Today's spotlight shines on one of our amazing roastery production staff.

Name Maria Cervasio
Job at Ceremony Roaster's Assistant
Hometown Annapolis, Maryland

Maria at the San Fran sample roaster.

How did you get started with coffee and Ceremony?
After getting out of high school, I was eagerly looking for a fast paced job after being a front desk coordinator at an aesthetician office. I wanted to be on my feet working for a small business and serving something I could sink my teeth into. I literally flipped through a phone book and saw Cafe Pronto's number (our satellite retail location at Riva Festival Shopping Center) and promptly called to see if they were hiring!

What do you enjoy about working in coffee?
I love the intimacy of such a collectively valued commodity. It is a product that improves functionality while offering a bountiful resource to satisfy the senses. While being incredibly personally meaningful, it fuels a group of shared passion, loyalty, and sense of community.

What are your preferred brewing methods? Do you have any tips?
I initially fell in love with Beehouse. I loved the idea that I could brew a single cup of filter coffee that allows me to control all of the variables. When we got the Bonavita Immersion Drippers I quickly converted. I enjoy the combination of filter coffee with the French press concept where all of the coffee is brewing with all of the water at at once. It still provides that filtered cup that I love along with a more consistent brew.
As far as tips go, preheat all of your equipment before brewing and make sure you have a good grinder. If you're using the immersion dripper, make sure the latch on the bottom is closed when your getting ready to brew! That unfortunately took me a few failed attempts to get used to.

Maria loading the green coffee.

What is your go-to coffee right now?
Our Kenya Gondo and Ecuador Perla Chiquita have consistently been my go to. I love how those two entirely different terroirs offer two beautiful flavor forward unique cups.

What is one thing you'd like to change in coffee?
I would like to see more focus on the flavor that those little "beans" have to offer! Often in the coffee industry I see so much focus on sourcing coffee and brewing coffee, but I really want to see more attention and care go into the actual coffee itself. If we source these amazing coffees and we don't allow them to reach their full potential, then we're missing out. I would love for some more solid research in the chemical process that occurs while coffee is roasted. Coffee roasters have their job cut out for them. There's so much that goes on each minute during a roast that we don't really understand. We've come so far at Ceremony and I feel like we've made great strides together in understanding as many of the variables as possible. There is so much we still don't know!

When you're not consuming or being consumed by coffee, what else do you love to do?
I love reading, enjoying even more flavors in good food and libations, and I also really love music. Going to a really good show is always my best recharge. You'll also often find me jamming out at work listening to whatever new music I've discovered.

Maria learning with the best.

That's our Maria! She's a great presence around the roastery and is a wise, compassionate soul. Give her a wave the next time you're by the roastery!

Until next time, happy brewing!

posted on Sunday, August 24, 2014 - 6:00pm by Michael Harwood

Color Chips

In coffee retailing, it's important to remember that we eat and drink first with our eyes. Imagine a beautifully poured cappuccino featuring a glossy sheen, tight microfoam, and high color contrast between the espresso and milk. Now match that against a bubbly, whited out, haphazardly poured cappuccino. It's clear which beverage wins in terms of visual appeal. Of course, this doesn't necessarily match up with the best taste, but you have to lead a horse to water to even get it to start thinking about taking a drink!

Nuova Point

There are many sensory indicators that alert us to our potential enjoyment or dismay with a food or drink. From the size, shape, and texture to the smells, tastes, and even the sound of the chew, our brains are constantly interpreting myriad stimuli. One of the leading attributes in flavor perception is color. How do we know which colors are appetizing? It largely depends on the context. We might expect a bright red tomato to taste delicious either because we understand fruit maturation or we've learned an association from a past experience. One might also argue that a bright red tomato intuitively looks tasty and inviting. In the case of coffee, we mostly expect our beverages to look brown or brown and white. Despite the apparent simplicity of color palette, there are gradations of red, brown, and black in brews, while the skillful mix of brown and white in a milk drink undoubtedly has the potential to enhance our experience.

Additionally, the color of the vessel seems to alter flavor perception. Attributable to the link below, brown cups are purported to heighten the perception of strength and aroma in coffee, while red cups reduce its perceived strength. Yellow or blue cups are observed to raise the perception of a smoother taste. It's not a stretch to imagine that these color perception-altering sensory inputs also extend to brand identity, labeling, and shop color motifs. If this is true, it is wise to consider the color palette your cafe is utilizing. Read more here: http://www.atyourpalate.com/blog/2013/01/eating-with-your-eyes-changes-w...

Retail bags at Ceremony

So there's how colors affect our flavor perception, but what about identifying flavors as colors? I used to love red Kool-Aid, blue Icy Pops, and orange M&Ms. I was so fascinated with color-flavors that I entered the 8th grade Science Fair with an experiment on M&M color favoritism and subliminal messaging. Being that the test subjects were my 8th grade peers, they all tried to guess what I was doing and purposely attempted to throw off my results. Adolescent behavior aside, I do seem to remember the brighter colors being more popular. These days, I still think about colored flavors, especially during contextual tastings like cuppings. This association behavior creates an echo when I find myself detailing a coffee to a customer in terms of its color(s). This habit could also be attributed to spending a good deal of time staring at the SCAA's Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel. Take a look and you'll quickly notice a pattern between the colors and aromas/tastes.

To note, making associations is not quite the same as the neurological phenomenon known as synesthesia. If you involuntarily experience a crossing of sensory information, you might be a synesthete. This condition is not considered to be harmful and may actually help affected folks memorize information (or they may simply get a kick out of it). For example, Synesthetes might perceive specific letters as specific colors or certain smells might bring on certain emotional states. We all experience a hint of synesthesia from time-to-time! It might even be possible to learn a specific synesthesia through repeated associative conditioning.

Cupping at Ceremony

For us, talking about coffees as colors is simply an evocative way to associate with what you might experience. At our last public cupping, we wanted to find out what colors our customers associated with or even tasted in our coffees, so we put them to a test. We lined up 16 different coffees - 13 peak/filter roasts and 3 espresso roasts. Our friends smelled the dry ground fragrance, the wet aroma at various points, and proceeded to sip and slurp. While they were smelling and tasting, we provided 8 different colors (via paint chips) to vote with (red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and brown). We noted that you could vote with one or many colors for a given coffee, then we watched. At the end, we tallied up the votes and announced our results, which you may find below!

Taste by Color results

As you see, about half of our offerings are super vibrant! These coffees are mostly red, orange, yellow, and even green, displaying fruit, floral, and herbaceous aromas and flavors. The textures here feel quite electric, exciting, and so alive! As we move down the chart, we notice more and more brown. In juxtaposition to the brighter, livelier coffees, these browner brews showed more heat-applied/cooked flavors like toasted almonds, toffee, and baked granola. Though these browner coffees mostly are what they are, you'll note that there are splashes of brighter colors with each of them. Even Mass Appeal, which is designed to be as brown as they come, has a hint.

After seeing this, we'd be hard-pressed to label a coffee as one color. They are rather, collections of colors, each being uniquely observed at a different recipe, grind, time, temperature, or palate. This is what's so beautiful about coffee. It's not one color - it's many colors. If you don't like orange, try purple and red. If brown is more your thing, that's great too! The question with any coffee is, what color palette am I starting with and how am I going to mix these hues through extraction to create the most inspired work of art I can?

Until next time, happy brewing!


Upcoming Public Events

Weekly Coffee Break: Recipe - WASHINGTON, DC

Join us every Thursday at our DC Workshop (1228 31st St NW) for a taste of what's new and exciting at Ceremony.

This week, we're taking a look at some of our favorite brew recipes and how to tailor them to each coffee and brew method.

Free for all, no registration.

Upcoming Wholesale Labs

Brew Hall: Office Hours - WASHINGTON, DC

Just like Study Hall, this is a free-form class designed to get you hands-on with any brewing method or practice on any barista-related behavior. Under the guidance of our trainers, this is the perfect time for baristas to troubleshoot!

Level 2

Complimentary for Wholesale Partners
$25 for Non-Exclusive Wholesale Partners
$100 for General Public