Coffee Fact Friday

According to legend, Ethiopian shepherds first realized the profound caffeinating effects of coffee when they noticed their goats started “dancing” after eating coffee berries.

Happy Goat

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Meet the Barista: Taylor

Taylor is our newest barista, and we already love her! The first thing Taylor said when I approached her about this post was, “Oh boy, this is exciting,” and I couldn’t agree more!

So what’s Taylor’s story? She came to IUP as a non-traditional last year after working retail to help support her live music addiction. We like to refer to her as a “dead head” in the fondest way possible, though I have heard her talk about following Phish up and down the east coast. Like I’ve been saying, Taylor is pretty awesome.

After following her favorite bands around the festival circuit for a few years, Taylor decided to further her education as a Spanish education major. When she isn’t creating coffee masterpieces, Taylor’s interests include music in all capacities, jewelry making, and pursuing a natural lifestyle. Her interest in the latter started when she became a vegetarian 5 years ago.

Are you ready for a mini-interview with Taylor? I am! I am!

image1What’s your favorite beverage to make?
I enjoy making lattes because I have fun with the process. It’s cool to have to juggle pulling the perfect espresso shot while steaming your milk and experimenting with flavor shots. 
What’s your favorite beverage to enjoy?
While I enjoy making lattes, my own personal tastes are more simple. My go to drink is drip coffee served black. When you start with great coffee beans, you don’t need to mess with them! 
That was an excellent answer! And, that’s exactly what I would’ve said….
What’s your favorite art medium?
When it comes to art, I love every medium but my favorite is creative writing. Writing my thoughts, reading other people’s, listening to them in song form…I love it all. That’s why I always get so excited to work Lit Night! 
I’m seeing a theme here with Lit Nights. Hopefully our readers are catching it too!
What’s your favorite thing about working at The Artists Hand?
Can I say the free coffee? Just kidding. The PEOPLE! I work with the most understanding, sweet, and talented people, and I’m surrounded by artists all day. What more can you ask for? I also love that while my job title is ‘barista’ I get to re-pot plants, hang art, and paint walls. No two days are ever the same. 
Best. Answer. Ever. We love you, too, Taylor! #CrayCrayforTayTay
What are your dreams and aspirations?
My main dream is to find freedom and true happiness. That’s really all I’m looking for, that’s what I think is life is all about.image5

Tea Profile: Yerba Mate

yerba-mate-leaf-close-313x196In honor of our new Hot Tea Tuesdays, we’re going to be featuring some of our favorite teas. First up, Yerba Mate.

Mate is a well known social beverage in South American countries. It is made from the crushed and dried leaves of the caá. 61oW+2PyDYL._SX522_The consumption of Mate can be traced back to pre-Colombian Paraguay (it’s a  pretty old tradition), and it is traditionally enjoyed from a gourd. This is probably the coolest way to drink tea, and rest assured, Amazon shopping has begun. The tea is left loose in the gourd, and a special straw makes sure that the tea-drinker doesn’t end up with tiny green leaves in their teeth.

mate gourd

We decided to start with Mate because it is the master of all caffeinated teas. It’s got the caffeinating qualities of a cup of coffee, but it leaves the jitteriness behind. Best. Of. Both. Worlds.

In terms of taste, Mate is most similar to a green tea, but it’s got this grassier goodness going on. Our Mate comes from Argentina, and it is great on its own or mixed with other teas.

Some of my personal favorite mixtures are 1) Mate with a touch of our Peppermint tea–this duo is really good over ice, too, and 2) Mate with Rooibos which just adds the light, rounded flavor of African red tea to the Mate. All Mate mixtures just turn out to be so very, very good.yerba_mate_tea-lg

But the best thing about this tea is that you can choose tea, and you won’t crash, or get a headache or feel like your world is crashing all around you. Caffeine is a necessity that baristas understand all too well (we’ve got loads of the stuff at our disposal during our shifts, gotta be careful!), and we’re here to help! Now, you know one more way to get that beautiful rush you’re always searching for!

Meet the Barista: Hannah!

10934488_10204571293780023_1885212790_nIf Hannah looks familiar, that’s because she’s also kind of famous. Last semester she played Montag in Fahrenheit 451 at IUP. She was ah-ma-zing, if I do say so myself.

Hannah started out as an intern for the Gallery in February of 2014. As an intern, she became acquainted with the art and the artists that we represent. She also blogged, helped with openings, and spent a lot of time chatting about art. That sounds about right.

Now, Hannah can be seen slinging drinks behind the bar, but she’ll still happily chat about some art with you!

Want to know a little bit more about Hannah? I asked her some questions about her job and COFFEE (of course). Here’s our tiny interview:

Me: What’s your favorite beverage to make?
Hannah: Lattes because they’re the most fun to make, and I like to create latte art. But, my favorite drink changes. Oh, iced soy lattes with lavender.

Me: What’s your favorite beverage to enjoy?
Hannah: Mmmmmm….that iced soy latte with lavender, caramel vanilla mochas, or anything with lavender.
Me: I see a theme here.10943138_10204571294060030_471272467_o

Me: What’s your favorite art medium?
Hannah: Mine is ceramics. I think that ceramics are the oldest art form, and I think that there is something earthy and grounded in ceramics.

Me: What’s your favorite thing about working at The Artists Hand?
Hannah: I like the variety of people who come in. We have coffee lovers, art lovers, and people who are learning about both things. I like Lit Nights a lot, too. They bring in funky fresh people.
Me: Funky fresh. Is that hyphenated? 

Me: What are your dreams and aspirations? We’re getting deep here….
Hannah: I want to go to grad school for Art History; I want to travel, and I want to be happy (makes whipping sound with hand gesture).

I think that’s the perfect place to leave this introduction.

What’s Your Perfect Espresso-Based Beverage?

Alright, today’s blog is going to tackle milk ratios! Wooohoooo! We’re about to help you discover what your perfect espresso-based drink is. Maybe you like a little milk, maybe you like a lot, maybe you’re looking for something just right. WE KNOW WHAT YOU NEED!FullSizeRender (6)

Our menu is arranged so that the drinks with little to no milk are at the top, and as you go down the list, the amount of milk in each drink increases. This little secret will help you out while you’re trying to choose the perfect beverage. A macchiato!

The drink with the least amount of milk is a macchiato. It’s just a double shot of espresso that has been marked with steamed milk. It’s served in a demitasse–AKA the tiniest of all mugs.

Macchiatos are tricky for customers and baristas alike because they force us to have awkward conversations, thank you Starbucks. So, let’s just get it over with and save ourselves from the great debate. Here we go! The Starbucks caramel macchiato is actually a new western form of the classic, going by the official name of a “latte macchiato” though they’ve conveniently left the “latte” out of it. Therefore, baristas have to gently (if you’re in a shop full of hipsters and serious coffee-purists, expect it to be much less gentle, but that’s just not our style) steer customers towards the caramel vanilla latte that they love rather than the traditional macchiato. The hard part is convincing any avid coffee drinker that their favorite drink is misnamed–yikes. This is especially dangerous if it’s their first cup of the day; none of us function well without our coffee. If you walk in at 8 a.m. and order a “caramel macchiato,” we’ve got your back.IMG_1912

Next up in the milk ratio procession is the cortado, my personal favorite. I often describe it as a baby latte, but it’s so much more. It is the perfect ratio (not biased at all) of milk to espresso: two ounces of each. This way, the espresso can pop, but you can still sit and sip if you’d like. Four ounces of deliciousness, served in a glass.

The drink that’s currently making headlines, the Flat White, soon to be at a Starbucks near you, fits here. It’s going to be about six ounces–two ounces of espresso, and four ounces of milk. It’s called “flat” because it’s served with a thicker microfoam (milk that has air dispersed throughout it in tiny micro-bubbles), but it isn’t as deliberately airy (or foamy) as a cappuccino.

Cappuccinos are next up on the list. For many, this is the ideal ratio. 2-2-2. Espresso, steamed milk, and stretched milk. Its milk is thicker than that of a cortado, meaning we’ve introduced more air into the milk during the steaming/stretching process. You can order this classic anywhere in the world, and it’s going to live up to your expectations. Hmmm, maybe we should all take a trip to Italy?

Moving on from our travel dreams, the final link in the milk ratio chain is the latte. The milkiest of all, this is the most sippable of espresso-based drinks. And, you can choose your amount of sipping time–eight ounces, twelve ounces, or sixteen ounces. Unless you request extra shots, each of these has just two ounces of espresso.

Now, you should be able to think about what you like (or what you need, we get that feeling!): How much espresso do you want to come through your drink? How long do you want the drink to last? How quickly do you need that sweet ‘spro in your system? And, you can make an informed decision about the drink that suits your needs. But honestly if you just can’t decide, we’re always here and happy to help you figure it out!

We’ve Got the Happiest Cows

Baby Ben CowI was going to write about milk ratios in today’s blog, but that will have to wait until later. Why? Because I realized that we have to talk about something very important—HAPPY COWS!

Here at The Artists Hand Espresso Bar, we made a decision a few months ago to switch to Valewood Farms as our milk provider. We have never been happier. This isn’t a plug for them (though we like them very much), but it is a plug for using quality, local ingredients buy local cowwhenever it’s possible. And, we like cows…a lot, so it’s good to know that our milk comes from happy, healthy cows.

What makes our milk so good? Happy cows! And what makes our cows so happy? Well, today we’re learning right along with you. It turns out that Valewood doesn’t just advertise that their herd is happyred cow friendly, but they’re Certified Cow Friendly. This means that Valewood meets specific criteria to prove that their cows are healthy and stress-free. What was really important to us as a business was that they don’t treat their cows with rBST, a synthetic growth hormone. It could just be in our heads, but we’ve noticed that our milk steams to a silkier, glossier level of perfection, and we just feel like we’re serving a really special beverage every single time.

It’s important for us to let our customers know what we’re serving them. We did our research, and we found some seriously happy, healthy cows that provide delicious milk for you. AND they’re local. We hit the jackpot! Next time you order a cappuccino or a latte, just remember these happy faces (queue happy cow photo):vale-woods-farms

The Intimidating Pour Over

We’re all aware that coffee shops can be intimidating, baristas experience it, too. In my favorite Pittsburgh coffee shop, I walk in, complicated menuand I order one of the same three things every single time. This isn’t because I don’t WANT to branch out, but it’s because their menu is on three different walls–it has you surrounded! And if that isn’t terrifying enough, it’s especially hard to concentrate with other coffee addicts bustling around you. So, I’m either awkwardly trembling in a sea of people until I order, or I just confidently walk up and order one of my go-tos. But, when you can’t branch out (for any reason) you’re missing out!

So, one of the things we’d like to do with this blog is introduce you to some of our products, so you’re not awkwardly trembling in our space. We’re starting with the infamous (and delicious!) V60 or pour over. Now, if you mention a pour over to your parents or an older friend, they’ll tell you that it isn’t anything special, nothing new. But the pour overs that they were making “back in the day” lack the precision and science that now surrounds this single cup brew method. It’s been perfected, and it yields a smooth, less acidic cup of coffee fit for the gods.

How does it work? You order a pour over, we’ll give you your coffee options. This morning, I chose Ethiopia Gelana Abaya–a bright coffee with some serious notes of blueberry. It was like warm, glorious sunshine on this arcticly chilly day.

The gooseneck kettle allows for a more controlled and precise pour. And, as you can see, its name is appropriate.

The gooseneck kettle allows for a more controlled and precise pour. And, as you can see, its name is appropriate.

Once you’ve chosen your coffee, the carafe is preheated–we want to keep your pour over as hot and tasty as possible. Then, we grind coffee especially for you. Next, using a gooseneck kettle we pre-rinse the filter to wash away anything icky that could’ve found the filter during its time on the shelf.

Now, we start brewing! The ground coffee is added to the filter, and we pour just enough boiling hot water to wet all of the grounds and wait about 45 seconds. This is called the “bloom”, and you can watch as the grounds expand and gases are released. Once the coffee has bloomed, we pour the remaining hot water in concentric circles around the center of the grounds. And, voila! You have your first pour over.picstitch (2)

Also, different tasting notes will become detectable at different stages of the cooling process. So, if your cup goes cool, you might find a new flavor note that you really enjoy.

The entire process takes about 3 minutes—a small price to pay for a cup of coffee that has been handcrafted just for you. And, if you stop  by on a Wired Wednesday, you can try your first pour over for half price! The coffee world is just full of good news…and good brews!

A Brief Introduction

Hey, there. This is our first blog post—woot! My name is Samantha (Sam to most), and I am the manager of The Artists Hand Espresso Bar.

Downtown Indiana in snow

I’m going to keep it pretty short this time around, and just tell you a little about what we do here at The Artists Hand Espresso Bar. We’re an espresso bar inside of an art gallery in the small town of Indiana, PA. Indiana is one of those towns that you want to bust out of while you’re in your angsty teen years because you’re bored out of your mind and everybody knows everybody else. Grocery shopping is a two-hour adventure because you have to stop to talk to so many people who know you, or your parents, or just think that they might know you (and they probably do!). But by the time you hit your twenties, you realize Indiana, PA isn’t so bad, and it’s actually (slowly) becoming a better, hipper,  greener place. I mean, we now have TWO Thai restaurants. Two.

As a townie and a barista in Indiana’s first art gallery, I can honestly say that I never thought I’d be a part of something this cool. Not only am I constantly surrounded by local art (and chatting/learning from picstitchthe artists themselves), but I also get to focus on bringing great, quality coffee to the people of this town, a mission that I have now been a part of for about three years. The Artists Hand serves Commonplace Coffee, and we recently designed our own espresso blend with the Commonplace. It was really cool to think about the different tasting notes, aroma, and the kind of body and acidity that we wanted our espresso to have. Not all baristas are this lucky! But, I am.

At The Artists Hand, as I see it, our mission is to provide you with excellent coffee, to help you experience Indiana’s artists and their work, and to continue to make Indiana a better place. Clearly, we’re very busy people! The idea of this blog is just to keep you in the loop with us. We’ll share little things we find online–interesting articles, fun memes, etc. And, we’ll write posts about coffee…lots of posts about coffee.