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Peace Coffee: Birchwood Breakfast Blend Review

We recently received some samples of Peace Coffee to review. I know that when you think of a bicycle website, coffee wouldn’t come up as a “review” item. Well hold your horses, Peace Coffee has to be the world’s most bike friendly coffee company. Before I go into the review of the Birchwood Breakfast Blend, let met give you some history on Peace Coffee.
peace coffee

Here are some excerpts from their site…

In late November 1995, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) invited a small group of Mexican farm leaders to Minneapolis to discuss the U.S. Farm Bill. At the end of the meeting, Luis Hernandez from La Selva, a Mexican coffee cooperative, complained that during all the talk, he hadn’t sold a single coffee bean. He looked at IATP and said, “You guys should be selling organic fair trade coffee.”

Peace Coffee continues to grow out of experiences in the coffee regions, time spent working in local cooperatives and a desire to push fair trade to the highest level. Since the first batch of Guatemalan coffee, we have made connections with coffee cooperatives in Mexico, Sumatra, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Peru, Nicaragua and Colombia. We have also changed the supply chain by co-founding Cooperative Coffees (www.cooperativecoffees.com), a coop of roasters formed to import 100 percent fair trade coffee direct from the farmer coops that grow it.

Peace Coffee today includes a staff of twelve and coffee varieties of fifteen and growing. We roast, pack and distribute our coffee beans all under one eco-friendly roof in Minneapolis. In the Twin Cities metro, Peace Coffee still delivers by bike year-round and our suburban accounts get their coffee from a big, bright biodiesel van. What remains unchanged is our complete devotion to the idea of a fairly traded, farmer-friendly product and the wonders of a great cup of coffee.

So now that you know that Peace Coffee is super cool and way GREEN, let’s go on with the coffee review.

They sent us 3 types of coffee to review, the Guatemalan, Columbian and Birchwood.

Since we had 3 types of coffee, we figured we can post a review of them each week. So for this week’s review, we started off with the Birchwood Breakfast Blend.

peace coffee

Here are some “specs” of the coffee:

A pleasant echo in the woods. Easy sipping, slightly sweet without the sugar. The floor of this wood is dusted with hints of clover. All things in natural balance. Truth.

Roast Level: Medium
Acidity: Medium
Body: Heavy
Aroma: Molasses
Flavor Notes: Well rounded, bright yet heavy, citrusy yet earthy, mellow with a touch of punch.
Source: Peru, Sumatra and Mexico.

Named after the quirky and delicious Birchwood Cafe in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The Birchwood Blend is a light roast, so it means its not super bitter compared to other roasts such as Sumatra and French. Usually the lighter the roast, the flavor is not as strong. I usually LOVE dark roasts and prefer a French from Starbucks. So that means I’m looking for the maximum flavor in a coffee.

Before you start wondering why I think I should be giving a review on coffee, well I’m what you could call a “coffee snob.” I turn my nose up to crap coffee such as Folgers, Sanka, Flavia, Maxwell House, MJB, Hills Brothers and more. Even if I were to drink coffee at a restaurant and I didn’t know what kind it was, usually the water flavor, lack of aroma and acidity levels will give it away that its a cheap brand. Besides, crap coffee usually gives me a wicked stomach ache due to the high acidity levels.

Ok back to the Peace Coffee! So I cleaned out my coffee grinder just so I wouldn’t contaminate the flavors of the Birchwood. After griding a few beans, the grounds looked very light and earthy, almost like dirt…hey I did say earthy.

In my opinion, the best way to enjoy coffee is with a French Press or an Espresso Machine. I made enough grounds so both Priscilla and I can enjoy some Peace.
peace coffee

What’s great about the French Press is that you get a rich full bodied cup of coffee. What do I mean with those pretty fancy words? Basically the coffee is a bit thicker, you can taste more flavors than you would with a standard drip machine since you don’t have a paper filter catching some of that goodness.

So how does it taste? Are you ready for this…an absolute dream! The Brichwood Breafast Blend is so friggin’ smooth that I couldn’t believe it! At first I had the coffee black…(the same way I like my bikes)just so I can get an idea of what it is I’m dealing with. The flavor is very mild, not too strong and its not one of those blends that makes you balk because the flavor is too strong. But what was nice about the Birchwood Blend was that it went down well, not acidic at all and its one of those that after you take a few sips you say…”wow that’s good!” Priscilla and I were raving so much about the coffee to each other, our kids heard us and insisted on trying it. I refused to give up my cup since it was soooo good, but Priscilla, the wonderful mom that she is, allowed the girls to get a few sips. They loved it too.

If you’re into light to mild roasted coffees and don’t like the darker stuff like, then the Birchwood Breakfast Blend is perfect for you. I think that some people get turned off by the bitter taste of coffee, but I have a feeling that the Birchwood is the perfect blend to get someone to fall in love with coffee or even to just enjoy it for a mid day coffee break.

So if you’re still drinking crap coffee, please give Peace a chance…get it…But seriously, its really good stuff and its only about $9.99 per pound.

Upcoming Product Reviews and Features

We’ve got a few new products to review from our crew’s recent trip to Sea Otter: a couple items from the good folks at Cycleaware including their “HotRod” MTB handlebar light —

Cycleaware HotRod

and their “Heads Up” eyeglass mirror —

Heads Up

In addition, we’ve got a really cool new pair of “Oasis” sunglasses to show off by Ryders Eyewear

ryders

and a voluminous messenger bag/laptop sleeve combo by the folks at Banjo Brothers

banjo brothers

Finally, in the next few days I will be posting the results of my long-term test of the Seattle Sports Fast Pack waterproof pannier. For right now, let me just say that this thing is bombproof. Also, I will be posting a “final thoughts” article on the Ergon BD-1 backpack that we’ve been testing.

So, stay tuned…lots of useful goodies and information coming your way!

G-Form Pads first impression

First of all, let’s get the mandatory ‘National Bike to Work Day’ Picture out of the way:

Now to the G-Form comfort pads. Let’s begin with addressing the hood pads – although I’m not built like Il Pirata, some of us like the aero position of our road bikes. So how did the hood pads perform? I like them. I found them very comfortable and they didn’t slip at all.

I didn’t need the saddle gel pads, but since they were part of the kit, I installed them on my saddle since I didn’t have anything to lose. How did they perform? I like them as well. They did add a little comfort to my derriere, specifically when I rode through bumpy rough terrain.

The shoe pads were a different story. I didn’t care for them. Although they were not uncomfortable, I had that sensation that they were not in the right place. Oh well.

Time will tell on the durability of the glue; I do share the same concern on how long they pads will stay stuck to the hoods and saddle.

The Bilenky, 300 miles later…

Well, I’ve been riding my Bilenky every day since I got it and have put on at least 300 miles on it. Enough, I think to write a review of its performance on the short term.

Two quotes run through my head when I ride the bike. First, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. Second, a quote from the article on Large Fella on a Bike in the latest Rivendell Reader. He was recalling what a music teacher once told him, “We honor our instruments through use.” The bike is so pretty I don’t want to scratch the paint. However, it’s meant to be “well loved.”

Needless to say, I’ve already taken a few chunks of paint out of it so it’s getting used. However, it does hurt a little to see the pretty bits of orange flake off.

Out of the box, the Bilenky isn’t going to carry a whole lot (unless what you’re carrying happens to be larger than the dimensions of the front rack). This is where something like the Xtracycle shines with it’s bags, which I think are some of the most well-designed pieces of carrying luggage ever invented. In the pics above, I’ve used some electrical tape and old tubes to help cover the paint, but to also create a more tacky surface for loads on the rack.

In this pic, I’ve wrapped some 2 foot wide marine safety netting around the rack. It goes around the rack about four times and acts as a soft bottom sling. This stuff is actually pretty cool. Very light weight, sturdy and I can adjust the tension of the surface by either making the wrap really tight or loose. I can also slip things in between the layers. Granted, this wouldn’t carry a fistful of nickles, but for everything else it works great. I’m working on creating a new sling made out of Cordura with adjustable cam straps so it doesn’t look like Spiderman pooped on the front of my bike.

Here’s a shot of my tripod and a canvas wrap containing a lightstand, umbrella and softbox. They are a bit longer than the rack and perfectly under the sling.

On top of that goes my Pelican case, all of it held together with some nice strong tie-downs.

The view from the cockpit when the bars are turned. Notice you can’t see the front wheel at all.

Handling:
The first question I get asked is, “Is it weird riding that thing?” Yes. Like any new bike, the handling characteristics are unfamiliar. I can say, however, after 300 miles it’s second nature. It steers more like a Cadillac than a Porsche. I find it is better to lean into turns than to twist the handlebars. It is a little disconcerting at first to turn the bars and not see a front wheel turn. You realize how much of a visual indicator the front wheel is for your steering.

When unloaded, the front feels a little light and squirrelly. Once you get a load on front, the steering gets dampened and its a joy to ride. You feel like a ship’s captain.

Climbing:
My biggest concern about the bike was that I wouldn’t be able to stand while climbing. I have found that this is not the case. Granted, I was wobbly the first week, but now I can climb sitting or standing without a problem. It’s actually easier than with the Xtracycle in some ways because the load on the Bilenky is always centered. With the Xtra, I found that I had to get the rear bags relatively evenly loaded to be able to climb well while standing.

Why the Bilenky over an Xtracycle, Bakfiets, Long John?
I prefer the Bilenky over the Xtracycle because there is no flex. The “boom tube” on the Bilenky is huge and really inspires confidence as to carrying large and heavy loads. The Xtracycle wins in terms of the bags, but with some ingenuity the Bilenky can be modified with bags or a sling. I also find that I also like being able to watch my gear while riding. After doing standing climbs on both the Xtra and Bilenky, I prefer the Bilenky again for the lack of flex and also the fact that the load is always centered.

Compared to a Bakfiets and LongJohn, I prefer the Bilenky for many reasons. One of them is weight. I think my Bilenky weighs in at about 45lbs. A Bakfiets with a box is about 90lbs. Not sure about the Long John, but I am almost positive it’s more than 45lbs. The Bilenky is also made to take a derailleur system (or can be customized to whatever you want). The Bakfiets is limited to an 8spd internal. Most Long Johns are 3spd. I think the biggest advantage of the Bilenky is the ride geometry. My setup is relatively upright but not Dutch upright and also allows me to stretch out by changing hand positioning. The Bakfiets and Long John, from what I have seen and read are pretty upright and can be a bit cramped.

That’s it for now. I’ll write another review when I break a 1000 miles.

First Impressions: Zoic

It sure is nice to see more and more companies catering to the commuter women. Some time back Zoic sent me a little ensemble from their Streetside collection to test out on the roads. I had to wait for it to warm up a bit around here, but sunny days are back and so are my skirts! Yea! I was really blown away when I heard about this company. I love the whole earth friendly clothing line they have here. Zoic has been known for their mountain biking clothing lines, but now make clothing for the ladies that commute or just love to ride their bikes everywhere!

First is the Zoic Namaste Hoody:

I cannot express enough how GOooodd this feels on the skin. Immediately I was impressed with the feel and loose fit of this hoody. Very comfy. I have received lots of compliments on this hoody. And my favorite part about this hoody is the materials it’s made from. 62% poly, 12% spandex and 26% Bamboo charcoal. How cool is that? Bamboo!!!

I also received the Zoic Streetside Damsel Skirt:

I love how feminine and fun this skirt is. Also very practical with the removable short liner. The material is a nylon/spandex combo.

I am testing out the Cuello Tee also.

This is a really functional tee that pairs well with the damsel skirt and hoody. Perfect for a casual ride and trip to the store.

And last but not least, some sweet socks:
The womens Dazzle Socks!

These are super cute and let me just say one thing: arch support. It’s a beautiful thing!

I love how nice everything coordinated together and am looking forward to getting some wear out of these items! I’ll have my full review up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime check out some of their other adorable pieces at Zoic.com.