Friday, May 6, 2011

Russell Howard Tackles Local Coffee Options

Hello all. Russell Howard here. Today we talk about coffee.

We'll start off with the acknowledgment that coffee is in no way a local food. Grown in the equatorial regions around the globe from Brazil (#1 in production) to Indonesia (#3), all of our coffee is imported. One cornerstone of the local food movement is cutting both the economic and environmental costs of long range transportation. Well.... that's not really going to work with coffee. And while we're not going to kick the habit anytime soon, we can be choosy about where our coffee comes from and where our coffee dollars are going. 

So Sarah asked me to highlight a few of my favorite NC coffee companies which I have broken down into three categories:

Independent coffee shops 
You know the type: meccas of Mac users and mismatched mugs.  In my experience, most have a better selection of roasts, more attention to detail, shorter lines, and lower prices than the big chains. Most importantly, your $2-4 contributes directly to a local business. My favorites in NC are: Davidson's Summit Coffee, Carrboro's Open Eye Cafe, Winston Salem's Brew Nerds, and Greensboro's Green Bean. They may not be on every corner with a drive-thru, but coffee shops like these are everywhere - just keep your eyes open. 

Local coffee roasters 
Now some of us need a cup before we even get out the door, but for brewing at home there aren't many local options. While there are local roasters in many places, their beans are not to be found in your regular grocery store, and are usually on the pricey side when they do turn up at specialty stores. What to do? Well, at Charlotte's Atherton Market, you can now find Monk's Groovy Beans, a roaster from Four Oaks, NC, with an unbeatable dark roast and pretty middle of the road pricing. Go online to get a monthly subscription and they'll keep you in beans all year long.

The super-combo-platter 
Many times a roaster will also have a coffee shop. Or several of them. I'm talking of course of Dilworth Coffee, one of the Charlotte area's favorite coffee spots with eight locations. Basically, the best of both worlds in terms of keeping your dollars in your neighborhood and drinking fresh roasted deliciousness both at home and on the go. I've probably drunk my weight in Dilworth coffee at the East Blvd. location, and you can buy beans at the shop or order them online as well. 
I haven't tackled the fair trade/rainforest safe side of the coffee equation and that's for one good reason: I'm not an expert. I am however, very experienced with drinking local coffee.

So there you have it, a quick and dirty guide to some great, local, North Carolina Dunk-ibou-bucks alternatives. 

Russell Howard is a singer-song writer based in Charlotte, NC. Check out his website with touring schedule for why he needs all the coffee he can get.

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