beans at the beach

one of the perks of writing about coffee is that i get to try all different kinds of coffee from all different kinds of places. one of my favorite local roasters (and there are many favorite roasters in asheville) is biltmore coffee traders. the couple who co-owns the coffeehouse, laura and rick, are just about the most considerate people i know. everything that they do in their business revolves around being real, authentic, and environmentally friendly. their purpose is to provide good coffee that you can feel good about – so they make known that they deal with direct trade and fair trade coffee farmers to get their beans. you can buy beans and coffee from them and know that you are not only helping them to sustain their little family, but you are also making a difference in the lives of real coffee farmers around the world.

since biltmore coffee traders is all about family, awareness, and making a positive impact on the planet and in the lives of their customers, i decided that i wanted to bring their coffee beans down to the beach with me to share with my family during our annual family beach week.

i dropped by biltmore coffee traders  a day before leaving for the beach week to pick out some beans. rick was working, and he and i looked over the beans and finally decided that i’d do a brazilian peaberry/nicaraguan blend – something that rick recommended. so, i got two pounds of freshly roasted coffee beans and headed home to pack them with all of my beach gear.

biltmore coffee traders

biltmore coffee traders beans

on the first morning, the family gathered outside on the deck, with our freshly ground and brewed blend; and kicked off a week of fun in the sun. thank you, biltmore coffee traders, for sharing your love and passion and delicious beans! our mornings are all the better knowing that we are making a difference while we sip our cup o’ joe.

beans at the beach

coffee at the beach

namaste.

 

Day 38: gettin my mountain mojo on.

that’s the name of the place i went to visit today: mountain mojo. cute, huh?

well, the cafe, just about 10-15 minutes south of asheville, is a cute little log cabin place tucked away on the side of a highway. right in that space, it’s only the highway, the cafe, some trees, and a parking lot. it feels like you’re on a country road. and, you are. it’s not as far down south as the local joint, but about hallway between yesterday’s fika place and the city. i’d heard a few people mention mountain mojo to me, so i was excited to discover this little hideaway place.

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the cafe is fairly new, opening sometime within the past year. i fell in love with the outside as soon as i drove up and over the mountain, the cafe coming into sight just as i rounded a corner and headed down the backside. the cafe was logs and wood. and let me tell you, i’m a sucker for logs and wood. i mean, it’s so appropriate for our surroundings. the weather was a little crazy, windy, cloudy, with intermittent peaks of sunshine. needless to say, i spent quite a bit of time outside, photographing the area, the cafe, the trees, the road, everything in sight. it all just felt so autumn-y and wonderful.

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the cafe is fairly new, opening sometime within the past year. i fell in love with the outside as soon as i drove up and over the mountain, the cafe coming into sight just as i rounded a corner and headed down the backside. the cafe was logs and wood. and let me tell you, i’m a sucker for logs and wood. i mean, it’s so appropriate for our surroundings. the weather was a little crazy, windy, cloudy, with intermittent peaks of sunshine. needless to say, i spent quite a bit of time outside, photographing the area, the cafe, the trees, the road, everything in sight. it all just felt so autumn-y and wonderful.

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i climbed the stairs to the front porch, under the lights which were strung to add a coziness factor (i believe) and i opened the door to find a huge wide open room. very animalistic. simple. clean. and new. the walls were a warm white/creme color. to the left was a corner with a sofa and 2 chairs – yes! however, they were both taken. boo. there was also a long table to the back left filled with about 6-7 retired adults, clearly having a meeting of some sorts. there was note-taking and serious discussion going on as they sipped their coffee and snacked on delicious goodies. more tables and chair were in the center, and the chairs were all school chairs. fun! in the back and on the right was the counter and the kitchen. everything was very open and airy.

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but, let me tell you what was the best thing about opening the front door and stepping inside…. it smelled like baked goods heaven.  i don’t know if it was cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, pies, or what, but it was a delicious aroma. and it made me feel all warm inside. i complimented the baker as i stepped up to order some coffee, and i noticed a sign for the perfect drink for the day: hot caramel cider chai. seriously, folks, doesn’t that just sound like autumn in the mountains? i ordered one of those and sat down at an empty table, pulling out my journal to write a bit.

and that’s what i did. i wrote. thought. and just enjoyed this little moment. it was a perfect solo fika.

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after a while, i decided that it was time to go. i had passed a pumpkin patch on my way in, so i gathered up my things, grabbed my cup (it was already in a to go cup – i don’t know why), and headed to the car to hunt the perfect pumpkin for carving. i felt sure that this would be a cafe that i would visit again. i could tell that it was a gathering place for people in the fairview community, a place that was part of the community, offering local and organic foods & coffee. a place that perhaps is bursting with people in the spring and summer, hanging out in the field or under the trees. and a space where people can rent, meet, and enjoy the yummy things in life.

a perfect place for a country fika.

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namaste.

mountain mojo. 381 old charlotte highway . asheville, nc 

Day 37: Don’t judge me.

My mom always told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. So, in the interest of following her advice, I am going to keep this first story short and sweet.

I headed downtown to head to a cafe that I’ve passed many times, but never gone in. I had never really heard much about it, but I was still curious. I entered, had some coffee, some other things transpired, and it did not turn out so great. So, I left. I was quite bummed, because my plan basically fell apart. Disappointed, dejected, and uninspired, I wondered… what would I do now?

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Suddenly, something popped into my head. I would take a little drive to a place I’d heard about from my brother – not exactly a fika place, but more like a diner. Still, they served coffee, which is a staple in diners, so I figured I could make a trip and have a little fika/lunch there to lift my spirits. So, I got in my car, drove south and found a parking spot at The Local Joint, a simple (so I thought) diner which was one of those attached to a gas station and convenience store. You know, a little greasy, local joint. Hehe. Hence, the name – minus the greasy part).

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I immediately noticed that it looked a little different on the outside. There were tables for eating outside. It was decorated nicely & somewhat landscaped. And, get this, there was a list of the beers that they had on tap. For real? First of all, diners don’t serve beer. Much less have beers on tap! Boy was I confused and strangely excited…

Inside it looked like a cross between a regular, ole, American diner and a cool, funky, downtown cafe. It had the counter and bar stools and booths and all that stuff that roadside diners have. But, it also had funky decorations, chalkboards with specials, beer taps (it was true!), plants, and wine bottles in crates. This was crazy. Crazy cool.

Now, understand this: The Local Joint is located south of Asheville in a, let’s just say, more rural area called Fairview. I used to teach at AC Reynolds Middle School just down the road from the joint, and I know that it is filled with students from rural, farming, country-living families. So, this funky vibe kinda place was a little (a lot) unexpected. But, I was so very pleasantly surprised. So. Very.

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The fry cooks were not fry cooks. Well, they were, but they were so much more. One look at the menu and that was obvious. With things like seared salmon benedict with spinach and goat cheese on the menu, I knew that these were not just fry cooks. They were chefs. I perused the menu for a while, and went with an grilled avocado tempeh sandwich. Sounds delish, huh? Well, it was. Totally delish.

And not only was it gourmet food cooked and served in a diner, it was local, organic food as well. What a concept this was! And if I had wanted to, I could have ordered a bloody mary or a mimosa as well. And I so wanted to, but I held back. It was the middle of the day during the week, ya know.

The servers were so very sweet, calling me honey and sweetie. they were so friendly, chatting with everyone who came through the door. I think two of them checked on me constantly throughout my meal, but not in an annoying way, in a very caring, fun way. Hard to explain. Just take my word on it. It was not overbearing, but just the right amount of caring.

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So, lesson learned? Do not, at all costs, judge a book or a person or a place or anything by its appearance. Just don’t do it. Here I was visiting a nice, professional-looking cafe in the middle of touristy downtown Asheville and it did not go well at all. Not what I expected. And then, I drove into the countryside and stopped at a gas station to eat at a local diner, only to find out that they served smiles, fun, and amazing food. Not at all what I expected.

I ordered a coffee to go (my fika had turned into a fabulous lunch and I had places to go) and it was served in a recycled, earth-friendly cup, of course. I paid, said my goodbyes, and promised to return.

Oh, yeah, and the coffee tasted perfect.

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namaste.

the local joint. 1185 B Charlotte Highway . Asheville, NC .

Day 34: On mosaics, community, & expectations.

it was mostly cloudy and chilly, and all i wanted was to find a little, dark, cozy cafe corner all to myself. i wanted to order something warm and pumpkin-y and yummy. i wanted to open my computer and sit there for a couple of hours. working, nesting, snuggling. sounds perfect, huh? do you think that’s how it went for me? nope. it did not go like that. not at all.

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i drove south on interstate 26 toward the newly built city within a city, biltmore park, certain that i would find my dream autumn day cozy spot. i was headed to a cafe named mosaic. that sounded all dark and cozy to me. and when i hear the word “mosaic”, i immediately think: diversity, uniqueness, artsy, colorfulness. a perfect little place.

why i expected that in the middle of biltmore park, i’ll never know.

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biltmore park is cool, but not really my style. i totally appreciate it and i visit the movie theatre there almost every time i go see a movie, but it’s a little upscale community that is one of those suburban-urban places. newly built, it has sidewalks winding around the buildings with store and restaurants on the ground floor and urban, lofty apartments above. the stores are not really chain stores, which is very cool. i love independent places. i have never been into any of them, but the wine & cheese store looks promising. wink wink. other than that, and barnes & noble (most definitely a chain store, but i love it anyway), the rest of the stores are not really my style either.

the apartments look cool with their loft, industrial-look from the outside. all of them with cool balconies, but it’s too much of a community. where i live is most definitely a community of newly built apartments, but our style is a little more arts & crafts, 1920s asheville merges with 21st century asheville. and we’re not in the suburbs, we are just outside downtown and a community all on our own – a community of just apartment homes, no stores or restaurants.

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in biltmore park, the whole community is right there. like a little downtown, but a man-made downtown, if you get what i mean. not a “natural”, old downtown. here it is fabricated. a “planned community” as their website describes it. still, it looks cool. but, i’m pretty sure it’s outrageously expensive and way too upsacale for me. i’m a bit more bohemian and organic than this place – which my apartment isn’t exactly like that either, but it’s waaaay closer and it’s green. and you know, when you are married, you work to find something that works for you both. so, we both love where we live right now.

so, why i thought that there would be a bohemian cafe there is beyond me.

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needless to say, since i had all these ideas and plans about how my fika was going to go today, i also had a dose of reality hit me right in the face. expectations… dashed. mosaic was, in no way, the place i dreamed up in my little head. when did i start dreaming up what the cafes would be like? didn’t i begin this project with no expectations and find excitement and craziness in every place? i think i’m having a coming to the end of the 40 days crisis: i have come to know what i like in a cafe, and i am dying to just cuddle up with myself or a friend or two in some of my favorite places. i keep thinking about a few different cafe and how i can’t wait to go back. i am not focused on the present moment. i am not focused on the joy of the project, but am ready for it to wrap up. i’m getting into that transitional stage of knowing that it’s coming to an end, so i’m focusing  on what comes next instead of right now. i gotta fix that.

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yes, i walked into mosaic and it was not at all what i had built up in my head. not. at. all. there were cute mosaic tables and dark wooden chairs, but the similarities to my fantasy mosaic ended there. there was a counter and a coffee bar, and two super friendly women working behind the counter. they were smile-y, sweet, and extremely kind. how nice that felt.

i noticed pretty quickly that there was one piece of pumpkin bread left and immediately decided that it was mine, though three people stood in front of me. i silently prayed that the food gods would intervene and keep my piece of pumpkin bread safe. it worked. i paid for my coffee and pumpkin bread, and then took my seat at a little table facing the cafe.

people poured in and out, and once again, i had discovered a place with regular regulars. they greeted the ladies behind the counter and engaged in conversations with them, the ladies behind the counter asking if they would have this or that today. gosh, i am so impressed by these places that create a little community of regulars who return again and again. it gives me hope for this individualistic world. when we can establish, not just routines, but relationships with one another – even over brief encounters in a cafe, i feel hope for humanity.

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so, i ate my yummy bread, sipped my amazing black widow coffee, and watch the world pass by in this little cafe. not what i planned or expected, but a good moment and a good time to reflect anyway.

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it’s just so amazing, and so important, to slow down and fika. that i have proven to myself.

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namaste. /liz

mosaic cafe . 1  town square blvd.  suite 150 . asheville, nc . www.ilovemosaiccafe.com

Day 28: going granola.

just off busy hendersonville road, south of the biltmore estate and biltmore village, you can find biltmore coffee traders. set back from the road a bit, the cute, red cottage looks inviting and, based on my previous experiences, i knew to let all expectations fall to the wayside. i just parked my car and went inside.

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i opened the screen door and entered a cozy, little room filled with the aroma of coffee, handmade things, and baked goods. it all felt very personal and homey. it was raw, organic, simple. there were bookshelves of coffee and other coffee gadgets, a counter with homemade goodies, a couple of tables and a sofa,  a big, yellow coffee bean roaster, and giant burlap coffee bags (filled with beans) in various places throughout the space. on the sofa were 4-5 bin aluminum bins with coffee beans in them…. drying, or something. sadly, i don’t now the process of roasting beans.

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the man behind the counter asked me what i wanted, and i looked up at the menu, saying “coffee. i know i want some coffee.” i was so overwhelmed and soaking in everything i was seeing in this tiny space. i finally pulled it together and ordered a muddy chai. i can’t remember exactly what that was right now. something with espresso and chai. but, different from a dirty chai.

while he was preparing my chai, i looked around and began to feel a bit nervous about how i was going to take photos without being totally obvious or watched by the two people sitting at the tables. the lady that was at the table had to be the owner, i thought to myself. she had her computer with her, and a portable telephone. so, i asked. sure enough, it was laura – the wife in the husband/wife team who owns, roasts, and runs this cozy cafe.

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i sat down at the table beside laura and began explaining who i was, what i was doing. i felt an instant connection with her. holding a conversation with her was so effortless and so enjoyable. we chatted back and forth for a long time, discussing her shop and the big plans for biltmore coffee traders. though we discussed business-y things, it was fun and personal.

ok. a little about the plans for the cafe. i noticed that there was a space off of the little room where i was. that space was empty and unfinished. clearly something was going on. and laura explained that they are doing an addition. but, in addition to the addition, they are planning a sort of re-launch in the coming months. a new logo. new name. lots of new stuff. and very exciting! so, of course, this chick is headed back often to see the progress… and i’ll be sure to post again about the cafe when all the new stuff is set!

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as laura and i kept chatting away, customers were coming in one at a time. mostly regulars. and people from all walks of life. young twenties who wanted coffee to go, or a milkshake to stay. a retired man buying tons of coffee beans for a wedding. a postman taking a break with a cup of coffee and a peanut butter cookie – which he shared with me, and it was sooooo delicious. and a retired man who had stories galore to share with me. oh, and i can’t forget the drive-in window where people come & get coffee to go. how cool is that?

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well, i sat there, in that little, simple cafe space, with no wi-fi internet, and talked with different people for the entire three hours that i was there. it was truly amazing. the welcoming, community feeling was incredible. i laughed with the postman’s little angel who was tazed by his little devil – his conscience telling him not to eat another cookie, but he did anyway. i conversed for about 45 minutes with a retired man, and we discovered we had tons of connections all across nc – lived in the same cities, both went to seminary, and so much more. and i just saw in awe, with my head in my hands, jaw dropped open, as i listen to him talk about the four years he spent travelings all across the usa, moving from town to town.

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it was incredible, this feeling that i had for the entire three hours that i was there. so simple. so real. so personal. and on top of it, laura and her husband work super hard to make their cafe, which they clearly love, a place that focuses on local, organic, fair-trade, and community-oriented goods. they are living their dream, working hard in order to do it, but only wanting to live the life that they want and provide the asheville community with a place to come and be a part of a cafe that has a heart. laura said it best when she was describing her cafe… “it’s a granola place.” for those of you who don’t know, granola things are known to be earthy, organic, real, local, grassroots, leftist, accepting, diverse, close to nature. and she was right. biltmore coffee traders is all of those things – and it doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcome. i promise you, based on what i saw, that all people feel welcomed there as well.

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so, if you’re in the area, you’ve gotta make sure to visit the cafe after the “re-launch”. but, you really don’t need to wait until then. go on over now. i’ll meet you there. we can have some yummy coffee & goodies. and sit and chat for as long as we want.

namaste. /liz

biltmore coffee traders . 518 hendersonville road. asheville, nc. www.biltmorecoffeetraders.com