Virginhillcoffee’s Weblog

What’s on our mind about gourmet coffee

Solofill

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I’ve been meaning to write this post forever – we ordered our Solofill refillable k-cups and got all excited when they arrived.  Tried them out and now three weeks later, finally getting around to posting.  So here’s our review.

Solofill - best refillable k-cup we've tried!

Of course there’s the obvious reasons we like Solofills: it takes away the environmental concerns of using k-cups and we can use our own coffee in them (which of course saves money, well, depending on how expensive your coffee taste is!).  But that’s pretty much the case for any of the refillable k-cup inventions.

So, what we liked about Solofill in particular:

  • We really liked that they are all one piece – because of the very small added hassle of having to wash them out, it’s nice to have everything in one piece so that nothing gets lost in the wash
  • On that note, it’s dishwasher-safe
  • It fits in ANY Keurig machine – both commercial and at home machines (which is rare)
  • Because of their Octaflo-Plus System, which evenly distributes hot water through the filter, you get the true taste of the coffee
  • It’s very easy to use
  • 100% BPA free

What we didn’t like about them:

  • Tiny bit of residue, but this is true to any permanent filter type of machine

That’s it!  And we were stretching for that one!  There is one more negative actually – we contacted them about a month ago to see if we could resell them and still not heard back!  Until we do, they have free shipping to Canada right now if you order 4 or more on their site.  At $14.95 USD they are about middle of the road in price, but great for value so definitely worth it.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Written by virginhillcoffee

May 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Breakfast Blend (Matin)

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Like a coffee that’s a little milder? Our Breakfast Blend (Matin) is great for people who like a milder coffee but still want the true taste of a good coffee. It is a blend of some of the best coffees sourced from Central America. It’s a traditional blend, rather mild but delicately sharp and a great choice if you’re not a regular coffee drinker.

Give it a try with free shipping. Or you can get 20% off if you order from our Facebook page!

Mild Coffee

Virgin Hill Breakfast Blend - a true, mild coffee

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May 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Ripplecove Blend

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A little post about our Ripplecove blend.  Generally when I give out a sample of our coffee this is one of the two I’ll hand out (the other is the Knowlton blend of course!).  This blend was a custom creation for Ripplecove Inn, a gorgeous inn on the shore of Lake Massawippi in Quebec.  The inn was originally built as a summer retreat and in the sixties became a year-round resort.  Beautiful views over the lake, a pool, fantastic spa and even a log cabin complete this escape.  On top of this, we’ve just installed in-room Keurig single serves in each of the guest rooms.

Anyway, back to the coffee itself.  It was developed for Ripplecove, with a full-bodied medium to bold strength.  It’s a fantastic all-rounder with lots of character.

ripplecove inn

Ripplecove Blend

Written by virginhillcoffee

April 20, 2011 at 2:48 am

Posted in Coffee

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It’s that time of year: Coffee + maple syrup

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I had never heard of it, but yet as a Quebecer it’s so obvious – maple syrup to sweeten your coffee (if you do that kind of thing).  So perfect in the morning, you’ll think your coffee is incomplete without eggs.  A bit stronger and sweeter than regular sugar.  Oh and according to a study commissioned by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers it has health benefits as well!   With anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compounds as well as antioxidants maple syrup in your coffee is not just delicious, it could even be called healthy :)  well in moderation of course.

Read about it here

Have you ever tried maple syrup in your coffee?  What a perfect time of year to give it a go!

Written by virginhillcoffee

April 15, 2011 at 3:09 am

Posted in Coffee add-ons

Frac Packs

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Because I love our new frac pack design so much, just a quick note about frac packs in general.  To begin frac pack is just short for fraction pack – they are a smaller packet of coffee that makes it easier for higher volume places (well, higher-volume than most homes lets say) to make coffee quickly, without having to measure out each time they make coffee.

www.virginhillcoffee.com sets up frac packs in  sizes based on what each customer needs.  This can be anywhere from 45 grams all the way up to a half pound bag (although 71 grams is usually the max).  Of course we always recommend that our customers use fresh beans and a grinder but this is not always possible due to lack of space and budget limitations.  In any case our frac packs are made fresh every week to go out in our weekly deliveries.  They are kind of like “single serves” for restaurants!

Here is our beautiful bag:

virgin hill coffee frac pack

Virgin Hill Coffee Frac Pack

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April 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Four O’Clock

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After indulging in a wonderful massage at Auberge West Brome this morning I was offered a cup of tea. Anyone who knows me knows that ironically I don’t consume hot drinks. But I was in the moment so had a Four O’Clock passion fruit tea. Completely surprised I totally enjoyed it! The teas are on our site and are FTO (fair trade organic). I’ve become a tea drinker (albeit luke warm!)!!

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April 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Teas

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Fundraising Success!

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Got some amazing news today!  A local elementary school of 400 students ran a Virgin Hill Coffee fundraising event over 3-4 weeks.  Only about half the school participated and they managed to make just over $6,500!!!  Terrific success!

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March 31, 2011 at 12:47 am

Posted in Coffee, VHC

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Chocolate cake with mocha frosting

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Maybe I should have called this post mocha frosting with chocolate cake! Just had a slice of this chocolatey coffee heaven. My mom spent 2 hours creating this delight (from virgin hill coffee – sorry, I can’t help myself). My intent was to post the recipe but she won’t share it. Seriously, she won’t. If you want it she has dishes in the sink and a carpet to vacuum. All serious offers considered.

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March 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Coffee

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Our sad attempt at growing coffee

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So this is a picture of our poor, pathetic coffee plants, brought lovingly from Kona. We searched the island for these puppies and ended up finding two at the airport. We were worried about getting them past customs but there wasn’t a problem as they were all approved.

Anyway after going out to buy $40 worth of supplies we transferred the plants, which were already turning brown. Matthew (yes, I’m blaming him) seemed to forget what we learned – how lava rock makes for good growing conditions because the plants don’t sit in water. They’ve been sitting in water. Lots.

But not all is lost. We’re banking on 6 beans we’ve planted. We will prove you can grow coffee in Canada!

(if you have any tips please post! Thanks!)

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March 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Coffee

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This week’s offer

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Ok so I’ve tried to be creative about this week’s offer. But, as you’ll see, I’m definitely lacking inspiration. So here it is: half off, 50% off, get twice what you pay for, buy 1 get 1 free, etc. Just use HALFMARCH at checkout Virgin Hill

Always wanted to try something new? Buy your regular coffee and try maybe the Hatley blend (or whatever you want) for free.

The code is good until March 30, 2011.

Written by virginhillcoffee

March 25, 2011 at 12:17 am

Posted in Offers

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Kona Coffee Expedition

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We were very fortunate last month – we went to the Big Island of Hawaii, the one and only home of Kona Coffee, for a lesson in coffee.  We obviously know all about what happens after getting the green beans but we’ve always wanted to see the first phase, from growing the coffee.

The Kona Coffee belt is located on the west side of the island.  We were staying near the beautiful reefs in Kopoho, on the south east side so it was about 3 hours to drive to Kona.  In true form I had the day planned out for Matthew and I of course :)

First we went to visit an acquaintance we had met through HomeAway.  We had wanted to rent his home, which is gorgeous, but out of our budget.  Here’s the view of the pool:

pool in kona

Needless to say it was amazing.  If you’re interested their site is: Kona View Estate Randy and Atsumi are wonderful hosts and the place is truly incredible.  Plus there’s the added bonus of staying on a coffee farm.  Anyway, Randy made us a beautiful cup of his coffee and showed us around the estate.  They’ve done so much work and it’s beautiful.

They were using the Fukunaga pruning method, this is a method of pruning back every third row of trees so that they are on a three year rotation.  Pruning is essential in growing coffee to keep up the quality and quantity of each tree so there’s been lots of testing various methods.  There is also the Kona method, but we didn’t actually see any farms using this system.  It’s a shame I can’t remember how many trees their farm has – I do know that 1 tree produces about 1 pound of roasted coffee – all that work for 1 pound!

After a lovely visit we went on to Hula Daddy,just down the road.  The manager, Debbie, was so kind and took us on a separate special tour of the farm.  This is where we got to see all of the steps of the bean:

We picked some beautiful rich-colored ripe cherries and squished out the bean.  The cherries grow in clusters very close together – when they are ripe it looks like it would be the perfect Christmas decoration!  I was quite surprised to see that covering the bean is a very slimey, sweet goo – the parenchyma. So after the cherries are picked they are  “washed”, the process where the bean is removed from the rest of the fruit.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see this process as it is done offsite.  There are still a couple of layers that need to be removed from here though, one is the parchment.  This comes off easily during milling which is after the beans are dried.  The beans are dried on big tables out in the Kona sun.

The dried beans are then run back to Hula Daddy where they sort them by size to be graded: Kona Extra Fancy, Kona Fancy, Kona Number 1, Kona Select and Kona Prime as well as Peaberry (Matthew loves peaberry).

Something weird and unexpected we got to see was a wild turkey fight.  It was mating season and there were two males duking it out right in the middle of the coffee trees.

We ran out of time of course so made another trip to Kona where we got to see the UCC operation.  The Ueshima Coffee Company was founded in 1933 and touted as the leader in Japanese coffee.  Their visitors centre is beautiful and offers a custom blend that you get to roast and label yourself.

Our coffee trip was incredible – we learned so much and will never forget the warm Hawaiian welcome we received.  Aloha!!

coffee estate

Matt & Tara in coffee heaven

Written by virginhillcoffee

March 23, 2011 at 1:28 am

Posted in Coffee, VHC

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Ski blend

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Probably a bit late this year but we’re thinking about doing a ski bum blend for next year. It would give you a good kick in the rear to get you hitting the fresh virgin slopes early (like how I did that?). We’re thinking online only. We’ll let you all know how it goes!

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March 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Coffee

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Some website bugs

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Although it’s gone really well, we’ve had a bug with our website giveaway. But that’s what this first little bit was about- identifying the problems and fine-tuning. We’re pretty sure it’s because paypal won’t accept a 0 dollar amount. But then we do have orders in so it worked for some. We tried replicating the problem last night and were able to but we weren’t able to find the fix either. I think we’ll close down the giveaway soon and offer something else next week that will hopefully solve the problem.

Not to worry – next week’s offer will be great (although there’s really nothing better than free of course!). We’ll let you know what it is shortly!

In the meantime thanks for your orders, help, patience and support. We’ll be shipping your orders this weekend.

Written by virginhillcoffee

March 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Website

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Free Coffee!

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We’ve been a bit quiet around here.  Actually, I’ve just seen that our last post was done a year ago.  TBH we were never really happy with our site so never felt ready for a real internet presence.  The site was nice to look at and fairly well-organised but it didn’t do what we wanted it to.  So we went back to the drawing board and with the help of a pal (thanks Colin Boyd!) saw what we could actually do.  He worked his stuff and here we have it – our kind of new, definitely improved, super duper site: www.virginhillcoffee.com

So what do you think?

We’ve used Magento’s platform and it’s fantastic – we’re really happy with it so far.  There are so many add-ons available and Matthew’s next project will be to put on coffee subscriptions.  We’re still needing to upload Fair Trade Coffees – the delay is because we’re also Rainforest Alliance certified so want to go in with that instead.

As a last point – we’re giving away coffee (see the title wasn’t misleading after all!).  To celebrate the re-launch of our site we are offering a $7 bag of coffee (227g) for free to all of our Canadian friends.  We’ve even thrown in free shipping.  You just need to use the code LAUNCH11 in the checkout and there you have it!  We would ask if you could please leave a review of the coffee once you’ve tasted it that would be great.  Enjoy the new site and our free coffee offer!

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March 16, 2011 at 1:39 am

Lightning never strikes twice, well maybe not…

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Lightning never strikes twice, well maybe not…
 
Before we carry on with how we went about re-building our fire-stricken business, we have an update.  Two weeks ago we found ourselves once again surrounded by firetrucks.  The fire inspectors say the fire started in the electrical in the roof.  Michael was roasting at the time and kept trying to turn the roaster’s heating down.  Because of the fire in the roof, the electrical was not allowing him to turn down the heat so the roaster got so hot it exploded.  Luckily, Michael is ok.  We didn’t lose everything this time either – just the roaster.  We are in the midst of sourcing one now but while we wait Michael is roasting our beans in borrowed facilities the south shore of Montreal.
 
Onward and upward – I think we should get team t-shirts with this plastered over them!  The one good thing about all this is that we had a plan B already in place so we didn’t skip a beat for deliveries!

Written by virginhillcoffee

March 25, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Posted in The Fire

Surviving While Rebuilding

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While we went about the task of building up our assets to roast coffee again we had to come up with a way to supply our existing customers so that delivery to them wouldn’t skip a beat. 

 

When you think about it – how many business owners make a Backup plan for things like total business devastation?  I think most people depend on insurance and leave it at that, which is fine if you don’t mind collecting the money and walking away.  But if you plan on continuing on then you need a way to supply customers so that they don’t feel the heat from your fire (I will try to keep the puns to a minimum) and look elsewhere for supply.  Also, this is where clients get worried about using small companies.  So this was our chance to prove that just because we were a small, new, local company we weren’t going anywhere.

 

Anyway, we needed a way to keep our customers happy.  We began calling our coffee roaster contacts to see if we could borrow anybody’s machine.  We ended up going to an outfit just outside of Montreal.  For a premium they allowed us to use their coffee roasting facilities.  It was certainly challenging getting used to a new machine and we went through loads of coffee trying to get our roasts right but we managed fine in the end.  Now with ourselves covered we needed to address our customers.

 

Being in the country we knew it was only a matter of short time before our customers started hearing the news about the fire and worrying about their supply.  We called all our customers and let them know what had happened and assured them all that their supply would not be interrupted.

 

Now we had to get on to sourcing our equipment.

Written by virginhillcoffee

December 16, 2008 at 12:39 am

Free Shipping!!!

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For those of you who haven’t seen, we are shipping free of charge if you spend more than $25 on your order.  The free shipping will be calculated at check-out.  Thanks for shopping!

  virginhill_banner

Written by virginhillcoffee

December 16, 2008 at 12:36 am

The Aftermath

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Once we saw the extent of the damage the fire did to our coffee roasting business we had to decide what route we wanted to take.  Two weeks before the fire we had discussed insurance options and, unfortunately, kept our insurance as is so we were only covered for a third of what we lost.  We were left with a few options:

1) Collect the insurance money and call it a day.  Close up shop for Virgin Hill Coffee.  I’d have to figure out what to do and unfortunately I’ve worked for myself for so long that’s what I’d like to keep doing
2) Continue on selling Virgin Hill Coffee but figure out a lease or partnership type of arrangement with somebody else’s roaster and packaging equipment
3) Secure funding and rebuild the asset part of the business from scratch

Obviously we went for rebuilding Virgin Hill Coffee’s roasting facilities.  There were others involved in the decision but to me it really was the only thing to do. 

With the decision made we set about searching for a new facility.  To service our current 100 customers with a view to moderate expansion we needed 5,000 square feet with 18 foot ceilings.  Ideally there would be a loading dock and location-wise we needed it to be close to Highway 10.  We searched towns and small cities within 50 kilometers of our original plant in Waterloo Quebec.  Knowlton, Cowansville, Bromont and Granby were considered.  However, we didn’t expect to find what we did.

Less than two days after the fire we were sadly looking over the ruins of our business.  We left with our heads down and took a different route home, circling the block.  There it was, not a kilometer away from our former location in Waterloo – the perfect building.  A standalone warehouse with our requisite 5,000 square feet – 4,000 for roasting and packaging and another 1,000 in office space.  We secured the lease for $200 more than what we had been paying on a 10 year lease.  The place was perfect for the rebirth of Virgin Hill Coffee.  And with that, we were back in business.

 

Written by virginhillcoffee

November 28, 2008 at 1:19 am

Were Back!!

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Well it has been a whirlwind of a past year and even so, I am embarrassed to see that my first (and last) blog post was 9 months ago. I am sure I’ve just experienced what many bright-eyed, enthusiastic, good-intentioned first time bloggers have; a very long blogger’s block.  Also known as “oh man I really need to write a blog – hmmm rebuild a business or write my blog?”.
 
Yes, that’s right, rebuild a business.  And I’m not talking in metaphors either.  In mid-July the plant housing our roasting facilities burned to the ground (http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/200809/08/01-657016-incendie-suspect-a-waterloo.php).  We lost everything – our packaging, our green and roasted beans, our equipment and most significantly, our roaster.  When all was said and done we lost about $300,000 worth.  There were also those little things that kept coming up like all my tools and the years of gathering those invaluable nuts and bolts – things that only time can replace.  There was also stuff that we had been storing for people – like all of my sister’s belongings and my father in law’s couch (ouch!).

So my blog will be taking a different route than what was initially planned.  The next few installments will be dedicated to how we rebuilt our coffee biz from scratch.  I’ll go over how we sourced our roaster and what we did as an interim measure to keep our business going without skipping a beat. 

Personally we also had a very busy summer.  Our second son Dexter Jack was born in May.  The following month we moved into our newly renovated house (without a kitchen I might add).  Then, of course, the month after that was the fire.  It has been grueling but we are all healthy and happy and the lot of us has had a fantastic attitude.  We were at the point in the business where expansion was a possibility and we took the fire as a chance to move forward to invest in a bigger roaster and expand our roasting facility.  I look forward to sharing how we went about it with you.  

Written by virginhillcoffee

November 18, 2008 at 3:24 am

Stop and smell the… coffee!

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Thanks for visiting my blog!  Just a quick message about me for my first blog post.  I’m a 33 year old guy who loves coffee.  Any time that’s not spent with my wife and toddler is spent knee-deep in everything related to coffee.  I started roasting coffee just over 10 years ago when I opened my first brûlerie.  I found out that I enjoyed the roasting process so much that I decided to start my own coffee roasting business – Virgin Hill Coffee.  We’re well into our third year now and I’m happy to say the business is growing even better than we expected.

In this blog I intend to write about the finer points of coffee; roasting techniques, issues surrounding fair trade coffees, green bean quality, and the commercialization of coffee along with updates on our own business and how that’s working out.  We have also launched a brand new transactional website so I’m sure I’ll be going over our discoveries from this as well – we’ll also be posting vouchers and special offers for our readers.  I’m sure I’ll be sneaking in some rookie dad posts as well – although not sure how much anyone can blog about lack of sleep!

Thank you for visiting our blog and Ireally hope you come back again!

Written by virginhillcoffee

January 15, 2008 at 3:14 am

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