10 Great Last-Minute Gifts for Coffee and Tea Lovers
Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
It's now Monday before Christmas (!). Are you still desperate to fill the stockings of coffee and tea lovers on your list? Here's a last-minute guide to 10 presents you can buy ASAP, including a certificate for a roasting class, a set of premium teas, and an earth-friendly reusable mug.
Coffee Roasting Class
For the DIY type, gift this one-hour coffee roasting class led by the knowledgeable folks from Crop to Cup in Gowanus. Your recipient will gather a basic understanding of the process so that one day, when he or she trades Manhattan for upstate New York to raise hens and farm kale, they can make use of that dilapidated barn in the back as a roasting shed (sounds pretty good, actually). Participants will roast four batches of beans -- two guided by the pros, and two solo -- on the firm's Huky 500, while learning how to grade green coffee beans, before leaving with four pounds of their very own. $60 at Crop to Cup, 541 A Third Avenue, 347-599-0053
Reusable Coffee Mug
Nearly 220 billion paper cups are used and disposed of worldwide, and those figures are rising rapidly each year. On a mission to stop the mounting coffee cup detritus (have you seen the overflowing trash cans outside a Manhattan Starbucks?) is the Australian-designed Jococup, a reusable glass mug featuring a splash-proof lid and silicone thermal sleeve, sold in an array of bright colors and standard disposable-cup sizes. It's a perfect gift for the coffee lover who is a slave to their daily habit. $15 at Joe Pro Shop, 131 West 21st Street, 212-924-7400
Palais des Thés Tea Sampler Gift Box
Paris-based company Palais des Thés has boutiques on Prince Street in Soho and the Upper West Side, making last-minute purchases by procrastinating shoppers a breeze. For the tea lover looking to delve deeper into the complex world of the Camellia sinensis plant, consider picking up a gift-ready tasting box. The Signature Classique Set combines a selection of five single-estate teas such as Big Ben, and five flavored teas such as Rooibos des Vahinés. The Single-Estate Tea Set introduces a diverse selection of global teas, including Grand Yunnan Impérial, a flowery and mild Chinese black tea; Sencha Ariake, a Japanese green tea; and Butterfly of Taiwan, an oolong tea. Each box also contains a tea tasting guide. $55 for 10 whole leaf tea tubes, 12 grams each, in a gift box at Palais des Thés, various locations.
Sencha and Teapot Set
Three-hundred-year-old Kyoto-based purveyor of premium green teas Ippodo Tea Co. opened an outpost in Murray Hill last year. For tea aficionados who know the difference between gyokuro, sencha, and bancha, consider snagging a teapot set (in which all three can be prepared), paired with a canister of flowery, sweet Kaboku Sencha. The bundle -- pre-wrapped in attractive Japanese-script block-print parchment -- includes a handcrafted ceramic pot made by artisans in Tokoname, Japan, along with instructions on brewing the perfect cup. $139 at Ippodo Tea Co., 125 East 39th Street, 212-370-0609
Crown Maple Syrup
While not directly coffee- or tea-related, maple syrup is tangentially linked: For coffee drinkers who insist on sweetening their brew (which I condone if drinking it iced), consider gifting them a bottle of high-quality, organic-brand Crown Maple. While this addictive amber liquid is, no matter how natural, still regrettably full of sugar, it delivers a hell of a lot more flavor than agave, stevia, or the old-fashioned white stuff. Robb and Lydia Turner tap Crown from their sustainably managed sugar and red maple trees in New York's own Hudson Valley, providing New Yorkers another chance to buy -- and drink -- local. $16.95 for 12 ounces of light, medium, or dark amber, at multiple Whole Foods locations.
Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder
Though it's not necessarily well suited for espresso (in fact, let's just state that this machine is for pour-overs, French press, and other filter brews), the Capresso Infinity is probably the best grinder under $200 on the market. Mine has been running beautifully since 2009, and due to its nearly daily service, I've managed to rub off the numerical settings as though I am telling time, through memory, on a Bulova. Burr grinders, particularly the conical kind, produce less heat, and offer better consistency and control over grind particle size. It's time for that budding coffee aficionado to relegate that whirling, twenty-buck Krups to permanent spice duty. $99 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, multiple locations.
Aeropress Coffee Brewing System
After it became famous for its frisbee -- the flying donut that can be launched four footballs fields -- Aerobie next, oddly enough, designed a lightweight plastic coffee maker in 2006. The Aeropress has been so well received and widely adopted in shops and by coffee fans that a world championship was dedicated to brewing with the device a mere two years after its release. Though half of the product is extraneous plastic pieces (toss the paddle, probably the scoop, and maybe the funnel), the remaining cylinder and plunger unit gives campers and travelers a lightweight option to make great coffee on the road. Advise your intended not to use the accompanying directions, but rather to look up significantly better brewing techniques online. $25 at Joe Pro Shop, 131 West 21st Street (and several other coffee shops), and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, multiple locations.
Coffee and Tea Scale
Sleek, eco-friendly, multipurpose, precise, easy to clean, and easy on the eyes, the bamboo wood platform of the Eco-scale can be used by those who hand-pour their coffee at home and also measure in their kitchen. Convert weight into ounces, grams, pounds, or milliliters. With a capacity of up to 11 pounds, it should cover most baking and cooking needs. $30 at Best Buy, Walmart, multiple locations.
Coffee Subscription Service
For an absolute last-minute gift, try newcomer Vega's coffee bean subscription service. Just print out the email gift card (redacting the date, of course), proving that you ordered coffee to be delivered to your recipient's apartment/house, and slip it into an envelope and onto a bough of the tree. Elect to order the 12-ounce, small-batch, single-origin coffees in two shipments for $30, four shipments for $60, or eight for $120, and on up (sorry, no volume discounts), and choose the roast level and grind type (and note that whole beans are preferable for any serious enthusiast). Sure, Starbucks has a subscription service, as do several other known brands, but New York-based Vega offers a vanguard model: Its beans are roasted by the farmer. $30 and up, with free priority shipping, available online at Vega Coffee.
Premium Coffee Sampler with Silver Cupping Spoon
Nobletree's bold business model has been featured in this column before, but since it hasn't yet opened its first café in the city, would-be drinkers can only get its coffee online. Assuming your recipient already has a grinder (see recommendation above), consider this gift set of three different high-quality coffee beans. The sampler includes coffee from Dromedaire Cuvée (the Brazilian farm from which Nobletree grows, processes, and roasts all the coffees itself), an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Gutiti, and a Nicaragua Bella Aurora AA. The box comes with a silver-plated, engraved cupping spoon so your coffee lover can grind, brew, and slurp their way through the beans. $120 online at Nobletree. (The set just became available last Friday; due to the requirement of online ordering and UPS shipping, it likely won't arrive in time to be wrapped for Hanukkah or Christmas Eve.)
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