Tag Archives: Counter Culture Coffee

Buy Local ~ Triangle Holiday Gift Guide

With the holidays right around the corner here are my suggestions for locally made products and locally owned shops to consider when doing your holiday shopping. Each suggestion includes a link to the shop or product website for more information and locations where they can be found. I hope you will help support our local community and considering buying local this year! Happy Holidays!!

Foodie Gifts
These items are perfect for the foodie friends and family members on your shopping list. They also make for great host gifts while doing the holiday party circuit and will ensure you are invited back next year!

1. Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Butter – Durham, NC

Big Spoon Roasters makes handcrafted nut butters from scratch in Durham, North Carolina. Their carefully selected nuts and wildflower honeys are sourced from local and like-minded farmers who share their dedication to authentic quality. Each small batch is roasted, milled, and packaged while still warm to produce nut butters that are uniquely fresh, delicious, and nutritious.

2. Escazu Chocolate – Raleigh, NC

Escazu Chocolate is a fantastic “bean to bar” chocolate maker located in Downtown Raleigh. They directly source fine cacao from small farms, they then roast and grind on antique equipment. Escazu handcrafts bars, truffles, confections and more at their workshop and store on Blount Street.

3. Videri Chocolate Raleigh, NC

Videri Chocolate is another great chocolate maker in Raleigh. The company was started by group of friendly folks who wanted to create wonderful chocolate, from bean to bar, everyday. Operations are located in a cozy downtown chocolate factory in Raleigh’s warehouse district that scrupulously sources every ingredient to insure a high quality, responsible chocolate.

4. Nello’s Sauce – Raleigh, NC

Nello’s Sauce was born in 2010 in Neal “Nello” McTighe’s kitchen with his now wife Heather by his side. Since then Nello’s has grown rapidly to become one of the leading premium tomato sauce companies in the southeast, gaining many loyal customers and rave reviews. The Nello’s mission is to create the world’s most outstanding and innovative tomato sauces and to be a better business by fighting hunger through a partnership with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

5. Topo Distillery Spirits – Chapel Hill, NC

The Top of the Hill Distillery is the only USDA Certified Organic, local and suatainable distillery in the South. Their gold medal winning TOPO Vodka, TOPO Piedmont Gin and TOPO Carolina Whiskey are all hand-crafted from organic Carolina soft red winter wheat grown less than 100 miles from their Chapel Hill, NC home. They also have a cool “Age Your Own” whiskey kits that make for a great gift!

6. Vintage Bee Honey – Chapel Hill, NC
vintage bee

Vintage Bee’s signature line of creamed honeys are made with 12 fruits and spices each with their own distinct character. The versatility of Vintage Bee Creamed Honey is only limited by the imagination. It’s perfect on toast, sandwiches, bagels, and in oatmeal. You can’t beat it as a topping for pancakes or waffles and it’s a healthy sweetener for coffee or tea. It’s great for baking and cooking, and is outstanding on seafood or as a marinade for vegetables or meats.

7. Cackalacky – Chapel Hill, NC

Cackalacky is headquartered in Chapel Hil where they brew and distribute the famously original Cackalacky Spice Sauce, Spice Nuts and are now collaborating with Fullsteam Brewery to brew the awesomely hoppy and zippy Cackalacky Pale Ale! Founded by Page Skelton, they are a small family-owned and operated NC business dedicated to “making everyday food and drink an extraordinary experience.”

8. Crude Bitters & Soda – Raleigh, NC
crude bitters

Crude Bitters & Sodas was started in 2012 with a DIY attitude and the thought that delicious cocktails and soft drinks could be improved upon. Each bitters and soda flavor is hand-made by human hands utilizing only the finest ingredients and careful attention. Crude Sodas are old-fashioned fountain sodas served via draft. The flavors are unique and crafted to be savored purely on their own, sweetened with a perfect balance of natural sugars. Crude Bitters are crafted from 100% maceration in alcohol, with no chemicals or dyes.

9. “A Passion For Bread” Book by Lionel Vatinet – Cary, NC
passion for bread

In “A Passion for Bread” Lionel Vatinet, Master Baker of Cary’s La Farm Bakery shares his knowledge of bread, passed on from a long line of French artisan bakers, to the American home, with detailed instructions and dozens of step-by-step photographs. It covers everyday loaves like baguettes, ciabatta, and whole grain breads, as well as loaves for special occasions, including Beaujolais Bread, Jalapeño Cheddar Bread, and Lionel Vatinet’s celebrated sourdough boule. The book offers a detailed introduction to bread baking, 65 recipes, and 350 full-color photographs.

10. Huntington Kitchen GranolaRaleigh, NC

Huntington Kitchen delivers classically inspired, artisanal foods with an innovative twist to the people of North Carolina. We specialize in nut butters, granolas & other specialty items. All of their products are scratch made using the freshest all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients available. When you place an order through their online store, you can now select FREE local pick up and pick up your goodies from Cafe Helios in downtown Raleigh (413 Glenwood Avenue).

Merchandise & Accessories – Local
The Triangle is also home to some great local businesses who make their products right here in North Carolina. In addition to the three local suggestions provided below, you should also check out local places like Deco and Cimos in Raleigh and Gather in Cary to find more products and gift ideas created by local artisans.

11. Mill & Bird Leather BagsDurham, NC

Mill & Bird was started by designer Krissy Anderson of Durham and her hand crafted leather bags are made right here in North Carolina. Krissy has always been a bag addict and a sucker for all things handmade. She taught herself how to sew leather after she couldn’t find the simple, elegant leather bag she craved. No studs, no zippers, no bells and whistles – just beautiful, top quality leather cut in a timeless design. Mill & Bird leather bags are simple, chic bags made for everyday use. Available at select boutiques and online at millandbird.com. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Mathison Photography)

12. HatchDurham, NC

Hatch is a pop-up shop full of thoughtful home goods & gifts for the Modern Southerner. It is located on the American Tobacco Campus on Blackwell St. under the Cuban Revolution sign. Hatch is a concept born out of wanting a unique and dynamic shopping experience in downtown Durham. Guided by their love for excellent design, you’ll notice that all the products at Hatch fit a particular style of the Modern South – colorful, graphic, simple, approachable, and thoughtfully designed. As often as they can, they source goods made in the USA, often right here in the South, and often from suppliers that are small batch independent designer/makers, craftspeople, and/or eco-friendly producers. Products at Hatch have their own stories before arriving at the shop, stories that they hope you take home and make uniquely yours.

13. JustNeem – Cary, NC

Just Neem

JustNeem is a Body Care company based in Cary, NC, specializing in natural premium Neem products for body and skin care. JustNeem is a certified B-Corporation which use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. All of their products contain naturally grown Neem and other pure ingredients that help sustain healthy and soothe irritated skin. Their Neem comes from their own orchards grown organically in the deserts of Africa. Products they offer range from soaps, creams, and lotions and they also have put together a special JustNeem Gift Guide just in time for the holidays.

Locally Roasted Coffee
I know this gift list includes a lot of coffee products but hey, you know how much I love coffee! This holiday whether you give the gift of coffee beans, gift cards, or coffee gear I suggest doing so from the following great local coffee businesses.

14. Slingshot Coffee Company – Raleigh, NC

Sling Shot Coffee is a favorite of mine. It is my “go to” for a party host gift. Made right here in Raleigh, Slingshot was started Jennifer Bonchak a little over a year ago. Jennifer hand brews and bottles small batches of cold brew coffee using only two ingredients — quality, in-season, single-origin, organic coffee beans roasted locally by Counter Culture Coffee and filtered tap water from the City of Oaks. Slingshot can be found in several shops around the Triangle including Whole Foods. Check out some fun suggested cold brew drink recipes here.

15. Raleigh Coffee Company – Raleigh, NC

Raleigh Coffee Company is a small batch roaster that operates out of North Raleigh. I’m a huge fan of the Ethiopian Yergacheffe and their Honduras Decaf is incredible and drinks just like regular. Visit their website to learn more about their ongoing Holiday Bean Project: Haiti Playground where $5 from every bag sold will benefit children in Haiti. Also, if you have a lot of coffee lovers on your list check out their Holiday Wholesale Program for special pricing on orders of 5 or more bags of coffee.

16. Carrboro Coffee Roasters Carrboro, NC

Carrboro Coffee Roasters Company is Chapel Hill/Carrboro’s premiere small batch coffee roaster. With a worldwide reach that focuses on, works within, and gives back to the community they live in, and the world at large. The coffee is sourced with these ideals in mind. They source through Direct Relationships with the farmers, and offer Certified Organic & Fair Trade coffees. They are also careful to source coffee that is grown and processed humanely, and allows the farmers the means to live decently. Owner Scott Conary regularly travels to coffee growing countries around the world to establish and support their Direct Relationship model.

17. Counter Culture Coffee – Durham, NC

Counter Culture Coffee is roasted right here in Durham. Each holiday season they release a special, limited edition coffee dedicated to celebration and good cheer. One dollar from every package sold goes to Counter Culture’s partners in Burundi to support their transition to becoming Certified Organic.

18. Larry’s Beans Coffee – Raleigh, NC

Larry’s Beans is a great local roaster Raleigh. Their coffee is Fair Trade, Shade Grown, and Organic, all slow-roasted to bring out every note of indigenous flavor. Their green-o-vated facilities use passive solar construction, active solar systems, radiant floors, zoned heating, composting, and rainwater harvesting to minimize our impact on this awesome planet. They offer 15 Creative Blends and 15 Single-Origin Blends, along with limited-roast favorites like Rockin’ Holiday Blend.

Coffee Shop Gift Cards, Coffee Gear & Stocking Stuffers
Following up on the coffee bean suggestions, nothing beats a gift card to your favorite local coffee shop. There several great local coffee shops in the Triangle and most offer gift cards and sell cool coffee equipment for the home brewer. Here are a few of my favorite local shops that are the perfect place to shop for the coffee nerd on your list.

19. Jubala Village Coffee – Raleigh, NC

Jubala has an array of coffee brewing equipment for sale in their shop. From pour overs to grinders to kettles. They also sell bags of Counter Culture Coffee and offer gift cards. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and enjoy explaining the different brew methods and equipment. They can help you find the perfect gift for the coffee lover in your life.

20. Cocoa Cinnamon – Durham, NC

Cocoa Cinnamon is another great place for coffee gift cards, brewing equipment, and stocking stuffers. You will also find a host of teas and fine bean to bar chocolates for sale in their shop as well. While you’re there make sure you walk up the street to Fullsteam Brewery and buy a growler of beer for your holiday party.

21. Bean Traders – Durham, NC

Bean Traders not only sells their own coffee beans (roasted in house), but the shop also has many different products from local artisans that make for great gifts & stocking stuffers. While you’re over that way you might want to drive down the road and swing by Rise Durham for a dozen donuts. They will be a hit at your next holiday party.

22. Sola Coffee & Cafe’ – Raleigh, NC

Sola Coffee & Cafe is great spot to pick up a bag of locally roasted Counter Culture Coffee and purchase gift cards. Sola also has a great food menu in addition to excellent coffee & espresso drinks so a gift card can go towards coffee or a fun dinner out. Sola will play host to a Holiday “Pop-Up” Market on Saturday December 7th from 10am-2pm providing a great opportunity to purchase gifts from local artists.

23. Electric Beanz – Raleigh, NC

Electric Beanz is a cool little coffee bar that has brought third wave coffee to southern Wake County. They are located at the junction of Raleigh, Garner and Fuquay. Electric Beanz serves Larry’s Beans coffee & Stockton Graham espresso, smoothies, frappes, tea, & baked goods. Coffee beans, mugs, and gift cards are available at the shop. This year they are having a “Black Friday” drink special. Buy One drink, Get One free from 6:30am ’til noon this Friday (11/29).

Specialty Stores
The Triangle also has great local places to find gifts for those who like to cook or enjoy a nice glass of wine. All of the places listed below have great staff to help you select the perfect gift.

24. Savory Spice Shop -Spices – Raleigh, NC
Best spice shop in Raleigh @savoryraleigh in Lafayette Village. #fathersdaygifts

Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh has Over 400 herbs & spices, 140 proprietary blends freshly ground weekly. This is a great locally owned and operated shop where you can buy spices in almost any size and even have the ability to purchase as little as a half ounce for your recipes. Bottles of unique fresh spices make for great hostess gifts and stocking stuffers. Spice gift packages and gift cards are also available.

25. Whisk Carolina – Cary, NC
knife case at whisk

Whisk Carolina is a unique, independent and locally operated kitchenware store that offers kitchen, entertaining, and specialty gourmet food items as well as cooking classes and services for those who love to cook. Whether you are a casual home cook or a professional chef, you can find quality cookware and tools at Whisk to enhance your cooking and entertaining experience. Gift cards available.

26. Taylor’s Wine Shop – Raleigh, NC

Taylor’s Wine Shop is a hidden gem in North Raleigh. Don’t let its unassuming exterior fool you. This is a top notch wine shop with a wide selection of wines offered by a knowledgeable and friendly staff. In addition to wine, they sell local products like handmade soaps, local craft beers, Escazu Chocolate, and Larry’s Beans & Carrboro Coffee.

27. Wine Authorities – Raleigh & Durham, NC
wine authorities

Wine Authorities in Durham (and its soon to open Raleigh location) is the perfect wine store for drinkers of everyday wine, with all wines being under $50 a bottle, with the vast majority of the inventory under $15. They also feature online private wine purchase history for all customers with descriptions and label photos and have a super-friendly staff. Gift cards available.

Upcoming Holiday Markets
The annual Rock & Shop Market in Durham on Saturday Nov. 30th will feature over 75 artisans selling their wares alongside bands, DJs, and food trucks. To learn more about upcoming holiday markets follow my friend Kim over at TriangleLocalista.com. Kim has put together an awesome summary of upcoming Holiday Markets where you can find a host of locally made products from local artisans.


Filed under Businesses, Markets

Sola Coffee Café 1st Anniversary Celebration April 5-6th!


Sola Coffee Cafe in North Raleigh

Sola Coffee Café is one of my favorite places to hang out in North Raleigh.  It is a great community oriented coffee bar and cafe’ that serves locally roasted Counter Culture Coffee, has a great food menu and regularly features live music on weekends. This weekend marks their one year anniversary and Sola is celebrating this milestone by donating $1.00 from every sale of a dozen of their famous hot mini donuts the weekend of April 6th to Note in the Pocket, a children’s clothing resource based in Raleigh, NC serving students in Wake County. 


Sola’s Famous Hot Mini Donuts

In addition to raising funds for this great local charity, Sola will also be giving away a dozen free Hot Mini Donuts a day for a year to two lucky winners this weekend. The promotion runs all day Friday and Saturday (April 5th and 6th) with Live music both nights and during the day on Saturday. Counter Culture Coffee guru, Lem Butler, will also be on hand to oversee a “Coffees from Around the World” tasting on Friday afternoon from 1-3pm.  See the full schedule of events below!


Inside Sola

Schedule of Events!

– “Tasting a World of Coffee” Free Coffee Tasting ~ 1-3 pm
– Live Music by Dublin Down (Celtic Music) ~ 7:30 pm

– Live Music w/ Gabe Trace (Jazz Pianist) ~ 10:15 am
– Live Music w/ Mac Brown (Acoustic Covers) ~ 11:30 am
– Live Music w/ Smith & Leonhardt (Acoustic Covers) ~ 7:30 pm
– NCAA Michigan v. Syracuse Game (In TV Meeting Room)
– Drawing for Hot Mini Donuts for a year (2 winners) ~ 8:30 pm

About Sola Coffee Café

Sola opened in March 2012, selling Counter Culture Coffee and gourmet sandwiches, salads, bakery and our signature Hot Minis. Coffee and Teas are procured from small sustainable farms. Emphasis is placed on supporting NC locally owned businesses (Counter Culture Coffee, New York Bagels, Great Harvest Breads, Spice Shop, Harrington Bank, Homeland Creamery, others). Presently, they employ 15 staff and anticipate hiring throughout the balance of the year as the business expands.


Counter Culture Coffee

They have sought to create a unique boutique style coffee shop that emphasizes hospitality and community with a European flavor.

  • Coffee and Tea– We serve single-origin organic coffees and teas. Trained baristas create delicious drinks with art and homemade syrups in the tradition of Italy.
  • Sandwiches and Salads- We create sandwiches and salads with organic meats, some local and organic vegetables, and homemade dressings.
  • Bakery– We bake daily in-house or receive from local businesses.
  • Hot Mini Donuts (254,546 and counting)- We make our Hot Minis, rolled in cinnamon/sugar, and serve them hot all day long.
  • Catering- We cater events onsite and off. Groups of 10-200. Recent events include a Tea Party at Wake Tech and Hot Minis (144 dozen) for a training event at a local business.
  • Live Music– Weekly, the community gathers on Friday and Saturday evenings for live music from local musicians, and out-of-towners from Nashville (even San Francisco this summer).

Sola resides in an old Pioneer Bank building (vault included) that has been renovated with up-cycled materials. Its unique décor captures the old and the new. Come join the festivities at 7705 Lead Mine Road Raleigh, NC 27615 (Map).

Website: www.solacoffee.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SolaCoffeeCafe
Twitter: @SolaCoffee


The Cortado!

About Note in the Pocket

Note in the Pocket is a children’s clothing resource based in Raleigh, NC serving students in Wake County. Note in the Pocket provides volunteer opportunities that generate donated clothing that is made available to students through relationships with schools in Wake County. These donations are made directly available to the children and families through the schools and social service agencies rather than through a general storefront or external location. Note in the Pocket works with Communities in Schools (a national drop-out prevention program) as well as programs that assist the homeless and other organizations that identify students in need of clothing. To learn more about note in the Pocket, visit us at www.noteinthepocket.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coffee

Picture of the Week – Sidewalk Coffee at Morning Times!


The Morning Times – Raleigh

This morning on my way to work in downtown Raleigh I made a quick stop at Morning Times on Hargett Street. The cafe has been closed since Sunday so they can remodel the interior, but the 2012 South East Regional Barista Champion, Lem Butler and 2012 Brewers Cup Champ, Jonathan Bonchak (both of Counter Culture Coffee) were set up on the sidewalk outside early this morning to serve the Monday morning crowd free shots of espresso and pour over coffees.

Check back here for an update on the newly renovated space at Morning Times. I hear when they open back up they will have a new menu and house made pastries!

Leave a comment

Filed under Coffee

Latte Art Throwdown at Jubala Village Coffee in North Raleigh ~ February 28th 7pm!


Local baristas pouring latte art

It is time once again to cheer on the Triangle’s most talented baristas as they put their skills to the ultimate test at the next Thursday Night Throwdown (TNT) latte art competition this Thursday, February 28th at 7pm. The event is hosted by Counter Culture Coffee and the great people at Jubala Village Coffee in Raleigh. As always, these throwdowns are a celebration of the local coffee culture and feature the areas best barsitas from the many great local coffee shops throughout the the Triangle. It is a friendly competition open to all (cost $5 to enter) and is free to watch.


Example of latte art: The Rosetta

What is a Latte Art Throwdown?

This is how it works: baristas put their names in a hat and are selected at random to go head to head creating espresso coffee drinks featuring identical latte art designs which are then compared against each other and judged by a three person panel made up of local coffee experts. Judging is typically based on four categories:

1) Aesthetic Beauty

2) Definition

3) Color Infusion

4) Degree of Difficulty and Creativity

photo 1

The New La Marzocco Strada Espresso Machine at Jubala Village Coffee!

The winner moves on to the next round to compete again until an ultimate champion is crowned. The purpose of a throwdown is to cultivate a coffee culture that respects presentation and quality – and of course having a fun time doing it! The winning barista not only wins bragging rights, but he/she also wins some great prizes! This month’s throwdown will be particularly special as baristas will be working with Jubala’s new espresso machine, the La Marzocco Strada! This machine is special in that it allows the baristas to manipulate the amount of pressure pushed through the coffee which can result in different qualities being pulled out of the bean leading to different flavors being expressed.


TNT Event Details

– Date/Time: Thursday February 28th 7-9pm

– Location: Jubala Village Coffee – 8450 Honeycutt Road – Raleigh, NC

– Open to the public

– $5 for baristas to enter the competition

photo 2

Cortado paired with Jubala’s famous biscuit & Big Spooners peanut butter!

Jubala Village Coffee Wins Square Wallet Challenge!
In case you missed it, earlier this month Jubala was announced as a winner of the Square Wallet Challenge by Visa. Jubala was one of only twenty small businesses in the US to win this award. Square Wallet is a moblie payment application for customers that enables them to find neighborhood businesses and pay using only their phone. Congratulations Jubala!

Leave a comment

Filed under Coffee, Raleigh

Recap of the August Counter Culture Coffee “TNT” Latte Art Competition at Sola Coffee & Cafe’


September Latte Art Throwdown at Sola Coffee

Sola Coffee & Cafe’ in North Raleigh was the host for the August Counter Culture Coffee latte art competition, lovingly known as the Thursday Night Throwdown or “TNT” for short. As shared in my July TNT recap post, the purpose of these friendly competitions is to cultivate a coffee culture that respects presentation and quality coffee drinks and provides an opportunity for the local coffee community to come together and have some fun!


Spectators at Sola Coffee watching the throwdown unfold

Sola Coffee & Cafe is relatively new to the local coffee scene being open for only a little over 6 months, but they dove in head first and did a fantastic job of hosting their first TNT competition. The pool of baristas competing was the largest I have ever seen (there were a total of 28) and the crowd of spectators gathered was pretty darn big too.


Barista from Cafe Helios prepares his latte

As always, Lem Butler of Counter Culture did an awesome job of MCing the competition and keeping things moving along seamlessly.  Things got kicked off shorlty after 7pm with the first two baristas going head to head to create their latte art to be presented and scored by a panel of three judges.


“Tulip” design latte art

Latte art is typically judged based on four criteria: balance and symmetry, use of space, color contrast and definition, and overall impression.  The judges compare the appearance of the two drinks based on these factors and decide which barista will move on to the next round.


Baristas working at the espresso machine

As the competition advances, baristas will sometimes be asked to pour their drinks blindfolded or will willingly choose to use increasingly smaller cups to present their drinks. These variations make creating latte art more difficult and can cause for some interesting results from even the most experienced baristas.


The crowd waiting for the final results

After several rounds of competition, the field was narrowed down to two baristas to face off in the final round.  It was a fun evening that saw a plethora of great pours from the many great local baristas, but it all came down to Austin Oliver of Jubala Village Coffee and Michael Harwood of Open Eye Cafe in the final round.


August 2012 TNT Winner
Michael Harwood of Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro

Both Austin & Mike did a great job, but in the end Mike of Open Eye Cafe was crowned the August TNT champion. With that, he won some prizes and bragging rights for a month before being called on to return to help judge the next throwdown. The details for the next TNT competition are provided below. You can visit my flickr photo album for more of my pictures from the August 2012 TNT Latte Art Throwdown at Sola.

September TNT event Details
– Date/Time: Thursday September 27th,  7-9:30pm
– Location: Scratch Bakery – 111 Orange Street – Downtown Durham
– Free & Open to the public to watch
– $5 for baristas to enter the competition

Leave a comment

Filed under Coffee, Raleigh