A Bulaago Gem

We recently started cupping a new crop of our Uganda Bulaago at our Raleigh roasting facilities, and boy, were we delighted. As we brewed it in a V60, we expected the deep, fresh aroma of apricots and raisins to permeate our senses and make our Taste Kitchen smell like fresh-baked cinnamon bread. And still this new crop tickled our senses with something new: the zesty citrus aroma of candied lemon peel.

Stockton Graham Coffees Uganda Bulaago Fresh Roasted

Being a major fan of The Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake, or any dessert made with fresh lemon for that matter, we couldn’t wait to take our first sip. We weren’t disappointed. Candied lemon flavors danced delicately on deeper flavors of raisin and apricot. While the essence of stone fruit caressed the flat of our tongue like silk, the sweet zest of lemon teased our tongue’s edges, creating a contrast of flavors that was both unusual and compelling.

We savored the sip for a moment, enjoying the way the coffee’s tangy acidity played with its deep fruit flavors. It immediately occurred to us that this Uganda Bulaago would make the perfect after-dinner drink. It reminded us of a well-aged port from the Duoro region of Portugal—a red wine fortified slightly with brandy, giving it a bit more sweetness and body on the tongue. That dreamy red wine flavor seemed to evolve further moments after we swallowed, and we were left with a lightly pleasant aftertaste of maple syrup.

Uganda Bulaago heading to Stockton GrahamIndeed, our ideal after-dinner coffee was the complete package. It was easy to see why the Bugisu region of Uganda and the Bulaago farms specifically grow the most sought-after washed Arabica coffee. In fact, those who know Ugandan coffee well know that Bulaago’s farmers known as the BuCoFa Farmer Group produce some of the best coffee in Uganda, as their coffees grown high on the slopes of Mount Elgon surprisingly exude the earthiness that is typical of the Indonesian coffees over the traditional flavors we know and love in African coffees.

Cupping Attributes
AROMA: Apricot – Candied Lemon
BODY:  Silky
FLAVOR: Raisin – Apricot – Candied Lemon
ACIDITY:  Tangy – Medium High
AFTERTASTE: Red Wine – Maple Syrup

Bulaago: A Secret Gem
Every sip of the Uganda Bulaago reminds us that this is a gem of a bean that few are privileged to enjoy. Although the BuCoFa farmers are never short of a reliable market, this is a high-quality, small lot offering that doesn’t get much attention outside the few roasters who are truly dedicated to exceptional coffees.Stockton Graham BuFaCo Uganda Bulaago

“To me, the Uganda Bulaago is a secret gem that I’m proud to share with our customers,” said roastmaster Brandon Riggs. “Not only do I love the flavor of this coffee, but I wholeheartedly support the work of the BuCoFa Farmer Group and our importer Crop to Cup to promote fair compensation, housing, medical care, education and high agricultural standards that are practiced on the BuCoFa farms. Together, we are helping to ensure good human and farming practices in the Bugisu region and beyond.”

BuFaCo Meeting Bulaago Stockton GrahamThe BuCoFa Farmer Group is part of The Bulaago Project, a system through which Bulaago farmers receive higher compensation and support from Crop to Cup and local agricultural partners. This support allows them to take extra steps to produce top-lot, high scoring specialty grade coffee. Stockton Graham & Co. supports them through educational initiatives that help the local farmers understand the U.S. coffee market so they can continue to grow, harvest and process product that is in high demand year after year.

“It’s neat that Crop to Cup takes our cupping notes to the BuCoFa and uses them to teach the farmers how we evaluate their product in the U.S. marketplace,” Brandon said.

For more information on our coffees or to sample our new crop of Uganda Bulaago, please contact us at 800 835 5943.

Toasted Graham LTOs for your store

Folks call it a preschooler’s breakfast in a cup. It’s that big chain’s Toasted Graham Latte, or #TGL as the Twittersphere likes to call it. Besides tasting like milk left over in your kid’s cereal bowl after she’s slurped up all the soggy Cinnamon Toasted Crunch, what does a Toasted Graham Latte really taste like? And better yet, how do you make it taste better in your store?Toasted Graham Latte from Stockton Graham

We put Stockton Graham & Co.’s master taste testers to the task of describing the mermaid chain’s drink, and then we asked them to come up with something better. And since most of the latte and frappe recipes involved two shots of expertly pulled espresso made from beans just roasted in the back of our Raleigh facility, our taste masters where all too eager to oblige.

Based on actual sales of the other hot fall beverage — pumpkin spice lattes — provided by market research firm NPD Group, it is reasonable to expect 20% of your store’s customers will try a graham flavored beverage this season. And those customers’ average ticket will be slightly higher than your normal ticket in the critical fourth quarter. So let’s get your shop started selling your own custom version of a toasted graham beverage.

Describing A Toasted Graham Latte

When it comes to describing Starbuck’s Toasted Graham Latte, our taste testers identified cream, honey and graham crackers. Some of the more poetic descriptions include:

“Warm vanilla with hints of honey and chocolate, like if you dipped a s’more into warm frothed milk.” — Bennett


“I think of graham cracker pie crust…mmmm… now i’m hungry for pie and s’mores!” — Melissa


“A box of Teddy Grahams blended into a can of sweetened condensed milk.” — Mitchell


“Tastes like a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch.” — Blair


“Sugary cardboard dissolved in lukewarm water with hints of cinnamon and sadness.” — Sim

Hyperbole aside, all our taste testers commented that the Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte was okay. But overall, they all thought there was something important missing: the rich, deliciousness of just-roasted high quality coffee. So we set out to craft our own coffee-based toasted graham recipes.

Making a Better Toasted Graham Latte

Our taste makers tried to create a better version of the drink using syrups, sauces and mixes from our partners like Torani, MONIN and Big Train plus freshly roasted beans from our own roasting facility. Some of their more delicious options included a simple Honey Graham Latte featuring MONIN cinnamon and vanilla syrup and their natural honey sweetener.

“I like that you can really taste the espresso in this version,” Mitchell commented after sipping the new Honey Graham Latte. “There are two shots of espresso for a smaller latte, which makes it coffee-forward. The espresso’s dark chocolate flavors contrast nicely with the creamy sweetness of the milk, cinnamon, honey and vanilla in the drink.” Click here for the recipe.

Teddy Graham Latte from Stockton Graham & Co.The most delicious cold beverage option that our taste testers created was our Toasted Graham Frappe featuring Torani Real Cream Frappe Base, Torani Brown Sugar and Vanilla Syrup, Stockton Graham Coffee and Honey flavored Teddy Grahams.

“The Teddy Grahams have a subtle honey flavor that don’t overwhelm the coffee,” said Melissa. “The Torani Brown Sugar Syrup adds a deeper, richer flavor than the version with their Cane Sugar Syrup.” Check here for the recipe.

Nutter Butter Latte from Stockton GrahamThe most surprising recipe created by our taste testers was the Nutter Butter Latte featuring MONIN Peanut Butter and Cinnamon syrups and a freshly made latte using Stockton Graham Coffee. The combination of peanut butter, cinnamon and honey created a pleasing, rich backdrop for the baker’s chocolate flavor of the espresso. Check the recipe here.

Just the Coffee, Please

Some of our taste testers wanted to enjoy the creamy honey, cinnamon and vanilla flavors of a Toasted Graham Latte without adding extra syrups, sweeteners and creams to their coffee. That group gravitated toward some of Stockton Graham Coffee’s custom blended flavored options, which they enjoyed with a splash of half and half. Here’s a list of their favorites:

Stockton Graham CoffeesSnicker-Dandy: This coffee features the flavors of vanilla, hazelnut and cinnamon paired with a creamy butter flavor and hint of spice.

Winter Wonderland: Hazelnut and caramel sit lightly on a powdery snow of vanilla and and light coconut.

Crème Brûlée: The elegant flavors of sweetened cream, caramelized sugar and hints of vanilla taste like dessert without all the calories.

Danish Pastry: The coffee tastes like a sweet, buttery pastry from the corner bakery topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

To get started with your own Toasted Graham Lattee, contact our Customer Care Associates at 800 835 5943.

10 Habits of Highly Successful Coffee Shops

Once upon a time, you may have thought that opening a coffee shop was a no-brainer. After all, mostly everyone — including you — loves coffee. Plus, the hustle and bustle of everyday life means there’s less time to kick back at home with a warm cup of fresh brewed coffee. Folks need the convenience and kick of a cup of joe on-the-go.  And with over 100 million Americans drinking coffee EVERY day, there is a big and captive market for your brew. Easy sell.Stockton Graham & Co. Business of Coffee

Coffee is also relatively easy to prepare and serve. There’s no traipsing to the shop at dawn to bake scratch-made biscuits or juggling the multiple implements (and fire) of a fondue service, for instance. On most days, you can be open and serving as soon as you restock the cups and dial in your espresso.

But after a while, every operator realizes that running an independent coffee shop is tough business. It’s not easy to find and keep talented baristas and servers, and there’s always competition, whether from the big chain down the street or a new “coffee concept” funded by your local culinary celebrity.

Plus, although retail coffee is a high-margin business, it is also a numbers business. Say you sell 50 cups of drip coffee a day and make a respectable $1.30/cup on each sale; you’re only bringing in $65/day. Let’s say your business is in a high-traffic location, and you sell 150 cups a day; your profit will be less than $150/day.

As a comparison, the profit margins on espresso and espresso-based drinks can be twice or three times that of drip coffee. Although it takes a bit more time and training to pull a perfect espresso shot (vs operating the drip brewer), the overall benefit to your business can be tremendous.

So, what steps can your shop take to stay competitive? It’s a question many independent coffee shops think about a lot. It’s certainly front and center in the thinking of Stockton Graham & Co. customers. But it’s not enough to be merely competitive – independent retailers must position themselves to succeed.

Stockton Graham & Co. Blending the Art & Business of CoffeeFor more than 20 years, Stockton Graham & Co. has focused on the success of independent coffee shops and specialty coffee businesses by blending the art of coffee and business of coffee. Through these years we’ve helped hundreds of independent coffee shops succeed. And in doing so, we’ve discovered that there is a formula, of sorts, for success.

Here are our 10 Habits of Highly Successful Coffee Shops:

  1. Lead with your passion, and pass it on to all of your employees. There’s no substitute for genuine excitement about your product and your store, so don’t be afraid to flaunt it. Create a warm, distinctive, inviting store around your passion that engages customers in a visceral way. Make your store a place that people seek out and enjoy spending time at.
  2. Pay attention to profit margin. It’s calculated by dividing your business’s net income by its net sales. If the ratio is greater than zero, your business is making money and that’s a very good thing.
  3. Focus on espresso and espresso-based drinks, as the profit margins for these beverages are at least twice—and often three times—the profit margin of drip coffee.
  4. Build enduring relationships with your customers by paying particular attention to what they do and how they behave in your store. You should absolutely ask their opinion too. Yet your customers’ actions will tell you so much more about their true preferences than their words will.
  5. Make sure your store is in a location where foot traffic, or drive-through traffic, is high. The numbers just won’t work out unless the volume is there.
  6. Don’t skimp on training. Make sure your baristas are experts and your staff is knowledgeable. Teach the menu, and give your staff pointers on how to talk about the items you serve. Invest in your staff; hire, train, and support them well. Turnover is a killer, so create a positive work environment and competitive compensation package. Maximize effectiveness and efficiency and minimize frustration and work-related injuries by paying attention to bar layout and workflow (call in the professionals if you need to).
  7. Don’t commoditize your business. Focus on providing high-quality coffee and unique offerings that excite your customers. Deliver your offering with personality and panache. Define your concept and stay true to it – adding products that complement and dropping those that fall short of the mark.
  8. Keep your inventories lean to ensure your coffee is always fresh and keep your presentations clean to let your products breathe. When it comes to merchandising, whether it’s retail bagged coffee, mugs, muffins or snack bars, less is more. Research shows that more sparsely stocked shelves suggest that items are in high demand, which subconsciously makes them even more desirable.
  9. Do not let yourself get out on the slippery slope of price promotions. Strive for full retails and full margins that elevate and celebrate your offerings. Use loyalty tactics, like anniversary specials or a free cup of coffee on each customer’s birthday, instead of discounts to develop customer loyalty without eroding profits.
  10. Focus on consistency. Establish what you want your customer to experience and work to achieve that with every single cup of coffee, vanilla latte, muffin and customer interaction. Demonstrate the importance of consistency to your staff through Coffee College training, encouraging best-practice sharing and discouraging “special variations” on drinks. If “Sam’s chai latte is the best!”, find out why and have him share the secret (adjusting the price as needed).

Brady Butler Stockton Graham & Co.Brady Butler, our newest Business Development Associate and former barista, manager, trainer and equipment technician, recommends experiencing your store from a customer’s perspective. Pay attention to the details: how does the space look, feel, sound and smell?  “As an owner or manager, you may spend so much time in their spaces that it’s easy to not notice the progressively messier kitchen area, a chalk menu that’s unreadable from a distance or a cloud of acrid smoke from a panini grill,” Brady advises. “These are all things that turn customers off and can reduce sales.”

To help your store succeed, Stockton Graham & Co. runs several training courses for operators and staff, including our new Barista Certification course. Our monthly Coffee & Espresso Basics at our Raleigh, NC headquarters, also called Coffee College 101, is a good place for any coffee shop operator and staff to begin training.

The Business of CoffeeTraining is just one way Stockton Graham & Co. is a partner for your business success. We also provide:

  • Business planning
  • Menu planning
  • Product pricing
  • Store layout and design guidance
  • Marketing guidance
  • Promotional support
  • Custom packaging and labeling

If you’d like more information on how Stockton Graham & Co. can support your business, visit The Business of Coffee. To schedule a business consultation, call our Customer Care Associates at 800 835 5943.