Stockton Graham & Co. Re-Launches Barista Certification

Basic Barista CertificationSome operators believe the only specialized training that a barista needs is how to operate an espresso machine. But think about it: Is proper operation of an oven the only specialized training a baker needs? Of course not. Excellent baristas, like excellent bakers, need to know the fundamentals of the ingredients they work with, how to measure and combine ingredients, as well as preparation and serving techniques for an optimal product.

To help operators provide the training their baristas need to deliver consistently superior beverages and great customer service, Stockton Graham & Co. recently updated our Barista Certification Program. The three-day course conducted at our Raleigh, NC facility focuses on espresso education and preparation of espresso-based beverages.

2015_Final_Coffee and Espresso BasicsThe course begins with Coffee College 101. Certified baristas are trained in the history of coffee, coffee processing and taste characteristics. They learn Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) standards for espresso extraction and milk texturizing, as well as best practices for drip or airpot coffee.

Lead by our roastmaster Brandon Riggs and our SCAA-certified barista Alex Jeans, the Barista Certification Program includes classroom training, interactive presentations, film, hands-on training, written tests and practical performance evaluations. Just like in the SCAA barista training programs, participants are required to demonstrate proficiency in pulling a perfect espresso shot and preparing several espresso-based drinks for a panel of judges.

As part of the program, our head roaster Brad Kirby and business development teammate Brady Butler run a session on equipment cleaning and maintenance. Both are factory-trained equipment technicians for makers like Nuova Simonelli, La Marzocco, Franke, Astoria, Rancillo, Fetco and Bunnomatic. Brady also serves as Chair of the Brewing Pathway Committee for the SCAA.

2015_Basic Certification Study Guide_071515-1Our Director of Business Development for the Northeast Region, Debra Dolan, provides one-on-one consultations on menu planning, customer service and maintaining quality standards. The goal is to ensure that Certified Baristas are fully equipped to deliver an enhanced coffee experience to customers.

“Barista certification is important because it instills a solid basis of coffee knowledge in trainees as well as confidence,” said instructor Alex Jeans. “Certified baristas should leave confident that they are competent to tackle any beverage that comes across their bar. This confidence will in turn lead to consistently great drinks and customer service.”

First District Barista Training

Michah Behan of First District Coffee practices texturizing milk at Stockton Graham & Co. Basic Barista Training in Raleigh.

First District Coffee Co. Completes Barista Certification

Micah and Elizabeth Behan, owners and operators of First District Coffee Co., were the first students to participate in our updated Barista Certification Program in July. First District, located in Fairview, Tennessee, is located in a renovated building that used to be a Farm Depot. Scheduled to open in the Fall of 2015, the Behans plan to serve espresso, tea, sandwiches, pastries and other light snacks. The building will also include a full catering kitchen and can be rented for group events such as wedding receptions or birthday parties.

The Behan’s two teenage children, Adonijah and Teagen, were also certified, as they will be working behind the coffee bar as business takes off.

Elizabeth Behan said that the entire family enjoyed the certification program. “There was lots of good info,” she said.

“The team was fully engaged, and we felt well educated and supported,” said Elizabeth Behan. ”We really feel much more prepared for where we are headed as a business.”

Barista Certification Training at Stockton Graham & Co.

Our resident barista Alex Jeans teaches Basic Barista Certification course participant Adonijah Behan about preparing espresso.

Skill, Practice and Understanding

Barista training is about skill, practice and understanding of preparation techniques. But it is also important for a barista to be conversant in the origins and processing of coffee. That’s because part of the barista’s job is educating customers on the differences between high-quality, craft-roasted coffee and mass-market quality coffee and helping them become smart consumers of quality coffee.

“The journey that the bean takes from seed to cup—that is, where the coffee grows, how the seed is removed from the fruit, how the coffee is roasted and how it is prepared—makes a profound difference in overall quality,” said instructor Brandon Riggs. “A really good barista will have the knowledge to translate the hard work that everyone else in the value chain contributes to an enjoyable and high-quality cup.”

Stockton Graham & Co. offers a range of training courses in addition to Barista Certification. Our Coffee & Espresso Basics, or Coffee College 101 is a fundamental course designed for any coffee business operator or team member. Brewing Fundamentals is our foundational class for coffee brewing and extraction. We also offer specialized courses on equipment cleaning and maintenance, as well as blending and cupping coffee.

For more information on our training courses, contact a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943.


Gourmet Tea Follows Growth of Specialty Coffee

There once was a time when tea came in beautiful ornate boxes—lovingly carved bamboo cases colored with scenes of tea ceremonies among twisting, knotty trees. That was a time when tea and ritual of tea drinking was cherished: Leaves were hand-picked at dawn, dried morning sun and seeped in the afternoon with other leaves and herbs to create a fragrant, healthful gourmet tea tonic.

Two Leaves and a Bud Stockton Graham & Co.Thankfully, the days when tea was considered an elegant and elevated beverage are returning. On the heels of the growth in the specialty coffee industry, there has been a tremendous upsurge in the high-end tea business.

In fact, sales of high-end tea has been growing steadily and has the capability of doubling its volume over the next five years.

This elite market has become an unexpected cash crop for higher-end coffee shops such as Starbucks. Starbucks is now opening gourmet tea cafes and tea bars from Teavana. These Teavana shops generally have fewer customers than the average Starbucks, but the patrons typically spend much more. They will buy gifts such as Japanese-style cast-iron teapots and loose leaf teas that can sell for as much as $24.98 for 2 ounces.

Popularity of gourmet tea

Tea bars like these are an upscale way to enjoy your next cup of tea. The gourmet teas are meant to be sipped and savored in a relaxing atmosphere; very different from just grabbing your standard paper tea bag and running out the door. High-end teas are growing in popularity, causing resurgence in tea popularity with young Americans. Two-thirds of Americans drink tea regularly, and one-third drink hot tea regularly. Even the coffee roasting and brewing staff at Stockton Graham & Co. in Raleigh, NC have been known to break up their day with a cup or two of tea.

World tea consumption went from 2.95 million tons in 2003 and increased to 3.75 million tons in 2007, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Gourmet teas cost 30 percent more than standard teas on average, making them an affordable luxury for many, giving you more profits.

The multitude of health benefits is driving this shift in public perception; tea is known to contain a myriad of antioxidants called flavonoids. These flavonoids are known help fight against harmful free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. There are studies that have found that some teas may fight diabetes as well as support weight loss and to lower cholesterol.

Tea is found in three general categories: black, green and herbal tea. When the softest and best part of the plant called the flush, or top two leaves and bud are harvested from the Camellia sinensis- or tea plant, how it is processed and shipped dictates whether it is considered a black, green, oolong or white tea. Herbal teas have very little, if any, real tea in them and contain little to no caffeine.

The best way to gourmet

Experiencing great gourmet tea has become almost like a fancy wine tasting. There are commonalities in the pairings, and quality. In order to differentiate between high-end and regular tea you have to start with the tea leaves themselves the appearance of the tealeaves lets you know quality of the tea. Teas with more tips tend to have a more nuanced and intricate flavor than those without them.

After the tea is brewed, make sure you smell the tea. Smelling the tea provides a new facet to the taste and flavor. When drinking the tea slurp the tea much like you would a fine wine. Aerating the tea by slurping activates the flavors and gives the best taste. Next you measure the mouthfeel, the tea shouldn’t be too oily on your tongue or leave your mouth feeling too dry. Make sure to note the aftertaste, some have very brief sweet aftertaste and some have an aftertaste that can linger for an hour or more.

Gourmet teas are usually presented in either loose tea canisters or specialized sachets in order to give the tea a maximum surface area flavor allowing the whole tealeaves to plump up as they rehydrate. These teas are meant to be sipped and savored allowing your customers to stay longer and spend money on bakery items.

Quality option

If you want to give your customers quality tea that they can see and taste why not serve Two Leaves and a Bud Whole Leaf Tea Sachets. You can tell from the modern, well-designed packaging and the tasteful point of purchase displays and serving cases that this brand takes their teas seriously.

The nylon pyramid sachets are both elegant and practical. This unique design is a vital part of making the perfect cup of tea. The three dimensional shape is ideal to get the maximum flavor. These small flushes are the freshest and have the best flavor so naturally Two Leaves uses only this part of the plant. Every sachet contains the perfect amount of tea for each 16 to 20 oz. cup serving.

Two Leaves is environmentally conscious by only dealing with sustainable tea growing practices and using only fully compostable packaging. Two Leaves teas are certified USDA Organic as well as EU Organic qualified. Their teas also carry the Non-GMO, Kosher and Gluten certifications.

“From the very start of our company, two leaves tea company™ has always used only natural ingredients in our teas,” said Richard Rosenfeld, Two Leaves and a Bud Founder and CEO. “Our customers want to know exactly what they’re putting into their bodies. In order to achieve Non-GMO Project verification, two leaves and a bud demonstrated that all of its ingredients are tested according to a rigorous and continuous program in compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standards. By officially becoming verified by the Non-GMO Project, tea connoisseurs can feel confident that they’re only consuming a natural product that has gone through rigorous third-party verification of GMO avoidance practices.”

Two Leaves and a Bud Whole leaf sachets deliver the total sensory experience with each sachet containing only the best whole tealeaves, flowers and fruit essences not flavorings. From the look of the packaging and the feel of the sachet and the aroma of the whole tealeaves you can tell superior quality.

Two Leaves takes pride in using only the best ingredients bought straight from the source. By buying from small farms at the source they are able to let the quality ingredients speak for themselves instead of using lower quality blending teas with flavoring like some other teas. These blending teas are included in most teas available today and bring down the flavor and quality of the tea. Two Leaves and a Bud Whole Leaf Tea Sachets are available in 18 different flavors for every mood or occasion.

Some of the most popular Whole Leaf flavors include:

Organic Earl Grey: This tea contains great quality, large leaf organic black tea. With just a hint of natural bergamot oil for rich flavor that ranges from a light citrus zip to a deep, smooth black tea. Perfect for any day, any time.

Organic Mountain High Chai Tea: This organic whole black tea is mixed with pure, whole traditional Indian spices like clove and cinnamon. A bold flavored tea that’s great by itself but can be smoothed out with milk or sweetener. It’s an exotic drink that’s great for everyday sipping.

Organic Jasmine Petal: This tea contains quality green tea leaves that are scented, not flavored with jasmine. The result is a divinely delicate floral aroma. This smooth cup of green tea makes for an otherworldly experience for any occasion.

Organic Orange Sencha: This tea is a twist on a Japanese favorite. Starting with whole leaf sencha leaves that are gently steamed as they dry they then add the tang of Italian red oranges. Perfect for early morning bliss.

Organic Chamomile: This herbal tea has a rich apple scent with soft honey notes and a lemon edge. Perfect for a relaxing evening under the stars.

Organic Better Morning Blend: This herbal has a combination of zippy flavors like the energizing citrus aroma and refreshing combination of lemongrass and peppermint this tea is sure to give you a naturally caffeine-free boost.

Think you would like to try Two Leaves Tea? We are offering a free filled 9-box display rack to customers who order 6 cases of the Two Leaves and a Bud Whole Leaf Tea Sachets.

For more information call a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943 or download a info sheet here.

Independence Day is Nearly Here

The 1996 movie Independence Day from Roland Emmerich has over 180 filming mistakes, including our favorite:

When the huge alien ship settles over the White House, there is an exterior wide shot with tons of tourists milling about outside the property’s big iron gates. Not one person—adult or child—has any sort of reaction to the city-size alien ship that’s hovering above.Independence Day Shipping

Folks may not care about an alien invasion at your store this Independence Day, but they will care if your store runs out of coffee, syrups or smoothie mix you use to create their morning (or afternoon) fix.

Our Raleigh, NC coffee roasting facility will be closed from July 3-July 5.

So be sure to get your orders in early next week—Monday June 29 is ideal. Both Stockton Graham and FedEx will be closed on July 3-July 5 (click here for downloadable FedEx schedule).

Please note that neither FedEx nor our other shipping companies will move freight from July 3 – July 5. If you receive product via either of these methods, be sure to place your order by noon on Monday, June 29. If you pick up at our Raleigh headquarters, please place your order by noon on Wednesday July 1. 

All local pickups must be made before 3pm on Thursday, July 2.

Call a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943 to place your orders.

EarthDay Primer: Easy Ways to Waste Less, Make More

Susatainable Coffees from Stockton GrahamLet’s face it, running a coffee business produces a lot of waste. Each one of those paper ”to-go” cups eventually ends up in a landfill somewhere. When you add the cardboard boxes, milk jugs, syrup bottles, aseptic cartons and coffee grounds, the average coffee shop could generate millions of pounds of trash each year.

As we prepare for International Earth Day on April 22, the team at Stockton Graham & Co. is thinking about ways to help coffee shops reduce waste and increase their overall profits.

We talked to Thom Swain, our Southeast Director of Business Development, about tactics he used to reduce waste as director of franchise development at a popular New Orleans coffee shop brand. His top suggestions involve saving on what’s likely to be two of your largest monthly product expenses: Coffee and Milk.

Coffee: The average coffee shop wastes as much as two pounds of coffee per week. Spillage from the espresso grinder alone can cost nearly $1000/year. Coaching staff to be more aware and avoid the spillage, or investing in an on-demand grinder would reduce this waste greatly.

Milk: Wasting as much as 1oz. of milk per drink can result in 1-2 gallons of milk wasted per day. This can easily top 700 gallons per year and cost $2000-$3000. Training staff to properly measure prior to preparation would curtail much of this waste.

“Since coffee and milk are agricultural products, waste affects availability and consequently consumer prices,” Thom Swain advised.

And since there are essentially two ways to make money in coffee — sell more and spend less — helping the environment by reducing waste can have a delightfully positive impact on your bottom line.

“If every American coffee shop were to reduce waste in these two ways, we could stop dumping 17 million gallons of milk down the drain and throwing 2.5 million pounds of coffee into our landfills,” Thom said.

For more ideas on how to reduce costs in your store, call Thom Swain or any of our Customer Care Associates at 800.835.5943.

Cold Brewed Irish Coffee-tini

Who said St. Patrick’s Day coffee has to be hot? Sure, we don’t mind a stiff Irish Coffee in March; but we also quite like this cold coffee version as well. What’s particularly nice about this recipe is that you can cold brew the coffee ahead of time, which cuts down on the fuss when it’s time to mix and serve.

In terms of bean origin, we’ve tried all the usual suspects—Brazilian, Ethiopian, Colombian, Sumatran. They all work well, but we prefer a blend of Colombian and Sumatran, roasted medium. It seems to hold up to the vodka without overwhelming the tongue.

  • 3 oz cold brewed coffee
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 3 ozCoffeeTini vanilla-flavored vodka
  • 3 oz cream liqueur
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Sprig of mint, cinnamon stick and/or cocktail sugar

Pour coffee, vodka, simple syrup, simple syrup and vanilla extract (if using) to a cocktail shaker. Add ice to the shaker to above the level of the liquid and shake for 3 seconds. Strain the mixture into tall glasses containing ice cubes. Garnish with mint or cinnamon stick.

Cold-brewed Coffee Recipe

  1. Place the coffee grounds in a 2-quart pitcher, add the water and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.
  2. Line a fine-mesh strainer with a standard coffee filter and fit it over a medium bowl. Working in batches, slowly pour the coffee into the filter until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer (the coffee will pass through in a slow stream; don’t force it through); stop when you reach the solids at the bottom of the pitcher (don’t pour them in). Discard the grounds and the contents of the strainer.
  3. Wash and dry the pitcher. Transfer the strained coffee into the pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.


Snow Day February 26

Stockton Graham Snow DayWhipped snow is fun like whipped milk but not as yummy. Due to an abundance of the white stuff on the ground this morning, Stockton Graham & Co. is closed today.

The weather could have an impact on your delivery, depending on the conditions in your area and across the country. Most of our customers automatically receive a tracking report from FedEx after placing an order; however, if you are not currently receiving these updates, please contact a Stockton Graham & Co. Customer Care Associate who will be happy to track your package for you. We also invite you to check out for additional information and updates.

Look for us tomorrow at 9 a.m. If the roads are clear, we’ll be here roasting coffee. Until then, stay warm, stay safe and drink some coffee!


The Stockton Graham & Co. Story: 20 Years and Counting

The year was 1994… back then, cell phones were bigger, gas was cheaper, and Classic Coffees had just opened its doors for business. The quaint little shop off of Six Forks Road in Raleigh, NC was founded by two friends looking to own their own business. Little did they know, twenty years later the small business would still be an adventure never anticipated.

stockton graham & co. turns 20

It all started with a bag of beans. While working as an accountant, Jeff Vojta, co-founder and CEO of Stockton Graham & Co., received a bag of gourmet coffee as a gift. After sipping a cup of the gourmet brew, Jeff was astonished to find that the coffee actually tasted good, better than he ever thought coffee could taste! So when he and a friend started talk of going into business together, they decided to go into the business of coffee. The pair chose to open their own coffee shop, not only because of the profitability of coffee, but because coffee is something that people are passionate about. They felt that coffee brings people together, not only in cafés, but as a globally traded commodity. Jeff has said, “Coffee is a unifying force, bringing people of all cultures and backgrounds together to do business and create something special.”

stockton graham & co. turns 20


In May 1994, Classic Coffees was a 744 sq. ft. store that featured local artists’ work, gourmet desserts, and of course, specialty coffee. The dream was to become a national retail store. After asking customers, friends and family what they liked and disliked about coffee, the business partners realized the market demanded craft-roasted, specialty offerings. In 1996, the founders opted to expand the original store to nearly 2,000 sq. ft. to include a 12 kilo Petroncini roaster. Jeff roasted the first batch and learned by trial-and-error what worked and what didn’t. He even remembers setting the cooling tray on fire! They eventually got the hang of roasting after going to lots of trade shows, trading knowledge with other roasters and experimenting in their shop.

During the next several years, the company expanded into four retail locations operating in Raleigh and landed wholesale accounts throughout North Carolina and Virginia. They began selling their coffee to other coffeehouses, gourmet specialty stores, fine dining and other establishments wanting to serve craft-roasted coffee. Due to the high demand of wholesale coffee, Classic Coffees Roasting Company was created as a wholesale roaster and distributor.

While running their growing business, the partners had to find the right products to satisfy their café customers’ demands. The specialty beverage industry was growing, and customers wanted unique, tasty drinks. Jeff remembers, “This was back before Starbucks had frappes. It was summer time, and we were wondering where all our customers had gone.” They realized they needed cool and refreshing beverages to drive traffic during the warmer months, so they started offering blended beverages and iced drinks. As they diversified the products they offered, they ran into a new challenge: tracking down the right product mix. Twenty years ago, securing product included a lot of time on the phone with multiple vendors and a lot of hassle. The entrepreneurs had to jump through hoop after hoop to make sure they had the quality product they wanted for their business. They started buying products in bulk and would sell what they didn’t use to other stores in the area that wanted the same high quality products.SGC

Thus, the wholesale business was born. By mid 1999, the four “Classic Coffees” retail locations were sold to focus shifted to the the growing wholesale coffee and specialty beverage product business. In 2001, the name of the company was changed to Stockton Graham & Co and the company settled in at the 4320 Delta Lake Drive address in Raleigh.

Today, the company owns the entire building and the roaster is a bit bigger. They upgraded to include 30 and 60 kilo Ambex roasters to provide artisan roasted coffees to customers across the United States. Stockton Graham & Co. has also assembled a team with over 100 years combined experience in the coffee industry that offers business advice in addition to providing high-quality coffee and beverage products.

photo 33While the company has grown in size and capabilities, the core values and vision remain focused on offering customers the highest quality specialty coffees, knowledge and tools. This enables our customers to offer superior hand-crafted espresso and specialty, made-to-order drinks. Stockton Graham & Co. prides itself on blending the art of coffee roasting and drink preparation with the business of coffee including: consultation, equipment, advice and specialty products to help build superior and successful coffee businesses.

Jeff’s “Keys to Success” After Twenty Years in the Business of Coffee:

  • Listen to your customer.
  • Surround yourself with a good team.
  • Treat your staff and customers fairly, and work with people with the same goal.
  • Stick to your values and quality of product.
  • Business is about people. Keep them at the heart of your decisions.