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Porch Culture Coffee: Not Just Another Pretty Cup Of Coffee

porch-culture-coffee-tyler-tx--6By Johnny Griffith

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” -T.S. Elliot

“What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup.” -Henry Rollins

To say that coffee has become an integral part of our culture would, for some people, be akin to saying that air is integral to breathing. While that might be a bit superfluous in its metaphor, it might not be that much of a stretch as I’m sitting here with a gargantuan cup of coffee within arm’s reach while I type. In an increasingly fast-paced world, coffee has become the latest trend with its own language and culture, which isn’t necessarily reflective of all that’s good and right about the mysterious dark brew. But tucked away just west of downtown Tyler, there is a local company that is trying to encourage people to stop and smell the coffee.

Porch Culture Coffee is a small, craft roasting coffee company owned and operated by Jonathan and Shelly Ramm. Since 2012, Porch Culture has been offering slow roasted coffee sourced from the world’s best coffee regions, in some cases direct from the growers based on relationships cultivated, much like the coffee bean itself, with patience, hard work, and a good environment. With emphasis on quality, Porch Culture believes that coffee should be more than just a quick-start in the mornings, but should be reflective of moments and stories that have happened over a cup or three for as long as the bean has been harvested.

Recently, I had the chance to talk with Shelly Ramm to get more of their unique story and how Porch Culture is working to be a part of the craft community in East Texas:

porch-culture-coffee-tyler-tx-1Johnny: Give us a little of the backstory of how you and Jonathan met.

Shelly: Jonathan grew up in Tyler, and I grew up in the Marietta, Georgia. We met while both working in the development office at the Doulos Discovery School in the Dominican Republic in 2008. We were married in the fall of 2009 and continued in our work for the school through the spring of 2011.

Johnny: How did that journey expose you to the coffee industry and the idea to change paths and start a new narrative as a coffee roasting family?

Shelly: When we made the decision to move back to the States, we sat down and brainstormed about what we would like to do, what could keep us connected to the school in some way, and what Tyler, Texas ‘needed.’ Our work with the school had introduced us to coffee cultivation through its connection with a nearby coffee farm, Finca Spirit Mountain. The farm acts as a learning extension for the school, where students learn the connections of the outdoors and our everyday life: not just coffee, but ecosystems, trees, birds, leadership training, spiritual retreat, water quality, and on and on. Jonathan and I were often chaperones on those trips, as well as our own recreational camping trips to the farm, each visit connected more and more to the place and the people.

Johnny: What’s the significance of the name “Porch Culture?”

Shelly: Porch Culture comes from our experience with Dominican hospitality. It’s pretty common to see Dominicans out on their porches sipping coffee with their family and friends. We were often invited to join in on the typical afternoon cafecito. It’s also a slower way of doing life that we appreciated in our Dominican friends. There is always time to be with people.

Johnny: Describe a little of the process between moving to Tyler and the Porch Culture startup.

porch-culture-coffee-tyler-tx-2Shelly: We moved to Tyler in the fall of 2012, after having spent a year in Akron, Ohio, in a roasting apprenticeship. We had already established Porch Culture as an LLC, we had a website, and a couple hundred pounds of Spirit Mountain green coffee that had been carried back in suitcases from a recent trip our friends had taken. We started out small in Jonathan’s parents garage on a grill roaster as a side gig, but over time our traction grew. Six months in, we were able to rent a small production space (the building we are in now) and through the generosity of family, we were able to upgrade to a commercial roaster. The beginning of 2015 is when we made the jump to full-time coffee roasting.

Johnny: It seems as if you guys try to work as closely to the growers as possible and place a big emphasis on sustainable practices. What is the philosophical difference between a bag of Porch Culture and a bag of Starbuck’s Breakfast Blend?

Shelly: It’s not just flavor, but ‘big picture differences,’ as well. We definitely concern ourselves with the story of each of our coffees. The story we are closest to, and our only direct trade relationship, is Spirit Mountain in the Dominican Republic. We have ‘direct trade,’ meaning we have visited the farm and communicate directly with the owner for pricing. The other coffees we carry are what we call ‘relational trade.’ This means that we depend on the trusted relationship with our green buyer and the work he does to source coffees that pay a fair wage to workers, use farming practices that protect the land and the surrounding community, and ultimately tastes awesome in the cup.

Johnny: What’s the difference between a craft roaster such as yourselves and a volume roaster?

Shelly: The biggest difference is scale. It’s a much different business model and a much different product when roasting over a million pounds of coffee a year versus 12,000. As a small scale craft roaster, we are able to source coffee from smaller, specific regions which translates to a higher quality crop, and more complexity in the cup. With a smaller roasting operation, we are able to hone in on the quality of the roasted product. Freshness makes a HUGE difference, and with our roast-to-order policy, our coffee is super fresh. Nothing goes in the roaster unless an order is placed. Most volume roasters have a “best by” date somewhere on the bag, which is typically 3-6 months after it was roasted and sometimes even up to a year. Our bags are stamped with a “roasted on” date, and we recommend drinking it within 2-3 weeks, ideally.

porch culture coffee tyler tx eguideJohnny: On your website, you make a specific point about the coffee you roast being ‘Shade Grown.’ Can you explain that, and why it should matter to coffee drinkers?

Shelly: Coffee is naturally a shade plant. Unfortunately, most commodity coffee is grown in full sun. For a coffee plant to produce fruit (which contain the beans) in full sun requires the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This in turn depletes the soil life and creates chemical runoff into local water sources. Coffee grown in the shade works in a symbiotic way with its surroundings. The shade canopy gives the coffee plants the proper light exposure, and that same canopy creates leaf litter that enriches the soil. To go further with it, shade trees create homes for birds, which are a great help to coffee plants by keeping certain insects at bay. I will clarify and say that not all shade grown coffee is necessarily organic; however, coffee grown in its natural shaded environment needs less chemical intervention. Shade grown is the only way coffee can be grown organically. Shade grown matters to us because it directly affects coffee workers and surrounding communities.

Johnny: Speaking of community, Porch Culture collaborated with another local craft business, True Vine Brewing on one of their creations. Give us a quick story on how that came about.

porch-culture-coffee-tyler-tx-44Shelly: We found Ryan through an internet search when we first arrived to Tyler and were seeking out other like-minded craft businesses. True Vine was a garage project at the time, just like us. When we stumbled upon the warehouse space it was too big for just us, and we thought of True Vine. We’ve been neighbors ever since. It was a natural collaboration as the two craft beverage makers in town.

Johnny: What is the ideal story for a bag of Porch Culture coffee after it leaves your business?

Shelly: Quite simply, we want it to be enjoyed. On a more profound level, coffee is so much more than fuel, and we hope that even on the busiest of mornings something delicious at the breakfast table or on the way to work would allow for a moment (or more) of inspiration.

Johnny: Thanks for your time and input, I just have one more question for you: ‘What is your favorite way to enjoy a cup of coffee?’

Shelly: Slowly, preferably on a porch.

Porch Culture offers subscription services to have coffee delivered to your home or office, and offers local delivery for certain areas. Porch Culture Coffee can be found locally in several stores and restaurants as well as at the Rose City Farmers Market every Saturday morning.

Check out Porch Culture Coffee on the World Wide Web for more information:

www.porchculturecoffee.com

www.facebook.com/porchculturecoffee

Around East Texas

Festival of Fruit: 34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

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34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

Welcome to Jacksonville – home of the best tasting fruit – tomatoes!

Local farmers are busy getting ready for the upcoming 34th Annual Tomato Fest in Jacksonville, Texas by planting acres of the best tastin’ tomatoes. Join the celebration Saturday, June 9th in downtown Jacksonville for a BIG day of activities that will be happening all day long. Over 200+ vendors and all kinds of festival food, including the famous fried green tomatoes, Farmers Market, $500 Got Talent Contest, Car Show, Motorcycle Show, Tennis Tournament, Soccer Tournament, Softball Tournament, Entertainment, Kidz Zone, and so much more will cover 5 blocks downtown. Tomato events include Salsa Contest, Tomato Eating and Peeling Contest, Tomato Archery, Tomato Shoot, Best Home Grown Tomato Contest, Tomato Packing Contest and tour the Tomato Shed. Saturday evening, Chili’s Street Dance will take place featuring Brian Chance Band and Lady Chazz and the Tramps. 

Activities kick off on Saturday, June 2nd with a 5k run sponsored by All Smiles. Monday, June 4th and Tuesday, June 5th is Family First Clinic’s corporate challenge Dodgeball Tournament. On Wednesday, June 6th, a Gospel Concert sponsored by Whataburger featuring, The Group, will perform at Central Baptist Church. New this year on Thursday, June 8th  is the Farm to Table dinner event that will take place at Castle on the Lake on beautiful Lake Jacksonville and will be catered by Rob Gowin, Sadler’s Kitchen & Catering. A 4 Man Scramble takes place at the Cherokee Ranch Golf Club on Friday, June 8th. The final Tomato Fest week celebration ends at Lake Jacksonville with a Ski Show on Sunday, June 10th.

Taste for yourself the best tomatoes and fun festival packed with lots to do for everyone.  For additional information, contact Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at (903)586-2217, or go to  JacksonvilleTexas.com/Tomato-Fest or Facebook.com/JacksonvilleChamber.

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Fitness

East Texans Learn to “Live Healthy”

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This Month at Integrative Health Matters:

Integrative Health Matters offers a healthy alternative to losing weight.

“Food is the real medicine. Through our innovative, hands-on programs, we aim to inspire healthy change through education. Diseases, chronic conditions, inflammation, and immune system disorders are often attributed to diet. Food is the medicine that can fix the problem. Integrative Health Matters is lifestyle medicine. It’s not about drugs and doctor’s appointments. It’s about how to eat right, how to think right, and to understand all the things we have to do to stay healthy,” said neurosurgeon Guy Danielson, medical director and founder of Integrative Health Matters. “This is root cause (medicine), not covering up symptoms with something from the pharmacy. The pharmacy is out in the garden.”

The public has opportunities to visit Integrative Health Matters at any of these classes:

  • Every Wednesday (12:15-1:15pm) – Mindful Movements ; (5:15-6:15pm) – “Just Breathe” Meditation
  • May 4th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Detoxing
  • May 8th (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Tabbouleh with Karol
  • May 11th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Seasonally
  • May 21st (6-7:30pm) – The Good News About Type 2 Diabetes
  • May 22nd (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Raising Healthy Eaters
  • May 25th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Healthy on a Budget

Cooking classes offered twice monthly are in-depth health and cooking presentations. These “Kitchen Talks” invite the public into the IHM instructional kitchen to learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals and create a healthy home environment.

Integrative Health Matters is located at 419 WSW Loop 323 #400 in Tyler, next to La Madeleine. For information about Integrative Health Matters, contact (903)595-8077 or visit ihm.life.

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Around East Texas

Pure Bliss at M6 Winery

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M6 Winery:

Celebrating Life & Good Things

Written and Photographed by Barbara Greenbauer

Take some time to wind down, breathe, and enjoy a superb glass of wine at M6 Winery & Tasting Room and Gift Shop in downtown Bullard. Owners Joe and Anne Moody set the pace as the charming and affable owners who greet you at the door and welcome you inside.

The atmosphere is palatable the minute you arrive, inside the front door is a Texas trove of hand-made one of a kind wood pieces that can either house your own wine collection or accent it. Move along into the inner room and you will feel right at home as you order wine, food, and listen to live music.

Joe Moody is in his element and passionate about his foray into the wine business. Relying on his business background and his interest in the wine-making industry, he has developed an inventory of his own, a grand selection of whites and reds that will be taste bud treats to either the wine connoisseur or novice.

“Wine is about celebrating life and the good things,” explains Moody. “Anne and I have traveled from California to Italy and experienced multitudes of vineyards and tasting rooms.  We were ready to bring all of our experiences to East Texas.” M6 derives its name from the Moody’s family of six, including the four grown children who were a piece of the business from its infancy. M6 Winery & Tasting Room is nestled on a corner of downtown Bullard, a piece of property Joe Moody has owned for over 20 years that has served as his office for both an oil/gas and real estate business over the years.

“Creating a good wine is an act of love and patience,” explains Moody. “Grapes cannot be rushed and in the process, you have to be aware of what you are looking for in a flavor profile. It takes a lot of planning and preparation; blending is like art with different aromas, colors, and flavors.”

The tasting room is an experience in itself, from the beautiful front and center bar fashioned from the ribs of wine barrels to the tin roof and rough cedar ceiling accents. Choose your wine and sit back while local musicians entertain.

There’s another great space outside that the Moody’s affectionately call The Vinery, a vine-covered patio with plenty of room and great furniture to sit on while you  enjoy the Texas weather.

Your palette will applaud you when you sample an M6 original wine. White wines include the Blue Norther, an aromatic semi-sweet Riesling with hints of apples and stone fruit. The Bluebonnet is an off-dry white blend, perfect for poultry, fish, and pasta dishes. Or try the Sweet TexAnne, named for Mrs. Moody, with sweet honeysuckle and strawberry overtones. This wine is perfect for summer salads and cheeses and is sweet enough to serve as a light dessert wine.

The Texas Viognier is an unoaked, medium to full-bodied dry wine, with notes of pears, honeysuckle, and tangerine. It pairs well with roasted poultry, orange chicken, seafood, apricots, fennel, capers, or pumpkin.

M6’s Rosé wines include the Blushing Texan, a semi-sweet Rosé wine blend with a light pink color. The appropriately monikered Tyler Rosé is a dry blend with a touch of High Plains Zinfandel. This blend was created especially for our local Tyler market and its famous association with roses.

If red is more your thing, there are lots to choose from. Friendship Red is made with the hearty Ruby Cabernet grape. It is a great compliment to all things pasta, as it goes great with all sauces, from marinara to Alfredo.

The Moodys very first Signature Blend is Vintner’s Touch, a bold red blend that pairs well with roasted meats. This blend is made from grapes grown both in Texas and California.

Red Texana is great with Texas BBQ or Tex-Mex dishes. It is full-bodied and made from the Ruby Cabernet grape. It has a spicy finish.

Feel free to pair your wine with meat, cheese, or combo plates, olive oil with bread and spices, or a slider plate. Paired flights include a chocolate or cheese, and of course, you can do a Tasting Flight of five different wines and keep the signature M6 tasting glass. M6 wines range from an affordable $18 to $28 a bottle.

Be part of the family and join the M6 Wine Club to experience the best of their offerings with five special wine shipments annually. When it’s time to get your selections, M6 offers a complimentary glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres to members at pickup parties.

M6 can host your private party and create personalized wine labels to commemorate any event from birthdays to anniversaries.

Joe has nothing but compliments for the wine-growing community in East Texas, saying “We are all very supportive of each other and share resources and information.”

Mark your calendars for the Piney Woods Wine Festival, running May 11th-12th and join M6 and the other 18 wineries on the trail for a spectacular weekend of music, art, and of course, lots of wine to taste.

Lauren and Bobby Grounds from Tyler wanted a new destination and searched the internet for wine and live music and found M6. “We love this venue,” said Lauren. “It’s very different and fun, and the wine is fantastic.” They were trying the Blue Norther and the Blushing Texan with a cheese plate and Billy said “We will definitely be back. We like the atmosphere here.  It’s very welcoming.”

Joe is thrilled that M6 wines are featured at favorite Tyler restaurants, including Rotolo’s, Dakotas, and the Grove. “Mention that you would like to try an M6 wine and you won’t be disappointed,” he said.

The Moodys welcome you to experience M6 Winery & Tasting Room. “We want everyone who visits us to feel like they are our honored guest,” said Joe Moody.

M6 is open Saturdays from 1-6:30pm and is located at 201 W. Main St., Bullard. They can be reached at (903)360-0369, by email at info@m6winery.com, or on Facebook at M6Winery.

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