Coffee Master Certification: My Coffee Tasting/Pairings

If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw this photo.

IMG_2139After months of reading, tasting, talking, exploring, and learning all I can about coffee (alone, and also coffee and Starbucks together) I am finally a certified Coffee Master. This journey focused on coffee history, geographic origins, coffee agriculture, sourcing and buying, green coffee quality, the art of roasting and blending, and my favorite part:

-coffee parings/tastings/flavors/notes.

One of my new aprons.

One of my new aprons.

Coffee, like wine grapes, gets much of its flavor from the specific growing conditions and processing methods of whatever region it was produced in. Three of the main coffee producing regions are: Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Each of these regions have specific flavor characteristics that give each coffee blend its distinct coffee “notes.”

What’s a coffee note you ask? Certain flavors are detected in coffee’s that allow them to harmonize well with certain foods. Have you ever had a cup of Joe that just didn’t mesh well with your blueberry muffin? This is due to the specific notes present with each blend. Alone this coffee may be just what you’re looking for, but when shared alongside a meal you’ll want to be a bit more particular.

Coffee blends alone may survive just fine, but when you combine them with the right foods the harmony is out of this world.

This is a fantastic chart.

This is a fantastic chart.

Lets break down the top three regions by their coffee notes.

Latin America – high balanced flavors of cocoa or nuts, as well as a crisp, bright acidity.

Africa – Floral and citrus characteristics.

Asia – Full body and spicy flavors with balanced acidity and herbal notes.


Part of my final certification was putting together a coffee tasting. As a food AND coffee lover you can imagine my excitement when the two come together. If anyone is interested in learning more about a proper coffee tasting with coffee alone, let me know in the comments.

I chose one coffee from each coffee region, plus one coffee that is multi-regional and paired each with different foods.

Kenya – An African grown coffee with complimentary flavors of grapefruit, berries, currants, raisins, and oranges.


For this pairing I made an orange and currant quinoa salad. Sounds bizarre right? Oranges, quinoa, and coffee? This went together SO well it was almost magical. I could have cried from the joy I felt.


Komodo Dragon – An Asia/Pacific coffee with complimentary flavors of cinnamon, maple, buttery breads, and pastries.


For this pairing I chose almond butter stuffed dates sprinkled with cinnamon. The flavors harmonized almost perfectly. This is a common breakfast pairing for me, except I also use a rice cake for my base.

Guatemala Antigua – A Latin American grown coffee with complimentary flavors of cocoa, apples, caramel, and nuts.

Organic Yukon – A multi-regional blend with beans from both Latin American and Asia. This blend is mellow and well balanced with complimentary flavors of cinnamon, raisins, oatmeal, and chocolate.


Due to the cocoa and chocolate notes in both of these coffee’s, they both paired well with some chocolate chip coffee cookies. I used fresh ground Yukon beans in the mix for these cookies. I also paired these two coffees with some toasted coconut cashews.


While these all balanced well together, I found that the Yukon paired a bit better with the cookie, and the Guatemala paired a bit better with the cashews. Guatemala has more nutty notes while Yukon has more chocolate notes so this made complete sense.

To conduct a proper tasting, each coffee should be brewed with high quality water, a proper grind for your brewing method, proper ratio of water to grinds, and your coffee should be fresh. Coffee should then be tasted in it’s pure form, without the addition of milks and sugars.


Lucky for me I am a black coffee connoisseur so conducting tastings is naturally one of my favorite things to do. Tampering (or destroying in my humble opinion) with the coffee by adding milk or sugar hinders the natural flavors from being detected. Not a fan of black coffee? That’s OK, I don’t like beer..we all have our downfalls. ;)


  • What’s your favorite coffee pairing?
  • Have you ever payed attention to how certain coffees can CLASH with certain foods? For example the orange quinoa salad would have been TERRIBLE with any of the other coffees I mentioned in this post.
  • Would anyone like to see a short post in more depth about how to conduct a coffee tasting? 


Wide Open Spaces

Change is something that I’ve always struggled with. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’d bet that most of you reading this right now would agree. These days I’ve grown accustomed to change, and even sometimes welcome it. A few months ago I changed my blog layout after over TWO years of the same set up. I’m a big believer of keeping things simple, and I live my life by a, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto, but I wanted something new and fresh.

After settling on a new layout, I quickly discovered that although I enjoyed the sleek and clean look, the way my photos were squished just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t get myself a dSLR to highlight tiny details in certain pictures just to have them unappreciated by a squished blog.


I have a 70/30 approach to blogging. 70% photos, and 30% written content. After settling with the smooshed setup for a while, I made an impromptu change as you can see. No hesitation, no struggling with the change, just a click of a button and boom-wide open spaces for my photos to stretch and breath. My photos are far from perfect, but they surely benefit from a better layout.


OK, you get the idea. Long story short I have a new layout that is very simple and clean, giving my photos a bit more wiggle room. I still use my iPhone for nearly all other photos like hiking, but even those benefit from some space. On that note go bake something tasty. Happy Sunday.


Q: What’s most important to you about reading/writing blogs? I am a big fan of LOTS of photos. Too much text and I get bored.


Quality Over Quantity

Over the last couple years I’ve become very content spending a lot of my time alone. This is nothing new, as I have been blogging about my solo adventures for quite some time now. To put it bluntly, I’ve found there are very few people I actually want to spend my time with.

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With that said, the rare times I do spend with other people I am very picky about who those people are. My time is valuable to me, and I don’t have the energy to spend time with people that don’t add anything beneficial to my life. We all deserve quality connections.

I don’t say this to be harsh, I say it to be real.

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After visiting the Starbucks corporate office, my two gal pals and I headed North to hike Rattlesnake Ridge, a hike I’ve done multiple times now. Leave it to me to suggest a hike as part of our activities.


I adore these girls to pieces, but they are both leaving me very soon. One is moving to another Starbucks about 15 miles away, and  the other is moving to another Starbucks (and school) in IDAHO! :(



I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have quality friends and that’s what matters most to me. The kind of friends that you can go months without seeing, and pick up right where you left off.

It’s also necessary for me to spend my time with people that understand/accept my personality, and that share similar interests. Friendship is like dating – the ones that don’t mesh well, don’t evolve and end up in a split. It also helps when they’re equally as quirky.

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The point of this post was not to allow me to ramble, but simply to highlight the fact that like most things in life: quality over quantity.


I am quite content with my balance between alone time and time spent with others. I wouldn’t change anything about where I’m at!


You should totally click this to enlarge it.

Q: Do you prefer spending your time in large groups with a lot of people, or being more selective on time spent with others? I don’t mean like a party, because that’s a different situation. Just in general everyday friendships.


A Few Pieces of Starbucks Knowledge

I really enjoy my job. It’s the kind of job that you’re excited to go to and are constantly wanting to learn more about. There is something about coffee that inspires me and I can’t seem to get enough.


Most people don’t know this, but Starbucks does a LOT for its communities, and even more for the countries where they buy their beans from. People often jump to conclusions about Starbucks because it’s such a big corporation, but really they are very passionate about what they do, and giving back is huge.


Did you know that Starbucks pays for employees to volunteer? I don’t mean the employees get paid, but the places where we volunteer get money for the hours we put in. #extrashotofgood


Did you know that in an effort to ensure a transparent purchasing process, Starbucks developed something called C.A.F.E practice?  This ensures that quality of life for coffee farmers is ethical, pay is accountable, quality is high, and all environmental needs are met.


Did you know that on top of paying a premium price for ethical sourcing (giving them high quality arabica beans) Starbucks helps coffee farmers with financial support when funds are low?

IMG_1954I finally took the time to visit the Starbucks Center in Seattle, also known as Starbucks Headquarters. It’s kind of a big deal. I’m fortunate enough to live in the area where Starbucks first started, and visiting this location was just a hop, skip, and a jump across the water.

Unfortunately without being an employee of the actual corporate building, I had limited access to the inner offices. I did get to explore the Starbucks shop, and enjoyed a free cup of “visitor” coffee.


I’m still very much of an equal opportunist, and I adore local and small coffee shops too. I think trying local coffee is one of three great ways to explore new areas, and while I love Starbucks I don’t always go to one when I am traveling somewhere new. Local coffee usually wins.

Seattle is a different story though, being the birthplace of Starbucks.


It was a great experience to visit the place where all the magic happens so to speak.  Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to venture behind the “badge entrance only” doors.


Until then I’ll continue making coffee I’m proud to sell, and educate people on the details that go down “behind the scenes.”

Q: Do you “believe in” the story behind place you work?


Early Morning Confessions

1. Can’t stop won’t stop with the rice cake/nut butter/epic topping combo. These two were pre hike fuel, and by that I mean I ate these before eating another ten pounds of food on my drive to the mtn.


2. One of the recent search terms that brought someone to my blog from The Google was the word “shanked.” Yup, sounds about right.

3. Those blackberries pictured above? They were free. I walked about a mile to find some bushes and filled a bowl up. Food tastes better when it’s free AND when you work for it.


4. Every time I incorporate certain kinds of gluten back into my diet I swell up like a puffer fish. The puffiness lasts a couple days, and it’s annoying because WHO can avoid cupcakes – come on man!

5. My coworker and I finished part of our Coffee Master project. It’s a giant board of knowledge. I feel like a proud mama.


6. The amount of sweat I’ve been producing on my runs lately is probably enough to fill a child size swimming pool. So.Hot.Outside.

7. This breakfast bowl. My face was rocked so hard.


…and this dinner bowl…really just this bowl. It delivers good things.


8. I found this style of Teva’s at Nordstrom Rack for $30 off original price. Basically I felt like a boss, and they are my new obsession.

9. My cat is a model.


10. I’ve been getting inquiries about what I’m going back to school for, and since I’ve been lazy about writing a post on that topic I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes version: Holistic Nutrition through Bastyr University. Bastyr is a natural health college in Seattle and the program will be a bit different than your standard nutrition program.

I’m thinking about going for the B.S. in nutrition and culinary arts to open more doors for the future, and because it just sounds like a blast. This college has a huge focus on whole foods and how they affect the human body. Totally my speed, totally crunchy granola.

If you’ve read my blog for a while you’ll know I was going for dental hygiene in the past, which thankfully is paying off because most of my prerequisite classes for that program transfer over to the nutrition degree. I do have four prerequisites needed still which I am working on now. Long story short that’s what I’m up to!

More on that later…perhaps.

Q: What’s your confession? 


Garden Harvest – Summer Veggie Salad Recipe

I’m in the final stages of finishing my coffee master training for Starbucks, and have been lucky enough to go through the entire process with another coworker. She and I were able to get together at her house recently to work on our final “project” for the store.


After working on our project for a little over an hour I decided it was time for a break, meaning it was time to explore her property. She lives on a small farm fully equipped with cows, chickens, a goat, and best of all a small organic garden. Talk about bliss.


I was absolutely ecstatic when I was offered to take some of the luscious bounty home with me. Local, fresh, organic, free produce!? You betchur britches I wanted some! With a bowl the size of a small horse completely filled with green goodness, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to get crazy wild in my kitchen.


For starters I baked 4 small loaves of zucchini banana bread. I used this recipe and made a few alterations. It was very mild, and definitely needs something on top such as a nut butter or fresh berries.


The real winner of this harvest was my roasted zucchini & carrot black bean salad with a creamy kale and walnut pesto sauce. I wanted to make something that would use almost everything I was gifted.

So jazzed.

So jazzed.

Items from my bowl used for this meal were:

  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • snap peas
  • kale
  • basil
  • lettuce

I also got some cilantro that I used for some taco salads, but I digress.

Roasted Zucchini & Carrot Black Bean Salad



For the salad:

  • 3/4 cup roasted zucchini
  • 2/4 cup roasted carrots
  • 1.5 cups boiled sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup black beans


For the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tsp water
  • 1.5 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tblsp + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 medium sized kale leaves
  • 3 medium sized lettuce leaves (or more kale)
  • 5 medium/large basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup snap peas (just the peas, and this is optional)
  • 1 tsp salt



  1. Slice your carrots and zucchini into desired size (you can see what I did in the photo above) and lay flat on a roasting tray. Roast for about 45-60 minutes. The zucchini didn’t roast well and was a bit mushy, but  still edible of course.
  2. Chop about two smaller sized sweet potatoes and fully submerge them in water to boil. Boil for about 20 minutes, be sure not to over boil them or they will fall apart.
  3. While everything is cooking you can make your pesto. Combine all your ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor and combine until smooth. You may want to add more water depending on how thick you like your pesto.
  4. Once all your veggies are done combine everything into a large bowl. This makes enough for 2 people with a bit leftover.

Note: The veggies are all very soft, so something like crunchy chips or lettuce leaves will round out the texture of this meal.

I used the rest of my lettuce leaves and I put just a dollop of the pesto sauce on top because I’m not a huge sauce fan. With chips on the side.


I am amazed by the powerful taste of garden fresh produce. 10x better than anything in the store, but I suppose that’s a given! It took me all of three days to rip through this produce. I need a garden!

Q: Did you garden at all this year? I tried to plant some cilantro, but the slugs got it…no excuses for next year! OH or winter veggies!


Mailbox Peak

Sometimes I wonder why I do things. Like why I choose to put myself through the torture of climbing 4000 ft in only 2.5 miles. If you do the math, that’s a whole lotta climb for not a lotta distance.


I successfully hiked solo, and by that I mean I actually felt solo this time. It was the perfect balance of people to where I felt safe, yet went multiple spans of time where I was all by myself.

20140727-201154-72714630If there is one thing I learned on this hike, it’s that people talk to you much more when you’re solo. Aside from the “hiker must” of saying hello, I had a couple people help me with direction, and even a group of guys trying to “holler” at me. Yeah…no.

Without the side conversations I would not have know to look for these white triangles while climbing through the forest. Oops, I missed that part when I skipped past the trail entrance notes.

Can you see the marker?

Where’s Waldo…can you see the marker?

I have to say being alone in the woods was quite exhilarating. Despite my heart pounding out of my chest, and the sweat dripping from places I didn’t know possible this climb was amazing.


Once I found my way out of the woods (seriously it was total brain work) a nice Scottish gentleman & I crossed paths. He informed me I could continue on the trail path, or Billy goat my way on the rocks.

OK so he didn’t put it that way, but close. Guess which way I chose?


The rocks! I had some practice on this hike, so it was a no brainier.

The rocks gave a fantastic view of Mount Rainier, the neighboring hills, and some bodies of water. I was overwhelmed by all the beauty.


I managed to make it to the top in just under two hours. I sat, I stared, I ate, I rejoiced, and relished my accomplishment. Toughest climb yet.


What exactly is the highlight of this climb? There is a mailbox that someone brought to the top a while back (hence the name) and it’s caused this climb to be on many peoples bucket list. Myself included.


Check. Add another highlight to the book.

Post hike I wanted to eat all the things. Specifically all the carbs. So that’s just what I did. The Veggie Grill has a new sandwich and OMG.


Of course no hike would be complete without restoring my sugar levels. It’s all a matter of science.  So I found my way to Whole Foods.


Shut up and take my money.

Shut up and take my money.

I’m extremely indecisive with baked goods, so mini treats are ideal.

Best date I’ve had in a while…with myself.

Q: What would be your first choice for a solo activity?


Raspberry Chocolate Banana Oat Bread

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t recognize a perfect banana. I get that we all have different preferences, but just because a banana is spotted or somewhat brown does not mean it’s “rotten.” My ideal banana is somewhat spotted, and never green.


In fact when a banana has some brown to it/ is somewhat over ripe, this is when the nutrients are most readily available for absorption! Plus we all know that spotted bananas make for delicious treats!

Two sights really captured my soul recently. A cloudy sky, and the above overripe bananas next to two containers of fresh raspberries.


Two completely different sights, both with the same meaning.


A hot sunny day hasn’t stopped me from baking in the past, but a cool overcast makes it much easier. We go through a lot of bananas at Starbucks, and when they start to look “not yellow”, they’re mine!


We’ve already discussed the abundance of raspberries I’ve been hoarding eating in previous posts, and I decided to attempt a new recipe. Not only have I never combined raspberries and bananas together in a bread, but I’ve also never made my own flour. Until now.

How I’ve never attempted the simplicity that is oat flour before is beyond me, but now that I have I can say with ease this is a new flour staple in my house. So easy, so simple, so delicious, and so CHEAP!

Raspberry Chocolate Banana Oat Bread



  • 2 1/3 cup whole GF rolled oats (before making into powdery flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tblsp fresh ground flax + 6 tblsp warm water)
  • 1 cup smashed fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (plus another small handful)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and wipe a 9x5in loaf pan with coconut oil.
  2. Make your oat flour by using a high speed blender or food processor. Blend/process until flour like. This should make around 2 cups, which is what you will need for this recipe.
  3. In a medium bowl combine your 2 cups of oat flour with your baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a separate medium sized bowl combine mashed bananas, brown sugar, vanilla, and flax eggs until smooth and creamy.
  5. Slowly add flour mixture into the wet mixture and mix until well combined.
  6. Fold in smashed raspberries and chocolate chips. Pour batter into your oiled pan, and sprinkle a small handful of chocolate chips on top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Mine took closer to an hour, I have an old oven.
  7. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan onto a rack.
  8. Eat with a heaping scoop of vanilla coconut ice cream.

029I can’t express how much fun I had experimenting and creating this bread. Having an evening free to bake instead of work or study really made the process that much more enjoyable.

I had two pieces right away, one by itself and one with PB and more berries, because you can never have too many berries.


This bread is delicious, thick, & dense. Don’t bake this expecting light, airy, & fluffy bread. For a better balanced density use multiple mini loaf pans instead of one large one. I could care less, I ate every bit.


I hope my friends at the Virtual Vegan LINKY Potluck don’t mind that I used raspberries for my bread/dessert again. I just can’t get enough!

Q: What’s your favorite summer berry? Can I say all of them? 


Early Morning Confessions

1. Costco, you’ve upped your game with this one…

Three pack of coconut ice cream!? This is pure gold.

Three pack of coconut ice cream!? This is pure gold.

2. My washing machine broke and I’ve been doing my laundry Little Mermaid style for over a week. Minus the crab.

3. I had my first exam for my Biology class, and I was a bit confused after seeing my score. Come to find out it IS possible to get 16 points OVER 100%. Then I got a 95% on my first lab exam. This is good.


4. I’ve been running more, and enjoying it. Win.

5. I found this gem at an antique shop in Fremont while wandering after my 5K a few weeks ago. I love it, and will hang it on my wall.

1950's matted photo.

1950’s matted photo.

6. GoodBelly probiotic fruit drink was on sale so I bought some. I’m not a fan of the added sugar, but I am a fan of going to the bathroom…multiple times…in one day. I bought three more.

7. In running I collect medals, in hiking I collect…highlights?

Mid 70 MPH photo, don't mind the shaky quality.

Mid 70 MPH photo, don’t mind the shaky quality. Highlight indicates mountains CONQUERED.

8. My Garmin officially reset itself. All of my history is gone, my settings needed to be fixed, and the beeping sound needed to be turned off. I guess I finally maxed out?

9. I am obsessed with this drink. Along with the Ginger Spice flavor.


10. I got EIGHT mosquito bites on this hike. They itched so bad at times they woke me up at night. So I busted out my inner granola and rubbed essential oils on them (lavender, peppermint, and purification.) I’ve never wanted to harm a bug so badly…

Q: What’s your confession?


First Attempt

I took myself on a date last weekend. I really enjoy dating myself and doing things that most people do with others, all alone. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy spending time with people (sometimes) but lately I prefer to be alone. Just because I’m solo doesn’t mean I can’t explore!


My date started with my first attempt at solo hiking. I have been wanting to build my confidence and become more comfortable hiking alone, so I went to a popular trail…on a Sunday.20140720-202716-73636118.jpg

Needless to say my first attempt at hiking “alone” didn’t go as I had planned. I wasn’t really alone because there were SO many people on this mountain, and at times I had to weasel my way around them. Sure I came alone, but I didn’t feel alone.

I did feel safe though, perhaps this is a start?


In order to ditch the crowds I continued climbing past the main vantage point. I brought some homework with me and was pleased to see that the spot I wanted was completely empty. Just me & nature.

…and biology.


I could get used to doing homework above the trees.


Post hike I took myself to PCC for a vegan brownie, and then made my way to Whole Foods to balance my brownie out with greens.

I have no words...I need ten more.

I have no words…I need ten more.


Despite the crowds, I found being alone on this hike to be serene. It’s funny to look back and remember a time when I was so dependent on other people for a lot of things in my life. These days I couldn’t be more independent, it’s such a beneficial quality for me to have.20140720-194346-71026049.jpg

I’ll attempt another solo hike this weekend (I hope.) With my knife, my mace, lots of food, a lighter, and a trail I am familiar with! Any tips?

Q: Do you depend on other people a lot, or do you take your adventures into your own hands at times?