For over half the American population, coffee is the perfect gift. According to a YouGov poll from September 2022, 53 percent of American adults drink at least one cup a day, and a subset of those people really, really love the stuff.
Some folks purchase high-end equipment to render the most exquisite flavors and textures. Others acquire only the best beans, grinding and experimenting until heart-palpitating bliss is achieved.
Many feel coffee is more utility than luxury. We brew it, grab it and go. We take it on the run. We reach for it as fuel for creativity, and to power through the bleary-eyed demands of capitalism. Second only to alcohol (which I write about elsewhere in this issue), caffeine is the drug of choice in America, and coffee is the vastly preferred mechanism of delivery.
We’ve compiled an inventive list of locally sourced coffee-lover gifts, curated by a local. You don’t have to spend a dime to spread joy to your loved ones, but if you have a gift budget, we humbly urge you to support the small businesses that make our community special.
Below, you will find a small sampling of the best beans and coffee-related products Ulster County has to offer. There are too many roasters to note, too many amazing coffee shops and cafés to buy gift cards to. Hint: Not to be elitist, but Starbucks and Dunkin’ aren’t among them.
Rondout Roasting Company • $10
Alice is the taste of the history of Kingston: Proud, hard-working, and all about making connections within the community. Co-founders Fiona McElroy and Dustin Bryant named this variety after a great-grandma, Alice Pruden, who was the first woman to traverse the Rondout Creek bridge over a century ago. Those are some long-time local roots.
Alice is available as a blend or in a dark roast – the former is more brightly sweet and nutty, the latter is smooth with chocolate undertones. The pricetag makes it working-class affordable, the flavor profile is elevated above your average cup of Joe.
Buy it online at rondoutroasting.com.
Red Tail Blend
Heavyfeather Coffee • $16.50
What began in Mount Tremper as a locally-grown business serving Catskill Mountain towns has grown into a widely respected and supped gourmet coffee roasting operation. Beans are sourced from regions in Africa and South America. While aspiring to adhere to the highest ethical and environmental standards, this local roaster is revered for its complex and well-balanced flavor profiles.
The Red Tail Blend is their signature bag of beans, with notes of brown sugar, golden raisin and cacao. Don’t sleep (literally) on their other blends, which get even more multifaceted in taste.
Buy online at heavyfeathercoffee.com.
Decaf Espresso Blend
Monkey Joe Roasting Company • $16.99
Locals know Monkey Joe in midtown Kingston as a mecca for folks who take their coffee seriously. The shop is run by incredibly friendly and knowledgeable owners and staff.
Their selection is widely varied, sustainably sourced, and always flavor-forward. Their roasts are known for bold and succulent flavors. Their caffeinated selection is bar-none.
For this guide we singled out their Decaf Espresso Blend as a standout for lovers of the half-caf or decaf variety. It’s a richly sweet and versatile blend that’s great for more fanciful coffee concoctions as well as sipping straight.
Buy online at monkeyjoe.com.
Rwanda Gakenke FWA Fairtrade
Phillies Bridge Coffee Co. • $17
For those who take their coffee seriously from plant to product, Phillies Bridge Coffee Co. has been “microbrewing” some of the choicest beans from some of the most high-qualtiy and equitable growing operations across the planet. Their website is an encyclopedia of deep information on their sustainable sourcing practices, and also features detailed instructions on how to brew the best cup given your equipment.
If you know a coffee aficionado who’d like to know the altitude their beans came from, this is their bag. One of the missions many local roasters have is subverting the highly exploitative mainstream coffee industry by favoring business practices which empower the often-disadvantaged communities providing land and labor. This roaster takes that committment quite seriously, and manages to produce an exquisite product while doing so.
Buy online at philliesbridgecoffee.com.
Exfoliating Coffee Soap with Shea Butter
Rondout Soap Company • $8
Kingston’s Jamie Carson is a prolific soapmaker with a nose for whimsy. Her website lists 27 different tantalizing bath bars including Christmas Morning, Blueberry Muffin, Vanilla Black Currant, Warm Apple Cider, Guinness Beer, Gingerbread, Pumpkin Harvest and Hot Chocolate. (Technically, your mouth’s not supposed to be watering reading the names of soaps.)
Her Exfoliating Coffee Soap blends the aforementioned locally-sourced Heavyfeather Coffee with a short and simple list of skin-friendly ingredients.
Buy online at rondoutsoapco.com.
Joe Mama’s Milk, Growler
Keegan Ales • $18
Beer with coffee added is the merging of America’s most popular vices. From the top of a bottle of Joe Mama’s Milk, the blend never tasted better.
The legendary Tommy Keegan (dearly departed) left us this jaw-dropping coffee milk stout as a testament to his prescient brewing genius. Packing an ABV of eight percent, this brew nonetheless goes down smooth, with a rich, creamy texture.
The coffee-foward flavor is thanks to a Sumatra cold-brew roasted exclusively by the aforementioned Monkey Joe Roasting Company. Boasting a ‘Best Beer in New York State’ award from Tap NY, it pairs well with desserts and bold flavors, and has been a favorite of locals since its inception.
Buy at the Keegan Ales brewery, 20 Saint James Street, Kingston, or your favorite local beverage retailer.