Canandaigua Shop Infuses into Coffee the Herbs you'd get in Tea

SUZETTE S. NORRIS • JANUARY 18, 2011

Is This A New Trend?

Perfecting his roasting technique, dubbing himself “The Dalai Java,” developing a following for his organic and fair-trade coffee beans at local farmers markets — that was the easy part for Scott Taylor. The real challenge: persuading his wife, Andrea, that the robust amount of coffee he was drinking wasn’t hurting him. That called for a truly creative solution.

Andrea Taylor, you see, owns an acupuncture business in Canandaigua and practices Chinese herbal medicine. She has nothing against coffee — in Chinese medicine, the green unroasted coffee bean is classified as an herb — but drinking too much affects the energy, or “Qi,” within the body, she says. Qi is believed to help the body cope with stress and prevent illness.

Andrea knew the Dalai Java wasn’t about to give up coffee. Instead, she suggested adding herbs to the beans. With that, a new twist on coffee was born.

Using her store of about 300 different herbs, Andrea helped develop several formulas to balance the effect of the coffee on the body. Chinese medicine holds that the kidneys store a person’s reserve Qi.

“Coffee is such a diuretic that if you drink too much, you use up energy that needs to be restored and replaced,” Andrea says.

While Scott sells coffee without herbs, the Taylors now offer a line of roasted beans that are “herb encrusted,” produced in their backyard roasting yurt. It’s one of the offerings at their retail “beanery,” The Dalai Java, at 246 S. Main St. in Canandaigua, where they sell coffee beans, tea leaves, baked goods and gifts, many of them locally produced, along with some hot coffee and tea.

The herb-encrusted beans are designed to provide health benefits such as strengthening the body, enhancing immunity, improving digestion and boosting stamina without affecting the flavor of the coffee.

“I would say I’m a coffee purist, meaning I don’t like flavored coffee, and I can say that I don’t notice the herbs at all in the taste,” says Rich Lynch, a Dalai Java customer. “I love the coffee because Scott roasts coffee better than most people do.”

Lynch, who has taught and practiced yoga for more than 30 years and owns Finger Lakes Yoga in Canandaigua, says coffee, like anything else, must be consumed in moderation. He believes the herbs can add balance. His personal favorite is the Dalai Java formulation called Relax. “I tell my students after the Saturday class, ‘If you haven’t tried it yet, go buy it!'”

It was about seven years ago that Scott Taylor decided to join the estimated 75 million people around the world who depend on coffee for all or most of their living. He chose the name to reflect the attention and mindfulness associated with the words Dalai Lama (literally, “oceans of wisdom”).

“I’m very mindful about the type of coffee I pick and the attention I give to roasting,” he says. “I’m a craft roaster. I work in small batches-checking, watching, smelling all the time.”

Mark Pendergrast, author of the book Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, says that while unusual, the practice of combining coffee with herbs is not unprecedented.

“The Ethiopians have always added spices to their coffee,” he noted by e-mail. But like most coffee drinkers, even an expert in “uncommon grounds” has strong preferences. “I don’t want to sound like a purist. Nonetheless, I would prefer my coffee as just that — coffee,” Pendergrast says. “On the other hand, I haven’t sampled any of the Dalai Java products.”

All it takes is one sample, says Linda Bombard, a local personal fitness trainer who regularly buys beans (without the herbs) for herself and to give to friends.

“You can tell he’s totally into what he does, and I relate to that,” she says. “I love really good coffee. It’s the one thing I don’t mind spending money on.”

In opening their beanery, the Taylors are counting on such people. “We want it to be a funky little place where you can find globally minded products and coffee that’s mindfully roasted,” Scott Taylor says.

Norris is a Canandaigua-area freelance writer.

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