If you don’t already follow me on Instagram or Twitter (what are you waiting for?), you may not have seen the gorgeous photos of Vermont I tweeted the second to last weekend in September. That’s because I traveled there for an amazing weekend filled with food, fun, and of course, lots of great coffee! As part of the Keurig K-Cup Ambassador program this year, I was invited to Green Mountain Coffee’s facility in Vermont for a fantastic weekend learning about the origins of the coffee we drink, touring the factory, participating in a coffee cupping, and giving feedback about the coffee directly to Green Mountain Coffee employees. This is the first time I’ve ever attended a sponsored event, and I had an absolutely wonderful time…and now, I get to share it all with you!
For me, the trip started early Thursday morning, because rather than flying to Vermont like the rest of the attendees, I was driving there (and no, it’s certainly not because Green Mountain Coffee didn’t offer! I just really hate flying, and would rather drive if I have the option). The drive was actually quite beautiful, with gorgeous fall views the entire way there. They really couldn’t have picked a better weekend!
Upon my arrival at Stowe Mountain Lodge, I had about a half hour to change and freshen up before we were off to dinner at Crop Bistro & Brewery. And yes, while everyone else was ordering fancy things like risotto, I ordered a cheeseburger – I’m classy like that. I didn’t regret it for a second, though…after a day of driving with stops only to stretch my legs, I was starving, and the burger totally hit the spot. As did the maple crème brûlée for dessert, which was heavenly.
I had such a wonderful time meeting some of the Green Mountain Coffee staff and Keurig K-Cup Ambassador team, as well as fellow K-Cup ambassadors in person, some of whose blogs I’ve been following for a long time. Plus, I think I could spend an entire weekend just visiting the shops and restaurants in Stowe – what a cute little town! Also, speaking of cute, how adorable are these personalized travel mugs the team had for us in our rooms at the lodge? I’m kind of in love with mine, and it has to come with me everywhere now.
Also, speaking of our rooms, our beds had the most amazing sheets. I believe it was Kristen who dubbed them “butter sheets” because they felt so incredibly smooth and silky. At least four of us on the trip ended up ordering a set, myself included – totally worth it!
The next morning began early with breakfast at the lodge. You know you’re on a trip with other bloggers when you step outside in the morning to take a photo of the view, and your neighbors are doing the same! Good morning Cheryl and Kelby!
We headed down to our dining room, where those whose flights got in late the night before met up with the rest of us for some breakfast and coffee to start the day.
Afterward, we all piled into a couple cars to head over to our Coffee 101 class with Catherine Holly at Green Mountain Coffee headquarters. I just love the canvas they have on display when you walk into the office!
It was fascinating to learn about the origins of the coffee we drink, and how 70% of it is grown by families with small farms…it makes the Fair Trade work they do all the more important. It was equally as fascinating to me to learn about the science that goes into brewing a perfect cup, from water to coffee ratio to yield/extraction to finding the sweet spot for that perfect cup that Keurig brewers do automatically. We had a hands-on group activity to learn about extraction, and I was paired with the lovely Kristen to brew up our coffee.
We each brewed a pot of coffee with different variables related to time brewed and the amounts of water and coffee used.
The most under-extracted (A) tasted super watery, which was kind of gross. The most over-extracted brew (D) tasted like a certain big coffee chain’s brew, which always tastes burnt to me and was equally as gross. The perfectly extracted coffee (B) is what the Keurig brewing systems make every time – pretty cool stuff!
Next up was the factory tour with Joe Anderson. No photos allowed there (except for the approved one I have below), but let me tell you that I was completely mesmerized the entire time. They showed us everything from where the coffee is stored and how it’s labeled, to how the beans are roasted, all the way automated robot arms packaging K-Cups into boxes. It was like being in a scene from Willy Wonka!
Our final stop at Green Mountain Coffee headquarters was with Lindsey Bolger, who taught us how to taste coffee similar to how you would taste wine. She started by talking about the beans and how they’re roasted, and then we began the cupping by smelling the coffee grounds to get the fragrance/aroma of each type of coffee.
She filled each cup with hot water, and we moved on to smelling each coffee as it brewed. Then, we removed the grounds from the top and tasted each coffee with short slurps. I wasn’t the best at identifying the different notes, but by the end I did learn what I like…it turns out that I love the Peru coffee, but the Sumatran – not so much. All good to know the next time I’m ordering coffee!
I was also excited to find out that Lindsey used to live not far from me before moving to Vermont to work with Green Mountain Coffee – how fun! We got to chat for a few minutes during the tasting, and she’s just the sweetest.
After our time at the headquarters, we headed over to Cork Wine & Bar for a small happy hour with members of the brand teams that work with Green Mountain Coffee, such as Green Mountain Naturals (think Hot Apple Cider) and Brew Over Ice.
It was pretty cool to meet the people who work so hard at coming up with new ideas for K-Cup packs (such as the Vitamin Burst, one of my new favorites!) and branding, and to give them feedback directly as to what we really love and what maybe isn’t our favorite. Of course, there was more wine and cheese. The team definitely knew the way to our hearts, since most of the bloggers on the trip were food bloggers!
After the happy hour, we had a bit of leisure time on the schedule…but I happily spent that time hanging out with blogger friends before our tour of the lodge. After the tour, we attended a formal dinner at the lodge, in which the chef created a menu for us that incorporated Green Mountain coffee in every dish!
Let me just tell you, it was amazing to be accommodated all weekend as far as my peanut/nut allergy goes. I hardly ever eat dessert out due to all the cross-contamination issues these days, so I was thrilled to be able to enjoy all of my meals worry-free. The kitchen staff even made the trout almandine without the almonds for me, and it was so delicious, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything at all. Not to mention that I also felt a bit like a celebrity the whole weekend, because at almost every stop someone asked the group, “Who made the apple cider doughnuts?” I had no idea they’d be so popular when I blogged about them before the trip! During dinner, one of the members of the kitchen staff was telling us that he meant to print out a copy of the recipe and accidentally printed over 100 of them…oops. We all had a good laugh!
After dinner, we had a bit more leisure time, and then it was time for bed – it had been a busy day, so we were all pretty tuckered out by the end of it. Saturday morning was a flurry of activity. We all had a quick breakfast at the lodge, and then everyone began heading their separates ways. Since I had a long day of driving ahead of me again, I departed after breakfast. Goodbye Vermont! (Don’t worry, I stopped to take this picture.)
Thank you once again to Green Mountain Coffee and the Keurig K-Cup Ambassador team for making my first time on a sponsored trip absolutely amazing - you did a tremendous job making us all feel welcomed, at home, and part of the team. I loved every minute of my time spent learning more about a product I love so much, and of course hanging out with some fabulous blogger friends. It was a great weekend!
Full disclosure: I am a paid Keurig K-Cup Ambassador, however the opinions expressed here are all my own.