I am a certified coffee nerd. (No, seriously. I took a test and everything!) Anyone else out there setting their programmable coffeemakers at night so they can wake up to the scent of freshly brewed coffee? Or combining coffee grounds with almond oil for a body scrub? Oh yeah, and maybe I should mention that I was a barista for a little over seven years! Given my love — nay, obsession — with all things coffee, I was super excited when I was invited to visit Allegro Coffee®, part of the Whole Foods Market® family and our resident experts in coffee, tea, drinking chocolates and more. I’ve enjoyed and served coffee for years, but I’d never had an opportunity like this to check out all of the happenings behind the brew.We began the day with a freshly brewed cup (of course!), then talked with Christy Thorns, Director of Sourcing, to get the “behind the scenes” info about beans — the coffee plants they come from, the methods of harvesting and processing them, sourcing them from the right climates and paying fairly for them. Christy and her team of buyers travel the majority of the year to the different regions that grow coffee. Hearing about their travels around the world felt like I was in on the adventure myself! You can watch some videos from her travels to coffee growing regions here. Afterwards, we went on a taste-tour and cupped coffee from each of the major coffee-growing regions: South America, Africa/Arabia and the Pacific Rim. (Cupping is a traditional coffee-tasting technique to evaluate the aroma and flavor of coffee.) Each of these regions has different characteristics that come from the environments in which the beans are grown. Tasting the different coffees side-by-side made it easy to detect the nuances. The coffee from South America was balanced and smooth, the coffee from Africa was lightly fruity and floral, and coffee from Sumatra was intense and earthy. Allegro offers single origin coffee, as well as expert blends from different regions. We also tasted this year’s Vintage 2011 Celebration Caffè, a blend of Guatemala, Costa Rica and Aged Sumatra beans. Smooth and easy to drink with a hint of spice and notes of chocolate and caramel, it’s easy to see why this blend is for sharing. If you’re curious, it’s what I’m brewing these days — it’s a delicious way to start my morning and it also pairs well with the season’s many holiday desserts! Our day at Allegro wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the factory. There we saw the beans being roasted and packaged, as well as my favorite part — a room packed high with burlap bags of green, unroasted beans. The scent from the green beans was surprisingly fragrant, like a blend of amber and evergreen. Who knew unroasted beans could smell like that? If I could bottle that scent, I’d wear it. Hearing the stories and meeting the people from Allegro — and seeing first-hand how their heart and soul goes into great coffee — makes my morning cup taste that much better. Have you tried this year’s Celebration Caffè yet? Here’s a cooking video of a pots de crème recipe that’s perfect for serving during the holidays. 8-oz bags of Celebration Caffè are available whole bean or ground, regular or decaf for $7.99 a bag. It’s only available for a limited time so make sure you grab some for your everyday cup, recipes and gifts. Let the celebrations begin!