Coffee

Thanksgiving Blend

Happy #WellTailoredWednesday! Although it’s been months since Thanksgiving of course, I’ve decided to review the Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend, which I received as a gift from my family member who works at the company. The Thanksgiving Blend has been a perennial roast since 2008, with the goal of creating a coffee that pairs well with the holiday’s traditional feast. Let’s dive in!

Hearty Aroma & Taste

Upon first…er…sniff, this blend has a deep aroma that really fills you up. I’ll be honest and say that I can’t detect a spice scent to it, but apparently there is one. The beans hail from the Antigua region of Guatemala, where the ample rain and sun, nutrient-rich soil, and consistent temperatures year-round give the beans their spicy flavor. Additionally, there are some herbal notes from Sumatra in this blend that give its intense, yet palatable taste. If you like Sumatran coffees that aren’t as strong, I’d recommend the Single Origin East Timor.

When and How To Drink It

I recommend drinking the Thanksgiving Blend coffee either in the morning as a start to the day or at night with dessert. Yes, I said at night. For those of you coffee fiends who are immune to the caffeine like I am, this blend is a great example of a coffee that you can have at all times of the day that will not affect your sleep. And if you are a bit more sensitive to caffeine, that’s fine too! My point is that this blend pairs well with a sweet dessert or fruit. I tried drinking it with some dark chocolate and, separately, with some sliced apples and the different tastes played very well with one another.

See the source image
The Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend, which started in 2008

And since this blend is quite rich, I’d recommend either a 1:1 or even a 3/4:1 grounds-to-water ratio. If you’re thinking about drinking it on the rocks or with milk/cream and sugar, you may want to add more grounds, so to balance the ice.

From Starbucks

Here’s the original description of the Thanksgiving Blend from Starbucks:

This full -bodied favorite features herbal notes from Sumatran beans and distinctive soft spice from the coffee of Guatemala’s Antigua region. It’s a blend created to pair beautifully with dishes savory and sweet–perfect for this season of thanks and giving.

Aroma
Bitterness
Strength
Taste

If you enjoy your cup of Starbucks® Thanksgiving Blend, you might also like our Organic Yukon Blend® [Which I plan to sample and review in the coming months!].

I’d highly encourage anyone to try this coffee, and if you do, please let me know what you think of it in the Comments’ section below! Thanks for reading!

Commercial Real Estate Investing for Dummies by Peter Conti & Peter Harris

Happy #WellTailoredWednesday! As 2018 winds down, I've been thinking about my goals for next year. One of them is to get involved with commercial real estate investing (CREI) in some capacity. Maybe it's actually owning a building outright. Or simply investing in a REIT. Whatever the case is, I just want to jump into this asset class. I've been reading a few books and listening to a TON of podcasts on real estate investing (more on those in another post!) and one of those books is this one---Commercial Real Estate Investing For Dummies by Peter Conti and Peter Harris. Let's dive in!

An Overview of Commercial Real Estate Investing

Like many of the other "For Dummies" books, this one is designed as sort of like a manual of commercial real estate investing. There are chapters that talk about the benefits of CREI and how to get started finding and making deals. The book also highlights the nitty gritty details of financing and owning and operating the investments. Lastly, there is emphasis on how investors can scale their business to be sustainable for the long-term.

Commercial real estate investing can be very lucrative and CRE tycoons often make the news: many of us have heard of some of the more [in?]famous real estate investors such as Robert Kiyosaki, author of the best-selling "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", Larry Silverstein, owner of the World Trade Center, and of course, Donald Trump, developer and current U.S. president. There's a reason why the rich love real estate: it can offer a diversified stream of income outside of the stock market, it can be a tax shelter, and it can be bought using leverage. These same reasons also make commercial real estate investing alluring to the average Joe Snehann!

Useful Advice and Tangible Tips

What I really enjoyed about this book was that the authors support their advice with reason, statistics, and real-world examples. For example, there are some great tips on building and maintaining a rolodex of potential investors, including a word-for-word script readers can use to build their own network (Pg. 78). It all sounds so easy...but the authors make it clear to readers that building that rolodex comes from a lot of hard work spent on networking and maintaining relationships.

There are even moments throughout the book where the authors talk about mistakes they made and how they lost a lot of money because they failed to educate themselves properly. And it's not just the authors. The book features short parables of other investors who lost money and recovered by following the straightforward advice provided.

Education is key. And one of the real-world tips the authors talk about is around the 1031 exchange (Pg. 303), which can be very useful to commercial real estate investors, but only if they're very meticulous about its strict requirements. Such advice is refreshing from that of the other real estate "gurus", who promise prospective investors a life of sipping margaritas on a beach...just as long as those investors pay $50,000 to sign up for their course! It's reassuring to know that even though the authors are both successful investors, they went through their series of mistakes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPl9K2dbS90
Peter Harris, co-author of Commercial Real Estate Investing for Dummies, gives an overview of the book.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. While I found some sections to be a bit dry, most of the book was very informative and digestible. For these reasons, I would give it a rating of 4.5/5.

Read If You:

  • Would like a 101 of the different opportunities in commercial real estate investing
  • Currently invest in single family housing and would like to expand into commercial investing
  • Read one of Peter Conti's or Peter Harris's other books (review coming shortly!)

Don’t Read If You:

  • Are an intermediate or experienced commercial real estate investor looking for more advanced strategies
  • Like the "traditional" vehicles of investing, such as stocks and bonds, or the speculative vehicles, such as crypto or private companies and are unwilling to change your opinion on why CREI is "too risky"
  • Are not willing to put in the time and hard work into learning the ins-and-outs of commercial real estate investing. If you think CREI will immediately lead you to sipping margaritas on a beach, stay far away from this book!


Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments' section below!

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

Happy #WellTailoredWednesday! I just finished reading one of the quintessential finance books, Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker. And boy, it was...quite underwhelming.

Background

Liar's Poker recounts the culture of Wall Street in the 1980s, when the [in]famous Salomon Brothers was at its peak. At the time, Michael Lewis was an ambitious Princeton graduate who landed a job as a Bond Salesman and who climbed the ranks to eventually make millions for the firm. This was the frat-boy, deviant era of finance. Men earned their keep not from their degree of education (many weren't even college graduates) but from their P&L numbers. It was very much a boy's club back then, complete with the crudest jokes, big egos, and even bigger wallets.

He describes the birth of the commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS) from Lewis Ranieri, who is regarded as one of the godfathers of finance. While immensely profitable to the big banks at the time, CMBS loans became the kryptonite to some of those very banks later on. Now, the CMBS loan is known to be one of the major catalysts to the Great Recession. Lewis describes this phenomenon in more detail in another book, The Big Short, which I plan on reading soon.

Lewis also mentions several other notable characters of finance including Howie Rubin, who's recent bizarre accusations have invariably shined a light back into Liar's Poker, Michael Milken, the junk bond king who was one of the richest men on the Street at the time, and John Gutfreund, the former CEO of Salomon Brothers who eventually ran it to the ground.

John Gutfreund, featured in Liar's Poker, on the trading floor of Salomon Brothers.
John Gutfreund, featured in Liar's Poker, on the trading floor of Salomon Brothers.

My Opinion

I know that Liar's Poker is regarded as one of the "must read" books about Wall Street. However, I felt that it leaned on the side of a historical overview than of a non-fiction classic. There were many times when I wanted to skip through the background of their firm and dive into details about life on the Street. For example, I felt that Lewis spent too much time discussing how Salomon stacked up against Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and how a junk bond operated.

That said, I do admit that Lewis does a good job of painting the scene at times. His recount of how Salomon Brothers slowly started to crumble to the point of needing to sell, and then describing the entire ordeal of selling, is harrowing almost like a Tom Clancy novel. You almost feel bad for the bankers at the firm...until you remember that they all raked in millions of dollars from the retirement funds of hardworking Americans. Another example is Lewis's honest portrayal of his very early days of trading, where he makes some very costly overpromises to his customers, only to have to make up for it at the end with his tail between his legs.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, I was a little disappointed in this book and would give it a rating of 3.5/5 .

Read If You:

  • Want to learn about Wall Street in its heyday and see how its culture of greed eventually spiraled into doom for Salomon Brothers
  • Work in Finance/go to Finance dinner parties and are looking to drop "Ranieri", "The rise and fall of Salomon Brothers", or "Big Swinging Dick" (though I'd highly encourage you to NOT say that out loud)
  • Read and/or watched The Big Short and enjoy Michael Lewis's style of writing

Don't Read If You:

  • Are expecting a dramatic tale of devious tales in Finance. If you're looking for this, I'd highly recommend Straight to Hell by John LeFevre
  • Want to learn about the current state of Finance. While the events told by Lewis were accurate, a LOT has changed since 1987
  • Can't stand to read some of the deviance, misogynistic, and sometimes racist tales told from that era

Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Coffee

Single Origin: Ethiopia

Happy #WellTailoredWednesday! A family member of mine just recently got a great gig at Starbucks, so I’ll most likely be taking a break from other coffees to sample exclusively Starbucks blends (at least for now!). I’ve always respected Starbucks’ variety of coffees but even more so because of their commitment to ethical sourcing. The latest blend that I’ve had the privilege of sampling is the Single Origin blend from Ethiopia. Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of “arabica” coffee, so I was very excited to give this blend a try. Let’s jump in!

[Dark Chocolate]-N-Pepa

Single Origin: Ethiopia
Single Origin: Ethiopia

I know what you’re thinking: “Do dark chocolate and pepper really mix well together?” And also, “Did he really just try to make a play on words with Salt-N-Pepa?” To both points, my answer would be an emphatic “yes!”. To be fair, it’s not like you’re eating pepper-chocolate, which by the way I’ve tried and is quite…interesting to say the least. The key here is that there is just a faint trace of the dark chocolate and that the pepper lies in the aftertaste. This taste is very subtle, and I almost missed it during my first sampling.

 

Orange You Glad I Sampled This Coffee?

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m a HUGE fans of puns, so an “orange” joke was definitely in the works! This is one flavor that I definitely missed the first time I tried this coffee. It’s most likely due to the fact that one of my favorite coffee mugs is known to mask some of the flavor in my coffee, which yes I know, is a big no-no. Anyway, the Ethiopia blend has a slight citrus taste to it, though it’s something you’ll most likely pick up after your first cup. This citrus-y tinge DOES appear in this blend’s aroma however, which was a very pleasant surprise the first time I brewed it—it filled my apartment with the freshest scent in the morning!

All About Balance

All in all, what I really liked about this coffee was just its simplicity. To me, there were no complex tastes or aromas that needed a lot of attention. Sure, the dark chocolate and citrus is worth looking out for, but I think the strengths of this coffee lie in its balanced flavor and taste. It’s a great morning brew—who wouldn’t want their home smelling like orange and coffee when they wake up? I’d actually recommend it as a morning brew over the East Timor blend, which I think would be better suited as an evening pick-me-up.

From Starbucks

Here’s the original story of the Ethiopia Single-Origin from Starbucks:

On the ancient slopes flanking Africa’s Great Rift Valley, coffee trees first emerged from the rich, volcanic soil. From these ninth-century highlands, arabica coffee beans began their long journey from Ethiopia to the rest of the world. Today our master roasters have created an entirely new way to experience these treasured beans. An exquisite blend with a reverence for the ritual of coffee, honoring Ethiopia’s bountiful legacy. With a velvety soft texture and floral, peppery spice notes, this is our tribute to the birthplace of coffee.

I’d highly encourage anyone to try this coffee, and if you do, please let me know what you think of it in the Comments’ section below! Thanks for reading!