Enjoy this interview with Jason Belkin, espresso lover and owner of a business we all know and love, Hampton Coffee Company! Read with a hot cup of your favorite brew in hand if you wish!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did Hampton Coffee Company come to be and was this something you always wanted to do? How is HCC different from other coffee shops?
Hampton Coffee Company started 19 years ago, so when I was a college student at NYU, I worked for the original owner one summer as a barista/assistant manager. I thought it was the best summer job ever! Since there was only one Starbucks on all of Long Island at that time, specialty coffee was still very new on the East Coast, so HCC was a very unique place. I graduated and started working in my career field of journalism and public relations. One day, I found out that Hampton Coffee Company was for sale and I thought it was now or never to take a chance on my dream of owning an espresso bar.
Since then, my wife and I have grown this single sleepy espresso bar and small roastery into a bustling little mini-chain of espresso bars and cafes in The Hamptons with wholesale coffee partners throughout the state. I always knew that HCC was a special and unique business. We treat each and every customer as a VIP and take care to produce only top quality coffee and food. We value our staff and the company’s positive role in the community.
2. Are you a coffee lover yourself? Can you share any physical benefits of drinking coffee?
I love coffee. Lately, I especially enjoy our Westhampton Beach Blend and our new Southampton Organic Blend. Coffee has a lot of great health benefits. If you follow us on social media, you will see us posting all the time about the greatness of the coffee bean. Of course, you shouldn’t overdo anything, but coffee has shown to reduce the onset of Alzheimers and other diseases and increase short-term memory in addition to boosting metabolism and waking us up. Coffee also has lots of antioxidants, similar to green tea! In fact, just the other day on the radio, Dr. Oz said to skip the harmful-to-your-body energy drinks and chemicals and just stick to an old-fashioned cup of coffee to stay alert and improve your mood.
3. How does Hampton Coffee fit in to the healthy Hamptons lifestyle?
Hampton Coffee Company is an important part of an overall healthy Hamptons lifestyle. Our menu has something for everyone, whether you’re fueling up for a workout or a local 5k, indulging in comforting baked goods, following a certain diet, or just picking up a cup of coffee. My wife and I, and our staff, are members of the community like everyone else and we have built a business in and for the community to serve the values of the Hamptons people. Customers stop in to and from the gym or park their bikes outside. We fit into an active Hamptons routine. Health is a part of life in the Hamptons and we have everything you need for a healthy day.
Folks can kickstart their day with a healthy breakfast or stop by after a work out for a fresh fruit smoothie – nothing but real fruit! Of course, you’ve got to have some baked goods and sweets to go with your coffee. Even our made-from-scratch Krispy Treats are low-fat, our Raspberry Oat Bars are healthy and all-natural, and all our expertly-prepared espresso bar drinks can be ordered with skim milk and sugar-free syrup. We understand that our customers rely us on for dependable coffee and fresh food that won’t break the bank or the waistline!
4. What is your favorite workout? Favorite family activity?
I am a big fan of Core Dynamics in Water Mill, although my trainer, Jim McWinnie, will tell you for sure that I need to get in there more…much, much, more. It’s really a challenge to make the gym a part of my life with two kids under 3 and a busy, growing business, but it is going to be my resolution for 2014!
We are constantly running around with the kids, so that keeps us active. My favorite family activity when my kids get older is going to be going to Disney World, I used to love going when I was younger with my family. Disney World is the best place anywhere. In the meantime, we love Safari Adventure in Riverhead, Target (they have Play Doh!), and we have a great time in our own backyard having fun. My three-year-old, Cian, loves Play Doh and Legos and our little guy, Oran, loves balls, so we keep busy!
5. As a business owner, father, husband, and member of the community how do you maintain balance in your life?
It is super hard to keep balance in my life, but to be honest, I think I actually do a pretty good job (except for the going to the gym part!) Balancing work and family can be tough, but it’s a must. I do usually have two days off which I spend doing family things. On vacations, I forget about work, which allows me to focus on family and also rest and recharge myself. My family is more important to me than my business. If push came to shove, I would choose them over Hampton Coffee Company in a second. I think that’s a real important perspective to have and I have to credit my wife, Theresa, for reminding me that the reason I work hard is so that I have time on my days off for my family. Although running the business is a lot, I am home virtually every night since my kids were born.
6. Any great healthy/balance tips for other busy folks?
One trick I have since it’s hard to eat right when you’re busy at work and surrounded by delicious food is that I always share my lunch at work with someone so we’re both only eating half! I have been trying to keep a refillable bottle of water right in front of me on my desk at work to remind me to drink. And I try to remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time. Of course, it’s always helpful to try to carve out a date night every week or two to get away for a few hours and do something outside of the family “routine.”
7. What food items do you always keep in your house?
I am addicted to Tangerine juice lately (I dilute it 50/50 with filtered water.) We always have peanut butter on hand as well as yogurt, apple juice, cereal, eggs, bread, cheese, and milk for the kids. Dinner may include frozen shrimp, tacos for “Taco Night!” or fish sticks – not minced!
8. What is your favorite indulgence?
I love filet mignon with béarnaise sauce. If that’s on the menu, I treat myself. Other favorites include pumpkin pancakes with real maple syrup, boneless spare ribs, (well done) shrimp cocktail, pigs in a blanket (I know I’m not alone on that one!) and, Mountain Dew (less and less, though.)
9. How do you make health a priority in your family?
It’s definitely more of a challenge with two little kids. They come first, so when we come home, our main goal is to get dinner for them on the table as quick as possible so we can move on to baths and then bed. Although it’s a lot harder to find the time to focus on healthy dinners for us, having kids has started us on some new healthy eating habits. We are starting to eliminate soda from our house so that as the kids get older, it won’t be here for them to drink, as with all other artificially sweetened drinks. Having kids is also encouraging us to serve more well-balanced meals, so of course we’re benefiting from that as well. No more eating take-out in front of a movie on the couch! Although after a rough night with the kids, a pint of Haagen Daz sometimes mysteriously disappears!
10. What is your FAVORITE thing about living in the Hamptons?
I’m so glad you asked, this just came up the other day when I was talking with one of my customers. We were saying how lucky we are to live in The Hamptons. It truly is such a unique and special place; I’m even wiling to go out on a limb and say on of the best places in the world to live. We really are so fortunate. Not to say everything is perfect here, but we have forests and oceans within a few miles of each other, lots of wildlife, beaches, fishing, parks, amazing schools, so much to do, stores, restaurants, and main streets that most people only see in movies. Plus, we’re so close to New York City, which brings an eclectic group of people who call the Hamptons home.
Where else can you dine with billionaires and farmers in the same room? Or pass a potato trailer and a mansion on your way to work? We have so much fresh food and so many wonderful cafés, markets, and artisans. If you’re a go-getter there’s ample opportunity for you and if you’re an outgoing and resourceful student, this is a great place to grow up and start on a successful path.
My favorite thing about living in The Hamptons has to be Hampton Coffee Company, of course! Seriously, if it wasn’t for Hampton Coffee, I wouldn’t be living here. I wouldn’t be raising my family here. I wouldn’t have met all the wonderful co-workers and suppliers and customers over the past 14 years. I wouldn’t have been able to provide jobs for hundreds of people over the years either. I wouldn’t have been able to support more than 100 local organizations every year. I am so proud that Hampton Coffee Company has become such an important part of what is The Hamptons.
One Healthy Breakdown: Thank goodness this man followed his dreams, the Hamptons absolutely wouldn’t be the same without HCC!
Did you know that the human brain cell can hold about five times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica?!
If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself. ~ Eubie Blake
Last week, I wrapped up the “Wellness Challenge,” six weeks of eating plant-based, whole foods, initiated by the Wellness Foundation of East Hampton. The goal of the Wellness Challenge is to promote healthier habits, focused on a plant-based diet, in a supportive group-environment. Why plant-based, whole foods? The Wellness Challenge is based upon The China Study, which proved that the amount of protein we eat acutely, especially from animals, affects our health. The research showed that a diet containing more than 10% of calories from protein activates dormant genes for disease, such as cancer and heart disease. This showed that those of us with these diseases in our genes could activate and deactivate them through diet.
Other contributing factors include the nutrient density in whole-foods, lack of nutrients and abundance of chemicals in processed food, and the quality of animal protein and dairy on the market. Chances are, you may know someone who had done the challenge as it’s becoming pretty popular throughout the Hamptons community. Here’s a little bit about my experience…
At the beginning of the six-week challenge, the group is extremely diverse, from those trying to overcome illness, obesity, diabetes, pain, or lessening medication to those living on fast food with little education of nutrition, to those already eating primarily vegan. By the end of the six weeks, everyone is more on the same page having learned a ton, changed their lifestyle, improved their health, and yes, eaten a $@*& load of vegetables, that’s for sure.
Clearly, being that I am the one behind One Healthy Hamptons, I eat relatively healthy and clean in general. I care (a lot) about what I put in my body. I read ingredients, though I prefer foods without labels (aka fresh produce.) Since I already incorporate lots of plants in my diet, the challenge was eliminating animal protein, dairy, and oil, and shaking the last of the processed foods in my diet (for example, trading in my protein powder and bars for whole foods.)
At first, I was somewhat hesitant about joining the challenge at this time in my life. I was really curious and I knew I’d learn a lot, but I wasn’t sure that doing so while planning a wedding was the best idea…as champagne seems to be a mandatory item in a bride’s weekly routine. (Nope, not complaining.) As it turns out, we’re all busy and we can all find a million excuses and lots of reasons to drink champagne. I swallowed these reasons and dove right in, joining the fabulous health coach, Marie Weller, and my friends at Mind Body. Once I committed, I committed. Being a part of a great team was definitely helpful, and enjoyable; we met weekly to discuss the challenge, learn together, offer support, and try new recipes.
I’m so glad I did the challenge because of all that I learned, but it is definitely called a ‘challenge’ for a reason. Eating nothing but plant-based foods takes lots of preparation, which can be tough for busy bees. When I was short on time or felt I had exhausted all my recipes, it became a bit repetitive and restrictive. Sure, I had some slip-ups or non-approved indulgences along the way, but that’s life and life goes on. The purpose of the challenge is to create a healthier lifestyle, not about following strict rules 100% of the time. The flip side was how much I learned and the fact that I really do enjoy this way of eating, most of the time. When I had the time to prepare meals or get creative with new recipes, it really was enjoyable to cook and eat this way. A diet full of vegetables, sometimes cooked, sometimes raw, sometimes doctored up, some plain, is right up my alley. I’ve always been a volume kind of girl, so I’d rather eat a huge salad than a small portion of something heavier. It’s fascinating to shift our thinking from meals based around meat or pasta, to basing the meal around plants.
So, did all of this hard work pay off?! The fact that I eat pretty clean in general made for less-dramatic results for me personally (which is A ok!) It was definitely intriguing to evaluate what actually happened internally, start to finish. For some reason, I always associated blood tests with ruling out illness, not as a means of measuring health. When comparing my pre and post-challenge blood tests, my cholesterol and triglycerides went down almost 10 points each over the six weeks and remain within ideal range. Yay, eating right pays off people.
Is it worth it to rule central food groups out of your diet? I would say that education is the most important factor. As long as you know what you’re putting in your body, where it comes from, why you’re eating it, and what it will do for your health, it’s about what works for you. Eating a plant-based diet is definitely a challenge, but the results are nothing but positive. The education that I received about the quality of dairy and animal protein was also very valuable to me moving forward. Like with anything else, know where your food comes from.
Not only did I learn factual information, I also accumulated many great new recipes and adopted some new healthy habits (like a green smoothie for breakfast. Everyday. Even if I’m craving a heavier breakfast, like oatmeal, I’ll make sure to have the green smoothie first to get some fruit and veggies in. Read all about the benefits of the green smoothie here. Incorporating a simple, homemade green smoothie into your daily routine is easier than you may think. Here’s my go to recipe, adapt to your liking and drink up!
- 1 handful kale
- 1 handful spinach
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1/3 cucumber
- 1 small piece fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup blueberries and/or 1 small green apple
- 2 wheatgrass shots (I buy frozen shots in the freezer section)
- ½ cup water
- splash of unsweetened almond milk
- For added protein, I add hemp seeds.)
Last but not least, I have a new respect for…drumroll please…beans. Beans, beans, beans. Kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, white beans, edemame beans, green beans…you name it, I ate it. I’ve always liked beans; however, I utilized them pretty rarely. Beans are full of protein, fiber, good carbs, and resistant starch. Plus, as I learned, there a million things you can do with beans. Beans became a staple in my diet; my post-workout fuel, salad topper, snack, main course, and even dessert.
Beans for dessert?! Yup, thanks to some ongoing experimentation, beans became one of my favorite desserts, and for good reason. This one is a proven success, time and time again! After all, it’s a healthy alternative to raw cookie dough, isn’t it worth a shot?
- 1 can of organic chickpeas/1 cup soaked, cooked beans
- ½ cup organic raw rolled oats
- 5 pitted dates
- 1 tablespoon organic peanut butter (or nut butter of choice)
- 1 tablespoon nuts of choice (I use a combination of pecans, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts. If you don’t have 2 spoons nut butter)
- 1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips/1 oz. chocolate bar broken into pieces/cacao nibs
- splash of almond milk or water if needed for consistency
Just blend all together (may have to break up into smaller batches) in your food processor or blender. Now tell me that doesn’t taste just like the sinfully delicious raw cookie dough?!
All in all, I’m so happy that I committed to the Wellness Challenge and learned all that I did about food, both good and bad. As far as I’m concerned, health and knowledge are two of the most valuable things we can have in life, and they’re both never-ending. Knowledge that drives better health is invaluable, which is why I’m constantly seeking and spreading healthy tips. It’s a challenge, but the reward of wellness is absolutely invaluable.
One Healthy Breakdown: wherever you may be, challenge yourself in some way to make strides towards better health and wellness. You don’t even have to wait until the new year!
If you know what changes a heart, you know what changes the world. ~ Marianne Williamson
Happy December! What a fabulous month to celebrate…with DIPS! Hop on board to tone those arms and work your core with DIPS this December! All you need is a flat bench, chair, or even bed to do tricep drips, so no excuses! Save, print, or pin the image and dip through December with us!
Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point. ~ Harold B. Melchart
Ability is what gives you the opportunity; belief is what gets you there. ~ Apollo
It’s a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it. ~ W. S. Maugham