Sunday, November 30, 2003

delightful bohemian coffee sonnet

edwin denby was living downtown at the time:

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i don't think he was talking about the caffé reggio.

someone please tell me what famous coffee shop the abstract painters and modern dancers frequented; it would have been near 21st, where many of them were living, always two months behind on rent.

later denby wrote more poems during his summers in maine.

posted by fortune | 12:48 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Saturday, November 29, 2003

where does your coffee dollar go, part ii

long-time readers know i often ask this rhetorical question to focus attention on how little of your expensive chain coffee drink goes to embattled coffee farmers.

today the ny times lays it out for you -- but misses the real issue, as usual. the article re-hashs old news: that the brilliant colombian president uribe's (a yoga student and well as a member of a coffee family) plan to open juan valdez coffeeshops is about to bear fruit here in nyc.

illustrating the article is a crucial breakdown of where the coffee dollar goes (actually, the coffee US$3.75!), provided by my dear friends at the scaa.

you get the US$0.03 for the farmer; the US$0.18 for the roasters & importers; the US$0.07 for the paper cup; the US$0.40 for milk (more on that in a second!); the US$2.82 for rent, marketing, labor, investment costs; the US$0.25 for coffeeshop owner profit. but what they leave out is a crucial component: sugar.

it is that omission that lies at the heart of the article's -- and perhaps the industry's -- oversight of what seems like a bigger connection.

i love the coffee industry. but despite being the world's second most widely traded commodity, many coffee people just don't seem to see the dead horse on the table.

that cup: coffee, milk, sugar, which is how most people drink it. . . think carefully dear readers and you will see how it could serve as the signal marker for the nation's whole agricultural policy.

and how it is now balanced -- a weird mix of support along with a market devoted to brutal price and quality suppression -- to rip off consumers, the "third-world," and the coffee industry itself.

yup, despite its size and predominance of truly major multinational firms, the coffee industry at all levels seems totally disadvantaged by the very structure of our farm plans.

i think one can argue that all coffee participants are getting hosed, especially us coffee-loving consumers, but we don't seem to notice.

the coffee industry is consumed -- and rightly to a great extent -- by the impact of the current world-price depression known as the coffee crisis. by omitting sugar from the equation the industry itself appears to show that they may be misunderstanding a key problem in the coffee-dollar question: american agriculture support programs.

the entire agriculture policy of the u.s.a. is basically set to support a few crucial lobbies: wheat, dairy, sugar, cotton. despite all of the current administration's discussion of free trade and globalization, these receive enormous protection.

notice that coffee isn't there, although the u.s.a. grows coffee in kona and puerto rico, and is the world's major consuming nation.

let's go back to sugar. the times does, amusingly,
mention sugar supports in an editorial today
. as i understand it from speaking to coffeeshop owners and roaster-retailers, the coffee dollar should include about half a penny, perhaps three-quarters, for sugar.

without the supports that would fall apparently to about a seventh of a penny. those copper fragments don't seem like much until you realize how much coffee americans drink. then it adds up quick, which is one reason why the fanjul family is now more powerful than the rockefellers could ever have dreamed of being.

now let's look at the milk. the article says that of the US$3.75, US$0.40 goes for milk. ouch! well, that shouldn't surprise anyone who's been to the grocery store this autumn and seen how much milk has risen.

and how much does the u.s.a. offer the dairy industry in support? under the so-called "freedom to farm" act, dairy supports were to have been eliminated.

but these things die hard: a farmer's group, while complaining about reduced support, estimated the government would still end up paying US$330 million to prop up milk producers in 2003 under the so-called "m.i.l.c." program.

yup, it's welfare for cows. look, i'm not against american farmers. i was born in a farm town in kansas.

but sometimes you have to tell the truth a little bit, hmm? and the truth is, despite the reduction of dairy support, we still pay enough to cows to call ourselves practical hindus.

farmers' incomes are down; the government's still doling out support; and i'm paying more for milk than ever! this is insane, yes? who is benefitting here?

i don't have to keep going on like this, do i? the direction should be obvious. it's not that i'm calling for the coffee industry to dive in and fight for its share of pork.

although, since that's the way the current administration does business, maybe it should. . .it's that consumers particularly should understand the sharp edge of farm policy is currently sticking us where we keep our wallets.

those readers who are interested in ideas such as fair trade don't even have to go so far. it's not only a question of justice to people in the third-world; although that of course is important. it's your own weekly grocery bill.

or your daily cup of coffee. . . i personally have no idea why the so-called "big four" coffee roasters who sell most supermarkert brand x coffees -- the multinationals nestle, p&g, sara lee, kraft -- don't grumble about the agricultural supports. maybe they make up for it in their other business areas.

but consumers, regional roasters, roaster-retailers, and independent coffeeshop owners should be howling like rabid wolves. we are in the exact same position as the struggling coffee farmer, aren't we?

harmed by a set of economic policies devised by whom to benefit whom? the coffee farmer gets the macro end of the globalized pool cue in the kidneys, in terms of the commodity market system (the coffee crisis), while the consumer gets the small end in the ear, in terms of farm subsidies.

the specialty coffee industry is at work on an alternate market, with alternate auction systems, and the so-called "q" contract. this should help those coffee farmers who are devoted to producing quality.

but how should we consumers and coffeeshop owners, stuck with inflated prices for milk and sugar, react? what should we be doing?

please note that this isn't an anti-capitalist rant, so spare me your free-market hate mail. because i am a believer in free trade and globalization -- only with a level playing field, and with honest, transparent rules.

but do think about it, dear readers: pour yourself a lovely hot cup of your favorite single origin or blend, and take a little ponder!

or should you find this too heavy, then hop over to this lovely article by one of my new favorite people (thanks, marshall!).

i have no idea who you are, beautiful simran bhargava, but i know exactly who you are! you love coffee just as much as we here at bccy do; clearly you have the heart of an scaa consumer member.

and finally, for you long-suffering bread fans who feel like recently you've received short shrift, an article on the american scholar of the baguette, dr. kaplan. . .by our beloved deborah baldwin, who put us scaa consumer members on the front page of the times last july!

posted by fortune | 10:41 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Friday, November 28, 2003

weep for your chocolate; more on pros & yoga

yes my friends: weep for your european chocolate. in the past those of us in north america could confidently rely on the quality of most european chocolate.

we knew that due to strict national laws, most european chocolates would be high-quality, pure chocolate, with little or no lecithin or vegetable oils, and only real vanilla, real sugar. it would have to contain an accurate percentage of its chocolate amount.

but multi-nationals have lobbied the bureaucrats in the e.u. and a new standard takes effect that significantly lowers the quality of what now can be called and sold as chocolate in europe. as a result, consumers are going to have to scan european chocolate labels with more care.

the once-fine european chocolate we consumers have prized now could be filled with soybean oil, not real cocoa butter, and wonderful substances like the new c*spraydex, an "enzymatic conversion of starch" used to replace pure cane sugar.

thanks, cargill. it's what we really needed around here. not.

we all know that the e.u. bureaucracy is filled with corruption, fraud, and abuse. it makes me cynically wonder what elaborate quid pro quo, if any, went down to help this new regulation along. . .lord knows the spanish and italians did everything they could to stop it, first trying to ban the sale of these inferior "chocolates" and then battling in the e.u. court.

i think what this means is that in the short-term, these lower-quality "choco-products" flood the market at low prices, forcing those manufacturers who really would rather maintain quality to compete on price, and thus cut corners. we will pay inflated euro-import prices for reduced-quality products here in north america.

in the long-run, it will hopefully create a greater market here in north america for local artisan chocolatiers who maintain quality and insist on using real chocolate. assuming they can get their hands on it. . .but these products will be expensive!

in happier news, more pro sports figures are discovering the benefits of yoga. . .

posted by fortune | 9:06 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Thursday, November 27, 2003

phoning it in to the counterculture

yesterday i had the greatest experience: a phone-in cupping with all the awesome people from counterculture. we were tasting their holiday blend. they had the ability to cup the component coffees -- i just had the blend itself.

so i set up my little 3 cups, ground some coffee, boiled the water, and slurped and spit along with them via speakerphone from my own kitchen at home. this was such a blast; i wouldn't have thought it would be so effective long-distance. but it was so great we talked about getting webcams and doing it regularly.

they are redoing their website in january, and after that i think it would be awesome to have massive online cuppings via net meeting, speakerphone, webcam, all that. would you readers be interested? if so comment below, and i'll try to put one together for everyone. . .

the final scores for the blend ranged from i believe 82 to 90. i gave it an 85! what thrilled me about this coffee was that i had already had it for a couple of days. when it was brand-new, i thought i detected a little leather in the aroma, which gave me a bit o' pause.

but by today the coffee was a few days older, and that component in the blend seemed to have faded a bit. the coffee peter et al were using was about 12 hours old.

what i thought was really interesting was that when one of the counterculture people was tasting the component coffees, they themselves noted a "leather strap" feeling! aha! the light bulb went off over my head. . . .

here are my cupping scores for this coffee using the form in scaa chief ted lingle's cupping handbook, which is all i had around:

fragrance/aroma: 8
acidity: 3.5
flavor: 7
body: 6
aftertaste: 8
cuppers points: 2.5 (i liked it better now than when it was
absolutely brand new!)
plus 50!

i would describe this coffee as a light vienna roast, but peter g., the roaster, said it was their full city. i believe he told me the whole-bean agtron value was 47.

i would describe this coffee as sweet, with a low-medium acidity, as well as a sweet spice fragrance (a mix of green and black cardamom; this is a way to say there was something spicy but a little powdery about it; cindy chang described it as "like paperwhite narcissus flowers.").

when i broke the crust and did my thing, i immediately got a big malty/cereal note, with bakers chocolate, and some black currant in the aftertaste.

it was amazing to me how what was apparently in the individual component coffees got modified by the blending process. it was definitely a case of the whole being greater than the parts. . .

after the cupping, peter sent me the low-down on the component coffees. his email descriptions are so great, i'm just popping 'em in:

'Organic Mexico Pluma "Hidalgo"

From the famous Pluma growing region in Oaxaca, Mexico comes a coffee of remarkable depth and character. Shade grown, organically produced and certified Fair Trade, our Mexico Pluma has it all: a deep body, smooth, fruity flavor, and a big, full aroma. This is a great example of the magnificent coffees we now see, at long last, coming from Mexico.

Sustainable farming techniques and quality practices produce coffees of real distinction, and coffee roasters like us are glad to pay the farmers a big premium for these fine coffees. This creates even more incentive for quality, and special coffees like this are the happy result.

The La Trinidad Co-op, a collection of about 350 family farmers, produces this wonderful coffee in Naranjas, Oaxaca, where the warm morning sun and cool afternoon rains produce hard beans of rare sweetness and balance. When we visited the town, we were surprised to find the coffee sun-drying on the rooftops!

A brilliant and drinkable coffee, this is the perfect choice to enjoy with breakfast or during a long Saturday morning. This year's crop has a beautiful fruity note, reminiscent of sweet grape and coffee blossom.

Organic Timor "Maubesse"

Southeast of Java, in the Indonesian archipelago, lies the island of Timor. Ideally situated for coffee cultivation, Timor's climate and rich soil create coffees which, at their best, are world-class examples of the classic Java type. Timor is unique in the coffee world: farmers in Timor have traditionally shunned modern farming techniques, instead opting for traditional, sustainable practices.

This has made the island ideal for Organic coffee production, and Timor has really made the most of this. A huge proportion of the Timorese crop is Certified Organic.

Timor coffees also are unique in their quality. During a time when quality levels in many of the Pacific coffee growing regions were decreasing, Timor embarked on a very successful mission of improving coffee quality. Today, the classic, clean, full, spicy taste which once characterized the finest Estate-grown Javas is only available from Timor.

In 1999, in a dramatic political referendum, East Timor declared its independence. In May, 2002, it was officially recognized as an independent state by the United Nations. Its new government is democratically-run, and hopeful for a great future.

This organic coffee is at once sweet and spicy, with toasty aromas and a nutty aftertaste. Some acidity and a good body make it a perfect coffee for blending, especially with African coffees.

Organic Nicaragua Matagalpa "San Ramon"

In 1993 the Durham - San Ramon Sister Communities project began as an attempt to build awareness, friendship, and cooperation between San Ramon, Nicaragua and Durham, North Carolina. The project focuses on ways to exchange ideas, information, and resources between our community and a struggling coffee-growing community.

One of the initial goals of the project was to promote the region's coffee and help provide a market for it. For years, we have participated in this project by roasting coffee grown in San Ramon and sold in Durham.

San Ramon is near the city of Matagalpa, the capital of what is considered to be one of the finest coffee growing regions in Nicaragua. The region's coffees can be spectacular: lush notes of fruit and spice peeking through a sweet, soft body.

In the spring of 2000, at the invitation of the Sister Communities Project, we visited San Ramon and saw a world of potential. A number of small organic farmers had organized into a co-op, and some were doing the incredible amount of hard work it takes to produce a spectacular coffee.

So we got involved, and over the past few years we have continued to visit, interact, and do our part to give the feedback the farmer needs to produce great coffee. Most of all, we committed to buying great coffees if the farmers produced them. This year, the relationship paid off.

We cupped the coffee of each of the 33 organic producers in San Ramon. Of these, 10 lots stood out as magnificent Nicaraguan coffees. These 10 lots come together to make our Nicaragua San Ramon coffee this year. Here's a list of the farmers names, we are so very proud of their coffee and want to thank them each for their hard work:

Cafe San Ramon Producers 2003
Henry Mendoza, Hector Davila, Francisco Escobar Corea, Felix A. Davila, Carmelo Lopez Diaz, Pedro Valenzuela Mata, Francisco Rivera Castillo, Pedro Haslam, Hamilton Rivera, and the Yucul neighborhood farming group. '

thanks again to the counterculture folks! i have to repeat, this kind of experience is one of the benefits of being an scaa consumer member. . .

posted by fortune | 11:58 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

life with the cafetiére

making coffee in the french press — properly called the cafetiére — is still one of the most popular methods used today. in fact, i think it's gaining in popularity, as so many movies and tv shows now take care to place them in stylish kitchen sets to demonstrate how cool the protagonists are supposed to be.

but i get a lot of questions about it, so i'm just going to take this moment for a french press core dump. brace yourselves for the plunge.

the method has many advantages. for the most part, good presses are relatively inexpensive, nothing mechanical or electrical to fail. the popular bodum presses even now offer models with polycarbonate cylinders so you don't have to worry about breaking or chipping.

the high-style more expensive alessi presses seem to sell well too. if you want to get more features, there are insulated presses to retain heat, presses with a built-in heating element. . .all that.

this brewing method really highlights the body of any coffee, which to my mind is a plus, since body is one of the elements of coffee i most enjoy. of course, the drawback is that unless you are careful with your grind and technique, you might get a few grounds in your cup.

at my office, i do use the dread "whirly-blade" grinder, simply because a larger, more unfamiliar grinder would probably cause my employers to look at me more askance than they already do! you can make good press coffee with this grinder.

but it's really preferable to use a decent burr grinder. good burr grinders, like the saeco 2002 i have at home, grind more evenly. the more even the coffee particles are, of course, the more even the extraction. that means you'll get better tasting coffee, even when you're grinding coarse for the press.

another important component for great press coffee is correct water temperature. i keep a taylor instant-read stick thermometer around for determining this. i know most people have one of these at home nowadays.

the best water temperature for press coffee is between 195 to 205 degrees f. usually, press instructions say simply to use "water off the boil." i find this leads a lot of people to use too-cold water; they inadvertently let it sit too long.

remember, the water loses a lot of heat as you pour it through the air into the press. if in doubt, wield your thermometer!

practically, i find that if you turn the heat off the boiling water and get your ducks in a row, the water will be right temperature in a minute. many people wonder about that temperature range tho'!

some experts say that darker-roasted coffees taste better with water towards the cooler end; lighter roasts, higher. this is something you should experiment with for your own taste.

fill the french press no higher than the bottom of the top metal collar; you need room to press the screen down without splashing water out and burning your hand. 205 degree water is truly hot water! be careful; don't overfill.

and when you press, press slowly and evenly. . .if you have difficulty pressing, you've ground a little too fine. just draw the plunger up again, and press down again.

what are the other important implements for french press brewing, after the press itself, a good grinder, and a thermometer? they are but three: a wooden chopstick, an inexpensive timer, and a thermos.

the timer is obvious, i hope: you should let your coffee steep between 3 and 4 minutes. again, this you can adjust to your personal taste. the wooden chopstick is for stirring. stirring or turbulence is crucial in coffee brewing.

stir to ensure all the coffee is evenly wet and to promote better extraction. the thermos is for decanting the coffee. after the coffee has finished steeping/brewing, you want to get it away from the grounds.

if left in the press, the coffee will continue to interact with the grounds, which makes the coffee more bitter. so pour your coffee off into a thermos, if you can.

finally let's talk about the coffee itself. you always want to use the freshest coffee possible, and you want to grind it just before you use it, while the water is on the verge of boiling.

one of the great things about fresh coffee is that it blooms. when the hot water hits the freshly ground fresh coffee, the coffee releases a lot of natural carbon dioxide.

this is good — it proves the coffee is fresh. and so the coffee creates a lovely, moussy foam that shines with delicious coffee oils.

but very fresh coffee can bloom like a shaken champagne bottle! massive overflow! so pour the water in slowly and stir with your wooden chopstick to keep the bloom under control.

let the coffee steep a minute or two and then stir again. if you look closely, you'll see that very light particles of coffee may have been trapped at the top of the bloom. stirring helps get these pieces back into the liquid so you get better extraction.

now we have to address what seems in my experience to be the most common problem people new to the press have: how much coffee to use?

fortunately, there is one simple answer that will always give you excellent coffee: multiply the size of your french press by 0.057. this is the weight of the coffee you should be using. it's an easy piece of math if you have a calculator, and you only have to do it once, ever.

just take the result of this little calculation and weigh out the coffee properly. almost everyone has a little kitchen scale nowadays; use it for this once, and then you'll be able to eyeball it for ever after.

i know, you think i'm insane when i say this. most people are used to hearing fairly useless answers to this crucial question, such as 2 tablespoons per 5 or 6 ounces water. but tablespoons are far from consistent in size, and most people wonder why 5? why 6? which should i choose?

other recommendations are just plain wrong. recently someone recommended 8.5 grams of coffee per 4 oz. of water. this is not a correct ratio; few people would enjoy this coffee, and most would call it unpalatably strong. but you will more often see ratios that result in coffee that's too weak, that looks like herb tea.

fortunately, we have science on our side here. scaa chief ted lingle has famously put together a fantastic tool, a veritable secret weapon, the coffee brewing control chart (excel 2000 format), that explains exactly how much coffee to use for how much water every time. in the center it has a shaded area that shows optimum flavor.

this area goes from about 47.5 grams of coffee per liter of water to 65 grams per liter, depending on how strong you like your coffee. but that's a bit complicated to figure out in the morning, right?

since the common bodum french presses come in only a few sizes, it's possible for me to tell you definitely how much coffee to use in each one for perfection. of course, it's your taste, and so after you've tried the recipe, you can vary it a bit to suit you.

but this should totally take the guesswork out of it. here goes:

press size in fl oz (usa)coffee weight in oz
16 0.9
press size in lcoffee weight in g

i've rounded the figures off a tad for ease of use. if you're unsure how large your press is, pour water into it up to the bottom of the top metal collar. measure that amount.

don't always believe what the box tells you: measure it once yourself! you may find the smaller presses hold a little less water than the stated size.

as i've said, once you've done this, you'll always be able to remember the amount. and you'll be amazed at how great your coffee tastes once you have:

  1. the right amount of coffee,
  2. the right water temperature,
  3. stirred correctly,
  4. steeped for the right amount of time,
  5. and poured the coffee into a thermos away from the used grounds after pressing.

need i add that if you were an scaa consumer member, you would learn all this cool stuff and more?

posted by fortune | 7:21 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 3 comments

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

holiday blend, part ii

"surrounded by coffee-lovers from as far afield as baltimore and bulgaria, the coffee farmer luiz norberto paschoal removes the frothy top off one last cup of espresso with a theatrical slurp."

despite the cheery opening, this is actually a serious article on the coffee crisis. however, if it was a real coffee cupping, i doubt the farmer was slurping from a cup of brewed espresso!

as long-time readers know, we here at bccy are committed to celebrating every great holiday with a chocolate tradition. and today is a great holiday, a chocolate holiday -- the end of ramadan, eid-al-fitr.

people visit each other and give gifts, which of course includes chocolate, often in candies made with almonds, cashews, and raisins, dates or other dried fruits.

i suggest everyone today celebrate this holiday by giving yourself or someone else a bar of high-quality dark chocolate! a weiss mendiant bar would be perfect: delicious 64% dark chocolate with a mix of nuts and raisins. . .

i'll be eating mine this afternoon with a cup of david haddock's counterculture holiday blend.

this is a vienna roast, rich, with a fragrance of sweet spices, a nice bakers chocolate aroma with a hint of something else -- almost a little leathery, maybe! the roast mutes the brightness. . .

i take it with a tablespoon of light cream and a pinch of turbinado sugar. yummy.

posted by fortune | 7:16 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Monday, November 24, 2003

coffee tourism's chic

the brazilian government is funding a study of 200,000 doctors to see if there is a link between heart disease and coffee consumption.

large-scale studies are always good, so hey why not? but i think that there already exist a significant number of studies that point in the direction the brazilians want to go.

it's true: there are a lot of coffee and caffeine health myths that are holding back coffee consumption. yet there are other barriers to breach as well, especially that of quality. once we are convinced that coffee is healthy, we then need coffee that tastes good!

too many consumers still don't know the joys of high-quality specialty coffee. oh first-time or infrequent readers! i suggest you try the coffee from your local independent coffeehouse or roaster-retailer. you'll never go back to that supermarket brand in the can again!

and here's an exciting travel story about eco- and agro-tourism in colombia's coffee country. details found here.

and finally, great news: catholic relief supports fair-trade coffee with a new program! the lutherans and other church groups have been supporting various fair-trade programs for a while now. . .

posted by fortune | 8:55 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Sunday, November 23, 2003

holiday blend & just too sweet

long-time readers may remember the coffee heaven i shared not that long ago with david schoenholt. ah, he was a good sport. . .very supportive when he learned of my tragic loss of colorist. really, a gentleman.

well, i have temporarily found a new hairdresser at rumor, next to famed patisserie marquet (funny how that worked out, hmm?). so while wandering by, i stopped in to pick up a few of their handmade truffles.

alas -- too sweet. the truffles are smallish, which is good, and rolled in cocoa, also good. but the truffle itself was too sweet, too buttery: it lacked a strong, clear, dark chocolate flavor.

at US$40 a pound, i want a higher-quality chocolate and a more intense pure flavor.

on the upside, i want to give a huge bccy hug to the amazing altie and scaa consumer member marshall fuss, who went to a los angeles slow food fundraiser today and talked up the c-member program. he even gave out the sign-up forms!

now that's coffee evangelism! why can't i be more like marshall??

in other coffee news, i had the great opportunity to talk to rene van sint annaland of new zealand today. he's amazingly nice and sells the cult espresso machine, the reneka techno. . .

posted by fortune | 6:12 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Saturday, November 22, 2003

recession-proof! fair-trade! delicious!

"americans will spend $19 billion on coffee this year, and increasingly the market is shifting from basic canned ground coffee to specialty brands and other premium products, including organic and fair-trade coffees."

as this article shows, specialty coffee -- what we're devoted to here -- is a-catching on, even the relatively exotic concept of fair-trade coffee.

more proof that bccy is becoming increasingly mainstream! thank god there's hope: finally people can ask me what i'm talking about and they might actually understand my answers!

but in the case of coffee, i think the article is mistaken. people aren't buying starbucks or other specialty coffees because they want to be different; they are buying them because on the whole they taste better than other coffees people are used to!

taste! there is more to coffee than style. . . and of course, the best way to get great tasting coffee is to learn to make fantastic specialty coffees at home, coffees you can enjoy with friends and family.

if you're interested in learning more about coffee -- which you are or you wouldn't be reading this! -- and want to discover different delicious specialty coffees, as well as how to best make 'em at home, well, you can hang around here, join the scaa's consumer member program, and read a bit on coffeegeek.

posted by fortune | 2:53 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Friday, November 21, 2003

excuse this space

i'm so angry i could spit. wiser heads are attempting to calm me. nadi sodhanana pranayama. . . .and i guess i should eat some dark chocolate to lower my blood pressure!

excuse me while i explain tomorrow. some things should be slept on before publishing! grrrr!

posted by fortune | 7:53 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Thursday, November 20, 2003

lower your blood pressure

eat a 3.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate every day for 2 weeks. watch your blood pressure fall!

again, this stuff is too good to make up. remember that study in the renowned jama, which was released last august. . . ?

well, it seems to be receiving new attention this week.

but you'll have to adjust your diet a bit, or add a yoga class to your day, since a nice european chocolate bar of that size probably has about 300 calories. still it has to be more pleasant than prescription drugs! and less expensive!

oh, here's another story covering the recent nyc chocolate show.

and for those of you seeking a chocolate thanksgiving dessert that can be made ahead, this chocolate pecan pie looks traditional, easy to make, and delicious.

but on the coffee front, today i'm drinking counterculture's pleasant ethiopian sidamo. it's what you'd expect in a sidamo: some brightness, floral, and sweetly spicy with a touch of earth and nice medium body in the cafetiére a.ka. french press.

think of it as a step back from yrg. so there will be a winey quality as well.

normally, i would like coffees a tad less bright than this, but i find counterculture's sidamo pretty yummy, considering. some people say that if you're a white wine drinker, you'll love sidamo.

since i'm a red person, i can't say. but counterculture's web page ordering is currently down, so you'll have to call their 800 number to order from them. . .

posted by fortune | 11:39 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

chilling words

"i've never seen more abandoned farms in my career. it's not so much the quality, it's just that the coffee has gone away."

and they are not going to come back. this is the end result of the so-called coffee crisis for consumers: we will have fewer choices of coffee, and the coffee we have left could be lower-quality.

interesting and treasured coffee varieties are going to be lost forever unless we consumers agitate for governments, roaster-retailers, fair-trade people, coffeehouses, importers, and development agencies to act to stem the world-price depression soon.

how best to do this? become an scaa consumer member. the scaa is the specialty coffee trade group that can lobby in our interest and is already working on projects to reverse this frightening trend.

we consumers make the market. if we speak, the market must respond. . .

posted by fortune | 9:51 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

tempest in a cappucino cup

long-time readers know i am sympathetic with dean's heartfelt position: fair-trade coffee is an important part of the response to the world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis." but it is not the sole solution.

speaking from my own personal experience, i must say he is mistaken in his assessment of green mountain.

i have the great privilege to know rick peyser and cate baril of green mountain personally. rick peyser is so concerned about the coffee crisis, he is on the board of coffeekids. and cate baril works hard to forward the organic and fair-trade program.

cate is so serious about these issues that when she and i were drinking in the hilton bar at the scaa atlanta committee meetings last september, she spoke passionately and at great length on the need for social responsibility in all one's business dealings.

i mean, to the level that she was discussing a complete overhaul of one's 401(k) to ensure one supported only responsible corporations. and she has traveled to latin america to build houses for the poor coffee workers in guatemala!

i can say with complete conviction that the people at green mountain are part of the solution and not part of the problem!

i hope dean and green mountain kiss and make up. we specialty coffee people need to stick together.

our problems are with the so-called "big four " coffee roasters, the multi-nationals who can the supermarket brands -- sara lee, kraft, p&g, nestle -- not each other! we need to spend our energy persuading these guys to join our bandwagon.

posted by fortune | 11:29 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Monday, November 17, 2003

chocolate measures the speed of light

since recently we've become such geeks here at bccy, i thought i'd pass along this charming science experiment that allows you to measure the speed of light while melting chocolate in your microwave.

don't say we're not devoted to the highest interests of mankind here!

the article however fails to address what to do with the molten chocolate. since wasting chocolate is really a shame, i suggest mousse (log your own bad self in and think of bruce: saute, wednesday).

but speaking of intense travel, i'd like to mention an incredible trip that i wish i could take: the women in coffee tour to nicaragua the last week of jan. 2004. i understand they're even bringing a yoga teacher!

for those who wish more philosophical journeys, let me recommend carl horowitz's talk on the yoga sutras at the breathing project. the next one is dec. 11 at 8pm.

posted by fortune | 8:11 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Sunday, November 16, 2003

why that coffee smells terrific

or, your brain on vanilla.

i mentioned in passing one of the reasons coffee's delicious scent causes most human noses to perk up with delight. . . the aromatic aldehyde it shares with vanilla.

i was most fortunate to hear from scaa chief ted lingle (whose gilded icon adorns the top position of my personal coffee retablo) on this very subject.

first we have to remember that the human nose -- who knows why? -- is unusually sensitive to vanillin, one of the many natural chemicals we sense when we smell lovely real vanilla. we can smell even miniscule amounts of vanilla; some scientists say as few as 5 or so parts per billion in the air!

(interestingly enough, capascin, the ouchy-hot chemical in chiles, is related to vanillin, and people can also detect it very finely: 8 parts per billion!)

lingle quotes tasting guru jean lenoir: "the smell of vanilla in coffee is a basic permanent feature, essential to the balance of the coffee's aroma.  it fixes and strengthens the other aromatic compounds, bringing body, especially in the arabicas."

long-time readers will also remember that small amounts of vanilla are present in most chocolate, as well. . .

he notes that the vanillin we smell in our freshly brewed coffee belongs to a class of chemicals known as -- brace yourselves -- the aldehydic derivatives of polyhydric phenols. for you true geeks out there, its chemical composition is 3-methoxy-4-hydroxybenzaldehyde.

and speaking of long-time readers, you will no doubt be asking yourself, hey why is she here today? shouldn't she be lost in the crush at the nyc chocolate show?

and it's true, normally i would be. but this year, i just can't do it.

i can't take the waiting hours on the sidewalk in the freezing wind, only to be jammed more tightly than a hapless commuter on a japanese train car, unable to reach the sample trays through the out-of-town hordes who have come to fill up on milk-chocolate-covered pretzels.

god love those out-of-town hordes, and may they discover the joys of hand-made, artisan chocolate at the show.

forgive me. instead i'm staying home, staying calm, making pizza, and going to yoga class. please make do with this fine article in my place.

in the meantime, i'll be sniffing the perfume of david haddock's counterculture certified organic holiday blend, made in my little cafetiére. . . more commonly known as the french press.

and let me close with another remark by lingle -- who, if the world were just, would walk on water -- on the subject of vanilla in coffee, and the aromas of coffee: "you see, the words in the flavor wheel really do have a technical basis and a more precise meaning than most people recognize."

he's referring here to the scaa coffee-tasting wheel, a tool to help people put words to what they feel when they taste coffee. and vanilla is one of the terms on the wheel.

it's there not because the wheel is based on poetry and metaphor -- although heaven knows, coffee has plenty of that beauty! -- but also because the wheel describes the real chemicals we can perceive with just a little practice when we sample our daily brew.

one of the goals of the scaa consumer membership idea is to help people appreciate the beautiful coffee they drink everyday. and to appreciate not only the poetry of coffee, its exotic heart buried in the everyday, but also the wonder of nature that coffee exhibits.

yet people often discover that they have a hard time describing the complex and delicious flavors of coffee. thus the wheel!

the wheel takes some time to learn, but it helps immeasurably. especially when buying coffee from professionals. once you learn a little about the wheel, you can discuss coffee in a way you never could before.

you can finally unlock the depths of how coffee feels to you! and you can try new coffees, or compare familiar ones, based on this liberating vocabulary.

i encourage everyone to become a c-member, get their own copy of the wheel and the lingle tasting handbook, and try out this new vocabulary as it suits them. this may be much, or little. hey, whatever works for you!

either way, it is a door that takes you into more fully into the fascination and romance of the world's greatest beverage. . .

posted by fortune | 10:51 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Saturday, November 15, 2003

woody, spicy, mystical

why is coffee like yoga?

"coffee illuminates things with a flash of truth, dispels the clouds of illusion and its murky gravity," sez jules michelet. it's a phenomenon of the enlightenment, don'cha know.
thus it's somehow apropos that today, when i'm tasting david haddock's espresso aficionado from counterculture, i also receive john friend's 2004 anusara workshop schedule.

the theme: sandalwood and black cardamom. in fact, today could almost be an oriental perfume in and of itself!

first, there's friend's mystical magic merry band tour, complete with a cute pic of ganesh that would warm the heart of any tea stall fan.

which includes me, if only for the george harrison downloads alone!

yoga people in bklyn, the studio where i take most of my classes, began as an anusara studio. at that time it was just about the only studio in this part of bklyn. (now there are so many: area, yoga lab, brooklyn yoga, etc. etc.)

while yoga people has moved far from anusara -- in fact, lately it is sadly veering towards the worst tendencies of jivamukti, which i hope the owner wendy will correct -- i still sometimes detect a hidden anusara attitude in myself, which i try to be careful to note. and that's just because my first teachers were john-friend people.

thus i have to confess that i love prof. douglas brooks, for example. great presentation of kashmir shaivism. (speaking of which, eddie, can you get more shiva on that radio!?!)

but on to the espresso. with a born-on roast date of the 12th, i ground this on my mazzer mini at 4-1/2 to 5 notches to the left of the arrow decal.

the fragrance was perfectly black cardamom (i went and stuck my nose in my jar of whole black cardamoms just to make sure). i pulled at 25-second shot on my silvia, and gaped.

i have a nice 3-oz. shot glass, which i use because dr. john's josuma malabar gold blend with robusta can easily fill that with its huge crema. and so did the aficionado.

in fact, for a moment, i thought i must have switched coffees! but no, it was the aficionado, which does indeed give a large amount of crema, although in the end not as much as the josuma.

the aficionado is roasted to bare dots of oil, so i'm calling it vienna/northern-italian roast. to my mind, the aroma continued with a woody spice/basalmic thing. it certainly has a very long dry finish, with a dutch cocoa aftertaste.

what do i mean by that? i mean, if you've ever set a pinch of say, droste cocoa out of the box on your tongue, that's the aftertaste i'm talking about: a powdery, pleasant slight bitterness. it does haul you off for a glass of water after a while. . .

the coffee clung heavily to the back of the demitasse spoon, the same way thin gravy clings. what i call a creamy body, too.

when i talked to counterculture's charming cindy chang about this coffee, she said that at this time of year she might prefer their espresso forte. i didn't get a sample of this, so i can't compare.

it's a coffee that any espresso lover should try. note: unlike other counterculture coffees, however, this blend doesn't appear to be certified organic.

let me just close by saying that there's something about this coffee that reminds me of a guerlain perfume. maybe in mood alone. . .

posted by fortune | 11:40 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Friday, November 14, 2003

kona coffee festival prizes

there are a couple of prizes given out by various places -- and they go to: kona coffee & tea, merle wood, aikane, kona mtn.

the aikane is familiar to many i'm sure from the dean & deluca paper catalogue, where they ask a mere kidney for it. so you can pull the plug on grandma, collect the inheritance, and then fed ex the relevant organs to the soho store.

my favorite konas, personally, are: smith farms, kona star, greenwell farms, and langenstein farms. as much for the coffee as the owners!

actually i've always been amazed by the dean & deluca coffee gifts. whenever i would spin my dreams of opening a gambrinus-style cafe here in new york, with coffee served in deruta, selling cult coffees from out-of-town for $17 a pound, everyone giggled.

but the dean & deluca coffee gifts should reinforce my courage! for example, the cameroon boyo estate coffee they sell. you can pay US$21.50 per pound with shipping; or you can pay US$14.20 with shipping.

it's the silver box, stupid! when will i learn?

and another tidbit i should learn is how incredible the people at counterculture coffee are. cindy chang and david haddock, this means you!

david haddock sweetly sent me another 3 lbs. of their organic coffee: an ethiopian sidamo; their holiday blend; and their aficionado espresso. personally, i've never seen a coffee bloom in the cafetiere (a.ka. french press) the way counterculture coffees do.

they explode, basically; and this is surely a sign of superb freshness. the scent of these coffees is intoxicating.

you know how the perfume of real vanilla -- even the tiniest amount -- can enchant you? there's something about very fresh coffee that is the same way; it just hooks the brain and reels it in. coffee must have some kind of similar aldehyde or something. . . .

for those who tend to say that certified organic coffees don't have the quality of most conventional specialty coffees, i have to say that in my experience the counterculture coffees are just as good. many many thanks to david haddock, and to cindy.

they are both tremendous supporters of the scaa consumer member program to boot! the motto is "coffee driven people | people driven coffee."

and it's true! i heart the counterculture. . .

posted by fortune | 9:58 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Thursday, November 13, 2003

manly men do yoga, drink hot cocoa for breakfast

real men do yoga. why?

because yoga helps real men win and return home heroes.

to switch topics: will your european chocolate bar soon carry a warning label? i hope not -- moderate amounts of cocoa, hot chocolate, and chocolate products may actually be healthful due to the antioxidants known as polyphenols, as so much scientific research has shown.

(i personally like the possibility that combining red wine and chocolate might be extra healthy. drink your banyuls with that 70% dark chocolate!)

just a case of how the bizarre american lawsuit mentality is spreading all over the globe? and i really doubt it's the chocolate that's making people obese, as much as fast food, too much sugary soda, and lack of exercise.

finally, a cute story about a child's visit to a german chocolate factory. . .but not quite wonka-esque, alas!

posted by fortune | 8:18 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

more than the color of the roast

"coffee fans have learned that there is more to this brew than the color of the roast."

oh yes! and today finds a great review of a bccy classic, kummer's joy of coffee.

i haven't re-read this in several years, i confess. but i love it!

"i don't know what italians did with their hands before the invention of cigarettes and the cell phone, but it is certain romulus and remus were not really raised by a wolf, but by rome's first coffee merchants."

reading this brought a huge smile to my face on an otherwise busy, grey day. . .the tazza d'oro is indeed heaven.

and most importantly, for those of you in the southeast u.s., i'm happy to report the scheduling of an scaa consumer member event! it's focused on home roasting, but non-roasters can come and play with coffee too!

this all-day blending party is being held in raleigh, n.c. on nov. 22. space is limited, so email now to reserve a space and obtain full details!

posted by fortune | 9:59 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

the problem of inconsistency

today's new york times offers an article reviewing craft chocolates in connecticut, including the wonderous knipschildt truffle. (log your bad self in and once again thank bruce: saute, wednesday.)

i've tried most of these chocolates, and the problem with them to my mind -- the reason you never hear me speak of 'em -- is that they are inconsistent in production. alas, this has even been the case with knipschildt.

i buy 2 half-pounds, and they're just different -- one's great, the other's ordinary. well, that's a hazard of craft work.

also i find that many of the craft people listed in the article aren't very imaginative or creative with shapes or flavors. knipschildt is really so far above the others listed in the article, it isn't funny -- but in my opinion, he's gotta get more reliable.

this is what separates him from genuises like donnelly. donnelly is creative, innovative, visionary, consistent, artistic. he is a chocolatier, the real thing, not a "took a couple of classes and now piddles with ganache."

i'm rooting for ya, franz! take the next step forward! plunge into your art. . .

and finally: are hipster teens turning away from soda and embracing coffee? we scaa c-members hope so!

our goal now: to take them beyond the vanilla latte and frappucino into the world of true coffee appreciation. and we're working on that, yes we are!

(note to jessica: comme des garcons or goth black isn't the current fashionista preference. this season we're wearing black and white, but not in a way that makes you look like a waiter.

even the kawakubo perfume is called "white." but i bet my old pal kurt sayenga will never give up his tim burton (flash required) look!

and nowadays the starvin', slammin' def jam poets are wearing, well, hip-hop clothes. in short, the only cool thing that's wearing all black should be your espresso. . . and by the way, welcome to new york!)

posted by fortune | 8:28 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Monday, November 10, 2003

nyc chocolate show this weekend

and let's not forget that starting this thurs. and running thru the weekend is the annual nyc chocolate show!

definitely buy your tickets in advance, because the line to get in otherwise will go around 3 sides of the block. not pretty, when it takes 2 hours just to get in!

and for those who doubt it -- i mean, how many years have i been talking about this now? -- cocoa may be richer in antioxidants than better known "healthy" drinks like tea and red wine.

but actually, it's beginning to look as if coffee has interesting amounts of anti-oxidants too. in fact, coffee is apparently the largest source of anti-oxidants/ flavonoids / polyphenols in the average american diet.

one study found that coffee offers more antioxidants than hot cocoa!

but i certainly won't object if you choose to add a daily cup of cocoa to your diet.

posted by fortune | 10:26 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Sunday, November 09, 2003

email & coffee roast colors

in response to several email complaints, i'm posting this link to coffee roast colors and agtron numbers.

there's also great pix here from the famed, although it doesn't link the images to any standard set of numbers or terms.

some people found my descriptions of roast colors yesterday -- city, full city, vienna -- confusing. and it's true, this is an imprecise terminology that varies a lot by region.

i confess, i should know better. but had i used agtron numbers only, would more people have been confused?

the scaa has its own terminology, which ken davids uses in his book on coffee home roasting. (a nice extract can be found here and also here on his

a new version of his home roasting book is out, but i haven't seen it, and as long-time readers know, i can't roast at home.

well, i could, but mr. right would make sure that it would be the last thing i ever did. . . (should i take this opportunity to name don schoenholt the executor of my estate?)

in yoga news, i'm reading a very interesting but somewhat wacky book, philosophies of india by dr. h. zimmer, the friend of joseph campbell. it's a tad outdated now, i think.

the section on jainism is interesting, but when i discussed it with a pal of mine at work who is actually a jain, she thought it was insane and bore no real understanding of her life philosophy.

she sees it primarily as a devotion to principles of nonviolence and nonharming, vegetarianism, and a mutual respect for all beings and the environment.

ah, those academics: study it your whole life and get it wrong! the sections on yoga are pretty amusing too.

it seems as if he had never struck an asana in his life; his descriptions and conclusions are so far removed from the experience of actually having a daily yoga practice. . . still, an interesting text for yoga students. recommended!

posted by fortune | 12:43 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Saturday, November 08, 2003

total eclipse of the moon

did anyone else see the lunar eclipse tonite? i swear the shadow across the moon thru my neighbor's telescope was exactly the color of perfect espresso crema. . .a dark reddish brown.

i gazed up at the eclipse from the middle of pierrepont st. and then went inside and finished up the chicken cacciatore in my beloved kuhn rikon pressure cooker.

but earlier today i made some coffee. not just my usual morning cappucino. no, on friday, a friend had given me a mysterious and unnamed coffee.

this coffee was quite odd. it came taped up in a plastic express delivery envelope! the beans were roasted; small; scruffy; ugly; with many shells, by which i mean empty coffee husks.

when i stuck my nose in the bag, the scent was a mixture of plastic and peanut butter. . .

whassup with this? i thought. . .so this morning i made a press pot of it.

i have a 4 cup press pot. thus, 8 scoops of ground coffee, and 4 cups water at about 192-194 degrees by the time i got the thermometer into it.

it tasted like the worst diner coffee. even with milk and sugar. i mean, it was a perfect new york city "regular."

for those unfamiliar with that brown liquid sold in diners and from metal carts on the street corners, the nyc regular is 10-oz. of coffee in a blue paper cup. usually it's about 2/3 brown stuff, 1/3 some kind of dairy product, and often already contains sugar, whether you want it or not.

it usually costs US$1 on wall street. don schoenholt of gillies says that the regular became regular during the depression, when it may have cost US$0.05.

i'm guessing this mystery coffee is a darkish city roast: dark but before any oil. maybe light full city. not vienna.

since it was handed it to me in that weird plastic envelope(!) -- what was the person thinking? were they insane? insulting me? displaying an uma thurman sense of humor? -- it smelled strongly of tyvek-type plastic. yuck.

when i held the beans in my hand, as i said, the peanut-buttery scent is/was very strong. it smelled exactly like the bazzini unsweetened natural peanut butter i buy at sahadi's to use in making carribean oxtail stew.

i tried "decanting" it into an old illy can i had lying about, thinking the delicious tyvek scent would fade. and the freshly ground coffee did smell better today than yesterday.

the fragrance was a cross between green cardamom and bay leaves. it had a modest bloom in the press pot.

4 mins. later. i press and pour out a cup. smells like plastic again. dip my regulation scaa silver tasting spoon into it.

i take just a tiny bit, 3 or 4 drops, and slurp. that flat nasty diner coffee "taste."

ok, must be me. drink some from the cup. yup, i could be at the liberty diner. but in the cup, the plastic from the bag seems to come through even more.

i add some milk and sugar -- for some reason all i have is skim and splenda. omigod it's worse.

i don't understand what's happening to me. what kind of mean trick is this? do i know nothing about coffee or is someone testing me?

desperate, i brush out my grinder and reach into my freezer, where i am hoarding the 1/2 lb. of gillies guatemala city roast. this shows a tiny patch of oil and so i'm calling it a dark full city or light vienna.

dole out 8 scoops of small but pretty beans i could make a bracelet out of; little quicker on the pour, so the water comes out at 198-200.

the coffee's been frozen, so i expect a modest bloom. the fragrance is a mixture of coriander and cassia (the less-sweet more-woody cinnamon) i remember.

i actually go stick my nose into my jar of ground coriander to make sure.

4 mins. later, smells like coffee. press and pour. drag out regulation tasting spoon.

take 3 drops. try to remember the one great thing pro coffee taster patrick "it's not juan valdez until i say so" spillman told me: "stop sipping like a lady. without a righteous slurp you are never gonna get it all the way back behind your nose."

what do i find? that nice sweet brown rice thing i also remember with some roasty stuff.

but it's still a tad hot. the temperature hides the brightness; i won't see any of that at all until it cools.

but since the coffee's darkly roasted, the roast level will lower those lights. . .

to be fair i add splenda and skim milk. i think: i can't do this! i must have light cream and turbinado sugar. i'm so spoiled. . .

and so this is what i drank all day. yup, i'm intolerably spoiled and intend to stay that way. remind me to buy light cream to keep in the house as staple always!

but still i'm wandering the streets of fair bklyn a-wonderin': was the problem the plastic bag and maybe too cool water? am i too influenced by ugly, ugly beans?

or maybe it's that i cannot abide peanut butter. almond butter, chestnut butter, pistachio butter, cashew butter, all good. but peanut butter -- never.

in short i spent all afternoon playing with coffee and thinking about my friends. . .those whose coffee and spoons keep me the very best of company.

posted by fortune | 7:44 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Friday, November 07, 2003

regional coffee culture, part xi or what coffeeshops mean, part ii

"the korean coffee shop is a vacation in itself. . . visiting a coffee shop is almost the essential korean experience."

stephen roney of the joongang daily, i don't know who you are, but you're certainly a poet with the soul of an scaa consumer member. because i know exactly what you mean.

if i could, i would send this man 2 pounds of gillies best.

dear readers, do you doubt this? do you still perhaps mistakenly think of korea as a land of tea? i did, until i read this:

"when i stepped into coffee house monica, i really thought my body had transported to seoul. . ."

where is this delightful haven that speaks to the korean soul's love of coffee? in guam apparently. guam.

i'll have some patbingsu with that caramel latte please! or a poem with my breakfast coffee. . .

posted by fortune | 10:29 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Thursday, November 06, 2003

what coffeeshops mean

"coffee with friends: it almost doesn’t get any better."

i'm famous for repeating that coffee is the most intellectual and social beverage; that coffee is all about relationships.

and today finds two articles that express this experience in daily life. the writers' outlooks couldn't be more different -- one a married woman in kansas; the other a male married professional, a father.

one somewhat sad; one struck by the beauty of "investing in people." and yet they have the same experience of the local independent coffeeshop as the stage on which significant and beautiful small moments occur, for themselves and others.

these stories drag me back to perhaps the ultimate meditation on the coffeeshop, from the austrian writer polgar. (long-time readers may recall i've written about him before.)

let me offer a word of advice to you, oksana! trade your teacup in for a comforting cappucino and let the passionate joy of coffee murder the anatomy of melancholy.

readers, if you have ever felt the way these writers do, if you recognize yourself in them, if polgar strikes a chord in you: you are already an scaa consumer member. because this is how we experience the world!

posted by fortune | 8:56 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

another bccy dream coming true?

"we are taking another look at participating in the i.c.o."

so sez colin powell.

long-time readers know this has been a bee in my bonnet for quite a while (here and here). i know at first the issue seems a tad complicated. please bear with it!

it is an important part of moving towards a solution for the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis, as well as improving the overall quality of coffee we in the u.s.a. drink.

of course those of us who make a point of buying and drinking coffees from our local independent roaster/retailers, or roasting our own at home, are already drinking specialty-grade, the highest quality.

but we scaa consumer members are also interested in helping to ensure that all americans get the best quality, purest coffee only.

trust me: you don't want to see what goes into a lot of so-called coffee products. ok, i'll remind you anyway.

this isn't fit for those with tender sensitbilities -- this ugly twisted blackened rotten moldy shriveled bug-chewed stuff requires advance warning. . .

on the left, the minimum standard of green that the scaa proposes be legal to import and serve to americans. on the right, utter nastiness, the dreaded grade 8, which you may have unknowingly sipped yourself this very day.

posted by fortune | 8:47 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

i told you so

"chocolate. . . . - for breakfast - could be the key to losing weight." for children at least!

once again, this stuff is too good to make up. british researchers at the oxford brookes university have discovered that foods with certain kinds of sugars, like dark chocolate, can be an important part of a healthy, weight-loss-oriented breakfast.

the drawback: apparently you have to eat it with meusli or irish oat flakes. so sprinkle those dark chocolate bits into your porridge, little girl!

the scientists published this preliminary info in the respected medical journal pediatrics. it's this wacky glycemic-index stuff that's all the rage now among nutritionists and fad diet doctors.

note that dark chocolate -- over 60% -- has a low index number of only 22. less than whole wheat bread! less than the oatmeal itself!

maybe uma thurman's joke diet -- eating only chocolate all day -- isn't a bad idea after all?

the article reporting this is quite amusing, i think.

but seriously -- my suggestion is to eat your 1-1.5 oz of dark chocolate a day, and find the serious yoga practice that works for you.

it's not a quick fix. it's a lifestyle change that will over time actually be effective.

posted by fortune | 8:48 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Monday, November 03, 2003

our friends & colombia

an interesting article today on the effort of colombia to market its high-quality specialty coffee, and not just the juan valdez variety.

what i love about it is that it quotes all our friends and personal deities: ted lingle of the scaa; the goddess lindsay of green mountain; larry of batdorf, who makes mr. right's favorite dancing goats blend; and i suspect the last unnamed source to be steve colten of atlantic.

i'm not too fond of colombian coffees personally, but i had some narino last year that was pretty good, i thought. but it's just too bright for me.

the situation in colombia, long-time readers know, has interested me because it's a great case where you can see the rubber really hit the road in the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis.

the energetic president uribe, himself a yoga student, from a coffee family and a victim of the unrest, took office with some interesting plans to tackle the crisis internationally and locally.

of course many of these are realizing more slowly than he had hoped; the world has high inertia sometimes!

let's hope he can get more done before his time and momentum run out. i thought he alone of the latin coffee leaders showed insight when he proposed creating a global chain of juan valdez coffeeshops to rival starbucks, for example. . .

he appeared to understand that only 2 people can solve the coffee crisis: the farmer and the consumer. farmers have to grow less coffee, and that coffee has to be of higher quality.

consumers will appreciate good coffee; they just have to be able to go some place to taste it and then become more educated. (you can take this step yourself by becoming an scaa consumer member and beginning to make higher quality coffee at home!)

uribe seems to comprehend that the goal of all the people in the middle -- the national coffee boards, the importers, the roasters, the giant development agencies, etc. etc. -- has to be to facilitate this meeting of farmer and educated consumer.

finally, for the 4 people who are interested, here are pix of the new grading room at the exchange. this is where the pro cuppers do their serious business of judging coffees on the basis of quality standards.

they had a nice opening ceremony featuring many famous cuppers, present and retired. . .

posted by fortune | 7:58 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Sunday, November 02, 2003

in case you're interested

thank goodness i didn't make too many mistakes! and i think i spelled everyone's name correctly. . .

oh, and i forgot that we were holding our breath in anticipation of the results of bikram's yoga competition. (i've mentioned this before.)

congratulations to you jennifer, and may bikram keeping working for you.

there's a type of yoga for everyone and it's all good. i encourage everyone to find the yoga that works for them, even lovely bikram's style.

just don't forget to pay him your royalties. after one marathon cleaning session from yesterday, now it's time to destroy the kitchen again for the weekly sunday pizza!

what's great is that the dough can continue to rise slowly in the fridge while i go to 5pm yoga. at 6pm, mr. right takes it out to warm up, and he pre-heats the pizza stone.

by 7pm, i'm back and we're all ready to bake!

posted by fortune | 10:49 AM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments

Saturday, November 01, 2003

coffee party

so today i was privileged to host an awesome coffee party, which turned into the ultimate-home-espresso-machine fest and a great discussion of the scaa c-membership.

the goal was to showcase home machines, but naturally i had to have a pile of coffee. too much coffee, almost. fortunately we got to try every one.

when the reporter called originally, he discussed krups and capresso. oh no, i said, we need to show you some real home espresso machines. . .

the party was supposed to go from 2-4pm, but actually lasted until nearly 7pm. (sorry!) it was one of those moments you had to thank david dallis for -- he and jim munson have the kind of vision to put these things together.

there's absolutely no denying that dallis bros. has been among the lead supporters of the c-member initiative, for which i'm deeply grateful. i hope to be able to work with david dallis, jim munson, and steve schulman many times in the future.

the reporter came for lhj. he was very nice, and realizing that we had even coffee, kindly brought a bottle of glenlivet. as usual, i was planning to serve pistachio biscotti and assorted dark chocolate bars: korkunov, 2 kinds of bernard castelain (the intense 77% and a hazelnut milk chocolate), as well as a michel cluizel 65% dark single origin from sao tome.

however it was protested by attendee don schoenholt of gillies that this intense chocolate would not be great for tasting the espresso.

thus i broke open a bottle of passito d'albana tre monti and one of clos de paulilles banyuls. these dessert wines are excellent with chocolate and biscotti.

we had many more machines than i had thought: the silvia, the expobar, as you would expect.

but also todd of wholelattelove brought a gaggia and matching grinder, while jim p. of 1st-line equipment brought la valentina, the spidem divina superautomatic, and an olympia cremina lever.

jim munson didn't come empty handed, either. he brought an extremely cute faema faemart with matching grinder, the family.

i had never seen one of these machines before. pictures don't do them justice. they're sweet! i think you can buy them from dallis direct.

the family grinder has great ergonomics, i thought. i loved the big ball on the dosing lever. the attached tamper foot on the opposite side could be heavier, but actually didn't do a bad job, tho' you had to hold the grinder down with the other hand to get a firm tamp.

on the other hand, the faemart espresso machine -- similar in size say to a starbucks barista -- had some advantages, such as the machine doesn't slide when you lock the portafilter. even my silvia moves a bit.

also the slanted portafilter is easy to get off and on, although it was odd at first since it locks from right to left. most of the machines lock the other way. it's small enough to fit on anyone's counter.

i'd love to have this machine for my cubicle at work, actually! jim brought the new dallis blend, new york espresso, in a cool package. i loved the label: listing the aromas and tastes, one of which was "burnt cookie." that was great!

also in attendance was mike white, a pro barista with gimme! coffee. he's a latte artist, and poured two nice rosetta lattes, as well as dialing in piles of shots from gillies carioca, intelligentsia's black cat (thanks mason!), batdorf's dancing goats (thanks holly!), the dallis blend, and his own platinum blonde espresso.

i started pulling shots and then thought: what am i doing? mike is sooo much better at this. . .

he's a great guy, a barista with a future, and also has an extremely elegant tamp. i have flat reg barber tamper, and while he prefers the convex ergotamper, he managed to make do. . .

jim brought some segafredo and esse whole bean and palombini pods, "pods that don't taste like pods." even don was surprised at how well this coffee came out of the superauto divina.

the coffee master was todd, who brought his java joe kona espresso, some malabar gold, and some supreme bean palermo.

we spent tons of time dialing in the carioca, because of course we were as usual misjudging how much stuff we had to do! and then my mazzer mini briefly jammed. fortunately, mike had brought along a monster mazzer robur, which we quickly swapped in! that's beautiful, but gigantic.

so plowed through a lot of coffee on that, while discussing the difference between the concepts of conical burrs and parallel ones. the reporter took the gaggia grinder home to play with.

we tested out the gaggia and faema grinders, but we were losing time dialing in so much coffee for so many machines. when mike pulled a great shot, we served it to don, who was tasting with the reporter, and also giving his usual amazing history-of-coffee spiel.

jim munson -- who's quite talented with a camera actually -- served as event photographer until his battery went wonky. i hope he will email me pix of this to add to the blog in a couple of days.

what i was hoping to do was impress on the writer the importance of a great grinder as well as a great espresso machine. and i wanted to show him a range of cult espressos, as well as talk with him about the beauties of coffee appreciation.

i mean, i even dragged out lingle's cupping book, as well as a coffeekids brochure. the poor man was overwhelmed, but hopefully educated in my brooklyn kitchen. i mean, we even showed him a zach & dani!

with so many machines, we had to invade the dining room; my travertine marble dining table seats 8, but was completely filled with machines and equipment.

i love these kinds of coffee parties, and i hope we scaa members, pro and consumer, can work together more often to bring our message to the broader public.

when everyone left, i had to stare at the ruins: the water in the hallways, the grounds between the wooden floorboards, the many cups of all sizes completely coated with syrupy espresso. . . .

my husband looked around, with a glum expression. then he smiled, and handed me the vacuum cleaner.

posted by fortune | 8:06 PM | top | link to this | email this: | | | 0 comments