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Saturday, June 21, 2003

our 15 minutes

ok, here's the deal: the new york times is coming to my house in bklyn this sunday (tomorrow), the 22nd at 2-4pm with a photographer. the reporter wants to meet as many coffee lovers as possible on this short notice.

so. all new york and tri-state area coffee fans interested in appearing should email me asap.

bring your homeroast, your machines, whatever. but i would like as many coffee lifestyle people as possible to come.

if nothing else, it now seems you might get to hang with todd of wholelattelove, one of our favorite espresso equipment purveyors. he's trying to arrange to fly in. . .

posted by fortune | 11:46 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, June 20, 2003

river cafe blend; gm robusta

a lot of people are talking about the big scientific breakthrough: scientists have created a genetically modified robusta coffee with 70% less caffeine. well that's great. but who wants to drink robusta?

just as vietnam are getting out of the robusta market to grow better quality coffee, here come the agri-chemists ready to shove more nasty-tasting burnt-rubber robusta down our throats. coffee lovers, i call on you to rebel! resist this scam.

the dirty little secret is that high-quality specialty arabica generally has half the caffeine of robusta in its natural state! so the chemists are going to give us poor quality frankencoffee with only a modest reduction in caffeine from what delicious arabica has without alteration.

lemme tell ya what: if you are worried about caffeine, just get yourself some nice swiss water process decaf coffee from your local independent coffeehouse/roaster.

the process improves almost every year, leaving more flavor in the bean. i'm serious. process-owner frank dennis is an amazing perfectionist. also, he's one heck of a nice guy. trust me -- he really strives to make his product better and better. . .

in other news, i had the great, great opportunity to have breakfast with don shoenholdt of gillies and long-time bccy reader and new york times editor deborah baldwin. don took us down to the river cafe (which is open for breakfast apparently only when don wants it to be!) where deborah and i got to listen to him talk about coffee and its history in new york in the passionate, erudite, and romantic tone that remains don's hallmark.

the river cafe has its own blend, created by the owner and supplied by don. it's a lovely coffee. don and deborah took it black, but i indulged by adding 2 teaspoons of light cream to each cup.

what a treat on a lightly foggy morning -- to sit in an elegant room on the waterside surrounded by fragrant fresh flowers and enjoy cup after cup of delightful coffee with moist blueberry muffins. . .the light glowed within the oyster-colored fog, highlighting the architectural details of the buildings across the water, while lending a nostalgic air to the span of the brooklyn bridge arcing overhead.

three coffee lovers in a quiet, dark setting over coffee together. coffee is the most social and intellectual beverage -- it brings like-minded, intense people truly present together for moments that last a lifetime in memory. again, this is why i love specialty coffee, and coffee people. indelible moments like this in life are rare, precious, nearly ineffable. . .

posted by fortune | 4:31 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, June 19, 2003

coffee fanatic experiences breaking out all over

i think everyone now knows about my coffee event here in new york city on june 28 with the amazing people at dallis coffee. for which, by the way, there are still a few spaces open. so email me if you're interested. but for those of you on the other coast, here's your own event.

it's so cool, i'm just reprinting the announcement verbatim:

Specialty Coffee Association of America Opens Its Doors to the Community
July 19-20 for the Ultimate Coffee Lover’s Event with Special Guest: New U.S. Barista Champion

LONG BEACH, Calif. (June 19, 2003) — Coffee enthusiasts take note. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) will host an Open House Coffee Fanatic Experience July 19 – 20 to celebrate its new headquarters in Downtown Long Beach. This two-day interactive event will feature an open coffee lab for tastings, cupping demonstrations and specialty coffee roasting. Expert guides will answer questions and demonstrate cupping, a systematic approach for evaluating the aroma and taste characteristics of a sample of coffee beans.

Special guest and new U.S. Barista Champion Heather Salisbury, a San Dimas resident, will showcase the art of espresso, cappuccino and latte techniques. Salisbury was named the 2003 U.S. Barista Champion during a competition at the April SCAA conference in Boston.

The SCAA Coffee Lab opens Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., features a variety of coffee presentations. Topics: running a coffee plantation; coffee exporting; coffee roasting — a professional's perspective; and a demonstration on the impact of water treatment on a cup of coffee. A Retailers Forum teaches how to consistently produce high quality coffee and compete with the big chains, and what consumers and coffee fans can do to keep them on their toes.

RSVP: 562-624-4100 or email Location: 330 Golden Shore, Suite 50, Long Beach, CA 90802. Cost: $10 for SCAA cMembers, $20 for non-members. Includes lunch Sunday. Attendees can apply $10 of the $20 fee to becoming SCAA consumer “cMembers” with special benefits. Basic cMembership is $18, Premium cMembership is $45.

posted by fortune | 4:15 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

jury duty

sitting in that ugly little room certainly gets in the way of your morning coffee.

i had to start the morning with a starbucks triple cappucino. that's how bad it was, walking to the brooklyn courthouse in a miserable rain. after sitting for 8 hours, i was hastily dismissed. no trials for me.

i celebrated by returning to starbucks for what was possibly the only drinkable doppio espresso i've ever seen in any starbucks. on the other hand, they had just ground the coffee (only because the doser was empty!) and these new superautomatics the persons-behind-the-counter -- you can't call them baristi, alas! -- now use does make it fairly mindless.

i sat at a tiny table and stared half out the window, catty-corner at one of those crazy starbucks murals. faux retro or whatever. at least i found a small moment of peace in a porcelain cup. and sometimes that's enough.

posted by fortune | 6:48 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

vietnam to eliminate robusta production?

could this be true? today finds a new story in which a vietnamese coffee industry spokesman says the country "will not export low-grade coffee anymore."

long-time readers know that many people feel the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis (acrobat reader required) was precipitated by vietnam's entry into the low end of the coffee market at the urging of the world bank. how much blame can be assigned to vietnam is difficult for even expert economists to calculate, so i won't certainly try!

however, i will greet this announcement with happiness. support for the i.c.o. and oxfam proposals is all good here in the bccy book, which is why i have urged the u.s.a. to rejoin the i.c.o. ad nauseum for a while now.

and the vietnamese statements are fully in accord with the i.c.o. plan. "the new mantra is quality instead of quantity, premium arabica bean instead of run-of-the-mill robusta," according to the article.

and we all know what happens when focus changes to quality! here's another mantra i've adopted from someone who really knows the score: "quality begets price begets quality."

in the end, that's the ticket: we consumers deserve the highest-quality specialty coffee, nothing less. it's out there; we should seek it out and demand it at every opportunity! the market does work -- if we start paying for it, it will come. . .and the competition will then be on to constantly improve the delicious and complex beverage that fascinates us all so.

complex. don't laugh! many wine articles say that that liquid has between 200 to 400 flavor components. sounds like a lot until you learn that coffee has more than 800 flavor and aromatic compounds; some experts say more than 1,100!

with all due respect to my wine-lovin' readers, that fancy juice is kool-aid in comparison. . . (lest you think i'm a wine-hater, i hasten to note that those who know me will immediately object that they have never, ever seen me reject a good champagne, and i cop to this!)

perhaps this is why wine spectator often runs coffee articles like this one? and let me slip in here for those tea drinkers: one expert says tea has but 10 primary flavor compounds!

but hey, it's all good, right? whatever you're drinking, i raise my yrg to you today, dear reader. . .

posted by fortune | 4:42 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, June 16, 2003

italian chocolate

yes, the final summer shipment from clay gordon's chocophile shop has arrived. 2 bars each of slitti's latternero 62% and bruco 60% with coffee and anise, as well as a 72% dark chocolate.

the bruco is a very interesting chocolate, one that won the eurochocolate award (flash required) at perugina last year. (long-time readers will recall that bccy chocolate hero richard donnelly is also a winner of this prize!)

it's made by one fabio lenci from high quality cocoa beans and prestigious varietals, using a traditional family recipe. of course the slitti is total heroin; i'll let you know about the bruco very very shortly. . .

posted by fortune | 3:09 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, June 15, 2003

more mainstream by the day

you know the world is swinging our way when the very conservative los angeles times editorializes on the need for the u.s.a. to take a stand in the coffee crisis (acrobat reader required) and rejoin the i.c.o.

after only 3 years, the once radical bccy point of view appears to be catching on! is this a dream, or what?

this issue has sometimes seemed a tad abstruse to all but my most dedicated long-time readers, i know. however, those people in la-la land do a fair job of explaining what's going on and why you should care. (log in as me: frelkins1, password).

further, they use all the arguments long-time readers have seen here before: human misery in africa, latin america; the increase in illegal immigration and illegal drug production; the damage to global security caused by fragile nation states that depend on coffee revenues as these countries slide ever closer to financial and social ruin; and the undermining of global economic structures and organizations as people watch their inaction or ineptitude.

i offer a lot more detailed background on the problems too: click here to see my i.c.o. and coffee purity info. you could pretty much spend an entire day following all the links and back links on this site to learn about the problem, i'm afraid. i shudder to think how much stuff on this a search of bccy would turn up. . .

but finally it seems the rest of the world is catching on. however, concrete action probably won't happen unless there is a grassroots movement among normal coffee lovers like us, people who voice their concern. what's the best way to do this? you could email your congressperson, demanding that the u.s.a. rejoin the i.c.o.

you can also join the scaa as a consumer member, giving us coffee lovers access to a trade group whose lobbying we can support. remember, in modern democracy, significant change is spurred when robert nelson, sandy mcalpine, and fine people in bespoke shoes like them roam the halls of congress. (plus, then you can come to the awesome coffee party later this month at the ever-wonderful dallis coffee!)

but no matter how you feel about people of this sort (we here at bccy love all, even tea drinkers!), the scaa has the wonderful asset of one ted lingle, who is the very definition of a stand-up guy. ted is an amazing person; i had coffee with him at ground zero not long ago.

but while all this high-level policy-wonk stuff is going on, the coffee farmers and workers are still in desperate need. that's why i personally think the most important action you can take is to buy more high-quality specialty coffee from your local independent coffeehouse/roaster and simply enjoy it. one of the most surprising things about our world is that just by buying good coffee you can really love you also change life for people in incredible ways.

and while you're enjoying your delicious gourmet coffee, consider making a donation to bccy's favorite charity, coffee kids. read about their microcredit programs and you'll see why they are so uniquely effective. . .

posted by fortune | 7:00 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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