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Saturday, October 11, 2003

a woman after our own heart, or regional coffee culture part x

would you travel 95 miles for the perfect cup of coffee?

fam lee ken of malaysia did. in search of the ultimate cup of so-called "white coffee," she journeys to the hinterlands to a small cafe just to sample the sweetened asian version of a café au lait.

this drink is made with a special roast. the coffee in malaysia and that area is often roasted utterly black, sometimes with sugar and oil. when done with sugar, i have heard this called a "spanish roast."

this curious roast is then made into coffee; milk and sugar are stirred straight into the coffee pot according to the recipe of the coffeehouse; and then this is poured into the customers' cups from a great height with much pomp and ceremony.

i don't think i'd like this beverage, but i very much adore the fact that she dragged her husband all that way for it.

she's definitely a bccy-kinda girl. . .

if you doubted that coffee is hitting asia in a big way, the check out this article: mcdonalds is launching its mccafes in -- hold your breath -- singapore!

they wouldn't be there if the market research didn't prove that coffee is more than a fad for asians. our idea of a tea-drinking east is fast becoming outdated. . .coffee is sweeping the planet.

pour yourself another cup and connect with the globe! white coffee, espresso, or a steaming mug of kona -- it doesn't matter. we're all drinking it together!

posted by fortune | 3:20 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, October 10, 2003

mary, meet lou ann; lou ann, meet lindsay

as a native of tiny fort scott, kansas, where we regarded topeka -- a place that allowed public drinking and dancing -- as complete sin city, i am always amused by the local kansas papers.

and there today one lou ann thomas writes of her love for coffee. this is news in topeka, where the budget is so strapped they are trying to ban city workers from spending money to buy office coffee, all US$705.75 of it. fraud and waste!

lou ann drops an interesting point on her relationship to coffee: "is it the taste of coffee that's so appealing? probably not."

mary williams, an awesome coffee goddess in her own right, rebuts this notion in another article today: "many people don't realize coffee can taste fantastic. it's not just fuel."

what's surprising is that she's speaking in her capacity as the head of the national coffee association, trade group for the dread "big four" food mega-multi-nationals who are responsible for that vile-tasting stuff in the supermarket cans.

this is probably what poor lou ann is drinking as she correctly notes the horrid taste.

naturally, mary's correct: but the nca coffee isn't the fantastic tasting stuff. . .lou ann, you're not drinking the right coffee! i should send her a pound of don schoenholt's gillies legendary blend.

but another point of interest in mary's article is that the world bank has suddenly discovered sustainability and fair-trade! and that this idea could help alleviate the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis.

this is wildly funny, since many in the coffee industry argue that it was the world bank's decision to push vietnam into the low-end of the coffee market that precipitated the current problem. but i'll let bygones be bygones.

as long as we're all moving in the right direction now. are we?

and thanks to incredible altie and c-member marshall fuss, here's a great article on another solution to the coffee crisis -- relationship coffee.

it features such pals of bccy as current scaa (the good cofee people, as politely contrasted with you-know-who above) president david griswold; another coffee goddess, lindsay bolger of green mountain; and of course larry challain of batdorf, who makes mr. right's favorite coffee, the dancing goats.

posted by fortune | 11:00 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, October 09, 2003

internal view of the coffee crisis

"the desperate state of the coffee industry becomes apparent as you rattle at a snail's pace past hundreds of hectares of diseased and abandoned coffee plantations."

this article from papua new guinea (how cool is this? we are reading the pacific island newspapers these days with more ease than you could have ever imagined, thanks to the internet!) describes how the coffee crisis looks from the inside.

and what's interesting is they don't seem to blame the global market, but rather corruption, power-hunger, and greed in the ministry that oversees national coffee production.

faced with the coffee crisis, what do farmers do? the paper reports that it's the same thing they are doing the world over: growing illegal drugs.

"it has created a home-grown drug culture, where for many it is easier and much more profitable to service the ever-growing drug markets of the cities than it is to re-develop a coffee garden."

fascinating question: do you feel oppressed by yoga advertising?

since i can frankly -- after 4 years of yoga 5 or 6 times a week -- do the poses madonna does in her commercial, as well as the titibasana and padangusthasana demonstrated in the article (albeit not with my legs quite so high yet), i don't.

i decry the over-commercialization of yoga, but i don't let it get me down, or let it be used against my psyche as part of the american perfection-and-beauty trap. yoga should actually rescue you from that!

i never found yoga aspirational, although i do strive to learn new poses to help keep myself interested and mentally challenged. i never expected to end up with ana forrest's body or serena williams' arms, tho' actually that does slowly seem to happen with a regular and vigorous practice. . .

posted by fortune | 10:16 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

is the rainforest alliance being used?

will kraft respect them in the morning? of course, i'm thrilled to hear that one of the so-called "big four" is now working with the rainforest alliance to use some fair-trade coffee.

but will it be a significant amount of sustainable fair-trade beans, or just a token amount? and will they stop when/if coffee prices return to higher levels?

will my friend sabrina at the rainforest alliance wake up in 1 year to discover she's been had for short-term p.r. & marketing purposes? i hope not. . .let's watch closely to see how kraft plays this out!

on the hot coffee-milkshake front: is anyone really surprised to discover that a starbucks drink, the large mocha coconut frapuccino contains 550 calories and 22 grams of fat?

does anyone think the acre of whipped cream on the caramel macchiato is miraculously without calories? as we say in new york, i have a bridge for sale. . .

let me take this moment to note that a more authentic italian-style drink, the 5 oz. cappucino, has usually 2 oz. of coffee and 2 oz. of whole milk. remember, properly steaming the milk increases its volume by about 50%, so you need but 2 oz. milk for 3 oz. microfoam.

this gives us a 5 oz. drink with only about 25 calories and a tiny amount of fat (less than or about 1 gram) for the coffee, while even whole (3-4%) milk would offer just about 40 calories and 2-3 grams of fat. if you want a flavored concoction, many syrup companies make delicious sugar-free products nowadays.

so you're looking at a grand total of say 70-75 calories (with 1/2 oz. sugar-free syrup) and 3-4 grams of fat for a satisfying italian-type breakfast drink. this is why european people are thinner than americans!

honestly, you could add a medium full-butter croissant (231 calories, 12 grams of fat) to this european delight and still suffer approx. 40% less calories and roughly 80% less fat than are packed in that stupid frappuchino . . .

double check my math, dear readers, but i think that anyway you look at it, you're better off with an italian-style beverage and even a little butter treat than one of these american creations.

and which would you rather have?

posted by fortune | 11:08 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

why does this make me so sad?

"the chocolate in a chip cookie, for example, can be programmed to release the second it is bitten into, making the flavour delivery a highly enjoyable experience."

why is it that my heart cries out: i don't want my cookies programmed? why do i insist on a real experience of real chocolate and not a programmed experience of spray-powder chocolate?

what is wrong with me?

so you see, instead of actually using high-quality delicious chocolate in your cookie -- umm, excuse me, product -- you can now use this wonderful powder in a vegetable oil medium that releases a processed form of white chocolate instead.

this gives consumers the "experience" of real, quality, fresh chocolate, while remaining, we are assured, "totally authentic." you can buy this stuff in a great liquid form too!

naturally, everyone wants to go on uma thurman's new diet. of course uma is famous for her puckish sense of humor, so don't take her too seriously. . .

posted by fortune | 12:54 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, October 06, 2003

a moment of introspection

if i had a patio and a baseball bat, would i do the same myself?

and i hate to discourage them, but coffee is far, far from black gold. . .i doubt that on the quality level, when exposed to international competition, it will remain at US$29 a pound.

oh farmers of taiwan -- your fellow citizens are adopting the global cafe lifestyle, but i fear you will not profit from it!

also, iyengar yoga, ashtanga yoga -- both appear to be working in arkansas!

finally, a great link from the just-plain-huggable chipper harris of coffee kids. while it is specifically in reference to krishna das' latest album, i suppose the comments would apply to all american kirtan. (well maybe not manorama; her sanskrit accent and pronounciation are world-renowned.)

i'm surprised that georg feuerstein disapproves, frankly. i thought the whole point of sanskrit was that as the "universal language," the very sound of it was said to be transformational.

the classic texts all make the startling claim that just hearing the syllables causes your brain to re-wire itself. so it wouldn't matter if you didn't know ganesha from yoga student 50 cent; the words'll do the rest.

some texts also remark that the sounds of the sanskrit alphabet are the foundation of what we would currently call space-time, in that the physical vibrations of the letters somehow underlie the structure of the universe, which i think is what we call string theory nowadays, if you be that-a-way inclined.

as for the hindu deity part of it: each practitioner is supposed to find the name and form that is most appropriate to them, all the yoga teachers say. sorry, i just don't get georg's problem here. . .

posted by fortune | 8:51 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, October 05, 2003

national pizza month & the comfy sofa

of course long-time readers know this is national pizza month. and today, as i was making pizza sauce, i switched out my usual 3 tablespoons red wine for vodka.

for some reason i feel lately that vodka is better in the sauce if you're topping with pepperoni. you might feel differently; but there it is.

since i'm a lover of the real neapolitan pizza, i'm not a big fan of most of what passes about town as the pie. but i'm interested to see the cult of pizza spread across the planet.

normally when i think malaysia, i think curry, and i am so wrong. i should be thinking pizza. the mumbai masala pizza with cauliflower, pumpkin, and indian spices would give those california pizzas a run for their money.

but then i should be wiser: a young japanese chef stunned italy recently by winning the neapolitan pizza-making prize.

it's-a one world after all -- soon we will be united not by fancy treaties or extra-governmental bodies, but by the passionate sway of good pizza and specialty coffee.

for example, the u.k. is definitely a former tea-drinking nation now reborn as a community of coffee-lovin' couch addicts.

and speaking of coffee, here's a great article on kona.

posted by fortune | 11:34 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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