Saturday, June 26, 2004
tomorrow and tomorrow
having the awesome annual nyc scaa consumer member coffee cupping event tomorrow means that today has to become a sunday.
in terms of pizza-making and yoga, that is.
i spent my lunch time yesterday at the exchange helping set up the grading room.
this meant i got the glamorous task of helping grade some of the coffee to be used.
"here's a job you're totally qualified for," former scaa prez steve colten cracked in his usual groucho-marx way, as he handed me what looked like a stack of slender wooden boxes.
the boxes were frames, holding metal screens with round-holed meshes of different sizes.
since part of coffee bean grading is based on size, what you do is sieve the beans by just scooping a huge number into the top of the stack, picking it up, and shaking to sort.
shaking. and shaking. and shaking. for about oh, 45 mins. nonstop. batch after batch after batch. i'm told that in guatemala the people who do this 60 hours a week get US$5!
sometimes people remark how fun volunteering for the scaa must be. and it is -- if you like getting up at 5:45am to plug in espresso machines, coming back at 2am to scrub them and spending the rest of day running around in search of milk while unhappy people who have paid good money to get in threaten you with portafilters of hot heavy brass.
do it 2 or 3 days in a row and it's called "conference."
idling away your summer afternoons shaking green coffee while various grading room employees try politely not to roll their eyes at such a hopeless loser should probably be called "madness."
by the end i most likely had more beans on the floor than thru the screen. naturally the pros have a gentle kind of rolling motion that quickly gets the beans thru the holes while somehow not scattering a single one.
note to self: must discover "zen & the art of coffee screening."
but seriously, i do love my time with scaa and the coffee people. specialty coffee folks are among the most fascinatng in the world.
it's something about the passionate, adventurous and romantic nature of coffee itself.
my brief indentured servitude in the grading room should have been a double-happiness thing, because it's also used by the cocoa tribe.
but alas, i didn't meet a single chocolate scion while i was there. . .
and while i brace myself for more shaking when we get to the exchange for the event itself, let me remind you all: the extravaganza begins tomorrow, 11am, at oren's daily roast on 58th & madison.
see ya there!
Friday, June 25, 2004
i have a sudden, last-minute cancellation for the incredible scaa consumer member annual cupping event here in new york city at 11am june 27. it all begins at oren's daily roast on 58th st.
there's an open space for anyone who wants it! email me pronto and it's yours. consumer members free; non-members, US$20. (note it only costs US$18 to join. . .)
don't delay. polish up your favorite cupping spoon & write me today!
surprise to whom?
while standing in my living room in the sky this morning watching the clouds move about as i enjoyed a refreshing glass of iced coffee, i somehow managed to resist reaching into the fridge and just eating the fudgy, gooey, nearly-liquid center of the death-by-brownies with a spoon.
we have to take our victories where we find 'em, no matter how small. and in that happy frame of mind, i was still surprised to see a student on the subway wearing some jewelry i recognized. hey, i hadn't seen that since the scaa conference!
"cute necklace," i said as i got off the train. she was, of course, holding her morning vanilla latte. . . but speaking of surprises:
"ask him to demonstrate upavista konasana, and he makes this yoga pose look easy, gliding gracefully out of his wheelchair and onto the floor."
paraplegic becomes an unlikely expert on yoga? long-time readers here at bccy know better than this.
there is a form of yoga appropriate for everyone, and that every body type, age, temperment, or life condition can benefit from. all you have to do is find the one that suits you!
the subject of the above piece apparently finds that iyengar yoga therapy works best for him. . .
Thursday, June 24, 2004
my coffee novel or beyond brownies
one of the many things i adore about the new blogger is the statistics. thus i learn that in the couple of years i've been with evhead's code, bccy as a whole contains some 291,743 words.
since the average novel runs only about 80,000 words, i'm sitting here realizing that i have basically dropped a 3-1/2 volume book of coffee talk upon the planet. i mean, forget the anatomy of melancholy; i'm headed straight towards remembrance of things past!
like many other people i know, i'm constantly begging don schoenholt of gillies to write the ultimate coffee book, since there's possibly no other human being on the planet with his in-depth and encyclopedic knowledge of coffee, its history, its people, its techniques.
but in fact maybe i should be thinking of my own coffee work. . . nah. who has the time? it would seriously take away from my baking.
and speaking of baking, last night i was determined to make good after the recent all-splenda brownie disaster. thus i was set to create not just the killer brownie, but something beyond the brownie.
and i think i may have succeeded. . .it begins with this simple recipe, tweaked.
what are the crucial changes?
- replace half the 1-1/2 cups white sugar with brown
- replace the 1 cup callebaut callets with 10 oz. by weight valrhona chocolate batons broken into chunks
- omit nuts
- replace the 1 tablespoon water with espresso and 2 teaspoons almond flavoring with very finely ground fresh espresso coffee or for those without grinders, instant espresso powder
- replace 1 teaspoon vanilla with 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
the results were deemed "death-by-brownie" but i need a name more original than this. . .
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
cup of excellence winner & natural decaf
now this is interesting news: agronomists studying coffee trees in ethiopia have discovered a naturally occuring variety that's nearly free of caffeine.
it'll be interesting to see how this coffee actually tastes, and if it is suitable for cultivation. the article doesn't say if it is an arabica or a robusta. . . this has the potential to change the global coffee scene in a profound way.
my friend and colleague on the scaa consumer committee, frank dennis of swiss water, must be watching this development with a close eye. a good-tasting tree-grown decaf would markedly increase coffee consumption across the board, i think.
and in other coffee news, the winner of the recent el salvador cup of excellence coffee competition is one lya de castaneda's coffee.
i think it may be the bosque lya brand sold in the family's bakery chain.
readers new to bccy may not yet be well-versed in the terminology of coffee-tasting i'm about to use to discuss these coffees. don't be alarmed!
these terms mostly come from the official scaa coffee flavor wheel, created by scaa chief ted lingle to describe the full range of coffee flavors, the taste, and the bouquet.
in general, i call this way of talking about coffee "the great linglese" [lin-glaze-ay] in honor of ted. i also have a quick primer on coffee taste terms here.
the cupping notes describe the "bosque lya" as crisp or nippy tasting with a floral fragrance, and offering berry and citrus aromas. it's said to be a smooth and creamy-bodied coffee too.
you coffee lovers in europe will probably be able to buy this coffee online, since it was purchased for import by taylor's of harrogate. it doesn't seem as if it will be readily available in north america unless you want to spring for some serious international express shipping.
also placing highly is the well-known "las nubitas" coffee, already much talked about in the specialty coffee community.
the cupping notes describe the las nubitas as winey tasting, with citrus and caramel aromas that lead to a dark chocolate aftertaste. i suspect it's a somewhat bright coffee as well, since this competition has a reputation for favoring this kind of sparkly taste.
fortunately for us north american coffee lovers, it looks like we will be able to buy this prize-winning coffee easily online, since it was purchased for import by stumptown roasters in portland as well as long-time bccy pals doug zell and geoff watts of chicago's intelligentsia.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
new barista champ & service restored, if duplicated
norway's tim wendelboe from stockfleths coffee in oslo has emerged as the new world barista champ. followers of this competition will note that for the past few years the title has alternated from a down-under barista to a scandinavian and back.
italians and citizens of the u.s.a. barely rate at this level of competition, which should tell you about the white-hot coffee passion in australasia and in northern europe. three of the top 6 spots were won by scandinavians.
the american entrant was bested by a canadian -- the incredibly talented piccolo of caffé artigiano -- kiwi carl sara, and a lebanese.
let me for the umpteenth time thank you readers, who have patiently followed me through the move and even endured being abruptly re-directed over from bccy's old home at earthlink.net.
it now appears the archives are working -- although for some reason i seem to be publishing duplicate copies! well, at least they are there. if you've been re-directed over here from a google or other search, please feel free to search again onsite for your topic.
the search engine is also now working, altho' for some reason it is still offering earthlink.net results as well as blogspot.com results. do watch for that, and i'll solve this problem too.
this leaves (only!?!) the situation of inter-page links, some of which reference the old site. i'll be fixing these in 2 days as well as uploading the remainder of scaa chief ted lingle's coffee documents and various jpgs from earthlink.
more mea culpa & chocolate panini
this issue with the bccy archives since i moved over here to blogspot is mysterious. the archive files appear to be there in when you look for them -- say with cuteftp -- but the blogger.com web server can't find them or serve them out. odd.
i'm still trying to figure this one out. let me once again thank you endlessly for your patience.
until this is solved, i'm afraid we won't have archives, search or permalinks. forgive me; but once the web server can find the files, then all services will be restored in a matter of hours.
now onto important matters: novice home bakers have long relied on lora brody. many devout home bakers say they can't live without her dough products.
now she's written a book on chocolate and baking. while i'm absolutely no fan of much of the stuff in it, such as the frankly silly chocolate-covered popcorn or chocolate-covered chinese noodles -- i am a huge, huge fan of the chocolate panini.
just imagine your best home-made sweet focaccia (skip the raisins), grilled with a mixture of fresh mascarpone and valrhona. . .luckily you don't have to buy the book for this recipe: it's right here.
last but far far from least is the launch of the new counterculture website, with its brand-new cupping room blog. as this develops it will be fun place to actually talk seriously about how coffee tastes with cupper and roasters guild guy peter giuliano.
and a big thank you to peter, for saying such sweet things about bccy and our dear pal doug cadmus in his announcement email. specialty coffee people are just the best!
Monday, June 21, 2004
welcome and roasting the rwanda
first, thanks to all of you who've been redirected over here from the old bccy on earthlink. i will in 2 or 3 days get everything moved over here.
getting some of the old interpage links updated may take another day or two beyond that, so once again i beg your indulgence. but search and the archives should be restored shortly.
in the meantime, steady readers may recall i lent out my home coffee roasting device to a fellow java lover & old school chum. i posted the results of this on our beloved alt.coffee:
"i think i've accidentally created a monster: a fellow alum of st. john's asked to borrow my zach & dani.
his wife apparently works at an international development gig and so received as a gift a whole sack of what seems to be green rwandan seven lakes estate.
he didn't know what do to on the roaster front, so i lent him the z&d and he's gone to town.
he's roasting beyond 2nd crack, which seems dark to me for this arabica. but i don't know this coffee. he says it was a 25 min. roast to the fill line, but he wants to take it longer.
i worry he's baking the coffee and losing whatever delicate nuances are there. what do you think o z&d experts or rwanda lovers? please advise."
and i received a very interesting answer from fabulous altie, valued scaa consumer member & espresso expert jim schulman of chicago, which i'm reprinting in full here:
"The Z&D works more like a nano-drum-roaster than an air-roaster -- basically the lighter the load, the faster the roast. The 100 gram 'dark roast' line takes about 15 minutes to medium and works for espresso. If you want to do press pot, and preserve the origin flavor, 75 grams will get you down to 10-12 minutes. The regular fill line is for 'mellow' coffee lovers.
I posted a review of the Rwanda 7 lakes roasted medium/light, where it has a neat flower, spice, fresh cut grass, slightly chlorinated odor -- reminded me of a backyard with a pool or bleached sheets on a line. Darker it's sweet caramel and cedar. Enough sweetness and body to be good for SO [single-origin] espresso. Very much East African, but interestingly different from the others. A coffee well worth trying."
grass and chlorine don't seem like pluses to me! i'm wondering if jim is detecting the presence of taints or defects in the green coffee here. . .these usually come from poor growing or processing techniques.
they almost always harm the coffee's flavor, lowering the quality of the beverage. as scaa chief ted lingle once told me: "you don't have to be expert in all the taints and defects. just make sure you aren't drinking any!"
very few to zero defects is one of the hallmarks of high-quality, delicious specialty coffee. jim's description above makes me think the rwandan might not be quite up to snuff in that regard. . .
Sunday, June 20, 2004
bccy has moved. . .
due to earthlink being just hopeless, i'm now over at bccy.blogspot.com.
please come see me there, or this page will redirect you! thanks for your patience during this transition! search & archives may be down for a couple of days as i move everything over.
new digs & baking disaster strikes
as promised, dear readers, here i am at my temporary digs on blogspot. thanks once again to eric case for making this all happen!
overcome by a chocolate urge yesterday evening, i decided to experiment with my favorite brownie recipe by using only splenda. no "regular" sugar at all.
and this was a terrible, terrible mistake. despite what the splenda package tells you, that it measures, cooks, and bakes just like sugar, let me hasten to inform you: no.
only after prowling for some time deep into the splenda website did i discover the explanation as to why the brownies, which looked picture perfect, where dry disasters possessed of some strange chemical aftertaste.
baked goods with splenda will be drier than normal -- you have to bake them 5 mins. less. they will also have slightly reduced volume; that is, they won't rise as well. and in large quantities, say maybe more than 1-1/2 cups, splenda will add a taste to the product.
in short, it's probably not a good idea to replace more than 30-50% of the "regular" sugar with splenda in most baked goods. the all-splenda brownie is a very disappointing object!
let me make this sad experiment so you won't have to!