Saturday, July 24, 2004
yet another pet peeve or point of etiquette
"when is a teapot not a teapot? when it's made for pouring coffee or hot chocolate."
yes i said yes and i'm not just quoting molly bloom!
one of my secret foibles bursts from hiding: i can't stand it when people confuse coffee pots, tea pots, and chocolate pots.
this is why every coffee lover should have a bramah! let me offer visual cues:
it's annoying that many supposed "antique experts" don't know the difference themselves. what makes it important is that chocolate pots are hot items right now; the unscrupulous and/or misinformed will take any old wacky coffee pot, call it a chocolate pot, and double the price on you.
not that many of my regular readers are here today to see this anyway, since i trust you're all in long beach pulling espresso.
know that i weep to be with you. . .anyone who cares is welcome to take pity on me by comforting me with the gift of above chocolate pot!
Friday, July 23, 2004
more pizza with bugmenot
"the bottom must be 0.1 to 0.3 centimeters in height. . . .approximately the thickness of a credit card. the outer crust must be the height of a quarter, and very dense."
yup, this is the verace pizza napoletana. the rules get that precise.
fabulous altie and scaa consumer member marshall fuss sent me a great article on his favorite v.p.n.-certified pie-shop. i think he went in for a pie before this weekend's scaa consumer member homecoming event in long beach.
boy do i wish i could make it! y'all gotta go in my place, ok?
anyway, if the l.a. times asks you for a password, all that nonsense, just use bugmenot. sometimes it's a reader's only hope. . .
Thursday, July 22, 2004
old rants become new news
when i published my huge rant long ago, about agricultural subsidies, the price of milk and sugar, and how that affected coffee lovers and coffeehouse owners alike, i got a lot of email that basically went: "huh?"
but hey, you heard it here first, coffee lovers! and now you know why you'll be soon forking over more cash to the mermaid: higher milk costs.
notice that starbucks doesn't expect to meet "resistance" at the cash register.
that's right -- because those of us who are truly resistant will be making better coffee at home, either with our espresso machines, cafetiéres (a.k.a. french press), or single-cup pod brewers, or continuing to enjoy the fine coffees made at more reasonable prices by our favorite local independent roaster/retailers and coffeehouses.
it's just dubai week here at bccy. don't ask me why:
"what makes dellisse so exclusive is its tailor made approach to each box of chocolates."
these bon-bons, made by french artisan chocolatiers in dubai, sound intoxicating! very much like r. donnelly's candies, esp. the saffron-flavored. . .
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
danger & authenticity
"there are really only two kinds of pizza -- good and very good. . ."
i'm going to have to both agree and disagree with noted artisan baker peter reinhart's statement here. there are only two kinds of pizza: the margherita and everything else!
despite this, i will handily recommend reinhart's pizza book because he's just a fantastic baker. actually, he's a bread artist.
and let me offer a big bccy thank-you to stephanie o. for this. can you imagine students writing design papers on our discussion of coffee cupping?
finally, i was fascinated to read this article about yoga in the middle-east.
i've written before about its grudging sort-of acceptance in the gulf states like abu dhabi and dubai, where not too long ago a celebration was held in honor of b.k.s. iyengar's birthday, held i believe by the well-known dutch yoga teacher, djoeke von der werft. . .
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
the q in plain english
long-time readers may recall that i've written here before about scaa chief ted lingle's newish so-called "q" (for quality!) contract.
this is an effort to help sell and market higher-quality coffee, make the market more efficient, level the playing field for all sizes of roasters, deliver better coffee to consumers, and help create an economic setup that does more to reward coffee farmers who deliver quality.
whether the proposed contract does this is something only time and the roasters will tell us!
this month's roast magazine finds a great article by long-time bccy coffee pal and pro scaa member, spencer turer, on the q. i think spence does a great job of simplifying the concept.
however, i find the title of the article somewhat misleading: the coffee auctioned under the q isn't necessarily specialty-grade coffee! it's not, as spence says, the gran cru.
this slightly-less-than-specialty "premium grade" coffee, however, is definitely much better than the vast majority of the coffee out there. i think coffee sold under the "q" allows consumers some baseline assurance of what the actual quality of the coffee is.
right now, the quality level of the java we drink is still basically a mystery to most coffee lovers, unless you work to learn some cupping skill yourself, or deal with a roaster/retailer you can really trust.
many of us cafénatics have roasters who we really know well. but when, say, buying coffee over the internet from a place for the first time, it would be great to see a "q" certification.
that way we know we're not paying US$12 a pound plus US$6 shipping for less-than-stellar stuff. we'd have the assurance that these coffees cupped at least 80, and were cupped by certified people trained in specialty cupping.
ken davids has already addressed this situation somewhat over at his site great coffee, where he sells only very highly cupping beans. and it's wonderful that the rest of the industry is with this trend.
(however, i have to note that the great coffee site does worry me a bit; i'm not the biggest fan of pod/capsule coffee, as steady readers know. and i think great coffee's page layout makes it seem like the pod/capsule coffee sold there cups 90 like the whole bean coffee, which i'd seriously doubt.)
i don't know if the q is going to work out; maybe it shouldn't -- i've certainly heard some arguments against it. but it seems like an idea heading in the right direction, and a plus for those who appreciate coffee as a fine beverage.
this won't keep me from saying that i think the 80 level is too low. that specialty-grade coffee should cup 90; this "premium grade" should cup at least 85.
and 80 defects -- the amount of sticks, stones, moldy, black or bug-chewed beans -- per sample is too high. maybe 25?
Monday, July 19, 2004
repeat after paul
"katzeff is sure that the answer [to the problems of the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis] lies in getting consumers hooked on high-quality coffee and that the best way to help farmers produce better beans is by putting key tools of the trade in their hands."
let's second that emotion. while many in the coffee trade have had differences with former scaa prez paul katzeff's ideas, everyone can get behind this one, as stated in today's article!
maybe i should entitle this post "what coffeeshops mean, part iv." they are, as this think-piece suggests, our "great good place!"
find and support your local cool independent coffee shop or roaster/retailer right away! there's no need to bowl or drink coffee alone. . .
Sunday, July 18, 2004
la kitchenaid est morte; vive la kitchenaid
it's true dear readers -- let me request a moment of silence for the passing of my beloved kitchenaid pro 5-qt. stand mixer after 5 years of faithful service.
she was known as "blanche."
yes, this morning i attached the paddle beater to mix my pizza dough and slid the switch to "1" only to be greeted by an odd whirring-buzzing sound. no mixing.
there i was with a bowl full of ingredients ready to be mixed on the same time-honored schedule we've had around here (start pizza at 11:30am so it has time to rise and then rest in the fridge before 5pm yoga) since, well, the arrival of blanche herself.
i could knead by hand, but since i've started using first-clear flour, a machine is really called for. the first clear develops much better with a machine, i think.
plus when i knead by hand, i do get flour on the floor. lovely flour which -- by the time i'm finished -- the cat has completely tracked about the house in cute little paw prints.
and this annoys mr. right, who really dislikes seeing pizza flour on the bedspread. on the couch. on the rug. and on the desk.
while i find the idea of our ginger tom dangling his sweet flour-covered paws off the top of the computer monitor while he snoozes gently most touching, mr. right dislikes the fine sifting of the stuff down onto the keyboard while he's typing.
actually this couldn't happen any more, since we hooked a rockin' 21" flat screen up to the graphite mac. but you get the idea. . .
the day was saved by kitchenaid. i simply scouted about the chinese trunk and pulled out my trusty old kitchenaid hand mixer with dough hooks.
so i stood there holding the mixer for 12 mins., kneading the dough in the deep stand mixer bowl. which was better than having to vaccuum the entire house. . . .
kitchenaid is famed for its excellent customer service, and i'll be calling 'em tomorrow. i'm sure blanche will be speedily repaired.
in the meantime, the pizza goes on!
two of north america's most renowned artisan roasters and cafe owners are teaming up into an intriguing new partnership. the piccolos of caffe artigiano -- whose latte art has won awards in barista contests -- and long-time bccy pal doug zell of intelligentsia are beginning an interesting set of ventures together.
and here's a charming article that includes a woman all coffee lovers should remember more often -- german housewife melitta benz. i have a box of melitta filters in my kitchen cabinet right now.
and i suspect most you reading this do too! the company buries her on their website a bit tho'; shame on them!
it seems to me from a brief study of coffee history that women are more involved in its advancement than you might at first expect. for example, many early coffee making devices were patented by french madames, who needed a better way to make larger quantities of coffee to help entertain the customers.
after all, excessive alcohol and that business don't mix! women often -- to this day really -- made most coffee, so i suppose it's not surprising that improvements came to them as they did this task every day.
and then of course, there is erna knutsen, still a coffee colossus. (what's the feminine of that? colossa. . . .?)