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Saturday, August 21, 2004

quale siestiere?

unless events foment otherwise, i am in fact leaving for italy in the middle of september and will be a gone a couple of weeks. it's a giant coffee expedition, there's no doubt!

during that time, a cool assortment of guest writers will be randomly amusing you as the mood strikes them and i have no idea whatsoever what they'll be writing. because i'll be in venice!

or bologna! or trieste! or siena! or staring at the bay of naples with a doppio machiatto in my hand!

these writers are all long-time bccy pals; thus dear readers you will be suitably entertained. . .speaking of coffee i'm attempting to get don schoenholt to part with a pound of his stash of rare coffee from nepal.

excuse me while i hone my wheedling abilities.

posted by fortune | 10:11 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, August 20, 2004

vac pot re-considerations

maybe vac pots aren't the most fragile coffeemakers after all!

"that night it was washed and laying on the counter and all of a sudden a big kaboom."

yuppers, readers, this lady is describing the self-destruction of her glass-lined thermal carafe, a common part of many popular autodrip brewers.

those vac pots are looking better and better!

on a completely different subject, did you ever wonder what happened to all the great internet genuises whose talent was cruelly assassinated by the end of the golden era? some have struggled; others have used that creativity in surprising ways.

an example of the latter is long-time bccy pal and famed 'net guru madhu "madman" menon. when he bagged information architecture, he struck out in a totally new area while keeping his reputation for innovation: thai food.

that's right -- he's cooking thai in bangalore! with the same artfulness, humor, and creativity we'd all expect of the old madman. . .the reviews are fantastic.

here's his new restaurant blog.

posted by fortune | 7:15 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, August 19, 2004

or maybe it was the chocolate

earlier this week, i wondered if the difference between gold and not at the olympics was adding yoga to your training plan.

but perhaps i was wrong:

"a female weightlifter has become the first thai woman to win an olympic gold medal -- thanks in part to her chocolate intake. . ."

i don't know that i could take the bird's nest soup.

all i can say is that this small sample seems to suggest that yoga and chocolate might work together somehow to make championship happen! i'm willing to be a guinea pig for any scientist wishing to form an experiment. . .

posted by fortune | 9:00 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

vac pot considerations

the ever-delightful fatcatchef asked the crucial question: which vac pot's right for you? the retro-chic vac pot has the advantage of brewing fantastic coffee, and doing it against gravity, which provides a really cool show.

as long-time readers know, almost all vac pots, whether the common vertical type, or the lovely balancing syphon side-by-side type feature two containers or sections in a linked system.

the "bottom" holds the water; the "top," the coffee. there's a filter and usually a gasket in between.

as you heat water you create steam; as the "bottom" section of the pot fills with steam, the pressure in the two sections becomes different.

this pressure differential between the two parts of the coffeemaker literally forces the water "up" or "over" into the coffee container.

but there's no more heat once it gets there. the steam cools and falls back into water, brewing the coffee.

and it just happens that it does so at the perfect temperature range for coffeemaking. this is why vac pot coffee is so yummy.

to clarify the coffee, all you do is remove the pot from the heat source. with no heat to maintain the pressure difference, the weight of the water in the top section succumbs to gravity and the delicious liquor falls thru the filter back into the bottom, leaving the grounds behind.

vac pots used to be very common in the past, but were eclipsed by "improvements" like the horrible electric perculator. these tended to boil the coffee (shudder), but were easier to wash. . .

most vac pots contain some glass, and so are fragile. also, you really have to watch a vac pot to ensure it doesn't foam over on the stove or boil dry in the bottom section.

and you do need a baby bottle brush to clean them. finally, vac pots require a grind just a little finer than cafetiére or french press, and work best making a full or 2/3s full pot.

with these caveats in mind, here's a range of common vac pots and how i feel about 'em:

  • the royal balancing syphon pot: balancing syphons are especially elegant versions of the vac pot idea. the royal, with its hand-blown belgian crystal and artisanally made parts, is the ultimate coffeemaker. with alas, a matching price.

    get it when only the best will do and it fits in with your formal decor. notice the royal doesn't sit on the stove. like many vac pots, it relies on a little spirit lamp to heat the water.

    this allows you to leisurely make coffee at the dinner table. the situation here is leisurely: it can take 15-20 mins. for that little lamp to heat the water, so some people jumpstart the process by pre-heating the water in a kettle on the stove.

    cleaning it takes time. but with something so beautiful, who cares? you handwash your best china, right?

  • the cona: this english brewer is another beautiful design, possibly the most handsome vertical vac pot. if the royal's continental formality is too much for you, go with the cona's art moderne look.

    this pot has a unique filtering system, a glass rod with a kind of spiral groove. it works amazingly well, to surprise of many. and this pot is relatively easy to clean. a fabulous pot.

  • the hario or yama: the hario japanese pots use paper filters and are also quite striking in design. some say the hario has better quality glass than the taiwanese yama.

    the pedestrian-looking yama also uses cloth filters, which can be a little tough to clean and can be bought from sweet marias; some people make their own replacements from linen.

  • the bodum santos stovetop: cheap, works well despite its weird plastic filter, and did i say cheap? it's fragile and clunky-looking, sure.

    this is the one i own, but it's not for clumsy people or those with pre-teen children. did i forget cheap? and since it's by bodum, it's available everywhere.

  • the electric bodum santos: finally, an acrylic vac pot with an electric heat source you don't have to watch every moment! on the other hand, its owners sometimes find the automatic heat cycle doesn't stay on long enough to keep the water up top long enough to brew properly.

    there are workarounds for this, however. the nylon screen/filter cleans easily with a brush.

    oh, and i think it's really ugly, unless you like the color(s). but again, it's not too expensive and is readily available.

  • the nicro: this is a food-service vac pot. works great, unbreakable and dead ugly.

  • the antique electric vac pot route: since this was a popular method in the past, it's possible to hang about ebay and get your hands an antique pot, like an old silex or cory. since they were made in the "good old days," most of 'em still work perfectly.

    if you like that retro-chrome/retro-chrome-n-glass thing, this could be a good option, but it ties you to ebay and other collectors when you need a new gasket.

    these antique pots are quite prized, thus not cheap. but the little tiny electric heaters many sit on are so cute!

posted by fortune | 5:50 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

positively snappy

there must have been early-morning thunder or an unusually loud garbage truck to set the cat howling in that delicate pre-dawn darkness known to yoga students as brahmamuhurta.

since i'm a twilight/evening yoga person (which i think makes my yoga a pradosa-lila, or "evening pastime!"), i'm never up then.

really. never. (completely side note: i've always found it fascinating that indians traditionally have a unit of time, the truti, defined as how long it takes to tear apart the softest lotus petals. . .)

anyway, this morning seemed like the perfect time to brew a pot of don schoenholt's gillies "old glory" in the vac pot. in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press), this blend seemed bright and crisp to me, as i've written earlier.

the vac pot usually brings out the more subtle nuances in a coffee, and also tends to highlight its brightness. thus the old glory went from crisp to positively snappy; i mean, it lit up the room.

i also felt the vac pot brought out a nutty, caramelly flavor set. the cafetiére always emphasizes the body of a coffee, so as expected, the mouthfeel from the vac pot was a tad lighter.

after a cup with splenda and a tablespoon of light cream, i think the old glory really benefits from vac brewing, and that's how i'd suggest making it. . .

posted by fortune | 8:14 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, August 16, 2004

a possible observation

we here at bccy offer our condolences to u.s.a. olympic swimmer phelps.

however our innate puckishness forces us to note that one of the guys who beat him, thorpe, added yoga to his training routine long ago. as for the dutch gold medalist, pieter van den hoogenband, i don't read enough dutch to quite figure his training regime out.

in fact, we note that the u.s.a. female swimmer, coughlin, who took gold, is also known as a yoga student, never missing her classes twice a week.

meanwhile, a quick search of google fails to turn up any news or sports story indicating that phelps does yoga. . . but perhaps i'm not using the best keywords?

posted by fortune | 1:23 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

oren's plan to end the coffee crisis

i suppose i deserve it, don'cha know? not minutes after i had posted about the continued fall in coffee prices, bccy pal and scaa pro member oren sends me this observation:

"Nice note on the coffee prices of recent days. I think if you say something similar tomorrow and the market reacts the same, we have a plan to end the crisis!


naturally oren's link shows that the price of green coffee is rising, up to US$0.75 for march 2005 delivery to nearly US$0.87 for march 2006 delivery.

but this is one case where i'd just love to be wrong every day!

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

just when you thought it couldn't get any worse

it does. earlier this year, it seemed like green coffee prices were on an uptick, which due to the now-4-year-old world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis," was a good thing.

coffee farmers might be able to make a living growing coffee and not feel pressure to switch to illegal drugs. coffee workers might be able to feed themselves picking coffee and not feel pressure to head north to cross the border to arizona illegally.

but alas it was not to be. the price of coffee continues to drop substantially as brazil and vietnam insist on overproducing low-quality coffee. this strategy of racing to the bottom won't help either country in the long run, and i'm surprised they don't understand that.

it's not a feasible development strategy. as these countries continue to plant more and more, growing ever-cheaper, ever-lower-quality beans, more of their population becomes dependent on bad coffee.

but the globe is drinking less of this poor quality java nearly every year; the premium specialty coffee sector is the growing market. thus as consumption of this mass-market coffee continues its decline, brazil and vietnam will be caught in a hard, bad place.

it's a recipe for economic depression and social unrest. with the speed of the modern market, it's gonna happen much sooner than much later.

finally, this looks like a great recipe for chocolate-cherry-oatmeal cookies. i don't like oatmeal myself, but i know many do.

posted by fortune | 8:34 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, August 15, 2004

yoga etiquette, part ii

please, i beg of you all if you can learn nothing else about behaving properly in yoga class:

  1. come on time, which displays respect for the teacher and the class
  2. if you must come late, please stand quietly in the back until the chant is finished, when the teacher will find a place for you
  3. if you can't do a steady headstand in a crowded room, go to the wall or stay in half-headstand; don't fall over on other people
  4. if someone has brought a strap or blanket for themselves to use as a prop, don't take it
  5. if you must take it anyway, at least put it back when class is finished
  6. don't ignore all these suggestions and then wonder why everyone in class seems less than welcoming
  7. if you are the teacher in such a situation, please politely help the confused rude person so everyone else's practice can continue on with grace

i think everyone can guess what happened to me today! fortunately she wasn't heavy, so i wasn't injured.

t.k.v. desikachar several times writes that when he was young he had the privilege of teaching asana to well-known people, like krishnamurti. altho' krishnamurti was much older, wiser, and a world-famous author, he always treated desikachar with respect as a teacher.

this, i think, is a good example to follow! i try to do this myself, even when it's a real struggle. . .

posted by fortune | 4:25 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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