Saturday, August 28, 2004
to my mind, a double eagle is the large brass critter on top of the old victoria arduino at the caffé reggio. so perhaps it was strange that yesterday evening i was met after yoga by a golf connoisseur.
yes, it's true, apparently there's a new magazine called golf connoisseur, and they sent one manny howard to do a coffee lifestyle story. but of course i can't make coffee for people without ultra-fresh beans, so i called up oren's famed genevieve to met me there as well.
this is how myself, a french babe, and the golf connoisseur came to be playing with freshly roasted harrar horse and a vac pot. we were in desperate search for that elusive blueberry feeling. . . and we couldn't really find much of it.
at first i thought the coffee was roasted too darkly. but genevieve thought it was perhaps too finely ground, and thus overextracted.
poor manny was freaking out with too much information, as we talked about the famed "lingle coffee constant," cupping, and the nez du café.
then of course the real secret came out -- manny and his editor want me to throw a cupping at the exchange just as i did last june for the scaa consumer membership.
further, the editor asked that "a ringer" be thrown in. what does that mean, i asked? some really bad coffee, he replied, to trip up the tasters.
this nearly threw me for a loop. did he think a cupping was some kind of coke and pepsi challenge?
that people like former scaa prez steve colten and don schoenholt of gillies -- people who've been cupping coffee for 30 years -- are really going to mistake that folgers for an estate antigua? that genevieve is just a nice girl with a pretty face?
he really thought i was going to help him set up a situation to humiliate people i basically regard as father figures? i was so angry i nearly spit.
but then i thought: no. i'll show them. when i come back from italy, this whole thing is going down.
and the editor at golf connoisseur had better bring an omelet pan so he can do something useful with the egg that will surely decorate his face. . . .
because dear readers, even i myself, a famous loser, can tell folgers in a blind cupping. how?
the folgers will be the one you really, really, wanna spit as fast as humanly possible. . .the fine coffees are the ones you wish you didn't have to. . .
Friday, August 27, 2004
the yoga sutras, sort of
so busy today! but i have to write about yesterday evening, when i went to see geshe michael roach chat about patanjali's yoga sutras from a tibetan buddhist perspective at jivamukti. i didn't expect to see so many people i knew there!
it turned out it was a big deal, part of a long course, but i just dropped in for one session. he and his sanskrit-writing pal, christine, were discussing the last portion of the second book, or pada, which outlines some of the karmic rewards of the yoga practice.
let me just say that i was a tad displeased that he started late, making us stand for a long time for a big entrance, like a rockstar. but he is a charming, engaging, original, and really quirky -- very very topanga canyon, you might say -- speaker, so i forgave him that.
what really threw me for a loop was the poor quality of the sanskrit pronounciation. people who are really into sanskrit make a big deal about saying it correctly.
the tantric yoga tradition believes that our bodies contain 3 main channels or "nadis" for life energy: the ida, pingala, and susumma. and the flow of prana, "bioenergy" -- or however you want to say that -- is said to "sing" or "chant" sanskrit as it moves thru these nadi.
so proper pronounciation is crucial if you want to get yourself hooked up in tune with your own singing body. it's a charming metaphor, no doubt; rather "music of the spheres."
but at this class, students in the audience just mumbled their way thru it, and there wasn't any correction or emphasis on correct sound. christine would choose an important word or two from each verse, write it in sanskrit, and discuss its roots, and english cognates.
that was very interesting, to see the sanskrit or proto-indo-european roots, and see how they related to english and latin words.
the translations or interpretations of the sutras also gave me pause. i'm not expert, but some of them were so loose to be really peculiar.
for example, let's take pada 2, sutra 45: samadhi siddhir ishvara pranidhanat. this is straight-forward even for those without deep sanskrit ability.
samadhi is the highest state of meditation, or "union with the absolute." siddhir is the verb of siddhi, attainment; thus "to attain."
ishvara is "the absolute" as you understand it, which for some will be god, for others, nature, (for me, chocolate! ) etc. pranidhanat is "surrendering," or turning yourself over to the wisdom of the absolute.
so this simple sutra is an equation: surrendering to the absolute brings you to samadhi. the verse encourages some sense of deep humility or devotion before that which is greater than yourself.
roach translates this as: "if you seek your master's blessing, you attain final meditation." while at first it doesn't seem too bad a rendering, i think this really shrinks the meaning of the sutra.
"your master" sounds like it is a human person, a guru; but i think the verse is aiming much higher than just getting a pat on the head from a guy in purple robes, you know?
and as it refers to the absolute, i'm not sure our relationship with that -- whatever that means to you personally -- is one of master-servant, you know? i like mark whitwell's explanation of our relationship to the absolute much better. . .
i also take a little issue with the previous sutra, pada 2, sutra 44: svadhyayad ista devata samprayogah.
again, not a toughie. svadhyayad is "self-study" in all senses of the term; it means devoting time at home to reading important or spiritual texts, and this traditionally includes chanting them, or using them as mantras.
ista devata is the "divine form of your choice" so to speak, again referencing your personal understanding of the absolute. samprayogah is roughly to be "in union with" or to experience "the state of yoga with."
christian people might choose the word "communion" here. the meaning of this sutra is also pretty simple: read (or chant) holy books to experience oneness with the absolute.
roach translates this as "if you engage in regular study, then you come to be with the angel of your deepest dreams."
let's ignore the new-age feel of this interpretation, and once again, i have an uneasy sense of shrinkage here. . ."angel" seems too small for ista devata, while "be with" doesn't at all convey the same sense of blissing out or almost dissolving into a divine presence.
am i having tea with some blonde guy in a dress and big white feathers? i really don't mean to nitpick!
and lastly, i found his version of pada 2, sutra 37 unusual: "asteya pratishthayam sarva ratnopasthanam." this one is a little harder.
asteya is "non-stealing;" ratno is a form of the word "jewel;" pasthanam is very roughly "present" or "appear."
roach translates this as "if you make it a way of life never to steal from another, then there will come a time when people just come to you and offer you all the money you need."
whoa! halt! i think the meaning of this sutra isn't too hard: if you don't steal, you'll be rewarded with jewels. but surely roach knows that these jewels aren't actually "money!"
clearly the sutra is discussing what you might call "moral or spiritual adornments." this isn't some kind of make-millions-by-leveraging-real-estate seminar here, is it? people aren't just going to start mailing me checks in some kind of yogic ponzi scheme, right?
i think this translation is just too flip. i do appreciate roach's humor, overall. really, i do.
what roach did say that was completely valuable was this: "the only real source of wealth is what you do for other people." which instantly reminded me of a famous saying by scaa chief ted lingle: "you only get to keep what you give away."
i actually recommend roach's course -- as my companion carl "upside down" horowitz remarked, it was pretty entertaining due to the geshe's personal style, but not at all serious as a sanskrit study group.
one thing roach said that i really took to heart: "you can choose to see a subway full of weird crazy drunk homeless people or you can choose to see them as beautiful blessed tantric deities, shining beyond compare." from now one, i'll be imagining them all as barista champions. . .
Thursday, August 26, 2004
let's just say this plain: i love mark inman's taylor maid "espresso a-go-go." and this is surprising, because it's a much darker roast than i usually prefer.
i didn't have time to properly cup it this morning -- that work thing really gets in the way of one's coffee appreciation -- so i just made it as espresso and drank the puppy down. then i realized what i had done.
no no no no. let me step back for a moment and explain. . .when i peeled back the valved top of the can, i saw lovely large beans. dark-to-chocolate-roasted beans, covered in full oil, what some might call a high-espresso to low-french roast.
i prefer a lighter, northern-italian style and in general recoil from these darker, "west coast" roasts. thus i was a-gog at the a-go-go from the get-go.
but i was determined to taste the blend. so i measured it straight into my mazzer mini and off i went. let me say, this blend is easy to work with; i didn't have to spend a lot of time dialing it in -- the usual setting i keep the mazzer at was spot on.
and it poured in a beautiful honey-thick stream flecked with crema from my italian princess, the rancilio silvia, fitted as usual with a la marzocco double basket in the single-spout portafilter. i gave it a 27-second pour for 1.75 oz.
and how did the coffee taste? even tho' it didn't get the full cupping treatment (no playing with the nez du café), i'm going to haul out the whole linglese for this party.
so drag out your copy of scaa chief ted lingle's flavor wheel and cupping handbook 'cuz we're going to town. . .
the all-arabica espresso a-go-go's a dark-roast blend, with heavy, buttery body. (it coats the back of a demitasse spoon like zabaione.)
as for the bouquet, the fragrance of the dry grounds reminded me strongly of chinese 5-spice powder, but without the sweetness of the star anise.
i was surprised that despite its roast level, it lacked any smoky or harsh notes. slurping it from the cup as brewed espresso, the blend welcomed me with a deep honey and dark madagascar bourbon vanilla feeling, then closed with an intense ultra-dutch unsweetened cocoa note.
the taste is smooth and sweet. again, i was amazed that i could drink a coffee this darkly roasted without any sugar. i mean, i just drank it down; it was much less pungent than its color might suggest.
to be fair to the blend, i had to try it as an italian-style cappuccino, right? usually coffees this dark cut strongly thru the milk.
yet the espresso a-go-go blended more harmoniously into the microfoam. it wasn't lost there, but just made a happy meeting.
if you put syrup or flavoring into this cappuccino, you'd be losing the pleasant character of the bean. definitely not a coffee for those who use syrups; it won't stand out.
remember, i don't really like dark-roast coffees at all, and yet i found the a-go-go a truly charming morning friend. highly recommended!
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
all things conical
and today what arrived in the mail but 3 of those cute little yellow cans from mark inman's taylor maid! yuppers, we're talking 3 whole-bean espressos: "espresso a-go-go," "espresso occidental," and "organic panic!"
these blends are all certified organic and shade-grown. tomorrow morning i'm whipping out the can opener and going to town. . .these are all perfectly recyclable steel.
however, i'm looking at them and thinking they will make great molds for home-made mini-panettone (this recipe is worth creating an account for, to my mind).
i do recall when women set their hair on coffee cans for that ultra-bouffant bardot look, but while i've got the locks, it's not my scene.
i just can't see myself stumbling about the yurt that way! it's a big bccy thank-you to scaa board member mark inman for the coffee.
actually that yurt is sounding better and better. . .persian rugs. . .an outdoor hot tub. . .i wonder!
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
after some delay, don schoenholt's new website at gillies is now up, but still in testing when it comes to the e-commerce. so go browse the coffee listings, and then order by phone until the final kinks are worked out.
ask for olive. she's a sweetie.
in fascinatng news, we find today that after various kinds of alcohol, chocolate is the favorite consumable in the u.k. the british spend more on chocolate than any other food (since i don't think liquor counts as food, really!).
the british press bemoans this state, but i think it shows how concerned the brits are about their health, since we now know how great a reasonable amount of chocolate is for you with all those groovy anti-oxidants.
and since wine is also packed with different anti-oxidants, we think the british are probably being smart by consuming both together. but moderation has to be the key here!
Monday, August 23, 2004
a victrola moment
everyone remembers the old logo for the victrola. yoga students can also have their own victrola moment!
the ever-fabulous carl "upside down" horowitz sent me this great link to actual recordings of renowned yoga teacher krishnamacharya reciting a series of beautiful yoga texts and chants before his death.
why have i never heard these before anywhere here in nyc?
and last but not least an amusing u.k. survey on office coffee etiquette. . . it's leading up to the annual u.k. coffee morning event for cancer held by well-known u.k. charity macmillan.
this year it's on sept. 24th, i believe.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
i spent about an hour writing a lovely thoughtful post about this:
"go to starbucks, however, and even if their 'fair trade' brew isn't available that day, you can sip your latte in the knowledge that the company does have policies that improve the welfare of growers in the developing world. . . .starbucks is a huge purchaser of coffee worldwide and should be lauded and encouraged to go further by ethical consumers. instead, it is usually one of the first targets for anti-globalization protesters."
and in response to the article, i thoughtfully and eloquently detailed all the pluses and minuses of the mermaid. and i explained why unlike some, i have mixed feelings about that girl.
and i did agree that consumers should be more outraged by the misbehavior of the "big four" -- sara lee, kraft, nestle, p&g (plus probably tchibo) multi-national roasters responsible for the low-quality coffee we see too much of. (think "cans.)
but as i was posting, blogger crashed and all the pretty electrons took their information with them elsewhere. however i am heartened to learn that dr. hawking believes no information is completely lost.
so if anyone is walking around downtown london, or sea-kayaking in patagonia, and my lovely post turns up. . . lemme know. for comfort's sake.
or perhaps thru some sort of gilgul or metempsychosis it will return as a double espresso. . .