Saturday, October 30, 2004
another scaa cupping at the exchange
here's a quick note on a fast development: it looks like i'm going to be holding yet another formal coffee cupping at the exchange for the scaa.
tentatively, it's set for 10am on mon., nov. 8, at the exchange. attendance limited to 10 people.
if you're interested, please email me pronto with a phone number so i can confirm your attendance.
will post more info as it arrives -- look for another update on this fairly soon. . .
Friday, October 29, 2004
potato sourdough starter
i know many of the fire freaks (this term refers to people who are maniacal about their backyard brick bread ovens) are also sourdough addicts. naturally i own a ton of bread books -- just ask mr. right about my overflowing bookcase -- and they all have complex recipes for various sourdough or natural-leaven starters.
so today i was very interested to see a simple recipe for a potato-based sourdough starter with easy instructions that would clearly appeal to those who might like to try sourdough home baking but have been intimidated by the the 30-step procedures you'll find in some books.
long-time readers know i don't bake this way, being more of a european-artisan type baker. but again, i realize many others love that "traditional american" old-timey type sourdough thing.
and this potato-based starter will probably get 'em there. . .
finally, maybe because the weather here in new york for quite a few days has been --with only a couple of breaks -- uniformly gray, i find myself turning back more and more to interpol's second album, which didn't impress me much on the first listen. but it's growing on me.
basically, i'm just marking time for the new low and sleater-kinney. . .
Thursday, October 28, 2004
an environmentally friendly chocolate
i was definitely stoked to wander into my local garden of eden and see a chocolate my latin colleagues had told me about but which i'd never actually grasped in my hot little hands, one called santander. this is a 70% single-origin bar from colombia, complete -- naturally -- with 100% colombian coffee bits.
opening the bar, i immediately noticed finish defects -- i could see the swirl from the mold on the back, and the bar didn't have the best sheen. the snap wasn't great either.
the coffee bits contribute to making the bar a tad crumbly. like many things from latin america, it's quite sweet for a 70%, but otherwise has a pleasant chocolate flavor and a good coffee taste.
it melts ok in the mouth, but of course the coffee makes it a bit gritty.
the website claims that the cacao used in the product has been grown without chemicals and under shade for more than 50 years, altho' it seems the company hasn't submitted the product for official organic certification.
amusing, but not a big deal to my mind. . .not in the same league as el rey at all.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
the 2-tier coffee market
"we are moving toward a two-tier market where we have higher qualities being sold at one price level and commercial grades being sold at another level."
and today as the commercial coffee association, the nca (hiya robert nelson! nice tie, but where's your soul?), holds its little "quality coffee is whatever boosts my stock price" confab in good ole' bklyn, i wanted to present you with the above thought from coffee hero and scaa chief ted lingle.
of course the "higher qualities" means specialty coffee.
i have some trouble talking about this nca conference, because a lot of my dearest friends in the coffee business are there. why are specialty people hanging with these guys, who long only to eat them alive?
as one former prez of the scaa who has many large commercial clients said to me, "look, we're going to testify before them that our way has its benefits. that there are advantages to our way and they should consider that they can borrow our methods, our outlook, and still make money."
this is an appealing thought, surely. but i still can't shake it from my mind's deep recesses that the so-called "big four" multi-national roasting companies, the people responsible for that stuff in the supermarket -- kraft, sara lee, p&g, nestle -- are just using my dear friends.
that the big four will just co-opt the message for their inferior products. that they'll fool coffee drinkers who don't yet have as much information as they need to understand the quality situation.
that then all these people i really care about will find themselves and the beautiful coffees they lovingly produce in the belly of the whale. . .this is why i so desperately seek the soul of robert nelson!
i refuse to admit the possibility that it was lost forever in a container of worm-eaten, triage (and here) coffee-by-products. surely if we all call for it, it will return?
and finally, of course his antics are completely unproductive in terms of educating consumers about the effects of the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis, the problems with what some in the coffee industry call the mermaid's unfair business practices, or the alleged work issues for baristi there, but they're sure funny.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
regional coffee culture, part xxvii
"grooms to be are offered [coffee] in turkey by potential wives and if the man places the empty cup back on a tray afterwards without producing gold or money, he is betrothed to the woman who served him."
ah, the travails of prince charles. but you have to feel sorry for a guy whose only purpose in life is to sit around and wait for his mother to die. . .
and speaking of middle-eastern coffee culture, since we here at bccy will take any opportunity to drink coffee and eat chocolate, we are keen on everybody's holidays. thus i was very interested to see what special java beverages were catching on for this year's ramadan celebration.
since it's obviously still kinda warm in many middle-eastern countries, the big beverages are going to be iced: the surprise is how closely these drinks mirror what's popular here in the u.s.a.
dulce de leche: now that i wouldn't have expected, that a latino flavor would be sweeping the middle east. also, a mexican chocolate and vanilla syrup concotion!
Monday, October 25, 2004
continued beauty note or promised customer service update
the other day i rhapsodized about the possiblities that may be lurking in this acquarella nail polish. but as steady readers will recall, there was a slight shipping situation.
here's the update: i called them on saturday. today i came home and found the missing hand lotion waiting for me at my door.
further, mark from fulfillment did call as promised, and apologized a second time. this company is good on the customer service front, no doubt!
so how is this fabled hand moisturizer? let me say it immediately brought to mind a college pal, one liz waldner, who among other things, lived on aloe vera.
she took a spoonful of aloe vera juice a day, and always rubbed the gel on her face and hands. this acquarella hand lotion was made for her.
because frankly, it seems to contain nothing but aloe vera gel, green tea, the natural humectant sodium pca (a kiehl's favorite), and vitamin c. i honestly believe you could safely drink this stuff -- not that i'd recommend it, since aloe vera has a very bitter taste.
and this hand lotion is very different from the creamy stuff with oil most of us are used to. it's very light, and slightly gelatinous, for obvious reasons, with a straight-forward aloe vera smell.
shake the bottle, squeeze a bit into your palm -- it's wet, like half-set jello. rub into your hands, and after about 20 seconds, it's gone, straight into the skin. wow.
the advantage i immediately saw: it soothed a paper cut i got this afternoon. it does leave your hands soft and with only the slightest scent of aloe.
i don't know how this lotion will hold up to a new york autumn, with its chill winds off the harbor. we'll test this out, along with the requested pedicure, starting tomorrow.
however, i will say that if you live in a mild climate or are a dr. hauschka-type person -- this covers about 3/4 of the yogis and yoginis i know -- then you might enjoy this unusual hand treatment.
test, test, test
long-time readers may recall that every now and then i'd post sports news, of the latest popular pro athlete to take up yoga.
so i'm stoked today to note that australia's cricket test team is now apparently including yoga in its program, for at least some members. this one went off to spend a day with b.k.s iyengar.
thus cricket joins the list of other sports you might not think about in terms of yoga benefits -- like free-diving, poker and snooker. many people were surprised at that post, that the world snooker champion credited his victory to his yoga practice!
the football, rugby, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, and swimming; yeah we could see how yoga would be really beneficial. at this point i'm not sure there's a sporting activity that yoga doesn't help.
speaking of yoga, some people have asked me why i had nothing to say about the huge yoga conference in nyc this past weekend. well, i didn't go.
i didn't go because frankly, it depresses me. i would have loved to see great teachers like erich schiffmann.
but honestly, not only is the thing waaay too expensive, i just couldn't endure the tacky yoga merchandising. the bumper stickers. the spangly t-shirts.
the latest fusion yoga-strip-aerobics class. . . forgive me. there are just some things i can't yet do.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
being a barista is a serious profession!
"in italy, you have to apprentice two years before you can ever pull a shot. . ."
yes, in italy they realize that being a barista is a real job worthy of real training and respect. when will more north american coffeeshop owners likewise comprehend this and offer their staff serious training and health insurance?
when will customers begin to understand that a trained barista is like a sous-chef? today we learn at least two cafe owners in montana are beginning to get with the program!
however, i hope the paper reporting on their coffee enlightenment made a typo when it writes:
"this polyphasic beverage is made by forcing perfectly temperatured water at 100 degrees fahrenheit through finely ground coffee particles. this process creates an emulsion of microscopic oils trapped in a solution of sugars, acids, protein materials and caffeine, suspended as a foam of bubble and solids."
um, i think they mean 200 degrees, or thereabouts. . .
if this knowledge has penetrated to the badlands of montana, when o when will it more generally arrive here to improve new york's coffee scene?
in pizza news, i'm experimenting today with a lower-protein flour, to help get a slightly thinner, slightly more crispy crust. however, i can't sacrifice the basic chew, you know?
will report how this works out. . .new yorkers -- that is mr. right -- must have a crust both crispy when you first bite into it, but then still chewy for the eating. difficult balance to achieve!