Saturday, January 22, 2005
at 3 inches an hour the snow's piling up here in nyc. it's so thick i can hardly see across the street, much less across the east river to manhattan.
but i remain unmoved -- when the weather's this bad, all i do is pull out my king arthur double-dutch dark cocoa blend and stir up a batch of the famed ultimate killer brownie with extra chocolate chips for a fudgy, chewy, puddles-o'-chocolate-
snow? what snow?
of course i serve these with cappuccini brewed from batdorf dancing goat. because brownies need milk, you know.
the brownies take an hour minimum to set up in the center -- actually they are much better the next day but good luck keeping mr. right off them for even 30 mins. -- so i spent that a-washin' my hair. by the time i'd combed it out (easy way to pass a second hour) i was ready for coffee and a brownie myself.
for some reason i was feeling nostalgic even tho' i do loathe snow and so decided to listen to roxy music's avalon as the flakes pile up. forget drifts -- the wind's blowing everything sideways into snow dunes.
most of our bccy coffee friends are in california right now for various scaa-related activities, but it turns out i'm pretty content to look at the salmon-colored street lights transform this thick curtain of snow into a gentle swirling illuminated show while i cut myself another molten brownie. . .
i did also adjust the saeco 2002 to make the juan valdez winter blend in the cafetiére (that's a french press to you!). again. this time, despite the coffee's advanced age, i managed to find a nice middle malty, almost roasted barley, note.
but since this blend is a tad bright, it doesn't really go with said brownies to my mind, you know?
Friday, January 21, 2005
coffee as a health food & lemon pledge
"people who drink more than a cup of coffee a day are less likely to develop liver cancer than those who do not, japanese researchers say."
this story immediately makes me think: that wonderful coffee anti-oxidant, chlorogenic acid!
but alas i can't find any mention of the research on the tohoku university website. this could be due to the fact the english pages aren't up-to-date.
we have to remember that coffee is the number source of those good anti-oxidants/polyphenols/flavonoids in the current american diet. again, if you're serious about this flavonoid business, yummy chocolate-y hot cocoa is the way to go; the amount of flavonoids in cocoa powder kicks green tea.
and while we're on the chocolate front, i recently acquired a bar of the new tree "forgiveness." we could all use more chocolate and forgiveness in our lives, yes?
the new tree line is one of these "functional food" things, where they add stuff that's supposed to be awesome for you; in this case, lemon and tuna cactus(!).
hey, i'm open-minded, and the new tree black-currant "renew" bar was dull, but ok. i mean, that's what i lived on for the 2 days i was at conference, remember? black-currant chocolate bars (back then they were calling it "eternity").
people who don't like yrgacheffe sometimes disparage it as having a "lemon pledge" taste. well, lemme tell ya, that taste is nothing compared to the ultimate pledge-ness of this new tree bar.
it's horrible -- horrible. did i say really bad? to mimic oren's style. . .
mr. right actually made jokes about dusting the furniture with it. "no," i said, "you eat it, not dust with it."
"oh," he replied, "you eat it to clean your spleen! a clean spleen with the power of lemon," he cried.
the cat wasn't amused. the bar's still sitting on my kitchen counter.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
juan valdez winter blend
this of course is the blend mary petitt gave out at the recent nyc coffee meetup at juan valdez.
i've made this coffee in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press) and as brewed espresso, as i've said.
i found it a tad muddy and missing the middle notes in the press; mary herself attributes this to the fact i might have ground it too coarsely. so perhaps i ought to use a more vac pot kinda grind, or just plain make it in the vac pot tomorrow.
let's chat about, you know, the scaa flavor wheel in the great linglese. . .
as an americano, it's definitely bright -- mary calls it sparkling, while i'm sticking to crisp, but i'd advise you to believe her over me on this one, she's the certified pro cupper -- what we can agree on is the syrupy, honey aroma and chocolate-y note in the aftertaste.
since it's unbearably freezing in new york today, i got up early and drank a winter blend americano just to stay warm. living by the water is great until the winter wind comes screaming off the harbor over the east river.
i do love hearing the low, throaty horn of the staten island ferry as it leaves tho'. . .
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
a hot topic running around the blogosphere this week or so is disclosure and ethics. so let me take this moment to discuss my position here.
first of all, as i hope everyone remembers, i am solely a volunteer member at scaa. i am not paid; i get no salary or income of any kind.
the scaa did kindly pick up my airfare & hotel expenses (about US$600) to allow me to attend the atlanta conference planning meetings last year; and the same for conference. and it did so -- thank you, kimberly easson and ted lingle! -- apparently over the objections of those in charge of looking after the scaa budget.
this is only because i worked at conference and before to set up programs, attend online and conference calls, as well as to speak and hold workshops at conference.
they didn't even buy me any food, which was probably just as well, since at conference there is no time to eat or sleep: you are running from one workshop to another, brewing coffee, setting tables, scrubbing the milk off steam wands, pouring coffee, clearing tables, sweeping the floor, fetching milk, and carrying boxes up 2 flights of stairs and across a convention center the size of 3 football fields.
and then you realize the coffee has been sitting for 30 mins. (too long!) and you need to brew another 3 gallons because the master brewing center is backed up working for the pro seminars. . .suddenly it's midnite. and you are informed you have no coffee cups, and you need them for 5:30am; thus you spend the night running thru the hotel seeking china cups.
no china cups available, so you try to get paper cups, and try to establish exactly how many you need, and where you need them, and who will deliver them, since you are picking milk up at 5:00 am yourself. and while the conference supposedly has people to do this, you know from experience that they won't show up until late and will deliver to the wrong room. . .
so you have to call people you barely know on their cellphones (you got these numbers by begging other people for them and promising you would never reveal who gave them to you) at 3:30 am and plead with them as a personal favor -- because you have no coffee business, you can't help these people make money -- to get up in an hour and a half and fetch cups for you.
you also have to call and thank the people who kindly sent biscotti from new york and the u.k. for you because you need to take help from anywhere you can get it!
this led one waggish scaa board member to remark that i was the hardest working scaa staff member. which is funny precisely because i'm not at all on staff; but does underestimate the amount of work the scaa staff really does.
that's my position as a c-member "consumer advisory group liasion volunteer" to the consumer marketing subcommittee at scaa. scrubbing is so glamorous, right?
it's not clear that they will cover any of my expenses this year. in fact, i doubt they will, as one former scaa president told me recently he would personally fight to prevent that.
so i'm back to depending on the kindness of strangers. . .because i don't think (altho' i could be wrong here!) that c-members have a line-item in the scaa budget.
and there are costs i pay for myself, such as the whole coffee meetup thing; other costs for events have been picked up by generous and visionary coffee industry sponsors (which i deeply appreciate!)
now that's the disclosure; let's talk about the ethics. scaa chief ted lingle and others can attest that i email them with ethical questions because i am aware that as a committee volunteer, i do represent the group.
let's talk about the events i hold -- i do try to hold events at scaa pro member coffeeshops, and to work with scaa pro member roasters and allied members. this is not because of the travel expenses above, but because in general scaa pro members adhere to higher coffee standards and are attempting to create and promote what we coffee lovers want: better coffee.
further, i am aware that we are all partners in the coffee family. closing the gap between farmers, greenies (importers/exporters/brokers), brownies (roasters), machine-makers (allied), retailers, baristi and consumers is the only way we coffee drinkers are going to able to communicate what we want to the industry in detail.
and that's one goal of the scaa c-member program, besides, of course, just having fun learning more about coffee. (long-time members of alt.coffee who are silvia owners can attest how we used to futilely attempt to contact rancilio! now mark prince holds a well-attended event at conference every year where consumers and machine-people can dialogue about coffeemakers. . .)
however, i have included non-members in my events since as ted lingle said to me: "everyone is welcome in our church; not just the choir."
let me close this discussion by mentioning the coffee descriptions. as everyone knows, i don't accept ads on this site; unlike some other coffee sites, i don't make money in any way from the coffee industry.
the only ads are those unwelcome ones that my search engine atomz has started tacking on; none of that money comes to me. and as soon as i can find a better, no/low-cost, ad-free search engine, i'll be dumping atomz.
i will sometimes ask for coffee to describe, but as anyone reading the comments on this site can see, mostly brownies very kindly offer me coffee. i love coffee and am happy to try and correctly describe anyone's specialty coffee.
unlike some coffee review sites, i don't sell coffee in other guises on other domains. and if i don't like a coffee, i'll say so: long-time readers will remember me writing things like, "i don't like coffees roasted this dark, but... " and then proceed to try to describe them accurately because someone else might like them.
ted lingle told me that as a consumer, i am allowed my preferences. if i were an scaa board or staff member, that of course would be a different story.
i describe coffees primarily to teach myself to cup, to learn to use the scaa flavor wheel, the nez du café, to understand the coffee cuppers handbook, and to help others do so as well. other consumers are devoted to home-roasting -- i am devoted to cupping, to learning to appreciate coffee as a fine beverage.
also please notice i never put numbers on my reviews unless asked or unless participating in a formal group cupping where we are using the scaa or cup of excellence form.
as for coffee machines, i am rarely sent them: when i am, i use them as door prizes for my events, to encourage more people to make better coffee at home. the only machine i have besides silvia is of course my steamy latin guy, carlos expobar, from todd at wll, in return for which i wrote an article on their website about coffeekids -- so that was a trade.
i don't call up machine vendors and demand machines to review -- and then keep. but i won't make a secret of the fact that i would like to be able to discuss more machines.
however, i would prefer to discuss them and then give them away to other consumers as promotional items, like the coffee meetup door prizes, or at other events i hold on behalf of the scaa. i think that policy serves the entire coffee community better and maintains a more ethical position.
to end this overlong post, i am happy to make reasonable factual corrections. usually i will edit the piece to include them; often i will also note corrections in the comments.
but to close on a lighter note: i know we all admire the bat-muncher's delicate hand with eyeliner, but hey guy, keep it to 3 or 4 6-oz. cups a day, ok?
coffee is a beautiful, romantic, intellectual beverage to be savored with fine appreciation; it's not a caffeine-drug-delivery system!
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
fun with daterra & don't forget sumatra
while the overall effect of the tragic tsunami on coffee may not yet be clear, it's still important to remember that the rebuilding there will be long-term, and people need to be fed.
i've mentioned the coffee-oriented relief fund before. don't forget coffeekids, which has so far raised about US$50,000 for sumatra from the coffee community. this has been used to buy, among other things, 3 tons of rice to feed the people there.
you can also contribute by enjoying peter g's counterculture aceh relief coffee.
here in new york i was intrigued to read in the ny times yesterday that dunkin donuts intends to take on the mermaid in manhattan by opening 200 stores. since the dunkin coffee is a lighter roast, which is generally more in line with new york regional taste preferences, i would expect it to be a battle royal. . .
until i read that dunkin is opening only smallish stores! many new yorkers who frequent the mermaid do so to utilize those large comfy seating spaces as their living rooms.
dunkin must be betting on the to-go market here and may be avoiding an out-and-out confrontation with howard.
but let me skip past this small news to the cupping held at the exchange by daterra, producers of specialty brazil coffees. there's been a lot of talk about these coffees lately on coffeegeek.
alas, i only had time to drop by the tasting briefly. linda had held a similar tasting on the west coast, and the coffees that were said to have the buzz from there were the "sweet yellow;" the pre-blended "sunrise;" and the pre-blended "villa borgesi."
i thought the "sunrise" was interesting. others liked the peaberry they offered, number "647."
(scaa flavor wheels at the ready?)
the "sunrise" seemed like a good bet for espresso to me: one of the thicker-bodied coffees there, with a floral-type fragrance, mild taste, and almond or marizpan-y aromas. i didn't get a chance to cup it cold.
i thought the "villa borgesi" had an intriguing fragrance, floral and almost like hazelnut extract. i was running a tad late, but i would have liked to have sampled that particular coffee; i just didn't get a chance to taste it!
it was also fantastic to see the ever-gracious linda smithers, karen gordon, oren bloostein and genevieve felix, peter longo, mary petitt (this woman should rule the universe, to my mind! i love her "gondola paddling" method of bringing the grounds up from the bottom of the cup to smell; she manipulates her spoon just as a gondolier rows the oar [remo] in the oarlock [forcula]), among others.
many thanks to linda for being so sweet as to open the doors and let me slip in.
what was also deeply interesting was to hear isabel and luis pascoal, the farmers, describe the advanced technology they are using at daterra to insure high-quality. for example, they have divided the farm into small parcels and use gps to track all the coffee.
so when they taste a certain batch of coffee, they can tell immediately what part of the farm it came from, how those trees were cared for, even what workers were responsible for that plot, etc. and i was happy to hear that they offer health care, housing, and educational programs for all their workers.
their coffees are rainforest and utz kapeh certified; plus they have worked to preserve natural wetlands and waterfalls on their farm. the pascoals have also planted fruit trees to attract native birds back to the land.
since they work with illy, they have advanced espresso labs on site, which was really cool to hear about. they also have a very interesting and to my brief experience unique method of cupping coffees for espresso.
they do this 3 blends at a time, using 3 cups of each blend. the cupping lab worker chooses 1 cup from one blend, 1 cup from a second, and all the cups from the remaining.
the cupper has to first identify what 3 cups are the same. then the cupper discards the 2 extra cups of the "same" batch, and cups one bowl of each as normal.
they also taste the espresso thru the brew process, by sampling it as an americano. further, they test by measuring and tasting the wet crema, as well as measuring and tasting the dry crema alone in a cup after drying out the liquid.
and last but not least, they divide the shot into 6 second stages, to catch each 6 seconds of every pour into an individual shot glass for tasting.
Monday, January 17, 2005
i was so honored today to have the chance to talk to former scaa president linda smithers, who's now with daterra coffee. this is so interesting because i believe some of the daterra superpremium brazil is in the stockfleth's espresso blend that's coming from 2004 world barista champ, tim wendelboe!
but of course linda smithers is one of the loveliest and most gracious people in coffee today. speaking of lovely and gracious coffee people, i took the time today to make up some of the juan valdez coffee mary petitt gave out at the recent nyc coffee meetup.
this "winter blend" is also called "el retorneo," in honor of the return of displaced coffee families to their villages. i made this coffee in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press) and as an americano.
i have to say that for a coffee i believe mary intended as drip, it had very good crema, and i really liked it in the americano. it's crisp, tho', even when brewed as espresso.
i'll talk more about this coffee in a little bit when i've had more time with it.
i did want to make up the last of david's atomic organic essenza this morning, which i served to mr. right. he quite liked it, actually, altho' the i sometimes doubt that any coffee can ever take the place of his favorite batdorf dancing goat.
as it's aging, the essenza's chocolate-y feeling increases. i think it makes a great cappuccino on a frigid winter morning!
Sunday, January 16, 2005
the essenza vs. hot cocoa
i think the main difference between david's atomic "essenza" blend and the hot cocoa yesterday is the chinese 5 spice powder.
grab your scaa flavor wheel. . .what do you mean, you don't carry a copy of this in your bosom with your cellphone and visconti? are you mad?
the organic essenza is the same medium medium-dark color as the veloce; however, it's oilier; many beans are covered in oil up to 1/4, unlike the pinpricks i see on the veloce.
the sweet, heavy motor-oil/crema-glob thing is alive and well on the essenza, even tho' it's now 8 days old. the dry grounds offer an intense fragrance of fresh basil and bay leaves.
the aromas reminded me of marzipan and dark madagascar vanilla. but that aftertaste is pure long dark chocolate, a little powdery, like cocoa.
fabulous stuff: i think i prefer this as an americano, personally, with splenda and light cream. that's when it's most like hot cocoa to me.
sunday, as long time readers know, is pizza day here at bccy, and the usual dough is rising up a storm. i took my old recipe and modified it according to hamelman's techniques, particularly in the mixing.
drizzling the oil in during the last 2 mins. of the second mix does improve the dough i think. again, the roul'pat's a huge help in shaping and handling a slack-ish dough.
oops! time to get dressed for yoga! excuse me, must dash. . .this class still after all this time doesn't have a permanent teacher, and it's getting a tad wearying not to know what's going on with it, honestly.