Saturday, February 12, 2005
valentines day approaches ever faster
i don't want to bum you out, but i have to keep up on this. .. . long-time readers may recall that i often wrote about the issue of child slave labor in the chocolate industry.
after much outcry, the global chocolate community promised to take a few measures by july 2005. but now it looks as if they are lagging and won't fulfill their promises (use bugmenot, if asked).
don't be surprised to hear more about this issue soon. however, let's focus on the positive today, shall we?
i very much like this piece offering advice on how to choose quality chocolate for your valentine. freshness is key to my mind, along with high-quality ingredients and artisan manufacturing.
i know many people on a budget are surprised that i recommend chocolates that cost upwards of US$40 a pound. if you're pinching pennies, i often suggest making donnelly's truffles.
however many people tell me that working with chocolate intimidates them. so i recommend my brownie recipe.
inexpensive, fudgy, and easy to make (only 15 minutes, plus 25 baking time!), they will prove popular with your sweetheart and since you made them yourself, you appear extra-ultra-thoughtful.
Friday, February 11, 2005
regional coffee culture, part xxxii
"when chris and jenny wood sold their camberwell pasta restaurant three years ago, they could scarcely have imagined a future training tibetan monks in the art of making the perfect latte."
buddhist monks love coffee (if you need it, use bugmenot). it's a subject fit for mindful meditation, as anyone who attended the zen coffee meditation last year at the scaa conference in atlanta can attest.
didn't make it? by popular demand, we're holding it again this year in seattle.
conference is such a crazy, busy, stressful place that the meditation is just a great place to sit down for 20 mins. and enjoy a well-made cup of coffee. many people complain that the 24/7 insanity of conference means no one has time to brew a really great cup there.
not so! i make all the coffee for the meditation myself, taking the greatest pains possible.
but if you can't make conference, you too can join the gyuto monks in the perfect latte. . . at home. and you can read master shantideva on the art of becoming a (coffee) bodhisattva at the same time!
espresso machines make great last-minute valentine's gifts. spend that expected tax refund in advance!
and speaking of valentine's day, that's naturally chocolate par excellence. here's a great article on warming the cockles of your beloved's heart with fantastic hot cocoa!
long-time readers know that i favor valrhona or droste cocoa myself. especially the valrhona!
Thursday, February 10, 2005
coffee creates peace
"[coffee farmer] j.j. keki told the crowd that he hopes to become a member of uganda's parliament in 2006. he said his primary support came from muslims and christians who once wanted to kill him and whom he had once hated."
this is such an inspiring tale during these times. "where coffee is served there is grace and splendor, friendship and happiness."
and a big bccy than you to all of you who came out to the nyc coffee meetup last night for the coffee tasting. last time, norman v. won the big door prize, the capresso coffeetec; this time, gary s. took home the melitta clarity.
at the tasting we had on offer: oren's costa rica "la minita"; don schoenholt's gillies yemen mocha sanani and sumatra lintong "kuda mas"; oren's kenya aa kiandu; oren's ethiopian harrar longberry; steve colten of atlantic's ethiopian yrg; colten's kenya aa kirinyaga and a more general kenya blend; among others; and the juan valdez rare colombian maragogype.
so thank you to all of our coffee supporters! if you liked the coffees we tasted at the meetup, you know where and how to get 'em, with the exception of colten's coffees, which are not available retail but were special gifts from the green community to the scaa consumer member program.
in general, we quickly ran thru the scaa flavor wheel (what do all those words mean?), introduced people to the great linglese, and then just had 'em toss out their flavor impressions. it was fantastic.
as clare said, "i had no idea there were all these flavors in coffee!" after the first meetup, she ditched her whirly-blade and bought a better grinder and a new brewer.
now we've got her drinking fresh whole-bean coffee and given her a little help in articulating her new coffee experience. the rest will be coffee history. . .
for our march meetup, i'm looking into the feasibility of holding a hands-on espresso workshop. will update you all on this shortly.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
regional coffee culture, part xxxi
"it seems that if a town has a restaurant, there is a good chance that you will find a group of men and sometimes women having coffee in the morning. here in chatsworth we sure do."
long-time readers know i've written here about the local coffee culture in just about every place from malaysia, korea, japan, china, india, russia, germany, italy, the u.k., canada, etc.
and i love seeing these little articles in tiny hometown papers about the coffee groups that are central to the community in rural towns. remember niagara, north dakota? hartwell, georgia?
where is chatsworth, kansas? it's a town so small it doesn't even appear on google's new map site -- the closest you can get is el dorado, outside of wichita.
but coffee is central to these people's lives, and they will organize their community in any space they can find. it is really inspiring, the power of their coffee culture.
altho' we urbanites tend to think of these towns as dying, they are alive in java spirit. it's this passionate soul that we in the specialty coffee world should honor and foster among ourselves!
long-time readers may recall that i sent the people of niagara several pounds of gillies coffee to brew after i read about them. they were elderly people who lived on social security alone; they could afford only the big cans of the commercial supermaket coffee, and then only on sale.
i wish i could find some large specialty roaster to send the folks of niagara and the "green banana club" of tiny chatsworth, kansas, 2 pounds of coffee every month. . .
and speaking of coffee communities, i'll see you all tonite at the nyc coffee meetup at juan valdez!
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
plight of the pod people
"The poor quality of the newly introduced homeowner pod systems is another concern. Skeptics wonder if the negative reviews that have met the homeowner pod systems from Melitta, Black & Decker and Philips portend experiences with commercial pod systems.
These homeowner systems have encountered the following issues: 1) Inconsistent reliability of machine construction, 2) Inconsistent brewing temperature, 3) Inconsistent coffee volume, and 4) Messiness resulting from damp pods not being removed immediately from the brewer."
if you were thinking about becoming a "pod person" -- stop! this article tells you why pod machines could be great for the office and incidentally highlights why they suck at home.
but the article forgets point 5: overall, home pod coffee tastes terrible. it's weak and stale.
fresh whole beans freshly ground is the only way to go if you care about great tasting coffee, no matter whether you have a drip brewer, an electric vac pot, an espresso machine, a french press, or a stovetop italian moka pot.
another thing i like about this article is that it quotes long-time bccy pal, chris n. of chris coffee. yay!
many scaa consumer members have purchased high-end espresso machine for home from him. he's a good guy!
finally, don't forget to r.s.v.p. for the meetup tomorrow!
Monday, February 07, 2005
e'en tho' i've never been there, let me bow my head to mark the decision to close a glasgow treasure, the city's landmark coffee shop, open since 1841.
independent coffeehouses of this type are community gems, and their loss is a blow to the history of any town. thomsons, farewell.
even tho' the family will continue to sell coffee at its roastery and online, so many memories will be lost.
but let's give a big bccy round of applause to long-time pal, scaa consumer member, and altie, jim schulman, for his great mention in time magazine's new piece on home roasting. way to go, jim!
devoted readers may recall that jim filled in for me here while i was in venice last year. and i've written about his astonishingly high-quality home roast here and here as well.
since jim knows more about coffee than many in the business, that the national press has finally discovered him is a very good thing for coffee lovers! finally we might start reading more articles about coffee that accurately reflect our point of view.
and before i forget: it looks like the door prize for the scaa nyc feb. 9 coffee meetup and basic origin tasting could be a melitta "clarity" drip brewer. these are very well-regarded machines and no one really understands why melitta stopped making them for those dopey pod things!
r.s.v.p., show up on wed., and this baby could be yours. . .
Sunday, February 06, 2005
coffee, as the djinn will tell you
sometimes it's just curious how my mind works -- the weird connections that form. . .
as i read this article today, i thought how completely odd it is. i suppose the only form of lovesickness left now is the sad erotomania (and no, i'm not trying to discuss harlan ellison here -- i mean his online database doesn't even seem to mention his very famous short story by this title, which i was forced to read in jr. high school by a geek who is now a famous nanotechnologist at u.c.l.a.).
but of course in arab folktales, shakespeare, and in the lives of many i have known, lovesickness is a serious problem. i have suffered from it myself.
how could we forget the delightful arab version of cinderella where the prince falls deathly ill from love for a girl he knows only by a glimpse of her golden clog?
in this case, he is cured of course by marrying the girl; but ancient arab medical texts seemed to have prescribed coffee for this malady. in the west, burton in the anatomy of melancholy discusses lovesickness and its various remedies, which in the case of young girls included a salad of fresh violets still wet from the dew.
i think the ancient arab doctors were onto something. so my advice to the modern world is: respect lovesickness, and write a script for a triple cappuccino. . . .
as the ancient arab poem goes: "where coffee is served there is grace and splendor, friendship and happiness."
mr. right helpfully spent the entire afternoon re-arranging the kitchen so all my espresso machines, coffee makers, pitchers, tampers, etc. etc. are finally in one cabinet. no more digging through the antique chinese trunk, which was awfully sweet of him.
and finally, i have to say that after months and months of temporary teachers, my favorite sunday evening yoga class finally has a permanent hire: mary beth, a yogaworks teacher from santa monica.
i know a lot of people don't like the whole yogaworks thing but i have to say their teacher training seems intelligent, as programs like that go.
and i do like many of their standard sequencing ideas, such as externally rotated poses before internally rotated ones, as well as as their emphasis on starting poses at the feet, not at the core.