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Saturday, April 02, 2005

regional coffee culture, part xxxvi

". . . will upscale coffee supplant tea in the next few years as starbucks expands in china? . . . starbucks has 175 stores in developed cities like beijing, shanghai and hong kong."

and plans to expand to 6,500, this piece informs us. lemme take a moment to pretentiously quote myself again: "one world under specialty coffee's passionate sway."

in the continuing commentary and discussion of the mermaid, good or evil? there is certainly this fact: she is spreading the culture of coffee around the globe at an amazing pace.

which is a very good thing! unless she lowers her quality, which would be a very bad thing. which some people say she is doing already, an ultra-very-bad thing.

it's like a hitchcock film really: you never know for sure if the spy-heroine is on their side or ours, until cary grant lifts her into the train compartment. . . or she steals the key to the wine cellar. . .

but for me today poured more rain than coffee. the subways and roads flooded briefly and i wasn't sure exactly how i was going to get home from the hairdressers.

but we new yorkers always find a way! the extra time allowed me to ponder my latest craze: the products of alfaparf. especially the linseed oil treatment.

mix it in with your favorite 15-minute hair mask or stir it into theirs; highly recommended! also, it does seem set now that i'll be pond-hopping to london for business the last week of april and the first of may.

i hope to visit a couple of the better-known london yoga studios, like the life center, triyoga or yoga place. yoga styles are surprisingly different between new york and even california.

what will london yoga be like? i'm worried that it seems so heavily skewed to ashtanga!

posted by fortune | 7:25 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, April 01, 2005

ecco's bolivian coe

as promised, i leapt outta bed this morning, dug out my bodum santos vac pot, set my saeco 2002 grinder to "8," and opened andrew's ecco bolivian coe winner from yesterday.

ooh ooh ooh. got your scaa flavor wheel handy?

alas, i didn't have time to formally cup it. but! let's go. . .

like many of andrew's coffees, in my experience, this coffee is a full-city roast, where the very occasional bean shows a mere pinprick of oil.

as i ground this coffee, its beautiful floral character drifted across the kitchen. i used 60g (about 2.1 oz) of dry coffee to a liter (about 33 oz.) water.

as the water rises to the upper globe, there's always a moment where you lift off the lid to stir the grounds. as i did so i caught the dried cherry aroma noted by the cup of excellence jury when they gave this coffee a prize.

remember those "fruit leather" things they used to sell in the '80s? it smelled rather like a cherry fruit leather. . .

the other parts of the bouquet came to me as barley-like, and i agree it has a very pleasant smoothness.

the taste is just on the border between mild and nippy. a gentle, slightly bright feeling.

making coffees in the vac pot usually enhances these olfactory nuances, but usually diminishes the body/mouthfeel. despite the vac pot, this coffee had a fair-to-medium body.

i will definite make it tomorrow, at 4 days old, in the cafetiére (that's a french press to you!) to see how the balance of aromas and body change. it will be different!

every day and every brewing method reveals another aspect of a great coffee such as this! highly recommended.

let me also take this opportunity to welcome the new scaa board members! congrats to long-time bccy pal and scaa consumer member friend, peter g. of counterculture!

if you haven't tried his wonderful coffees yet, dear readers, do it now before he gets too busy to roast it himself any longer!

let me also shake the hand of bccy pal and nyc coffee meetup sponsor mary petitt of juan valdez. she is a proven leader in coffee, and has the unique situation of being a representative of farmers, a certified cupper, a brownie, a greenie, and a retailer with coffeeshops herself -- all in one.

in fact, in electing mary, the pro members of the association only expressed their commitment to the struggling coffee farmer. for what is juan valdez and the colombian federation but the world's largest group of coffee farmers?

in this sense, all coffee farmers are now at the helm of the scaa, a rightful place for them.

i would also like to recognize runner-up and likewise long-time bccy pal doug zell of intelligentsia. apparently it was tight race, and doug -- as anyone who knows him would expect! -- was an admirable gentleman the entire time.

doug has been one of the very oldest friends of us consumer members, and i'm pleased to say that should he decide to run next year, i will proudly and openly support him here. in fact, i encourage him!

he is clearly a major figure who can take the specialty coffee industry in the right direction -- towards new membership and greater quality.

finally, in light of our recent fair-trade discussion this week, i found this article of interest. . .once again, my heart bleeds for this "big four" member. poor, poor p&g.

the fair-trade label alone, i don't think, will move consumers in the long-term unless the coffee is also delicious tasting and high quality! i'm happy to buy fair-trade, organic, rainforest-certified products that taste fantastic. . .and pay a good price for them, too.

posted by fortune | 7:50 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, March 31, 2005

synchronicity strikes again

no, no, i'm not talking about them. i'm talking about andrew barnett of ecco.

actually, i was speaking to the delightful and inspirational chris tacy of stumptown, a.k.a. malachi. we were agreeing that barnett is clearly one of the most visionary and exciting people in specialty coffee today.

so i wander back in the office and what do i find? more of andrew's wonderful espresso, based in those famous world-class superpremium brazils that he has to buy from greenies overseas.

also in his kindness he's sent his roast of the recent bolivian cup of excellence winner, ciana!

this is a hand-washed, sun-dried organic coffee. the jury tasters hailed it for its citrus and dark cherry tones, heralding a smooth finish.

i definitely think a coffee of this caliber cries out for vac pot brewing so none of those precious nuances are lost. first thing tomorrow. . . .

btw, this coffee is roast-dated in andrew's own hand, right on the front of the bag: march 28. it's all rested and perfect for brewing.

posted by fortune | 8:41 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


" 'you can get a tight butt, an open heart and a calm mind all in an hour and a half,' lee said."

but with all due respect, i think the spokesperson from yoga journal maybe underestimates the number of americans doing yoga; it may be more like 20 million+(and here and here) nowadays.

a 2002 poll from u.s. news and world report found 18 million then.

and anyone who's turned on oprah, picked up a magazine, or actually darkened the door of a studio can testify that the trend has mushroomed to an unimaginable size since.

speaking of another trend(!), this one global: coffee has passed from the traditional coffee house, into the new coffee-wine bar, into cocktails, and this has sparked interest in coffee as an ingredient in savory dishes beyond red-eye gravy!

i know a lot of articles you find pair dead leaves with seafood and coffee with red meat. but i suggest you try a very light coffee sauce with duck, goose, or even oily fish like salmon.

last year, at long-time bccy pal clay gordon's now famous chocolate dinner, i thought the savory cherry-chocolate sauce on the duck would actually have been improved with a touch of coffee. . .

posted by fortune | 6:29 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

a fair trade question answered

many people who have questions about fair trade coffee often wonder how much of the US$1.26 set-minimum price per pound actually returns to the farmer and his skilled, hard-working family. today we find out.

today's news story discusses organic and fair-trade farmers with the famous guatemalan co-operative farming group, "la voz que clama en el desierto" ("the voice that cries out in the desert), near lake atitlan. this group unequivocably produces some of the finest coffee in guatemala and probably the world.

so how much do these farmers get back from the base US$1.26 that goes to the co-op? US$1.10, according to the report.

this seems to imply that the co-op keeps US$0.16, or about 12.5%, perhaps not an unreasonable amount for administrative costs. however, in today's rapidly rising price environment, US$1.10 is probably substantially less than what an organic coffee of this quality would bring on the specialty spot market.

last fall, when the market just began to skyrocket, this green coffee would have cost a specialty artisan roaster (or "brownie") about US$1.80 a pound from his green broker ("greenie"). when it was last available in nyc, it cost a brownie about US$2.30.

obviously if you're a coffee farmer at this level looking at prices like these, where US$1.80 minus the greenie's markup (let's guesstimate that to be about US$0.50 in this case) and the 12.5% administration brought you US$1.10 (note that the brownie also seems to have to pay US$0.10 back to transfair, the whole system is elaborate), you're thinking, hmmm, US$2.30 minus greenie markup (let's say that's risen a bit to US$0.60), minus the 12.5% administration or about US$0.21, would get you. . .umm, maybe US$1.49 a pound?

and that extra US$0.39 a pound would go a long way when you're a tzutil mayan peasant farmer on the side of a volcano in guatemala, and who despite your obstacles has devoted yourself to growing only the finest quality java! but i hope a brownie will chime in with a comment to give more accurate current estimates. . .

oh, if you'd like to try some of the famous la voz coffee, i believe you can buy it (when it's still in stock!) from gillies, gmcr, and for home roasters, from tom at sweet marias.

final note: thank you jonathan of joe! you are the very best!

posted by fortune | 7:25 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, March 28, 2005

our prayers

naturally i was completely shocked and saddened to hear of today's aftershock in indonesia. all we can do is pray for the safety of all people there, and hope for blessings to those families who have lost loved ones in today's tragedy.

but in one sense, that's not true. we can also remember that coffee kids' sumatra relief fund is still accepting donations, and we can offer another contribution.

if there is to be -- heaven forfend -- another tsunami, it may not hit thailand and beyond for still an hour or more, but so far it appears that these shocks have not generated a deadly tsunami. if you have good karma to spare, send it that way by whatever means you may personally believe in!

with this concern in mind, i do however want to point out the continuance of a trend that's been going on for about a year now: the popularity of the espresso cocktail.

most popular appear to be concotions with vodka, kahlua, dark crème de cacao, dark rum, and nut-flavored liqueurs or syrups. a full list of popular recipes can be found from susan at coffee martinis.

(that she's donating part of her profits to coffee kids makes this a most excellent venture, to my mind!)

posted by fortune | 11:27 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, March 27, 2005

weeping, weeping, weeping, part iii

"a big, hot, fresh cup comes across the counter ready to last you for hours."

long-time readers might think that this cranky article makes me cry because it attacks what the author -- who despite supposedly having a ph.d. and employment as a professor apparently doesn't know that venti actually does mean 20 in italian -- denounces as pretense in the specialty coffee sphere. but no.

because articles that adopt this "i'm too stupid to order coffee" stance are so common nowadays they're really a faux-humble cliché. nope, what makes the blue nile fall from the corners of my eyes is the above statement: "ready to last you for hours."

aaarrrrggh! as charlie brown would say. because as all coffee lovers can tell you, coffee must be made fresh, with freshly ground, freshly roasted beans, and consumed fresh.

fresh, fresh, fresh. at every stage, fresh.

30 min. old coffee is, as scaa chief ted lingle so politely puts it in his brewing handbook, unpalatable. what makes author p. biedler a self-proclaimed barbarian isn't that he can't tell a grande from a short, or a flavored from a decaf, but that he drinks a cold, aged, insipid brew, from which all the beautiful, subtle notes of the coffee have evaporated.

phil, do yourself a favor: nurse that hours-old cup, and then go fetch a fresh one. taste 'em side-by-side.

the difference will be apparent to anyone who's not an "ex-parrot." fresh coffee -- it's a simple concept. . . .

(and despite what ted himself once told the washington com-post, the handbook's a fascinating read that i highly recommend. if you love good coffee, it's a life-changing little volume, even if you get it only in the condensed version, which is probably adequate for most coffee drinkers.

oh, and for those of you who complain that i always agree with whatever ted says: ted's also wrong about pods. they're not "neat for the consumer." they are another insult to coffee freshness. . .)

posted by fortune | 2:10 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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