Saturday, June 18, 2005
how to save yourself big bucks
i mean, US$55,341. that's how much your daily mermaid latte habit is costing you, as opposed saving that money and banking the interest on it.
this figure comes up in a discussion of whether law students are digging themselves into humongous debt -- lattes apparently forming a signficant share of that burden.
long-time readers note that i have always been a major advocate of making your own coffee at home. because frankly not only is it much cheaper, it's patently much better quality.
even if you were to splurge on US$150 alessi designer cafetiére (the proper name for a french press), US$100 on a burr grinder, and US$40 on 2 fancy coffee cups, and further, resolved to drink only kona, you'd still save soooo much money. and of course the coffee would be stellar, well beyond anything starbucks could hope to serve you.
it's important to remember that even US$25 a pound kona is a bargain as a beverage -- a pound of coffee makes about 40 6oz. cups. this means that even for the fanciest kona you're only paying US$0.63 a cup.
of course you can get many fantastic prize-winning coffee origins for much less; say you were to indulge yourself for a pound of that stumptown "ravishing indigo" 2005 m.a.o. ethiopian harrar horse, which cost me (with substantial shipping) US$18. or US$0.45 a cup.
this rivals the cost of a can of soda when bought as a 6-pack at my local grocery store. and even this might be seen as extravagant, since many local independent roaster/retailers offer lovely house blends for around US$9 a pound, again just US$0.23 a cup.
and again, you'll be enjoying the highest-quality, most delicious coffee! plus, since you bought a set of 2 fancy cups, you can impressively entertain a special someone in high style, pouring from your rockin' alessi press.
so let's think about that; let's say you go whole hog on the alessi (actually attractive and functional cafetiéres can be had from bodum and others for US$40!) and drop US$300 on coffee bling.
you're free & clear over the starbucks in less than 17 weeks, even if you factor in the mythical US$75 of kona you're drinking the whole time. plus you're the envy of everyone you know. . .
if you buy the US$40 press and live on your local independent roaster's house blend, you're free so much sooner, probably just 8-9 weeks. and you're still drinking incredible fresh coffee, which you can share with your friends.
and you're sooo much thinner -- do you know how many calories are in those mermaid caramel macchiatos? you'd be shocked. . .
it's a no-brainer. what does disturb me about the above article, however, is the expert who suggests running anti-coffee ads, as for cigarettes. hey!
moderate coffee consumption has been proven beneficial for the health of both men and women by independent peer-reviewed studies, big guy -- something you absolutely cannot say for smoking tobacco. you can't make this comparison, not even for dramatic effect.
but this nonsense aside, i find the mermaid's new move to sell music amusing. it's been successful for them and the artists, no doubt.
before i used to note that starbucks actually is a milk business -- those drinks on the whole contain far more milk than coffee -- and with their ventures into wi-fi and now music, we see them wandering towards becoming a technology company!
soon the coffee and snacks will be mere inducements to get you into the store to buy music and (why not?) movies next. the wi-fi could morph logically into cell phone and other mobile technologies -- get your cool starbucks-branded mobile device, the "coffee cherry."
this is eerily similar to the old british coffee company lyons, which in the '50s flirted with early computer technology, at one time being one of the largest computer processing concerns in the world.
but of course the lyons empire fell apart in the late 70s, and was sold off in bits and pieces to kraft and paulig. . . altho' apparently the brand survives as a low-quality line. . .this may presage the eventual fate of starbucks, hmm?
Friday, June 17, 2005
gift from a coffee devi
and yesterday i was deeply privileged to receive a most unexpected package in the mail: some coffee from the all-around devi, suzanne shriner.
suzanne is the ultimate bccy goddess: she's a kona estate coffee farmer, a coffee roaster, a yoga teacher, and a candy-maker! plus i believe that for the b&b portion of the coffee farm, she sometimes bakes as well.
in short, we here at bccy dream of growing up to be suzanne. if you're fond of kona's famous cloud-sun coffee (a "coffee blessed by nature," as ken davids says), you can put bccy principles in action by buying direct from the farmer/roaster herself!
it's pretty amazing that suzanne can roast on a monday and have the coffee fresh in my hands here in nyc in just 3 days. she doesn't really have a fulfillment or packing staff, you know.
lemme give you a quick description of suzanne's coffee, which is classically a slope kona. you'll forgive me for not "wasting" any of this in a formal cupping, but instead making up every precious bean to drink!
suzanne air-roasts her coffee to what i would call a mid-city roast. the dry grounds are fragrant and sweetly spicy.
i popped 60g. of this brown gold into my cafetiére (that's a french press to you!), poured over 1 liter of 203 degree water, stirred, and tapped my foot until those 4 minutes went by. . .
i was rewarded with an above-medium brightness (coming from the slopes, you'd expect suzanne's coffee to be bright; her air-roasting of course only serves to enhance that quality) and with a medium body (because i made in the press pot).
i thought suzanne's coffee had a strong sweet brazil nut taste. yummy. i especially liked it with a touch of light cream and splenda.
and speaking of our friends who roast coffee, lemme thank kevin of gimme for his compliments. gosh: you're too kind.
the best thing about the scaa is that we in the specialty coffee family are finally able to close the loop and connect all our friends together: the utz kapeh farmers, former scaa prez christian wolthers the greenie, myself as consumer, and of course kevin, the roaster/retailer. . .this has always been ted lingle's vision.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
mendiant and guatemala
in response to your email, dear readers, i will quickly recap my description of the gillies standard guatemala shb european prep i've been drinking as an iced coffee recently!
i've been making this in my little vac pot, 60g. (about 2 oz.) ground coffee to 1 liter (about 32 oz.) of water. don schoenholt of gillies roasts this coffee in the traditional new-york style, which will appear a tad light to those accustomed to west-coast style roasts.
i'm calling it a true city roast. the fresh dry grounds are nicely floral.
it's a sweet, nippy coffee, with aromas of lemon rind and vanilla. hot it displays a remarkable caramel-y and roasted, candied hazelnut quality; since i made it in the vac pot, it had only a medium-light body.
chilling seems to me to downplay the lemon and vanilla, while the brightness comes a tad to the fore. i always enjoy it with some unflavored splenda syrup and a tablespoon of light cream.
but because of its native hazelnut quality, a dash of the superb routin 1883 sugar-free hazelnut syrup would be all good! also to go with that hazelnut quality . . .i confess!
i had a row of the chapon mendiant bar: its chopped almonds, pitachios, and hazelnuts were just the perfect companion. . . not that i recommend chocolate for breakfast.
um, at least not regularly, you understand. . .
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
never boil coffee. . .even so-called "cowboy coffee." eggs cook safely at 160 degrees f (about 71 c), while a good temperature for coffee is 195 degrees f (about 91 c).
so "boiling" as the above recipe suggests will not only destroy the coffee, but also give you rubbery eggs! all bad.
i took the rest of this morning's vac pot of the stumptown "ravishing indigo" and popped it into my thermos, which i've placed in the fridge at work. yuppers, i'm living on iced harrar.
worse things have happened to me, i tell ya. worse things could happen to you too!
i definitely think the 2 best coffees for making as straight iced are this harrar and gillies' guatemala city. yummy!
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
bks iyengar coming to new york!
even if you're not a fan of iyengar yoga as an asana practice, there's no doubt that bks iyengar himself is a leading yogic thinker thru his books. surely all yoga students are interested in what he has to say.
bks is making a very rare trip to the u.s.a. this fall. to hear him speak would be a great privilege, no matter what kind of yoga you personally practice!
yesterday, due to my schedule, i ended up in the new pilates mat class at my local studio, yoga people. long-time readers know i'm not a big pilates fan (it's the breathing thing, you know?)
but i must say that this particular class, with only 4 students, 3 of them like myself new, was a very fun time. the substitute teacher, sarah, was excellent and allowed us to do yoga breathing by default.
halfway through the class i could immediately see how it would be helpful in my inversion practice. since everyone knows i love being upside down, i might actually make this class a regular addition to my schedule!
Monday, June 13, 2005
doing good one cup at a time
"my message is that fair-trade certified® coffee tastes great, and supports good things at home and abroad. supporting and drinking fair-trade certified® coffee is a small thing, adding about 1-1/2˘ to the cost of a US$3.50 latte. it is a painless way for new yorkers to help save the world one cup at a time."
so testified renowned coffeeman don schoenholt of gillies last week before the ny city council on its resolution that the city begin to buy and use exclusively fair-trade coffee.
long-time readers know that i have mixed feelings about fair trade in its current implementations, not the least of which is the paperwork burden it places on farmers and smallish co-ops, many of whom we have to remember are barely literate peasants who basically grow their beautiful coffees on small -- almost garden-type -- plots in the distant misty mountains.
filling out long forms in triplicate isn't really going to work for them, you know? the whole process has to be more inclusive and farmer-friendly, to my little mind.
but that aside, fair trade is clearly part of the solution to the continuing coffee crisis. i'm also including this testimony simply because when don talks about coffee, it always becomes sheer poetry, a pleasure to read and hear.
coffee is the most romantic and intellectual beverage, as i'm wont to say. . .
but speaking of the coffee crisis and ways to alleviate it, have you all seen the great new coffee kids t-shirts yet? must-haves for the concerned coffee lover!
Sunday, June 12, 2005
rule of thumb here is that when the mercury hits 90, it's too hot to bake pizza at home. usually this doesn't happen until august.
however, today we hit the jackpot here in bklyn, and so trotted ourselves off to peperoncino on 5th ave. and st. mark's near park slope. what's interesting about this place is that they have a wood-burning pizza oven that's an exact copy of one in naples, italy.
the oven is in fact lovely, decorated with cute gold tile. the pizza is made in the true neapolitan style with italian 00 flour.
of course i ordered a margherita.
i liked the crust, per se, quite a bit -- with the caveat however that the oven was too cold. the crust didn't have enough color, and the genuine fiori di latte wasn't melted, bubbling, and golden.
so this was a serious drawback. mr. right's crust was in trouble -- actually a tad raw in the center.
on the crust, therefore, i have to say that they are going in the correct direction. proper temperature management of the wood-fired oven, however, that they need to work on.
they also, alas, suffered a sauce problem. the sauce was just too watery, too bland, and yet at the same time too salty. and since they hadn't painted the crust with olive oil, or at least not enough!, the crust was quite wet. . .
i did remark that the cheese was good, yes? it was in fact the real deal, delicious -- but just not golden enough and lacked that little crust. . .
so overall, the pizza was a disappointment. however, only a few small improvements would be required to make the pizza a standout here!
mr. right had a little hand-made sausage on his pie, an only slightly spicy fennel. this was rather good.
the best part was that once you're in this nabe, you're only steps from chocolate heaven(s). it's a hop down to the chocolate room, where sweet mr. right bought me an artisan apricot-caramel dark bar made by joan of chocolat moderne.
and then we continued down several blocks to bierkraft, which had closed not a minute before we arrived. i ghosted sadly about the door, and the owner richard took pity on us.
he's so nice he actually opened the shop so mr. right could further indulge me in a bar of that utter heroin, the slitti lattenero 70%. and also a bar of chapon 64% mendiant!
(patrice chapon, everyone agrees, is the nicest, nicest guy. . .)
hooray! a perfect summer sunday all told.