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Saturday, February 22, 2003


better than yauco. . .

it's true -- i braved the truly horrible frigid downpours today to hang with one of the coolest people in new york, ken nye of higher grounds at 9th & c. no doubt he makes the best public espresso in all new york.

try his ultra-soft cappucino if you don't believe me; or go for the brass ring with one his cortados, which contains 4 perfect ristretti. yup, 4. his delicate latte art is a vivid slender arc in a complex sea of siennas, ochres, umbers -- like an old master painting, the finely-drawn design emerges from a dense background of shadow and possibility.

i stopped by to see him about one of my favorite drip coffees, the famed puerto rican yauco selecto. long-time readers will perk up with surprise to hear me say this, since i generally don't like bright coffees; generally i prefer something more in the aged indonesian line. but the yauco is surprisingly yummy! and then ken said he had his hands on an even better puerto rican blend, one clou de mont. (why don't these people have a website!?!) i had to try it.

and you should too. like the yauco, it comes out best in a vac pot, i think. ken doesn't ship yet, so now you too have an excuse to trek down to alphabet city. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:58 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, February 21, 2003


no longer a voice in the wilderness. . .

so, long-time readers, how long have i been annoying everyone here by nattering endlessly on about the coffee crisis? nearly 3 years now?

at one time, we here at bccy were certainly just about the only people aware of the world-price depression we call the coffee crisis. except the longer it goes on, the less it seems like a temporary market phenomenon and more like a permanent structural change in the market -- for the worse.

coffee is the world's second largest traded commodity after oil, and as with oil, the global economy and a large part of the world's social stability relies on the price of coffee.

whereas once i would have to write long articles myself on this subject, not a day now goes by it seems when a variety of news outlets moves this sad story forward. take this bit of boosterism from a san diego paper highlighting an upcoming coffee industry confab. even it discusses the coffee crisis and the once-exotic concept of relationship coffee by mentioning the arrangements peets now has with costa rica.

a more serious story covers the amazing differential between what farmers earn and what us coffee-lovers in developed countries pay the chains for our style-y lattes, while yet another piece reveals the intense suffering in matagalpa, nicaragua.

i feel finally like the word is getting out. but now that the story is more widely known, the question arises, what to do about it? various organizations, like usaid, offer some help to coffee-producing countries. and others, like coffeecorps and coffeekids, help the farmers and the people.

but none of these have the ability to change the global market trends. perhaps only one thing now can do that: the controversial possibility of the u.s.a. re-entering the i.c.o. coffee cartel. before the fall of the berlin wall in 1989, the u.s.a. supported the coffee cartel, which basically regulated coffee prices.

we were pleased to do this because we realized that coffee was important to our latin american neighbors. a series of american administrations felt that we needed social and economic stability there to prevent communism from taking root. and so we supported a high price for coffee to aid the economies of our latin american allies.

but once the wall fell, we lost interest in the threat of communism, and cheaper coffee for american consumers became the new goal. ronald reagan took us out of the i.c.o. agreement. but perhaps the time has come for the u.s.a. to reconsider the extremely sensitive step of re-joining the cartel and once again supporting coffee prices?

the scaa, a coffee trade group, has already urged the u.s. government to consider this move and delegates from the i.c.o. were here in december to discuss the idea. . .the u.s.a. consumes 25 percent of the world's coffee. what we choose to do now will make an enormous difference.

posted by fortune elkins | 7:15 PM | top | link to this |


Thursday, February 20, 2003


harrar crop endangered

the world depression in coffee prices, known to long-time readers as the "coffee crisis," combined with an unusually harsh drought poses serious dangers to one of the world's best varieties of coffee, the much-beloved ethiopian harrar.

this dry-processed coffee is famed for its sweet fruit tones, thin body, and wine-like brightness (also known as acidity) when properly roasted and brewed.

reuters reports that these carefully tended trees, some quite old, are dying from lack of water, and the near-bankrupt farmers have no income or reserves with which to buy water or otherwise save them.

". . .farmers are not only suffering from hunger, they are watching their precious coffee plants whither and die," according to reuters. "the harrar specialty grade has suffered more than most coffees in ethiopia's drought, with its output expected to fall by 40 percent in the 2002/3 crop year." the harrar that clings to life is of such poor quality it cannot be sold, which naturally worsens the situation.

the coffee farmers of ethiopia seem trapped in a dangerous spiral that could end in extreme hunger and perhaps serious damage to the prized heirloom harrar coffee. if you love harrar, buy your green beans now to roast at home or be prepared for a large price increase for possibly lower-quality beans. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 4:54 PM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, February 19, 2003


cafe con leche

while not my usual beverage of choice, cafe con leche is a fine fine thing when sipped under the gently waving royal palms with soft sand between the toes.

and let's give a big calle ocho round of applause to those great friends who filled in at bccy. i deeply appreciate it; hope it was fun for all.

not everyone got a chance to post it seems this time, so i hope they'll be able to make themselves heard on the next go round. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:37 PM | top | link to this |

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