Saturday, June 14, 2003
delight & handstand
finally it's stopped raining here in nyc, and today dawned bright with a little breeze. in one respect this was good news; in another, a small difficulty.
whenever the weather changes, it's a fact that you have to adjust your espresso grind. i had had the luxury of enjoying one setting on the mazzer mini (flash required) for weeks as that miserable seattle weather settled in. this morning meant i had to once again try to dial in that sweet spot for the batdorf & bronson dancing goats i use for milk-based espresso drinks.
as long-time readers know in my house at breakfast we pretty much drink what you might call a short triple cappucino with extra foam, because mr. right likes soft italian "wet-style" microfoam almost as much as the coffee. probably more than the coffee, actually.
the grinding problem is also compounded in that finally the daemons of package delivery took pity on me and a half pound of the friendly espresso blend don schoenholdt at gillies had made up for me appeared on my doorstep along with yesterday's yrg.
don's fresh coffee of course grinds so fine it's almost shocking. i'm just basically throwing the thumbscrew on the mazzer all the way around -- for those of you grinding along at home, fresh batdorf grinds at about 4 or 5 notches to the left of the mazzer arrow decal, while don's blend sits at around 8 notches.
and with only a 1/2 pound, you can't really afford to spend a lot of coffee on the dial-in process to find that awesome spot. nevertheless, i managed, and pulled a pleasant shot of don's first time into the pre-heated miss rancilio logo cup (our awesome pal toto, a real brooklyn italian, reviews 'em here). while i always describe the crema from this coffee as uniquely mousse-y, today it seemed more like creme chantilly. . .
(is this due more to the coffee, the roasting or the grind? don's coffee comes out his lilla medium-dark, with patches of oil, while the batdorf is much darker, with no oil. those who play with fire tell me that batdorf probably does this by not letting any air into the drum while roasting. . .)
the jones is finally over. but the point here is the wonderful repeatability of the mazzer. once i know where a coffee should be for its age and the weather, i can with confidence move the dial and forget about it.
adjusting between different coffees is no problem; the mazzer is just spot on -- 4 notches to the left of the arrow always gives me the same repeatable results. serious espresso fans know this isn't always the case with other grinders. . .
in other exciting news, long-time readers know that i have long been working on pressing up into handstand in the middle of the room. no hopping. just put yer hands down on the floor, walk your feet in until they start to lift up on their own and up you go.
this is a particularly exhilarating pose because as you slowly go up, your head and torso feel like they're coming more forward of your shoulders than when you kick up into the asana. so you feel more strongly as if you are going to fall.
still, when it happens right, you also have a sensation of extending beyond your own skin, of moving outside where you think the boundaries of your body are. freaky and hard to describe -- but very liberating. . .
yesterday with a spot from alma largey i managed this in class for the first time. i also have to thank carl horowitz and his wacky, fun ball-exercises. i think i'm going to taking my time this one -- it might be a while until i'm doing this without a spot. . .
Friday, June 13, 2003
arrest that substance
this green crime is exactly the reason i'm such a virulent agitator for slow food.
but despite the disgusting weather -- new york this year may top mark twain's quip that the coldest winter he ever spent was august in san francisco -- i do have one moment of sunshine. . .
this morning i was in my office drinking some of don schoenholdt's lovingly roasted yrgacheffe from gillies. the grounds had a wonderful caramel aroma out of the grinder; it poured from the press with mild brightness, medium body, and surprising tones of hazelnut and cinnamon or allspice (that woody spicy thing). . .
please remember that i usually avoid this ethiopian coffee in what people were always telling me was its "classic" form: too-citrus, overly bright, offering some kind of junk-store-dusty-maiden-aunt-potpourri gig with a nasty rubbing-alcohol-dry-finish. ("ooh, it's so wild and winey, people would exclaim!) the only good thing was that this finish was really short and the quick drink of water it left you begging for would cure it.
often this coffee just seems thin and medicinal to me. but people are always trying to give it to me and insist how lovely it is, just the best, most distinctive. . .since everyone raves about it so, however, i keep this taste crime to myself. i was thrilled near tears to hear don sort-of agree with me -- as he said: "if that's what i wanted, i'd just drink a bottle of iodine!"
however, don's was once called the best yrg by none other than ken davids himself. and don's yrg was perhaps the only thing that kept my heart from breaking on this dreary day. it is truly the first yrg that i not only liked, i couldn't stop drinking. this automagic-reach-of-the-hand-for-more is a hallmark, i find, of all don's best coffees.
as i keep saying -- don's coffees are just the most amiable. they are like talking to an old friend about good times. the afternoon simply speeds away in their company, and you feel like you have rediscovered a part of yourself you had long misplaced without realizing what you were missing. speaking of which, i hope to have an updated gillies price list to post here shortly.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
plaudits to sandy mcalpine, paging robert nelson
and today the canadians once again prove themselves better men than we! in this case, sandy mcalpine, head of the trade group for canadian commercial coffee joins with oxfam to take on the world-price depression that is the cause of much human misery, the so-called coffee crisis (adobe acrobat required).
it's just a great day when you hear a sharp-suited lobbyist express something that appears to be concern for actual human beings. the chief of the commercial association frankly calls for canada to re-join the i.c.o. which as long-time readers know, is a move i believe the u.s.a. should emulate.
further, the group also calls for governments to do more. this is all good. but what concrete things will sandy mcalpine do? or is this just a nice public relations statement made on a short break from the golf course?
i'm watching this canadian initiative with care. if it goes anywhere, then you'll find me on the phone to the u.s.a. commercial coffee group, the n.c.a. their current chief is one robert nelson.
perhaps his most (in)famous remark, when asked about oxfam's various initiatives to combat the crisis: "it is critical to the nca to have a sustainable industry and we believe in the efforts that everyone is making, but it's not helpful to spend efforts on solutions that will not make a difference."
still, robert is on record stating that the u.s.a. should return to the i.c.o. and while he said as much while testifying before congress, he also made it clear that he doesn't support increased import standards to this country to improve the quality of coffee that americans drink. (see here for the info on the issue of coffee purity.)
but the canadians seem to have more vision. what do they know that the n.c.a. doesn't? are you listening, robert? i'm sure you're more than the dapper satan your detractors make you out to be.
that's right, we here at bccy are as of this moment starting a campaign to page robert nelson's soul. . . as naropa said, "samsara is to see fault in other people."
so we consumers are combing robert nelson from his perfect silvery hair, through his hand-stitched pockets, down to the fringed kilties on his handmade loafers for that sparkling diamond within. to you this day we carry our love, big guy. . .
and i hate to blow my own horn, but i am quoted today on illy cups in the new york sun, page 18 (more normal format here)!
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
more chocolate art
an african-american performance artist in portland oregon recently held a 2-day art event for charity in which he asked his audience to dance with him in chocolate sauce.
art: it's a marvel. long-time readers may remember i've written about chocolate art before, such as the chocolate fashions at the annual new york chocolate show, the guy who paints replicas of van gogh in chocolate, and of course the dutch artist whose audience ate his work.
dancing with people in chocolate sauce. . . i wonder if it was brooklyn's own fox's u-bet. hmm, egg cream anyone?
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
starbucks does good
and today finds a great story about starbucks working with mexican coffee farmers to educate them about that characteristics will help their coffee sell for good prices. it's a joint project with oxfam and the ford foundation.
"most small-scale producers don't have access to any training on what their coffee ought to taste like," sez a ford foundation official.
this brings me to ponder the taste of coffee. for example, many long-time coffee pros -- real experts -- love very bright coffees, snappy, brisk (all terms to discuss the tingling-orange-juice quality of coffee misleadingly known as acid) coffees from central america. recent cupping competition winners in panama and such seem to have gone to brighter coffees.
in fact one judge in panama actually thought the winning coffee a tad too bright even for his taste. or perhaps the experts where looking at these coffees for blending purposes?
this interests me because the more consumer coffee lovers i talk to, the more people tell me their tastes have changed. they themselves are turning away from brightness towards body and sweetness. i'm wondering if this is a west coast/east coast divide, or if intense coffee conoisseurs are noting a trend.
this might make sense when i hear so many people complain that even fresh, properly roasted, well-brewed coffees seem too sour or acid too them. i'm wondering also if this is the real secret behind the popularity of the very darkly roasted coffees -- that the upscale coffee drinking public either has adapted to the dark roast, which mutes brightness -- or if there's been a more subtle taste change among americans generally?
i wonder. . . .
Monday, June 09, 2003
good attitude award & tea
the recent report by the national tea council (you see: i am fair! i link to them!) showing that tea consumption has risen dramatically is no surprise to me. considering that many articles are written about its health benefits, and considering that -- as we here at bccy have long argued -- most coffee now tastes terrible.
i still get many emails from people who try to explain to me that coffee is some kind of horrid poison, to which i have to reply that studies do not bear this out at all. indeed, coffee has many benefits, as long-time readers well know. the only poisonous part of coffee is the bitter, venomous taste of that poorly prepared beverage you're paying for at the local to-go place.
baby boomers are said to be deserting coffee for healthier, trendier tea; younger people for teas that are marketed like soda. it's just hard to be a coffee lover right now; but don't despair -- i have noted before that a swing back appears to be underway.
and i'm aiding that trend. coffee lovers, we must unite now. and the best to do it is to frankly become an scaa consumer member (adobe acrobat required). there is better coffee to be had! all we have to do is light the path. . .
in other news, i want to give the great attitude award to this woman, who tried a yoga class despite her fears about not being young or slender enough. she set aside the defeatism that was holding her back.
this is one of the most wonderful benefits of yoga. it helps you get over that "can't do" mentality our society beats into our heads. you're not [insert trait here] enough so you have to buy this or that, do this or that, be something other than you are. no way!
as yoga teacher ori munson's father told me: "all you need is yourself." you are all that.
Sunday, June 08, 2003
pizza new dough
yup, in the quest for constant perfection, i have once again changed the ingredients in my pizza dough recipe. (long time readers know that sunday night is always pizza night here at bccy.
and even people in my yoga class know this -- "good luck with the pizza," they say as we part through clouds of nag champa. . .which actually i really can't stand. . .)
back to the pizza -- if the recipe works out, i'll post it here shortly. but i am using a new kind of flour, durum, along with my beloved first clear, as well as more oil. . .big changes. it certainly kneads up nicely in the kitchen aid stand mixer, no doubt.
and in interesting coffee news that would make my pal beth ann of equal exchange very happy, the trend of churches serving fair-trade coffee appears to be growing. i just hope church members buy some to take home too!