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Saturday, August 02, 2003


yť-yť-yť: scaa homecoming article

and so we get to first article describing the awesome scaa's consumer member homecoming event that took place recently.

altie and charter consumer member marshall fuss, we salute you for putting together such a fantastic expression of support for our program!

many belong, many discuss and criticize; few step up to the plate and deliver. marshall delivers. slowly, one by one, person by person, marshall is helping evangelize high-quality specialty coffee as well as the joy and passion inherent in coffee culture. all coffee lovers are in his debt. . .

now long-time readers are perhaps able to judge my wacky sense of humor well-enough to understand why i am groovin' to carla bruni's little album of yé-yé music.

some of the songs are heavy on the borrowing (le plus beau du quartier is in definite debt to "what a day for a daydream") and it's no april march by a long shot. still, it's a hoot.

very brigitte-bardot-with-serge-gainsborough in feeling, with lightly updated instrumention. . .


posted by fortune elkins | 8:45 AM | top | link to this |


Friday, August 01, 2003


o moon, kiss me darkly, deeply

even those of us who prefer premium european-style artisanal chocolates have fond memories of the hersheys' little kiss. before you were old enough to know better, they were heavenly. . .

they have nostalgia value. but soon they may actually be more worth eating, as hersheys prepares to introduce its first dark chocolate kisses.

and in another interesting thing that caught my eye, international development organization technoserve recently put out a press release on its huge business case study.

this study would identify ways to reform the coffee trade and market practices in an effort to take a stab at doing something about the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis.

the press release was entitled something like "all sectors of the coffee industry get together!" but in fact, our lovely friends at technoserve had forgotten the only 2 sectors that can actually create profound change. . .

producers -- coffee growers and workers -- and consumers. that's right: the reason there is a coffee trade period is because some of us like to drink the stuff. markets supply. if there's a supply problem, one aspect to solving it is demand.

thus, the consumer. but sometimes with all due respect to my dearest friends in the coffee industry, i have to jump up and down and cry out "we drink coffee! we exist! we, your customers! talk to us! acknowledge us!"

all we want is the highest-quality coffee at a fair (to producer and consumer) price, which shouldn't be difficult, considering that coffee prices are still in the toilet, while the supermarket cans raise their own prices and lower their quality every year.

for what you pay for your supermarket brand x, for heaven's sake, you should be drinking premium beans. but of course the mega-multinationals are not interested in giving consumers a good deal. . .

thus, the need for us coffee lovers to rush over to aid the good work of the scaa, to become consumer members, and to support our local independent roasters/coffeehouses simply by buying and enjoying our daily coffee from them.

this is why i frankly threw in the towel and just called technoserve's p.r. department myself. yup, they were stunned. why was this dopey nice middle-class married lady calling the great and wise masters of international development?

once they picked themselves off up the floor, i politely and sweetly told 'em that once their fancy business report came out, they should consider the consumer. at least they humored me. . . .

although it seemed kinda clear as if their attitude was "not as if those little people who drink the product are of any importance, have any knowledge."

supply and demand. supply and demand. where do these fancy development economists get their advanced degrees?

what's the best thing to do? increase the quality! quality begets price begets quality, as one of my pals in the industry is famous for saying.

reaching the producers can be done through their agencies and groups, like good ol' juan valdez. and reaching struggling farmers and workers to offer them alternatives can be done through that wonderful charity, coffee kids.

because the fact is, until we can get the quality up, and thereby demand, we also have to produce less coffee. we need to give farmers and workers ways to move to a different livelihood without destroying their economies and social fabric.

if only technoserve could see this! hello, technoserve: paging your common sense. . . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:41 PM | top | link to this |


Thursday, July 31, 2003


the leg

been drinking don schoenholdt of gillies coffee famed legendary blend for the last few days.

i'm making it in my office in a french press (a.k.a. cafetiere), which is not the best showcase for it, don says. he prefers it in a vac pot.

still, it's a lovely coffee: medium-roasted, sweet, nippy, rounded, balanced, slightly spicy (a touch of cinnamon, a whiff of vanilla?) with a very clear body, even in a press.

maybe a tad brighter than i would usually drink by preference. but i'm brightness-impaired as long-time readers know, since i tend to prefer more mellow sumatras.

however, when judging coffee, you have to keep in mind what a good coffee is; you can't always go by your own personal preference. you have to be fair to the blend as an expression of a certain style of cup.

95% of people would love this coffee a lot. ken davids apparently called it the best blend a couple of years ago.

don tells me that at gillies this coffee is know as "the leg." so if you think is coffee might intrigue you, be on the inside; knowingly ask for some leg. . .

and altho' this has nothing to do with the coffee per se, it comes in a lovely bag with a great label -- a beautiful hawaiian hibiscus flower, "kona" in lovely type, and the tagline "america's gran cru coffee."

plus the beans themselves are just the most enticing milk-chocolate color, each perfectly shaped, like beads for a necklace. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 1:03 PM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, July 30, 2003


regional coffee cultures, part vii

"large franchise coffeeshops are becoming beloved places for friendly conversation."

is this seattle, london, vienna -- or seoul? that's right, it's seoul, korea. forget tea!

what's also interesting to me is that the editorial writer traces the lineage of coffee through english history, not italian. but he seems interested in the connection between coffee and political reform.

and this connection is profound in both england and the history of the united states, where early revolutionaries in the american colonies often organized in coffeehouses. this was true in boston, new york and philadelphia, at the very least.

and that fire-breathing liberal, california's pete stark, has introduced his resolution suggesting that the federal government only buy fair-trade coffee.

well, it's a start. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:51 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, July 29, 2003


coffee: serve & protect

once again we find a health benefit to coffee: a norwegian team discovers that drinking coffee protects against cirrhosis of the liver.

again, 3 cups of coffee a day -- the limit for moderate coffee drinking that i recommend -- is all it takes to see the effect.

the team could not exactly pinpoint which of the many phytochemicals in coffee is responsible. however, i personally suggest it might be those wacky antioxidants. . . .

in fact did you know that coffee is apparently the largest source of antioxidants in the typical american diet? (tho' this page also demonstrates why adding more chocolate to your diet is a healthy must!)

also, here's an interesting story about a coffee mural in a small town in eastern new mexico. add this one to the regional coffee culture stories. (use my advanced search to find 'em all!)

what makes this noteworthy is how the town's residents feel about their little coffeeshop. the coffeeshop and its culture of hanging about in a friendly, attractive, social environment appears to make the townspeople believe their burg is a much better place to live.

the entire town's perception of itself is improved by having a nice place to drink coffee together; this coffeeshop mural is helping to build the community.

in a time when smaller towns are threatened by population shifts, when the development of ex-urbs appears relentless and unstoppable, when large chain stores are killing main street, when retail sprawl is destroying the sense of community, here's a little coffeeshop that asserts and assists the town identity. . .

this is just a reminder that coffee, the stuff we generally take completely for granted, has so many unexpected effects on our lives!

posted by fortune elkins | 11:44 AM | top | link to this |


Monday, July 28, 2003


filter baskets: expobar, silvia, la marzocco

so this weekend i experimented with different filter baskets in carlos expobar to see how that affected the coffee.

i still believe carlos is basically too hot and soon i will undertake the tuning of his pressurestat to lower his temperature.

most espresso machine owners know that inside the portafilter (aka espresso handle) there is a little metal filter basket that actually holds the coffee.

the depth, hole size, hole pattern, and shape of the basket definitely affects the coffee. although i have three so-called "double shot" baskets, they are all different.

the stock silvia basket holds about 14 grams of coffee, the amount for the "classic" double espresso shot. the la marzocco basket holds more, about 16 grams; the expobar stock basket is between the two.

plus they have different depths, shapes and holes. this can be hard to visualize, so i'm going to send y'all over to coffeekid's great article with pix of different baskets of all types.

that way you can easily see how different this little part can be. since most quality "commercial" style machines have a 58mm portafiler, the baskets are largely interchangeable.

the question: which one makes the best coffee with carlos? currently -- and much to my surprise -- the winner seems to be the stock silvia rancilio basket!

this may change when i lower the temperature. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 11:40 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, July 27, 2003


cats r us

naturally i held out until the very last moment, but finally i had to do it -- abandon os9 and move to osx, jaguar.

long-time readers may recall i'm famously terrified of driving. once i was (facetiously, i think) offered an antique benz if i would learn to drive it.

i joked that i wanted an old jaguar, because they never run and so i wouldn't have to worry about taking it out of the garage. . .

thus i was skeptical of this jaguar. but it was a mistake.

i love it. and it goes so well with the cheetah pattern on my belgian loafers!

in the 1980s, i used to adore minis -- the cars, not only the grinders. but lately i've taken a yen to a stranger little car, the 1962 borgward isabella coupe.

don't ask me why. they just sometimes come in a great silver color. a lot like the mazzer mini silver, actually. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 6:39 PM | top | link to this |

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