Saturday, August 23, 2003
coffee worth an international phone call
it's true -- the level of espresso presentation at the new cafe joe on waverly near 6th ave. in the west village is so good i sat down in one of the asian-style chairs and called mark prince in canada.
jonathan is doing it all the schomer way. his machine tech altered his la marzocco; his dog-eared copy of schomer's espresso book is ready in the drawer under the counter.
the latte art is perfect. however, jonathan's not pouring that; he has a schomer-trained friend in to help on the rosettas. since the friend's only around for another week, go now for what is definitely a contender for the best espresso in new york city.
ken nye of higher grounds at 9th and c in the east village should be glad that most new yorkers never cross town! because jonathan's giving him a run for his money!
joe's espresso blend is great barrington, from a massachusetts roaster. jonathan chose that blend partially because his pal the latte artist once worked there, and partially because he likes it a lot himself.
the blend is good in heavy milk drinks, but not so good by itself, to my mind; even in a macchiato it struck me as a little sharp and a tad too dark.
in fact, i stood in the store and called mark prince in canada, marshall fuss in la-la land, and steve schulman of kudo beans. steve raced over to try the coffee. that's how good it really is. . .
plus, jonathan has a tremendous attitude. passionate, idealistic -- exactly what i wanna see. dear readers, go there now!
also today i stopped by another new store, jack's on w. 10th. he has a nice la cimbali machine and not a clue what to do with it.
i asked for a doppio macchiato and he didn't know what it was. i asked for a china cup, and he wouldn't give me one.
the people behind me asked for decaf, and he said he didn't serve it. (well, i admire that, but it's a difficult business decision!)
his blend from vermont was so oily, there were brown drippy streaks inside the hopper of his mazzer super jolly. disgusting.
the coffee was undrinkable and i tossed it. shame, because his storefront is quite cute.
finally, i was down on the lower east side today, and i stopped by angelina's on orchard around the corner from arlene's grocery. that place has been getting raves as best coffee on the east side.
but it's a lie. i went in there and the owner had the portafilters out on the counter cold. i asked about his coffee. "it's italian roast," the surly owner replied.
"but what kind of coffee?" i asked politely. "i don't know," he snarled. "when was it roasted?" i persisted nicely. he gave me a really ugly look. "ok, thanks," i said and left.
never never never to return. . . ken nye at higher grounds owns the east side.
Friday, August 22, 2003
"hundreds of coffee towns and villages across colombia -- the world's second-largest [coffee] producer -- are turning into pockets of anxiety, unemployment, child malnutrition and illiteracy."
long-time readers know that i talk a lot -- possibly too much! -- about the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis and its effects on the real human beings whose efforts to provide us with our morning cup sit at our elbows every single day.
but this article isn't just another sob story. here's the sobering part: ". . .small clusters of coca -- the raw material for cocaine -- have appeared in some coffee fields . . ."
this cocaine ends up where? in our streets, dear readers! no matter how you feel about the so-called war on drugs, this not an outcome anyone could wish for.
i've written about this several times before. long-time readers and alert news observers may recall hearing the term "plan colombia."
the u.s.a. has already recently spent more than US$2 billion to stop the drug trade as part of this initiative.
wouldn't it be cheaper -- and easier -- to avoid entanglement in the colombian civil war and the crazy patchwork of guerillas, death squads, and paramilitaries by simply helping coffee farmers stay in the coffee business?
how to do this? first the u.s.a. must act quickly to rejoin the i.c.o. and then we have to help colombian farmers work to improve quality.
quality begets price begets quality, as a well-known pal of mine in the coffee trade sez. and he's right!
Thursday, August 21, 2003
anything for you
for those who liked my previous link to the excerpt about brazil from mark pendergrast's uncommon grounds, here's the link to mark's website, with all his prior works and a fun interview on his new book.
which is a fascinating exploration of the social and scientific history of mirrors.
and speaking of science, brain scans now show why there's always room for a chocolate dessert. . .it has nothing to do with willpower and everything to do with evolution.
dear readers, you're innocent! stop beating yourself up and help yourself to another ounce!
long-time readers may also recall that i was out looking for a frost dance recently.
alas, i was unsuccesful. the sad fact?
the price of coffee is at its lowest in 30 years (and in another nod to bruce cole, log yourselves back in: saute, wednesday). coffeekids may be the best answer now. . .
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
where does your coffee dollar go?
sometimes i ask this rhetorical question when i contemplate the ever-sinking price of coffee, the world price depression long-time readers know as the coffee crisis.
where does your coffee dollar go? to nestle and its fellow mega-multi-nationals who bring you dubious, stale, low-quality brown stuff in supermarket cans and jars!
as coffee prices on the market drop towards the south pole, nestle has raised the prices consumers pay and so fattened its bottom line by a nice percentage.
dear readers, stick to your local independent roaster/retailer or coffeehouse for fresh, delicious specialty coffee, please!
let's contrast nestle with starbucks, who instead of helping crush coffee farmers to line its wallets, actually is working with farmers in peru to develop markets and create relationships.
some people like to portray starbucks as the bad guys; they are mistaken. i personally don't care for starbucks' coffees, but they are not the evil ones.
that's more likely to be nestle and friends. . .
speaking of starbucks, of course everyone is discussing the diamond-ring story, so i'll offer the link as well.
and a shout-out to our south african friend jacqui: coffee is beautiful and seductive. fortunately, there really is no need to give it up for health reasons.
coffee actually has many benefits, as long-time readers know; for example, it has 4 times the amount of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants as green tea.
so you can skip the sickly-colored, dusty-smelling herbal sachets, jacqui, and return to your passionate affair with coffee! (see here too!) everyone with a clue understands how women feel about their coffee. . .
drink it in moderate amounts and enjoy yourself. those weird processed protein-powder whatevers and the sour-tasting wheatgrass juice -- now that you can forego!
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
uncommon grounds & a cup of kenya
a nice excerpt on brazil's role in coffee from mark pendergrast's famed "uncommon grounds" can be read here.
here's a quick yoga round-up.
and here's an interesting interview with a swiss maker of private-label chocolates.
but the most interesting thing that happened to me this morning was don schoenholt's gillies lovely kenya aa in the cafetiere.
at medium roast, it offers a floral fragrance, very slight mandarin citrus, candy-caramel notes, lightly nippy, just a pleasant coffee with a nice body. what i love about don's coffees is that while they carry their famed origin charateristics, they don't overpower you with them.
they remain charming coffees that are easy to drink. long-time readers remember that i don't like african coffees; mostly they are just too much, too citrusy. i mean, if wanted grapefruit juice, i'd drink it!
except for don's: they aren't extreme. perhaps not everyone appreciates this -- i think some coffee lovers want grand opera in every cup. . .if i want that, why, i have espresso!
but i don't have time to be exhausted by my own history each morning. who does? i just want something to set the scene with my guarneri quartet when i get to the office. . .
Monday, August 18, 2003
read it & weep
"a victim of the collapse of world coffee prices since late 1999, rio sereno is becoming a ghost town as its coffee-based economy slumps, its farms are abandoned and residents leave for panama city or the united states," sez reuters.
the coffee crisis -- this world price depression that is causing so much human misery -- continues. while the farmers say they would consider moving into cattle ranching, in our hearts those of us who have been following the crisis for a while know that they probably will have little choice but to grow marijuana or worse.
why do we care about rio sereno? because it is generally considered to be part of the famed boquete area. panama's boquete coffee is particularly prized by many coffee lovers. . .i've written about it before.
we are looking at a serious threat to the continued existence of this premium origin.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
weeping, gnashing, weeping part ii
coffee concentrate products seem the story of the summer, alas.
here we find the founder of respected roaster armeno deep in the process of creating his own coffee concentrate for commercial food-service use.
it has an appropriately scary name, x cafe. like some kind of secret experiment. . .the armeno website boldly proclaims that coffee should be "fresh like bread from a bakers."
so what are you doing here, paul kalenian? your fans are deeply confused when you proclaim how the careful preparation of high-quality specialty coffee beverages is "doomed."
that half the article is devoted to how he recycles his colombian grounds for compost probably tells you something about the way this product tastes.
sure, products like this -- just add 1 gallon to 30 gallons hot water and wa-llah! brown stuff that vaguely resembles coffee -- are great for low-end food-service businesses.
but what about the people who have to drink this stuff? who wants it?
the whole concept stuns me because the coffee industry is going the other way towards better quality, better taste, better preparation.
you make more profit selling specialty coffee over the counter in a cute shop -- anyone ever heard of the US$4.50 starbucks latte? -- than pinching pennies on the low end.
reading the piece, i couldn't help but feel sorry for the elderly prisoners of the old folks' home cited as using this product. they've already objected to this stuff and yet it's being forced upon them.
heavens, you work hard all your life, retire, fall ill, suffer the indignity of a group home and then have to drink this um, stuff, to boot.
rebel, coffee-loving seniors! revolt! demand your real coffee back!
in other news, i'm spending time with one of my favorite authors, mircea eliade. his classic book on yoga should be more widely read by teachers and students both, i think.