Saturday, September 27, 2003
erna's special k
recently i've had the great opportunity to drink a couple of very special coffees roasted by awesome altie and cool scaa charter consumer member jim schulman.
these coffees come from the mother of specialty coffee, erna knutsen. one is the costa rica "miel" coffee from santa elena.
miel means honey; this coffee is dried with some of the cherry still attached, which supposedly makes it sweeter. jim roasted this a bit dark, which surprised me, but it was great. a nice low-brightness coffee.
unusual and yummy. the other was an indonesian, the sulawesi "old toraja." i might have liked this roasted a little more dark than jim did it, actually. it also was quite a treat.
these coffees certainly are distinctive, but i wouldn't call them bad at all. they are just very individual and good.
what suprised me was that i was expecting to prefer the earthy sulawesi. when actually the miel really sent me!
live and learn. or maybe the pro cupper's preferences are beginning to rub off? nah.
both of these coffees reflect the personalities of erna and jim. this adds to their character and charm.
i felt like i knew both of these coffees even before they came out of the french press (aka cafetiere). and that was a great experience, to have a sense of closeness to others through drinking their coffee.
this again reminds me why we love coffee so very much! it's a relationship, actually a web of relationships. . .
so a big bccy thank you to jim and erna, esp. to jim. with friends like these, you have to be grateful!
Friday, September 26, 2003
uk coffee morning
and to all our readers (about 15%!) from the u.k.: hope you remembered to participate in the macmillian cancer relief fund-raising event, the coffee morning i talked about before!
it seemed to have gone off well from articles like this, this, this, and this.
i would love to have starbucks, peets, or dunkin donuts do something like this in the u.s.a.!
with a nod to alt.coffee, there are those who, no matter how worthy the cause, object to the cost of having coffee out.
you could skip your daily latte and become a millionaire, they claim. note however that they totally overlook the superior benefits of making coffee at home in terms of both cost and quality!
and in an turn of events either amusing or shocking, bikram holds his first u.s.a. yoga competition, part of his quest to make his yoga an olympic sport. . .
and why not? as he says with his characteristic modesty, "it saves people's lives. it is a creation better than the taj mahal, antibiotics, apollo 11 and computers together."
finally, i also yesterday had a chance to try the unusual korkunov 72% dark chocolate bar (and here) from moscow.
the bar has good finish, great snap, nice strong vanilla flavor. but it does have lecithin, thus maybe a teeny-tiny bit waxy. . .
reminded me a lot of cafe tasse, which is an old sentimental favorite of mine. perhaps then the korkunov's a tad expensive for that kind of taste. . .but still very interesting!
Thursday, September 25, 2003
regional coffee cultures, part viiii
"if the owner is from montreal, they'll scowl and tell you that coffee shops are meant for hitting on underage girls."
but our faithful anglo-canadian correspondent still works in them anyway.
one of the latest trends in paris is arab coffee shops where you can order a hookah while drinking coffee and listening to arabic music.
and a fun piece from the ny times (log your bad self in and think of bruce: saute, wednesday) quoting -- who else? -- don schoenholt of gillies coffee on the perfect café cubano.
lemme personally say if you're gonna do this at home, the gavina espresso is the one to use. buy the 5-lb. bag, split it into parts, and share with friends or freeze it.
not to mention that the gavinas themselves are the sweetest people (i once spilled red wine all over mr. gavina and he smiled, apologized, and excused himself!).
plus, they have an amazing how-i-escaped-the-revolution story. actually, don schoenholt has his own how-he-escaped-the-cuban-revolution story, but let's leave that for another time. . .
i think this will give you the best i-just-came-from-miami flavor. now this isn't the kind of coffee i would usually recommend, and this isn't a style i myself enjoy. but! if that café versailles taste is what you want, then that's what you want.
finally, i just can't deny it: autumn is here. long-time readers know that i am a hot weather person, so i contemplate the change of season with some dread. but i know many people ski and look forward to the snow.
thus with a reader-service mindset i hereby offer (and early enough for it to make a difference): yoga for skiing. start now to improve your balance, flexibility, leg strength, and ability to turn.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
100 acres a day
amazing pizza facts: americans eat 23 pounds of pizza per year each!
despite the recommendation, i personally don't think alfredo sauce would be good for a pizza bianco.
and a nice prize-winning article about the world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis" in nicaragua. . .
and here's an event we wished we at bccy had participated in: brazilian children dancing in the pools of chocolate that spilled from an overturned tanker truck. . .
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
having had a party with blackout coffee myself, i have total sympathies for the problems of hurricane coffee without electricity or a working stove.
of course, in my case, i am blessed with a vintage heavy-iron magic chef gas range -- beautiful! gotta love those old gas stoves.
many people it turns out restore and collect magic chefs (and here!).
but others with "modern" all-electric kitchens might want to remember the benefits of cold-water coffee concentrate -- the coffee toddy. . .
in further news, alas my beloved graphite g4 mac dropped its hard drive. mr. right bravely toted it down to tekserve heaven where it is being lovingly repaired, possibly as soon as tomorrow.
just another reason why i need a power book. . .
Monday, September 22, 2003
friends of bccy
it was pretty cool to read this article and realize that it's all about friends of bccy!
spencer of dunkin donuts is the guy who made the fair-trade espresso decision, i understand, while our awesome pal dom chieco of liemco is apparently supplying the ambiente machines.
i asked spencer on thursday nite if we could do an scaa consumer event promoting his fair-trade espresso, but he declined, saying that he was doing fair-trade not for marketing benefits, but because the management (him) truly believed it was the moral thing to do.
of course, this product will never rival the artisanal, handmade espresso with latte art as served by people like ken nye of higher grounds here in nyc. but we have to start educating people somewhere. . .
and here's an interesting story about the evolution of american yoga, mentioned by another great bccy friend, marshall fuss.
the article asks: "can you really be called a yoga teacher after a weekend certification course?" and i reiterate: no!
no matter whether you are teaching spiritual or so-called fitness yoga, a weekend isn't enough training to teach poses safely. yoga has to be modified for every body type; a yoga teacher has to be able to look at a student and know what to recommend when the student tells her that he's had knee surgery in the last 18 months.
practiced with care and awareness, with a series of poses appropriate to the student's level and body type, yoga is safe, health-boosting, and stress-reducing. practiced poorly, even the simplest down-dog is an accident waiting to injure the student. . .students beware!
it is your responsibility as a yoga student to seek out and find qualified yoga teachers! at minimum, this means you should be looking for graduates of a yoga-alliance-type 200-, 500- or better yet, 700-hour program.
there are of course uncertified teachers that you can trust -- people who've lived in india with the masters like jois and desikachar and who have been teaching since the 60s and 70s.
we all know their names because they're the ones on the cover of yoga journal. otherwise, a certified teacher is probably your best bet. . .
Sunday, September 21, 2003
back from the mainland
sometimes it's just so comforting to return to my tiny island off the coast of the united states.
this is not to say that i didn't adore the scaa committee meeting lovefest in atlanta. lawd knows i leap at any chance to hang with the cool coffee people.
usually after 10 mins. with them i keep thinking "why aren't i running off with this fabulous coffee circus?" i lack words to express how amazing the scaa and the coffee trade really is.
the problem is atlanta, where people still smoke. everywhere. all the time. i was wearing a strapless silk dolce & gabbana dress with my hair down thinking "oh god no. cigars!"
the hair-washing, the dry-cleaning. . . it was a total waste of the delicate l'artisan parfumeur "la chasse aux papillons."
but this is not the fault of the scaa. i continue to be completely in love with the coffee community.
we had 2 days of meetings with all the coffee committees, including mine, the consumer marketing committee.
this group includes some of the most awesome girls ever, like colleen crosby of santa cruz coffee, kimberly easson of transfair, cate baril of green mountain, sarah thornton of fresh cup magazine. i worship them all.
actually in my next life i hope i can marry cate baril. that's how incredible she is. better than fresh mozzarella: she went and built houses for coffee workers in guatemala, for example.
the guys aren't bad either -- dan bailey of square eye, frank dennis of swiss water decaf, jim munson of the ever-wonderful dallis, and of course mark prince of coffeegeek.com.
we had to create initiatives, milestones, action plans, give dates and owners for projects, all this. very formal and corporate.
since we hardly meet and had tons of ideas, it was kind of chaotic at first, but the second day we stopped whirling like crazed tasmanian devils and actually got our act together (taz!).
then we had to put our plans into this certain format and prepare a report, which had to be presented.
so all that went well. the presentation was very interesting -- i got to hear more about the alternative coffee market, the so-called q contract. apparently this is actually going to get real in august 2004.
and i got to hear one of my absolute heroines, margaret swallow of coffee quality institute, talk about the coffee corps. (i've talked about this before.)
i did impress on the committee that it was crucial to deliver on the promises it had already made to the existing scaa c-members. the scaa is migrating its website and has hired a firm to re-do it, so we hope very soon to finally have a good site with consumer info.
and i do believe many of the long-delayed mailings to members will happen no later than the end of october. since i am doing this mailing personally, i think it can really happen this time!
i also spoke to some pro members about cool events for c-members: a 2-day roasting lab with terry davis of ambex in tampa, florida for january.
this is a 15 person event; no more. i was sure that home roasters would leap on this chance to get pro training for nothing, but so far the response seems lukewarm.
if you are interested, do email me or a post a comment below with a proposed date. i don't want to cancel this one!
i'm also looking at setting up a 10-person latte art workshop here in nyc with ken nye of higher grounds in oct. or early nov. again, if you're interested, email me with a proposed date or post a comment below.
we also talked about a lot of awesome things that will happen for consumers at the upcoming scaa 2004 conference in atlanta.
there will be an entire slate of special events for us there -- 8 or so seminars -- including hands-on espresso and roasting workshops, as well as a chance to meet authors like ken davids and mark pendergrast.
in short it's never been better to be a consumer member of the scaa, and i'm dedicated to improving and enlarging the membership benefits, besides holding these cool events.
i do have a lot more to say, and i could gush on about meeting incredible people like geoff watts of intelligentsia, rick peyser of green mountain, sue mecklenburg of starbucks, david beeman of cirqua water, just so many others.
i'll list 'em all later. however, i will say that while the roasters' guild prides itself on being party animals, this meek bklyn girl with her yoga lifestyle put them all to bed. and it was scarcely 1am.
the last men standing were terry davis and myself, and i have to tell you, terry fell before i did. . . heck, in new york that's still early.
we shoulda been up until 4:30am, then we might have been able to begin talking about the verb "party." 7am, that's more like a serious time even by bklyn standards. . .now, noon, that would have drawn some admiration!