Saturday, October 25, 2003
we know, we know
we're told that we drink 1.4 billion servings of coffee a day. and that's a good thing, considering how healthy coffee has been proven to be lately.
the deliciousness aspect -- at least in restaurants, coffeehouses, and cafes -- we're still working on it! most coffee outside the home is still poorly made and so tastes terrible.
i've just gotten to the point where i roll my eyes when i hear cafe and coffeehouse owners condescend to consumers. if i hear another person whose cafe serves terribly brewed and stale coffee from dirty machines say "oh, coffee is too hard for people to make at home. . .", i'm gonna scream!
this is why i wrote my butt-kicking article for tea and coffee trade journal this month. i hope it will be on their website soon for you long-time readers to peruse.
"i got pneumonia from snorting coffee creamer. it was disgusting. . ." don't we know it!
why you should just say no to artificial chemical coffee "whiteners." don schoenholt of gillies recommends light cream. trust him!
let me also remark that i received my blogger hoodie from google. i asked for a medium, but these things appear to be pure hip-hop; more super-sized than a starbucks venti latte.
it's not a mini-dress; more a midi-skirt! if you fellow blogger users haven't ordered yours yet, get an extra-small, ok?
and keep your home cappucinos 6 oz., please!
Friday, October 24, 2003
when i was a little girl in kansas, my great-grandmother on the farm had an antique cedar-lined hope chest that had come across with our pioneer ancestors from philadelphia.
of course i don't have it anymore; it was lost to our family when my great-uncle charlie's snooty wife, a doctor's daughter, took it along with the black-iron domed chicken fryer that had also moved along the plains. (note: with these, the older the better. a 125-yr.-old seasoned chicken fryer would have been fantastic.)
the worst part was that, of course, she never fried chicken. it probably ended up decorating her disgusting bourgeois kitchen in maryland horse country.
as for the hope chest, she's the kind who probably would have refinished it and lined it in some kitschy laura ashley fabric. . .
but! the hope chest was suddenly brought to mind this morning as i drank david haddock's counterculture certified organic nicaraguan coffee. roasted to just a drop of oil, this delight possesses surprising body, low brightness (or acidity), aromas of wood-spice and cedar, and a lightly bittersweet, dry aftertaste.
yes, this coffee reminds me of my great-grandmother's hope chest. it's pure proust, the way this coffee tosses me back to childhood, its hopes and disappointments.
unlike proust, however, i cannot yet tell whether i have been lucky or unlucky in these loves.
and here's the yogic moment: why am i passing down this 40-year-old family grudge? what's the point?
i have the hope chest right here in this cup. instead of complaining, i should let the doctor's daughter go, and offer my gratitude to david haddock instead. . .
let me thus end with a nice article on the current seattle coffeefest.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
weeping gnashing weeping part iii
sometimes it's shocking how little people know about coffee -- especially if they claim to be scientists. thus today we are supposed to be stunned at the news that different coffees can have different caffeine amounts!
well, duh. long-time readers know that roast level, grind, and preparation method greatly affect caffeine content (see question 2).
in general, properly made coffee has less caffeine, because with correct timing and water temperature, the less caffeine will wash out of the grounds. coffee has many phtyochemicals, and many of them are more soluble than caffeine.
thus the best tasting coffee, properly brewed, will tend to have less caffeine than that which has been poorly extracted, or made with water at the wrong temperature, or allowed to sit in contact with the coffee grounds too long.
caffeine is a naturally bitter substance; but coffee has many natural sugars. in general, the sugars will wash out of the coffee before the majority of the caffeine. so brew your coffee with care for a great and sweet-tasting cup!
no let's get to my biggest beef. the article asserts that coffee is addictive. no, it's not.
caffeine is not listed in the doctor's handbook, the dsm, as an addictive or dependence-creating substance (scroll down to caffeine and addiction, questions 1 & 2).
more rigorous studies have shown that the supposed symptoms of so-called caffeine withdrawal seem only partially based in reality and mostly based in autosuggestion.
in short, if everyone didn't tell you that caffeine was addictive -- if everyone didn't already know -- then the vast majority of people wouldn't experience any symptoms. this canard is similar to the famous university of chicago experiment where researchers tested the idea that caffeine interferes with sleep.
and guess what? it doesn't! when scientists put caffeine in hot milk and made people drink it before bed-time, they all slept like babies. . .because as we all know, hot milk helps you sleep. . .
(i want to find the direct link to this, but the science community has just made it too hard to reach their abstracts -- the same study is mentioned here, scroll down to sleep fallacy largely psychlogical.)
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
the world bank catches a clue
"today, markets for organic, eco-friendly, and fair trade products are measured in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, and are among the fastest-growing segments of the food industry,” the world bank today suddenly discovers.
since the current world-price depression known as the coffee crisis -- now in its fourth year -- was probably started by the bank's insistence that vietnam pump out as much cheap, no-quality coffee as possible, you'd think it's about time they noticed. but when will they 'fess up?
i don't mind the idea of globalization so much, except that the globalizing isn't being done by the people, normal people making decisions about how they want to live and what they want to eat, on a equal playing field. it's being done by these clueless wonders with ph.d.s in economics who apparently haven't heard about the law of supply and demand and how that affects price.
when i was young and read dissent, what i found attractive about lukacs-style socialism was the insistence that the technocrats and apparatchiks were the real problem. i however disagreed with his solution -- basically, shoot 'em all -- but i think there are probably a lot of coffee farmers and workers who would like to storm the world bank!
actually the real problem with all that is that those guys seemed to have a strange hatred of jazz, and later, rock-n-roll. it just showed that they were very anti-life and anti-pleasure.
long-time readers know i'm a pro-pleasure person. rosa is my godmother -- i want an all-dancin', coffee-drinkin', head-standin', fair-trade market revolution!
and speaking of head-stand, you also know how i feel about the importance of yoga in dealing with the global public health threat known as the obesity epidemic. junk food peddlers are partially to blame -- and not just in the u.s.a.
this applies to those starbucks-style super-sized beverages mentioned previously. make your own coffee drinks at home or the office. not only are they healthier and higher-quality, but you can consciously support the kinds of stuff i know you as bccy readers believe in!
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
the truth of who we are
"yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are."
and the second you read that, you know immediately it is the eloquent voice of erich schiffmann, one of my favorite yoga teachers. this beautiful and concise statement -- so erich! -- is quickly dropped into a very nice article on beginning yoga.
the author may not yet realize it, but she has herself what i would call a serious sadhana (yoga practice) on her hands. she has gone beyond the vanity and competitiveness of a beginner. jana porter's about to walk into the stillness of who she really is.
(although i have to say that the pose photographed for this article isn't half-lotus, but looks like a variation on gomukhasana or cow-face pose!)
meanwhile, we here at bccy are concerned for u.k. prime minister tony blair. it seems his doctors blame his recent irregular heartbeat incident on too much coffee.
of course, there is dispute as to whether coffee actually contributes to arrhythmia in healthy people. a review of the literature suggests that even drinking up to 6 cups of coffee actually doesn't incite irregular heartbeat. (see question 3.)
we'll take this moment to point blair to one of our favorite websites, too much coffee man. then we will remind him that really, he should stick to between 3 to 5 6-oz. cups a day, preferably 3. despite how much he wants those little guys to swim. . .
i think more likely his temporary heart trouble is due to stress. he's had a hard year. may we at bccy suggest he consider developing a personal daily yoga and meditation practice?
Monday, October 20, 2003
sensible & kind
after long hard thought and too much experience with ill-prepared or unethical yoga teachers, i'm finally falling into line with the canadians on this one.
the problem isn't only one of unqualified teachers shoving students into poses that are too advanced for them. it's also one of not understanding how to modify poses properly for student needs, and how to make good adjustments, not harmful ones.
then there's the whole ethical thing. that's another matter. . .and here i am, back to pushing eddie stern again as a good example of a teacher who gets it. . .
i nearly fell outta my chair laughing at this one: healthy pizza from the chain that advertises a whole pound of cheese per pie as one of its products?
me giggle outrageously. and what they charge for their nonsense is shocking. even using premium flours, even using imported flours from italy -- home-made pizza is so inexpensive and truly delicious, it's amazing.
you don't even have to make your own mozzarella; that's my level of craziness. with the highest-quality fresh cheese, san marzano tomatoes for the sauce, and fresh basil out of season, i can't spend more than US$5 to make two 12-inch neapolitan-style margherita pizzas. . .
if i add 2 oz. real, upscale pepperoni for mr. right, the cost soars to all of US$6.
one 12-inch horror from above nasty chain averages about US$9.25 depending on region, style, and ingredients. . . why, oh tell me why?
on the coffee front, today i'm drinking my beloved gillies deluxe dark 2 in the office press pot. . .fabulous espresso, delicious as a morning cup. sweet, smooth, friendly.
those of you who haven't had the opportunity to actually meet and have coffee with don schoenholt will find this blend perhaps the most accurate reflection of the man himself. once you drink this coffee, you'll know don personally. and that's a great thing.
Sunday, October 19, 2003
roast color religion; robusta convictions
recently i had the great privilege to speak to dr. joseph john, of josuma coffee and cult-espresso malabar gold fame.
this is a controversial coffee, because it contains robusta; some say the good doctor mixes kaapi royale in with his superb indian arabicas.
there are many -- including the coffee luminary, he-who-cannot-be-denied, don schoenholt of gillies, the 8-armed, all-knowing, avatar of specialty coffee himself -- who claim that robusta is a problem, not a solution, in espresso. and long-time readers well know that i venerate him.
robusta defenders note that it can add useful properties to an espresso blend. and indeed, robusta is traditional in many beloved traditional italian espresso coffees. what does robusta supposedly do for espresso?
not only does it enhance crema production and longevity, but it adds to the caffeine content for those who demand a jolt in their espresso. further, in blends made to be used with large amounts of milk, the robusta helps carry a coffee flavor through it.
robusta supporters say that it also adds to the body or thickness of the coffee, as well. arabica lovers will have none of it, and pish-tosh all these statements.
i won't enter into this debate myself; everyone knows what espressos i love best.
let me note only that when i have discussed this espresso in the past, i have usually linked to whole latte love, which sells malabar gold here in new york state. when you buy it from the ever-lovin' todd, you get an oily, dark roast coffee.
however, after talking to dr. john, he himself sent me a pound; packaged in a lovely black one-way valve bag with a picture of the leaning tower of pisa, and a perfectly stamped "born-on" roast date on the back.
when you open this coffee, you find it's lightly roasted in a northern italian style; very illy, actually, in color. much lighter than the whole latte love version. . . .
what strikes me is how, as i have grown to learn to love coffee more, and increased my technical coffee appreciation, i have myself may have changed my roast color religion.
long-time readers remember i spent years drinking peets darkly roasted sumatras. but as i come to comprehend the different styles of cup, i have also come to see the beauty in the different roast colors and how they offer different takes on the same beans.
in short, i'm finding i may prefer dr. john's more lightly-roasted malabar gold in a latte macchiato than the whole latte love version. i urge everyone to try both for themselves and compare. . .
i myself may perhaps be moving in the counter-fashion direction of understanding lighter roasts more when it comes to other coffees as well!