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Saturday, November 08, 2003


total eclipse of the moon

did anyone else see the lunar eclipse tonite? i swear the shadow across the moon thru my neighbor's telescope was exactly the color of perfect espresso crema. . .a dark reddish brown.

i gazed up at the eclipse from the middle of pierrepont st. and then went inside and finished up the chicken cacciatore in my beloved kuhn rikon pressure cooker.

but earlier today i made some coffee. not just my usual morning cappucino. no, on friday, a friend had given me a mysterious and unnamed coffee.

this coffee was quite odd. it came taped up in a plastic express delivery envelope! the beans were roasted; small; scruffy; ugly; with many shells, by which i mean empty coffee husks.

when i stuck my nose in the bag, the scent was a mixture of plastic and peanut butter. . .

whassup with this? i thought. . .so this morning i made a press pot of it.

i have a 4 cup press pot. thus, 8 scoops of ground coffee, and 4 cups water at about 192-194 degrees by the time i got the thermometer into it.

it tasted like the worst diner coffee. even with milk and sugar. i mean, it was a perfect new york city "regular."

for those unfamiliar with that brown liquid sold in diners and from metal carts on the street corners, the nyc regular is 10-oz. of coffee in a blue paper cup. usually it's about 2/3 brown stuff, 1/3 some kind of dairy product, and often already contains sugar, whether you want it or not.

it usually costs US$1 on wall street. don schoenholt of gillies says that the regular became regular during the depression, when it may have cost US$0.05.

i'm guessing this mystery coffee is a darkish city roast: dark but before any oil. maybe light full city. not vienna.

since it was handed it to me in that weird plastic envelope(!) -- what was the person thinking? were they insane? insulting me? displaying an uma thurman sense of humor? -- it smelled strongly of tyvek-type plastic. yuck.

when i held the beans in my hand, as i said, the peanut-buttery scent is/was very strong. it smelled exactly like the bazzini unsweetened natural peanut butter i buy at sahadi's to use in making carribean oxtail stew.

i tried "decanting" it into an old illy can i had lying about, thinking the delicious tyvek scent would fade. and the freshly ground coffee did smell better today than yesterday.

the fragrance was a cross between green cardamom and bay leaves. it had a modest bloom in the press pot.

4 mins. later. i press and pour out a cup. smells like plastic again. dip my regulation scaa silver tasting spoon into it.

i take just a tiny bit, 3 or 4 drops, and slurp. that flat nasty diner coffee "taste."

ok, must be me. drink some from the cup. yup, i could be at the liberty diner. but in the cup, the plastic from the bag seems to come through even more.

i add some milk and sugar -- for some reason all i have is skim and splenda. omigod it's worse.

i don't understand what's happening to me. what kind of mean trick is this? do i know nothing about coffee or is someone testing me?

desperate, i brush out my grinder and reach into my freezer, where i am hoarding the 1/2 lb. of gillies guatemala city roast. this shows a tiny patch of oil and so i'm calling it a dark full city or light vienna.

dole out 8 scoops of small but pretty beans i could make a bracelet out of; little quicker on the pour, so the water comes out at 198-200.

the coffee's been frozen, so i expect a modest bloom. the fragrance is a mixture of coriander and cassia (the less-sweet more-woody cinnamon) i remember.

i actually go stick my nose into my jar of ground coriander to make sure.

4 mins. later, smells like coffee. press and pour. drag out regulation tasting spoon.

take 3 drops. try to remember the one great thing pro coffee taster patrick "it's not juan valdez until i say so" spillman told me: "stop sipping like a lady. without a righteous slurp you are never gonna get it all the way back behind your nose."

what do i find? that nice sweet brown rice thing i also remember with some roasty stuff.

but it's still a tad hot. the temperature hides the brightness; i won't see any of that at all until it cools.

but since the coffee's darkly roasted, the roast level will lower those lights. . .

to be fair i add splenda and skim milk. i think: i can't do this! i must have light cream and turbinado sugar. i'm so spoiled. . .

and so this is what i drank all day. yup, i'm intolerably spoiled and intend to stay that way. remind me to buy light cream to keep in the house as staple always!

but still i'm wandering the streets of fair bklyn a-wonderin': was the problem the plastic bag and maybe too cool water? am i too influenced by ugly, ugly beans?

or maybe it's that i cannot abide peanut butter. almond butter, chestnut butter, pistachio butter, cashew butter, all good. but peanut butter -- never.

in short i spent all afternoon playing with coffee and thinking about my friends. . .those whose coffee and spoons keep me the very best of company.

posted by fortune elkins | 7:44 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, November 07, 2003


regional coffee culture, part xi or what coffeeshops mean, part ii

"the korean coffee shop is a vacation in itself. . . visiting a coffee shop is almost the essential korean experience."

stephen roney of the joongang daily, i don't know who you are, but you're certainly a poet with the soul of an scaa consumer member. because i know exactly what you mean.

if i could, i would send this man 2 pounds of gillies best.

dear readers, do you doubt this? do you still perhaps mistakenly think of korea as a land of tea? i did, until i read this:

"when i stepped into coffee house monica, i really thought my body had transported to seoul. . ."

where is this delightful haven that speaks to the korean soul's love of coffee? in guam apparently. guam.

i'll have some patbingsu with that caramel latte please! or a poem with my breakfast coffee. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:29 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, November 06, 2003


what coffeeshops mean

"coffee with friends: it almost doesn’t get any better."

i'm famous for repeating that coffee is the most intellectual and social beverage; that coffee is all about relationships.

and today finds two articles that express this experience in daily life. the writers' outlooks couldn't be more different -- one a married woman in kansas; the other a male married professional, a father.

one somewhat sad; one struck by the beauty of "investing in people." and yet they have the same experience of the local independent coffeeshop as the stage on which significant and beautiful small moments occur, for themselves and others.

these stories drag me back to perhaps the ultimate meditation on the coffeeshop, from the austrian writer polgar. (long-time readers may recall i've written about him before.)

let me offer a word of advice to you, oksana! trade your teacup in for a comforting cappucino and let the passionate joy of coffee murder the anatomy of melancholy.

readers, if you have ever felt the way these writers do, if you recognize yourself in them, if polgar strikes a chord in you: you are already an scaa consumer member. because this is how we experience the world!

posted by fortune elkins | 8:56 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, November 05, 2003


another bccy dream coming true?

"we are taking another look at participating in the i.c.o."

so sez colin powell.

long-time readers know this has been a bee in my bonnet for quite a while (here and here). i know at first the issue seems a tad complicated. please bear with it!

it is an important part of moving towards a solution for the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis, as well as improving the overall quality of coffee we in the u.s.a. drink.

of course those of us who make a point of buying and drinking coffees from our local independent roaster/retailers, or roasting our own at home, are already drinking specialty-grade, the highest quality.

but we scaa consumer members are also interested in helping to ensure that all americans get the best quality, purest coffee only.

trust me: you don't want to see what goes into a lot of so-called coffee products. ok, i'll remind you anyway.

this isn't fit for those with tender sensitbilities -- this ugly twisted blackened rotten moldy shriveled bug-chewed stuff requires advance warning. . .

on the left, the minimum standard of green that the scaa proposes be legal to import and serve to americans. on the right, utter nastiness, the dreaded grade 8, which you may have unknowingly sipped yourself this very day.

posted by fortune elkins | 8:47 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, November 04, 2003


i told you so

"chocolate. . . . - for breakfast - could be the key to losing weight." for children at least!

once again, this stuff is too good to make up. british researchers at the oxford brookes university have discovered that foods with certain kinds of sugars, like dark chocolate, can be an important part of a healthy, weight-loss-oriented breakfast.

the drawback: apparently you have to eat it with meusli or irish oat flakes. so sprinkle those dark chocolate bits into your porridge, little girl!

the scientists published this preliminary info in the respected medical journal pediatrics. it's this wacky glycemic-index stuff that's all the rage now among nutritionists and fad diet doctors.

note that dark chocolate -- over 60% -- has a low index number of only 22. less than whole wheat bread! less than the oatmeal itself!

maybe uma thurman's joke diet -- eating only chocolate all day -- isn't a bad idea after all?

the article reporting this is quite amusing, i think.

but seriously -- my suggestion is to eat your 1-1.5 oz of dark chocolate a day, and find the serious yoga practice that works for you.

it's not a quick fix. it's a lifestyle change that will over time actually be effective.

posted by fortune elkins | 8:48 AM | top | link to this |


Monday, November 03, 2003


our friends & colombia

an interesting article today on the effort of colombia to market its high-quality specialty coffee, and not just the juan valdez variety.

what i love about it is that it quotes all our friends and personal deities: ted lingle of the scaa; the goddess lindsay of green mountain; larry of batdorf, who makes mr. right's favorite dancing goats blend; and i suspect the last unnamed source to be steve colten of atlantic.

i'm not too fond of colombian coffees personally, but i had some narino last year that was pretty good, i thought. but it's just too bright for me.

the situation in colombia, long-time readers know, has interested me because it's a great case where you can see the rubber really hit the road in the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis.

the energetic president uribe, himself a yoga student, from a coffee family and a victim of the unrest, took office with some interesting plans to tackle the crisis internationally and locally.

of course many of these are realizing more slowly than he had hoped; the world has high inertia sometimes!

let's hope he can get more done before his time and momentum run out. i thought he alone of the latin coffee leaders showed insight when he proposed creating a global chain of juan valdez coffeeshops to rival starbucks, for example. . .

he appeared to understand that only 2 people can solve the coffee crisis: the farmer and the consumer. farmers have to grow less coffee, and that coffee has to be of higher quality.

consumers will appreciate good coffee; they just have to be able to go some place to taste it and then become more educated. (you can take this step yourself by becoming an scaa consumer member and beginning to make higher quality coffee at home!)

uribe seems to comprehend that the goal of all the people in the middle -- the national coffee boards, the importers, the roasters, the giant development agencies, etc. etc. -- has to be to facilitate this meeting of farmer and educated consumer.

finally, for the 4 people who are interested, here are pix of the new grading room at the exchange. this is where the pro cuppers do their serious business of judging coffees on the basis of quality standards.

they had a nice opening ceremony featuring many famous cuppers, present and retired. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:58 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, November 02, 2003


in case you're interested

thank goodness i didn't make too many mistakes! and i think i spelled everyone's name correctly. . .

oh, and i forgot that we were holding our breath in anticipation of the results of bikram's yoga competition. (i've mentioned this before.)

congratulations to you jennifer, and may bikram keeping working for you.

there's a type of yoga for everyone and it's all good. i encourage everyone to find the yoga that works for them, even lovely bikram's style.

just don't forget to pay him your royalties. after one marathon cleaning session from yesterday, now it's time to destroy the kitchen again for the weekly sunday pizza!

what's great is that the dough can continue to rise slowly in the fridge while i go to 5pm yoga. at 6pm, mr. right takes it out to warm up, and he pre-heats the pizza stone.

by 7pm, i'm back and we're all ready to bake!

posted by fortune elkins | 10:49 AM | top | link to this |

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