Saturday, November 15, 2003
woody, spicy, mystical
why is coffee like yoga?
"coffee illuminates things with a flash of truth, dispels the clouds of illusion and its murky gravity," sez jules michelet. it's a phenomenon of the enlightenment, don'cha know.
thus it's somehow apropos that today, when i'm tasting david haddock's espresso aficionado from counterculture, i also receive john friend's 2004 anusara workshop schedule.
the theme: sandalwood and black cardamom. in fact, today could almost be an oriental perfume in and of itself!
first, there's friend's mystical magic merry band tour, complete with a cute pic of ganesh that would warm the heart of any tea stall fan.
which includes me, if only for the george harrison downloads alone!
yoga people in bklyn, the studio where i take most of my classes, began as an anusara studio. at that time it was just about the only studio in this part of bklyn. (now there are so many: area, yoga lab, brooklyn yoga, etc. etc.)
while yoga people has moved far from anusara -- in fact, lately it is sadly veering towards the worst tendencies of jivamukti, which i hope the owner wendy will correct -- i still sometimes detect a hidden anusara attitude in myself, which i try to be careful to note. and that's just because my first teachers were john-friend people.
thus i have to confess that i love prof. douglas brooks, for example. great presentation of kashmir shaivism. (speaking of which, eddie, can you get more shiva on that radio!?!)
but on to the espresso. with a born-on roast date of the 12th, i ground this on my mazzer mini at 4-1/2 to 5 notches to the left of the arrow decal.
the fragrance was perfectly black cardamom (i went and stuck my nose in my jar of whole black cardamoms just to make sure). i pulled at 25-second shot on my silvia, and gaped.
i have a nice 3-oz. shot glass, which i use because dr. john's josuma malabar gold blend with robusta can easily fill that with its huge crema. and so did the aficionado.
in fact, for a moment, i thought i must have switched coffees! but no, it was the aficionado, which does indeed give a large amount of crema, although in the end not as much as the josuma.
the aficionado is roasted to bare dots of oil, so i'm calling it vienna/northern-italian roast. to my mind, the aroma continued with a woody spice/basalmic thing. it certainly has a very long dry finish, with a dutch cocoa aftertaste.
what do i mean by that? i mean, if you've ever set a pinch of say, droste cocoa out of the box on your tongue, that's the aftertaste i'm talking about: a powdery, pleasant slight bitterness. it does haul you off for a glass of water after a while. . .
the coffee clung heavily to the back of the demitasse spoon, the same way thin gravy clings. what i call a creamy body, too.
when i talked to counterculture's charming cindy chang about this coffee, she said that at this time of year she might prefer their espresso forte. i didn't get a sample of this, so i can't compare.
it's a coffee that any espresso lover should try. note: unlike other counterculture coffees, however, this blend doesn't appear to be certified organic.
let me just close by saying that there's something about this coffee that reminds me of a guerlain perfume. maybe in mood alone. . .
Friday, November 14, 2003
kona coffee festival prizes
there are a couple of prizes given out by various places -- and they go to: kona coffee & tea, merle wood, aikane, kona mtn.
the aikane is familiar to many i'm sure from the dean & deluca paper catalogue, where they ask a mere kidney for it. so you can pull the plug on grandma, collect the inheritance, and then fed ex the relevant organs to the soho store.
my favorite konas, personally, are: smith farms, kona star, greenwell farms, and langenstein farms. as much for the coffee as the owners!
actually i've always been amazed by the dean & deluca coffee gifts. whenever i would spin my dreams of opening a gambrinus-style cafe here in new york, with coffee served in deruta, selling cult coffees from out-of-town for $17 a pound, everyone giggled.
but the dean & deluca coffee gifts should reinforce my courage! for example, the cameroon boyo estate coffee they sell. you can pay US$21.50 per pound with shipping; or you can pay US$14.20 with shipping.
it's the silver box, stupid! when will i learn?
and another tidbit i should learn is how incredible the people at counterculture coffee are. cindy chang and david haddock, this means you!
david haddock sweetly sent me another 3 lbs. of their organic coffee: an ethiopian sidamo; their holiday blend; and their aficionado espresso. personally, i've never seen a coffee bloom in the cafetiere (a.ka. french press) the way counterculture coffees do.
they explode, basically; and this is surely a sign of superb freshness. the scent of these coffees is intoxicating.
you know how the perfume of real vanilla -- even the tiniest amount -- can enchant you? there's something about very fresh coffee that is the same way; it just hooks the brain and reels it in. coffee must have some kind of similar aldehyde or something. . . .
for those who tend to say that certified organic coffees don't have the quality of most conventional specialty coffees, i have to say that in my experience the counterculture coffees are just as good. many many thanks to david haddock, and to cindy.
they are both tremendous supporters of the scaa consumer member program to boot! the motto is "coffee driven people | people driven coffee."
and it's true! i heart the counterculture. . .
Thursday, November 13, 2003
manly men do yoga, drink hot cocoa for breakfast
real men do yoga. why?
because yoga helps real men win and return home heroes.
to switch topics: will your european chocolate bar soon carry a warning label? i hope not -- moderate amounts of cocoa, hot chocolate, and chocolate products may actually be healthful due to the antioxidants known as polyphenols, as so much scientific research has shown.
(i personally like the possibility that combining red wine and chocolate might be extra healthy. drink your banyuls with that 70% dark chocolate!)
just a case of how the bizarre american lawsuit mentality is spreading all over the globe? and i really doubt it's the chocolate that's making people obese, as much as fast food, too much sugary soda, and lack of exercise.
finally, a cute story about a child's visit to a german chocolate factory. . .but not quite wonka-esque, alas!
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
more than the color of the roast
"coffee fans have learned that there is more to this brew than the color of the roast."
oh yes! and today finds a great review of a bccy classic, kummer's joy of coffee.
i haven't re-read this in several years, i confess. but i love it!
"i don't know what italians did with their hands before the invention of cigarettes and the cell phone, but it is certain romulus and remus were not really raised by a wolf, but by rome's first coffee merchants."
reading this brought a huge smile to my face on an otherwise busy, grey day. . .the tazza d'oro is indeed heaven.
and most importantly, for those of you in the southeast u.s., i'm happy to report the scheduling of an scaa consumer member event! it's focused on home roasting, but non-roasters can come and play with coffee too!
this all-day blending party is being held in raleigh, n.c. on nov. 22. space is limited, so email now to reserve a space and obtain full details!
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
the problem of inconsistency
today's new york times offers an article reviewing craft chocolates in connecticut, including the wonderous knipschildt truffle. (log your bad self in and once again thank bruce: saute, wednesday.)
i've tried most of these chocolates, and the problem with them to my mind -- the reason you never hear me speak of 'em -- is that they are inconsistent in production. alas, this has even been the case with knipschildt.
i buy 2 half-pounds, and they're just different -- one's great, the other's ordinary. well, that's a hazard of craft work.
also i find that many of the craft people listed in the article aren't very imaginative or creative with shapes or flavors. knipschildt is really so far above the others listed in the article, it isn't funny -- but in my opinion, he's gotta get more reliable.
this is what separates him from genuises like donnelly. donnelly is creative, innovative, visionary, consistent, artistic. he is a chocolatier, the real thing, not a "took a couple of classes and now piddles with ganache."
i'm rooting for ya, franz! take the next step forward! plunge into your art. . .
and finally: are hipster teens turning away from soda and embracing coffee? we scaa c-members hope so!
our goal now: to take them beyond the vanilla latte and frappucino into the world of true coffee appreciation. and we're working on that, yes we are!
(note to jessica: comme des garcons or goth black isn't the current fashionista preference. this season we're wearing black and white, but not in a way that makes you look like a waiter.
even the kawakubo perfume is called "white." but i bet my old pal kurt sayenga will never give up his tim burton (flash required) look!
and nowadays the starvin', slammin' def jam poets are wearing, well, hip-hop clothes. in short, the only cool thing that's wearing all black should be your espresso. . . and by the way, welcome to new york!)
Monday, November 10, 2003
nyc chocolate show this weekend
and let's not forget that starting this thurs. and running thru the weekend is the annual nyc chocolate show!
definitely buy your tickets in advance, because the line to get in otherwise will go around 3 sides of the block. not pretty, when it takes 2 hours just to get in!
and for those who doubt it -- i mean, how many years have i been talking about this now? -- cocoa may be richer in antioxidants than better known "healthy" drinks like tea and red wine.
but actually, it's beginning to look as if coffee has interesting amounts of anti-oxidants too. in fact, coffee is apparently the largest source of anti-oxidants/ flavonoids / polyphenols in the average american diet.
one study found that coffee offers more antioxidants than hot cocoa!
but i certainly won't object if you choose to add a daily cup of cocoa to your diet.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
email & coffee roast colors
in response to several email complaints, i'm posting this link to coffee roast colors and agtron numbers.
there's also great pix here from the famed ineedcoffee.com, although it doesn't link the images to any standard set of numbers or terms.
some people found my descriptions of roast colors yesterday -- city, full city, vienna -- confusing. and it's true, this is an imprecise terminology that varies a lot by region.
i confess, i should know better. but had i used agtron numbers only, would more people have been confused?
the scaa has its own terminology, which ken davids uses in his book on coffee home roasting. (a nice extract can be found here and also here on his coffeereview.com.)
a new version of his home roasting book is out, but i haven't seen it, and as long-time readers know, i can't roast at home.
well, i could, but mr. right would make sure that it would be the last thing i ever did. . . (should i take this opportunity to name don schoenholt the executor of my estate?)
in yoga news, i'm reading a very interesting but somewhat wacky book, philosophies of india by dr. h. zimmer, the friend of joseph campbell. it's a tad outdated now, i think.
the section on jainism is interesting, but when i discussed it with a pal of mine at work who is actually a jain, she thought it was insane and bore no real understanding of her life philosophy.
she sees it primarily as a devotion to principles of nonviolence and nonharming, vegetarianism, and a mutual respect for all beings and the environment.
ah, those academics: study it your whole life and get it wrong! the sections on yoga are pretty amusing too.
it seems as if he had never struck an asana in his life; his descriptions and conclusions are so far removed from the experience of actually having a daily yoga practice. . . still, an interesting text for yoga students. recommended!