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Saturday, November 22, 2003


recession-proof! fair-trade! delicious!

"americans will spend $19 billion on coffee this year, and increasingly the market is shifting from basic canned ground coffee to specialty brands and other premium products, including organic and fair-trade coffees."

as this article shows, specialty coffee -- what we're devoted to here -- is a-catching on, even the relatively exotic concept of fair-trade coffee.

more proof that bccy is becoming increasingly mainstream! thank god there's hope: finally people can ask me what i'm talking about and they might actually understand my answers!

but in the case of coffee, i think the article is mistaken. people aren't buying starbucks or other specialty coffees because they want to be different; they are buying them because on the whole they taste better than other coffees people are used to!

taste! there is more to coffee than style. . . and of course, the best way to get great tasting coffee is to learn to make fantastic specialty coffees at home, coffees you can enjoy with friends and family.

if you're interested in learning more about coffee -- which you are or you wouldn't be reading this! -- and want to discover different delicious specialty coffees, as well as how to best make 'em at home, well, you can hang around here, join the scaa's consumer member program, and read a bit on coffeegeek.

posted by fortune elkins | 2:53 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, November 21, 2003


excuse this space

i'm so angry i could spit. wiser heads are attempting to calm me. nadi sodhanana pranayama. . . .and i guess i should eat some dark chocolate to lower my blood pressure!

excuse me while i explain tomorrow. some things should be slept on before publishing! grrrr!

posted by fortune elkins | 7:53 PM | top | link to this |


Thursday, November 20, 2003


lower your blood pressure

eat a 3.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate every day for 2 weeks. watch your blood pressure fall!

again, this stuff is too good to make up. remember that study in the renowned jama, which was released last august. . . ?

well, it seems to be receiving new attention this week.

but you'll have to adjust your diet a bit, or add a yoga class to your day, since a nice european chocolate bar of that size probably has about 300 calories. still it has to be more pleasant than prescription drugs! and less expensive!

oh, here's another story covering the recent nyc chocolate show.

and for those of you seeking a chocolate thanksgiving dessert that can be made ahead, this chocolate pecan pie looks traditional, easy to make, and delicious.

but on the coffee front, today i'm drinking counterculture's pleasant ethiopian sidamo. it's what you'd expect in a sidamo: some brightness, floral, and sweetly spicy with a touch of earth and nice medium body in the cafetiére a.ka. french press.

think of it as a step back from yrg. so there will be a winey quality as well.

normally, i would like coffees a tad less bright than this, but i find counterculture's sidamo pretty yummy, considering. some people say that if you're a white wine drinker, you'll love sidamo.

since i'm a red person, i can't say. but counterculture's web page ordering is currently down, so you'll have to call their 800 number to order from them. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 11:39 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, November 19, 2003


chilling words

"i've never seen more abandoned farms in my career. it's not so much the quality, it's just that the coffee has gone away."

and they are not going to come back. this is the end result of the so-called coffee crisis for consumers: we will have fewer choices of coffee, and the coffee we have left could be lower-quality.

interesting and treasured coffee varieties are going to be lost forever unless we consumers agitate for governments, roaster-retailers, fair-trade people, coffeehouses, importers, and development agencies to act to stem the world-price depression soon.

how best to do this? become an scaa consumer member. the scaa is the specialty coffee trade group that can lobby in our interest and is already working on projects to reverse this frightening trend.

we consumers make the market. if we speak, the market must respond. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 9:51 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, November 18, 2003


tempest in a cappucino cup

long-time readers know i am sympathetic with dean's heartfelt position: fair-trade coffee is an important part of the response to the world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis." but it is not the sole solution.

speaking from my own personal experience, i must say he is mistaken in his assessment of green mountain.

i have the great privilege to know rick peyser and cate baril of green mountain personally. rick peyser is so concerned about the coffee crisis, he is on the board of coffeekids. and cate baril works hard to forward the organic and fair-trade program.

cate is so serious about these issues that when she and i were drinking in the hilton bar at the scaa atlanta committee meetings last september, she spoke passionately and at great length on the need for social responsibility in all one's business dealings.

i mean, to the level that she was discussing a complete overhaul of one's 401(k) to ensure one supported only responsible corporations. and she has traveled to latin america to build houses for the poor coffee workers in guatemala!

i can say with complete conviction that the people at green mountain are part of the solution and not part of the problem!

i hope dean and green mountain kiss and make up. we specialty coffee people need to stick together.

our problems are with the so-called "big four " coffee roasters, the multi-nationals who can the supermarket brands -- sara lee, kraft, p&g, nestle -- not each other! we need to spend our energy persuading these guys to join our bandwagon.

posted by fortune elkins | 11:29 AM | top | link to this |


Monday, November 17, 2003


chocolate measures the speed of light

since recently we've become such geeks here at bccy, i thought i'd pass along this charming science experiment that allows you to measure the speed of light while melting chocolate in your microwave.

don't say we're not devoted to the highest interests of mankind here!

the article however fails to address what to do with the molten chocolate. since wasting chocolate is really a shame, i suggest mousse (log your own bad self in and think of bruce: saute, wednesday).

but speaking of intense travel, i'd like to mention an incredible trip that i wish i could take: the women in coffee tour to nicaragua the last week of jan. 2004. i understand they're even bringing a yoga teacher!

for those who wish more philosophical journeys, let me recommend carl horowitz's talk on the yoga sutras at the breathing project. the next one is dec. 11 at 8pm.

posted by fortune elkins | 8:11 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, November 16, 2003


why that coffee smells terrific

or, your brain on vanilla.

i mentioned in passing one of the reasons coffee's delicious scent causes most human noses to perk up with delight. . . the aromatic aldehyde it shares with vanilla.

i was most fortunate to hear from scaa chief ted lingle (whose gilded icon adorns the top position of my personal coffee retablo) on this very subject.

first we have to remember that the human nose -- who knows why? -- is unusually sensitive to vanillin, one of the many natural chemicals we sense when we smell lovely real vanilla. we can smell even miniscule amounts of vanilla; some scientists say as few as 5 or so parts per billion in the air!

(interestingly enough, capascin, the ouchy-hot chemical in chiles, is related to vanillin, and people can also detect it very finely: 8 parts per billion!)

lingle quotes tasting guru jean lenoir: "the smell of vanilla in coffee is a basic permanent feature, essential to the balance of the coffee's aroma.  it fixes and strengthens the other aromatic compounds, bringing body, especially in the arabicas."

long-time readers will also remember that small amounts of vanilla are present in most chocolate, as well. . .

he notes that the vanillin we smell in our freshly brewed coffee belongs to a class of chemicals known as -- brace yourselves -- the aldehydic derivatives of polyhydric phenols. for you true geeks out there, its chemical composition is 3-methoxy-4-hydroxybenzaldehyde.

and speaking of long-time readers, you will no doubt be asking yourself, hey why is she here today? shouldn't she be lost in the crush at the nyc chocolate show?

and it's true, normally i would be. but this year, i just can't do it.

i can't take the waiting hours on the sidewalk in the freezing wind, only to be jammed more tightly than a hapless commuter on a japanese train car, unable to reach the sample trays through the out-of-town hordes who have come to fill up on milk-chocolate-covered pretzels.

god love those out-of-town hordes, and may they discover the joys of hand-made, artisan chocolate at the show.

forgive me. instead i'm staying home, staying calm, making pizza, and going to yoga class. please make do with this fine article in my place.

in the meantime, i'll be sniffing the perfume of david haddock's counterculture certified organic holiday blend, made in my little cafetiére. . . more commonly known as the french press.

and let me close with another remark by lingle -- who, if the world were just, would walk on water -- on the subject of vanilla in coffee, and the aromas of coffee: "you see, the words in the flavor wheel really do have a technical basis and a more precise meaning than most people recognize."

he's referring here to the scaa coffee-tasting wheel, a tool to help people put words to what they feel when they taste coffee. and vanilla is one of the terms on the wheel.

it's there not because the wheel is based on poetry and metaphor -- although heaven knows, coffee has plenty of that beauty! -- but also because the wheel describes the real chemicals we can perceive with just a little practice when we sample our daily brew.

one of the goals of the scaa consumer membership idea is to help people appreciate the beautiful coffee they drink everyday. and to appreciate not only the poetry of coffee, its exotic heart buried in the everyday, but also the wonder of nature that coffee exhibits.

yet people often discover that they have a hard time describing the complex and delicious flavors of coffee. thus the wheel!

the wheel takes some time to learn, but it helps immeasurably. especially when buying coffee from professionals. once you learn a little about the wheel, you can discuss coffee in a way you never could before.

you can finally unlock the depths of how coffee feels to you! and you can try new coffees, or compare familiar ones, based on this liberating vocabulary.

i encourage everyone to become a c-member, get their own copy of the wheel and the lingle tasting handbook, and try out this new vocabulary as it suits them. this may be much, or little. hey, whatever works for you!

either way, it is a door that takes you into more fully into the fascination and romance of the world's greatest beverage. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:51 AM | top | link to this |

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