Saturday, December 20, 2003
isn't it good?
many people accost me to say, "hey, fortune, you know, some of us coffee lovers still drink drip! what is this endless espresso thing of yours?"
and they have a point; i often don't spend enough time talking about the lovely origins, estate coffees, and blends that are aimed at drip or cafetiére brewing.
i've mentioned in the past drip-oriented coffees by counterculture, gillies, and kudo beans.
so let me today talk about a gillies blend, norwegian wood. it's a blend of beans with different roast levels, which some would argue should more properly be called a mélange.
i made it in my shiny lovely silver napoletana, sophia. perhaps i ought to have made it in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press). but i didn't, so there!
the first thing i want to say about norwegian wood is that it has an amazing vanilla scent. it's not vanilla-flavored.
but i actually called up don schoenholt of gillies and asked him if this vanilla was his customer service person olive's cologne clinging to the receipt in the box, or the coffee! answer: not the lovely olive's cologne.
since i now have the coffee fragrance kit, le nez du cafe by tasting expert jean lenoir, i can really talk to you about the aroma and flavors of this coffee! i hope. . .
norwegian wood is a smooth-bodied and medium bright -- i'm even going to say kinda nippy -- coffee. it's not a kona or a kenya aa; and it certainly doesn't snap like a rubber band. but it's a little brighter than i personally prefer.
long-time readers remember i actually don't like bright coffees. so this aspect of norwegian wood isn't my favorite. but! the aroma and flavors! omigod. . .
fresh norwegian wood is a rich, delicious smelling coffee, with a red currant fragrance, overwhelming vanilla and what le nez calls "honeyed" aromas (others might call it a kind of caramel), plus a mouth-watering buttery basmati rice sensation.
i can see why this is one of gillies' best sellers. many drip lovers who appreciate brightness more than i would truly enjoy this coffee.
which is probably why the chicago tribune said "had them coming back for more" when it reviewed the blend. it makes your house smell great. . .
norwegian wood also has personal meaning for don, since the blend was apparently a favorite of his late father's.
since in new york most people drink coffee with cream and sugar, i dutifully added a pinch of turbinado sugar and a tablespoon of light cream. have to try the coffee in real-life conditions, after all!
then this coffee came alive, to my mind, altho' that may be because the cream mutes the brightness a bit.
since different brewing methods do bring out different aspects of coffee, i should try this again in the cafetiére to be fair to it. . .
Friday, December 19, 2003
interesting reading leads ineluctably to coffee
and today finds me reading tantra: the path of ecstasy by yrec's georg feuerstein, the famed scholar of indian civilization.
thus the book is somewhat scholarly, even tho' georg himself has had a tantric tibetan buddhist (vajrayana) practice for a long time. he keeps his own experience out of it, and just offers an accessible overview of the history and theory of tantra.
since i muddled through swami lakshmanjoo's serious kashimir shaivism: the secret supreme all by my lonesome previously, there isn't too much that's unfamiliar to me.
most people would probably be well-advised however to read georg's book first, because swami's tome is a tough trek, as i wrote at the time.
so hard it sent me straight to a cup of comforting gillies deluxe dark 2, actually. but after i finish this, i may find the courage to tackle the swami's second book.
i recommend georg's book for the yoga student, because the asana sadhana (practice) -- that is, standing around in a room doing poses -- is a tantric sadhana, and if you spend several hours a week doing it, it's helpful to understand something about the endeavor beyond its value as exercise.
a lot of people who know me are constantly astonished at why i read books like this, since i am a well-known skeptical materialist. i mean, beauty physics is "mystical" enough for me!
but i'm also interested in folklore, narrative, the poetry and mythology of how people understand themselves. the tantric literature is as fine an example of this as african folktales -- it's a sophisticated metaphor, and interesting document of human consciousness.
this is the sort of intellectual inquiry coffee leads on to, don'cha know? but seriously, if you're still looking for a holiday gift for your favorite yoga student, georg's tantra book would be wonderful.
on the other hand, if you're still looking for a holiday gift for your favorite coffee lover, consider a donation to a coffee charity: coffeekids, cup for education, grounds for health, or the lutheran coffee project. . .
Thursday, December 18, 2003
yoga for rehabilitation; maybe we should call them 'chocolate eaters'
and here's an interesting story on how kentucky is experimenting with yoga as a therapy for incarcerated women.
our current heroine? n'awlins-living bep de jonge, age 79. she swims, does yoga and her sensible diet includes a square of chocolate every day. you go, bep!
and speaking of chocolate, which europeans eat it the most? who spends more on it as a percentage of their income than any other?
the british and the irish! per capita, the brits eat 22 pounds of it a year; the irish 18. this makes us americans look lame, as we generally manage only 12 pounds annually. we're pretty close to those supposedly chocolate-crazed belgians, who find room for just 14 pounds each person per year.
naturally u.k. nutritionists are appalled. but maybe this is why so many of the brits i personally know maintain themselves in fine humor most of the time. . .
but maybe they are also secretly maintaining their cardiovascular health?
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
coffee appreciation in short supply all over; welcome to sophia?
"the message from the calcutta coffee drinker in one of the many newly-opened cafés in town is clear -- understanding the beverage has very little to do with consuming it."
it's not just a problem in india, i must say! all over many people drink coffee without truly appreciating it, just as for many years americans drank california wine without knowledge.
to improve california wine, the industry realized it needed educated consumers with some palate training. and the specialty coffee industry, at least, is following in this track. thus the invention of the scaa consumer membership, aimed at creating a venue where coffee lovers can develop their palates and appreciation for the world's most social and intellectual beverage.
if you're a coffee lover interested in increasing your understanding of our favorite drink, i welcome you to join us!
also, long-time readers may recall that i often muse as to what exactly is in those supermarket brand x cans. low-grade arabica mixed with steamed and processed robusta, plus whatever they need to add to make it taste and smell like coffee? i dunno.
who does? well, one woman has found out exactly what was in her supermarket can.
finally, i made coffee this morning in the lovely new-to-me silver napoletana. what's interesting about it is that it requires an amazingly coarse grind. large bits -- larger than kosher salt, almost rock salt size!
the interior container -- it looks like a flour shaker -- has 2 filters: one with very fine holes for the coffee to drip through into the serving pot, and another with extremely large holes to serve as a "showerhead" for the hot water to spread evenly across the coffee.
you have to grind the coffee coarsely enough that it doesn't fall through the showerhead while the water boils before you flip the pot. a usually reliable site tells consumers to grind the coffee fine. no dice: if you do this, the coffee will slip into the boiling water. all bad!
we never want to boil coffee! boiling water should never touch coffee! we want this kind of drip coffee to have water between 195 and 205 degrees.
i suppose if you have problems grinding this coarse, you could cut a piece of coffee filter paper and use it to line the showerhead side of central container, but that would reduce the body of the brew somewhat. . .
my napoletana holds 12 oz. (about 355 mls.) of water (for 2 american 6 oz. cups or 4 italian 3 oz. cups); so i would expect to use somewhere between 17 and 20 grams of coffee (or roughly between 0.60 and 0.70 oz.) in it. this morning i used 19 grams, and found it a teeny-tiny touch too strong for my personal taste. i might back down to 17 grams and see how that tastes.
i found this morning that the napoletana makes a nice coffee that drips somewhere between bialetti moka pot brew and cafetiére (aka french press) coffee. it is just as clear and silt-free as moka coffee, but seems to have a little more body, just as the press pot does.
or maybe that was just due to the sweet, syrupy gillies carioca coffee i made in it. . .
certainly flipping the pot is fun. the only drawbacks to this method that i can see are that coffee sometimes dribbles out of the steam vent as you pour that last cup and that it's a little hard to clean the hot coffee grounds out of the likewise hot central container.
i love my napoletana. what should i name it? i have carlos, silvia. . .should i name this silver loveliness sophia after one of naple's most famed beauties?
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
east africa sees the light to solve the coffee crisis
and one great way to end the world-price depression known as the "coffee crisis" is for producing countries to drink the stuff themselves. but this means the people have to be able to afford to buy the good quality coffee they themselves grow.
this is only common sense and basic justice, isn't it? right now, often the citizens of producing countries have access only to low-grade, poor quality coffees or even just the junk, trash coffee known as "triage." and who wants to drink that?
but enough serious talk. on a lighter note, i nearly fell outta my dopey dot-commie herman miller chair reading this:
"i know they have a high suicide rate there, because of the weather. but they have a starbucks on every corner to keep people alive in seattle. they're walking along, thinking, 'i haven't seen the sun for three years in a row. i'm going to kill myself -- but there's starbucks. i guess i'll get a coffee and last one more hour.' "
he's a hoot, this scot pollard, and i guess he plays basketball, hmm?
actually this coffee drinking theory works for me here in relatively sunny nyc. whenever i get too low, i have a cup of freshly brewed coffee. even the smell of fresh coffee raises the spirits. it's not secret why!
the delicious aroma of coffee contains elements like vanillin (real vanilla!) and linanol (a coriander or basil-y scent), both of which have been proven in some scientific studies to enhance mood and develop a feeling of calm. . .
and this is probably a contributing factor as to why coffee drinkers seem to have lower suicide rates. the appetizing scent literally arouses a more positive brain chemistry, a happier frame of mind!
Monday, December 15, 2003
yes, of course. . .
"fortune occasionally, generously, interrupts the general daily monotony with wry comments and ridiculous juxtapositions. . ."
well, maybe the ny times is beginning to catch a clue (log your own bad self in and think of bruce: saute, wednesday) after all! (with thanks to the incredible cate baril of green mountain!)
also, today had coffee with the incredible devorah of malinal and san cristobal coffees about triage coffee, real coffee quality and the serious question of sustainability.
(what is triage coffee? this is junk coffee, trash coffee: black, unripe, and
fermented beans that donít add to the flavor of the cup; it counts for about 15% of world production. it's basically no-quality coffee, but by floating around the market, it helps depress prices. this stuff has gotta be removed from circulation if we want to seriously tackle the coffee crisis.)
she and partner jim kosalos are the real deal when it comes to people with business solutions to the crisis.
they have the most awesome transparent, fair, and totally business-oriented model to enchance the spread of quality coffee, the kind of specialty coffee we scaa member consumers want to drink and support. check this space for more on this initiative very soon. . .
talking to d. was intensely exciting. of course, i knew meeting her would be incredible, and i have to thank the endlessly amazing scaa chief ted lingle for the introduction!
Sunday, December 14, 2003
i'm always on the look out for the ultimate killer brownie recipe. while this cappucino cream cheese brownie gig looks ok, i don't think it's for me. . .but it might be for you.
as always, i find supposed "food writer" amanda hesser of the ny times deeply amusing. she lives down the street from me now, which is an interesting exercise in yoga; not only do i get to practice indifference to her bad writing in the paper, but i also get to ignore her in the subway elevator.
fortunately for amanda, since i have seen her in the morning in aforementioned elevator, i also can overlook her utter inability to dress herself. . .
thus i am now supremely indifferent to her labeling the nespresso machine in today's times magazine as a great idea for 2003 (log your own bad self and think of bruce: saute wednesday). she goes on about the ease, the no-muss no-fussiness of it all, the ugly po-mo style of the machine, its popularity. . .and nowhere does she mention the taste of the coffee it supposedly makes!
(recent rant on the tasteless of said coffee from pre-packed pods and capsules here.)
but that's so the new york times. style over all; soon the paper will just be a tony print version of entertainment weekly with some poorly researched foreign stories tossed in as a sop to intellectual and "hard news" pretension.
i shouldn't be so bleak: deborah baldwin is a food writer who understands that food is about more than narcissistic style; it reveals culture and soul, but oh, you have to be able to cook a bit too.
i say, less hesser, more baldwin!
finally, playing with le nez du café from yesterday. it just makes me appreciate more deeply the subtle factors of the scaa coffee flavor wheel. i'm always surprised when members of alt.coffee and the scaa consumer member program reject this useful tool.
i once described it as a doorway into a deeper relationship with what is beautiful in coffee; but now i would say it is more like a warm pool into which you can plunge your entire body without regret. . .you do not pass through coffee and its flavors.
rather, you bathe in them and can come really come away refreshed.