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Saturday, May 08, 2004


o. . . my. . . heavens. . .

yes, friends, perfection is possible. i've fallen off the horse. that glowing light in the sky isn't metatron.

it's the gentle warmth emanating from what may be a flawless cup of coffee, oren's guatemalan cobán. and dear long-time readers, you know from patient reading i don't even like central american coffees.

that's why i'm describing this as your basic conversion experience. let's roll the linglese from the scaa flavor wheel and the nez du café.

unfortunately this coffee isn't labelled with an estate. so all i can tell you is that it's a cobán shb, but i'm assuming it's oren's usual one you can buy in his store.

from the bloom in cupping it, i think it's about 4 days old. i'd call this bean a full-city roast, with a light sheen, but no actual dots or pinpricks of oil.

it's a rich, smooth-bodied coffee, of amazing beauty and complexity. the fragrance from the dry grounds smells like heaven. ok, cardamom and jasmine/tea-rose.

then we get into the flavors of basmati rice and honey, modulating into a lovely dark caramel and intense vanilla syrup thing. . .

hot, the cup seemed sweet and mild. cool, the light & pleasing brightness (a.k.a. acidy) became more apparent. i'd call it the nicest kind of nippy.

i was just stunned at the loveliness of this coffee. it smelled so good mr. right, who drinks only lattes, and then only on the weekend, actually considered having a cup! imagine: the diet coke drinker -- pondering a cup of real coffee!

i would say this coffee equals my two absolute favorite drip coffees, the yrg and sumatra from don schoenholt's gillies.

i rushed to make this in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press). my kitchen filled with an intoxicating lovely fresh coffee scent.

i poured myself a cup, added the standard tablespoon of light cream and a demitasse spoon of turbinado sugar. now, that was heavenly.

the turbinado sugar and milk brought out the candy quality in the coffee and i had 2 cups. i don't like central american coffee. . .will someone catch that darned horse?

or as don schoenholt himself says: "i consider oren's daily roast to be a treasure of new york's coffee bar culture."

posted by fortune elkins | 6:34 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, May 07, 2004


vive la conference

just when you thought the specialty coffee conference was over, it's time to start again! that's right, we're in the thick of planning scaa seattle 2005!

coffee lovers, mark your calendars now! the last week of april 2005 in seattle.

here's the program the consumer marketing committee is looking at:

  • 1 2 hr. hands-on cupping lab, run by lindsay bolger of green mountain and a cupper to be named later;

  • 1 2 hr hands-on espresso lab focusing on latte art, run by dr. joseph john of josuma, and mike white of gimme;

  • 1 2 hr. hands-on drip coffee brewing lab, run by david haddock of counterculture;

  • 1 2 hr. hands-on home coffee roasting lab, with a focus on blending and roasting for espresso at home, run by ken davids;

  • 1 tour of the show floor, to be conducted by a roaster to be named later, maybe chuck jones;

  • 1 meet-the-authors session, to include scaa chief ted lingle, mark prendergast, and tentatively, ian bersten;

  • 1 ethiopian coffee ceremony;

  • 1 formal zen coffee meditation, repeated on 2 days, 1 on sat. and 1 on sun. (this is actually for all tracks, just as it was this year);

  • 1 seminar on water quality for coffee, hopefully to be hosted by david beeman of cirqua;

  • 1 seminar on le nez du cafe with ted lingle;

  • 1 seminar on coffee philanthropy, with grounds for health, coffeekids, and cup for education;

  • 1 official scaa c-member reception.

this is a fairly ambitious load. i'm sure not all of these will make the cut! but hey, we can try. . .and now i hope you see why planning all of this takes an entire year!

posted by fortune elkins | 11:35 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, May 06, 2004


wasabi, again

after the ny times article, you'd expect a big upsurge of interest in vosges haut chocolat in soho. and thus today i wasn't the least bit surprised to see a colleague wander in with one of their well-known black pearl bars.

wasabi, again. i know the mixing of east & west in flavors has been the trend for several years now, but to my mind, this wasabi gig in chocolate's a serious case of confusion cooking. so many try it, and nobody seems to make it work. . .

of these vosges bars, i guess i personally prefer the red fire dark chocolate bar. but the candy i'm waiting to get my hands on is of course the absinthe truffle, which i think will be very reminiscent
of richard donnelly's chinese 5 spice bar.

except that donnelly -- as i believe coston -- uses only valrhona, not vosges' belgian chocolate.

everyone knows that conchita (a.k.a. lana) is practically my best friend and i'd never go shoe shopping without her, but really, they've been announcing this for what? 2 years now?

i'll believe it when i see it. . .i just hope the coffee will be truly specialty quality!

finally, articles like this always strike me as odd. every now and then the press decides that men have discovered yoga.

my yoga classes have been oh usually 30-40% guys for a couple of years now -- and african-american, asian-american, and latino guys are now regulars in at least 1 of the classes i take regularly. it really shouldn't be surprising.

after all, yoga classes are filled with lithe, limber ladies wearing practically nothing while they bend every which way. . .and in partner yoga, they thank you when you put your hands all over them!

posted by fortune elkins | 10:45 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, May 05, 2004


um, i wanna disagree here. . .

"caffeine intake by teenagers is associated with increased blood pressure in some adolescents."

naturally my inbox is overflowing with reports of this study. thank you, dear readers, for thinking of me. however, i wouldn't be so concerned.

as the headline on the most common version of this story is rather alarmist, we think the headline editor unfairly targets coffee over the real problem: sugar-water peddled by anorexic pop stars in too little clothing.

yes, a large number of students and teens enjoy a vanilla latte (which they can easily have as decaf) at their local coffeehouse. and for teen girls, it's a blessing, because it may be their only daily source of milk and hence calcium, which is so important to prevent osteoporosis in later life.

however, the one or two ounces of coffee in those lattes do not come near introducing the amount of caffeine you find in the endless 42oz.(!) super-sized sodas many americans, children, teens and adults alike, carry with them constantly.

[let's say 10oz. of that super-size thing is ice. that's 32oz. soft drink at about 45mg. of caffeine per 12 oz., or about 120 mg caffeine. teen boys drink about 2.5 such servings day, according to some authorities.

your properly-made 6 oz. cup of coffee, meanwhile, only averages about 105 mg., making it at worst an even draw with soft drinks, unlike what the above upi headline and story would lead you to believe. we won't even mention the sugar issue here. . .]

as one expert says: "many teens are drowning in soda pop. it's become their main beverage, providing many with 15% to 20% of all their calories and squeezing out more-nutritious foods and beverages from their diets."

while sugar-free, decaf soda can be found at the supermarket, it's not commonly seen in the fast-food places, quick-marts, or vending machines where many teens purchase beverages.

not to mention that the effects of caffeine on hypertension/blood pressue definitely appear overstated in this latest report; previous studies have found no such dire outcomes (please see question 2 here).

we here at bccy still encourage moderation in coffee drinking. altho' science has shown some benefit for men in drinking larger amounts of coffee, i still firmly believe most women and teenagers should stick to 2 or 3 6-oz. cups of coffee a day.

in fact, since decaf coffee taste quality continues to slowly improve, i would even suggest having 2 cups with breakfast, and a nice cup of decaf in the afternoon or after dinner.

the key there is nice. why do people consume soda endlessly? a nervous habit? thirst? isn't it rather, i argue, a lack of satisfaction? these soft drinks offer you nothing satisfying, just empty calories.

i truly believe anyone would be more satisfied with two 5 or 6-oz. cups of perfect, fresh, specialty coffee, properly brewed, and served with 2 teaspoonfuls of light cream and a pinch of turbinado sugar than with a titanic silo of overly sweetened fizz.

try running over to your local neigborhood independent coffeehouse, roaster/retailer, or bean store, and asking for some european (a.k.a. "direct method") decaf for afternoon drinking. or consider asking for decaf in your latte.

you might surprised at how much you like it! and if you're really concerned about how much caffeine your family members drink, try slowly phasing in more decaf. . .the fabulous oren suggests blending european decaf sumatra with european decaf colombian for a satisfying cup!

"try 1/3 sumatra and 2/3 colombian, or 50/50 if you like more body," he recommends. since we here at bccy love body, we'd start with that. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:53 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, May 04, 2004


espresso: for those of you who couldn't make it to atlanta

i'm offering a link here to jim schulman's consumer espresso lab presentation.

this was the big talk that would have been given at the recent scaa conference in atlanta if the projector hadn't whacked out. the quality of this talk should help give all coffee lovers an idea of the benefits of becoming scaa consumer members and attending our track at the seattle conference next year!

it's rendered here as .jpgs to save you all from the problems of powerpoint. yahoo limits hits to this free area, it seems, so if it gets busy, you might have trouble getting through and may have to try again later.

anyway, if you want to know anything and everything about espresso and making it at home, here's a handy outline.

also, i'm on bended knee, begging the mermaid to please tell me it isn't so: that she isn't consorting with kraft, a member of the so-called "big four" multi-national coffee roasters, those responsible for the stuff in the supermarket cans.

no, it can't be true. . .this seems a step away from specialty coffee, a step starbucks doesn't want to take!

on a more positive note, let me congratulate my pals at green mountain -- rick peyser, cate baril, doug cadmus, and the cupping goddess lindsay bolger -- on being named -- once again -- as a leader among ethical companies.

but they didn't need a fancy business school report to tell us consumers so! devoted readers of bccy know all about green mountain's commitment to farmers and the environment. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:33 AM | top | link to this |


Monday, May 03, 2004


let's say no to supercoffee

"two years of research was aimed at helping brazil produce more productive types of coffee as well as a 'super-coffee' of higher quality."

we coffee lovers really have to send some top-flight shrinks to brazil -- because those government agronomists need to have their heads examined. as if the world requires more coffee?

have the brazilians suddenly forgotten the four-year-old world-price depression known as the coffee crisis, which is due to massive oversupply? the crisis is harming the quality of coffee available to us coffee drinkers, as long-time readers well know.

further, any new weird g.m.o. types of coffee will probably not do well in the specialty market. devoted readers can check out the comments recently where a noted coffee importer/broker (a.k.a. "greenie") expresses the industry's feeling all too well. . . .

the widespread belief of all expert cuppers is that the heirloom varieties of coffee -- the ones with the oldest, "most original" coffee genetics -- make for the best beans, if they are properly grown and treated with care.

recently i received an email from the adorable peter g. of counterculture about some estate coffee from huehuetenango, the certified organic crop from the prize-winning finca nueva armenia. peter was wild about this coffee.

and one of its attributes, besides its floral honey notes, was the fact it came from old trees of the bourbon variety.

coffee is like any other fruit after all; heirloom or "antique variety" apples and tomatoes are now widely understood to be special, unique, desirable: to frankly just taste better. why would coffee be any different?

and this is why, dear readers, as an average coffee lover, you so often find me discoursing on subjects like this that at first seem abstruse, far removed from our coffee-enjoying experience! because we love coffee and deserve to drink only the best, we sometimes have to dip a toe into these waters. . .

this is also why i have lately become so interested in coffee labelling. when you go to your local, preferably scaa-member, independent neighborhood roaster/retailer or coffeehouse to buy beans, the labels rarely tell us information we want to know.

often labels just say "guatemala" or "kenya" and maybe a certification if it's bird-friendly or organic. but they really should give us roast dates; crop information; estate, co-op, or even a washing-station name; full grading information; variety name. . .all that.

in short, it really is in our interest as coffee drinkers if we urge the professionals to begin to label coffee like wine. . . and it's in the pros' interest too.

it's another thing that allows them to differentiate themselves from other stores, from the mermaid, something that shows how their shop is devoted to coffee of the highest quality.

posted by fortune elkins | 10:27 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, May 02, 2004


the evidence. . .

at last: i have a photo of myself with the engraved ("lwb") silver tasting spoon of green mountain's cupping goddess lindsay bolger.

naturally it was taken at the consumer member espresso lab at the recent scaa conference in atlanta. devoted bccy readers may remember this event. . .

also, since we're doing a real-washington-d.c.-style "me wall" (me & x number of famous personalities. . .gag, how revolting!), here i am at the alt.coffee party with noted coffee author mark pendergrast.

but if you missed it, never fear! it will happen again in seattle in 2005. also, this june here in nyc it appears there will be the usual scaa reception, including consumer members, as part of the fancy food show.

again, this may morph into as cool a party as it did last year, if everything pans out. long-time readers may recall last year's fancy food/scaa consumer event lasted 3 days. . .

and for those who want the inside scoop on the exciting lifestyle of the barista, with its joys and heartaches, i present espressofinger.

posted by fortune elkins | 11:27 AM | top | link to this |

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