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Saturday, May 15, 2004


satsang & sidamo

i received an uplifting email today:

"I am writing because I feel pretty inspired by the Yoga Sutras Discussion Group that happened lasted night. We started by talking about the original context of an oral tradition and how there is a certain amount of the philosophy of Yoga contained in the process of transmission from teacher to student

This is the result of the process of learning to chant the Sutras. A great deal of focused concentration is necessary to accurately listen and attempt to reproduce the sound from the teacher exactly how you have heard it

Subtleties in pronunciation like the length of a vowel or the place in the palate where a sound is produced make all the difference, but you must be attentive to be able to hear the sound that is actually being produced rather than relying your idea of how a word is supposed to be pronounced based on past experience

After a brief discussion that included a little background about the Yoga Sutras and some theories about the origins of Yoga we decided that we were at a point in the process that we have been working on in the Sutra Discussion Groups where it would be beneficial to go back to the beginning of the text. We did this and chanted the first four Sutras

We went through the process of learning and coming to be able to chant each Sutra through a process resembling and based on the way this text was traditionally transmitted from teacher to student. Then we had a discussion which lasted over two hours where we went into great detail about the meaning and the possible implications of these first four Sutras. "

you can be there too! what: Yoga Sutras and Yoga Philosophy Discussion and Study Group; who: Andy Sugerman and Carl Horowitz; when: Friday June 18th 8:00PM; where: The Breathing Project 15 West 26th Street 10th Floor, Just west of Broadway; cost: the event is Free but donations will be accepted.

for more information: upsidedowncarl or 917-301-1616.

everyone who knows me undertstands i hold promises fairly sacred. i work hard to keep them 130%!

so i spent the morning keeping my promise: to vac pot up k's ethiopian sidamo. again, i remain completely amazed at how a different brewing method highlights new aspects of a coffee.

vac pots generally bring out the delicate aromatic nuances of a coffee; however, they do tend to lighten the body a tad. and today was no exception.

one sniff in the cup discovered a wonderful berry fragrance somewhere between raspberry and black cherry. the coffee was more winey, and a slightly smoky, spicy-clove thing appeared.

the light smoke probably comes from the roast. . .the vanilla and rose haven't disappeared, but the dried apricot faded quite a bit and fell into the tartness of the winey taste.

long-time readers know exactly what i mean. passers-by, don't despair: i'm talking about the coffee flavors from the scaa flavor wheel.

there's no doubt the vac pot does the sidamo more justice than the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press). check it out for yourself.

i used the classic formula: 32 oz. (by volume) water x 0.057 (that mysterious, omnipresent coffee figure, which i call the "lingle brewing constant") = 1.8 oz. coffee (by weight). my kitchen scale is more accurate in grams: so i weighed out 50g. sidamo.

again, i highly recommend you try some sidamo in a vac pot at home. the basic bodum santos vac pot is relatively inexpensive, easy to use, makes great coffee, and there's a lot of online guidance to help you brew correctly!

trust me on this one: you won't regret it!

posted by fortune elkins | 11:00 AM | top | link to this |


Friday, May 14, 2004


goat rock panorama

like my 107-odd million compatriots in the u.s.a, and 80% of europeans, i began my morning with coffee: a cup of mark inman of taylormaid's organic goat rock blend.

i know it sounds silly, but i really did feel excited popping the top and peeling back the puffed foil lining on his sweet little yellow can.

the artwork on these cans reminds me so much of kandinsky in his jugendstil/symbolist woodcut period, tho' others find the sharp, jaggy sunrise a little soviet. but enough aesthetics. how was the coffee?

no doubt this is darkest coffee i've had in a long time: truly full oil, what i'd call dark french roast. i think mark means it as a breakfast coffee in the west-coast style.

despite this, the roast didn't dominate the sweetly spicy fragrance of the dry grounds as much as i feared. the fragrance was interesting, a soft hint of fresh bay leaves, and something that reminded me of ajowain seed (sometimes this member of the angelica family's called "love parsley").

the dark roast gave this blend a spicy, pungent, clove-y, and smoky character. it had a dry, bittersweet finish that for some inexplicable reason reminded me of an organic nicaraguan coffee i had some time ago.

i wonder if this blend has some nicaraguan in it? roasting coffee this dark mutes the brightness, so i'm calling the goat rock a mellow cup.

very darkly roasted coffees can thin out in the body, but this blend isn't in that category. it's a smooth sip of java.

coffee lovers who seek out this style of cup will be pleased to wake up with inman's blend.

posted by fortune elkins | 10:25 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, May 13, 2004


all about coffee

"you're all about coffee," a pro cupper of my acquaintance once said. i wish.

i can think about few subjects that are so broad: coffee as a fine beverage; coffee as a market; coffee as an artisanal craft for roaster and barista; coffee as agriculture; coffee as ecology; coffee as social justice. . .i needn't go on. really, it would take until the next yuga to truly be all about coffee.

yesterday i made reference to ukers' famed tome, "all about coffee," linking to the website where it can be purchased. "pricey book!," one reader complained in an email.

for those who are impoverished in cash, but rich in bandwidth, you can download the entire volume, all 71 mgs. of it, as an adobe acrobat document.

further, i'm still obsessed with k's ethiopian sidamo. this is joining my list of favorite drip coffees, along with oren's jaw-dropping cobán, as well as don shoenholt of gillies famous lemon-caramel-candy yrg and sumatra "kuda mas." and i shouldn't forget former scaa prez steve colten's kenya aa kirinyaga.

for many coffees, vac pot brewing is the best way to bring out all its fine nuances. but it's hard sometimes in a busy morning to find the time to fuss with the vac pot.

i may have to wait until saturday afternoon to vac up the sidamo. and then it's on full-tilt to mark inman of taylormaid's goat rock blend in his cute little cans.

i applaud the idea that coffee cans are more easily recycled than standard multi-layer or mylar coffee bags. . .

"the hope is that the release of endorphins triggered by eating chocolate will reduce aggression."

frankly, this had me falling outta my driving loafers laughing.

posted by fortune elkins | 12:55 PM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


sidamo, the original coffee

who needs to brush your hair in the morning when you have the chance to cup coffee? especially when the coffee is k.'s ethiopian sidamo.

sidamo is said to be the original home of coffee, and the people have tended coffee trees since before 900 c.e., although most credit the yemeni with first growing coffee for commerce. ukers says that early ethiopians blended coffee cherries with tallow into a paste for yummy snacks, as well as fermented them into a wine.

devoted readers may recall that when this coffee was a few hours out of the roaster, i happened to toss it into my yoga bag and carry it to my normal vinyasa class. at which point i was surrounded by yoginis (including 2 who are genuine, fearsome-type new york lawyers!) demanding beans.

luckily it was after class, so the clamor was pleasant and mellow; the lawyers had fortunately already stowed their shark teeth dentures in their purses. this clearly came about because the sidamo has the purest "fresh coffee" scent i've smelled in a long time. simply mouth-watering.

i'm going to declare the roast on this washed, grade 2, euro prep coffee medium-viennese. and after the usual cupping procedure, i'm ready to call this rich, scrumptious coffee. it's a hummingbird.

not a standard linglese term i know. but i want to describe how this smooth-bodied sidamo hovers between piquant when hot and tangy when cooler.

it darts around the edge between blushingly bright and lightly winey. the fragrance of the dry grounds was all about rose, rose, rose. in fact, i rather felt as if i'd been sent a dozen bulgarian stems, the kind that grow only in one valley on the whole earth. . .

the sniff-n-slurp registered unsulphured dry turkish apricot, maple syrup, as well as that subset of the chocolate-y vanilla thing lingle calls "swiss," which reminds me of a delicate créme caramel.

sometimes you'll find a lemon/grapefruit/ mandarin/pineapple feeling in ethiopians; or a berry sensation. i myself found roses, apricots, vanilla. who could complain?

one roaster of my acquaintance says he thinks of sidamo as mostly a blending coffee. but k's sidamo is a fine coffee on its own: no dramatic citrus; rather an enticing little gift.

just as wonderful and romantic as a pair of pearl earrings in a robin's-egg blue box adorned with a wide soft satin white bow. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:42 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, May 11, 2004


sulawesi, where the people live in ships. . .

despite the fact that k's fresh ethiopian poured its delicious, intoxicating perfume out into the atmosphere so strongly women from my yoga class were begging me to surrender the beans lest they mug me at mat-point, i decided to be fair and review oren's sulawesi today.

it's about 2 or 3 days older than k's sidamo, so i felt i had to get to it while still fresh. i must begin with a disclaimer: i have a long-time, built-in prejudice in favor of sulawesi.

this is the first specialty coffee i ever drank, from peets, made for me by the late zenshin and poet philip whalen. not everyone likes it; many regard it as inferior to the more sophisticated sumatras.

or as a long-time bccy pal remarks: "oh. . . sulawesi? nice island. wasn't there a fad for that in berzerkley in the 70s?" long-time readers can guess that actually i'm rather fond of the charming folk in the old people's republic, not that it's actually like that anymore.

i used to love to go to the park and fly hand-built kites, which were made by a crazed russian with a penchant for pushkin. (i've lost track of him; however, i think you can still find hand-built kites here.)

but back to this "natural" sulawesi toraja, double-picked, grade 1. coffee. focus!

once again, despite my best intentions, life overwhelmed me and i didn't get to formally cup this "full city-plus" coffee in the morning.

nevertheless, this coffee comes out the cafetiére (as per yesterday) an ultra-sweet, mellow, low-brightness coffee (but with perhaps a touch more going on here than yesterday's sumatra), with a voluptuous body. it's naturally so "sticky" that when some drips on the saucer, the cup glues to the plate!

i had to wash 'em in hot water to separate the cup and fit it in the dishwasher. . .

as for the bouquet, this full sulawesi just smelled perfectly like sulawesi, giving me the entire proust-type experience. the dry grounds remind me exactly of thai opal basil.

then the whole caramelly, syrupy, chocolate-y, dutch dark cocoa thing runs over you. . .in fact, i really can't talk about this cup very well.

all i can think of is how the kite looked like a stained glass window in the sky. and the first poem whalen ever read to me:

"THE DILEMMA OF THE OCCASION IS"

She says she's funny-looking
She can't decide on hair nor clothes.
There are too many shoes to wear.
Almost every downtown corner
Displays crippled, sick and dirty people
Beat and tromped on. Others look
For what to look at, watch to see
If they are noticed
Where to spend all this money.

"THAT GUY WAS CHECKING ME OUT!"
______________________________

"SO MUCH FOR YOU, MR BUMF***"

Too many shoes
Those are not the ones.

in the end, i gave up half of the sidamo to my friends the yoginis. as k himself says, "gotta share the wealth."

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


Monday, May 10, 2004


the great coffee sea

i'm talking about sailing on oren's sumatra. . . .i didn't have time to cup it formally this morning.

this job thing pays the mortgage but really ruins the important events in life!

so i ground oren's baby up, tossed 60g into a pre-heated cafetiére, poured 1 liter of 198-degree f water into it, and pressed it after 4 min.

it's a sumatra mandheling "paiwanee," double-picked, natural (a.k.a. "dry process") coffee, courtesy of knutsen. i'd call the roast light viennese, since some beans have patches of oil. i think oren himself calls this "full city plus."

and surprisingly different than my usual sumatra, the gillies' lintong "kuda mas," triple-picked grade 1, japanese prep.

this is definitely a sweet, mild coffee, full, smooth-bodied. it's not quite as heavy in body as the kuda mas. oren roasts this a little darker than don schoenholt treats the kuda mas.

i thought the dry grounds of this paiwanee offered an anise fragrance, and i found the cup to be nutty, malty. . .a rather clean cup for an indonesian. alas! time dictated that i had to drink it fairly fast.

thus i added my usual spoonful of light cream and pinch of turbinado sugar. ah! sumatra!

i know some people -- many pro coffee lovers, in fact -- feel that sumatras should be more, um, ugly. bug-chewed and groundy, even.

they say this makes an "interesting cup." while i can appreciate it a pinch of earth in a sumatra (an aged one is a different story!), i find as a consumer that i'm coming to appreciate quality more.

an "interesting" but dirty or dead cup is perhaps moving me less and less. . . again, aged is its own zebu. . .

i hope to do more justice to oren's sulawesi!

as i'm pondering how to tack with the wind on this tremendous body of coffee, what should arrive? 2 pounds of scaa board member mark inman's organic, shade-grown taylormaid in those cute little cans!

i received the "doña isadora tres generaciones" and his "goat rock" blend. ooh ooh!

and while i'm tossing the white styrofoam packing peanuts into the air with glee -- the people at my office are used to my wacky ways, thank goodness -- what appears with mr. fed ex?

k's promised and fantastic whole-bean ethiopian sidamo! i have total respect for people who keep their promises and in short order!

props to you, k; this is one reason you are an awesome person and a superior greenie! he swears this is great stuff. ack! what to cup tomorrow?

with styrofoam bits sticking to my alexia admor dress and shipping tape tatters adhering in my hair, i was then dragged by a fellow cube farmer to the newest downtown coffee bar, mocca express.

this place looks great, with a dedicated polish barista whose name i think is spelled "mitzja," and a lovely nuova simonelli 3-group superauto. nice seating, good atmosphere, bright.

alas, the coffee's no more than barrie house's bacio. . .so i can't recommend it; just the opposite. but what do i care?

i danced back up church street and reboarded my excursion cup to re-embark on the fabulous specialty ocean.

posted by fortune elkins | 10:20 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, May 09, 2004


cobán, part ii

naturally after yesterday's fantastic coffee experience, i had to make oren's guatemalan cobán in a vac pot. so often the vac pot brings out nuances in fine coffees you might lose in the cafetiére.

so i whipped out my old trusty stove-top bodum santos, added 900g (about 31.5 oz.) water and 51 grams (about 1.8 oz.) coffee, in keeping with david haddock of counterculture's magic number: the sacred 0.057.

the coffee was subtly different. the vac pot turned the basmati rice quality more into a toasty thing; the coffee became a little brighter; and the body thinned a tiny bit.

someday i must upgrade my vac pot to a cona d or even a lovely royal copper & crystal syphon. . .the picture scarcely does it justice. . someday. . .someday. . .

oren also sweetly sent me some sumatra and sulawesi (celebes). must cup tomorrow!

posted by fortune elkins | 12:05 PM | top | link to this |

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