Health Watch: Caffeine & Hormones

In yet another analysis of the long-running Nurses Health Study, researchers have found that caffeine appears to have an impact on the production of different sex hormones in women.

By analyzing the survey data provided by over 1,200 women and pairing it with hormonal testing done on blood samples taken throughout the duration of the study, the folks at Harvard Medical School have been able to correlate a higher intake of caffeine to a decreased level of estrogen in premenopausal women in the latter half of their menstrual cycles. Similarly, in postmenopausal women, they tracked higher levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, which is known to decrease different levels of estrogen and testosterone in the system.

But what these discoveries portend is unclear; unrelated studies have previously linked high caffeine intake and high levels of estrogen and progesterone to ovarian and breast cancers in pre-menopausal women, but if caffeine is reducing the hormone levels in this group of women, then why would it be a possible carcinogen? The study’s authors indicate that further research should be undertaken to make this relationship more clear.

(Almost) New! Refurbished Jura Espresso Machines

We’re really thrilled to have just inked a partnership with the US arm of Jura Capresso, which will allow us to begin selling refurbished models! Jura has excellent service and support, but runs their warranty and repair in-house, so we have never had the opportunity to take in Juras as trade-ins and then refurbish them for resale. And, honestly, these machines are so well built and perform so fantastically that we rarely, if ever, even get an offer!

Although we aren’t refurbishing these ourselves, they are given a complete once-over by the Jura factory and come with a 1 year manufacturer warranty. The pricing is really awesome, too, so if you’ve been considering a Jura for awhile but haven’t been able to get comfortable with the pricing, now might be the perfect opportunity to get into one of these machines.

Juras are our favorite superautomatics on the market and we highly recommend them!

Recipe: Sweet-n-Cool Espresso Cubano

Reminiscent of our days traipsing throughout the jungles of Costa Rica (soon to be repeated this September!), Seattle is experiencing a rather delicious heat wave. We love it! Although you’ll hear grumbling from imports at bus stops and in drugstore lines, we think Northwest natives really love it when uncharacteristically cold or hot weather lays in for a spell.

It’s already 80F at 9AM and it’s supposed to climb up to 100F today…and while we’re hanging out on our deck in a sarong, overlooking the city and cooling off with a tasty little concoction inspired by traditional Cuban coffee, we’re pretending that we’re lying on this beach instead!

We hope that, wherever you are, you’re staying sweet and cool, too.

Ingredients

  • 2 shots of espresso, ground a bit finer than usual (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Crushed ice
  • Freshly whipped vanilla cream (optional, for garnish)

Directions

  1. Grind your espresso a little bit finer than usual — depending on the type of sugar you’ll be using, you’ll need to make up for the differences in texture/particle size. For example, if you’re using a rough Turbinado sugar, you’ll need to grind significantly finer in order to balance the larger sugar particle size and produce a good extraction. Alternately, if you’re using a very fine baker’s sugar, you may not need to change your grind much at all.
  2. Mix enough ground espresso for 2 shots with 1 tablespoon of sugar, making sure to thoroughly combine.
  3. Load the espresso and sugar mixture into your portafilter, tamp and prep as usual.
  4. Fill two shot glasses or espresso cups with the crushed ice, just below the rim.
  5. Pull the espresso directly over the crushed ice.
  6. Serve! You could make this a dessert item by adding a little dollop of freshly whipped vanilla cream to the top of the shot, effectively producing a chilled con panna concoction.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Weight Loss

While we might find caffeine in myriad weight loss treatments — from wraps in the spa to popping pills to colonics (ouch!) — there is not a ton of reliable evidence that indicates it really is an effective method of weight management or loss. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic’s nutritionist Catherine Zeratsky, many of the studies that have been performed on how caffeine impacts metabolism have been with animals or of a quality that didn’t create statistically viable evidence. In fact, studies involving decaffeinated coffee also showed some positive impact on weight loss, suggesting that something other than caffeine in coffee contributes to losing weight.

However, some of us have had anecdotal experiences with caffeine helping us lose weight, and Zeratsky says that effect could be attributed to appetite suppression, calorie burning or water loss. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re drinking your triple grande breve frappuccino, there ain’t no amount of caffeine that will balance that excess in caloric intake!

Intelligent Java

With Portland’s Stumptown representing strongly for the West Coast and Durham’s Counter Culture keeping it real for the East Coast, Chicago’s Intelligentsia brings up the middle, melding it all together and offering a similar brand of java-love to folks in the Midwest and beyond. These three companies feature multi-city locations, direct trade values and a commitment to both the art and science of great coffee — to paraphrase Intelligentsia’s David Latourell, it’s about consciousness.

Flavorwire recently sat down with Latourell to discuss Intelligenstia, what it’s about, what the contemporary coffee movement is focused on and what’s next. We loved his references to slowing down and understanding what you’re ingesting, what you’re taking in and why. Sure, a lot of us drink coffee for its caffeine perks, but it’s more than that to a lot of people around the world and it’s good for us to take a step back and appreciate that. We recommend reading the interview — which also includes Latourell’s tips for finding great coffee and great cafes.

A Return to Relevance?

Some of you may have been tracking the moves of Starbucks and its renovation of the 15th Ave store in Seattle to transform it into something a little more down to earth. The shop has been renamed 15th Ave Coffee & Tea and aesthetically revamped to look more like your neighborhood cafe and less like its cookie cutter brethren — they even have community spaces for performance, art and meetings. Oh, and a Pooch of the Month feature, which is just plain marketing savvy in a dog-crazy city like Seattle.

The lead on this project came into the store earlier this week to pick-up a few last minute items, and he was lamenting a bit that people were talking negatively about the store even before it opened. He felt it was being judged not on its individual merits, but on its lineage — everyone likes to complain about the big companies, whoever they may be and regardless of industry, so this is really no different. Starbucks is an easy target for many to rage against, and, let’s be honest here, their business practices have often given more than enough ammunition to their local competition.

But is there anything so wrong in an effort to rediscover the initial roots of a company and possibly expand on them in a new way? In a resetting economic environment, does the search for relevance in the marketplace have to be anything other than what is necessary for survival? It’s true, this shop was going to be closed down, until Cohen was offered the opportunity to do something different — and that difference maintained jobs in an increasingly virulent employment market. So, if anything, it’s worth exploring and keeping an open mind because, instead of leaving another open storefront, someone got creative and is trying to take things back to the drawing board a bit.

We’re definitely going to check it out. They’re opening up today and we wish them well!

Recipe: Coffee Ice Cream with Rosemary Shortbread

While our weather here in Seattle seems to flip flop between hot-n-summery and chilly-n-autumnal, we’re sure many of you are looking for something to cool down your palettes right about now.

This delicious recipe for a Coffee Ice Cream is perfect for those of you rocking an ice cream maker…and, when paired with the accompanying Rosemary Shortbread, could be a delicious and sophisticated summer treat.

The recipes for both are rather complex, so we recommend you follow the step-by-step directions (with pictures!) as outlined by Zoebakes.com. Enjoy!

Buena Beans: You Know, For Kids!

Social Entrepreneurship is the new Dot Com and you can find a great selection of new start-ups that are focused on balancing capital growth with giving back to whichever cause they happen to believe in. Enter Kate Schneider, founder of Buena Beans, a Massachusetts-based coffee importer and roaster with a business plan devised very specifically to help a cause close to her heart. Schneider spent a year teaching in the small town of La Violeta, Costa Rica, through Harvard’s World Teach program and decided that she wanted to give back to that area by assisting them with their primary agricultural export: Coffee.

The idea was inspired by the fact that thirteen families in the area were looking for distribution after they had a negative experience with a coffee cooperative. Schneider decided to get into the direct trade business and is now selling both green and roasted beans under the Buena Beans label. The company then donates 50% of the profits from each sale directly to the school in La Violeta, which serves about 40 children from the village. You can read more about the Buena Beans story in this excellent profile written about them for The Herald News, or you can contribute to her business by checking out the website.

Health Watch Update: Caffeine and Alzheimer’s

Last October, we wrote about a study that indicated caffeine intake could help prevent Alzheimer’s because of its beneficial impact on the blood/brain barrier. Now, new evidence indicates that caffeine may not just protect against developing the disease, but it could also play a pretty serious role in reversing it!

Earlier this month, researchers released their findings that caffeine intake actually reduced the protein beta amyloid that, when found in sticky clumps referred to as senile plaque, is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. The study involved 55 genetically altered mice that exhibited memory loss at the mouse equivalent of a 70 year old human. They gave half the mice about five 8 ounce cups of regular coffee per day in their drinking water. The result was that the group drinking coffee recovered their mental faculties and their memories were as sharp as other older mice who did not exhibit dementia to begin with.

Obviously, we’re not mice, so further research will need to be done on how this affects the disease in humans and whether or not suitable therapies can be developed to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s. But it’s very exciting, nonetheless, and gives us all the more reason to make another cup of coffee today. :)

Crew Review: Nespresso Capsule Machine & Aeroccino

As we wrote about last week, we just added the Nespresso suite of machines to our inventory and we’ve been having a ton of over-caffeinated fun testing out all the different capsules available. We really haven’t found one we didn’t like yet, and particularly we love the Fortissio Lungo for its rich and full bodied flavor — although the single origin blends are quite lovely as well, specifically we enjoyed the spicy Indriya from India.

We wanted to show folks how easy this machine is to use, as well as demo the really awesome Aeroccino, a stand alone milk steamer or frother that could be a part of anyone’s kitchen setup. It’s silent and makes really excellent frothed milk. Check out the video — Gail shows us the features, makes us an espresso, froths some milk and talks to us about the ins and outs of getting the capsules (which can only be purchased directly from Nespresso).