Category Archives: Articles

Cherry-Picked with Love – Part Two

A couple of weeks ago, we posted the first part of a series on Kona coffee farmers Jim & Sharon Skibby — writer Chris Smith has spent time learning about this small coffee plantation and offers up his experiences in learning how they care for and harvest their coffee trees.

Chris’ second installment was published last week, and it goes into more detail around the nurturing and harvesting practices that Jim & Sharon employ — as well as Jim’s tips on coffee flavors. It’s a very interesting read for those looking to learn more about small scale coffee agriculture.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Coffee Like Wine

We spend a fair amount of time poking around the ‘net to find interesting information to share with you, gentle reader, and came upon the blog Coffee Like Wine that discusses artisan coffee and wine experiences had by its San Francisco-based writer.

Providing feedback on everything from different bay city cafes to cupping events to the flavors of single origin beans, this blog has a ton of great subjective information from an avid connoisseur. Check it out!

Colombian Coffee, Take 2

For many of us, the image of Juan Valdez is synonymous with coffee beans: The seemingly humble, weather-wizened old man donning a sombrero and a coffee-filled satchel who arrives each morning in your kitchen to fill up your Mr. Coffee. But Colombia’s posterchild has aged, slipping from his place as the 2nd largest producer in the world and suffering the ails of economic hiccups and hardships.

Out-produced by Vietnam about 8 years ago, a steady decrease in new farmers and an aging agricultural tradition, the Colombian government has decided to refocus and spur growth in their largest agricultural export. Economic influences unfortunately took down a number of plantations, and many families with an agricultural history closed down their farms because of an inability to support themselves on the meager revenues their exploits produced. Some went into new careers, such as working in a bakery, while others opted to plant a much more sought-after crop: Coca, the basis for cocaine. Over the past couple of years, however, the Colombian government has begun to invest capital in a renovation of sorts, setting up younger farmers on plantations with younger coffee plants in the hope of revitalizing their participation in the international coffee community.

They have a couple of challenges, however, that might keep them from ever playing ball at the 2nd tier again: They grow arabica, while Vietnam grows the much heartier robusta, and their sloped terrain makes it impossible for them to use machines in their harvest like the Brazilians. But with a reputation for rich bodied coffee and a growing international appreciation for the quality of handmade goods, Colombian coffee may well be on its way back to posterchild status.

Looking Lean on the Beans

We wrote recently about the environmental factors in India that may reduce that country’s crop harvest this season, and it’s looking like the current economic influences are making it hard for Brazilian farmers to get the loans required to fertilize and harvest their entire plantations.

What does this mean for us? Well, annual consumption of coffee beans per year is around 130 million pounds, but production is now estimated at around 122 million pounds of beans for the next harvest season, leaving us with a possible 8 million pound shortfall.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Man Seeking Coffee

Written by a mild caffeine addict whose only qualifications are a passion for coffee and tons of wasted money on experiencing bad coffee, Man Seeking Coffee is a blog for lovers of the bean who are looking for tips, corroboration or debate.

The San Francisco-based writer has even come up with a rating system for beans so that you’ll come to understand his perspective on a truly quantitative level, but also talks about cafes and coffee culture…you know, just to round it out. Enjoy the read!

Ed. Note: The Man Seeking Coffee blog is currently on hiatus. You may want to try A Table in the Corner of the Cafe blog instead.

Cherry-Picked with Love

A thousand feet up in the hills behind Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jim and Sharon Skibby grow top-notch coffee. Theirs is a small-scale operation, a labor of love. From 75 trees they harvest about 700 pounds of cherries (coffee fruits) — enough to make 100 pounds of finished coffee.

Read all about how this pair of boutique coffee farmers harvest and process their beans each year — quite interesting!

Put Your Face On It

Don’t care to learn the finer points of steaming milk with microfoam or pouring the latte art favorites of hearts and leaves? Now you don’t have to! Just hack together an 80’s era Kodak inkjet printer and a flatbed scanner, load it up with caramelized sugar and you’re in! At least, that’s what these guys think — hope, actually — and they’ve built a prototype to sell to your neighborhood Sbux.

Just think of all the fun variations you could have with this. Sure, you don’t need a logo on your latte, but if you’re feeling a little bit vain, how about a cameo-style portrait of yourself? Get hardcore with your inner crazy cat lover by imprinting your feline companion’s visage on your latte. Or, if you’re hoping to smooth out some family ties, put your mother-in-law’s smiling face on there as a ‘tribute’. Really, the options just might be endless.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Skin Cancer

Sun exposure and skin damage may not be a concern for those of us in more northern climes right now, but if you’re wintering in Rio or snowbirding in Santa Fe, you might be interested in this interesting study on the positive effects caffeine may have on post-sun exposure skin.

Based on a study conducted a few years ago that indicated women who drank more than 6 cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a lower incidence of skin cancer than those who drank less, researchers at the University of Washington exposed mice to UV rays and then rubbed them down with a caffeine solution.

The result? Well, preliminarily, it appears that the mice who received the caffeine solution on their skin had a lower incidence of damaged skin cells than the mice that did not and they’re hypothesizing that the caffeine helps the body eliminate the damaged cells more easily.

While more testing is needed to determine how caffeine can help with skin cancer prevention, you might think about adding a little extra protection to your sunblock by cooling off with an iced latte while you’re relaxing on the beach.

Space Joe

If the inability to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in space has kept you from pursuing your cosmonaut dreams, last week’s invention of the zero-G coffee cup by NASA astronaut Dave Pettit is sure to make you tingle.

Pettit is known for funky space inventions, but when he arrived at the International Space Station, he had one goal in mind: Find a way to enjoy his beloved joe from a cup, rather than a bag & straw. Liquids in space can be a messy proposition, and hot coffee introduces an element of risk as well, but that wasn’t going to stop Pettit from devising a method of enjoying his java from a cup.

Using a piece of his mission book, he formed a vessel with a tear-drop shape that is closed at one end. The surface tension within the cup keeps the coffee inside instead of floating about the station. He suggested that his invention could apply to more than just coffee — future space colonists could utilize this kind of cup for celebratory toasts.

So now that the coffee cup question has been answered and you’re back on track to becoming an astronaut, you’d better hit the books — time to learn Russian.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Training

Are you a cyclist looking for a quicker way to regain your energy stores after a long distance ride? Well, this interesting study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that caffeine has a significant positive impact on helping you to rehab more quickly after a long ride. The catch? You have to drink a lot of it — which may not be a negative thing for us caffeine maniacs.

At the School of Exercise and Sport Science in the University of Sydney, researchers found that study participants that drank caffeine-supplemented high-carb drinks after long rides restored much more of their glycogen stores (which gives the primary energy for endurance activities) when compared with participants who drank just a regular high-carb drink.