Category Archives: Coffee & Tea

Health Watch: Caffeine & Little Green Men

A few weeks ago, the coffee news world was inundated by newspaper and blog reports regarding a study that stipulated the discovery of a cause-effect relationship between high caffeine intake and the possibility of experiencing hallucinations. When we read through the study, however, we felt it to be lacking any truly cause-and-effect data and it seemed the sample group was too small and specific to imply any accurate general population claims.

And we’re not the only ones! One of our favorite study assessment sites, The British Medical Journal came to the same conclusions — and many more — regarding this study’s accuracy and data collection process. If you were confused or alarmed by the recent news, reviewing the study is well worth the read.

So, we’re not saying that you won’t hallucinate if you drink 15 cups of coffee in a 24 hour period, but we do think your daily java habit is highly unlikely to inspire deep conversations with an imaginary Marvin the Martian.

Brew Tip: Half Double Decaf in a Half Caf (with a Twist of Lime)

He may have been poking fun at the overly complex ordering practices of his fellow Angelenos, but Steve Martin’s humorous cafe scene in LA Story is a (semi-)appropriate backdrop for our tip today: Brewing rich, delicious espresso with just a bit of a kick.

When we’re craving the taste of coffee but still need to get to bed before 2am, we meld together a blend of 1/2 Lavazza Super Crema and 1/2 Lavazza DEK espresso. Mixing the caffeinated with the decaffeinated takes things up a notch, but not the full whammy we usually find at the bottom of our cup. And while Lavazza’s DEK is some of the tastiest decaffeinated coffee out there, we love the added creamy dimension of the Super Crema.

Coffee: The World in Your Cup

Beginning this weekend and extending through June 7, 2009, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington will be holding the exhibit Coffee: The World in Your Cup. With the intention of illustrating the broad influence that coffee has on the cultures, economies and societies the world over, this exhibit will feature photography, coffee plants, regular tastings, coffee bag displays, videos and a lecture series beginning in April.

Warm up this opening weekend with a series of special events — including guided tours, cuppings, tastings and talks led by coffee experts. If you don’t live in the Seattle area but may travel here sometime over the next few months, this exhibit is definitely worth checking out — and you can hit up the museum for a tasting every weekend from January 31st – March 29th!

We’re really looking forward to the lecture series (kicked off by one of our favorites, Uncommon Grounds‘ Mark Pendergrast). This is an excellent opportunity to deepen your relationship with where your favorite bean comes from and we hope to see you there!

Caffeinated from Morning ’til Night

We don’t talk about it much here because, well, this is a coffee blog, not a boozin’ blog, but we really truly love stouts with all of our heart. It’s our favorite microbrew, hands down, and when we find a brewery that’s crafting one with the words chocolate or coffee in the flavor description, it’s hard for us to find a reason to leave (much to our — and the proprietor’s! — chagrin).

So when we stumbled across Guelph, ON, Canada-based F&M Brewery’s newest concoction — Stonehammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout — we almost considered jumping the nearest flight to Toronto to get a sip. But doing so would be ridiculous…right? Uh, right.

If you’re in that area and you get a chance to imbibe, drop us a line and let us know how it tastes!

Blue Mountain Coffee: Dodo or Buffalo?

We found this very interesting letter to the editor of a Jamaican newspaper, which describes the state of the coffee agricultural industry in different regions around that country. The writer references the fact that the farmers in non-Blue Mountain areas decreased their coffee output as a form of protest against the commercial industry’s treatment and pricing. Over the last eight years, output has plummeted by nearly 85%, yet it hasn’t been addressed — or even picked up on — by the international coffee community.

Now, even Blue Mountain farmers are fed up with the industry and may head in this direction, as well, which would be a real shame. People often dismiss the essential influence of climate, environment and soil in the end result of any agricultural product — and Blue Mountain coffee has a distinctly unique flavor. While varietals were transported to Hawaii and form the basis of Kona coffee, the environment is quite different and Blue Mountain still retains its special taste.

This is part of a larger picture, however, that encompasses how we get our food — who grows it, how it’s grown, preserved and delivered. Applying a mass market ideology to our food supply has been detrimental in many respects, most poignantly in regard to the basic economic viability of smaller scale farms. If you’ve ever been part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group with an annual subscription, you understand that the cost and time involved in growing food on a smaller scale is significantly higher than what you might find at the local Safeway. It may not seem worth it — you know, when you can’t get oranges in December or your eggplants don’t last 6 weeks.

Could the Direct Trade or Fair Trade movements help balance this out? Will an international acceptance of more equitable trade practices happen quickly enough to address the issues these Jamaican farmers are experiencing? There is something to be treasured in the limited, hard-to-find, micro-production of artisan foods and we hope there will continue to be an avenue for Jamaican coffee to be shared with the rest of the world.

With the explosion of the Robusta coffee industry in China, whether or not the international coffee industry will see the value in quality over quantity remains to be seen.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

It would make sense that the purported origin of coffee would proffer an elegant and traditional ceremony that highlights the importance and appreciation of this little bean. Taking you from green bean to brew, the Ethopian Coffee Ceremony begins with freshly roasting beans before your eyes and ends with the sipping of a rich, delicious cup of joe — or three.

We found a great description of the ceremony, which covers both how you might experience it in a restaurant versus a traditional ceremony at home.

Continue reading Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Perky Tampa

This year’s Super Bowl may seem far more animated than usual, considering its stadium will be chock full of Tampa residents — the highest caffeinated town in the US. The source of the caffeine for Tampans was more likely pain relievers, energy drinks or tea than it was coffee, but they’ve finally outpaced the previous over-caffeinated city of Seattle this year.

After Tampa, Seattle and Chicago rank 2nd and 3rd, with New York City and LA rounding out the top 5. The least caffeinated region is the Riverside/San Bernardino area of California, where you’ll no doubt find plenty of chilled out folks telling you to just take it easy.

Coffee in High Altitudes

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were wondering in the store how brewing coffee or pulling espresso differs at higher altitudes. We’re basically at sea level here, but we’d been talking about the kind of coffee some of us have found in the higher elevations of Montana — more bitter and like ‘coffee water’ than what we make and drink here.

We found the answer in this interesting piece on coffee in Santa Fe, NM. A Qasimi discusses how the higher altitude affects brewing and roasting:

I don?t drink home-brewed coffee in Santa Fe. I?ve often found it sour and lacking in the depth, robustness and natural sweetness that makes great coffee great. How does high altitude affect coffee and espresso quality at home and with the use of commercial equipment? Drip coffee machines that merely boil are convenient devices but they deliver water to the grounds at below the ideal range of temperatures, leading to underextraction of the beans and a sour, dull or poorly developed brew.

Thus, the only way to compensate for altitude is pressure — and that means espresso — but pulling a proper espresso shot is not easy at this altitude either. Ironically, though the best coffee grows at higher altitudes, with water?s lower boiling point in elevated places, brewing can get tricky. Roasting, on the other hand, merely benefits from altitude: The best possible results come from roasting the beans at the same altitude as they?ll be used and particularly at high altitudes that allow for faster roast development at lower temperatures

Recipe: Grandma’s Blueberry Delight Latte

We love Monin’s Chai Tea concentrate — The deliciously spicy flavors of clove, green tea, cinnamon, ginger and orange blossom melding into a sweet and tangy brew. Not only is it delicious by itself, but it’s a great complement to other flavors — and Grandma’s Blueberry Delight Latte is a perfect example of how to use it to mix up your daily latte.

Ingredients

Directions
Combine espresso, Monin Chai, Monin Blueberry and steamed milk in mug.
Top with whipped cream. Dust with brown sugar and pie spice

Roasting Art

We found this great article on coffee roasting and it inspired us to think more about roasting beans at home. We carry three different models of roasters, and have been thinking about trying out the i-Roast 2 to get more familiar with the roasting process. Do you roast your own beans at home? Got any tips for us? We’d love to hear them!

Article reprinted here for your reading pleasure.

Continue reading Roasting Art