Category Archives: Coffee & Tea

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.

Caffeinated Green Thumbs

Perk up your garden by adding coffee into the mix! Used coffee grounds are a great source of organic, slow-release nitrogen that can be incorporated into many everyday gardening tasks to improve results.

We poked around to find some ways in which you could incorporate your used coffee grounds or coffee beans into everyday gardening practices and found these awesome ideas:

  • Before it rains or you water your garden, sprinkle used grounds around your plants to slowly release nitrogen into the soil
  • You can add used grounds in filters or tea bags to your compost pile to increase your nitrogen balance; they have a carbon-to-nitrogen ration of 20:1, similar to grass clippings
  • For a gentle fertilizer, dilute 1/2 pound can of wet grounds in a five gallon bucket of water, then let it sit outdoors to achieve ambient temperature
  • Mix together used grounds & eggshells and then encircle the base of the plant to form a natural pest barrier
  • Caffeine is an effective slug deterrent: Concentrations as low as .01% in the soil reduces slug feeding on leaves, but won’t kill them; if you’re in a genocidal mood, however, a 1% solution will take out 60% of slugs and a 2% solution will eradicate 95% of all types of slugs. Keep in mind, however, that the 2% solution did damage some tender foliage, so while the idea of ridding your garden permanently of these slimy little guys might be appealing, it could have adverse effects on your plants
  • If you have a vermiculture setup, your used coffee grounds will be lovingly consumed by your tribe of worms
  • Use over-roasted beans as a mulch for your garden pathways to create an eye-catching and lovely scented walkway
  • Used grounds are an excellent mulch for tomato plants — the increase in nitrogen make your tomatoes happy and also help suppress late blight

Recipe: Espresso Marinated Flank Steak

This recipe for Espresso Marinated Flank Steak with Plantain Chutney, developed by Juan Montalvo, looks scrumptious and we can’t wait to try it!

Flank Steak
2 pounds flank steak
1 cup espresso
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. black peppercorn, crushed

Whisk espresso, vinegar, olive oil, honey, Worcestershire sauce, garlic
and peppercorn in bowl. Place flank steak in a resealable plastic bag
and pour marinade into bag. Remove all the air from bag and
refrigerate for minimum 1 hour.

Remove steak from marinade. Place steak on medium high heat grill
and cook for 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer steak to cutting board and
let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Slice thinly across the grain.

Plantain Chutney
3 ripe plantains (they should be yellow with black spots on the outside)
1 medium onion, diced
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp. olive oil

Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Peel plantain and place on
baking dish. Bake in a preheated 375F oven until well browned. Once
cooked, place plantain aside to cool. Cut plantain lengthwise and dice.

Pour olive oil into a medium heat sauce pan. Add onions and cook
until translucent. Add plantain, jalapeno, chicken stock, and honey,
salt and pepper to taste, cook for 5-10 minutes to warm all ingredients
together. Pour over the top of the sliced flank steak.

Makes 6 Servings

Looking Lean on the Beans

Coffee Cherry PlantWe 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.

Recipe: Mayan Spice Sundae


Add a little kick to your holiday desserts! We created this sundae because we love the Mayan treat of orange slices coated in cayenne pepper that is found all over the Yucatan peninsula — and if you love a little spice with your sugar, we think you’ll definitely dig this!

Ingredients


Directions

Mix the orange, chocolate and cayenne together in a small bowl. Pull a double shot of espresso directly into it and then incorporate all three until well blended. Spoon a little bit of the sauce into the bottom of two serving bowls, put a scoop of ice cream into each of the serving bowls and then drizzle with the sauce. Garnish with orange slices or, if you’re looking for something muy caliente, more cayenne.

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.

Holiday Fund Drive: Lavazza Tierra! & Coffee Kids

Tierra_coffee
We love working with you and we love coffee, so it’s important to us that what we love doing helps others do what they love as well. Sustainability in the coffee industry will keep us all in delicious cups of coffee for years to come, and while we’ve written before about our support of the non-profit organization Coffee Kids, as well as about Lavazza’s Tierra! coffee, we decided to put our money where our mouth is this holiday season and launch a fund drive!

Now through 1/15/09, we’re donating 5% of all sales of Lavazza’s Tierra! coffee to Coffee Kids! Featuring smoky molasses aromas and flavor undertones of floral and bittersweet chocolate, Tierra! is a tasty gift for anyone you love that loves coffee — and, yes, that includes you!