Category Archives: Coffee & Tea

Using the Aeropress

Recently featured in an NPR story, the Aeropress has really taken off in the past couple of months. It’s considered the ‘next generation’ of French Presses and really does make a delicious cup of coffee.

Watch Gail use the Aeropress to make the beginning of a cup of coffee — you could add hot water to the brew for an Americano or warmed/frothed milk for a latte or cappuccino.

For the Birds

A couple of interesting articles that caught our eye recently are in regard to how coffee agriculture and birds interact.

The first, written about a biologist’s plea for people to purchase shade-grown coffee, talks about the effects that growing coffee in full sun (for increased production) have had on the migratory bird population in Vermont. The plantations they’re referencing are specifically in Central America, where historically coffee was grown under a tree canopy to help protect it from winds and pests. These older growth forests and complex ecosystems were inhabited by birds from North America as part of their migration pattern, but as the birds continue to fly south for the winter, their previous hospitable digs are being systematically cleared in favor of larger plantations. The use of heartier (more Robusta?) strains of coffee plants and pesticides are eliminating the need for the protection of a towering forest and increasing output, which farmers understandably love.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, the story is quite different: Recent research reveals that the shade-grown coffee may be adversely affecting the bird populations of Ethiopia. The study researchers suggest that moving farming to open farmland and leaving the forest canopies alone for awhile may actually increase the bird populations in this area. One major benefit of shade-grown coffee is that the birds assist in pest control, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides. It would be a shame to move coffee agriculture to an open prairie that would require chemical pest control, so we love the suggestion that tree planting should be part of this process. Instead of just plowing down the forest, plant coffee and trees elsewhere and, perhaps, significantly increase the habitable footprint available to more birds.

What these two articles demonstrate is the need for regionally-based agricultural and environmental impact studies that enable us to keep our world filled with all of the vibrant and lovely animals that keep it balanced. It’s a difficult prospect, however, given that coffee cultivation often takes place in some of the poorest countries in the world — and starving families understandably don’t really care about how their ability to feed themselves will reduce the number of woodthrush in Vermont.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Jay’s Strange Blog

In our tireless pursuit of all things coffee, peculiar and true, we stumbled upon Jay’s Strange Blog – specifically, a post he had written about developing an espresso drink which incorporated lobster and celeriac. Yes, we’re serious…and so is he.

What seems to have started out as a blog on coffee has evolved into a document of Jay’s passion for life — being a connoisseur seems to suit him and he talks in detail about food, wine, coffee — and even the scientific make up of ice cream. We love checking in on this blog every now and again for his rather unique perspective on everything from beans to bass.

Health Watch: Coffee & Strokes

A recent analysis of the much-lauded Nurses Health Study (which followed over 80,000 US women for nearly 25 years to document their lifestyles and health conditions) found a preliminary correlation between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of stroke.

Performed by members of the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, the analytical study found that women who lived a healthy lifestyle (particularly, non-smokers) and drank 4 or more cups of coffee each day had a 20% lower risk of stroke. Since it tracked the intake of several types of beverages that contained caffeine such as tea and sodas, the study was able to focus in on the effect of drinking coffee itself, meaning that the benefit is likely not sourced in caffeine but another molecular attribute unique to coffee.

Since the study is just out and will no doubt go through further analysis, it opens up an interesting discussion around diet and behavior — namely, do women who drink coffee at this level share anything else in common, specifically in regard to physical activity? The study authors are careful to note that this is just the first stage of analysis and that further research will be done in an attempt to determine the exact source of the benefit.

Bodum Shin Bistro French Press Wins 2008 Good Design Award

Bodum’s awesome Shin Bistro double-walled French press was awarded the coveted 2008 Good Design award from the Chicago Athenaeum — one of three of their double-walled, borosilicate glassware to be bestowed this prestigious honor.

French press coffee is not only some of the most delicious coffee available, it’s also probably the “greenest” — since it doesn’t use electricity to brew, it’s a great method for home use…and we love to take ours camping! The double wall provides increased thermal regulation and keeps the outside cool to the touch.

Also, borosilicate is the glass used in test tubes and beakers, so you can really drop some science when you brew up coffee for your pals (sorry).

Recipe: Mocha Fondue

Love is in the air today and what better way to top off an intimate V-day dinner than with a molten mocha dip?

Ingredients

  • 1 milk chocolate bar (about 3.5 oz.)
  • 1/8 cup espresso or coffee
  • Dipping item of your choice – strawberries, angel food cake, macaroons, bananas, dried fruit

Directions
Conventional method: Break up the chocolate and put in a saucepan with the espresso. Over low heat, stir with a small wire whisk until ingredients are smooth and combined. If the resulting sauce is too thick, add a few drops of water and whisk to blend. Serve in a small bowl with desired fruit and nuts. If fondue becomes cool and thick microwave for 10
seconds and stir, repeat if necessary.

Microwave: Break up the chocolate and put in a plastic bowl with the espresso. Give the mixture of ingredients 10-to 20-second bursts in the microwave, whisking in between. Do this until blended and warm.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Source: Green & Blacks Organic Chocolate

Deep Cheese Coffee Massage

Yes, we have an unnatural love for cheese — particularly artisan creations that imbue lovely cultures with all manner of flavor and depth. From hay to honey and lavender to lemon, we cherish hand-rubbed creations that give unique dimensions to the already full-bodied fromage.

When we heard about Beehive Cheese Co’s prize-winning Barely Buzzed, which features a nutty cheddar lovingly massaged with a coffee and lavender mixture, we thought to ourselves, Yes! Why hadn’t anyone thought of that before?

We immediately ordered their Prize Box and can’t wait to taste this unique cheese, complemented by an espresso-imbued stout, perhaps?

Hot Blog on Blog Action: jimseven

If you’re interested in the life and times of a coffee-obsessed 2007 World Barista Champion, you might just love to read the blog of James Hoffman. He is now roasting with Square Mile Coffee, based in London, and writes a lot about his trials, tribulations and triumphs with the great bean.

We’ve learned a lot about some of the finer points of coffee, thanks to his singular perspective, and think he’s a great read.

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.