Category Archives: Current Affairs

Health Watch: Java not to Blame for Sleepless Babies

Coffee was what kept me up during those late nights of studying in college; for expecting and new mothers, you’d think it would be their lifeline too! I figured caffeine was the fuel that helped them during long, sleepless nights with their newborns.

But to my surprise, drinking caffeine has been a concern for many mothers. It’s been believed that mothers should cut down on their coffee habit because of adverse affects that could affect the sleeping patterns of their bundles of joy. However, researches have found that coffee does not affect your child’s sleeping habits.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can keep drinking that Grande Double Mocha you crave each morning, but studies have failed to show any heightened risk correlating between a mother’s caffeine intake and sleeplessness in her child.

Heavy coffee drinkers are defined as consuming about 300 milligrams or more of caffeine per day via coffee or any caffeinated beverage. “In 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said that 200 milligrams of caffeine a day –  about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee — probably did not carry pregnancy risks.”

In an article in HealthDay, Brazilian researchers conducted an analysis of sleeping patterns of more than 4,200 infants until the age of 3 months. The mothers of these infants had light caffeine consumption before and after delivery. Led by Dr. Ina Santos of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, the study was designed to analyze the possibility that caffeine linked to disrupted sleeping patterns in newborns and babies. Of the 4,200 babies, 885 mothers were interviewed after delivery and three months later to gauge their caffeine-drinking habits. Each baby was then examined after delivery and had follow-up exams three months later. Santos and her colleagues stated that all but one mother consumed caffeinated beverages.

Twenty percent of the mothers were considered to be heavy consumers and 14 percent had heavier caffeine consumption three months after giving birth. About 14 percent of the babies frequently woke up during the night. There was some indication that nighttime wake-ups were more prevalent with babies whose mothers were heavy caffeine drinkers during pregnancy and nursing, but Santos claims these numbers were still not significant.

‘Nighttime wakening among babies that age can be due to so many different things,’ Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas said. ‘So to tease out caffeine’s role is going to be very difficult.’

Caffeine can cause sleep disruption among adults, but researchers aren’t finding any hard evidence that java consumption, at any particular level, is directly connected to the sleep pattern disruptions of babies.

One More Cup Away from Diabetes

Well, looks like coffee’s done it again. As if we needed another reason to grab a second cup of joe in the morning, now you’ll have good reason — one for the kick and one to help fight diabetes!

The Harvard School of Public Health has done a series of studies uncovering the health benefits of coffee for preventing diabetes. In the well-known Nurses’ Health Study, they looked at 982 diabetic and 1,058 non-diabetic women without cardiovascular disease.

‘They wanted to see if the beneficial effects of coffee on metabolism were from changes in the hormone adiponectin,’ said Jonathan Galland, health writer for HuffPost Healthy Living. Adiponectin is key in that it promotes insulin sensitivity which protects individuals against Type 2 diabetes.

What they found was women who had four or more cups of coffee per day ‘had significantly higher adiponectin’ than those who did not drink coffee regularly.

Across the world, scientists in Germany, Finland and Denmark have been raving about the benefits of increasing one’s coffee intake to improve cholesterol levels and blood levels of inflammatory compounds.

Referring to the European scientists studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ‘Coffee consumption appears to have favorable effects on some markers of sub-clinical inflammation and oxidative stress and to increase plasma concentrations of potential biomarkers of coffee intake.’

In Layman’s terms, since subclinical inflammation is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes , coffee mediates and reduces  the risk of type 2 diabetes amongst people who drink coffee habitually for years.

But it’s not only caffeinated coffee that helps prevent diabetes, studies have shown that decaf may have the same positive affects also!

It’s not necessarily the caffeine that gives individuals the health benefits, Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health explains to WebMD. Coffee is jam packed with other nutrients, such as antioxidants, that he says contribute to, ‘the whole package.’ Antioxidants help prevent tissue damage caused by molecules called oxygen-free radicals.

Coffee also is full of minerals (i.e. magnesium and chromium) that helps the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose). In type 2 diabetes, the body loses its ability to use insulin and regulate  blood sugar effectively.

So if you’ve been looking for an excuse on which to pawn off your java addiction, now you’ve got a few health points to reference! Sip that second (or third or fourth) cup of the day and ruminate on how well you’re treating your body — and your taste buds.

The Lowdown on Bikini Barista Stands

Putting our noses to the grindstone and getting our hands dirty like the intrepid reporters that we are, Kaylie and I hit the streets with one question on our mind: What’s all the hullabaloo with bikini barista stands?

As far as we can tell (through very informal polling of other crew mates who hail from different states in the union), this type of business is something unique to the Pacific Northwest of the US — scantily clad ladies serving up java in drive through stands. But is it just a marketing ploy to attract the male population or do they actually serve up tasty coffee?

While these stands are hardly an anomaly in our neck of the woods, it was pretty clear that two high class ladies such as ourselves rolling up to the drive through window at the three different stands we visited definitely was. Since this was our first foray into semi-nude java, we were prepared for awkwardness on our side of the car window, but were surprised to find that the bodacious baristas felt the same way!

Read on to find out how we rated our visits — drink making skills, efficiency, service, hospitality and the overall experience.

Businesses Java Juggs
“Some Like It Hot”
Beehive
“Come get your sexy coffee BUZZ on at the Beehive Espresso!”
Stiletti
“Sexy. Classy. Gourmet.”
Drink: Americano
Allison’s Rating: Scalding hot to the point where we let it sit for almost 45 minutes before we could put the cup to our lips. We know this changes the flavor but we figured the safety of our mouths was a little more important than getting second degree burns over a cup o’ joe.Kaylie’s Rating: Overly hot and a little burnt. Allison’s Rating: A bit watery but reached the average drinking temperature right when she served it since she had the decency to ask if we’d like ice in it.Kaylie’s Rating: Closer to the correct temperature and she asked if we wanted ice in it, which was nice. Allison’s Rating: By far was the strongest and at the right temp cup of coffee. She not only asked if we wanted ice but also offered to make them doubles.Kaylie’s Rating: Best of them all and she offered ice — score! Could drink immediately without saying goodbye to taste buds.
Drink: Latte
Allison’s Rating: Was it curdled steam milk with a tablespoon of espresso or was it just a weak shot of espresso in some milk? All I could taste was a milky concoction with maybe a hint of espresso flavoring.Kaylie’s Rating: I’m not even sure there was actual espresso in there…it just tasted like steamed milk! It also took almost an hour before I could take a sip — way too hot! Allison’s Rating: A better temperature but still a little weak on the espresso, this drink was passable but not exceptional.Kaylie’s Rating: Once again, closer to the correct temperature and could actually tell there was espresso in this one…we’re getting closer! Allison’s Rating: Looks can be deceiving because you’d think a girl with star-shaped pasties would give you a mediocre latte, but surprisingly out of all three she had the best — strong flavor and great temperature that would rival any standard cafe.Kaylie’s Rating: Once again, we have the winner here! Right temperature and could taste the espresso with my milk. Plus? Foam!
Service Rating Allison’s Rating:A bit peppy and nervous when she saw us, I’ll give the barista credit when she said she’s only been working at the stand for a month, but I think her talking and rambling got in the way of the quality of our drinks.Kaylie’s Rating: She was talkative and friendly, but she was also nervous and I think her talking led to the long wait time. Allison’s Rating: Still a bit hesitant but friendly, knowledgeable and more business-like, the barista had more experience and said she’s worked at previous bikini barista stands (i.e. Chicka Latte). She was able to make small talk while efficiently making our drinks.Kaylie’s Rating: She was definitely nervous and made friendly conversation without as much compromise to wait time. Allison’s Rating: There to get the job done, there was no hesitation about asking what we’d like and how we’d like it but with a courteous smile and small conversation. We got out of there with quality drinks in an efficient timeframe.Kaylie’s Rating: She was very nice. Made polite conversation while she made drinks and didn’t seem too nervous.
Timing 3 minutes and 50 seconds 2 minutes and 50 seconds 2 minutes and 30 seconds
Comfort Rating Allison’s Rating: As nervous as the barista was, since this was our first stop we didn’t know what to expect. But once the drinks were ordered, and barista started rambling from nervousness we realized she was just as uncomfortable about serving ladies as we were being there.Kaylie’s Rating: I don’t know if it was because it was the first bikini barista stand we hit or if it was because she had her leg out the window as we drove up, but this stand made me super uncomfortable. Allison’s Rating: A little more comfortable since we got the first one out of the way, it wasn’t until I saw the Penthouse Posters plastered inside of the espresso stand where I once again wasn’t sure what to expect from my drinks. However, after chatting with the barista she was a little more confident than the last and acted more like how a barista should treat their customers, even with a bit of nervousness in her voice.Kaylie’s Rating: Was less uncomfortable on approach than Java Juggs, but the Penthouse posters on the wall didn’t do my uncomfortableness any favors. Allison’s Rating: What do we find but a barista with star-shaped pasties and those same yellow hot pants. Let’s say uncomfortable much? Once you start chatting up the barista with your drink order and she responds back with drink-specific questions, you forget about the pasties and are just impressed by the quality of her drinks and how efficiently she got them to us.Kaylie’s Rating: I really wasn’t that uncomfortable going to this one. Which is surprising, considering she was the only one wearing pasties while the others wore full bikini or bra tops.
Final Thoughts Allison: What I expected was basically what I saw: A girl dressed in lingerie (mind you not a bikini), with no real training except for what she was given when she was hired along with telling us that as long as you apply, be naughty and make customers drinks, you’ll get pretty good tips. Definitely quantity vs. quality of their product.Kaylie: She said this wasn’t their busiest stand, but she still makes $100 per 5-hour day in tips. When she works at the busier ones, in Everett, she gets $300-$400 a day in tips. She told us that she’d never been a barista before and they train you if you get hired, which has the only requirement of being ‘pretty’. Also, she said that when you are hired they instruct you to ‘be naughty.’ Allison: This time we actually rolled up to a barista who I believe was actually in a bikini. I couldn’t help but ask if she had been a barista before, she responded by saying she had previously at a Chicka Latte. With a little more knowledge in making drinks, it made me give the business a little more credit for hiring people with experience.Kaylie: This barista made mention of being in school and said she previously worked for Chicka Latte. She seemed generally sweeter and more ‘put together’ than the barista at Java Juggs. Allison: Once again, the pasties were deceiving but I found that this business used the sex-appeal to their advantage, while still hiring baristas that can slang an ideal Americano and Latte. With themed days, such as Tini-Bikini Tuesday or Fantasy Friday, you can either find this pure entertainment or just wrong. I’ll let you decide.Kaylie: This was by far the best in terms of actual quality and the barista was like a normal girl (pretty but not stick thin). Plus they get extra points for themed days!

Can I Get a Babyccino with That?

As you walk into your local cafe and notice a 3-year-old sitting in the corner with his mother sipping on what looks like a foamy, velvety cappuccino, don’t doubt your vision: That’s exactly what it is. And because its a fad it’s gotta have a cutesy amalgam of a name, right? Yup — it’s called the Babyccino.

Beginning in Australia about a decade ago, the Babyccino craze recently headed to Great Britain and then leapt across the pond to the eastern US. According to The Brooklyn Paper, the term Babyccino is used to ‘describe a macchiato-like beverage featuring a shot of decaf espresso topped with steamed milk and froth, while others use it to describe steamed milk with foam on top and a touch of cinnamon.’

Surprisingly we haven’t seen this oh so popular trend pop up in every cafe in the west coast quite yet, but many east coast cafes have jumped on the bandwagon and put their own twist to these trendy miniature sized drinks. Running at about $2 for a cup, the price may seem a little steep until you consider the peace of mind provided to mothers everywhere, who can finally furnish their toddler with a drink just like mommy’s.

However, even though they’re cute in size and are said to be kid friendly, not everyone is a big fan of them. ‘There is no reason on earth to have these drinks and introduce caffeine to a younger population,’ said TODAY chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

While some may look at the health factors caffeine could cause in children, baristas themselves are affected by the new trend also. Many explain how the increase of children will affect the coffee shop community negatively. ‘Some baristas do not want to cater that much to kids,’ states a blog on roaste.com. ‘On the one hand, kids are good from some businesses, but if the noise becomes a factor, the home workers and students might take their laptops elsewhere.’

But other New York cafes, such as Sit and Wonder, cater to their Babyccino fans by outfitting their joints with changing stations in the bathroom and a backyard with toys for kids to play. Others, like the Tea Lounge, even offer stroller parking and designated areas for mothers to breastfeed their babies.

We say to each their own; who are we to say what’s right or wrong for a child we’re not rearing? And who’s to say that Babyccinos are only for kids? Bring out the inner child in you and enjoy a few sprinkles with your drink! Also, do you really want to deprive Ruby of her sprinkles on her Babyccino?!

Coffee: A College Student’s Life Line

Before the days — or should I say the long nights — of cramming for tests, writing papers and preparing presentations, I’d never even thought of caffeine as an essential element of balancing my life. But in  my first years of college, I wanted to have fun! And a daily dose of coffee helped me get all my schoolwork done without impacting my ability to hit the dance floor.

From the beatnik vibe of the Solstice Cafe to the hustle and bustle of the University Village Starbucks (one of their busiest shops, even today), my devotion to java ensured I wouldn’t be running on empty before I hit my next lecture.

It’s not that I was before my time or anything, but since I’ve moved from over-caffeinated college student to … er, over-caffeinated working professional, I thought I’d take a look at what the kids are doing these days. Enter this blog from BestCollegesOnline.com, in which they rate the top 25 college coffee shops in the country that keep our future’s creative juices flowing.

Have you been to one of the coffee shops listed? If so, is it worth the press? What was your favorite java joint when you were in college? Please share in the comments below!

New: SCG’s Espresso Lover’s Gift Package!

We wanted to help you help the ones you love by combining a few of our favorite things into one sweet little gift box. Our exclusive gift package includes the following:

We package all these goodies in a classy black box, ready for the wrapping paper of your choice (or just a fancy shmancy bow). You’ll get over $50 in gear for $40, which is also pretty darn sweet.

Ho ho ho!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the US, it’s about to get real around dinner tables from coast to coast — a cornucopia of harvest victuals surrounding a lovingly roasted turkey. Personally, we take this opportunity every year to exact a little bit of cosmic revenge on the crew of wild turkeys that fervently chased us through the jungles of Costa Rica 15 years ago; some might say we hold a grudge, we believe we’re simply trying to exorcise our demons.

If you’re celebrating like we are today (with or without sweet revenge), we hope you have a fabulous holiday and take time to revel in all you have to be thankful for!

Health Watch: Say ‘Hello’ to Coffee and ‘Goodbye’ to Diabetes

For those of you who’ve been trying to find a legitimate excuse to cut down on your coffee intake for health reasons, hold that thought for a second and thank UCLA researchers who’ve given all of us another reason why we shouldn’t kick that caffeine habit quite yet.

For quite some time now, researchers have had an inkling that coffee has had a connection with preventing type 2 diabetes. And in fact they were right.

What researchers have found is that caffeine aficionados were least likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as the java works as a protective agent by increasing the plasma levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHGB). The SHGB protein regulates the biological activity of the body’s sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen which has been long been thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

As Science Daily reported, after Atsushi Goto, UCLA doctoral student in epidemiology, and Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Public Health and the David Geffen School, tested 359 new diabetes cases with 359 said to be healthy controls out of 40,000 women varying in both age and race, “they found women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee each day had significantly higher levels of SHBG than did non-drinkers and were 56 percent less likely to develop diabetes than were non-drinkers,” explained Mark Wheeler of the UC Newsroom.

“Early studies have consistently shown that an “inverse association” exists between coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes,” Liu said. “That is the greater the consumption the lesser the risk of diabetes. It was thought that coffee may improve the body’s tolerance to glucose by increasing metabolism or improving its tolerance to insulin.”

Liu adds, they now know that SHBG is indeed critical as an early target for assessing the risk and prevention of the onset of diabetes. They now know the protein can be influenced by dietary factors like coffee intake in affecting diabetes risk. The lower the levels of SHBG, the greater the risk beyond any known diabetes factor.

But diabetes prevention is only the beginning of the health benefits coffee may give us. In a number of other studies, one in particular published in the Wall Street Journal and referenced by Top News, coffee has been found to possess antimicrobial agents that aid in the prevention of tooth decay. Other studies have said it decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in women by no less than 24 percent, protects men from Parkinson’s disease while also increasing their metabolism and may also help the condition of short-term memory loss and is a helpful factor in aiding headaches.

So before you back away from that latte, just remember that one cup of espresso can provide you with loads of health benefits, so you might as well ask your barista for that double shot.

Keeping You and Your Machine Healthy

We’ve heard concerns from customers on whether or not they should worry about trace amounts of lead or metal poisoning within their machines’ boilers and parts. So we’re going to  break down the makeup of particular metals that are housed within your unit to ease your mind — and your fears of  caffeine withdrawal.

Water corrosion is where it all begins and understanding your machine and what conditions cause corrosion — oxygen, water, metal and a catalyst — will help you manage and maintain your espresso machine.

Aluminum

Used for some espresso machine boilers and stovetop espresso makers as it heats up the fastest, ‘aluminum is protected from corrosion by increasing the amount of naturally occurring aluminum oxide (Aluminum + Oxygen) on its surface.’

As a mixture of  metals, also referred to as an alloy, and under ideal circumstances, Sergio Louissant of LatteMaestro.com explains that this combination protects the aluminum but also has a quicker turn around time in breaking down the aluminum oxide causing the aluminum to corrode.

Chloride in tap water wears down the catalyst that breaks the shield that is the oxide layer between the metal and boiler water, as stated in a piece in the JL Hufford Coffee Tea Supporter Forum. This causes damage to aluminum parts over time so it is best to use filtered water or to regularly clean and descale your machine to slow down the deterioration process.

However, even though machines with aluminum parts are less expensive, that doesn’t mean they’re frowned upon. With its ability to maintain good resistance against corrosion, it just may take more of a closer eye and knowledge to understand the chemistry of it’s maintenance and when its time to switch out parts to prevent the quick deterioration of this material. Because the connection between aluminum and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s is still unclear, many folks try to avoid aluminum as a precaution.

Stainless Steel

Very resistant  to corrosion, stainless steel can be found in Saeco, Nespresso and Capresso machines. But its downfall is being the life of the party when it comes to hosting bacteria for a longer period of time on its surface compared to any other metal.

However, bacteria aside, since you won’t be cutting, dicing or chopping any raw meat on or with stainless steel espresso machine boilers and parts, as long as you keep the stainless steel within your machine clean, this material is ideal for espresso machines as it provides excellent heat retention and assures rapid steam function.

Brass/Copper

Unlike stainless steel and aluminum, espresso machines that use copper/brass boilers and parts, such as Rocket, Rancilio, Quick Mill, Pasquini, LaPavoni and Francis Francis, not only act like a repellent to those grimy germs and retain heat longer, but they also are the most resistant to corrosion than any other metal.

However, even with it’s popularity in higher end machines, some users are still left worried about the lead content in brass boilers.

While lead is added to some brasses, most manufacturers plate brass with nickel, such as Rocket Espresso, preventing any lead from leaching into water, reducing corrosion and acting as a barrier between brass and water.

But taking extra care when it comes to lead in products, it was in October of 1999 that the California State Attorney General sued 13 key manufacturers and distributors over lead content, leading to the reduction of lead content to 1.5 percent from it’s original 2 to 3 percent in products sold within that state. Following this action manufacturers were asked to reduce lead or to follow the requirement to warn consumers about lead content even if it didn’t have the ability to leach into materials such as water.

Hopefully this trend will catch up to the rest of the 49 states in the U.S. but for now, whether you choose a machine with aluminum, stainless steel or brass, taking precaution is key but knowing how your machine works and what it reacts well with will also keep you happy, healthy and caffeinated.

Recipe: The Pretty Woman

Nothing says ‘classy’ quite like a hooker with a heart of gold, sipping on bubbly and chomping on strawberries in her trick’s thousand-dollar-a-night suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, right? Right. Live the dream this New Year’s Eve with this traditionally tasty champagne cocktail — sweet, intoxicating and seed-free, so you won’t have to engage in any secretive flossing in the bathroom.

Ingredients

Directions

Pour syrup in the bottom of a flute and then top with sparkling wine. Toast, flirt, smooch and celebrate!