Category Archives: Events

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series – First Lecture Update

Last night was the kick-off of the Coffee: From the Grounds Up lecture series that is being held in tandem with the Burke Natural History Museum’s Coffee: The World in Your Cup exhibit. The series was kicked off by Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, and was quite enjoyable. He discussed a lot of what is in his book, but here are some bits n’ pieces we picked up that we thought were interesting:

  • Caffeine is likely a natural pesticide that exists within the cherry to keep it from being decimated by tropical pests. This is similar to how coca leaves have a small amount of the chemical used to produce cocaine.
  • There is a resounding myth around the discovery of coffee — replete with dancing goats and monks — but there is some evidence that, at some point, nomadic Ethiopian people discovered that grinding up the beans of the cherries, placing them in fat and then ingesting the mixture would help them travel long distances…and this practice is still in existence among nomadic tribes in that African region today.
  • Brazil became such a big player because of two primary reasons: They had a lot of land and they were poised to take over the crop when the coffee rust disease nearly wiped out all of the bushes in Indonesia.
  • Americans have a very emotional relationship to coffee and kind of act like it’s our birthright that we should have access to cheap beans, regardless of market, environmental or political forces. There have been several times that frosts in Brazil resulted in an increase in bean prices — which then spurred congressional hearings to discuss the cause of the prices and find a way to resolve it! Communism was listed quite often as a cause during much of the cold war, and in 1962 there was an international coffee price agreement that was in affect until 1989, when the cold war ended. It was in our best interests politically to support the large coffee growing regions of the world, lest they fall pray to the evils of communist ideals! :)
  • There has always been and always will be a boom/bust cycle in coffee agriculture, due in part to the economic drivers of coffee growing regions as well as the basic growing cycle of the bushes themselves. They take a few years to produce quality cherries, so a time investment can be lost if too many are grown or not enough, etc. Around 2001, there was a huge bust due largely to an overproduction of robusta coming out of Vietnam, which was being grown to the detriment of the native highland peoples there that were being systematically and forcefully removed and persecuted in order to make room for coffee plantations. This is something that hasn’t been talked about much that we’re going to look into more.
  • Haiti was the site of the first and only successful national slave revolt, which included the burning down of coffee plantations and tons of the native trees. There are some theories that posit that the heavily denuded nature of Haiti and the removal of the colonial structures could play a part in the fact that hurricanes ravage it so often and it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere to this day. Another interesting topic for further research.
  • Because carbon dioxide is produced during the roasting process, coffee has to be a bit stale to begin with if it’s going to be packaged for export; this makes it not an easily manageable product for mass production, because the packaging can explode if the coffee wasn’t allowed to sit long enough. With the invention of the one-way release valve that is seen on many high end coffee bean bags these days, however, the coffee can be packaged more freshly and this could mean that roasting could take place in the growing country instead of after it’s exported to the consuming country. This could mean that there is room for future economic benefit in the growing countries, who could start roasting the coffee as well and then ship it out in bags with release valves.

Next week’s lecture is on direct trade and we’ll provide a similar synopsis of our thoughts here then. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or comments on what we shared here.

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series

In January, we wrote about the University of Washington Burke Museum of Natural History’s exhibition called Coffee: The World in Your Cup. The accompanying lecture series begins next week, kicked off by Mark Pendergrast on Tuesday, April 7th. Mark wrote one of our favorite books on the history of coffee and its impact on the world as we know it, Uncommon Grounds, and we’re really looking forward to his lecture — as well as several others in the series.

We’re hoping to make it to all of the lectures and will be writing up a synopsis of each of them here, so folks outside of the Seattle area, or those that can’t give up a Tuesday night easily, can also benefit from an excitingly holistic discussion of coffee and its place in the world.

Here’s a brief run down of the series — if you’re interested in learning more, you can read full details and sign up for the series here. If you plan on attending one, let us know — we’d love to meet you!

April 7: Mark Pendergrast
Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

April 14: David Robinson
Direct Trade: Bringing the World Community Together Through Coffee

April 21: Eugene Anderson
Why We Love Coffee

April 28: David Browning
A High Quality Cup – Securing Futures by Increasing Coffee Quality

May 5: Paul Rice
Fair Trade – Using Markets to Empower the Poor

May 12: Stacy Philpott
Brewing Biodiversity: Looking at Coffee as an Ecosystem

May 19: Reps from Espresso Vivace, Grounds for Change, Pura Vida & Stumptown
Coffee, Sustainability and Seattle

May 26: Ben Packard & Peter Torrebiarte
Local to Global – Conservation and C.A.F.E. Practices at the World’s Largest Coffee Company

News from the Front: Gail at The International Home & Housewares Show

We sent Gail out on a little recon this past weekend, to the International Home & Housewares show in Chicago. Here’s what she’s reporting back:

Delonghi: Charity Auction
Delonghi had a few artists design different front panels for a limited edition Artista machine — only 5 of each design will be made. They plan to auction these babies off on eBay, with the proceeds benefiting Oxfam International. We’ll post an update here with photos and details once this goes live.

Hourglass Coffeemaker
We wrote about this machine last week, and Gail had a chance to meet with this group at the show. No samples yet, but it is one of only two products at the show that are made with BPA-free plastic.

Handpresso in Color
One of our favorite gadgets for delicious espresso on the go, the Handpresso team has now added different colors to their available models, plus they’ve developed a travel pack that includes a thermos for hot water, 4 demitasse cups and a carrying case — we’re looking into adding some of these to the store.

On Chicago, and Her Cheap Date Ways
“I did go to a pub called Dublin last night and experienced quite a few characters. It was one of the local hang outs. Does that count?  One guy bought a round for the bar, myself included. He was well lubed up.  I had already had one beer and was quite full from that, so I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to choose my second poison. I hadn’t had much food all day so wandered out for chow.  It was interesting and Chicago is pretty cool.”

The show ends tomorrow, so we’ll post a follow-up later this week with Gail’s final notes on the show and possibly photos of the grand event.

For Those That Are About to Rock, We Salute You

Infuse your espresso with a little heavy metal! After an incredibly creative and customized development cycle, the Slayer professional espresso machine will be introduced to the specialty coffee world at this April’s SCAA exhibition in Atlanta.

The brainchild of Seattle-based Slayer, this uniquely designed and conceived machine is an extension of Slayer’s enthusiastic mission to positively impact the coffee industry — and the world. They accentuate the art inherent in espresso, and this little baby’s design speaks volumes about their singular approach to aesthetic form and function.

We can’t wait for this machine to hit the market and, hopefully, a cafe near us so we can check it out. And we almost made it through this whole post without making references to buttrock and mullets, but clearly our restraint is limited and easily overcome.

US Barista Champion: Michael Phillips

As we wrote about last week, the US Barista Championship took place this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, and the winner is: Michael Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago.

Each barista is responsible for creating three drinks for the judges — a simple espresso shot, a cappuccino and a signature drink — and are evaluated on the quality of product, overall technique, speed and cleanliness. Michael Phillips’ custom drink sounds quite lovely: A companion affair featuring a hot concoction of dark chocolate, brown sugar, sea salt and diced almonds balanced by a cool combination of freshly pressed blackberries, simple syrup and iced coffee.

Michael will join National Barista Champions from around the world at the SCAA’s annual exposition, which will be hosting the World Barista Championship this year, and battle it out to determine who will reign as the world’s most accomplished coffee slinger for the next year.

US Barista Championship This Weekend

The United States Barista Championship is taking place this weekend! If you’re in the Portland, OR, area and want to see the bright and the beautiful of the American barista scene compete against each other, now’s your chance.

The regional winners from over the past couple of months will be automatic semi-finalists in the competition, but dozens of other baristas will be throwing their cappuccino in the ring for the opportunity to compete in the World Barista Championship that takes place at the SCAA’s annual exposition in Atlanta, GA, this April.

In addition to the competition itself, which will take place beginning tomorrow, March 5th, and culminate with an awards ceremony on Sunday, March 8th, there are tons of fun events like a bike tour of Portland’s cafes, a welcome party and even a barista prom (backed by live band karaoke — egad!)

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!

Event Update: NWRBC Winner – Alex Pond

If you aren’t in the NW area or couldn’t make it to the regional barista finals this past weekend, you might be interested in reading about the winner — Alex Pond of Fresh Pot in Portland OR.

The 22-year-old wunderkind concocted a signature drink using Tanzanian salt and Balinese chocolate that sounds quite delish. He’ll go on to compete in the US finals this coming March in Portland — where all of the regional winners will be pit against each other to determine which java slinger will represent the US in the world championships later this year.

This Weekend: NW Regional Barista Competition

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest this weekend and looking for some highly caffeinated entertainment, check out the Northwest Regional Barista Competition, being held at the Temple Theater in Tacoma. This is the first round competition to see who will qualify for the US championships and then, possibly, move on to the World Barista Championship. 2008’s World Barista winner, Irishman Stephen Morrissey, will be in attendance.

23 competitors will be making three drinks for the judges over the two day event — and you can also check out a separate latte art competition. The event is free and open to the public.

Tasting Event: Velton’s Coffee – 12.07.08

We’re having our first tasting event at our Lynnwood location on Sunday, 12/7/08, from 10am – 12pm. This event will feature local roaster Velton’s coffee and you’ll have the opportunity to taste four single origin beans plus the blend Velton created with them (the Bonsai Blend) in a traditional, plantation-style cupping.

At this free event, you’ll:

  • Learn about regional flavor trends
  • Have the chance to determine which kinds of beans taste best to you and why
  • Get information on coffee roasting & blending theory
  • Pitch all of your coffee and espresso machine questions at Velton & Gail
  • Be entered in a drawing for an awesome door prize!

Please join us as we taste and learn more about coffee in a fun, interactive and casual environment. Space is limited to 20 participants, so if you’re interested, please sign up here.

Hope to see you on the 7th!