Historical Indian Coffee House at Risk of Closure

As we wrote about yesterday, India has a rich history with coffee. One of its central, caffeinated icons is the Delhi-based Indian Coffee House, a cafe that has served up common folks and Indira Gandhi alike, is at risk of closing after 52 years. The BBC has a collection of photos of this storied coffee house, including the experiences of some of its long-time staffers.

Indian Coffee Plantations are Diverse Nature Preserves

As the second highest traded commodity on the planet, coffee forms a complex and interconnected web that envelopes the globe. Whether we’re connoisseurs, roasters, casual sippers, baristas, equipment designers or growers, we’re all part of a wonderfully intricate chain that allows us to impact each other and the world around us. It’s one of the things we love most about coffee, actually — we dig being a tiny part of an enormous and diverse portrait.

While coffee cultivation in India has been around for a few hundred years, the infamous coffee rust blight that hit the region in the mid 1800′s definitely took a toll on the cultivation of coffee plants — the British colonialists eventually switched to cultivating tea instead, making that drink nearly synonymous with the UK. But coffee cultivation in specific regions of India has made a comeback, and this fabulous article talks about its history in the region and the present day practices of highly-integrated, forested coffee plantations that accentuate coffee’s relationship to the natural world.

From serving as the protected home to hundreds of different species of wildlife — birds, cats, lizards, monkeys — to growing coffee next to fragrant crops such as pepper or cardamom, these plantations take their committment to preserving the ecosystem that supports the production of specialty-grade coffee very seriously and it’s is more than just laudable, it’s worthy of your support. After all, the cause of the aforementioned coffee rust fungus was eventually sourced to the imbalance caused by excessive razing of the land in order to support more coffee tree planting. So why not take the time to explore specialty coffee from India? Sipping your delicious cup just may be contributing to the future sustainability of balanced agriculture.

Ask the Experts: How Can I Make My Baratza Grind Finer?

Occasionally, a customer will call us because their Baratza grinder isn’t grinding finely enough for them to pull a great shot with their espresso machine. For the Encore or Virtuoso, there is a minor adjustment that can be made inside the machine which will reset the grinder to the finest possible setting.

To assist folks in recalibrating their Baratza grinder, we filmed Gail going through the process outlined on Baratza’s website.

However, please keep in mind that the Baratza Maestro and Maestro Plus don’t grind fine enough for most espresso machines (unless you’re using a pressurized portafilter), so no matter how much you adjust it, you’re not going to be able to effectively use these grinders with your Rancilio Silvia or Rocket Cellini. These grinders are great options for folks that are interested in making superb french press or drip coffee, however, because while they don’t go fine enough for espresso, they are incredibly consistent — the particle size of your grounds will be uniform and result in improved flavor extraction.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Coffee & Conservation

In this episode of coffee blog love, we’d like to introduce you to Coffee & Conservation: Are Your Beans For The Birds?

This excellent coffee and ecological blog discusses a variety of topics that pertain to how coffee agriculture affects the environment. Assessing plantation growing practices and how they affect birds, reviewing different types of coffee (including the highly sought after civet-processed coffee) and information on how drinking different brands impacts our little winged friends are just a few of the subjects addressed in this blog.

If you’re interested in keeping track of the ever evolving relationship between coffee and the environment, this blog is an awesome place to start.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Self-Control

A new study indicates that caffeine intake prevents risk taking behavior after extreme sleep deprivation. Now, who would commission a study like this? The US military, of course!

The research took 25 healthy volunteers, subjected them to three consecutive days of sleep deprivation (totaling 75 hours) and then gave them a double-blind test involving the regular intake of either 200mg caffeine gum or a placebo gum, bi-hourly between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The subjects then took part in a risk taking analysis test involving inflating balloons for money without causing them to burst. The results indicated that those who were taking caffeine throughout the experiment didn’t change their basic personal level of risk taking behavior, regardless of how long they were deprived of sleep. For those not on the caffeine regimen, however, had a significant increase in their impulsive and risky behavior.

While many of us don’t regularly stay up for three days straight if we can help it, there have been other studies that have recorded this kind of risk taking behavior increases even with sustained chronic sleep deprivation — for example, regularly getting just three hours of sleep per night. Further studies will be done to evaluate how caffeine impacts this type of deprivation.

So the next time you’re feeling in the mood to throw caution to the wind…knock back a shot of espresso and wait awhile. It may result in you keeping your pocketbook — and dignity — intact.

Coffee Wakes Up Your Food

Consider coffee your newest extra virgin olive oil — a semi-ubiquitous flavor-enhancer that begins to show up in the ingredient lists of all your favorite recipes. While olive oil brandishes about its healthy fat profile, coffee counters with its incredibly powerful antioxidant count — even higher than that of the much lauded blueberry or broccoli!

An excellent article in the SF Gate provides unique recipes and explores the many uses of coffee in every day cooking — from broths to rubs to desserts. Among the tips collected by the author, we loved these ideas:

  • Osso Bucco fan? Try adding a shot of espresso to a basic mushroom sauce to accompany
  • It’s great for braising — try beef in a combo of stock and coffee and then add a little unsweetened cocoa powder
  • We’ve talked about a rib-eye rub and a flank steak marinade before, so we’ll definitely be adding a molasses steak sauce to the list, which combines strong black coffee, molasses, raisins and spices…once we’ve determined what those spices should be, of course :)
  • Coffee was often used to heighten the taste of chocolate in desserts, but chocolate has become so well-refined and the tastes complex, adding coffee doesn’t really make a difference. However, using white chocolate in mocha desserts is a great complement and used by a chef in place of dark chocolate, which overpowers the coffee
  • Great flavor pairings include nuts, citrus, raspberry, molasses, caramel, honey and sour cream
  • Perk up the flavor of any pot roast, stew, chili, mole sauce, baked beans or soup with a dosing of strongly brewed coffee

Do you use coffee in your cooking? Please share — we’d love to hear some of your experiences with adding coffee to your kitchen repertoire.