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.
Our adoration for Rocket’s Giotto Premium Plus semi-automatic espresso machine really knows no limits and maybe that’s a little bit embarrassing, but we’re not sure we care!
In our quest to fulfill our dream of a Rocket in every home, we filmed Gail walking us through this gorgeous machine from opening the box to making a latte. Watch for its awesome packaging (an OCD-lovers dream!), learn about its boiler which features 40% more steam power than other comparable models on the market and see Gail whip up a delicious latte in no time — replete with ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ latte art!
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.
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’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).
Love your Ascaso Basic, Dream, Arc or UNO Special Edition espresso machine but wish that it produced a better shot? Well, we did, too — so we talked with Ascaso and asked them about creating an upgrade kit! While the original screen and water delivery works well for E.S.E. pods, its concentrated-stream functionality just doesn’t properly moisten ground coffee to the level required for a great extraction, so the upgrade kit includes an improved screen that showers water more evenly across the coffee.
The resulting espresso is rich, creamy and has a thicker crema — as good as any shot you’d pull from a Rancilio Silvia. This easy-to-install upgrade is essential, we think, but especially so if you dig using ground coffee in your Ascaso.