Peruvian Coffee Co-Op Receives Environmental Stewardship Award

We’ve been talking a lot recently about the sustainable and environmentally-minded coffee cultivation in different parts of the world and here’s another dimension to add to that discussion: The Peruvian co-op CECOVASA recently received a national award for the positive impact their work has had on preserving and promoting biodiversity in the region.

CECOVASA is probably like many coffee co-ops around the world: A collection of small farmers who have banded together in order to take advantage of the economic opportunities of Fair Trade. But like so many labels, the real faces and people behind them can get lost in the shuffle, and we found this great article on a visit to the remote Andean farms that comprise CECOVASA incredibly informative.

This is another example of how choices we make in our daily lives — for example, purchasing coffee imported by Equal Exchange — can have a positive impact on both the ability of small indigenous farmers to put food on their table and to keep the ecological balance intact around them. These are market factors that can help define what kind of world we live in — not just in 50 years, but in even 2 years from now.

Stir It Up: Marley Coffee

Maybe your days of rocking knatty dreads are over, but you can give a little shout-out to your quasi-Rastafari roots by imbibing in Rohan Marley’s new papa-inspired coffee beans.

According to this interview in the Jamaica Observer, “My father came from farmland of Nine Miles,” Rohan recalls, “There, he learned a deep respect for nature and humanity – respect that helped guide his life and ours. He said he would return to the farm one day. That was his dream.”

Incorporating the Rastafari ideal of ITAL (pure, vital foods), Rohan and his business partner Shane Whittle work to partner with farms around the globe that are engaging in ecologically and socially sustainable cultivation practices — organic, shade-grown, ethically-treated workers and environmental balance are some of the attributes they look for when sourcing their beans. Their own beans, cultivated in the world-renowned coffee growing region of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, are similarly produced and they firmly believe that coffee grown in this manner just plain tastes better. From Rohan’s own experience, he draws on early memories of his grandmother hand-hulling and roasting wild coffee cherries for her daily cup of coffee and he seeks to embody this rich, handcrafted and smooth flavor in all of his coffees.

Marley Coffee has five different blends on offer, each name inspired by one of Bob Marley’s songs:

  • Simmer Down – Swiss water decaf
  • Lively Up! – 5 bean espresso blend
  • One Love – Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
  • Mystic Morning – Wake up coffee
  • Jammin Java – Bold full city roast

Jah mon!

Recipe: Babyback Ribs with Espresso BBQ Sauce

OK, it’s Sunday and we hope that, wherever you are in the world, you’ve got a little bit of sunshine and a hot grill ready to rock. Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s summertime and that means it’s always a great time for a barbecue.

We’re adding another recipe to our ever evolving meat-n-coffee repertoire! These look ridiculously tasty and we’re pretty sure that eating them is illegal somewhere, but we’re willing to risk it. Enjoy!

Rib Ingredients & Prep

  • 2 racks baby back ribs (about 4 – 6 ribs per person)
  • Gray/sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Espresso BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cut each rack of ribs in half along the bone so they can be easily stacked. Lay them out on the parchment paper in which they were wrapped for easy cleanup.
  2. Salt and pepper liberally on both sides and pat spices into the meat. Make sure to over season the ribs, because part of the rub will inevitably come off in the pan. On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, stack the ribs close together, about 3 layers high. Place in the oven for 2 hours, shifting the bottom layer of ribs to the top every 30 minutes until they are tender and almost falling off the bone.
  3. One half hour before serving, transfer ribs to a preheated grill (if using coals, make sure they have burnt down to an ember). Brush ribs with Espresso BBQ Sauce and close grill. Continue to turn and brush the ribs with sauce every 10 minutes, about 3 more times.

Espresso BBQ Sauce Ingredients & Prep (Yield: 5 – 6 cups)

  • 4 tablespoons mashed and minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups honey
  • Gray/sea salt
  • 2 demitasse cups espresso (or about 1/2 cup of strong coffee or instant espresso)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  1. Mash garlic with the side of a knife and then mince finely to release oils.
  2. Add olive oil to a preheated saute pan. Add the garlic and saute until it gets light brown, about 1 minute. Add cider vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup and honey and stir well. Add a pinch of salt, then whisk in the coffee. Add freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Let cool and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Health Watch: Coffee & Dehydration

The analysis of several studies on caffeine and how it affects the body’s hydration levels reveals that coffee may not be the evil dehydrator we always thought it was! From tracking the diuretic effect of caffeine intake to measuring hydration levels before and after caffeine consumption, scientists are experimenting with the theory that drinking coffee may not be a root cause for excessive dehydration.

For example, athletes — who are at particular risk of dehydration and decreased electrolyte balance due to their high energy workouts — were historically warned away from caffeine intake because the mild diuretic effect was considered to exacerbate this condition. However, new studies are indicating this assumption is erroneous, revealing no measurable increase in dehydration from caffeine intake before or after exercise.

Additionally, an extensive review paper published in 2007 even indicated that caffeinated fluids can be included in the daily fluid intake requirement for most people and that it served to provide the same re-hydration effect as pure water.

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.