Monthly Archives: March 2009
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
Let's face it: Some of us are messier than others, and nowhere is this more true than around the espresso machine. Whether its leftover grinds spilling from the grinder, a soupy puck from the portafilter or some drips of espresso on the counter top, we all leave a little mess after we extract.
The Grindenstein knock box was designed to provide an affordable, sturdy, leak-proof and compact option for home espresso lovers everywhere. We dig its bright, durable plastic construction and think its innovative shape that's made specifically to fit on your espresso machine's drip tray is a definite plus for anyone with limited counter space.
What we don't love is that, because of its compact size, it sometimes doesn't catch all the coffee coming out of your portafilter. Also, the knock bar is a bit thick for our tastes, and we find that it doesn't let the puck fall as easily down into the container, unlike its skinny-bar brethren.
If you've been reading our blog for awhile, you know that coffee is the 2nd highest traded commodity in the world, which certainly translates into its high impact -- both negatively and positively -- on the communities in which it is grown. Generally, a farmer sells to either a distributor or a large roaster, who then resells to smaller distributors for direct sale or to retail locations, which then finally sell to you. Each participator in this chain is leveling some profit margin on top of what they paid, so $1.25/pound paid to the coffee farmer ends up as your $12/pound bag of coffee in your home.
The idea of fair trade is often bandied about with regard to several commodity goods, and fair trade establishes a minimum price that, despite market fluctuations, participants will pay for a specific product. Many large scale roasters are taking a different tack: Going directly to the source itself. Perhaps in the past they were working with a distributor who would levy a profit on top of what they paid to the farmers and the costs of importing. The roaster may have been paying $4.00/pound for the beans, but the farmer was only seeing $1.25 of that, so a movement toward direct trade is burgeoning amongst larger roasters such as Intelligentsia in Chicago, Stumptown in Portland or Counter Culture in Durham.
What is direct trade? Well, instead of dealing with all the middle men that add cost onto a pound of coffee, these roasters are developing relationships directly with farms themselves. This means they can contribute to an increased quality of life by paying a higher price that doesn't affect their overall retail price. It also means they're able to understand at a more detailed level the quality and origin of the coffee they're roasting and selling. This gives them the ability to delineate between single origins and to perfect blends based less on generalized bean profiles and more on an understanding of the agricultural product, its environment and how it's processed.
China Millman wrote this great synopsis of the specialty coffee movement toward direct trade. It urges us to be cognizant of what we're buying and who we're buying it from -- especially in the context of the current international financial market reset. To skimp and save is on everyone's minds, but it might just be more about spending wisely than not spending at all.
It's important to keep in mind that beyond flags, borders and politics, this planet is more interconnected than we sometimes give it credit and something as simple as coffee can make a huge difference in the lives of families on the other side of that planet. To stop and make a choice to do business with someone who is cognizant of that connection and choosing to shift the economic and power balance out of the hands of brokers and into the hands of farmers is a powerful decision that will make every cup of that coffee taste all the better.
We're all more conscientious these days about our environmental footprint -- what we do every day and how that impacts the world around us -- and our pocketbook. What started as a random inquiry every now and again eventually developed into a dull roar...people want to find a way to keep their fully intact machine out of a landfill.
So we developed our Recycling Program to fill this need: we will break it down into all of its components, reuse any parts that are still good and then recycle most of the rest.
If you're interested in the program, just contact us and let us know the make, model, age and condition of your machine. We'll get back to you on how to deliver your machine to us. Feel good when you choose a new, upgraded model that your old machine is still being green!
This recipe sounds absolutely delicious! The creator states they're a little on the cardamom-side, so if you dig that, you're going to love these -- and they taste great dipped in coffee. This recipe yields about 50 small cookies.
- 2 eggs
- 200 g sugar
- 1 tbsp cardamom, freshly ground in a mortar and pestle
- 1 tbsp ground espresso beans
- 1 tsp salt
- 4-500 ml flour, spelt is fine if you've got it or use regular all-purpose
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Heat the oven to 180C/355F. Mix the eggs, sugar, cardamom, coffee and salt. Add 300 ml of flour, and the baking powder. Add the chocolate. Gradually add more flour if the dough is too sticky to handle - don't use so much
that it gets crumbly, but it needs to be firm enough to be shaped.
Form ropes, about 2-3 cm, and place on a lined baking sheet.
Bake at 180C/355F for about 20 minutes. Remove the sheet, and when the ropes are cool enough to handle, cut them diagonally into biscotti and place them back in the oven at 100C/210F for about 20-25 minutes to dry out.
It's important for all of us to take a step back, assess our particular activities in life and try to plan around how to handle them in the midst of a zombie attack. You might think we're joking, but we're not.
First on our list is to make sure that, should said zombie attack take place, we'll still be able to develop the film from our trusty 35mm SLR camera. After all, how else will we be able to fondly look back at fighting off zombies and putting our loved ones out of their crazed misery if we don't have any snapshots that document the experience? Sure, most of you might use digital cameras these days, but we have a special throwback love for SLRs that will probably never die -- zombie infestation or not.
So you can imagine our glee upon reading about the chemical reaction qualities of instant coffee and vitamin C and how they can be used to develop film. Sure, we generally leave instant coffee related items off this blog because they're comparatively gauche, but we have to admit that any aforementioned zombie attacks may separate us from our beloved espresso machine(s) and we might have to rough it a bit. Thankfully, now we have a handy guide to refer to whilst developing our bloodcurdling film.
We all hear about the fabulously delicious Kona coffee, grown on mostly boutique plantations located on the Big Island of Hawaii, but a renaissance in Maui-grown coffee has begun, with MauiGrown Coffee's record-setting 2009 harvest.
The plantation in western Maui is cultivating four different types of coffee plants: Typica, Red Catuai, Yellow Caturra and a Maui-specific strain called Mokka. Once the holy land of pineapple and sugar, the commodity trends for these products have suffered quite a bit, making room for the reintroduction of coffee agriculture on Maui. Visitors to the island can arrange for a tour of the plantation, or just taste the different blends that are served up at the company's store, located in Lahaina.
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.
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.
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.
We love lemon curd but don't really love meringue; there is a strange hollowness to the flavor that we've never been able to truly embrace. Whilst poking around for a yummy lemon pie recipe sans meringue, we ran across this gem that not only banishes the meringue from the picture, it includes espresso! A perfect fit for our favorite coffee related blog.
The recipe is broken down into four components:
- Pie Crust
- Espresso Chocolate Ganache
- Meyer Lemon Curd
- Candied Meyer Lemon Slices
And you can read about the full process of developing the pie here. Enjoy!