Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.

Mark Twain

Espresso Cocktail

Sometimes you want coffee. Sometimes you want a cocktail. Why not have both? It should be made abundantly clear this cocktail calls for a freshly pulled shot of espresso… and no, there really isn’t a substitute. Sorry.

The knowledge of how to fight Roya, and the money for fungicide, the labor to treat it, and to cut back the trees deals a huge blow to the income and profits of the coffee farm. The real impact is on organic farms,  whether certified farms or organic-by-default farms, on casual coffee farmers who have little technical knowledge, and on smallholder farms in general. In a couple crop cycles, Roya unmanaged is the death of the coffee farm.

–Tom Owen

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Roya — coffee leaf rust — is an increasingly clear marker of the climate change crisis. And it’s devastating.

From Tom’s “How Can a Leaf Rust? Roya in Guatemala” which I humbly suggest should be required reading for folks in the specialty coffee trade.

Today’s Favorite Thing: Cuissential’s SlickDrip

This dripper does what your typical plastic or ceramic pour-over cone should do — namely, hold a #2 cone paper filter while you brew coffee with it — but this one collapses into a disk about an inch deep when you’re not using it to brew your precious, needful cup.

Tasting: Costa Rica Cafetalera Herbazu

…lovely, very intense, salted caramel sort of fragrance that I used to associate with great Indonesian lots years ago before they all started to taste like mulch and wood moss.

O, Coffee. Is There Nothing You Can’t Do?

Coffee has been a frequent subject of scrutiny by the medical community… perhaps because it’s so widely consumed, yet offers no apparent nutritive value. Or, maybe doctors are just looking for a really good cup of coffee.

Three Cups, Three Origins, One Winner

There’s learning to be done here. If the roasts weren’t everything I hoped they might be, at least I might try to figure out why. And — to keep things interesting and to keep myself honest — I included a control: the latest batch of beans from Tony Konecny’s spiffy flash-sale like bean business at Tonx.org.

Zombie Coffee is for Zombies

Let’s examine for a moment the typical conference attendee: bleary-eyed, having stayed up too late the night before catching up on the day’s accumulated email (which stacked up at an alarming rate when the conference’s wireless connection foundered under load); discomfited by foods foreign to his constitution, containing both carbohydrates in abundance, mostly fried, and perhaps one more glass of wine than was truly necessary; made grumpy by lines, queues and coveys of slow-walkers, chaffed by the lanyard that his credentials pendulum from, and bent from days of sitting in straight-backed chairs.

Hotel Coffee: Just Brew It

Unless you’re staying at Portland’s Ace Hotel and thus have a Stumptown Coffee bar in your über hip, bohemian lobby, when you’re in some far off place hoteling in a name-brand tower or a teensy, boutique inn, you’re entirely at the whim of those oh-so-fickle gods of hospitality for your in-room coffee. Chances are further that this in-room coffee service is a frac-pack of ground coffee of questionable freshness, to be brewed at  questionable temperatures in a likewise questionable brewing device. It really doesn’t have to be this way. On this trip I packed a coffee bag. In it are two half-pound valve bags of just-roasted beans (Panama Los Flores de Boquete, and  W.P. Ethiopian Jimma Doromina, ’cause sometimes you want a juicy Central and sometimes a peachy African), my trusty Braun hot water kettle (tough plastic, not glass), a Melitta cone pourover basket and filters, a measuring cup and spoon and a whirly-blade grinder. Yes, I said whirly-blade… this is just the scenario where the grinder you wouldn’t choose to have on your kitchen counter is just fine, thanks. So equipped, making coffee in your room is much the same as you’d make at home. ‘Course, you could also order something to go with from room...

Coffee Notes from All Over

With a travel week ahead I need to be well-stocked for the road… because as we know, conference hotels are constitutionally proscribed from serving palatable coffee. To the roaster! Meanwhile: In an impressive array of review and ratings carnage, Consumer Reports smacks down specialty coffee powerhouse Starbucks in favor of Walmart-brand Colombian coffee, lauds the Keurig brewer’s convenience while offering a firm “meh” on the resulting cup, and thoroughly pisses off independent coffee houses everywhere for offering them not so much as a by-your-leave. (Gloria Jean’s and Newman’s Own Organics get top spots with “Very Good” ratings.) Speaking of Keurig, Boston.com has a big fat expose on the machine’s founding inventor-engineers, and the company’s prospects. (Why yes, I do have a vested interest, thanks for asking.) The Atlantic is apparently urging people to air their grievances more publicly than they already do, in What People Just Don’t Understand About My Job (or, #AboutMyJob.) In this most recent edition, one barista laments, “Working for a coffee shop, an extremely popular one mind you, has made me realize that most people lack any shred of decency or common sense; all they care about is their double tall no foam latte at the end of the line.” O, sweet barista… it’s tough all over, but look at the insight you’re gaining on the human...

Insert Groundless Starbucks Reference Here

If you could get past its provocative title — Is Stumptown the New Starbucks — or Better? — you might think Time’s Josh Ozersky has penned a decent enough article on the leading edge of specialty coffee today. But… damn, the phrasing here is loaded for bear. Coffee aficionados have been asking the question over and over again: Is Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Ore. — the most conspicuous exponent of coffee’s “third wave” — the new Starbucks? Um, no. Coffee aficionados *haven’t* been asking that question. Coffee aficionados are pretty well versed in the routinely awesome coffee that Stumpies has been cranking out year after year after year. Coffee aficionados don’t have to question Stumptowns’ authenticity, or transparency, either. Coffee aficionados have probably noticed, too, that Stumptown Coffee Roasters hasn’t had to cover up its logo like a scarlet letter when it opens a new storefront like, well… You Know Who. Wait, you haven’t heard of the third wave? Get with the program! In cities across America, a fervid generation of caffeine evangelists are changing the way we drink coffee. They tend to be male, heavily bearded, zealous and meticulous in what they do. Hey, lookit that! It’s another funny stereotype. We’re only just two graphs in and we’re two for two, already. And gosh, it’s pretty much true, too, save for James Hoffman who really should consider sporting a soul-patch at the very least. (He’d banish the Harry Potter look thataway, I’m certain.) And pity the non-hirsute women of coffee who — apparently by way of not being zealous enough to grow a beard — are missing...

Make Mine a Mokha

It’s unreliable, unaccountable, frequently unattainable, and I love it so. It, in this case, is Yemen Mokha, the stuff of heirloom varietals grown in village gardens and courtyards and tiny greenspaces carved out of the walls and warrens of ancient Arabian cities like Sana’a and Ismaili, where folk have tread for more than two and a half millennia. I savor roasting and tasting Yemeni coffees for the same reasons that commercial roasters despise them — they’re a complete crap-shoot. Yemen coffees are either left to dry on the tree, or dried — whole, cherry and all — on flat, sun-drenched rooftops. Dried coffees are stored in the husk and traded through a seemingly endless series of middlemen, mixing crops from untold numbers of family coffee gardens. The resulting beans tend toward the misshapen and bent, and are — by the standards of clean-as-a-whistle wet processors the world over — an unseemly mess. Oh, but what a lovely-tasting mess these coffees can be. I recently completed three roasts of a single lot of Yemen Mokha — back-to-back — making every reasonable effort to eliminate stray roast variables. Regardless, the results of each of those roasts is unique. Each cup is arguably unique. All are to one degree or another earthy, with notes of leather and dust; richly hued with wine-toned fruit, or tawny port, or sour strawberries, or apricots. This one has aromas of pitch pine and cherries; that one’s all peat moss and smoke and that one yonder, it’s got a bit of musty goat-skin in it. (Yeah… I skipped that cup, too.) And the final cup on the...

Hello, Vancouver, Goodbye

Herself and I had a too abbreviated experience in Vancouver, owing to a increasingly typical SNAFU on the part of United Airlines — %&#$!%, United! — which left us in Chicago for, oh, some 24 hours longer than we’d planned. (Chicago, you know I love you, but you’re not Vancouver, B.C. and the airport hotel where we lay our weary heads was a damn long ways from being the 5-star Sutton Place Hotel which we’d already paid for in Vancouver.) In our brief whistle-stop visit I didn’t get much opportunity to dig in to the Vancouver coffee scene save for a stop at Cafe Artigiano, which — despite the fact that the Piccolo family are no longer its stewards — is cranking out some fine coffee. Their cappuccino makes my top 10. Meanwhile… At the moment, I’m saddled up in the Explorations coffee lounge aboard the Ms Volendam, steaming north to Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park by way of Juneau while an extremely versatile string quartet plays Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Yes, Toto, we’re not in Kansas, anymore. We made way from Vancouver at a pretty good clip last night to catch the tide; the narrows around Vancouver apparently can’t be sailed in a big ship if the tide’s too low, and so our captain put the screws to it. Er, literally, I guess. This is my first cruise so I don’t have much reference on what’s a good ship and what’s not… aside from the essentials like, a good ship is one that doesn’t sink. (By that token, we’re ship-shape thus far.) There’s lots of wood, and lots of...

Still Crazy About Seattle

Despite the rain, and the blustery breezes. Despite the strep throat, and bronchitis. Despite the fact it would appear the city of my birth might see me catch my death, I love Seattle, still. Seattle remains a guiding star for coffee. From Vivace to Zoka, Trabant to Victrola, Tully’s to Caffe Vita, and — of course — the omnipresent Starbucks and hundreds of happy, independent retailers, coffee houses, espresso carts and hole-in-the-wall walk-ups, the city teems with caffeinated masses, most of ’em tanked up on some damn fine coffees served by folks who know their way round the business end of a portafilter. I’m impressed as I can be with places like Stumptown that hold daily cupping events so folks just walkin’ in off the street can sample a flight of coffees from all over the world, and compare and contrast flavors and aromas, body and balance, while elbow to elbow with the pros. I hope I can stay longer next time… provided the place doesn’t kill me,...
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