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

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.

Zombie Coffee is for Zombies

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.

Insert Groundless Starbucks Reference Here

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

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...

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