Your Highness, you’re history! Coffee?

Your Highness, you’re history! Coffee?

After 240 years of absolute monarchy, Nepal has ousted its royal autocrat and declared itself a republic, thus condemning themselves to an altogether new sort of political strife: shifty-eyed scoundrels who’ve been elected to their highest office, rather than merely inheriting it. Good on them. Some words of advice as the Nepali people draw up a new constitution: Habeus Corpus is a Good Idea. Executive Orders are a Bad Idea. Ban lobbyists from the get go. Trust me on this. To mark the occasion, I’ve roasted up some Nepali coffee that I picked up at the recent SCAA expo. This is the first Himalayan coffee I’ve sampled, and I found some surprises along the way… The Coffee This green sample comes from Himalayan Java, and is described as organic, shade-grown on farms above 1100 meters, and fully wash-processed. I suspect at least two of these claims are overstated. The beans appear to be semi-washed, which isn’t a problem, really, nor is it unexpected; Nepal does not have a long history of wash processed coffee, and this may be about as washed as this coffee gets. Further, the roast characteristics of the coffee really don’t jive with the 1100 meter claim. Mind you, I don’t doubt that there’s plenty of high ground to be found where the coffee’s sourced (c’mon, it’s in the frickin’ Himalayas!) but this just doesn’t roast-up like an especially dense bean, nor does it cup like one. (More on that in a moment.) I suspect the coffee is an amalgam of a number of farms, from a number of elevations, some likely quite high up, others...
Oh Crap I’m Tired And So Can You

Oh Crap I’m Tired And So Can You

Or, how I spent my time at the 2008 SCAA conference and expo. Day 1. Depart Burlington International and arrive at LaGuardia. Hike between terminals to change airlines. Send a prayer winging to the airline gods that my luggage makes the same trek. It does, but at a cost… as I pick up my luggage in Minneapolis my back makes a *twoing* sound. [Oh, crap.] Arrive at hotel and am shuffled immediately into a lovely cocktail reception with many familiar faces — and some soon to become familiar — from Green Mountain Coffee, Transfair USA, Sustainable Harvest, Grounds for Health, and Root Capital, as well as friends from origin: Peru, Colombia, and Kenya. Have exceptionally productive conversations about content sharing, and the like. Eventually I have to make my apologies, take a muscle relaxer, order coffee from room service and fall asleep before I can drink it. Day 2. Do the registration shuffle. Am impressed that SCAA is *really* taking the “green conference” thing to heart… it’s the first time in a long time I’m not saddled with a worthless bag of swag and paper I don’t need. Begin the day with a press conference featuring Green Mountain’s Lindsey Bolger and Dr. Jane Goodall. Save the day (or at least make the presser go more smoothly) by solving a potentially devastating A/V issue. Why yes, that is a spiffy way for a geek to start his day… I nearly forget that my back is out. By the way, Dr. Jane is just about the sweetest, most present person that I think I’ve ever met. [I’ve mentioned before that I’m...

In Search of Warmer Climes

There was new-fallen snow on the summit of Hunger Mountain today — I think it’s Hunger Mountain… I can’t be sure; we flatlanders are notoriously peak-challenged — and flurries in the air, still, on my drive home through the greens this evening. Here we are, the cusp of May, and old man winter still won’t let loose his grip. Mean ol’ bastard. It must be time to take a break, and search for warmer climes. How about… Minnesota? It’s time for that once-a-year caffeinated spectacle — the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s conference and expo, this year in sunny [please?] Minneapolis. Maybe I’ll see you there… somewhere between the barista jam and the...
The Coffee Scene, Pittsburgh Edition

The Coffee Scene, Pittsburgh Edition

In the wake of the Starbucks’ public makeover, and with the SCAA show rapidly approaching, there’s a bevy of coffee-centric ink (‘lectronic and otherwise) flowing at the moment. Lots of publications are taking a look at their local coffee scene, trying to figure out who the players are — and discovering that the coffee shop just ain’t what it used to be. (Hoorah.) Here’s a take on the Pittsburgh coffee scene (featuring the fine folks at Aldo Coffee, among others.) “Our goal,” offers Rich Westerfield, genial co-owner with wife Melanie Westerfield, of Aldo Coffee on Mt. Lebanon’s Washington Road, “is to raise the level of conversation and appreciation of what coffee can be.” You go, Rich! Locally, upper-end coffee shops “have become a central place,” Westerfield says, for many the magical Third Place – after home and work. Priming the French press, Aldo, for example, brings in ska bands and steel drums. One church actually meets there monthly. “Coffee houses bring people together,” he says. “They’re oases of community in a city.” Ska, steel drums and church groups....

Coffee Notes from All Over

America’s Best Boutique Coffees. Forbes offers a glimpse at some of the best indy coffee shops around. Even though Starbucks, in its fight to retain customers, today unveiled a new brewing strategy and an inaugural blend called Pike Place Roast, most coffee snobs argue that the best java is found at small cafes where each cup is painstakingly crafted. Often tucked away in neighborhoods outside of a city’s financial district, these shops can be difficult to get to for a business traveler, but aficionados say it’s a worthwhile trip. So where are these boutiques? Well, the article is rather sketchy in that department but if you dig enough you’ll find a link to a spiffy photo gallery of a number of the usual suspects, and some you may not be familiar with. The SCAA gets its green on. The 20th Specialty Coffee Association of America Conference, this year in be-skywayed downtown Minneapolis, Minn, is making its 2008 conference its greenest ever. Sure, it’s easy enough to collect carbon-offset fees in the conference pricing… but the list of earth-friendly efforts with a more immediate impact is pretty impressive, and includes: The elimination of paper hand-outs for more than 100 lectures and labs. Food and beverages served with re-useable dishware and cutlery, as well as recyclable cups, whenever possible. Metal scraps and light bulbs recycled and 100 percent “green” cleaning products utilized. Food and beverages locally grown, in-season and organic, whenever possible. Food waste sent from the convention center to a hog farm for use as animal feed, and nonperishable, unopened food products donated to a local homeless shelter. That‘s leading...

Coffee Notes from All Over

So long, and thanks for all the coffee. Bloggle notes the passage of the venerable Dr. Ernesto Illy, the son of Illy’s founder, Francesco. Ernesto Illy forwarded the science of espresso coffee more than any individual on the planet. I think Don Schoenholt — a fellow SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate — will not mind if I quote him verbatim… The trade is reduced by more than one roaster today. We have lost an inspirational coffee thinker, a high personality, an early friend of the specialty coffee movement on this continent, and an individual who contributed to our understanding of ourselves by raising our scientific consciousness of coffee. Ernesto Illy, SCAA 1997 Lifetime Achievement Laureate, was an extraordinary gentleman who deported himself with grace and dignity. — Donald N. Schoenholt SCAA 2007 Lifetime Achievement Laureate Godspeed, Ernesto. Starbucks Takes a Mulligan on Training. Howard Schultz is back at the helm of the good ship Starbucks, and in addition to gifting iPods to associates that push bean sales — beans, what are these beans? and do they come in a venti? — he’s decreed that Starbucks baristas everywhere get a refresher course on building espresso beverages. Starbucks will close 7,100 stores nationwide for three hours on the evening of Feb. 26 to retrain about 135,000 in-store employees and people who oversee the stores. “We will have all new standards for how we create the drinks,” said spokeswoman Valerie O’Neil. “They will be trained in creating the perfect shot, steaming the milk and all the pieces that come together in a drink.” Go, Howie, go! Robots and Coffee, Redux. Nestle researchers have...
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