Gombe Reserve and a Curious and Interesting Path

Gombe Reserve and a Curious and Interesting Path

When I was growing up I mowed lawns and raked leaves for pocket money, as most Midwestern boys do. I often worked for Mrs. Werkley, a dainty sexagenarian who tended toward the eccentric. When confronted with the seemingly ordinary — a big-eyed bug, a volunteer plant, or even a weed she didn’t recognize — she would clap her hands with delight and exclaim that it was, “Most curious and interesting!” Folks considered her a bit of an odd bird. They had no idea. In her parlor Mrs. Werkley kept a plaster maquette of Australopithecus Africanus (wearing a whimsical yet decorous, embroidered fig-leaf.) On her mantle, between framed photos of the late Mr. Werkley and Dr. Loren Eiseley, was the skull of a sabre-toothed cat… just the thing to capture the imagination of an eleven-year-old. Loren Eiseley, of course, was a respected naturalist, ecologist and author. The eccentric Mrs. Caroline Werkley had been Dr. Eiseley’s research assistant for some 20 years… which might have explained a lot to the folks in that small-town neighborhood. Mrs. Werkley introduced me the work of Loren Eiseley, Raymond Dart, Louis and Mary Leakey, and a great many of their contemporaries, including a little waif of an English girl (to quote Mrs. Werkley) …who with Dr. Leakey’s encouragement was doing some very interesting work with the great apes in Africa. Though, sadly, she never knew it, Mrs. Werkley set me off on a course that has kept me curious and engaged in both amateur and professional studies of anthropology, sociology, natural history and philosophy for 30 years, and gainfully employed in fields related to cultural...

Coffee Notes, Friday the 13th Edition

I really want to continue the organic coffee thread (and I will) but I’m putting in altogether too much time on a super-duper-secret, very special, Special Reserve coffee for Green Mountain. Happily I won’t have to keep it secret much longer (I hate keeping secrets!) Meanwhile… here’s fodder for your Friday the 13th. Why should consumers buy Fair Trade Certified products? What difference does a cup of Fair Trade coffee make? What is Starbucks relationship with Fair Trade? WorldChanging.com asks these questions and more in a far-ranging interview with Tansfair USA’s Paul Rice. (A podcast, too!) I liked this bit, in particular: Charity is noble and there is a place for charity. We’re trying to build something different, something much more innovative. We’re trying to build a different way of doing business. A way of doing business that allows a company to be profitable, while they do good in the world. Why do those two have to be a contradiction? Why can’t we align the interests of companies and farmers and consumers, such that everyone wins by doing the right thing? That’s the dream, that’s the promise of Fair Trade. While lots of Vermonters point at our continuing daily snow showers and make snarky remarks a la “What Global Warming?” (it’s irony, right? c’mon, right?) I’ve been wondering myself what kind of impact global climate change might have on specialty coffee. I know, I know… there’s bigger issues, not the least of which is the uprooting of millions of people as sea-levels rise around the world, or the loss of species unable to cope with the change in habitat....
Green Mountain Special Reserve Ethiopian Sidamo

Green Mountain Special Reserve Ethiopian Sidamo

Rating: [rating:4.5/5] An extraordinary, and extraordinarily fruited, dry process Ethiopian Sidamo. I’ll warn you right up front that this is one of those coffees that’s simply unavailable at any price. I’ll tell you why in a moment or two, but let’s talk about the coffee first, shall we? This is a bean that I bid on and won (yes, that was me, anchored to my keyboard for hours on end) in the Ethiopian eCafe competition. This wasn’t the top-ranked coffee in the auction. It was, however, the coffee that saw the fiercest competition, and that commanded the highest price of the day. Which only goes to show that judges at competition have their standards, and coffee roasters and buyers have our own. This is a natural process coffee from the Sidamo region of Ethiopia. Natural process means that the coffee cherry was allowed to dry on the coffee bean, and in this particular case, the coffee was dried on elevated screens constructed just for that purpose. Natural processing is experiencing something of a Renaissance in origins like Ethiopia, where washed coffees have been the order of the day since, I believe, the 1960s or so. While a washed coffee makes for a very clean, elegant cup, a natural coffee — properly prepared — can make for an exceptional experience; the dried coffee cherry imparts lush, fruited flavors and sugars which carry over to the brewed cup. The process also leaves some part of the cherry’s fruit on the bean, which makes for a cup with an especially luxurious body. This Sidamo’s got all that, and then some. Just ground...
The Coolest Brewer You Never Heard Of?

The Coolest Brewer You Never Heard Of?

Bodum has done it again… in spite of themselves. The Bodum Mocca Brewer ups the ante on the traditional Italian stovetop espresso maker in much the same way that the eSantos Vac Pot raised the bar for the traditional vacuum coffee maker. At the same time they’ve made such a mess of marketing the new brewer it’s a wonder they’re actually selling any of them. (I’ll get to that in a bit…) You’re no doubt familiar with the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker — you may know it as a moka pot — long the staple of little Italian grandmothers, everywhere. Dead simple and robustly made, it’s not unusual for these little coffee makers to be handed down from one generation to the next. ‘Course, they’re cheap (read, inexpensive) enough it’s an altogether sentimental thing. You can buy one for your stovetop, buy another to use exclusively on camping trips (they make great camp coffee) and buy one for Nonna to have as a spare and you’ll *still* get change for a 50 dollar bill. That’s not to say there isn’t room for improving the traditional stovetop espresso maker. Firstly they’re a bit of a bugger to clean (all those corners in the octagonal base can prove tricky,) and over time — depending on just what kind of water you’ve got — the aluminum can oxidize. Still, it’s nothing some elbow grease and a pot or two to re-season things won’t fix. However… you do need a stove-top. Or a hot-plate, or — did I mention? — a campfire. Finally, if — like me — you don’t *have* a little...

Rwanda Reborn as a Premiere Origin

Rwanda — in particular, Rwandan coffee — is enjoying a well-deserved coming out party. At Green Mountain we celebrated the coffee of Rwanda by offering it as our very first Special Reserve origin. Its reception exceeded our loftiest expectations… Rwanda Karaba-Bourbon proved an exceptionally fragrant, extravagantly sweet and dynamic cup. It sold out within days. Starbucks, too, is now featuring a Rwandan coffee — Rwandan Blue Bourbon — as their second “Black Apron” release of this year. I’m tasting a cup right now, and it’s easily the most remarkable coffee from Starbucks I’ve tried… period. They have been exceptionally respectful of the origin character, offering this cup as a full city roast rather than their more typical deep-in-second-crack Vienna style. Counter Culture Coffee, however, beat both of us to the party… they offered their first Rwandan coffee last year, and have followed it with a second coffee — Rwanda Karaba Koakaka — which is available now, and were it not for the vagaries of UPS, would also be on my tasting table. (I’ll offer my tasting notes the moment it arrives.) Finally, Chicago’s Intelligentsia has a Rwandan offering — or had — as they appear to be waiting on a new lot of coffee at the moment. When it arrives it will be Intelligentsia’s second offering as well. A common thread among these roasters is an intimate involvement on the ground in Rwanda. Green Mountain’s Lindsey Bolger, Counter Culture’s Peter Giuliano and Intelligentsia’s Geoff Watts have each spent a number of weeks in Rwanda over the last two years, working side-by-side with coffee growers and processors, and establishing the...

Green Mountain: Special Reserve

From the shameless commerce department: Lindsey Bolger — Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ queen bee of green coffee sourcing and farm relationships — has secured a remarkable lot of coffee from Rwanda. It’s a 100% bourbon varietal, all picked in an eleven day period that marked the very peak of the season’s harvest. This tiny lot of coffee is the inaugural offering in Green Mountain’s new Special Reserve line of coffees… exceptional coffees, hand-roasted in small batches, roast-dated and shipped within 24 hours of roasting. If I sound slightly stoked about this… well, I am! This has been a long time coming. More, since the announcement of the program, nearly the entire lot of coffee has already been pre-ordered… so get yours while the gettin’ is...

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