Tag Archives: coffee

Coffee emergency in Guatemala

Farmers in Guatemala are having a tough time battling a fungus known as ‘coffee rust’ which withers the leaves and can ultimately kill the coffee plant. The president of Guatemala has committed $14 million to help the farmers buy pesticides and receive instruction on how to better prevent the disease, and contain it from spreading. Climate change is partly to blame for this increasing threat, and that brings up the larger issue…in the years ahead, climate change is going to affect these delicate coffee growing regions more and more.
(via the AP)

Elephant poop coffee

So here’s one of those things that I thought (and hoped) was a joke, but it seems to be legit. Capitalizing on the high prices of Kopi Luwak coffee, and the massive sizes of elephants’ guys, entrepreneurs in Thailand have put a herd of twenty elephants to work eating and pooping coffee beans to subtly alter its flavor (after it’s been pooped, collected, and washed of course). Or to put it another way, to charge incredible amounts of money due to the scarcity of elephant poop coffee. Yes, I’m more than a bit skeptical of the value of this…there are so many great coffee beans to be found for less than $50 per pound, I just don’t see the value in paying around $500 (yes, five HUNDRED) dollars a pound for coffee beans that have traveled through the intestinal tract of an elephant in Thailand.

(read more here)

A coffee lover’s guide to Disneyland

I’ve just returned from a California vacation, which included, naturally, a few days inside Disneyland. I found the coffee options pretty poor and figured I’d share some tips here for coffee travelers.
We stayed in the Paradise Pier hotel, and while it featured in-room coffee, it was really typical hotel room coffee, which is to say, pretty poor. If you’re traveling light, pack some Starbucks Via instant coffee and use the hotel room coffeemaker to make hot water. Or if you’re checking bags on the plane, bring an Aeropress and some pre-ground coffee!
Inside Disneyland, there are a number of coffee carts scattered around that offer up acceptable cappucino, though they’re not as plentiful as I’d like so if you have a slight craving for coffee and see one of those carts, jump at the opportunity, you might not see another for a while.
I usually experience better coffee in fixed cafe establishments rather than coffee carts, so when I saw the Market House shop on main street advertised that and had what at first glance appeared to be a coffee bar (with a long line), I grew excited…could this be, could there be good espresso in Disneyland? Alas, quite the opposite. No espresso on the menu and as I read closer, the cappucino was flavored! I asked the man behind the counter if they had just normal cappucino, not flavored, and he said no, it comes – get this – as a powder! I quickly left and popped an ibuprofen to keep the headache at bay. There’s a bakery on Main Street that was boarded up and under construction, so maybe once that reopens there’ll be good coffee to be found.
At the neighboring California Adventure, I enjoyed a decent espresso and some tiramisu at the Wine Country Trattoria.
So there you have it!

Naturally Decaffeinated Coffee

Caffeine is not only healthy for you, but it’s good for the coffee plants too, acting as a natural insecticide. While people have perfected means of caffeine extraction to produce decaf coffee, let’s face it, it impacts flavor to some extent and adds cost. Which is why a sort of ‘holy grail’ of coffee growing is a coffee bean that has little or no natural caffeine in it. Nature magazine has a very interesting article talking about the efforts currently going into this. On the one hand, you have the approach of finding existing coffee plants with low caffeine levels and use selective breeding to enhance that quality. The problem so has been productivity of the plant, and overall quality of the resulting beans. There’s also a problem with cross-pollination with regular coffee plants. So on the other hand there’s genetic modification, a sort of slippery slope that’s mostly in the news from GM corn (Monsanto, etc). A path fraught with danger if you ask me.
Which makes me take a step back and ask, why again are we doing this? Caffeine has proven health benefits. Yes, some people need to avoid it, but it’s still a bit strange to devote this effort into refining what is purely a luxury crop item, not some basic staple of human existence. Ok so that’s a bit unfair…for people like me it IS a staple of existence, but hey, that’s a firstworldproblem, let’s look at the bigger picture here. 🙂

Free Coffee!

The only thing better than coffee is, FREE COFFEE! How? Some of my favorite coffee shops offer free coffee on your birthday, and here’s how:

  • Starbucks: if you register a gift card online, you’ll get a free beverage on your birthday.
  • Dunkin Donuts: Join ‘DD Perks Rewards‘ and enjoy a free medium beverage on your birthday.
  • Caribou Coffee: sign up for their email list, and you guessed it, free coffee.
  • (via SpringsBargains)

    How to Brew Great Coffee

    If you’re reading this, it probably means you have more than a passing interest in coffee. At some point in your life, your eyes have been opened to how this drink can be more than just caffeine, more than just something hot. It can taste…awesome. How do you maximize this? Simple.

    Start with the beans. There’s really no substitute for fresh roasted beans, it’s as simple as that. I’ve found that vacuum sealed bags of beans can be good, though as soon as you open them, the clock starts ticking, just like it does with the bins of beans you may see at your local coffee store. At around a week after roasting (and/or after opening a sealed bag), the coffee has reached that ‘mediocre’ phase, and if you’re not at the bottom of the bag by then, prepare for some boring coffee days ahead. Use it or lose it.

    Grinding the coffee is the next step, and if you don’t already own a coffee grinder, go buy one now. The inexpensive blade-style grinders can be OK, though for better grind consistency and more flexibility, get a burr grinder (plan on spending around $100 minimum for a decent one). Never, ever grind more coffee than you plan to use in the next couple of hours…oxygen destroys the oils that give coffee its flavor and ground coffee has much greater surface area exposed to the air than a whole bean does.

    Now, brewing your coffee, well there are a ton of options here. Paper filters will filter out some of the oils which can be better for health reasons, but do affect flavor. However, you’ll find this to be a personal preference one way or the other so experiment on your own to see what you prefer. As for the method of brewing, go for either a french press or a pour-over method for the best flavor. If in a hurry, a traditional drip-style coffee maker can still work great, though I tend to avoid the ones with a built in grinder.

    Some general tips for using a french press or other manual methods – the water should not be boiling, it should be around 200 degrees F. I use a heading spoon of coffee for each 6oz of water, but you may prefer other ratios there. When using a french press or AeroPress, I add some water first, let that sit for 30-60 seconds, then add the rest, capping it off with the lid and letting it sit for a couple minutes.

    Enjoy!

    The Price of Convenience

    The single-serve coffee machines seem to be everywhere you look; my local movie theater even uses them! They do offer fantastic convenience and consistent quality, but it comes at a price…according to the New York Times, the cost can be as high as $50 per pound (and that’s not taking into account the cost of the machines themselves)! So if you’re looking for a place to save some money, consider buying an inexpensive French Press, it’s still very quick and tastes excellent. Or, buy refillable K cups as another option.

    Rising prices of coffee

    As demand for coffee increases, prices go up, but compounding the problem is climate change, resulting in ever increasing prices, and a shift from a cheap commodity drink to one where the bean is valued higher and the entire process more rigorously controlled. Anyway, there’s a great article about this over at Good, it’s worth reading if you’re into how coffee fits into our lifestyles.