Monday, December 03, 2007

Rugasira’s coffee wins $50,000 prize

Sunday, 2nd December, 2007
By Emmy Olaki

GOOD African Coffee Company owned by Andrew Rugasira has won a $50,000 prize in the tightly-contested race in which only six finalists were awarded.

The other winners were Enterprise URWIBUTSO, of Rwanda, Kencell, of Kenya, Tele-10 of Rwanda and Virtual City of Kenya, each of which received a $50,000 prize during the inaugural Legatum Pioneer of Prosperity Awards in Kigali Rwanda.

There are awards are an initiative of Legatum, a private firm that invests in capital markets and in initiatives that support human and social development around the world. They were jointly organised with the OTF Group, a firm that helps build competitiveness in emerging economies by providing analytical tools to design and implement innovation based strategies, and the John Templeton Foundation.
They are designed to reward small-and-medium enterprises business leaders in East Africa. AAA Growers of Kenya emerged first winners from 450 competitors who took part in the event.

They pocketed $100,000 in prize money. Rwanda President Paul Kagame, who officiated at the awards over the weekend said employers who consider their workforce as cheap labour had no place in Africa.

“Effective companies must put a lot of value in their workforce, and then they will be welcome in Africa,” he said. The President said African entrepreneurs should be role models and responsible citizens who should have respect for the environment and good corporate citizens who should pay their taxes. “The old mindset that the environment must be exploited at all cost no longer works because we know better. We must renew these resources and not recklessly destroy them.

“ And this must be the mindset of both the Government and the private sector,” Kagame insisted. Alan McCormick, the Legatum managing director, said: “Each of the finalists is a shining example of flourishing enterprise and the wards unequivocally demonstrated that these entrepreneurs have earned their place alongside the very best in the world. “We hope they will inspire a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps,” said. He said Africa is full of success stories not yet told in the West.

“They are creating their own futures through enterprise and bringing a dramatic improvement in quality of life, something a tenfold increase in aid can’t achieve.”

The criteria for choosing the winners was based on innovative products and services, sustainable profitability, employee compensation, training and work conditions and environmental consciousness.

“We were looking for a world-class business led by a strong and ethical management committed to not only upholding the highest standards of corporate behavior but also growing their businesses aggressively.”

This article can be found on-line at:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seattle restaurateur spills the beans on the coffee industry

Saturday, November 17, 2007 staff

SEATTLE – Michael Hebberoy is known in the Pacific Northwest for his underground dining projects.

He operates One Pot, a roving restaurant of sorts that operates away from the eyes of health inspectors and serves meals in unexpected places, like abandoned Seattle garages and glass studios.

But a project with Seattle coffee roastery Caffé Vita is taking his dinner events as far away as Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil.

He's accompanying Vita on buying trips where the roastery is forging relationships with coffee farmers. Along the way, Hebberoy cooks for the locals, and gets them talking about the state of coffee in their country. He is documenting what he learns in an online media project that's just getting started. Through photos, video and journal entries, he aims to help coffee-drinkers learn a little more about where their favorite beverage comes from.

"For me, it's the opportunity to tell stories that aren't being told," he said. "(Coffee) is this great thing, well appreciated and a lot of us need it daily. It is also the second most valuable commodity traded on the planet next to oil … It comes from very war-torn, controversial, conflicted areas on the planet."
Caffe Vita has decided to buy its beans directly from the source, eliminating all coffee brokers and middlemen. This is important because, "there's sometimes anywhere between 10 and 15 hands that touch the coffee before it gets to final consumer," Hebberoy said. "It does a number of things in regards to quality."

Vita employees say the trips allow them to see the actual farms where the coffee is grown, how the workers are being treated, and whether the farmers are socially and ecologically responsible.

"We're able to pay them what they deserve without any money going to any other exporter or importer," said Daniel Shewmaker, a Vita employee who went on the trip to Guatemala.

Besides the Web site, Hebberoy plans to produce small books to distribute in coffee shops to tell the story.

The highlight of each visit is a dinner party he throws together, inviting all the players in the coffee trade – from writers and bankers to fair trade organizers, politicians and farmers. Once he rounds them up at the dinner table, he cooks with them. During the meal, he gets them talking.

In his journal, he describes the dinner party in Guatemala this way:

"The table erupted. the exporter had much to say. So did the Yale-educated granddaughter of a coffee baron, as did several of the more flush estate owners – the actual farmers were mostly quiet. The “vocal set” as we will call them ripped into the side of fair trade – denouncing it as a corrupt system, a flawed system, where often the “premium” price does little more than line the pockets of such and such cooperative manager.

"The exporter had much to say about the quality of the fair trade beans he had received in the past, uneven and dodgy, and the lack of accountability with ever changing management structures. The more vocal diners raised voices in a passionate disgust at how the “developed world” uses their countries impoverishment as a marketing tool."

The drying porch - where coffee is put after it's harvested - at a farm called Finca Nuevo Viñas in Guatemala.

Hebberoy, 31, dove into the project knowing nothing about the coffee trade. For this reason, he calls his project "An Unprofessional Study of Coffee."

Vita employees met one of the farmers they're doing business with at the Guatemala dinner party.

"It's doing business in a very – manner that's so much more human," Shewmaker said. "Sitting down at dinner enabled that to happen."

The project is ongoing. Once back in Seattle, Hebberoy hosts a dinner to present what he learned on each trip. Guests eat the same dish he cooked in that country (in Guatemala - a Mayan stew), drink the coffee they acquired and view video footage .

A trip to Ethiopia is planned for January, and in February the group heads to Indonesia.

"We are in a global economy," he said. "The more of a relationship we have to the products we consume, I think the more the world will change."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Coffee 'reduces the risk of skin cancer'

By Nic Fleming Science Correspondent
12:01am GMT 09/11/2007

Drinking coffee can cut the risk of skin cancer by more than a third, scientists say.

Woman drinking a cappucino. Coffee 'reduces the risk of skin cancer'
A good healthy dose: scientists believe caffeine could stop skin cancers spreading

Researchers found that people who drank more than six cups of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their chances of developing the most common form of skin cancer by 35 per cent, while those who drank two or three cups were 12 per cent less likely to have the disease.

Scientists believe caffeine could stop skin cancers spreading by stopping cells dividing, or by acting as an antioxidant.

Cases of skin cancer have quadrupled for men and tripled for women over the past 25 years in Britain, partly because of the increase in holidays in the sun.

Around 75,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), the milder form of the disease, are diagnosed each year. Dr Ernest Abel, whose study was published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, said: "The decreased prevalence in non-melanoma skin cancer associated with daily consumption of caffeinated coffee was dose-related and consistent with other studies.

"Among the possible explanations for caffeine's protective effect on NMSC are an antioxidant effect and/or inhibition of DNA synthesis and cell division."

Dr Abel, of Wayne State University, Detroit, and colleagues compared rates of NMSC among more than 77,300 white women aged 50 and over. They excluded women of other ethnic origins as they reported much lower rates of the disease.

The researchers said the findings should apply equally to men and women of all ages. Drinking decaffeinated coffee had no effect on participants' chances of developing skin cancer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Coffee condoms promote safe sex in Ethiopia

David Batty and agencies
Friday November 2, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Doctors have long argued over the health effects of coffee, but its reputation looks set to receive a boost thanks to a new flavored condom that aims to encourage safer sex in Ethiopia.

Around 300,000 of the coffee condoms were sold in one week when they were launched in September, according to the US charity DKT International.

It hopes to tap into Ethiopia's coffee mania as a means to tackle high rates of HIV in the country, which is said to have invented the drink.

Article continues
The charity said that with 2.1% of Ethiopians infected with Aids - and more than 7% in the capital, Addis Ababa - the flavored prophylactic was more than a novelty.

"Everybody likes the flavor of coffee," says a DKT spokeswoman.

The condoms are sold in packs of three for 1 birr, or about 5 pence - about half the price of a cup of coffee in Addis Ababa's cafes, and much cheaper than most other condom brands.

The dark brown condoms smell like Ethiopia's popular macchiato, an espresso with a generous amount of cream and sugar.

"It is about time to use an Ethiopian flavor for beautiful Ethiopian girls," said Dereje Alemu, a 19-year-old university student.

The product was developed after complaints by some users about the latex scent of plain condoms.

DTK has previously introduced flavored condoms in other parts of the world in an attempt to appeal to local tastes. These included condoms scented with the infamously stinky durian fruit in Indonesia, and sweet corn-fragranced condoms in China.

The charity's latest condom has attracted some criticism in deeply conservative Ethiopia.

"It's inappropriate," said Bedilu Assefa, a spokesman for the Ethiopian Orthodox church, whose millions of followers are encouraged to abstain from sex outside marriage. "We're proud of our coffee."

But even those not sold on the idea of coffee condoms recognize the importance of safe sex.

"I hate coffee-flavored condoms," said Tadesse Teferi, a 37-year-old mechanic. "But I use ordinary condoms when I have sex with ladies other than my wife."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fair Trade in Bloom

VARGINHA, Brazil — Rafael de Paiva was skeptical at first. If he wanted a “fair trade” certification for his coffee crop, the Brazilian farmer would have to adhere to a long list of rules on pesticides, farming techniques, recycling and other matters. He even had to show that his children were enrolled in school.

“I thought, ‘This is difficult,’” recalled the humble farmer. But the 20 percent premium he recently received for his first fair trade harvest made the effort worthwhile, Mr. Paiva said, adding, it “helped us create a decent living.”

More farmers are likely to receive such offers, as importers and retailers rush to meet a growing demand from consumers and activists to adhere to stricter environmental and social standards.

Mr. Paiva’s beans will be in the store-brand coffee sold by Sam’s Club, the warehouse chain of Wal-Mart Stores. Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s and Starbucks already sell some fair trade coffee.

“We see a real momentum now with big companies and institutions switching to fair trade,” said Paul Rice, president and chief executive of TransFair USA, the only independent fair trade certifier in the United States.

The International Fair Trade Association, an umbrella group of organizations in more than 70 countries, defines fair trade as reflecting “concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers” and does “not maximize profit at their expense.”

According to Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, a group of fair trade certifiers, consumers spent approximately $2.2 billion on certified products in 2006, a 42 percent increase over the previous year, benefiting over seven million people in developing countries.

Like consumer awareness of organic products a decade ago, fair trade awareness is growing. In 2006, 27 percent of Americans said they were aware of the certification, up from 12 percent in 2004, according to a study by the New-York based National Coffee Association.

Fair trade products that have experienced the biggest jump in demand include coffee, cocoa and cotton, according to the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations.

Dozens of other products, including tea, pineapples, wine and flowers, are certified by organizations that visit farmers to verify that they are meeting the many criteria that bar, among other things, the use of child labor and harmful chemicals.

There is no governmental standard for fair trade certification, the same situation as with “organic” until a few years ago. Some fair trade produce also carries the organic label, but most does not. One important difference is the focus of the labels: organic refers to how food is cultivated, while fair trade is primarily concerned with the condition of the farmer and his laborers.

Big chains are marketing fair trade coffee to varying degrees. All the espresso served at the 5,400 Dunkin’ Donuts stores in the United States, for example, is fair trade. All McDonald’s stores in New England sell only fair trade coffee. And in 2006, Starbucks bought 50 percent more fair trade coffee than in 2005.

Fair trade produce remains a minuscule percentage of world trade, but it is growing. Only 3.3 percent of coffee sold in the United States in 2006 was certified fair trade, but that was more than eight times the level in 2001, according to TransFair USA.

Although Sam’s Club already sells seven fair trade imports, including coffee, this will be the first time it has put its Member’s Mark label on a fair trade product, which Mr. Rice of TransFair called “a statement of their commitment to fair trade.”

He added, “The impact in terms of volume and the impact in terms of the farmers and their families is quite dramatic.”

Michael Ellgass, the director of house brands for Sam’s Club, said the company could afford to pay fair trade’s premium because it has reduced the number of middlemen.

Coffee usually passes from farmers through roasters, packers, traders, shippers and warehouses before arriving in stores. But Sam’s Club will buy shelf-ready merchandise directly from Café Bom Dia, the roaster here in Brazil’s lush coffee country.

“We are cutting a number of steps out of the process by working directly with the farmer,” Mr. Ellgass said.

Some critics of fair trade say that working with thousands of small farmers makes strict adherence to fair trade rules difficult.

Others argue that fair trade coffee is as exploitive as the conventional kind, especially in countries that produce the highest-quality beans — like Colombia, Ethiopia and Guatemala. Fair trade farmers there are barely paid more than their counterparts in Brazil, though their crops become gourmet brands, selling for a hefty markup, said Geoff Watts, vice president for coffee at Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, a coffee importer.

But in Brazil, a nation with little top-grade coffee, the partnership between small producers and big retailers is a better blend, Mr. Watts said.

Fair trade coffee farmers in Brazil are paid at least $1.29 a pound, compared with the current market rate of roughly $1.05 per pound, said Sydney Marques de Paiva, president of Café Bom Dia.

Most coffee farmers are organized into cooperatives, and some of that premium finances community projects like schools or potable water.

Like most of his cooperative’s 3,000-odd members — and three-quarters of coffee growers worldwide — Mr. Paiva, the coffee farmer (no relation to Mr. Marques de Paiva), farms less than 25 acres of land. He produces around 200 132-pound sacks for the co-op, with 70 percent of that sold as fair trade to Café Bom Dia.
New World Times
Andrew Downie

The company would buy more if there were more of a market for fair trade coffee, it said.

The fair trade crop brought Mr. Paiva about 258 reais ($139) a sack, compared with about 230 reais for the sacks that were not fair trade. For the latest crop, that meant an additional 3,920 reais ($2,116) for him, a huge sum here in the impoverished mountains of Minas.

“It’s been great for us,” Mr. Paiva said with a huge, toothless grin. “I call the people from the co-op my family now.”

Mr. Ellgass, the Sam’s Club executive, said the chain hoped to expand its fair trade goods.

So do Brazil’s farmers. “Everybody is doing their best to come up to standard so we can sell our coffee as fair trade,” said Conceição Peres da Costa, one of the co-op’s growers. “Everybody wants to earn as much as he can.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Organic, Fair-Trade Coffee-Of-The-Month Club
Featuring “COFFEE WITH A CONSCIENCE” Launches Today

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – September 27, 2007 – Citizen Bean ( an online subscription coffee-roaster-of-the-month club offering the best sustainable and complex roasts from small-batch “specialty” roasters throughout the country, goes live today, in time for holiday gift-giving.

Each month, the Citizen Bean subscriber will receive an award coffee from one of the country’s foremost micro-roasters, delivered just days after it has been roasted. Along with a monthly coffee selection, subscribers will be treated to specially sourced surprise gifts and coffee accoutrements, all exquisitely hand-wrapped and packed with care.

Dubbed “Coffee with a Conscience,” Citizen Bean celebrates the artistry of the independent coffee roaster. As the specialty segment of the coffee industry grows in power and sales figures, it has become apparent that the niche marketing of “specialty” roasts can be a tool to help coffee growers, many of them subsistence farmers, improve their lives and lift themselves out of poverty.

Company Founder Malcolm Stearns states “ Citizen Bean is inspired by the well known movie character John Foster Kane, a generous and idealistic champion of the underprivileged. At Citizen Bean, our goal is to advance the ideals of fair trade and sustainable products and foster sustainable development in as many coffee-growing communities as possible. We want our customers to feel that when they purchase a monthly subscription to Citizen Bean, for themselves or as a gift, not only will they be receiving a superior product, they will be contributing to a cause they can feel positive about supporting.”

Citizen Bean’s commitment to the environment and social responsibility continues beyond our product offerings. Each of our roasters designates a portion of their sales to donate back to a charity of their choice. Additionally, whenever possible, we use post-consumer and recycled materials for our packaging, shipping and collateral.

Contact: Beth Ellen Keyes 646 485 7330

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fair-trade coffee price unchanged after 10 years

Kathryn Young
National Post

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Coffee drinkers who prefer a shot of social justice with their morning java might be surprised to learn that the minimum price paid to fair trade coffee-growers hasn't changed in 10 years.

"It's like not taking a raise in 10 years," said Monika Firl, producer relations manager for Cooperative Coffees -- a group of 22 small coffee roasters in Canada and the U.S. who import only organic fair trade coffees.

"Everything is slower than it should be," said Robert Clarke, executive director of Transfair Canada, which certifies Canadian businesses who sell fair trade products.

Coffee producers are assured a minimum price -- US$1.19 per pound of Arabica coffee beans or US$1.21 depending on what part of the world the coffee is grown -- even when the volatile market price drops below that, as it has for most of the past seven years.

"I wish it was $20 a pound," said Mr. Clarke, who considered unilaterally offering a higher price, but was told that wouldn't show unity with FLO -- Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, which monitors and certifies the coffee-growing co-ops to which farmers belong, as well as sets the minimum price. Transfair Canada is one of 20 FLO members along with three producer groups representing Africa, Asia and Caribbean/Latin America.

The Caribbean/Latin American group proposed a nominal increase in the minimum price last year. Canada and other countries supported the increase, but FLO said it wanted to overhaul the entire process for evaluating how and when minimum prices are set for all fair trade products, not just coffee, Mr. Clarke said. FLO also wanted to consult with the African and Asian groups.

FLO's answer on a price increase is expected in early October during its annual meeting in Bonn, Germany.

"In my eyes, it shouldn't impact the consumer," he said, citing the example of VIA Rail, which moved last year to offer only fair trade certified coffee. The per cup increase in price would have been only 1.2 cents, so the company opted not to charge consumers more.

"The demand will hopefully drive down the pricing," Mr. Clarke said, acknowledging that some retailers will probably try to raise prices.

Fair trade coffee pricing is complicated. On top of the minimum price, coffee growers receive a social premium -- increased in June from five to 10 cents per pound -- that helps communities build schools, health centres and other improvements. And an organic premium -- increased from 15 to 20 cents -- is paid to organic coffee growers since their costs are higher.

Meanwhile, Cooperative Coffees -- which includes five Canadian coffee roasters in Toronto, Whitehorse, Chicoutimi, Montreal and Almonte, Ont. -- went ahead two years ago to increase the minimum price they pay for their coffee. Subsequent increases mean they now pay US$1.56 (including the two premiums) and propose increasing that to $1.61 at its annual meeting in two weeks.

"It ultimately didn't affect our price [to consumers]," explained Craig Hall, president of Equator Coffee in Almonte. Although the cooperative pays more for coffee, it also eliminates the middleman by dealing directly with coffee producers.

Fair trade coffee sales in Canada have risen an average of 52% a year since 2002. By volume, they've risen more than five-fold from 425,000 kilograms in 2002 to 2.2 million kilograms in 2006, while the estimated retail sales value has risen from $12.8-million to $67.2-million in the same time period.

This article was originally posted on September 17th, 2007 by

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Specialty Coffee Names Due Next Year

13 September 2007
Posted to the web 13 September 2007 by

Major coffee producing countries such as Ethiopia and Brazil have coffee brand names that Rwanda had not developed yet. Now the government coffee agency, the US aid agency and a local university are targeting to have the first specialty brand name 'KIVU' out on the market very soon, RNA reports.

"I'm sure the first one to emerge will be KIVU since Rwandan coffees coming from the Kivu Lake region are very unique, complex and exceptional in flavor profile and balance", said Dr. Tim Schilling, director of the US government funded project - SPREAD that has been working with thousands local coffee growers.

Ethiopia has specialty brand names such as 'Sidama' and 'Yirgachefe' that have been at the centre of controversy between the Ethiopian government on the one hand with coffee giant Starbucks and the US government - on the other.

Dr. Schilling told RNA that OCIR CAFE, the National University of Rwanda and the SPREAD project will be producing a Coffee Appellation scheme for Rwanda this year based on taste data collected on over 140 Rwandan coffees.

"We will correlate the taste profiles of Rwandan coffees with Rwandan geographic data like altitude, soil types, rainfall.", said Schilling. Then we will develop an Appellation Map showing the different unique taste profiles of Rwandan coffees by region in Rwanda, he added.

$55 for a kilo!

He said this will lead to international Specialty Brand names like Sidama, Yirgachefe, Harar and many more. "For us (Rwanda) it will be like, KIVU, GANKENKE, HUYE, BUKONYA, BICUMBI." Schilling explained.

Rwanda's reputation as a producer of top-quality specialty coffee took another leap with the results of its first-ever Golden Cup national competition held August 28-31.

Coffee may be selling internationally at less than $30 a kilo but the competition rated a Coffee from the north region-based SDL Muyongwe washing station at a record $55 for the same quantity.

American companies Intelligentsia Coffee and Stumptown Coffee bought the coffee at that price. Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee has been selling ZIRIKANA coffee from Northern Rwanda on its shelves.

A new cupping laboratory, a facility for assessing coffee taste and quality in Southern Rwanda, served as the venue for the 2007 Rwandan Golden Cup. An international jury of 18 coffee experts scored the coffees using a strict protocol, eliminating coffees with the lowest scores until only 10 coffees remained.

Five of the 10 winning coffees earned a score of at least 90 out of 100 for quality and taste as evaluated by the jury. These five coffees also received the competition's presidential award.

The coffees were evaluated for taste and quality by highly trained national and international juries. The entire process was monitored by consulting firm - Ernst & Young - in order to ensure fairness and transparency.

Community Coffee, Groundwork Coffee, Thousand Hills Coffee, Counter Culture Coffee, Howell Select Coffees, Union Coffee Roasters (London), Intelligentsia Coffee, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Starbucks Coffee are among the approximately 30 wholesale roasters now buying Rwandan coffees.

Independence soon

The US aid agency may have invest $16 million to put the Rwandan coffee sector into shape but Dr. Schilling says a time when local growers will be working independently is "approaching very rapidly". USAID/SPREAD will transform itself into a completely Rwandan project in 2009, he said.

Local companies like RWASHOSCCO, RFCA, HORIZON, MISOZI, and others have sprung up to assist the grower groups promote, market, and export the Specialty Coffees.

"Scores of relationships between Rwandan coffee producers and US or European coffee companies have been established and it is these business relations that will continue with no need of 'expatriate' assistance to make them happen or to keep them going", said Schilling.

The American expert says Rwandans will grow the specialty coffee sector from about $5 million in total foreign exchange earnings today to well over $25 million by 2011.

"The ability of Rwandans to know and understand their own coffees, their taste profiles, and the true market value of their coffees is Paramount to Rwanda's success so far and will remain Paramount as Rwanda continues its climb to the top of the International Specialty Coffee Industry as a prized, world class coffee that apologizes to no body", he said.

There are 17 wholesale and 9 retail roasters from the US, Canada, Britain and The Netherlands that are importing Rwandan coffees. There are also 9 companies that import green coffee beans straight from farmers.

Dr. Schilling says the list is not exhaustive but largely represents most of the companies that have direct relationships with local companies. (End)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

To Burundi and Beyond for Coffee’s Holy Grail

The New York Times
September 12, 2007

DUANE SORENSON had planned to fly to Yemen, rattle up dirt roads in dusty four-by-fours and dart through the Arabian sky in prop planes as he toured the country searching for open-minded coffee growers. Mr. Sorenson, who is the owner of Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, Ore., intended to offer the farmers more money than anyone ever had before in return for a promise to improve their crops.

But a mix-up with his passport left him stuck in Washington. Disappointed but undeterred, he boarded a plane for Guatemala City instead. When he arrived, he ate tortillas, beans and tilapia with the owner of Finca El Injerto in the western Huehuetenango department, one of the most celebrated coffee farms in Central America.

It was a roundabout way to go for a meal. But Mr. Sorenson and a few like-minded coffee hunters around the country will go almost anywhere, do almost anything and pay almost any price in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. For people at Stumptown and friendly competitors like Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters and Tea Traders of Chicago and Counter Culture Coffee of Durham, N.C., long trips to remote farms for meetings without immediate payoffs are necessary steps in a much bigger goal: reinventing the coffee business.

“These people have an almost unbelievable ability to source exquisite, unique coffees,” Mark Prince, senior editor at the coffee appreciation Web site, wrote in an e-mail.

Connie Blumhardt, publisher of the coffee magazine Roast, concurs: “They are certainly the leaders right now. Some smaller roasters just worship them, like they’re these coffee megagods.”

“Direct trade” is the most popular name of the style of business practiced by these coffee companies, known as roasters. It means, most simply, that the roasters buy their beans directly from the farms and cooperatives that grow them, not from brokers.

The term was popularized by Geoff Watts, director of coffee and green coffee buyer for Intelligentsia. (Mr. Sorenson’s air miles last week paled beside those of Mr. Watts, who flew to Burundi with another coffee roaster to consult with groups who want to revive that country’s once-great coffee tradition.)

Direct trade — which also means intensive communication between the buyer and the grower — stands in stark contrast to the old (but still prevalent) model, in which international conglomerates buy coffee by the steamer ship, through brokers, for the lowest price the commodity market will bear.

It also represents, at least for many in the specialty coffee world, an improvement on labels like Fair Trade, bird-friendly or organic. Such labels relate to how the coffee is grown and may persuade consumers to pay a little extra for their beans, but offer no assurance about flavor or quality. Direct-trade coffee companies, on the other hand, see ecologically sound agriculture and prices above even the Fair Trade premium both as sound business practices and as a route to better-tasting coffee.

By spending months every year visiting farms, these roasters seek to offer coffee that is produced as well as it can be, bought responsibly and roasted carefully. They aim, simply, to sell the best coffee possible.

“It’s an exploration of coffee’s flavor, really” is how George Howell explains his mission. Mr. Howell, who runs George Howell Coffee Company, a roaster based in Acton, Mass., has had a hand in practically every lurch forward in the quality coffee scene since he started out in the business in 1974. “We’re finding flavors we’ve never ever tasted before, different fruit and floral flavors from really pristine, clean coffees. These are flavors that have been lost or diluted in the old methods of blending coffee down to an average product.”

In many ways, the direct-trade roasters are building on the foundation laid by companies like Peet’s and, later, Starbucks, which went outside the commodity system to find superior coffee. But, Ms. Blumhardt said, those companies are too big to comb over every bean in every sack the way some direct-trade companies do. Starbucks bought more than 300 million pounds of coffee last year; Intelligentsia, the biggest of this group, bought 2 million pounds.

Sometimes roasters find coffee farms through serendipity. Peter Giuliano, co-owner and director of coffee for Counter Culture Coffee, spoke with palpable excitement about stumbling upon a Central American farm planted with geishas, a plant known to yield especially high quality beans. (This year, Esmeralda Especial, a Panamanian coffee produced exclusively from geisha beans, earned the highest price ever paid in a coffee auction.)

More often, roasters connect with growers through tasting competitions. The most prestigious of these are the annual Cup of Excellence competitions, now organized in eight coffee-growing countries by a United States-based nonprofit group, an event Mr. Prince of Coffeegeek calls “Coffee’s Olympics.” These blind-tasting competitions take as long as 10 days, after which the organizers auction the coffees online to bidders around the world, who compete fiercely for the beans.

Mr. Sorenson recently spent more than $100,000 for a batch of coffee beans that took top honors at this year’s Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence competition. The coffee, from Las Golondrinas, Marcio Benjamín Peralta Paguaga’s farm in Nicaragua, sold for $47.06 a pound, just shy of $40 more than the winner earned last year. But for Mr. Sorenson, who said the unusual “mango, peach, cantaloupe and jasmine flower” flavors made it the finest Nicaraguan coffee he had ever tasted, it was worth it.

Counter Culture started buying from Finca Mauritania, Aída Batlle’s farm on the slopes of the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador, after the farm’s coffee won attention at the 2003 Cup of Excellence in El Salvador. After working with Ms. Batlle for a few years, visiting the farm regularly and sampling beans produced under a range of conditions, Mr. Giuliano has asked her to pick the coffee berries when “half the fruit is at a burgundy red ripeness and the rest when it’s bright red,” a mix that Mr. Giuliano says yields just the right sweetness in a finished cup. (Counter Culture supplies the house blends for two of New York City’s most highly regarded cafes, Café Grumpy and Ninth Street Espresso.)

One of the most effective methods of encouraging change turns out to be as simple as sharing a few cups of coffee with the people who grow it. Obvious as it seems, this was far from common practice until about 10 years ago.

Mr. Watts said that cupping (coffee lingo for the formal, multistep tasting process used to evaluate quality) can help growers understand what a buyer is looking for. “There has to be a real financial incentive for every incremental improvement in quality, but it can’t be mysterious,” he said. “It has to be objective. The grower has to have every reason to believe that his investment in his farm is an investment in himself, not just him doing what some crazy American wants him to. And when they have the same evaluative skills that we do, they can taste their coffees and know what they could be worth.”

Direct trade relationships typically mean that the roaster guarantees to pay well more than the going Fair Trade price for coffees that meet an agreed-upon standard based on a cupping scale. If the coffees score above that standard, growers earn even more.

Cuppings also help roasters select the best of the already very good coffees they will offer their customers. On his most recent visit to Finca El Puente, a coffee farm in the mountainous southwestern corner of Honduras, Mr. Giuliano tasted his way through 68 tiny batches of coffee. The beans were separated by the section of the farm on which they were grown, the way a winery might segregate grapes by vineyard, and by when they were picked.

The cupping gave the Caballero family, which owns Finca El Puente, a look into the qualities Mr. Giuliano values in a finished cup so they can trace those qualities back to a particular patch of land, or a type of coffee shrub, or a degree of ripeness at picking time. For his part, Mr. Giuliano got the chance to pick the best lots for this year’s El Puente blend. Any batch that was particularly exceptional he would pay more for, roast separately and sell at a premium as a “micro-lot.”

Mr. Howell recently cupped through a selection of beans with Alejandro Cadena from Virmax, a quality-minded Colombian exporter. Mr. Cadena had brought beans sorted by size to explore the effect of bean size on a finished cup. Mr. Howell has found that smaller beans from Brazil have brighter acidity than larger beans. But bean size had no discernible effect on Mr. Cadena’s Colombian coffees, a finding Mr. Howell attributed to the mixed varieties of coffee plants used by the tiny farms Virmax represents.

Cupping is also a way of pinpointing where in the production or importing chain even the most extraordinary coffees can be damaged. At a recent cupping at his headquarters in Acton, Mr. Howell demonstrated some of the dangers. Coffee that had spent too long in a jute bag, for instance, was contrasted with some that was stored in plastic.

Sometimes simple conversation ends up making an impact on the finished coffee and on the people who grow it. On a trip to Rwanda in 2006, Mr. Sorenson asked one of the farmers in the Koakaka Koperative y’Abanhinzi Ya Kawa Ya Karaba — a cooperative that supplies him with the Rwandan beans he sells as “Karaba” — what Stumptown could do to help him improve his coffees.

“He — his name is Innocent — said a bike would help him with transportation of ripe cherry to the mills,” Mr. Sorenson said, using the term for the fruit that contains the coffee bean. “Which would improve the coffee’s quality, since coffee needs to be milled within hours of picking.” Coffee berries that sit in the sun can ferment, yielding off flavors that can taint a batch of beans.

After returning from the trip, Mr. Sorenson started a nonprofit group called Bikes to Rwanda. This April, 400 bikes specially engineered for carrying heavy loads of coffee over hilly Rwandan terrain were delivered to the cooperative just in time for the harvest.

Though altruism played a part in that effort, Mr. Sorenson said he sees paying high prices for beans and treating his growers as partners as the only way to get the quality he wants. “It’s not charity,” he said. “Our producers invest back into their workers, coffee shrubs, equipment and land. We know this is happening because of all the time we spend with them throughout the year, on their farms and in their homes.”

But it’s not a point he feels the need to argue stridently, because the proof — for anyone to taste — is in the cup.

For all sorts of great images and videos that support this article visit

Monday, September 03, 2007

Gourmet coffee guru Alfred Peet dead at 87

Sat Sep 1, 2007 3:36PM EDT

By Dana Ford

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Coffee legend Alfred Peet, creator of Peet's Coffee & Tea Inc., a forerunner to Starbucks Corp., has died at his home in Ashland, Oregon, his company said. He was 87.

Peet, known as the grandfather of the specialty coffee movement in the United States, taught the tricks of the trade to the founders of Starbucks and sold them their first year's supply. He passed away on Wednesday.

"He had this great love of coffee," said Jim Reynolds, roast master emeritus of Peet's Coffee & Tea, who worked with Peet in his early years.

"He was so helpful to many people in the business. When Starbucks was getting going, the founders of the company really needed help. He let them work in his store and taught them about coffee," said Reynolds on Saturday.

Peet was born in Holland, the son of a coffee and tea merchant. He learned the trade in Amsterdam, London, Indonesia and New Zealand before moving to the United States in 1955. Peet opened his first shop in 1966 in a rundown neighborhood in Berkeley, California that was later dubbed the "Gourmet Ghetto."

The store flourished and Peet soon opened additional shops in the San Francisco Bay area. Peet sold his business in 1979 but stayed on as a coffee buyer until 1983, and as a consultant after that.

"Up to the time he started, the quality of coffee in the U.S. was really poor," said Reynolds. "But he developed a market for those types of coffee."

The gourmet coffee trend in the United States started on the West Coast and moved east. Peet was known for using high-quality beans and a roasting method that produces a distinctively deep flavor. His company, which went public in 2001, continues to use his techniques today.

Although a company spokesperson declined comment on the cause of death, Reynolds said Peet died of cancer.

He is survived by a daughter, two grandchildren and a sister.

Peet's Coffee & Tea is a specialty coffee roaster and marketer. It operates 151 stores, about 90 percent of which are in northern California.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

James Bond-inspired coffee blend takes top award

12:57PM Thursday August 30, 2007

A James Bond-inspired coffee blend from an Auckland suburb has won the gold medal at the New Zealand Coffee Awards.

Toasted Espresso, a roastery in Auckland's Takapuna, took the top honour with a blend titled AA7, inspired by James Bond's 007, at this year's New Zealand Coffee Festival in Auckland.

AA7 received the highest number of points from judges who tasted more than 200 coffees, in a record number of entries.

The blend also won the gold medal in the flat white category at the fourth annual awards.

Toasted Espresso owners Chris Innes and Stuart Cross have tasted success before, winning a bronze medal in 2004 and a silver in 2006 before taking gold and the supreme award this year.

Mr Innes said the blend was developed from coffee beans, including some from Kenya with a premium AA rating.

"Then James Bond somehow came into the picture so we called it our AA7 blend."

Mr Cross said he wanted to produce a coffee which everybody would like.

Toasted Espresso supplies its coffees to customers mainly in Auckland but has spread to include places in Matakana, Whangamata, Mt Maunganui, Taupo, Rotorua and even flies coffee to supply a Sydney cafe.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Intelligentsia: Signs of Smart Coffee in Silver Lake

posted on 17 August 07

Intelligentsia's new location in Silver Lake at Sunset Junction as seen from the Outside After much anticipation, this afternoon marked the opening day of Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee in Silver Lake at their new Sunset Junction location. I've been looking forward to this opening since the announcement of their arrival some months ago, mainly because after falling in love with their bean roasts while on vacation in the Windy City last year, ordering bags of beans for home brewing via the internets was getting to cost me a pretty penny. This way, so long as the parking situation is palatable, I can slip into their chic new local emporium, pick up a bag or two of beans, and get one of their creamy signature espresso drinks while I'm at it.

Which is precisely what I did today, and was pleased to be a part of their debut.

The inside of Intelligentsia is a departure from the buttery yellow and warm wood tones of their Midwestern outposts; instead their floors boast lovely blue and white tiles, the counter tops are stainless steel, the ceilings high and flocked with lights suspended on squiggly wires, all of which combined give the place an overall air of boho chic urbanity. The staff were warm and friendly, and the atmosphere rather congenial. Folks were already taking advantage of the refuge their covered patio offers. I grabbed a bag of the Flecha Roja beans from Costa Rica off the shelves, and when I inquired about the future availability of Intelligentsia's house blends, the associate let me know that he wasn't sure if they would be carrying them, since right now they were focused on their Direct Trade line. I happily accepted my bag of beans and admiringly watched as my barista put the swirled milk design atop my tasty latte.

Welcome to LA, Intelligentsia. We're happy to have you.

If you want to help them celebrate their opening, there will be a reception at the store tonight at 7 p.m.

3922 West Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake
Open Monday-Sunday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

posted on 17 August 07 for some great images

Sex and the Mind's Decline

US News and World Report


By Bernadine Healy M.D.
Posted 8/19/07

All you have to do is visit a nursing home to see that Father Time is not as good to women as it might seem: Women may live longer than men, but they are more likely to face Alzheimer's disease. If the recent report in the journal Neurology from the French medical research institute INSERM bears out, Mother Nature may have stepped in by offering up the gift of coffee to protect her daughters' ability to think, remember, and communicate into old age. If its protective effect endures further study, coffee holds a promise of saving aging brains from the onslaught of dementia.

To be precise, over a four-year period, coffee use in excess of three cups a day in patients age 65 and older slowed down cognitive decline. People with mild cognitive impairment—a medical state halfway between normal brain functioning and Alzheimer's disease—have memory difficulties but show none of the deterioration in reasoning, mood, movement, and consciousness that defines life-destroying dementia. Once mild cognitive impairment emerges, however, the odds of Alzheimer's following within four years are at least 40 percent. Notably, many beat those odds, suggesting there's a window of opportunity for stopping or slowing down the pace of mental deterioration.

Cognition can be measured with a variety of tests of verbal recall, fluency, and visual retention. Once performance scores begin to fall, decline moves fastest in older patients and in women. Coffee seems to benefit both groups. In the French study, women over 80 who drank lots of coffee showed 70 percent less cognitive decline than their peers who imbibed a cup or less daily. The reduction was a more modest 27 percent for the younger women, and absent in men.

A shield. It is not the first study to show that coffee is good for some brains. As any aficionado knows, one cup is often enough to bring on a burst of energy and mental focus. But to generate an age-defying benefit in memory or thinking, it takes regular use over many years. This may be explained in part by lab studies showing caffeine can shield certain memory-forming neurons from destruction caused by the toxic amyloid deposits, which are known to accumulate in older brains long before dementia is evident.

What has researchers scratching their heads is why at least some studies show the gender difference. In a 2002 report, performance on a battery of memory and reasoning tests among elderly residents of Rancho Bernardo, Calif., was better among women—but not men—who had the highest lifelong intake of caffeinated coffee. Some researchers surmised that men and women may metabolize coffee differently. Others, that biological sex differences in cognitive decline make women more sensitive to coffee's protection. In the French study, men tended to have more advanced education—but they also scored higher on baseline mental testing than did the women, a fact the researchers tried to take into account. Still, the men may have been less prone to cognitive deterioration from the outset, coffee or no coffee.

This should remind us that using one's brain is a health food in and of itself. It's been long known that dropping out of school early is a risk factor for Alzheimer's later in life. And there is new evidence that regardless of formal schooling, cognitive activity in older individuals exerts its own benefit on brain health, while mental sluggards are more than twice as susceptible to cognitive decline. To be sure, keeping your brain active takes more effort than sipping a Starbucks. But it has none of coffee's side effects, like palpitations or trouble sleeping. So for those who like coffee, why not do both? Enjoy a good book and a cup of joe, or a lively kaffeeklatsch brimming with brainteasing discussion.

As for men, don't give up. The French study continues and just may turn up positive for them, too. Not long ago, researchers from Finland, Italy, and the Netherlands reported that elderly coffee-drinking European men, when followed for a full 10 years, behaved just like women: They had less mental decline with greater coffee consumption. And three cups a day seemed to be the magic number.

So it's quite possible that la difference will vanish with further study. After all, most other health benefits gleaned from a coffee habit—such as a lower incidence of gout, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson's disease—serve men and women equally. I'd suggest for now that it's only prudent and fair to invite men to the kaffeeklatsch as well.

This story appears in the August 27, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Drinking More Coffee May Decrease Risk of Renal and Hepatocellular Cance

Pooled data from 13 prospective studies have shown that increased intake of coffee and tea appears to decrease the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The details of this study appeared in an early on line publication in the International Journal of Cancer on June 21, 2007.[1] A separate meta-analysis of ten studies, published in the August, 2007 issue of Hepatology suggested that coffee drinking also decreased the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).[2]

An important focus of research in prevention of cancer and other diseases is diet. Several studies have indicated that diets high in fruit and vegetables may provide certain health benefits compared with diets higher in meats and processed foods. Researchers continue to evaluate this issue, as disease prevention remains a significant goal. Recently, researchers have focused on coffee as a possible agent for the reduction of HCC and tea, especially green tea, as an agent for reduction of a variety of cancers.

Researchers from several institutions around the world were involved in a clinical study to evaluate associations between coffee, tea, milk, soda, and fruit and vegetable juice intake and risks of developing RCC. This study included results from 13 studies including 530,469 women and 244,483 men. Follow-up was between seven and 20 years. Information about diet was gathered at the beginning of the trial.

* Individuals who drank three or more 8-ounce cups of coffee per day had a reduced risk of developing RCC compared with those who drank less than one 8-ounce cup per day.

* Individuals who drank one or more 8-ounce cups of tea per day had a reduced risk of developing RCC compared with those who did not drink tea.

* There were no associations between milk, soda, or juice intake.

The researchers concluded that “greater consumption of coffee and tea may be associated with a lower risk of renal cell cancer.” These results add to existing evidence suggesting that intake of coffee and tea does not appear to contribute to the risk of developing cancers.

Coffee drinking has been associated with a lower risk of HCC in studies from Japan (see related news). Researchers from Italy recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate data regarding potential associations between coffee consumption and the risk of HCC, as results from several studies have indicated that coffee reduces the risk of HCC. This study included data from 10 studies conducted in southern Europe and Japan.

• The more coffee individuals drank, the more their risk of HCC was reduced.

• For each additional cup of coffee an individual drank per day, the risk of HCC was reduced by 23%.

• Overall, individuals who were coffee drinkers had a 41% reduced risk of developing HCC compared with those who did not drink coffee.

The researchers concluded that these results provide further evidence that coffee reduces the risk of developing HCC. Furthermore, greater consumption reduces the risk of HCC even further. However, excessive coffee drinking may carry its own risks in individuals with specific medical conditions, so patients may wish to discuss their individual risks and benefits of drinking coffee with their physician.

Comments: These observations suggest that coffee and tea drinking may lower the risk of RCC and HCC but the mechanisms of these effects are unknown.


[1] Lee J, Hunter D, Spiegelman D, et al. Intakes of coffee, tea, milk, soda and juice and renal cell cancer in a pooled analysis of 13 prospective studies. International Journal of Cancer. [early online publication]. June 21, 2007. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.22909.

[2] Bravi F, Bosetti C, Tavani A, et al. Coffee drinking and hepatocellular carcinoma risk: a meta-analysis. Hepatology. 2007;46: 430–435

Related News:

Coffee Drinking Lowers the Risk of Liver Cancer in Japanese (06/06/2005)

Habitual Coffee Drinking Reduces Hepatocellular Cancer in Japanese (02/17/2005)

Tea Consumption Associated with a Decreased Incidence of Ovarian Cancer (12/27/2005)

Green Tea Intake Associated With Lower Incidence of Breast Cancer (12/05/2005)

Green Tea Does Not Appear Effective for Treating Androgen Dependent Metastatic Prostate Cancer (05/02/2002

this article was first published by the on 08/10/2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Coffee May Protect Women's Memory, Study Says

Caffeine May Boost Memory for Older Women, Study Suggests


ABC News Medical Unit

For women over 65, drinking that extra cup of joe may protect thinking and memory skills, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Neurology.

Women who drank more than three cups of coffee -- or the equivalent amount of tea -- per day showed less decline in performance over time on memory tests than women who drank only one cup or less of coffee.

"We looked at the relationship between coffee drinking and cognitive decline, and we found that there was a relationship," said Karen Ritchie, an epidemiological and clinical researcher at La Colombiere Hospital in Montpellier, France.

"It was clear -- the more coffee, the less the decline. We then had to adjust for other factors, and we found that the more we adjusted, the greater the effect."

The study observed 7,000 people over age 65 whose memory skills and caffeine consumption were monitored for four years.

Since most people get their daily dose of caffeine in a cup (or three) of coffee, the number of times participants enjoyed this beverage daily was used as a measure of how much caffeine they took in daily -- though the chemical also exists in tea, soda, chocolate and other foods in smaller amounts.

The researchers found that not only did heavy coffee-drinkers have less memory decline, but the benefits increased with age. Women over the age of 80 who drank four or more cups of coffee were 70 percent less likely to have a decline in memory. However, consuming caffeine did not seem to reduce rates of dementia.

The benefits of increased coffee intake are significant for women, but caffeine's mind-preserving effects were not seen in men, causing researchers to wonder why.

"It could be something about the difference in sex hormones and coffee, or it could be that women metabolize caffeine differently," said Ritchie, who considers herself a modest tea drinker.

"We do know that men and women do metabolize caffeine differently," she said, adding that they also metabolize alcohol and other substances in different ways.

The researchers said that although they are not sure exactly how caffeine, a stimulant, seems to decrease memory loss, they think it may put the brakes on the chemical changes in the brain that are thought to eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease.

Caffeine: It Does a Body Good?

Ritchie is quick to point out that drinking more than three cups of coffee per day isn't recommended for everyone, including people who have high blood pressure.

"Please don't run out and drink coffee if you're not used to it," she said, citing the possible problems that can arise with a dose of caffeine, including increased blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, and a racing heartbeat.

Other experts agree that the research is encouraging, though preliminary.

"This is a good study, but one thing did concern me: it is assumed that caffeine is the operative compound here," said Keith Ayoob, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

"The authors said that women were greater consumers of tea -- very high in antioxidants -- but that there was no difference in effect between coffee and tea," he said. "Fine, but coffee is also loaded with antioxidants -- some different ones, but antioxidants nonetheless."

In addition to the question of antioxidants, some researchers believe there may have been some problems in the design of the study.

"There are questions about the dosage, because some people would make stronger coffee than others, so the amount of caffeine can vary per cup," said Zaven Khachaturian, editor in chief of the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

He added, "In order to really get a handle on the effectiveness of this for treatment, one needs to have a much larger number of people in the trial."

Study author Ritchie agrees that this is just the beginning. She envisions a future where older women may use a caffeine patch to preserve their minds, but says that a lot of research needs to be done before that time.

"This study opens the door for biologists to look at this question," she said. "To reduce cognitive decline, caffeine is one of the many things we are looking at."

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Coffee houses cash in on Starbucks' arrival in neighbourhood

26 Jul, 2007, 0256 hrs IST, AGENCIES

NEW YORK: The possible addition of another Starbucks near one of Manthri Srinath’s three independent coffee shops in Santa Cruz, California, is cause for celebration. “When Starbucks opens up next to us, we get more business,” said Srinath, 41.

Starbucks has more than 7,800 company-operated stores worldwide. While some independent coffee shops have been driven out of business by Starbucks’ expansion, independents have hit on a recipe for thriving in the shadow of the world’s largest coffee chain.

The independents have found a niche by touting their coffee as superior and by establishing themselves as a third place between home and work, where sippers can groove on presentations by local artists, enjoy free wireless internet access or take classes on improving their own espresso-making skills.

“Independent coffee-houses have a lot more room to create a neighbourhood experience,” said David Morris, senior research analyst with Mintel, a London-based consumer research firm. “They can cater to the demographic within a three-block radius, and people respond well to that.”

Consumers in the US are spending more than ever on drinking coffee outside of their homes. For the first time since the 1980s, more people now drink coffee daily than carbonated beverages, the National Coffee Association says. As a result, while all small businesses have plodded along at a 3% growth rate since 2000, according to the US Small Business Administration, independent coffee-houses have almost doubled their numbers, keeping pace with Starbucks.

Nationally, the number of US coffee-houses, including chains, rose to 23,900 last year from 12,600 in 2000, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America in Long Beach, California. Starbucks stores increased to 5,700 last year from 2,200 in 2000.

Starbucks, which serves 4 million customers a week and is raising US prices an average of 9 cents a cup on July 31, doesn’t expect a saturated market anytime soon. “There’s plenty of room to grow in the specialty coffee market,” said Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman.

The company’s long-term goal is to reach 40,000 locations worldwide, including smaller counters in airports and bookstores, Borrman said. Still, the moves by the independents aren’t going unnoticed at the Seattle-based company.

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz sent an internal memo in February to senior executives, which was later leaked to the media, lamenting some changes the company has made over the years, such as pre-packaging beans instead of scooping them from bins at the store and switching to push-button espresso machines.

“One of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores versus the warm feeling of a neighbourhood store,” Schultz wrote. “Some people even call our stores sterile.” Borrman said the company strives to balance corporate directives with regional changes. “We want there to be a consistency for Starbucks around the world, but we also want our cafes to be part of their communities,” he said. “Starbucks created legions of folks interested in coffee as an epicurean experience, and then abandoned them for the greener pastures of Pomegranate Banana Frappuccinos,” said Srinath, the cafe owner in Santa Clara. “The rest of us are now playing in their old playground.”

Srinath has purchased a Marzocco Mistral, an espresso machine handmade in Florence, for his Lulu Carpenter’s Cafe. The beans are roasted on site, he said. He plans to open two more locations in the next two years.

Though Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica, California, is bookended by two Starbucks on its block, owner Mark Wain, 34, is celebrating its first anniversary and expects to add another location next year. He attributes his success to an artisan approach.

“It takes four to six months to get a barista fully trained,” Wain said. “I want someone to be able to feel the grind between their fingers and realise if it’s too coarse for espresso.” Rob Stephens, 38, president of the Hopedale, Massachusetts-based consulting company Coffee Solutions, calls the cafe-Starbucks relationship ‘symbiotic.’

“Starbucks gets people to think ‘a good cup of coffee is something I should expect,’ and then the independent cafe wows them,” he said. One way they do that is by hosting local events and providing free wireless internet access, something Starbucks charges for.

Another advantage is that independents can buy small amounts of coffee. That provides a quality edge, they say, by letting them shop farm by farm. Many successful independents use so-called super-gourmet beans, costlier coffee that Starbucks sells only in its Black Apron Exclusives brand.

Roasters such as Acton, Massachusetts-based Terroir Coffee Company and Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee work directly with specific farmers to produce specialty beans.

Intelligentsia, which has three retail locations in Chicago, offers classes for wannabe cafe owners, for $700 a person, that give overviews on the proper way to taste and brew coffee, how to train employees, marketing and customer service.

“Clearly people are looking for produce that is different and more pleasurable,” said George Howell, 62, owner of Terroir Coffee. “What’s happening with coffee parallels what you see in the rest of the food world right now, especially with wine and cheese.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Global Warming Threatens Coffee Collapse in Uganda

Alexis Okeowo in Nsangi, Uganda

for National Geographic News

July 24, 2007

Things are getting hot for coffee farmers in Uganda—a little too hot.

Growers say global warming is already cutting into coffee harvests, the country's biggest export.

And a new report warns that even a slight increase in temperature could wipe out Uganda's entire coffee crop, which brings in more than half of the East African country's revenue.

"Climate change has affected coffee production already," said Philip Gitao, executive director of the East African Fine Coffees Association.

The crop has had less time to mature because rain is falling at the wrong times, affecting coffee quality, Gitao said. And there have been more droughts in the past two to three years than ever before.

"If the coffee beans face a lot of sunshine and less rain, the beans will be smaller and in lower yields," Ronald Buule, a central Ugandan coffee farmer, said as he stood at a coffee plot bordered by lush plants, muddy hills, and an orange dirt road.

"We are worried about the temperature, but we have limited resources," he added, as he examined his crops under a dense thicket of banana leaves.

Potential Disaster

Things might not get better anytime soon.

A rise in average temperatures of just 3.6°F (2°C) would make most of Uganda unsuitable for coffee, according to the Ugandan report on climate change released this spring.

That's a figure at the low end of global estimates.

The United Nations panel on climate change, for instance, predicted in January that world temperatures will rise by between 2.5 and 10°F (1.4 and 5.8°C) on average by the end of the century, primarily as a result of human activities such as burning fossil fuels.

(Read more UN predictions about how global warming will affect the globe.)

And "there is no real doubt that global temperatures will rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees [C]," said Philip Gwage, Uganda's deputy commissioner of meteorology.

Certain conditions are required for coffee growth, including cool temperatures and enough water, he pointed out. The average temperature in Uganda's coffee-growing area now is about 77°F (25°C).

If the temperature rises, only a few highland areas in Uganda could continue to grow coffee, Gwage added.

Although Uganda may also receive more rainfall from surface evaporation off east Africa's lakes, the increased precipitation could be erratic and not fall during the growing season.

Robusta, the main variety of coffee grown, would "essentially disappear," he said. Coffee-growing areas would be reduced to less than a tenth of their current size.

Neighboring coffee producers such as Kenya and Tanzania would also be affected, the Ugandan report predicts.

Fighting the Fire

To help prevent against the adverse effects of global warming, farmers are already adopting new growing strategies for coffee, a seasonal crop that thrives during Uganda's rainy, cool period between December and February.

The primary concern, farmers say, is ensuring the premium quality of Uganda's coffee—especially the reputation of the country's organic brands.

Farmers are growing trees densely to create cool shade for the coffee. They are also mulching—or covering soil with grass to hold onto water—and digging long terraces in the ground to retain rainfall.

But these efforts are not without obstacles.

George Kiryowa, a coffee farmer for 20 years, has been trying to implement the practices on his farm. But "the people have destroyed all the trees for timber," he said.

And because he can't afford extra labor, "these days we just use our hands, and the process is slow."

Kiroywa added that he now grows other crops such as cocoa—the plant source of chocolate—as a safety measure in case the changing environment does harm the coffee.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Starbuck closes controversial outlet inside the Forbidden City

Pallavi Aiyar

Beijing: After a seven-year run dogged with controversy, an outlet of the American coffee-shop chain, Starbucks, located inside Beijing’s Forbidden City has closed its doors. The move comes after an intensive Internet campaign started by a State TV anchor last year accused the coffee-shop of “trampling” on Chinese culture and hurting the image of the historical monument.

The Forbidden City is a former imperial palace that was home to 24 emperors before the end of imperial rule in 1911. It is also China’s top tourist attraction, drawing some 7 million visitors a year. Located bang opposite Tiananmen Square, the palace has long formed the symbolic heart of the country.

The Starbucks outlet opened inside the Forbidden City, back in 2000 at the invitation of the palace managers who were looking for ways to raise the money needed to maintain the 178-acre complex of villas and gardens.

Commercial Ventures

Starbucks was not the only commercial outlet to operate within the palace grounds where a range of bookstores, souvenir shops, snack bars and Chinese-style teahouses are located.

From the very beginning, there were some critics in China who felt that the presence of the American franchise inside the palace was jarring and culturally inappropriate. Thus, shortly after opening, Starbucks had agreed to lower its profile by removing an exterior sign.

Since the beginning of this year, the Internet campaign calling for the outlet’s closure had gathered strength, hogging the headlines in domestic media and garnering the support of some half a million people. The coffee-shop closed on Friday although the announcement was made public only on Saturday. “[W]e have respectfully decided to end our lease agreement,” Wang Jinlong, president of Starbucks Greater China, said in a written statement: “We fully respect the decision of Forbidden City to transition to a new mode of concessions service to its museum visitors.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Brazil Subsidizes 4 Million Bags of Coffee at Auction

By Carlos Caminada

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil, the world's biggest coffee grower, agreed to subsidize all 4 million bags of beans offered at an auction after a currency rally eroded export profits.

Brazil will pay growers a subsidy of 39.99 reais ($20.40) a bag to supplement prices paid by roasters and exporters, the Agriculture Ministry said. Today's auction was the first time the government offered to support prices for coffee since 2002.

The Brazilian real has surged 59 percent in three years, the best performance against the dollar of the 16 most-traded currencies. The rally has narrowed exporters' profit margins.

``The price that producers are getting in the market is pretty close to production costs,'' said Daiana Braga, an analyst at the University of Sao Paulo's agricultural commodities research unit, known as Cepea. ``They get a much better deal at the auction.''

The government guaranteed arabica growers would receive 300 reais per 60-kilogram bag at the auction. To qualify for the subsidy, growers had to agree to sell the beans to roasters and exporters at a minimum price of 260 reais per bag.

The average price of arabica in the south of Minas Gerais state, Brazil's biggest coffee-producing region, was 232.83 reais yesterday, down 20 percent this year, according to Cepea.

Brazil said when it announced the auctions that it would subsidize as many as 5 million bags. The Agriculture ministry plans to hold an auction for the remaining 1 million bags next month.

Coffee futures for September fell 0.1 cent to $1.1180 a pound at 12:15 p.m. on the New York Board of Trade. The price has gained 17 percent in the past year through yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Caminada in Sao Paulo at at

Last Updated: June 27, 2007 12:15 EDT

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Skin Care and Java: How Coffee Plays a Role in Skincare

Sacramento, CA (PRWEB) June 24, 2007 -- Skin care involving coffee is enough to make any java lover stick to a daily skincare routine.'s latest article, "Throw a Little Java in Your Daily Skincare Routine: The Benefits of Coffee for Skin" introduces this new concept of using coffee in skin care.

The beauty benefits of coffee has been in use for many years, according to the article:

Many cultures are already aware of the cleansing, toning, and healing properties of coffee, both when ingested and when applied topically to the skin. In Russia, people often go to the bathhouse to scrub their bodies with coffee grounds, having found that they not only cleanse and exfoliate, but also moisturize, protect the skin from sun damage, and even eliminate cellulite! What's to lose?

When it comes to antioxidants, coffee has plenty to offer:

Coffee has been found to be packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals and reverse cellular damage. One study surveyed American diets and found that most Americans receive the bulk of their daily vitamins and antioxidants from coffee.

So what is the key to coffee's other health benefits? The caffeine, of course:

The secret is in the caffeine. Caffeine, when absorbed through the skin, helps redistribute fat cells and smooth out dimply cellulite. It also shrinks and tightens blood vessels and thus helps reduce the appearance of varicose veins.

According to the Skincare News Team's sources, both coffee lovers and those who don't normally drink the hot beverage stand to gain a lot from incorporating this popular drink in a daily skincare routine that's as easy as going to the local coffee shop. covers all skincare and beauty topics from head to toe. Check out these latest articles:

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Too many women are intimidated by makeup and skin care. They say practice makes perfect so why not give it a shot? Put any makeup fears aside and check out these tips to get a flawless look every time.

"Growing Impatient With the Hands of Time"

Still battling the signs of aging? This problem may be solved more simply than imagined!

"The Aging Neck…Skincare's Forgotten Frontier!"

Ever notice how the older people get the more often they choose a scarf or turtleneck to wear? Let's be honest, no one does it to be fashion forward. From now on, let's solve the problem of that aging neck, and not by hiding it behind knit and silk. Read this article and find out a few ways other than plastic surgery to start sporting a firm, beautiful, and glowing neck. Who wants to look like a turkey, when it's possible to look like a swan?

"Skin Care & Beauty Basics - Part 3: How to Be a Powder Puff Girl!"

Powder is the finishing touch after applying makeup. Read on to see how anyone can make the most out of the powder they use and learn tips to help get it right every time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Coffee Drinking Protects Against an Eyelid Spasm That Can Lead to ‘Blindness’

Source: British Medical Journal

Released: Fri 15-Jun-2007, 21:00 ET

Libraries Medical News

Coffee Drinking, Eyelid Spasms, Blindness


People who drink coffee are less likely to develop an involuntary eye spasm called primary late onset blepharospasm, which makes them blink uncontrollably and can leave them effectively ‘blind’, according to a study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

[Influence of coffee drinking and cigarette smoking on the risk of primary late onset blepharospasm: evidence from a multicentre case control study; Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2007; doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2007.119891]

Newswise — People who drink coffee are less likely to develop an involuntary eye spasm called primary late onset blepharospasm, which makes them blink uncontrollably and can leave them effectively ‘blind’, according to a study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The effect was proportional to the amount of coffee drank and one to two cups per day were needed for the protective effect to be seen. The age of onset of the spasm was also found to be later in patient who drank more coffee – 1.7 years for each additional cup per day.

Previous studies have suggested that smoking protects against development of blepharospasm, but this Italian study did not show a significant protective effect.

Late onset blepharospasm is a dystonia in which the eyelid muscles contract uncontrollably; this starts as involuntary blinking but in extreme cases sufferers are rendered functionally blind despite normal vision because they are unable to prevent their eyes from clamping shut.

The study involved 166 patients with primary late onset blepharospasm, 228 patients with hemifacial spasm (a similar muscle spasm that usually begins in the eyelid muscles but then spreads to involve other muscles of the face) and 187 people who were relatives of patients. The second two groups acted as controls.

The participants were recruited through five hospitals in Italy and asked whether they had ever drank coffee or smoked and for how many years. They were also asked to estimate how many cups of coffee they drank and/or packs of cigarettes they smoked per day. The age of onset of muscle spasms was recorded for patients who experienced them and a reference age was calculated for each of the patients’ relatives based on the duration of the spasms in the other group.

Regression analysis was used to observe the relationship between coffee drinking and smoking on the development of blepharospasm.

The authors say: ‘Our findings raise doubt about the association of smoking and blepharospasm but strongly suggest coffee as a protective factor.’

‘The most obvious candidate for the protective effect is caffeine, but the low frequency of decaffeinated coffee intake in Italy prevented us from examining the effects of caffeine on blepharospasm.

They suggest that caffeine blocks adenosine receptors as has been proposed for its mechanism in protecting against Parkinson’s disease.

The authors estimate that people need to drink one to two cups of coffee per day for the protective effect to be seen.

‘Considering that the caffeine content of a cup of Italian coffee (60–120 mg) is similar to the average content of a cup of American coffee (95–125 mg), the protective effect on the development of blepharospasm might be exerted at caffeine doses greater than 120–240 mg, comparable with the caffeine doses suggested to be protective in Parkinson’s disease,’ they say.

Click here to view the paper in full: press release.pdf

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Coffee exhibition stirs seductive passions

Louis Leopold Boilly, François Delpech, Coffee lovers,
colored lithograph, circa 1827, Schmid collection

Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich
June 15, 2007

Coffee has long had a sexy image in adverts –George Clooney was the subject of a recent ad campaign for a Nespresso.

But as an exhibition at Zurich's Johann Jacobs Museum - which is devoted to coffee's cultural history - shows, awareness of the drink's sensual appeal goes back several hundred years.

For many people coffee is an integral part of daily life and a good kick-start to the morning. Coffee shops and cafés now offer anything from the humble espresso to a double latte macchiato with caramel.

Monika Imboden, curator of "Coffee: a tale of irresistible temptation", is well aware that most people might struggle to see the erotic side of one of the world's most popular brews.

"The association comes first of all from the production process, for coffee to be drinkable it has to go through heat a few times, through fire, and fire is the symbol of passion and temptation," she told swissinfo.

When coffee first came to Europe around 400 years ago there were very few hot drinks. Wine, beer, mead and water were drunk lukewarm.

A hot drink, according to the thinking of the time, was supposed to get pulses racing. Although, as is demonstrated by an elegant lady in one of the exhibition's paintings, there were ways around this.

"People used to tip coffee into a saucer so it could cool down... and then they drank it out of the saucer, which today is terribly frowned upon," said Imboden.

Wide appeal

Roasting, which has to take place at more than 220 degrees Celsius, creates another distinctively tempting aspect of coffee: its smell.

Coffee's characteristic aroma actually comprises nearly 1,000 distinct elements, ranging from vanilla to earthy scents. But coffee's appeal does not stop there.

Porcelain figures from the 18th century suggest that enjoyment of coffee may have played a role in courtly gallantry.

Thus a lady neglects her cup of coffee to steal a kiss, another waits for her lover to appear, coffee in one hand, red rose in another.

Coffee services often depicted mythical or exotic scenes, featuring love gods Eros or Venus.

For coffee to be drinkable it has to go through heat a few times, through fire, and fire is the symbol of passion.

Monika Imboden, exhibition curator


Flirting was another aspect, as can been seen in some of the paintings of coffee houses on display.

In the 19th century these were often respectable establishments, mostly frequented by men. The only woman was usually the cashier. Paintings show her as young and pretty, but highly respectable – a large counter keeps any admirers at a safe distance.

In the latter part of the century, it became acceptable for women to go to coffee houses as well.

“They were places where women could go in twos and exchange glances with the other sex without it being frowned upon," Imboden told swissinfo.

Some coffee houses were, however, places for prostitution and merriment.

But a series of drawings of women by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec shows the harsh reality behind the gaiety of café dansants in Paris.

Another set, by the German George Grosz, depicts ugly and sometimes explicit figures sitting in cafés, a critical look at society's pessimism around the First World War.

The George effect

Perhaps the most obvious association between coffee and sex came in the 1950s, when advertising started to capitalise on the drink's seductive side. A selection of adverts is shown at the exhibition.

Strangers flirt over a cup of coffee or new couples are formed. Fires roar in the background. Aromas tempt. The drink seems of secondary importance.

But not always, as George Clooney finds out in the Nespresso advert when he eavesdrops on a conversion between several women as they enjoy their coffees.

"It seems that these attributes – rich, sensual, intense, unique – are referring to him but they are actually talking about coffee," said Imboden.

A case to show that coffee really does have seductive powers.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich


* The Johann Jacobs Museum, located in Zurich, opened in 1984 as part of the Johann Jacobs Foundation.

* The Jacobs family founded the Jacobs Kaffee brand in the 19th century. It is now part of Kraft.

* The exhibition "Coffee: a tale of irresistible temptation" runs until February 24, 2008.

* Museum opening hours: Friday: 14.00-19.00, Saturday: 14.00-17.00, Sunday: 10.00-17.00.


* Johann Jacobs Museum (

* About the exhibition (

* George Clooney's Nespresso advert website (

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