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.

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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."