Saturday, December 20, 2008

Menu for Hope

Every year, Food Bloggers from all over the world join together for a fundraising campaign. They call it 'Menu for Hope'. Last year, they raised over $90K for the UN World Food Program.

This year Menu for Hope 5 again raises funds for the WFP's school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. This is the second year they are supporting this program, which assist the WFP's efforts to supply the program by buying directly from local farmers who practice conservation farming methods. With this program, they help feed the kids (which keep them in school) and support their parents and community farming. This sustainable approach to aid is something we believe in and strongly support.

Together they come up with a great list of amazing food related prizes for this raffle. Click here to view the list of all the prizes. Each US$10 donation will buy you one virtual raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CoffeeBuzz: A Twitter for coffee?

by Imran Ali

December 13, 2008 at 6:10 pm · Filed under Locative, iPhone

Yesterday saw the release of an intriguing iPhone app for coffee afficianados - Kisky Media’s CoffeeBuzz, inspired by the volume of Twitter users who like to share the fact they’re currently engaged in a caffeinated beverage.

The app enables users to…

* use the iPhone’s locative abilities (GPS, wifi, cell triangulation) to locate coffee shops in the vicinity, as well as share your favourite haunts.
* show what nearby CoffeeBuzz users are drinking.
* microblog your current location & beverage with other CoffeeBuzz users, or Twitter your beverage, along with location.

The user experience is surprisingly simple, requiring no complex configuration, letting users get straight to the fun in a weird inversion of the oft-quoted ‘locative coffee shop coupon’ example telco execs like to pitch! Though sadly, my favorite chai tea wasn’t listed in the available options :(

Like, Smule’s Ocarina, CoffeeBuzz’s ostensible playfullness belies a powerful network effect, some locative smarts and the potential for incremental revenues. Creators Katie Lips and Paul Stringer - also cofounders of Treasuremytext - hope that moving beyond the 99¢ price can make the app sustainable, even with a modest userbase, but that the platform opens opportunities to partner with coffee brands and coffee shop owners. SBUX anyone?

Like Treasuremytext, perhaps what’s more interesting than the app itself, is the story of the app’s creation. The team was recently commissioned - by Liverpool’s International Centre for Digital Content - to create an iPhone development training courss, sharing its insights in a 30-page report that covers concept, strategy, design, development, App Store deployment and marketing.

CoffeeBuzz is currently available for the price of a good latte, for $3.99 at the iTunes App store; also, The Making of CoffeeBuzz is freely downloadable as a 6mb PDF.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coffee-Powered Cars

Waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel, according to a study by researchers at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Coffee Grounds

With world coffee production at more than 16 billion pounds per year, the scientists estimate that spent coffee grounds could potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world’s fuel supply.

For the study, the team collected grounds from Starbucks facilities in Reno. They used an inexpensive process to convert 100 percent of the oil from the grounds into biodiesel. The resulting coffee-based fuel—which smells like java—is more stable than traditional biodiesel due to coffee's high antioxidant content, according to the researchers. Solids left over from the conversion can be converted to ethanol or used as compost.

The researchers plan to develop a small pilot plant to produce and test coffee-biodiesel in 2009.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ethiopia starts coffee exchange

Ethiopia, Africa's largest coffee producer, has started trading the crop on a national commodity exchange.

In a move aimed at both increasing quality and the amount farmers get paid for their beans, coffee is being traded on the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.

Replacing the previous, more informal, system of sales through middlemen, farmers will now be able to get direct access to current market prices.

The exchange has set up a network of warehouses to collect the beans.

Dominant crop

The Ethiopian government, which is backing the move, hopes it will prevent fraud, such as traders passing off beans from a lesser growing area as being those from a higher quality region.

Although the largest growers and co-operatives will be able to continue to sell directly to the global coffee firms, everyone else will have to use the electronic exchange.

Set up earlier this year, the exchange already trades in maize, wheat, sesame seeds and haricot beans.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee cultivation and the crop continues to account for more than a third of its export earnings.

It earned $525m (£354m) from coffee exports in the 2007-08 financial year.

However, Ethiopia still remains one of the world's poorest nations, and is ranked 170 out of 177 on the United Nation's Human Development Index.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/12/02 10:23:15 GMT


Centam Coffee - US coffee roasters try growing the beans they sell

Reuters, Tuesday December 2 2008

By Brian Harris

RIO NEGRO, Costa Rica, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Some U.S. gourmet coffee roasters have come up with a new solution to the problem of guaranteeing consistent quality in beans they sell to top-end restaurants and coffee bars: buy the farm.

Coffee connoisseurs pay attention to where and how coffee is grown, just as lovers of fine wines look to certain grape-growing regions.

Brooke McDonnell, owner of the Equator Coffee company which imports, sells and roasts gourmet coffee, began to worry a few years ago about the supply of the rare "geisha" trees found in Panama's highlands near the border with Costa Rica.

The geisha's sweet jasmine flavors are prized internationally but only a few farmers grow the variety, which can fetch more than $100 a pound at online auctions.
Instead of scrambling with competitors to scoop up enough beans to keep her customers happy, McDonnell decided to grow them herself.

Now she travels regularly from California to Panama to check on the harvest at a farm she bought a little over a year ago."It's a hands-on business," McDonnell told Reuters. "We view this as a combination labor of love and business venture."

Traditionally, coffee farmers and drinkers have been separated by a complex nexus of intermediaries, with coffee passing from growers, to local buyers, to exporters, to roasters, to cafe owners. More coffee exporters have begun selling crops directly from certain farms to particular roasters, locking in prices with long-term contracts to avoid the volatile coffee market. Only a few adventurous roasters have gone the more extreme route of becoming farmers themselves.


Texas-based Distant Lands, which owns a coffee farm in Rio Negro, Costa Rica and several others in Latin America, views the investment to grow and mill its own beans as essential to maintaining a reputation. Distant Lands looks for a specific flavor known in the industry as a "cup profile" for its coffee. By controlling the production of beans it cuts out the hassles of dealing with multiple suppliers.

The company uprooted parts of its 281 hectares of farms in Costa Rica to make sure only one variety of trees, known as "caturra," are planted and harvested.
"At this time we are looking for the cup profile that caturra provides us in this zone," the company's agronomy manager Jorge Jimenez said, looking at rolling hills covered with coffee trees.

But the risks and work of running a farm is not for everyone, especially now as some in the specialty coffee business worry that a slowing U.S. economy will hurt consumption of expensive espresso.

Jesus Mountain Coffee, headquartered in Stockton, California, started working in Nicaragua over a decade ago but has expanded with farms, roasters, and coffee shops in Hawaii."It is a tough business to make a profit," company founder Mike Atherton said.

* © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do Good Brew Good and Spend Mindfully this Holiday Season...

PRWeb October 30, 2008

* Original PRWeb article: Do Good Brew Good and Spend Mindfully this Holiday Season... Read the original story

- As consumers peer into their wallets and analyze their choices for gifting in preparation for the upcoming holiday season, San Francisco-based Citizen Bean ( wins the trifecta of gifting options, scoring high marks for innovation, quality and social conscience - all in one clever package!

Now in its second successful year, Citizen Bean is an online, organic, subscription coffee-roaster-of-the-month club representing the very best in sustainable and complex roasts from small-batch 'specialty' roasters throughout the country. Coffee devotees are sipping the latest coffee varietals the way wine lovers sample new vintages and artisanal roasters are enjoying a surge in popularity as consumers search for the perfect 'just roasted' coffee experience.

Citizen Bean is an outgrowth of what is known in the coffee movement as 'The Third Wave,' which promotes the principle that coffee was introduced to America in cycles. There's the First Wave, which was the proliferation of consumer coffee in the mid-20th century--think freeze-dried Folgers. The Second Wave was the ubiquity of the espresso-based drinks in America, a la Starbucks, during the '80s and '90s.

The concept of the Third Wave is to bring coffee back to its roots--to let 'coffee speak for itself,' and although there is no official hard-and-fast manifesto, the Third Wave emphasizes two standards: One, nurturing direct farm relationships, mentoring its quality, understanding a coffee's origin and observing sustainability and organics; and two, highlighting the artistry and culinary aspects of coffee. The Third Wave makes a commitment 'from seed to cup' to nurture quality, sustainability and personal farmer relationships while elevating the complex, full-flavored, culinary appeal of coffee.

Dubbed 'coffee with a conscience' Citizen Bean's goal is to advance these ideals. Company founder Malcolm Stearns says 'our company is proud to celebrate the work of Third Wave roasters like Counter Culture, Stumptown and Intelligentsia, among others, by featuring a different artisanal roast each month.' 'With each gift subscription to Citizen Bean', Stearns continues, 'you will be presenting the coffee aficionados in your life with award-winning roasts of superior complexity and at the same time be contributing to a cause everyone can feel positive about supporting.'

With each one-year subscription to Citizen Bean, which features a full pound of freshly roasted beans from a different specialty roaster each month, one also receives an additional 'welcome' gift of a 4-cup French press, a timer and other special items for the coffee lover.

Just in time for this holiday season, Citizen Bean is also offering an 'espresso-only' option for those that prefer to make their own lattes.

Citizen Bean is a project of Bean Capers, Inc. of San Francisco. To learn more about Citizen Bean and its product offerings visit

Contact: Beth-Ellen Keyes

Saturday, November 08, 2008

World coffee consumption to touch 128 million bags in ’08

Jaishankar Jayaramiah
Originally Posted Sep 22, 2008 at 2258 hrs IST

World coffee consumption, both in producing and exporting countries, is likely to touch 128 million bags (60-kg per bag) in 2008.

According to recent statistics released by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO), the preliminary estimation of world coffee consumption in the calendar year 2007 stood at around 124.7 million bags, up by 2.9% from 121.1 million bags consumed in 2006.

"If current growth continues, world consumption could increase to around 128 million bags in 2008," said Nestor Osario, executive director of ICO in his latest statement.

Producing countries like India, Brazil, Mexico and importing countries like Spain, UK and Netherlands attributed to the growth in world coffee consumption in the last five years.

The consumption in India surged to 13.6 lakh bags in 2007 from 11.42 lakh bags in 2003, while Brazil's consumption increased to 169 lakh bags from 140 lakh bags and consumption in Mexico increased to 20.5 lakh bags from 15 lakh bags. Among importing countries, consumption in Spain increased to 31.98 lakh bags from 27.40 lakh bags in the same period, while the UK's consumption surged to 28.24 lakh bags from 22.36 lakh bags, while consumption in Netherlands climbed to 23.60 lakh bags from 17.43 lakh bags. Coffee consumption in Canada also increased significantly to 35.35 lakh bags from 21.46 lakh bags.

Among exporting countries, per capita coffee consumption stood high in Brazil with 5.29 kilograms (kgs), followed by Costa Rica at 4.21 kgs, Honduras at 2.43 kgs, Dominican Republic at 2.32 kgs and Haiti at 2.13 kgs. Among importing countries, Luxembourg maintained high per capita consumption at 16.65 kgs, followed by Finland at 12.01 kgs and Norway at 9.85 kgs.

Coffee drinkers: Do you belong to the coffee/good, or the coff

Coffee drinkers: Do you belong to the coffee/good, or the coffee/bad camp?

Originally posted September 20, 5:58 PM
Natalie Rotunda - Organic Food Examiner (sf examiner)

As one of those who chose to hop aboard the organic eating lifestyle, let me tell you that the best benefit, one of the things I appreciate most, is the means to eliminate pesticides from the foods I eat. But reducing or eliminating pesticides from what I drink is just as important.

For most of my life, sipping a cup or two of honey-sweetened coffee in the company of loved ones and friends has ranked high on my list of life’s simple pleasures. Maybe the origin of that pleasure dates back to a time when a loved one introduced me to the black brew. I was about four years old.

My Dad was a college professor in my hometown. In his office just down the hall from his classroom, he kept a percolator coffeepot and a can of famous-brand coffee on his desk. Every Saturday, Dad and I headed to his office, the site of the great introduction. Before he began the brewing process, however, we’d head down the street to a local bakery where I was allowed to pick out one or two goodies.

While we waited for the coffee to finish perking, Dad did teacher-type things and I did little kid things. To delight my little-girl heart, Dad had bought two sets of small china cups and saucers, beautifully decorated with flowers; one set in yellow, the other in blue. Into one of the cups, he poured a tiny amount of the fresh brew, then filled his regular-sized cup to the brim. He’d break out the goodies, and what took place next was a father-daughter kaffeklatsch regularly held in that second-floor office whose window overlooked a tree-lined street below. To this day, the aroma of fresh coffee transports me back to those very happy times.

Today, my parents, both coffee-drinkers extraordinaire, would be surprised to learn that there is such a thing as organically-grown coffee. It’s what I buy. Because it’s more expensive than the pesticide-laden brands that fill traditional grocery store shelves, admittedly, I’ve had to cut down on the quantity. The food coop where we do most of our shopping provides airtight bulk bins that keep the coffee beans fresh. Thus, we control how much we spend. Earlier this week, I bought six ounces of organic coffee, whose per-pound cost is $11.99, for 74-cents an ounce. Right now, a 13-ounce brick of a famous name brand goes for $3.99, or 31-cents an ounce. Really, it’s a difference I can live with.

For quite a while, a battle has raged between coffee/good and coffee/bad supporters. coffee/bad supporters. Thanks to evidence mounting on behalf of coffee/good supporters, I’ve been encouraged not to chuck my daily cuppa. What researchers are finding is that a cup-and-a-half of coffee supplies 1,200 mg. of total antioxidants that may be helping in the fight to reduce the risks of liver, diabetes and colon cancer. Whoa, now that’s news I can rejoice over!

But bear in mind two things: First, these goody benefits apply to drinkers of organically-grown coffee only. Second, moderation is the key. That’s why I can live with the higher cost of organic coffee---I shouldn’t be sitting down with a pot of coffee every day anyway, and the cost pretty well guarantees that I won’t

One more thing about drinking organic coffee---it really does taste better. I’m guessing that my palate has been re-educated to appreciate total coffee flavor that no longer has to compete with the nasty pesticides and their aftertaste found in famous-brand coffees.

For that and other reasons, I’m happy to leave the 13-ounce bricks of pesticide-laden coffee on the grocery store shelf.

Coffee may lower cancer risk

From correspondents in Tokyo | September 01, 2008

WOMEN who drink a lot of coffee may have less risk of developing cancer of the uterus, a Japanese study said today.

The study led by Japan's health ministry monitored some 54,000 women aged 40 to 69 over about 15 years, during which time 117 women developed cancer in the womb, according to the medical team.

The researchers at Japan's National Cancer Center divided the women into four groups by the amount of coffee they drank.

They found the group of women who drank more than three cups of coffee every day were more than 60 per cent less likely to develop uterine cancer than those who had coffee fewer than two times a week, the study said.

"Coffee may have effects in lowering insulin levels, possibly curbing the risks of developing womb cancer," the study said.

The medical team also studied the effects of drinking green tea, but did not find any link to uterine cancer.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control, uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Specialty Coffee Roasters Brew in New York

August 13, 2008

New York Times
Correction Appended

NEW Yorkers see their town as the center of the universe. But despite huge strides by New York’s cafes over the last few years, the most respected coffee roasters are elsewhere. Now, some of the best are coming to town.

Duane Sorenson, who owns Stumptown Coffee Roasters, based in Portland, Ore., packed up a U-Haul last month and moved to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, just a short hop from the coffee roastery he will soon open in Red Hook.

Once his two 1950s-era Probat roasters are running, he plans to open a cafe there and another at 29th Street and Broadway, in the old Breslin Hotel, which is scheduled to be reborn as the Ace Hotel later this year.

“It’s not just a business opportunity to me,” Mr. Sorenson said. “I want to hang out, live, eat and make coffee for people in Brooklyn and New York. I love it here.”

Mr. Sorenson is one of the people who have remade the coffee business, searching the world for the best beans, roasting them with exquisite attention and preparing them to order at his six cafes in Portland and Seattle, which will remain open while he is in New York.

He’s forged an outsider identity for himself and his company. He is both selective about and demanding of his wholesale customers, requiring training for anyone who will handle Stumptown’s coffee and commissioning the occasional unannounced spot check. And for a long time, if a Stumptown employee couldn’t drive your coffee to you from one of the company’s two roasteries, in Portland and Seattle, you were out of luck. (Mr. Sorenson broke that prohibition in March by supplying Ninth Street Espresso in the East Village.)

Another of the top independent roasters, Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters and Tea Traders of Chicago, is also getting in on the action.

Amber Sather, a barista who’s worked for Intelligentsia for six years, will open a training center for the company in an office space in SoHo next month, where she will hold coffee tastings and help prospective clients work on espresso machine technique.

“It’s a stepping stone to things like roasting and opening a cafe,” Ms. Sather said of the training center.

Doug Zell, the chief executive of Intelligentsia, says that he plans to open cafes and a roastery in New York in the next two years.

Andrew Barnett, who owns Ecco Caffè in Sonoma County, California, was in New York recently, scouting real estate for a roastery and cafe he hopes to open in the next 12 months.

“This is a great place to run a small roastery,” he said. “I feel like there is a very strong barista community, without the politics and divisions of other places.”

Blue Bottle Coffee Company, in Oakland, Calif., recently signed up its first East Coast account, Gramercy Tavern, which started serving Blue Bottle Espresso last week. And though Blue Bottle doesn’t have immediate plans to move here, James Freeman, the owner, said it was possible that his company could sign a New York City lease in the next 12 months.

“There are no leases signed but, if this goes well for us, I’d much rather buy a Probat and a Sprinter” — that’s a brand of roaster and a brand of delivery truck — “and get a lease in the boroughs than ship coffee across the country. It’s a more interesting way to roast coffee, and it leaves a less intrusive footprint.” Some locals are taking a do-it-yourself approach.

Harold Butler started out selling tiny batches of coffee roasted at his apartment in Brooklyn to a few restaurants around the city. He’s moved his start-up operation, called Brownstone Beans, to a commercial space in Bushwick, and expanded into retail, selling his beans to the Williamsburg specialty market Urban Rustic.

Caroline Bell, an owner of Café Grumpy (which operates cafes in Chelsea and Greenpoint, Brooklyn) says her company will start roasting at a location in Bushwick this fall, and will open a cafe at the same place around that time.

“Most of the people who work for us want to learn more about coffee,” she said, “and this is a great way to explore that: where’s it’s from, what the roast does to it. We’re going to keep our wholesale business very small.”

Jamie McCormick and Amy Linton, two of the partners behind Abraço Espresso, a nook of a coffee shop that opened in the East Village in October, would like to open a roastery, though Mr. McCormick said it would take “at least a year.”

Right now they use beans from Counter Culture Coffee, a company based in Durham, N.C., that roasts much of the coffee featured in many of the city’s better cafes (and one that plans to open its own training center in Manhattan by the end of the year).

Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso, said he's paying a premium to ship Stumptown beans to his cafes now and can't wait to eliminate that cost and the quality-depleting vagaries of cross-country shipping when Stumptown opens here. But he said he ultimately decided not to try to roast coffee for his cafes.

“The big problem if you’re a small guy just starting out,” he said, “is sourcing good coffee.”

By that, Mr. Nye means buying the best beans. The best roasters travel frequently to coffee-growing countries, developing relationships with growers and buying there.

“You have to be totally immersed and dedicated,” he said. “That’s not a problem if you’re a Stumptown or an Ecco. If you’re running three cafes and managing 20 kids, how do you do it? There’s a big bridge that needs to be crossed, and I don’t know how to do it.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 20, 2008
Because of an editing error, an article last Wednesday about coffee roasters coming to New York and working with local cafes and restaurants misstated the plans of a local cafe owner, Ken Nye, of Ninth Street Espresso. Mr. Nye will continue to use beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, the Oregon company that is opening a factory in Brooklyn. He does not hope to roast coffee.

originally published by the New York Times

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Independents’ love-hate affair with Starbucks

Cafes find ways to compete by focusing on what giant can’t or won’t do
updated 9:51 a.m. PT, Sun., July. 27, 2008

In July 2004, Kinley Pon was throwing his annual block party at his El Paso, Texas, coffee shop, Kinley's House, on the same day that a Starbucks across the street was having its grand opening. Pon, 51, says he had planned the party for months — a day-long event with musicians, belly dancers, and local law enforcement intended both to promote his business and to raise awareness about drunk driving. Pon was surprised when an employee from the new Starbucks store walked across the street and started passing out Starbucks promotional cards to customers — on Pon's own patio.

A spokesperson for Starbucks couldn't cite a specific policy regarding the distribution of promotions on a competitor's premises. "They did it for a week," says Pon. "But I allowed it to occur, because my reasoning was that they were going to pass them out anyways."

There's a love-hate relationship between Starbucks and the thousands of independent coffee shop owners in the U.S. For years, the Seattle-based chain has brought coffee drinking into the mainstream and revitalized the business of java, yet its ubiquity has also made survival more difficult for mom-and-pop coffee houses.

In 2007, there were roughly 26,300 coffee cafés, kiosks, and carts across the U.S., and about 60 percent of those were independent, according to Mike Ferguson, the marketing communications director at the Specialty Coffee Association of America. On July 1, Starbucks announced it would be shuttering 600 locations. On July 17, it listed the names and locations of the 600 specific stores it was planning to close of its roughly 11,000 U.S. stores. The closures prompted the question: What have independent coffee shops been doing to compete with the $9.4 billion company, the largest coffee retailer in the world?

Many cafes have survived by serving coffee differently from Starbucks. Skip DuCharme, who has run his 27-employee Lakota Coffee Co. in Missouri since 1992, says that the store's most popular drink is a latte served in a signature large green bowl that requires two hands to hold. A Starbucks opened down the street from DuCharme's place in January 2006, and since then, DuCharme says, his tactics have helped his business create a more at-home atmosphere than his competitor's.

"In Starbucks, everything is based on 'to-go,'" he says. "We give [our customers] real latte mugs."

Other stores give customers free refills on coffee — a strategy Starbucks tested in select stores in January. "A free cup of coffee goes a long way," says Theresa Tocio, co-owner of Tocio's Sunburst Café in Naples, Fla., that offers customers unlimited refills for the $1.50 they pay for a 12-ounce coffee.

When a Starbucks opened inside a Target next to her shop, Tocio and her husband offered free coffees to Target employees on break, since she says the workers weren't offered Starbucks discounts.

"The independents that are successful are really serving a different type of product," says Andrew Hetzel, a coffee industry consultant. "They have their own unique style and brand."

For some, that means selling food or drinks that Starbucks doesn't have. Many stores that begin as coffee-and-pastry shops evolve into full-scale food cafés, giving customers more choice than chains can offer. At Jammin' Java, a coffee house based in Fayetteville, Ark., customers can buy everything from breakfast burritos to turkey sandwiches along with their coffee.

"I started to see that I was doing almost as much business at lunch as I was doing coffee in the morning," says owner Brandon Karn, who launched the store in 2002. Since a Starbucks opened nearby several years ago, Karn has also expanded the menu to include beer and wine.

"That has taken off real well," he says.

Having a nimble management team enables cafés to implement changes more quickly than bureaucratic corporations, says Jean Bernstein, owner of Albuquerque-based Flying Star Café and Satellite Coffee, which started up in 1998.

"We keep changing things to constantly offer something fun and unique," says Bernstein, who first started competing against Starbucks when one opened near the Flying Star in 1996. She says she picked up on several of Starbucks' shortcomings ("their tea drinks were weak") and responded by offering blended concoctions to complement her store's coffee drinks. One is a homemade lemonade mixed with ginger, and another is a blend of herbal teas, cranberry juice, and mint.

Independent coffee shop owners say that Starbucks has gradually drifted away from the high-quality coffee that first made it successful, focusing instead on swank marketing campaigns or coffee drinks blended with milk or caramel.

"They've basically become a sugar-and-dairy company," says Arne Holt, owner of Caffe Calabria in San Diego. Says coffee consultant Hetzel: "Starbucks decisions aren't coffee decisions, they are big public-business decisions."

That's why many entrepreneurs can differentiate their coffee shops by paying meticulous detail to the coffee itself. Holt, for instance, grinds coffee beans at different settings, based on the amount of moisture in the air, since water passes through the grounds differently when the humdity is higher. Starbucks and other big chains rarely change the grinding settings on their automatic espresso machines, he says. "It's like McDonald's," he says. "It's not the best hamburger, but it's consistent."

The roughly 11,000 Starbucks stores across the country get their beans from the company's three major U.S. roasting facilities—in Nevada, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Smaller roasters can deliver a fresher cup of coffee, says Gina Nasson, who owns the Farfalle Italian Market in Concord, Mass., with her husband.

Nasson's café gets its beans from a roastery about 11 miles away, she says. "When we order coffee, we don't order tons."

Smaller coffee stores also work to create loyal customer bases by emphasizing local ties. Karen Anderson, whose husband's family was among the first English settlers in Concord centuries ago, says their Main Street's Market & Café resonates with the town's historic atmosphere.

"If you sit here and have a cup of coffee," she says, "you'll hear guys in their 80s and 90s just reminiscing." Red brick walls, pickle barrels, and 1930s-era photographs give the store a different feel from the surrounding Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks stores.

Mary Allen Lindemann and her husband, who run Coffee by Design in Portland, Me., sponsor local arts organizations and offer a grant each year to a Maine artist (last year's grant was $2,800). It has given the store a unique following among local artists.

The bottom line? The relationship between boutique coffee shops and Starbucks has helped bolster the overall coffee market and cultivate unique ways to serve customers. For local coffee shops, many of which are worried that a Starbucks slowdown could curtail overall coffee spending, competing against Starbucks simply means taking an approach that Starbucks hasn't.

"Focus on making your product, your brand, and your experience as good as it can possibly be," says consultant Andrew Hetzel. "You can't look to what Starbucks is doing as your barometer."

This article was originally published on MSNBC's website.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Good to the last drop

What makes a perfect pot of joe? Is Fair Trade really fair? "God in a Cup" author Michaele Weissman talks about the history, and our continuing love affair, with that divine drink -- coffee.

By Monica Bhide

Jun. 30, 2008 | Journalist Michaele Weissman says she had her first real cup of coffee in 2005; everything before that was "hot water and Ritalin." The revelation came in the form of a double-shot 12-ounce cappuccino with whole milk made with specialty coffee purveyor Counter Culture's Toscano espresso blend. It was a concoction she remembers as tasting "as luxurious as cashmere, bringing mouth memories of caramel, chocolate and hazelnut." Baristas call this epiphany a "Godshot moment."

Now a self-described coffee obsessive, Weissman spent a year visiting coffee plantations around the world in search of "the perfect cup of coffee" and documented this enviable journey in a new book, "God in a Cup." Her book comes at a time when coffee is, well, hotter than ever. 2007 saw $12 billion in sales for specialty coffee -- defined by the Specialty Coffee Association of America as "the highest-quality green coffee beans roasted to their greatest flavor potential by true craftspeople and then properly brewed to well-established standards." Recent studies have shown that high coffee consumption may actually lower the risk of heart disease, and America's consumption of specialty coffee just keeps climbing. According to the 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends Study, 17 percent of the adult population consumed a daily gourmet beverage in 2008, compared with 14 percent in 2007.

But what makes a cup of specialty coffee worth $5, or $8, or in the case of Hacienda La Esmeralda Special, the crown jewel of the coffee world, worth more than $130 a pound? Salon spoke with Weissman in Vienna, Va., inside -- where else? -- a coffee shop.

You say that while coffee is one of the most popular drinks it is also one of the most misunderstood or little understood beverages. How so?

Probably a billion people around the world drink coffee every day, and yes, for the most part, they know little about the contents of their cup. Coffee is damned confusing -- growing it is complicated, processing it is even more so. Coffee politics and economics are contentious and off-putting. And until the last dozen or so years, coffee markets were completely controlled by traders who had little interest in transparency.

Then there is the culinary aspect. Coffee has had few champions in the culinary world. Unlike wine, a beverage to which coffee is often compared, the professional culinary elite and foodies in general have paid little attention to coffee. If you don't believe me, check out the coffee at most high-end restaurants.

Maybe this lack of attention to coffee has something to do with coffee's relative newness. People have been growing grapes and making wine for thousands of years, but the coffee bean has been exploited commercially much more briefly -- coffee didn't arrive in Europe until the 1600s. Coffee doesn't really have a place in the culinary pantheon, but I strongly believe that is beginning to change. At least I hope so.

When did you get interested in coffee?

In 2005-2006, I had this sense that the post-Starbucks generation was demanding and drinking better coffee at work, so I did a piece for the Washington Post on the upscaling of office coffee. That's when I first heard the term "specialty coffee," and that's when I learned that the specialty sector of the coffee business generated a ton of money, was growing fast, and that it was run by a bunch of geeky young guys whose passion for coffee reminded me of Steve Jobs' devotion to computing.

So what exactly is specialty coffee?

Coffee grows in about 50 different countries strung along the equator. Before being sold, coffee is graded by professionals. Most of the coffee in the world is sold on the commodities market, the so-called C market.

Specialty Coffee is, however, not sold on the C market. It is sold by quality-oriented exporters to quality-oriented importers for prices that vary but are generally above the C market price.

Professional coffee tasters -- they're called cuppers -- grade coffee on a scale of 1 to 100. To be considered specialty, coffee needs to earn a cupping score of 80 or above. The best specialty coffees have cupping scores above 84 or 85.

But you were talking about the young coffee guys.

That's right. When I started reporting on coffee, one of the first things I noticed was that the high end of the specialty business was being driven forward by a bunch of young entrepreneurs and coffee buyers who had this amazing passion for coffee. Most of them were guys -- although there are a lot of terrific women in specialty coffee -- and they infuse the specialty business with an ethos that is brainy, smartassed and testosterone-charged.

In your book, you describe them as being part of the "third wave" of coffee. Can you explain this wave theory?

Well, this whole wave thing in specialty coffee is controversial, but here's the gist of it:

A bunch of very talented young guys who commonly refer to themselves as the third wave entered the specialty coffee industry in the 1990s at a moment when travel was cheap and technology was transforming communications. Being young and adventurous, they decided the way to buy coffee was to get their butts off the bar stools at the Intercontinental Hotel in Bogotá or Guatemala City, travel 10 hours over miserable roads up into the mountains to the farms and cooperatives where coffee is grown, meet coffee farmers and buy directly from them or their representatives. These travels were transformative for the specialty industry and for the coffee guys themselves.

The third-wave coffee guys, happily unfettered by degrees from Wharton, decided the only way to ensure that farmers earned a decent living was to change the way the specialty business is run. Instead of buying low and selling high, they decided the specialty coffee business had to run on a model that said: Buy high and sell high. These guys -- and many older people and women who operate at the high end of the specialty business -- are totally committed to increasing what quality-oriented coffee farmers earn. The only way to do this, they say, is to pay more and charge more.

What about the first wave and the second wave?

I am going to make this short. The first wave were post-War War II people who industrialized coffee, bringing us low-quality coffee in a can. Folgers. Maxwell House.

Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the second wave reacted against factory-made coffee and reintroduced ideas about locally roasted, high-quality coffee available in small shops. Interestingly, Starbucks started as a second-wave company, and then grew into a megalith. Starbucks created the market that enabled the third-wave guys to thrive. Now, however, Starbucks is copying third-wave marketing strategies, selling itself as a farmer-driven company.

You chose three specialty coffee entrepreneurs, Counter Culture's Peter Giuliano, Intelligentsia's Geoff Watts and Stumptown's Duane Sorenson, to be your guides for the book. Why these three?

After the story on office coffee, I wrote a piece on young coffee entrepreneurs and their impact on the specialty coffee industry for the New York Times. All the experts I interviewed named Peter, Geoff and Duane as the most talented, or among the most talented, young specialty guys in the industry, and the coffees they roasted topped all the "best coffee" lists, so I called them up.

One thing led to another, and I wound up traveling with Peter Giuliano and Geoff Watts to Nicaragua on yet another coffee story for the New York Times. Peter and Geoff's passion for, knowledge of and eloquence about coffee blew me away. Duane is a more elusive person than Peter or Geoff. I didn't travel with him, but I did spend close to a week visiting Stumptown in Portland, [Ore.].

What about Fair Trade? Does Fair Trade really help the small coffee grower, or is it just a marketing gimmick?

The answer is yes and no, or no and yes, or jeez, can we talk about something else?

What do you mean?

Fair Trade is probably the most contentious subject in the world of specialty coffee. Not because its goals are disputed but because the debate has been ugly and those who question how the Fair Trade program operates have been accused by Fair Trade advocates of Bhopal-style corporate crimes against humanity.

The irony is that, as a social justice program, Fair Trade ain't that great. To participate in Fair Trade programs, coffee farmers and coffee roasters both pay pretty significant fees. For example, TransFair USA, the American Fair Trade organization, collects a licensing fee of around 10 cents a pound for every Fair Trade coffee sold by participating roasters here in the United States. On the other end of the production chain, coffee-growing cooperatives pay between $2,000 and $4,000 a year to be certified Fair Trade by FLO, the international Fair Trade group.

In exchange for these fees, FLO guarantees coffee cooperatives a minimum price for their green or unroasted coffee of $1.21 a pound -- $1.41 if the coffee is certified organic. These minimums have not increased in 10 years, although they will inch up next year. Cooperatives also received a "social premium" of 10 cents a pound to invest in a community project such as building a school or medical clinic. In addition to setting payment standards, Fair Trade also certifies that living and health standards on coffee farms meet certain minimal standards. The Fair Trade designation does not address issues of coffee quality.

For much of 2008, commodities prices have been rising and the C-market price for coffee has surpassed the Fair Trade minimum. Bubbles have a way of popping, however, and coffee prices have a way of crashing precipitously, causing tremendous suffering. In the book I quote Rick Peyser, director of social advocacy for Green Mountain Coffee in Vermont. Rick sits on the FLO board and he says you have to think of Fair Trade as a kind of insurance policy for farmers that protects them when coffee prices plummet as they periodically do.

And the truth of the matter? Well, as I say, when it comes to Fair Trade the answer is yes, no and maybe.

So what steps do consumers take to help ensure that the coffee growers are compensated fairly?

I agree with Michael Pollan, who came to the conclusion at the end of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" that the thing to do is buy local. And, I would add, buy delicious -- meaning that high quality which takes an effort to achieve should be rewarded.

Coffee, of course, doesn't grow locally. More and more, however, it is roasted locally. So if you want to make sure that you are buying coffee that rewards farmers fairly, I would say get to know your local roasters. And you don't have to pay a fortune, by the way. In fact, you can purchase a great pound of coffee from which you can brew 30 or 40 mugs of coffee for, say, $13 or $14 a pound. Skip Starbucks for three days and you can afford to buy some of the world's best coffee. Compare that to a bottle of wine that two people polish off in an evening!

McDonald's has started to try to compete with Starbucks and other coffeehouses by offering premium coffee. Since they're so big, does McDonald's help or hurt coffee's image and specialty coffeehouses in general?

To the degree that specialty coffee is a high-end culinary product, McDonald's is more or less irrelevant. I can't imagine a consumer being split between buying coffee at a high-end cafe selling Stumptown's or Intelligentsia's or Counter Culture's coffee and McDonald's.

Who might be hurt by McDonald's foray into what I would call "alleged specialty coffee" is Starbucks. You'll notice, however, that Starbucks is working very hard these days to regain its reputation as the purveyor of super-high-quality coffee.

So why is a coffee like Hacienda La Esmeralda Special worth $130 or more a pound? What is it that makes it so expensive?

Coffee fans have paid crazy prices for Panama's sex queen of a coffee because there is an extremely limited supply.

Esmeralda, which is a very floral, very fruity, very clean bright aromatic coffee, was cultivated on Hacienda La Esmeralda in Boquete, Panama. It was discovered by Daniel Peterson on his family's farm. Esmeralda tastes nothing like other Panamanian coffees, nothing like other Central American coffees, and coffee cuppers flipped over it when it was entered in the Best of Panama competition.

It turns out that this Esmeralda coffee comes from a collection of coffee seeds gathered by a British diplomat in Ethiopia in the 1930s. Virtually all the other coffee grown in Panama and elsewhere in Latin America derives from two varieties of coffee, Bourbon and Typica, that were stolen from Yemen 500 years ago. Esmeralda comes from an entirely different genetic branch of the Arabica coffee species.

The story goes on from there but suffice it to say: The specialty coffee world went Esmeralda crazy. In the last few years Panamanian farmers have been ripping out other trees and planting Geisha trees all over the place. Will it taste like Peterson's Esmeralda? Will it drive demand for more and more Esmeralda? Or will the Esmeralda craze die out? Coffee trees take five years to produce their first crop, so we'll know in the next few years.

One other interesting note: Coffee guys have been trying to locate the forest in Ethiopia where that diplomat first stumbled on Esmeralda. So far, no luck at all.

What makes the perfect cup of coffee?

Perfection in coffee, like perfection in art, is sought, but it can never be achieved.

Philosophy aside, what makes the difference in coffee? Is it the bean? The roast? The brew?

It all matters. The genetic qualities of the bean. The agronomic skill of the farmer. The climate. The processing of the bean, which is multi-stepped and fraught. The way the bean is transported. The roasting. The grinding. The brewing. Each step either enhances the bean's potential or degrades it.

Think about wine grapes or olives that are pressed to make oil. You can begin with the most exquisite cultivars, but these products, fine wine, fine olive oil, only reach their potential when each step leading toward consumption is consummated skillfully and in a timely fashion. Same with coffee.

Only coffee is even more vulnerable to human error, because of the assaults to nature that occur when consumers take their newly purchased specialty beans home.

What is the best home coffee-brewing device: percolator, French press or just basic Mr. Coffee?

Percolator -- never.

Mr. Coffee -- throw it out immediately. Most standard automated coffee pots don't heat the water hot enough or consistently enough. The water needs to be around 205 degrees F. as it pours over the grounds. Otherwise the grounds will be over-extracted and bitter or under-extracted and tasteless.

French press -- this plunger system makes very nice coffee but requires a certain deftness of hand and it produces slightly gritty coffee that some people like and others don't.

I prefer old-fashioned, inexpensive drip pots that use brown paper filters, such as the Chemex where you pour nearly boiling water over freshly ground coffee.

Oh, and always use filtered water.

The most important piece of home equipment: A burr grinder. Those little blade grinders most people use basically beat the crap out of the coffee. Not good.

What is it about the smell of coffee that makes it so intoxicating even to people who may not or don't like the taste?

Coffee has more aromatics than any other foodstuff. It's the aromatics people find so enticing -- cuppers actually are able to detect thousands of different aromas in coffees. No. 2, by the way, on the aromatics list is red wine.

Do you see a fourth wave emerging?

I have a hunch that the fourth wave will emerge where coffee is grown, as a new generation of young farmers who are bilingual and can speak English, guys like Daniel Peterson of Esmeralda fame, start to alter how they do business. A lot of these young growers have visited the U.S. and have seen how dynamic the specialty market is here and are eager to bring change to their end of the coffee chain.

How do you make your morning coffee?

Actually, my husband, the physicist, makes my coffee in the morning. He's much more of a fussbudget than I am when it comes to technological accuracy. He uses a one cup ceramic cone into which he fits a one cup brown paper filter filled with freshly ground coffee. The ceramic cone fits on top of a mug. You pour the water over the grounds and voila, a lovely cup of coffee.

-- By Monica Bhide

originally posted on june 30, 2008

US Coffee Giant Starbucks to Close 600 US Stores

By VOA News
02 July 2008

U.S.-based coffee chain Starbucks has announced plans to close 600 stores in the United States in the next year due to the weak U.S. economy.

The Seattle, Washington-based coffee seller announced the move on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. The company says about 12,000 employees, or seven percent of its global workforce, will lose their jobs because of the closures.

It says it will open fewer than 200 stores in 2009.

Starbucks' Chief Financial Officer, Peter Bocian, said many of the stores being closed were located near other Starbucks stores. Because of the company's aggressive expansion practice, it is not uncommon in the United States to see two of the shops within blocks of or even across the street from each other.

The company also has been expanding worldwide, operating in 45 countries.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Coffee could help beat MS: study

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A strong cup of coffee may do more than just wake you up in the mornings. It could also help you stave off multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.

Scientists in Oklahoma found that mice which had been immunized to develop an MS-like condition appeared to be protected from the disease by drinking the equivalent of six to eight cups of coffee a day.

"This is an exciting and unexpected finding, and I think it could be important for the study of MS and other diseases," said Linda Thompson, from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation who worked in collaboration with Cornell University and Finland's University of Turku.

Caffeine prevented adenosine, one of the four building blocks in DNA, from mixing with its receptor in mice.

Adenosine is common molecule in humans and plays a large role in helping to control the biochemical processes for sleep and suppressing arousal.

When the molecule is blocked from binding with its receptor, the body's infection-fighting white cells cannot reach the central nervous system and trigger the reactions which lead to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, or EAE, the animal form of MS.

The findings could have important implications for other auto-immune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, in which the body's own defense systems turn against itself.

But Thompson, co-author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, warned there was a lot more work to be done in fighting multiple sclerosis, a debilitating and progressive disease in humans.

"A mouse is not a human being, so we can't be sure caffeine will have the same effect on people prone to develop MS without much more testing," she said.

Further retrospective studies to track the caffeine intake of patients with MS and its effects might be the next major step.

"If you found a correlation between caffeine intake and reduced MS symptoms, that would point to further studies in humans," Thompson said.

Some 2.5 million people worldwide are thought to suffer from MS, a disorder of the central nervous system which leads to loss of muscle coordination.

Monday, June 09, 2008

T-Mobile Sues Starbucks Over Hot Spots

June 7, 2008
Business Briefing | Legal Matters
T-Mobile Sues Starbucks Over Hot Spots

T-Mobile USA sued Starbucks, saying the coffee chain breached a contract by allowing AT&T to supply in-store customers with free wireless Internet access using T-Mobile’s lines and equipment. T-Mobile, which said it agreed to provide Wi-Fi service at Starbucks in 2002, accused the largest American coffee chain of secretly developing a plan to let AT&T provide free Internet service at more than 7,000 Starbucks stores in the United States. T-Mobile said it is bearing the cost and burden of the free Wi-Fi service offer because it provided equipment and technology at thousands of Starbucks stores. Valerie O’Neil, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, did not return a voice-mail message left at her office seeking comment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The true brew

May 20, 2008

Australian coffee drinkers are embracing new tastes, writes Leanne Tolra.

THE tour-bus passengers are on a high - animated by a crisp, clean caffeine hit. "I've never tasted anything like it," says one. "I don't normally like black coffee," says another heading out the door, "but that was amazing."

A third trailing behind marvels at the "fruity and smooth" flavour lingering on her palate: "It was almost like a glass of wine."

Exit St Ali, one of Melbourne's modern boutique roasters, and this small sip of La Montana (winner of the 2007 El Salvador Cup of Excellence) has opened the way to a new world of coffee drinking for a busload of already passionate foodies.

They're part of Allan Campion's Melbourne Food Tours. It's a Saturday morning in April and 24 participants from suburban Melbourne, regional Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and New Zealand are on the road for the day to experience Melbourne's gastronomic bounty.

Campion, a chef, food writer and cookbook author, selects St Ali to show his tour groups the city's growing number of boutique roasters who are doing more with coffee than serving prettily etched cafe lattes.

Selling single-variety and single-origin coffee isn't new - some of Melbourne's leading roasters have been doing it for more than 20 years. But in recent years they've been joined by boutique cafe owners roasting their own green beans and boosting coffee drinkers' appreciation of taste according to region, variety and growing conditions. The comparisons with wine, wine tasting and wine marketing are inevitable.

Over at The First Pour in Abbotsford, Peter Wolff, president of the AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association, has been running coffee-tasting courses and conducting experiments using Riedel specialty wine glasses.

Wolff says the tasting sessions have combined chocolate, liqueurs and coffee: "We served fruity, aromatic dessert wines and showcased them with really bright, acidic, dry processed Ethiopian and Yemen or Somali coffees," he says.

"We wanted to find out whether the glasses did the same thing for coffee as they do for wine, in terms of flavour delivery on the mouth. And we found there were some differences to drinking out of a normal ceramic cup. There are some issues - the glass is too hot to hold and it cools too quickly, but it certainly gets you thinking."

The Coffee Academy at William Angliss Institute ran its first Palate Training for Coffee Drinkers course during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival earlier this year. Academy manager Jill Adams enrolled in a wine-tasting course at La Trobe University to develop her own palate "because the coffee industry offers nothing like that".

"I was so impressed by what it taught me that I felt we needed to offer something similar for the coffee industry. It made me see that there is a science behind what we are tasting."

Adams approached the university's Lindsay Corby, a master of wine and wine appreciation, to run the academy's course and challenge coffee industry professionals' perceptions of what they were drinking (see story right).

Corby says the way to increased markets and understanding of coffee is in educating coffee drinkers that there is a huge difference between good coffee and bad, and in teaching industry professionals to learn to recognise bad coffee from its source. "Where and how it was grown? Did the green bean have transport problems? How was it stored and roasted? This all matters, long before the coffee is finally presented in the cup as a filter coffee or an espresso," he says.

Corby says there are many similarities between the wine and coffee industries in terms of marketing and education, but that much of the wine industry's success has come from its technical base and its willingness to co-operate. "We are not sharing next week's secrets, but we are sharing last week's," he says.

Wine marketing expert Professor Larry Lockshin from the University of South Australia says the Australian coffee industry doesn't have the financial clout, the history or the production volumes to market coffee like wine. Australia produces about 600 tonnes of coffee annually and imports more than 40,500 tonnes. Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, grows an average of 3 million tonnes a year.

He says the bulk of the wine industry's promotion is funded by wine-marketing companies. And in the coffee industry "it's not the growers who will be funding the promotions, it's got to be the importers, the distributors and the roasters grouping together".

The specialty coffee industry is making headway, says Wolff. Northern-hemisphere specialty coffee markets have traditionally been tough for Australian importers but coffee grown in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or Java is more accessible. "We are seeing roasters going directly to the farmers in these areas for coffee," he says.

Wolff is upbeat about the trend to expand the market at its top end: "Some of the leading cafes in every major capital city are really pushing specialty coffee and putting it directly in front of the consumer and saying, 'Here, try this coffee it's a Rwandan Golden Cup of Excellence coffee, this coffee is extraordinary'."

For Australian growers, this is a double-edged sword. Growing consumer interest in locally produced coffee is positive but there are better returns to be made from selling it overseas, says president of the Australian Coffee Growers Association Ian McLaughlin.

"It is a very hard thing for us as growers to connect with consumers. Mostly, our sales are made through brokers," he says.

Australia grows about 750 hectares of coffee in parts of Queensland and NSW. About one-third of the coffee grown in Australia is exported. McLaughlin says Australian green (unroasted) coffee sells for about $10 a kilo, which compares with average world coffee prices of $3 a kilo: "But to make the industry viable I think we need to make $30 a kilogram.''

Two years ago, he built a $4 million restaurant at his plantation in northern Queensland, "so I could serve and display my coffee at its best and lift the price of it to where it needs to be".

"A lot of people come into the coffee business because of the romance associated with coffee. But there has to be a way for them to make their businesses cost effective," he says.

That's exactly what Andrew Ford, owner of Mountain Top Estate, a coffee plantation in northern NSW, did. His is the country's highest-priced green coffee, selling for more than $20 a kilo.

Four years ago, Ford took his coffee to the "micro spec" of the world market that would pay a premium. "But if I had gone to the Australian roasters without the international buyer paying a premium, they would not have paid for it.

"The consuming public is absolutely ready to pay a premium for high-value coffee,'' says Ford. ''It's evident in our attitude to wine, olive oil and vinegars.''

The Coffee Academy's Jill Adams says coffee training courses, barista courses and industry competitions raise people's awareness and the industry's credibility.

Australia's national coffee competitions were held in Melbourne earlier this month. David Makin (Victoria), our barista champion, Habib Maarbani (NSW), our cafe latte artist and Catherine Ferrari (WA), our coffee cupping (tasting) champion, will all compete at the world titles in Copenhagen in June.

To win, Ferrari, a third-generation coffee professional (her grandfather began roasting coffee beans in 1936), tasted her way through 24 cups of coffee.

"Coffee, like wine, is very personal," she says. "It's not just about taste; it's about colour and aroma and viscosity.

''With wine, consumers are confident of their ability to say what they like and what they don't, and they are not necessarily loyal to a label.

"But people tend to be brand loyal with their coffee," she says.

Ferrari says it is time to break away from that and try new things.

Words that work

"You can't have sweet acidity," Erika Winter says. "And what is funky forest floor?" These are words and phrases that coffee roasters and tasters commonly use to describe coffee flavours, but Winter, co-author of Winegrape Berry Sensory Assessment in Australia - a tasting "vocabulary" for grapes - says the coffee industry needs its own official language.

"We have taught growers and winemakers to use the same language. What we have done for grapes is so transferable to coffee,'' she says.

''A number of international organisations have lists of descriptors but these are used as descriptive terms and the language is still subjective.''

The flavour of a coffee brew



An odour descriptor similar to the smell of an ashtray, smokers' fingers or the smell one gets when cleaning out a fireplace. But it is not used as a negative attribute. Generally speaking, it indicates the degree of roast.


An aroma and flavour of cocoa powder and chocolate (including dark chocolate and milk chocolate), sometimes referred to as sweet.



A basic taste characterised by the solution of an organic acid. A desirable sharp and pleasing taste particularly strong with certain origins as opposed to an overfermented sour taste.


For coffee characterised by solutions of sucrose or fructose, commonly associated with sweet aroma descriptors such as fruity, chocolate and caramel. It is generally used for describing coffees which are free from off-flavours.



This attribute descriptor is used to describe the physical properties of the beverage. A strong but pleasant full mouthfeel characteristic as opposed to being thin.


Leaving an aftertaste sensation like a dry feeling in the mouth, undesirable in coffee.

Source: International Coffee Organisation, London

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sustainable coffee program seen booming

Fri May 16, 2008 10:09pm BST

By Marcy Nicholson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Rainforest Alliance has nearly doubled the amount of coffee sold every year from its program that certifies coffee as good for the environment and beneficial for farmers, a representative of the conservation group said.

Companies in the group's sustainable coffee program have been making "commitments over time to scale-up the volumes of coffee that they're sourcing and help farms that already supply them, get certified," said Sabrina Vigilante, senior manager of marketing and business for Rainforest Alliance.

Vigilante spoke on the sidelines of the organization's event in New York Thursday.

New York-based Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit conservation group, certifies farms that meet specific criteria aimed to produce what it calls "sustainable" agricultural products. The process is designed to benefit the environment, farmers and their communities.

Coffee purchases from Rainforest certified farms has grown by an average of 93 percent annually since 2003, when the figure sat at 7 million lbs. In 2007, 91.3 million pounds of certified coffee were bought, Rainforest Alliance said.

In January 2007, McDonald's UK began sourcing all of its coffee from Rainforest farms. Since then, the unit of McDonald's Corp has reported a 22 percent increase in units of coffee sold, Rainforest data showed.

"It will continue to grow at that rapid pace for some years to come because the world is a huge market and it's like a snowball effect," Vigilante said about.

Italy's leading coffee roaster Lavazza buys about 2 million 60-kg bags of coffee annually and was accredited by Rainforest Alliance in 2006. In the United Kingdom, 30 percent of the coffee Lavazza purchases is Rainforest Alliance certified, said Barry Kither, Lavazza sales and market director in the United Kingdom.

"The U.K. is particularly keen on ethical products," Kither said, noting the trend moves at different paces in different countries.

"For the U.K. it's a lifesaver because you can hardly talk to a company now without ticking that box, 'Do you have an ethical product available?' We needed it desperately, defensively," Kither said.

The company's overall Rainforest purchases, however, is a small 1 percent, said Mario Cerutti, director of supply chain in Turin.

The trend is global. Privately held Gloria Jean's Coffees International, based in Sidney, Australia, has 850 stores operating in 32 countries with more in the works, said Executive Chairman Nabi Saleh.

Gloria Jean's buys "several millions of pounds of green coffee" and aims to make 85 percent of these purchases Rainforest certified by 2010, up from the current 45 to 50 percent, Saleh estimated.

Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee purchases more than 60 percent of its coffee from Rainforest farms, exceeding the company's 50 percent goal for 2008, said Chad Trewick, Caribou's senior director of coffee and tea.

"It's fostered a spirit of partnership, and a slow and gradual transformation in the mind-sets that these producers and communities think about the environment," Trewick said.

Caribou Coffee has eight permanent blends and three seasonal blends bearing the Rainforest seal, he said.

"We really believe that sustainability ... really resonates with a lot of the consumer base and more and more mainstream people are looking for people to make an impact with their purchasing power," he said.

(Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by David Gregorio)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Could a Coffee Maker Be Worth $11,000?

How the Clover is changing the way we think about coffee.
By Paul Adams
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at 6:58 AM ET

The New York Times used words like "cult object," "majestic," and "titillating"; the Economist called it "ingenious" and "sleek." The subject of these encomiums is, incongruously, a commercial coffee machine—the Clover 1s, an $11,000 device that brews regular coffee (not espresso) one cup at a time. Could the Clover represent that much of an advance in the state of the coffee art? I had to try it for myself.

I convinced the manufacturer, Coffee Equipment Company, to send me a demo model, but they didn't tell me, until the machine was already en route to my apartment, that it requires a fist-sized 30-amp commercial electric outlet. So that option didn't work out: The crated-up machine and a massive grinder sat tantalizingly unused in my building for a week, then went back. Fortunately, David Latourell, a company representative who flew from Seattle to meet with me, had pull at Cafe Grumpy, a Manhattan cafe that owns two of the machines. After hours, as the last customers finished their cups and left, the long-haired, fast-talking Seattleite and I wedged ourselves behind Grumpy's coffee bar, and I had my chance to play with a Clover at last.

The Clover is so eyebrow-raisingly expensive because it's not mass-produced: Each device is built to order by a small Seattle company. It brews coffee like a French press, but it's more dramatic to watch and much more precise. Unlike lesser methods of making coffee, which are no more reliable than their users and can't be counted on to produce the same cup twice, the Clover is equipped with a "PID algorithm" for regulating temperature and "programmable workflow modes" to help micromanage the brewing process. Latourell enumerates six variables that contribute to the taste of brewed coffee—choice of bean, grind, "dose" of coffee, brewing time, temperature, and amount of water. The first three, for better or worse, are in the hands of the barista ("Call me when you get a better grinder!" Latourell half-teases the Grumpy staff)—but the Clover can precisely regulate the last three.

The faceplate of the Clover is reminiscent of a high-end stereo and, with a gleaming stainless-steel surface and blue LED readout, is clearly designed to embody a similar tweaky-geeky aesthetic. A big, black knob allows me to navigate the configuration options and dial in each cup's specifications: I choose 16 ounces of water at 203 degrees Fahrenheit for 44 seconds—relatively brief compared with the few minutes a French press takes.

When I press the "Brew" button, a circular platform sinks down from the top of the machine into a steamy cylindrical operating chamber. I'm sure I'm not the first Clover user to experience a quick flashback to a vivid childhood memory—watching, horrified, as Darth Vader lowers Han Solo into his carbonite freezer. I have just a couple of seconds to pour a measure of coffee into the chamber before the built-in spigot activates and spurts exactly 16 ounces of hot water onto the grounds. The coffee steeps for the programmed 44 seconds, and then, like a French press in reverse, the platform rises, pushing the grounds back up to the surface. As it ascends, a vacuum separates the liquid from the grounds, sucking the brewed coffee down through a micro-perforated filter and into the hidden depths of the machine. By the time the platform returns to its original position (flush with the machine's top), all that's left on it is a tightly compressed puck of wet grounds, which I squeegee into a waste bin. A second press of the master button dispenses the coffee from the front of the machine.

Stationed at the Clover, I spend two hours and a $50 pound of good beans trying to make the coffee sing, to achieve the cup of my dreams.

The first cup has a muddy, dark taste with too much roasted flavor, although the butterscotch richness of the beans comes through. For the second cup, I keep the brewing time and the ratio of water to coffee the same, but I dial the temperature up from 203 degrees to 206 degrees. Immediately there's a difference: This one is far closer to perfect—resonant with floral and citric aromas and round, up-front sweetness—but it lacks a certain substance. I start to pick up the rhapsodic coffee-geek argot, bantering about brightness, notes, extraction. Latourell prescribes a coarser grind for the next cup, explaining to the baristas hovering near us that "counterintuitively, broadening the grind profile adds body!"

But this strategy doesn't seem to work: The third cup, brewed with the same parameters as the second, is thin, with none of the previous transporting scents. I recklessly crank the temperature to 210 degrees, and the coffee that squirts out is dramatically different—it could pass for a different bean. The complex jasmine notes that distinguished the cups so far are gone, replaced by a delicate wininess that reminds me of Kalamata olives. I wonder: Could I brew a cup with the jasmine and the olives side by side?

I'm becoming a Clover addict, just as I feared. It's not the tasty coffee itself that's drawing me in—although that caffeine euphoria certainly colors my mood. It's the joy of tinkering, really delving into the possibilities of a coffee bean in a way I've never considered before. After several more cups, each with their own quirks, it's time to go: The baristas have finished sweeping up around our feet and are clearly eager to leave. But there's one more cup I want to try: I dial in the same settings that produced cup No. 2, the greatest success so far. Forty-four seconds later, there it is, the exact same delicate, floral-scented brew I remember. That's the consistency you pay for.

The immediate consequence of the Clover and its precision isn't necessarily better coffee, but more attention to coffee. By creating this rigorous laboratorylike brewing environment, it encourages cafes to explore the nuances of different beans, where and how they're grown and dried and sorted and roasted. And the attention to nuance gets passed along to the customers: Grumpy's clientele can choose from a coffee menu listing several brews, including the Cruz del Sur, "punchy and bright with pear and green apple," and the San José El Yalú, "complex and crisp with butterscotch, grape, chocolate and plum."

The aspirational comparison of coffee to wine is obvious, and the passionate young Clover virtuosos at Cafe Grumpy indeed remind me of wine enthusiasts; they're seriously invested in their work, nothing like the sullen soy-foamers at Starbucks or even at other independent coffee shops I frequent. On the cafe's blog, barista Ed describes his recent visit to coffee farms in Panama.

For now, Latourell admits that wine may be "50 years ahead of coffee" technologically. "We're just starting to scratch the surface of what can be done with coffee, how we understand it." But that's changing fast. The world of winemaking is wracked by a tension between the old, individualistic ways, in which each wine tastes distinctively of its origin, and the new methods that produce best-selling wines in a uniform "global" style divorced from regional characteristics. The story of coffee is the reverse—until recently, coffees were blended and branded to suit a homogenous popular taste, and only now is there a rising interest in the expression of varietal and regional differences.

Is owning a Clover worth $11,000? Not for the individual—don't be silly. But even a smattering of Clovers in the right hands promises to broaden the way we think about coffee. The very fact that an $11,000 coffee machine is receiving such excited media attention seems like a clear sign that we're headed toward a "third wave" of coffee, an age of terroir, aided by technology that can give different beans the different careful treatments they deserve. In the foretold era, popular dark roasts, which obscure those subtleties, are scorned, and enlightened customers gladly pay exorbitantly for rare brews.

Watching the booming trade at Cafe Grumpy, the change seems inevitable: In certain circles, at least, the generic over-the-counter stimulant Latourell dismissively calls "brown liquid that costs a buck" will give way to increasingly common $10 and $15 cups of recherché coffee. At that rate, a small Clover designed for the home—"of course there's talk of making one," says Latourell—could start to sound like a smart, money-saving purchase.
Paul Adams writes about food and drinks. He can be reached at
this article was orginally posted on March 5th 2008
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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ernesto Illy, Italy coffee giant, dies

The Associated Press
Article Launched: 02/06/2008 01:09:33 PM PST

ROME—Ernesto Illy, the longtime head of Italian coffee giant illycaffe SpA who traveled the world in search of the best blend of beans, has died at age 82.
Illy died Sunday in a hospital in Trieste, the port city in northeastern Italy where the company has its headquarters, company publicists said Wednesday. No cause of death was given.
A chemist and son of Francesco Illy, who founded the company in 1933, Ernesto Illy traveled extensively to select beans he hoped would yield a perfect cup of coffee. The company boasts it has an exclusive blend of beans from Brazil, Central America, India and Africa.
Illy is survived by four children and his wife. One son, Andrea, is chairman of the company, which distributes its coffee in more than 140 countries.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

America’s hottest coffee houses

where the best espresso artisans are serving up their creations

By Rob Baedeker
updated 8:05 a.m. PT, Wed., Jan. 16, 2008

On a recent rainy weekday morning in New York City, a man dressed in utility-worker garb stepped up to the counter at Café Grumpy, a cozy, brick-walled coffee house in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

“Just a cup of coffee,” he said.

The barista presented a menu of the café’s current selections: Tres Santos Dota Co-op, Cauca, Colombia; Mandheling Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia and several more “single origin” beans, which would be ground to order and then custom-brewed by the cup in a piston- and vacuum-powered machine called the Clover 1s.

In the new world of specialty coffee, there is no longer such thing as “just a cup of coffee.”

While Starbucks may have made venti non-fat lattes a staple of millions of Americans’ mornings (and afternoons, and evenings), a new wave of independent coffee roasters and cafes like Grumpy are re-focusing their attention on the art and craft of coffee selection, roasting, brewing and presentation. The post-Starbucks generation of coffeehouses have become both gathering spots for coffee connoisseurs as well as satellite campuses for educating newcomers about respect for the bean.

“Starbucks and [Berkeley, Calif.- based] Peet’s were trailblazers in the '60s and '70s,” says David Latourell of the Coffee Equipment Company, makers of the Clover 1s machine. “They were the first ones to say, ‘Let’s do specialty coffee.’ People hadn’t tried that before.” (And in case you were wondering, Peet’s actually opened in 1966, and Starbuck’s got its start in 1971.)

But the new independent coffee houses, says Latourell, “are focused on the smaller scale, and on de-commodifying the process. These smaller roasters are not buying coffee at volumes that efface the distinctions [between different places of origin]. They’re building direct relationships with coffee growers at the source. They’re also about bringing coffee out of the caffeine delivery mode and into the realm of culinary experience.”

“It’s about getting back to the basics,” says Eileen Hassi, owner of Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco. “There’s a real emphasis on the flavors and terroir of coffee, and on brewing espresso for the taste of espresso, not just as the base for milkshake or big, sugary, milky drink.”

Hassi opened Ritual in 2005, and almost overnight the café was inundated with coffee aficionados and neophytes alike, who were lured by the smells—and sounds—of lovingly handled beans.

So what does a well-treated coffee bean sound like? “That clacking noise you hear when you walk into Ritual is the sound of us dosing the espresso into the portafilter basket,” says Hassi. In layman’s terms, that means the barista is grinding and releasing the beans gram by gram into the cupped handle that holds the grounds during the brewing process. The reason it’s dropped in such small doses, explains Hassi, is that if you put it in all at once, “static electricity would cause the espresso to clump and then it wouldn’t extract perfectly evenly.”

She admits, “We're a little obsessive.”

What fuels this kind of obsession—beyond a steady diet of caffeine—is a passion for coffee, on multiple levels. Latourell explains that, in the new generation of independent coffeehouses, the true barista “is not just a fast-food worker. They care about all of the links in the chain, starting with the farmer who grows the coffee trees, and they can talk to you knowledgeably about all of those links.”

Connie Blumhardt, publisher of Roast magazine, agrees that the denizens of today’s specialty coffee world are much more informed than their predecessors. “Specialty coffee was in its infancy 20 years ago,” she explains. “Today, with internet blogs, industry trade shows, barista competitions and regional roaster trainings, education is passed from industry professional to industry professional with ease, and most are very willing to share their knowledge.”

Luckily for those whose vocabularies don’t yet include terms like “dosing” and “portafilter”—or for those who may need help discerning between a Tres Santos Dota Co-op and a Mandheling Padang bean—this new crop of coffee lovers are eager to share their knowledge with customers, too.

This is what happened to the unsuspecting gentleman who tried to order an old-fashioned cup of joe at Café Grumpy. The barista enthusiastically explained the characteristics of the different single-cup options on the menu. In the space of a few minutes, the customer’s order transformed from “just a cup of coffee” to a custom-brewed, medium-bodied roast with mild acidity, a blueberry fragrance and lingering chocolate on the finish.


At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee

January 23, 2008
At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee


WITH its brass-trimmed halogen heating elements, glass globes and bamboo paddles, the new contraption that is to begin making coffee this week at the Blue Bottle Café here looks like a machine from a Jules Verne novel, a 19th-century vision of the future.

Called a siphon bar, it was imported from Japan at a total cost of more than $20,000. The cafe has the only halogen-powered model in the United States, and getting it here required years of elliptical discussions with its importer, Jay Egami of the Ueshima Coffee Company.

“If you just want equipment you’re not ready,” Mr. Egami said in an interview. But, he added, James Freeman, the owner of the cafe, is different: “He’s invested time. He’s invested interest. He is ready.”

Professionals have long been willing to pay prices in the five figures for the perfect espresso machine, but the siphon bar does not make espresso. It makes brewed coffee, as does another high-end coffee maker, the $11,000 Clover, which makes one cup at a time. Together, they signal the resurgence of brewing among the most obsessive coffee enthusiasts.

Could this be the age of brewed coffee? “We’re right there at the threshold,” said George Howell of Terroir Coffee, a retailer of roasted and green beans. “Coffee has never been a noble beverage because the means to perfectly produce it haven’t existed,” said Mr. Howell, who is also a founder of the Cup of Excellence, an annual competition that seeks to identify the best beans in each coffee-producing nation.

But, he said, with recent advances in coffee-making technology, “now you can get perfect extraction.”

Mr. Freeman is not trying to end the era of espresso. He still starts his days with a cappuccino, and his cafe serves drinks mostly from espresso machines, including a lovingly refurbished San Marco from the 1980s. But he’s excited by the possibilities of brewed coffee.

“Siphon coffee is very delicate,” he said. “It’s sweeter and juicier, and the flavors change as the temperature changes. Sometimes it has a texture so light it’s almost moussey.”

A professionwide interest in brewed coffee has driven the stealth spread of the Clover. Introduced less than two years ago, it has become standard equipment at some of the country’s most progressive cafes, including Intelligentsia in Chicago, La Mill in Los Angeles and Caffe Vita in Seattle.

Stumptown, of Portland, Ore., recently installed four Clovers in its location in the Ace Hotel. New York City now has five of the devices, two of them at the Chelsea branch of Café Grumpy, which has used them to dispense 60,000 cups in a little over a year.

So far, the Clover is still something of a cult object, with just over 200 machines scattered around the world. But it might soon become a common sight: Starbucks has just bought two.

Designed by three Stanford graduates, it lets the user program every feature of the brewing process, including temperature, water dose and extraction time. (It even has an Ethernet connection that can feed a complete record of its configurations to a Web database.) Not only is each cup brewed to order, but the way each cup is brewed can be tailored to a particular bean — light or dark roast, acidic or sweet, and so on.

The Clover works something like an inverted French press: coffee grounds go into a brew chamber, hot water shoots in and a powerful piston slowly lifts and plunges a filter, forcing the coffee out through a nozzle in the front. The final step, when a cake of spent grounds rises majestically to the top, is so titillating to coffee fanatics that one of them posted a clip of it on YouTube.

“There is some gee-whizness to it,” said Doug Zell, a founder of Intelligentsia. “But hopefully the focus goes back to the cup of coffee.”

At the Stumptown Annex in Portland, the focus is entirely on the cup of coffee. As many as 35 different coffees are on the menu at the small cafe, and unlike the six other Stumptown locations, it doesn’t have a single espresso machine.

The Annex first brewed individual cups with cone filters, but now everything is made with a Clover. “You get more of the delicate and floral flavors, the subtle sweetness, the notes of perfume and citrus,” said Duane Sorensen, the owner of Stumptown. “The delicate, pretty, sexy flavors show in a Clover.”

“A Clover gives you greater control over the variables,” Mr. Zell said. “It’s a clean, crisp cup, and it tends to play better to coffees that are higher toned, brighter. Like the coffees of East Africa, or the more intricate coffees of the Americas.”

It is those brighter notes that excite serious coffee drinkers as they take an interest in single-origin, micro-lot and direct-trade beans — those from specific regions, even particular growers, that are prized for their distinctive characteristics.

“Steep coffee in water, and you’re going to taste gradations of flavor you’re simply not going to find in espresso,” said David Arnold, director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute in New York. Though he is an espresso partisan, Mr. Arnold allows that brewing highlights the more subtle flavors of single-origin and micro-lot beans. “Especially if it’s roasted fresh,” he said. “The differences are astounding.”

Where the Clover is a workhorse, and its genius is in its programming, brewing coffee with a siphon bar is a fickle art and takes patience to master.

The secret is in how it’s stirred.

A siphon pot has two stacked glass globes, and works a little like a macchinetta, that stove-top gadget wrongly called an espresso maker by generations of graduate students. As water vapor forces water into the upper globe the coffee grounds are stirred by hand with a bamboo paddle. (In Japan, siphon coffee masters carve their own paddles to fit the shape of their palms.)

The goal is to create a deep whirlpool in no more than four turns without touching the glass. Posture is important. So is timing: siphon coffee has a brewing cycle of 45 to 90 seconds.

“The whirlpool, it messes with your mind,” said Mr. Freeman, the owner of the Blue Bottle. “There’s no way to rush it.”

Mr. Freeman said he practiced stirring plain water for months to develop muscle memory before he brewed his first cup of siphon coffee. Even now he starts every day with a five-minute warm-up. The evidence of good technique is in the sediment: the grounds should form a tight dome dotted with small bubbles, the sign of proper extraction.

Mr. Freeman keeps pictures of his domes on his iPhone. “It’s active, sucking out the air and foam,” he said about one of them. “I love the kinetic energy, the aliveness. That’s my best dome.”

Even if the siphon bar turns coffee making into a spectacle, the biggest difference is in the flavor it extracts from prized beans like Gololcha, a dry-processed Ethiopian with long jammy berry notes that turn floral as the coffee cools.

“It’s kaleidoscopic,” Mr. Freeman said. “It’s forcing you to pay attention to every sip, because the next one is going to be different. I feel like when we serve it we’ll have to ask people to just pour it in their cup and smell it for the first minute or so.”