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Caffeine Dreams

27 October 2006

WIMPISH COFFEE CONFESSION. I haven't been buying single origin (unblended beans, a single source) coffees lately. My morning pour-over coffee is made from (yikes!) a blend. Vita, from the wonderful Espresso Vivace in Seattle. And I like it very much.

Here's the truth. My palate—oh, god, do I hate to admit this—is just not sophisticated enough to appreciate the single-origin flavors that I am supposed to discern according to the experts. For example, "Tartly sweet fruit notes suggest pineapple, grapefruit or perhaps black currant in the aroma, with delicate undercurrents of caramel and earth."

No, not really. In some other mouth perhaps, not mine. That quote is from the greatly appreciated Coffee Review website. Perhaps that's the taste that professional coffee guys and gals get, when they swish and swirl and gargle and spit. But this boy wants it simple in the morning. I tried the swish and gargle and spit with my morning coffee, but I frightened the cats and angered my wife.

I do have one qualifying comment regarding single origin. A year or so back I bought from Sacred Grounds their Hamma Cooperative Yirgacheffe. I could taste that single origin and it was wonderful—exceptional coffee. But since that supply was depleted I've had little luck with single-origins. It could be my fault; call me a single-origin wimp.

Regarding espresso however, do not mess with me. I am the one, and I'm getting better all the time; and I can taste it. One cup of espresso in the afternoon. I'm terrific. Now using Espresso Vivace's Dolce blend for my espresso. Lovely crema. Who's a coffee wimp?

MY THANKS to Mark Zingarelli of the House of Zing for sending along the graphic of the upcoming western barista jam, whatever that is. I do know that it's not similar to jelly.

11 August 2006

I'VE BEEN IN MY COFFEE GROOVE for some time now. I haven't seen the need for coffee updates, nothing more to say I've thought. I'm cool. I've become complacent, bored even.

I can make some decent espresso. I've learned the technique, made peace with the variables of grind, temperature, tamping, and have kept my cursing to a minimum when the pull doesn't produce a sweet cup; I don't want to scare the cats. I just do it again, more contemplatively this time, reciting my mantra, "Illy, Schomer. Illy, Schomer Illy, Schomer. Hmmmm." Cool.

In the groove. I know what I'm doing. I'm cool with my coffee. Maybe bored. Maybe I'm to the point where I'm ready to drop the ritualistic and worshipful. So cool that I've even thought of automating the business of my standard, morning, non-espresso cup. What I'd like, I think, is to get out of bed and walk to the kitchen and grab a cup of waiting coffee without having to do the Chemex dance with the grinding and soaking the filter and then emptying the glass carafe, and, and…Wouldn't it be nice, I've thought, to have a shiny aluminum and glass thing that would start its heating and grinding and brewing with a signal from a little remote transmitter in my bedroom? Chug, chug, chug.

I mean that I would open my eyes to a typical morning and note that my mouth again tasted like cheap red wine, swear to stop at two glasses starting tonight, scratch my… head. Look to the pillow beside me. Scarlett Johansson is not there, it's a cat, fat Jimmie. I give him a scratch.

Besides, ultimately, isn't Scarlett rather boring? Young and dull? And now that she's Woody's new blonde, extremely objectionable. Woody, the perpetual child molester. First of all, change your name, Woody. More scratches to Jimmie's head. Drop the cute diminutive, what are you eighty? Still, under the opening credits of "Lost in Translation" Scarlett was on that bed and…

Okay, forget all that. I need some coffee; so I get up and brew Finca Hartmann Best of Panama from Coffee Klatch in San Dimas, California. These days it's my non-espresso coffee. As my espresso I'm still drinking Klatch's Belle Espresso.

Here's a long quote from the Klatch website about the Hartmann and what made me order it.

"FINCA HARTMANN is a small family farm founded by Luis Hartmann in 1912. Today the farm is owned and operated by Ratibor Hartmann with his sons and daughter. The land use is predominantly shade-grown coffee, under towering remnant rainforest trees, and intact pre-montane highland forest that serves as a buffer zone to Parque Internacional La Amistad. Hacienda Palo Verde is in the Piedra Candela growing region of Volcan, Panama. At elevations between 4000-6000ft there are a number of accessible dirt roads that pass through many habitat types that are excellent for birding, hiking, and exploring.

"The family is very supportive of conservation and research and often has Smithsonian affiliated researchers living and working on the land. They are interested in attracting more birders and nature enthusiasts there because of the risk involved with operating their farm predominantly with one crop (coffee). Rather than convert their land to cattle pasture or sun coffee, the Hartmann family wishes to diversify into other environmentally sustainable business activities, such as environmental tourism, that will help protect their magnificent surroundings. They have an excellent location and variety of habitats to find birds including many Neo-Tropical migrants and a number of the endemic birds of the region.…"

So that's worth a thought or two, isn't it? These estates that have the money to do it right. I want them to treat their workers well and do right by their land. As I've gotten cool with coffee I've let that idea slip a bit but now I'm thinking about it again. What the hell, why not? Do our best.

Here's something from an outfit called Terroir in Massachusetts.

"Terroir Select Coffee was created in early 2004 to forge a new kind of partnership with coffee growers - one which recognizes their fundamental role and identity in the production of high quality coffees. We believe that one should not blend truly fine coffees, just like one does not blend fine wines, because they are already complete statements. There has been very little incentive, in terms of remuneration and acknowledgement, for producers to create really great coffees."

So I'll order from them again and continue to order the Finca Hartmann from Klatch. And I also need to get back with another of my favorite small roasters, Sacred Grounds of Arcata, California. I know that these roasters care about the land and the people who work it. They have to charge a bit more, but I want to buy from them; we all need to do what's right, make an attempt.

Oh, one more thing, I'm going to stay away from a do-it-all aluminum and glass morning coffee thing. What could make better coffee than a Chemex? And what could be more beautiful? ###



Terroir Coffee

Sacred Grounds

Coffee klatch

22 June 2007

"...Starbucks and Ethiopia have finalized an agreement that ends their trademark dispute and brings both sides together in partnership to help Ethiopian farmers. This agreement has the potential to give these farmers a fair share of the profits for their world-renowned coffees, and it's what Oxfam has been pushing for since November." From Oxfam America.

8 June 2007

Esmeralda Especial from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama is being offered at $200 per pound by Klatch Roasting. Read that again: two-hundred dollars per pound. Wonderful Klatch Roasting of San Dimas, California also offers it in half-pounds at $99 if the pound rate is too rich for you. Hacienda La Esmeralda was recognized as producers of the world's best coffee in a recent competition by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

The coffee wimp drinks two double-espressos per day (Belle Espresso from Klatch) and is not changing his coffee-drinking ways out of the availability of Esmeralda Especial.

"Intensely fragrant and aromatic, with exotic jasmine and orange-blossom notes, it has bright sweet acidity and is explosively floral on the palate."

The coffee wimp once paid $200 for explosively intense pleasure, but fur handcuffs were involved.

9 February 2007

The Coffee Wimp is now ordering coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Oregon; he had said in the entry of 19 January that he planned to buy three pounds from them, and he did. The coffee is great; the service is great. Stumptown is making The Wimp a better person, and he's buying a wool shirt.

But for his afternoon espresso, The Wimp still uses Belle Espresso from Coffee Klatch in San Dimas, California, and that's because Belle Espresso is the best espresso The Coffee Wimp has ever tasted, and he has tried many blends over many years. Black Cat from Intelligentsia, Dolce from Espresso Vivace and before The Wimp knew what he was doing, several espressos from Peet's. Yes, The Wimp has searched the Americas for great espresso. Once he even tried to order an espresso blend from a store in one of the Carolinas, a place called Counter something, but they were very snippy with The Wimp. Goodbye. Besides he doesn't like to pay for shipping from the east coast and now he doesn't have to, thanks to Stumptown and Coffee Klatch. Sometimes the world is good to the Coffee Wimp.

19 January 2007

THE COFFEE WIMP has become even more effete and consumer-like, irresponsible with his purchases, soft and paunchy. He’s doing his laundry weekly and flossing daily, buying his deodorant from L’Occitane, wearing wool shirts from Banana Republic. As if he owned a Blackberry and wrote text messages to his dog groomer. As if he had subscriptions to “People” and “GQ.” As if he bought his coffee at Starbucks. The same Starbucks that Oxfam says is treating Ethiopian coffee farmers unfairly. What has happened to The Wimp? Why is he behaving this way? Nothing; nothing has happened. The Coffee Wimp is a wimp and doesn’t concentrate on what he’s doing, goes all dreamy, wistful and slow. Yes, it's true, The Coffee Wimp hasn’t been responsible when considering his coffee purchases. In truth, he hasn’t really considered his coffee purchases.

But The Wimp follows The Coffee Review, because he’s the upraised-pinky little Coffee Wimp and likes the taste of great coffee. And there, on The Coffee Review website, in a review of a superior coffee (Panama Esmeralda Especial, 95 points) he came upon Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Oregon, which is where he read, accidentally, because for a moment he lowered his pinky, “Believing in the social, environmental, and economic benefits of sustainable business leads us to not only support coffee farms that are committed to the well-being of their workers, land and water, it compels us to be a sustainable business in our own community. Providing health insurance for our employees and donating freshly roasted coffee to the Oregon Food Bank are some of the ways that we act on our belief in sustainability. Creating relationships with coffee farmers allows us to roast and provide coffee with the finest cup quality, confident that these farms and communities will continue for generations.”

And at that moment something happened to The Coffee Wimp. Just then, with that reading, there was a flapping of wings—wings made from a drab suit material—and Al Gore and Ralph Nader appeared as angels. Peter Singer, too. “Be responsible, Coffee Wimp! Be responsible!” they shouted. “What? The Wimp said. And then, because he occasionally catches on, The Wimp said, “Oh, okay.” And as the three suited saints flapped away, they shouted, “And visit the Coffee Kids website and give them money. They help families in coffee-growing regions. And Oxfam too. Starbucks is greedy, unfair to Ethiopian farmers. Protest! Do it now, Mr. Wimp.”

So The Coffee Wimp has just ordered three pounds of whole bean coffee from Stumptown, and a shirt made of coffee-bag sackcloth— he hopes that it goes with his Mephistos—and is sending money to Coffee Kids. They have great hats. [The Drab Angels suddenly reappear, menacingly.] And do great work! And do great work!

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Oxfam America

Coffee Kids

The Coffee Review

29 December 2006

MORE WIMPISHNESS. Anybody have any syrup? I've got the waffle. I've changed morning coffees again—just can't make up my mind.

For my pour-over, everyday, every morning coffee I've been using Sunrise Blend from Paradise Roasters. But Mike Perry of Coffee Klatch recently told me of a great single origin from Lake Tawar in Sumatra. So I ordered a pound from him, and it arrived yesterday, and it's real good—that's southern, "real good"—and now I'll have to use it, too. Maybe I'll use it instead of Sunrise. Or in addition to, or…I just don't know. Typical waffling wimpishsness.

My current espresso? Belle Espresso from Coffee Klatch, no waffling there. To me, it's the best.

REDEMPTION OF THE COFFEE WIMP (PARTIAL). Speaking of Belle Espresso, recently I had to drive to San Dimas, Calif. and a Coffee Klatch store to pick up a pound of beautiful Belle because my supply had been depleted—poor planning from The Coffee Wimp. While there, Mike made me an espresso, an extraordinary (beautiful) espresso.

Allow me to tell you that Mike made three attempts at an acceptable shot before he was satisfied, and Mike is the father of Heather Perry and she is the United States Barista Champion (2003) and guess who taught Heather? Right.

The Coffee Wimp always chastises himself when he doesn't get a good shot with the first try. Okay! Now I understand. Three tries for Mike. Thank you, Mike, for a great espresso and a great lesson. Three cheers for Mike and three cheers for The Coffee Wimp, who (eventually) pours a great espresso and who learns more about life each day. Happy New Year!

The Seeker's Workbench  (Formerly "The

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