The world’s most expensive coffee comes from… poop
The world’s most expensive coffee comes from… poop Have you ever heard of the palm civet? It is a small nocturnal mammal native to tropical Asia which we, fooled Westerners, would take for a cat crossed with a badger and a panther. If you’re holding a cup of coffee, you might want to drink it up before continuing on reading. Why am I talking about palm civets? Because it is in this funny creature’s excrements that one finds the « kopi luwak », aka the world’s most expensive and rarest coffee. The civet, which used to be the coffee growers’ public enemy #1 has become the King of the coffee plantations. When the night falls, that is where the little animal blithely treats itself with the ripped coffee cherries, only the best ones, but as it’s not able to digest them, it actually defecates them intact. During its digestion, a mix of enzymes generates a chemical reaction which gives a unique taste to the coffee. This 100% natural fermentation partly explains the exorbitant price of this extraordinary coffee; a cup of kopi luwak can cost you up to 30€. But not only! It takes lots of hard work essentially by hand to produce kopi luwak. Coffee pickers must pick the defecated coffee cherries directly on the ground, smash the shell, rinse them off once, then meticulously clean them, let them dry and eventually sort them out to keep only the best beans. In the end, this might represent only a third of the harvest. Watch out: rarity also means fraud (and even worse…), whether here or over there in Asia! Many blend a couple of civet beans with second-rate coffee and claim their “blend” is 100% kopi luwak. Among those are not only dishonest coffee roasters and growers but also big coffee brands that we see every day which have very little control over their beans’ origin, as they buy through a third provider. The cupidity of some others goes even further. Some coffee growers catch palm civets to force them to produce the precious coffee – this is pure cruelty for an animal which can bear neither captivity nor daylight (remember: it’s a nocturnal mammal), leading on top to a disgusting coffee. Next time you plan on crazy adventures in Asia, think twice before succumbing to the temptation of a fancy ad which would invite you to taste “the best cup of kopi luwak ever”. There is unfortunately hardly a way to be sure what really is in that cup but one can assume that the safest way to enjoy a true kopi luwak would be to go to meet coffee growers and to assess the conditions of production by yourself.
Why coffee is good for your mood
Why coffee is good for your mood I don’t know for you but starting a day without a good coffee is an absolute no-go in my world. Without it, my levels of morning grumpiness reaches peak, my brain runs slow, my eyelids stick one to another and what to say about my conversational skills… My mood entirely relies on the benefits of coffee. But, what does coffee exactly do for our mood? Short answer: a lot. Coffee keeps you alert Let’s talk chemistry. When caffeine hits the brain, it binds to the receptors instead of a neurotransmitter called adenosine. When you’re awake, adenosine builds up in the brain until it reaches a certain level which eventually slows down neural activity, thus telling your body it’s bedtime. When you sleep, adenosine resets and you wake up the day after ready alert and energised. By binding into the receptors, caffeine blocks the adenosine, thus keeping the cell running and your alertness levels at the top. Coffee makes you feel positive You too envy the undying positive attitude of your colleague? Don’t, especially if he’s always around the coffee machine: caffeine raises the levels of another neurotransmitter, called serotonin, a major mood influencer, also known as a Happy Hormone. This boost makes your feel more positive, regulates your sleep, your appetite and digestion, your memory and even your sexual desire – what more to expect? But beware: too much caffeine can increase your need for serotonin and make you ultimately feel worse. You can also count on an extra dopamine’s boost. Yes, coffee is also known for stimulating the release of dopamine, another Happy Hormone, thus adding euphoria and pleasant feelings to your positive attitude. In other words: coffee is the most popular psychoactive drug in the world! Coffee cures headaches Contrary to what’s usually thought, coffee doesn’t cause headaches or migraines. But, here’s the thing: a regular coffee consumption leads to physical dependence (mmh… bad for the business), but what actually hurts, like any dependence, is an abrupt withdrawal. The number one cause of a caffeine headache is actually caffeine withdrawal. Headaches can even be quite severe for those that quit caffeine cold turkey. Okay, I see you need some scientific-like proof: headaches happen when blood vessels dilate too much; caffeine constricts these blood vessels that are opening too wide. Associated to paracetamol, the caffeine would even accelerate its absorption. Coffee makes you have a break Would you dare to admit why you love coffee so much? We do: the coffee breaks at work. What better for the mood that a few minutes away from your evil direct line and malicious inbox?
Why Specialty Coffee is more than just coffee
Why Specialty Coffee is more than just coffee Do you remember the day when you started caring about the code stamped on your eggs? Do you also remember that fateful day when you banned palm oil from your shopping list, f-o-r-e-v-e-r? And that other day when you swapped supermarket meat for a drive to an organic farm? Hopefully you do, because it’s well done. What about the coffee you drink every day? Don’t blush. For years, coffee companies have done their best to wow you with gold colours, intense pictures, luxury capsules and sexy salt-and-pepper haired actor… how could you (and we) possibly know that this had nothing to do with quality? “Quality coffee has a name: Specialty Coffee” Quality in the coffee world is no fancy marketing trick. It has a name: Specialty Coffee. And it’s a big deal. For the growers, AND for you. Specialty Coffee is yet at the dawn of its history. And although it’ll probably never represent more than 10% of world consumption, we do believe that it is in the driving seat of the java revolution, at the heart of what coffee nerds call the “Third Wave”. The wave is all about high-quality beans, single-origin, lighter roasts, pour-over brewing and latte art, thumbing its nose at Starbucks and consorts. Coffee is no longer a beverage, it’s an experience. And yet, there’s surprisingly no universal agreement on what “Specialty Coffee” exactly is. Like our coffee growers, we decided to leave it to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). For over 30 years, the SCAA sets quality standards for the Specialty Coffee industry and watches over the entire community, from growers to baristas, to ensure its development and worldwide recognition. Great, isn’t it? SCAA standards are high! Only coffees with a score of 80 or above on their 100-point scale are graded “specialty”. To make it to the top, green beans are tested first and (1) shall have no more than 5 defects, e.g. equal size, similar shape, colour etc., (2) they must show a distinctive attribute in the body, flavour, aroma or acidity and (3) have neither faults nor taints. The beans are then roasted, ground and cupped to assess their basic aromatic and flavour profiles. Cupping is a fantastic and rather basic ritual where all senses are engaged to answer a storm of questions: Does it smell fresh? Is the acidity delicate? Tangy? How is the body? What flavours are there? Is there chocolate? Honey? What about the aftertaste? … Only then, coffees have a chance to be graded “specialty”. However, one estimates that only 5% of green beans can make it to the Specialty club. What Specialty Coffee embodies goes beyond quality standards. It means than coffee is no longer trapped in the commodity box where mass consumption locked it in, years ago. It has become something precious to enjoy, to savour and to treasure. “Growing Specialty Coffee is no easy achievement” BUT… there’s a “but”. Specialty Coffee is a very special thing. And who says special thing, says special requirements. Growing Specialty Coffee beans is no easy achievement. Exceptional and specific geographical and climate conditions form the nest of Specialty Coffee. To find it, you first have to follow the equator on more than 1400 meters above the sea level. As you climb the mountains through a mix of moderate rainfall and sunshine, you walk on highly fertile soils surrounded by volcanoes and shade trees. This is the idyllic setting that Specialty Coffee requires. The environmental conditions are only one piece of the puzzle. The rest is due to the hard work and everyday care of the coffee grower who dedicates his life (and money) to produce outstanding quality. This does not end here: Specialty occurs when everyone across the entire production chain works in harmony and never loses view over excellence from growing to roasting, packaging and delivery. “Specialty Coffee is very big deal for the growers… and for you” Here’s one of the first thing we’ve learnt with our quality-obsessed grower Gustavo: Fairtrade or organic coffees are overpriced to well-intentioned coffee lovers when they actually coast relatively little to coffee companies. Let’s keep it simple. Although coffee is no longer seen as just a commodity, it remains the word’s second most valuable traded commodity (behind only petroleum) with an average market price of $3.4/kg for the past 5 years. Further to the 90s coffee crisis, which saw prices collapsed, Fairtrade International introduced the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium. This means that if you’re a Fairtrade coffee grower, you can expect to sell your coffee at: $2.80 + $0.40 = $3.20/kg (Fairtrade Minimum Price) + (Premium) Last time we checked, you (and we) were usually charged at least ten times this price. Plus, what’s happening when the market price goes beyond $3.20? Well, nothing. Fairtrade contracts (and so agreed prices) run over several years. If the market prices increase in the meantime, the growers won’t benefit from it... This is a vicious circle that leads Fairtrade growers to pretend to a harvest shortage (to then sell their coffees on the regular market) and to produce a lower quality coffee for their Fairtrade buyers. On the other hand, if you grow Specialty-grade Coffee, you’re not bound to the market price, rather to the quality of your coffee. You’re a free man (or woman) and the one deciding on the price. But, on average, you can expect to receive about three times the Fairtrade price. This premium is crucial for the growers to reinvest in their plantation, working and living conditions. Now you understand why Specialty Coffee is a very big deal for the growers… but also for you. While it offers a promising future to the growers and brings hope to the entire coffee community, it is for you the guarantee to discover and enjoy a truly exceptional coffee.
Yes, Coffee Naps really work
Yes, Coffee Naps really work Remember your childhood. Lunch comes to an end and the voice of your mum turns softer, gentler, cheesier. You both know what’s coming next: it’s Nap Time! Children despise it, parents idiolize it. Only the brave ones remember daring to riot. For the others, like me, it was about lying in bed, with wide opened eyes, listening to any single little noise and counting the minutes. Today, we’re all grown up, which basically comes down to find a real job, and we’d kill for a power nap. But surely the first thing we want to do when we’re tired is to drink an extra-strong espresso. If only we’d never stop listening to our mums… we’d surely discovered that the coffee-nap combo is the Queen of the Siestas. And, though it sounds as paradoxical as diet ice cream, it does work. Better than either espresso or naps on their own. Nobel Prize laureates will back it up with hard scientific evidence. They’ll tell you about the caffeine journey through your bloodstream, all the way up to your brain, into the receptors where molecules of adenosine bind and thus cause drowsiness. The caffeine disturbs it all by binding with your receptors instead of the adenosine. But careful! For the coffee nap combo to work, you’d better do it right. Have a coffee, find a quiet corner, set a timer for 20 minutes, lie down and breathe in, breathe out… zZZzzz… and tadaaa: here you are, back on track, on fire! You don’t even need to fall into a deep sleep to make it work. BUT do not sleep any longer than 20 minutes – or you run the risk to fall into sleep inertia where it’s almost impossible to wake up from. Besides, that is how much time your body takes to metabolize the caffeine (in other words: open up your receptors to the caffeine). This also means that the stimulant effect kicks in just as you’re waking up. So not only do you feel revived from your siesta but you also benefit from an extra caffeine boost. Next time you have a meeting with your boss, try explain him how coffee naps could upgrade his office’s productivity. I tried it with mine and it worked pretty well 🙂
How to beat your New Year’s hangover!
Discover the hangover cure for the New Year! 2016 is approaching very quickly, and you are probably in the middle of the preparations for tonight’s party but… have you already thought about the morning after? Long party-nights, a lot of champagne and perhaps also other, stronger stuff will make your evening a lot of fun, but not so much the next morning! So, we went on a mission to help your hangovers and we have found the solution: the lemonpresso! As the name suggests, it a mix between an espresso and a lemon. It surely sounds a little awkward but the coffee, or rather the caffeine in the coffee, is a natural painkiller. It hinders the production of an enzyme which gives you headaches. But what about the lemon? We all know that they are good for your health because of the Vitamin C etc. and in this case, the lemon also helps cleanse and detoxify your body. We’ve tried it ourselves last weekend, and it works! So, for the ultimate hangover cure, make yourself an espresso, wait a minute or two until it cools down a little and then add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. To good good to be true? Well, yes. The catch is clearly the taste. But hey, that’s the price to pay for a good party-night. Alternatively, we can also suggest to stay away from alcohol tonight and just enjoy the night with tasty coffee 🙂 Happy New Year 2016 everyone!
Cappuccino Lovers, this recipe is for you
Cappuccino Lovers, this is for you In a perfect world, we all have a nice espresso machine on our kitchen counter. In reality they can be expensive and complicated little gems. Those who’ve ever tried to use the steam wand will understand the challenge. But if you’re a cappuccino fanatic, relax. There are other shortcuts to treat yourself to an awesome cappuccino at home without fancy gadgetry. A great and fresh coffee (scoop: our 1550 will make you a sweet cappuccino), fresh milk, a whisk and your favourite coffee cup, is all what you need. 1. First things first: steam the milk. Whole or skim, it’s up to you but keep in mind that the fat is what provides flavour and texture. This is why whole milk makes the best froth – it’s well worth some extra kilos! Heat up about half a cup of milk (only fresh, mercy) on a stove top over medium heat, let it simmer until bubbles form around the edges and remove the pan from the heat before it boils. No cheating, don’t steam your milk twice. 2. It’s time for the sporty part: immediately whip the milk until it turns into a fluffy foam and keep whipping if you see any large bubbles. 3.Now, brew an espresso with your favourite preparation method, whether you go for a modest espresso machine or a more traditional toy like the Moka pot or the Aeropress. Just try to avoid small espresso cups – you won’t be able to add the milk-part afterwards. 4.You’re nearly there! Top the espresso off with your foamed milk. Your inner would also like to start pouring at the center, then continuing in a circular motion out toward the rim. An authentic cappuccino formula calls for 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 milk foam. Don’t give up if your first try does not look quite the same as on the superstar #foodporn feeds – its proper preparation asks for training… and a sophisticated digital SLR camera to show off on Instagram. Tell us: We’d love to hear how your last cappuccino creation (and Instagram picture) went.
Birds, birds and more birds
Birds, birds and more birds What do you know Colombia for? Don’t feel bad, we used to think the same: drug, guerrilla and Shakira. But now we have a new mission: change your mind by showing you the true face and soul of Colombia. Do you for example know that Colombia is home to over 1,850 bird species, that is to say 20% of all bird species on Earth, the largest avian biodiversity in the world? In other words: Colombia is the dream land for ornithologists from all over the world. Migratory or residents, common or rare, waterfowl or raptor, gigantic or tiny, monochrome or multi-coloured, shy or big-headed, you can find them in every corner of Colombia including in the Zona Cafetera. Fil got lucky enough to come across some astonishing and funky birds while visiting some coffee finca. You first hear the sound of flapping wings and warble. Then you spot a patchwork of colours flying between branches and trees. Let us show you how magic it is:
Why roasting in Colombia makes the difference
Why roasting in Colombia makes the difference We are regularly asked why we’re so proud of keeping the roasting process in Colombia. Glad you ask! This topic is very close to our hearts… and one of the greatest means we’ve found to make things better for the coffee community, and in the long run for you too. Coffee is ubiquitous. On kitchen counter tops, in offices, in the air, on the go, it is everywhere. Concretely, coffee is the 2nd most consumed beverage in the world, next to only water! This represents over 2 billion cups consumed every day. Scandinavia, Benelux and parts of Eastern Europe turn out to be the top coffee-drinking nations in the world with between 1 to over 2 cups per day per person. Have you also noticed what’s wrong with this equation? While most coffee consumption happens in industrialised countries, coffee is mostly produced in the developing world. This made us feel the urge to find meaningful ways to support the coffee community at every step of the production chain. Moving forward, here’s the second fact we got stuck on: over 95% of beans are imported green, unroasted. Roughly speaking these beloved beans are sent far away from their country of origin to another country where they’re aimed to be roasted. The question is: is this good or bad? So, the four of us sat (-skyped) down and we talked… and talked… (had coffees)… and talked… to agree that there’s no two ways about it: we had to look for an answer within the coffee community itself! Gustavo (our awesome quality-obsessed grower) introduced Fil and Viviana to a few roaster friends in the Risaralda region. The answer became obvious: roasting locally means that we generate more income right into the coffee community in Colombia, not thousands of miles away. But that’s not the only reason. We could pretend we’re altruist folks but the truth is that the 550.000 families producing coffees in Colombia carry generations of expertise and passion in processing the precious beans. The story of Colombian coffee is a story of fights, determination, unity, and permanent devotion to quality. Quality has become a very VERY serious matter to the Colombian growers and even their greatest pride (in fact, the Colombian National Football Team is nicknamed Los Cafeteros!). That is this obsession for quality that, today, distinguishes the Colombian coffee. Besides, who can know the beans better than the person who’s growing and pampering them? This brings us to you. It’s a win-win situation: while the coffee community makes a bigger profit, this allows them to make greater investments in producing the highest quality coffee. At the end of the day, this is how you can taste generations of excellence into your cup!
4 things you didn’t know about coffee grounds
4 things you didn’t know about coffee grounds There is the 9:00 am coffee, at the office, with your (favourite) colleagues, your frontal lobe still in your bed. There is the 11:00 am coffee. That one is either alone or with your (favourite of your favourite) colleague… and milk to make it last longer. Then comes the miraculous 2:00 pm espresso. It knocks your food coma out and brings you the boost you need to go through the rest of the day. For some of you, it is even followed by the 4:00 pm cappuccino. Let’s be honest, that one is the 11:00 am cousin. Its mission is to keep you away from your desk and direct line… or enlighten your get-togethers. What about the 6:00 pm coffee? Or the Sunday’s 10:00 am one? If you don’t know them yet, they’ll quickly become your new coffee rituals. The first thing you must do: stop throwing your used coffee grounds away! We like to say it: coffee is more than a beverage – literally! 6:00 pm, it’s time for a beauty treat It is 6:00 pm. Your friends just left your living room after an afternoon coffee and you find yourself with an endless supply of used coffee grounds. Most of all: you have a candlelight dinner with the man of your dream. It’s only natural that you want to be perfect for him – what a lucky guy. And it’s easy. Thanks to these brewed coffee grounds that you were about to throw away, you now have a home Spa. Body scrub, facial scrub, anti-cellulite scrub, eye balm, self-tanning lotion, hair mask, soap, even facelift… coffee grounds can work very hard for you (and your date). Mix 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds with 1 teaspoon of honey and 2 teaspoons of sweet almond oil (olive oil works too)… and tadaaa, here is a 100% natural scrub, rich in vitamins and antioxidants, that you can use for your face or body. Have a hot shower (to open pores), apply the scrub with soft circular massages and rinse off for a silky smooth skin. This scrub is also said to reduce the cellulite appearance. Now, kill two birds with one stop and add some grounds to your shampoo – their abrasive texture helps strip oils and buildup for glossy and shiny hair. Success guaranteed, but light-colored hair might want to avoid using this mask. You still have a few more minutes, right? So let’s now rejuvenate your summer tan. Just add a cup of olive oil to one cup of coffee grounds. Rub it gently all over your body and leave on for about 15 minutes before washing off. And here you’re with a radiant and tanned skin… how could He resist? For your next dinner, think about mixing 1 teaspoon of brewed coffee grounds with 1 tablespoons of yoghurt and a few drops of lemon, apply the mixture to your under eye area and let sit for about 15 minutes before washing off with hot water, to reduce puffiness and tighten your skin! So long Panda eyes! Sunday, 10:00 am, let’s do some gardening Good morning, how was your date? So-so? We have the perfect remedy for you: gardening. Hop hop hop, put on your boots, sunglasses and… your used coffee grounds. If you grow acid-loving plants like azaleas, roses, rhododendrons, hibiscus, hydrangea, oak (why not?) etc., your old ground is your dream fertilizer and pest repellent. Simply combine your old ground with some raw yard waste such as brown leaves, dead grass clippings or dry straw, and spread the mixture around your beautiful plants. Et voilà! The coffee acts pronto by infusing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (and a hint of magnesium) to the soil. All the nutritive elements your plants are crazy about. And the worms as a bonus. You can also just throw the grounds on your soil and wait for the rain (or your sprinkler) to slowly bring the nutritive elements to the roots. Don’t be heavy-handed though, it’s key to keep the compost balanced, too much nitrogen would kill it all. Oh. You’re more the house-plants kind? No problem. Mix the grounds with some warm water to use it as a fertilizer spray or feed for them. Your house-plants will love you back. Is that carrot and lettuce that I can see in your backyard, near by the rose bush? It might be worthwhile to sprinkle used grounds around them to protect them against garden pests like ants, snails, aphids, slugs etc. Yes, coffee is a pest repellent, too. Don’t be surprised if your cat also deserts your garden – like insects, some mammals are repelled by the grounds’ smells (combined with orange peels). A final tip for your carrots: share a bit of old dried grounds with the carrot seeds before planting – they’ll sow more easily and won’t get eaten by evil pests. Sunday, 2:15 pm, yuck cleaning Your family lunch went on and on? And worst, you now have to clean a mountain of dishes. This is the right time for used coffee grounds to get on stage. First, to rescue your dirty pans and pots. You simply need to scrub the surface with the grounds – a rag can even be enough. Just keep away any ceramic or dishes that stain easily from that method. Besides, don’t panic about the grounds going into your drain. They’re on a mission to unclog it (but only if they’re mixed with hot water and dish soap). Now that you have some space in your fridge, think about placing a small container filled with old grounds, open, in the back of your fridge (or freezer). Your fridge will be smell-free for about two weeks. Don’t forget to remove (and replace) these smelly grounds afterwards. Oh no, one of your guests hid a scratch on your grandma’s wooden table! Forget about your evil plans and grab what’s left of your old coffee grounds. Add warm water and rub the mixture over the scratch before wiping it off gently after letting it sit for a while. The coffee stain should help to cover up the mess. Wednesday, 1:30 pm, let’s go wild You hear them running and screaming at the corner of your street, they are coming closer… and here they are, back home after their half-day at school and you wonder: how am I going to keep my wonderful children busy the whole afternoon? You kept some old coffee grounds, didn’t you? Confident, your first shot: “Kiiiiids, let’s make homemade candles! Yaaaay!”. Let’s assume it worked and they’re mega ultra-enthusiastic (even if you only allowed them to watch). Place one cup of wax leftovers in a heat-safe-recipient that you will put over the top of a saucepan filled with water. This double boiler will melt the wax gently in about 5 minutes. In a plastic coffee cup, sprinkle a layer of dried coffee grounds at the base, a candle wick and pour gently some melted wax over it. Finish sprinkling some more grounds and let dry for at least 12 hours. Give it another shot with the Antique-looking paper. Your children will love dipping sheets of stationery into this cool-looking mixture of grounds and water, waiting a few minutes, then letting dry and brushing off the grounds… unless their teacher already showed them the trick. You might even want to ask their support to transform that coffee table that you’d found at Ikea (like gardening, Ikea has always been a magic remedy to so-so dates). You loved its wood appearance… if only you could pretend you got it from your great grandmother. Challenge accepted: in a glass container, put 1 piece of steel wool with 1 tablespoon of used coffee grounds and top that with white vinegar. Close the container, shake and let it sit for a day before taking action. Put on plastic gloves to fish for the steel wool and rub it all over your table. Wipe the grounds off and let that first coat sit for about an hour before taking care of the second coat. Et voilà! There’s one last coffee ritual you could learn: to read the grounds. But for that one, we leave it up to you and… Patrick Jane.