Spilling the Coffee Beans

Coffee and Your Health

New studies claiming to verify whether or not coffee is actually good for you seem to pop up in the news frequently, and they often contradict themselves. These studies are funded by special interest groups and the results serve as a lobbying tool to “inform” the public and public servants, resulting in a change in public policy. I have read that excessive coffee drinking can cause heart problems. A different study claims that coffee can prevent liver cancer. It appears as if the western medical take on coffee and your health is skewed at best. As a huge fan and advocate for alternative medicine, I look to the ancient eastern philosophy of Ayurveda for some answers.

Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine (according to Google) that advocates for a balance of “doshas”, or natural bodily energies, with pranayamic breathing, herbal treatments, and a balanced diet. What a mouthful! And it doesn’t outwardly appear to have any opinion over whether or not coffee is good or bad for you, but if you take a closer look, it does.

According to Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant Larissa Hall Carlson,”every type of food can be a poison or a medicine” depending on when and how you consume it. Ayurvedic philosophy promotes balance. The best time to drink coffee is between 6 am and 10 am, after a meal. Coffee promotes digestion and stimulates the mind. The key here is not to overdo it.

Some people are naturally lethargic. In ayurveda we call that a kapha dosha. For those folks that are kapha by nature, coffee can serve as a medicinal aid to boost energy and act as a stimulant. If your dosha is vatta (naturally full of energy) or pitta (overly competitive), coffee might agitate your emotional and mental state and throw your energy balance way off track. Drinking coffee late at night is also not advised. The caffeine in coffee stays in your system for 12 hours. Clearly, late night coffee consumption would result in insomnia and disordered sleeping.

The key to coffee drinking, from an ayurvedic perspective, is moderation. Anything can be harmful in excess, and coffee is no exception. Coffee can be helpful in lifting depressed moods, aiding in digestion, acting as a diuretic (promoting urination and decreasing bloating) and as an early morning stimulant. Caffeine aside, coffee contains antioxidants and flavonoids. In the typical American diet, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants as reported by a 2005 study. The flavonoids aid brain function. Coffee also promotes growth of probiotics, which is helpful to upset stomachs and irregularity. The bad news: caffeine is addictive. Caffeine withdrawal feels like a mild hangover, complete with a nagging headache and lethargy. Although caffeine is the most consumed drug in America, it’s addictive quality is something to avoid if you want balanced doshas. Relying on coffee to give you an early morning boost every day may result in addiction. Moderation is key from a holistic, ayurvedic viewpoint.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee Wholesale: Eco-Friendly Coffee Drinking

It seems like everyone’s “going green” these days. Buzzwords such as “organic”, “sustainable” and “fair trade” (among others) are lighting up not only the retail and culinary markets, but the entire coffee culture as well. We like this trend. Coffee is the second largest traded commodity, after oil. Americans drink 400,000,000 cups of coffee a day. Imagine if all of those cups were made from plastic K-Cups. We’d have the issue of excessive landfill waste go public QUICKLY. Luckily, plastic single serve coffee pods are not as popular as Maxwell House or Folgers. Coffee shops like Starbucks are also popular because of their convenience and accessibility. This equals a big win for coffee shops and a big Minus One for the environment. Why? You guessed it: to-go cups for coffee are different than other paper cups: they are coated on the inside with plastic, meaning they are not biodegradable. Environmentally friendly coffee consumption practices are NOT as convenient (and maybe not as fun) as using a Keurig or going to Starbucks. However, they will save you money in the long run; and time, if you believe that time IS money. Here’s a list of three little things you can do to decrease your carbon footprint in a big way:

1. Buy organic and/or fair trade coffee. Think of the little guy! Coffee isn’t grown, picked, and processed on it’s own. And I can’t think of a single state in the U.S. (other than Hawaii) that boasts coffee production. Most coffee is grown in South America, Africa and Asia. Organic coffee means it’s produced without pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. Fair trade coffee help coffee farmers to escape poverty and lead a better life. Through fair trade, farmers are guaranteed a minimum price guarantee for their goods, and long term sustainability (buzzword!) is reached when these farmers are linked directly towards importers, away from middleman offering a lower amount in cash for their crops. Coffee Wholesale sells delicious organic coffee blends such as Organic Colombian Supremo or Organic Costa Rican Tarrazu. We also sell fair trade coffee (that is also organic) in single serve pods (Wolfgang Puck Colombian or Reunion Island French Roast).

2. Stock up on reusable or biodegradable to-go cups/mugs. We love skinny mochas, too, so we understand your possibly irrational Starbucks obsession. You don’t need to swear it off! Just bring your own (clean) to-go container into the local coffee shop. Baristas will oblige and you will be saving the earth a little heartache each time.

3. Trade in the Keurig or single cup brewer for a drip brewer with reusable filter. This will help cut down on waste. Or, stock up on reusable k-cup pods, like the Cafejo My Pod. Not only will you be saving the earth with this move, you will also be saving your wallet! Also, did you know that spent coffee grounds are great for the compost bin? Earth worms love coffee, too.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Quick Benefits of Being a Coffee Drinker

If you are a daily coffee drinker, it will come as little surprise to you that the caffeine in coffee will make you more alert and attentive, enabling you to better concentrate. So a new and similar conclusion, drawn by expert John Stanley, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College, may not raise eyebrows too much, but it does warrant our attention: the caffeine found in coffee can increase physical and mental performance.

Stanley elaborates: if you drink coffee 20-30 minutes before aerobic exercise, you can boost your endurance by 30%. The caffeine found in coffee reverses feelings of fatigue, modulates perceived pain, and increases adrenaline production which in turn boosts heart rate, blood flow and stimulates energy production. All of these effects culminate into a 30% longer average workout duration. He also noted that the sports most-impacted by a spike in caffeine levels are swimming, tennis, and cycling.

This information is good to know, but what if you aren’t an athlete? A new poll out of London by Zip HydroTap reported that those who chose coffee over tea in the a.m. were more likely to earn a higher salary. Not only were the coffee drinkers the more executive-types, but they also exhibited a hot-headed and argumentative personality type vs. their laid back, tea-sipping counterparts. Does coffee drinking lead to a swifter move up the proverbial ladder or do successful types simply prefer the higher-caffeinated bitter taste of coffee over tea? The study does not say. It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg type question, in my opinion.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee by Region

Before I became a self-proclaimed “coffee expert”, I knew that coffee that comes pre-ground in large blue containers smells great when you are getting out of bed in the morning. I knew that Jamaica has really great coffee, called ‘Blue …’ something … because my mom told me about it when I visited the island in 7th grade. I also naively thought the best coffee came from Vietnam, before I realized it was the sweetened condensed milk that appeased my taste buds. I grew up a little bit and went off to college, where cafeteria coffee came in two types: ‘dark roast’ or ‘morning blend’. I decided then that my favorite type of coffee was ‘dark roast’ because I incorrectly assumed that dark roast was higher in caffeine. This assumption was about on par with the rest of my college logic. Example: vodka was preferable over beer because it contains more alcohol. At least the latter example wasn’t factually incorrect.

Now when I browse the shelves (or internet sites) for my coffee of choice, I look for genre first, then region, and lastly at the blend. Although we call ourselves “Coffee Wholesale – USA”, coffee cannot be produced in the contiguous United States (Hawaii is one of those non contiguous states) No, for coffee plants to survive and thrive, they need a few particular climate requirements.

There are two genres of coffee beans: arabica and robusta. Arabica beans necessitate one of the two types of growing conditions:

  1. In subtropical regions at high altitudes ranging from 3,600 degrees to 6,300 degrees. The subtropics run just above and below the tropical climate range (which is near the super-hot equator), falling above the Tropic of Cancer and below the Tropic of Capricorn by only 15 degrees longitude on either side before they hit the large temperate zone (includes most of the U.S.). These areas have well-defined wet and dry seasons. Mostly in South America.
    • • Mexico
    • • Jamaica (it’s Blue Mountain Coffee, by the way)
    • • Argentina
    • • Brazil
    • • Paraguay
    • • Hawaii (home of the exquisite and most sought after kona bean)
    • • Zimbabwe (in Africa)

     

  2. In VERY hot regions no more than 10 degrees above and below the equator. These areas have two rainy seasons which means there are two harvests in one year. Most of these regions lie in Africa, which is where the Arabica tree originated.
    • • Kenya
    • • Ethiopia
    • • Columbia

Robusta beans aren’t as picky and cheaper to produce. They thrive in tropical climates — 10 degrees north and south of the equator — at lower altitudes (from sea level to 3,000 feet). Coffee snobs usually scoff at the proposition of ingesting any beverage made from robusta. However, Italians traditionally use robusta blends in their espresso drinks. Coffee regions that produce examples include:

  • • Uganda
  • • Vietnam
  • • Brazil
  • • India
  • • Indonesia

 

How important is region when choosing coffee? Arabica and robusta are very different in flavor. However, some people can’t tell the difference. Training your palate to taste coffee takes practice, as it would to develop a nose for wine. Much less subtle but still important are the differences in flavors between countries. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a coffee-tasting party? Discover your preference and let us know, what is your favorite type of coffee? Does region influence your purchasing decisions?

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee Prices DROP!

Coffee prices (and coffee futures) are having a somewhat schizophrenic year. Back in June/July, borer beetle infestations, crop fungi and climate change/drought took such a hit on coffee production. Thus, worldwide coffee prices hiked up – even by huge, already overly-priced chains like Starbucks. Folgers and other large commercial coffee producers adjusted their prices accordingly.

Last Monday, coffee prices hit a four year LOW. An ideal change in weather in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, and other South American countries like Columbia, has arabica coffee plants churning out large and lucrative crops. So what does this mean for the consumer? Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be dropping prices, but these corporations will certainly be enjoying the increased profit margins. Maxwell House, Folgers, and other big-name supermarket brands have not yet, but are suspected to drop retail prices.

Prices are expected to drop even lower in the upcoming months/year, with experts predicting a “super harvest” (‘supersafra’) in 2014. It may be a few months before you see a drop in prices at your local grocery store, as price adjustments are usually made after quarterly reports become available to the public.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Espresso Basics

The folks at Coffee Wholesale USA are wild for espresso! Most of us are partial to this drink’s high concentration of caffeine. Others love the rich, smooth flavor and full-bodied taste of this specially-roasted bean. You don’t have to be a professionally-trained barista, however, to fully understand how espresso works.

There are three parts to the espresso shot: the crema, the body, and the heart. The crema is the light brown, creamy layer floating on top of your espresso shot. It’s naturally very sweet and comes at the end of the pull. The crema creates a full bodied mouthfeel and adds to the aesthetic appeal of this Italian beverage. The body is found in the middle of a shot and is very dark brown, yet slightly lighter than the almost black heart which rests on the bottom. Both the body and the heart are where most of the suspended and dissolved coffee lies. They are bitter, but if brewed correctly, can be surprisingly light and sweet.

Espresso is a highly concentrated beverage, and as such is very thick. Not like a milkshake, but with lots of suspended solids and naturally-occurring oils and tannins. It mixes very well with dairy milk. Milk is naturally sweet as well, and when heated, the natural sweetness is more apparent. When espresso is steamed, or heated and induced with air, it expands and thickens, creating two distinct parts: foamed milk and steamed milk. One thing that even most modern baristas don’t even understand is that the Italians intended for traditional espresso and milk-based drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, etc.) to be created by frothing/foaming the milk according to which kind of drink you are creating, stirring the milk, then pouring it over the espresso to create one smooth and well-mixed beverage. Today, baristas are either not trained properly or cut corners by using a large, broad spoon to hold back the foamed milk (which floats on the top), allowing the steamed milk onto the beverage first, and topping with foamed milk by spooning the froth onto the top of the beverage. Not only is this visually unappealing, covering up all of the lovely dark espresso crema, but it also does not blend the beverage adequately. All of the espresso remains on the bottom and the drink does not taste as it was intended to taste.

Another common misconception: many people think that coffee bean blends labelled “Espresso Roast” or “Espresso Beans” are the only thing that you need to make espresso coffee. This misconception couldn’t be farther from the truth. Espresso beans are full-bodied dark roasted coffee beans. You can use them in an espresso machine as well as at home in your drip brewer. Espresso coffee is a brewing method created with an expensive, specially-manufactured espresso machine. The machine uses finely ground coffee which can actually be made from any type of blend of roasted coffee beans. Typically, these machines are way too expensive for anyone to have in their homes, and are only found in commercial restaurants and cafes.

To make espresso, baristas warm up the espresso machine, which is simply a device that pushes very hot water under very high pressure through finely ground coffee, yielding the concentrated coffee beverage we know and love. Next, coffee beans are ground finely in a grinder. Commercial grinders as well as some home grinders allow you to adjust the grind setting. Coffee is poured into a portafilter or small basket which holds the coffee and tamped down with a round stamp-like device. If coffee is ground too finely or the grounds are tamped down too hard, the machine cannot properly push water through the ground beans and the end product will taste burnt. If the coffee is too coarse or the grounds are not tamped down hard enough, the end product will be watery, unflavorful, and crema won’t be produced. Clearly, there’s a little bit of trial and error that every barista has to go through to get the feel of it. Shots are poured, in a semi-automatic espresso machine, by entering the portafilter into it’s holder and flipping the switch which turns on the water. One shot is poured in 18-23 seconds, depending on that machine’s specific settings. Voila! One perfect shot of espresso is the end result.

Now that you are on your way to becoming a coffee connoisseur, we want to know: what’s your favorite espresso-based beverage? Can you stomach plain espresso, or do you need to sweeten it with sugar or steamed milk?

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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World Record Broken: Largest Coffee Party

Last Monday (October 7, 2013), a coffee-related Guiness World Record was broken in Boyaca, Colombia: Largest Coffee Party in a Single Venue. This project was a collaboration between the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and the Department (State) of Boyacá, Colombia. The venue was the Plaza de Bolivar, located in the city of Tunja, where 13,567 thirsty coffee drinkers (including over 400 independent coffee growers) were welcomed into the city square with a hot cut of Colombian coffee. Participants were directed to different sections of the square until the entire crowd gathered and was counted. The final count was then revealed on a large screen in the center of the plaza.

“Breaking this record means the world to Colombian coffee farmers as we look to promote and encourage Colombian coffee consumption,” said Luis F. Samper, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer of the FNC. “And which better place to break the record than in Boyacá, Colombia, one of the 21 departments known for the production of export quality coffee.” According to Governor of Boyacá, Juan Carlos Granados, the event was to show support for the 12,000 coffee growers in this region known for it’s “export quality” coffee production.

The previous record was set in 2009 by Krüger GmbH & Co in Cologne, Germany after 8,162 coffee-loving Germans gathered together in a park.

Here at Coffee Wholesale, we love Colombian coffee! We carry standard and the much-sought-after ‘Supremo Bean’ 100% Colombian coffee (NOT blends)colombian roasts in 1lb. or 5lb. bags:

 

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Baristas Coffee Company: Cool or Gross?

Burlesque/pin-up girl-themed coffee/espresso drive-thru chain “Baristas Coffee Company” features and only employes women who agree to wear what I would describe as borderline stripper attire. You know, the skanky stuff strippers wear before they strip it off. Some of it is lingerie. Employees are trained and encouraged to “interact with customers” (aka- flirt!) “for maximum sales”.

And yes, this is a chain. There are several locations in Seattle and around Washington, where the Coffee Company was founded, as well as in Montana, Arizona, and Florida. The newest location opened in Cape Coral, Florida this past weekend.From watching the video above, you can see that the ladies working the coffee machines and in the food prep area are probably violating a few food safety regulations. In fact, I would not be surprised if the whole chain went bankrupt after a class action lawsuit after thousands of victims found long, dyed blonde hairs in their iced lattes.

So what do you think? Is Baristas sexy and cool? Or just gross?

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee For Every Personality

I personally do not understand people who don’t drink coffee. I mean, how do get going in the morning without coffee? Sometimes I drink mine black if I’m lazy or out of milk/cream or if I am trying to cut calories. Sometimes I put a ton of sugar and cream in there. It just depends. Sometimes I go to Starbucks for a cinnamon dolce latte; sometimes I go into indie coffee shops for a perfected black and white or simply a cappuccino. I like keurigs, drip coffee makers, french press for cold press (iced) coffee, and those expensive automatic espresso/coffee machines.

A study in the book You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life by guru and doctor Ramani Durvasula, PhD, 1,000 coffee drinkers were surveyed, and Durvasula made sure they she had a wide array of personality types in her study and observed common psychological and personality traits. The study was meant to illustrate a correlation between characteristics of coffee drinkers and their caffeinated beverage of choice.

Here are some findings:

The Starbucks Line Holder: Do you order non fat, extra hot mocha latte (with sugar-free syrup of course), venti, with light whip? Durvasula would claim you are a bit of a perfectionist, obsessive, selfish, sensitive, and health-conscious.

Iced Coffee: Virtuous, patient, moody, assertive, and sometimes outspoken.

Black Coffee: Driven, straight-forward, and no nonsense.

3 Creams & 5 Sugars: You are a comfort-seeker and loveable, a caregiver and often overextend yourself. Generally, these folks are not in the best of shape and don’t value taking care of themselves.

Instant Coffee: You are lazy and apathetic in general. You probably don’t take care of yourself as you should.

Double Espresso: You are a workaholic but practical. You are a person who knows what they want in life.

Mocha: You are a problem solver and great at improvising. The taste of coffee isn’t your favorite but you need a pick-me-up. So, a mocha is ordered!

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Latte Art: The Perfect Pour

Here is your typical leaf pour. When pouring the milk, you can start creating patterns as soon as you break the crema. The leaf is a common design pattern because it looks great and it’s not too hard to execute on the fly.

For many, coffee consumption is the a satisfyingly gritty start to the morning grind. It can be a hobby, a habit, and an integral part of your daily routine. But espresso and espresso-based drinks in particular are more than just a cup of perk-up. They are delicious, and at $5 a cup, a luxury item. Properly prepared macchiatos, lattes, and cappuccinos demand a learned skill in both espresso preparation and execution, but also the craft of steaming milk, foaming milk, and most crucially, the pouring of the milk. The cappuccino and the latte are two examples of italian coffee-based beverages that are prepared in such a way that the two ingredients are never stirred, but rather commingled; fully mixed when the carafe of perfectly foamed milk is poured into the cup filled partially by espresso via the mastered technique of the barista. The result is an artistic, delicious, and perfected beverage that if done properly, will blow any venti caramel frappuccino out of the water.

Here are some cute options that are a little more advanced. As a competitive barista, I loved making ladybugs out of the thermometer wand and crema.

Enter the world of latte art. If this technique, dating back to the Ottoman Empire, is mastered, the possiblity of latte art becomes possible. What is latte art?.

Wikipedia defines latte art as the mixture of two collids: “the crema, which is an emulsion (liquid-in-liquid) of coffee oil and brewed coffee (water); and the microfoam, which is a foam (gas-in-liquid) of air in milk.” The technique in which the milk/microfoam is poured into the espresso (crema) results in the dark espresso coagulating with the milk and can be handicrafted into a vast array of shapes and designs coating the top of your beverage.

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