McDonalds goes Organic

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Well, perhaps as bad as the foray by Nestle into Fair Trade is the foray by McDonald’s into Organic Coffee. Not to say it’s bad – it’s a good things. But, given that it’s McDonald’s, I think they have improvements needed quite direly in areas more their main focus, if you know what I mean.

McDonald’s will begin selling organic coffee at its New England restaurants next month. It’s an arrangement that could spark huge growth for Green Mountain Coffee, the company that will be supplying Newman’s Own Organics blend coffee. The coffee will be available in more than 650 McDonald´s restaurants in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and in the Albany, N.Y., region. Green Mountain Coffee earlier entered a separate deal to purchase beans, roast them and package them for Newman´s Own.

Via Treehugger

Steeps Tea

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This past weekend we popped in to Steeps Tea for the first time. We’ve been meaning to go for a long time, since we’ve seen their tea around town and heard amazing things. Well, we weren’t let down. With a variety of 190 teas, we had a lot to choose from!

All the teas are loose leaf and of amazing quality. If you look at the fruity teas, for example, you don’t just have great smelling tea, you can actually see bits of dried fruit, or dried flowers as the case may be.

It was hard to choose a tea. In the end I tried a black tea with a kind of smoky flavour, and Ianiv had a green tea. I totally forget which ones, sorry! We did come home with a new tea, a Jasmine tea. Very fragrant and yummy.

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The teahouse is really eclectic. With modern furniture mixed in with antiques and a really nice atmosphere, it’s a great place to go and relax. I loved that you got to pick your own teacup. Very reminiscent of going to see my Oma.

Coffee for your lips

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Not everyone drinks coffee for the caffeine – some want the taste. For those coffee lovers, here is a treat for you. Perk lip balm from Crazy Rumors :



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Perk varieties available in Amaretto, French Vanilla, Mocha, Hazelnut, Coffee Beans, and Irish Cream.

Our irresistible Lip Lattes™ are sure to awaken your senses. We’ve combined some of the most enticing aromas with nature’s finest ingredients, which will leave your lips super soft, protected and feeling splendid. Made with Vitamins A & E, Shea Butter and Natural Coffee Flavors, they’re sure to please the inner coffee lover in you.

Tea flavours also available.

Via SheFinds

Italian Cafe Crisis

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Are Italian Cafes facing a crisis? The coffee machine is threatening not only cafes, but a coffee culture, in Italy.

Here is the news from the Observer:

Thanks to aggressive marketing by manufacturers, who are practically giving them away free in offices, factories, universities and even train stations, self-service coffee is invading Italy and putting in peril the livelihood of many baristas.

New figures show half a million automatic coffee machines have been installed in the past year in public places, serving an estimated two million ‘portions’ of coffee. As more Italians become accustomed to the machines, a new language is being learnt. ‘I’ll have a number 64 or a 32′ is replacing time-honoured descriptions of coffee such as con schiuma, macchiato, doppio, tiepido, lungo or corretto.

With a culture shift from relaxed enjoyment to a “clock based” rush, more prevalent in North America but creeping into Italy, the 4 minutes to get a coffee from a machine is preferable to some than the 8 minutes in a cafe. While cost and time are factors in the shift, optimists hope that the culture of watching life, taking a break, and enjoying a crafted coffee will not completely disappear… at least not yet:

Mario Spinnato, general manager of the Spinnato Antico Caffé in Palermo, agrees. ‘For Italians having a coffee at a bar is a pause in the day. It’s irreplaceable.’

Via Slashfood

Beautiful espresso machines

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miragetripletteclassic-fronKees van der Westen is a Dutch espresso machine designer, you can see his work on the Espressonistic Works website. I have no idea how good this machines are, but they would certainly be a conversation item in any coffee shop.

Carmen Estate coffee

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We tried another Panama coffee, this time from the Carmen Estate and also from the Best of Panama auction lot. Our beans were roasted by Hines, and thankfully provided by Elysian Room.

Carmen Estate is located in the Paso Ancho region, above the Finca La Florentina. From Sweet Maria’s:

Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi (Carmen was his grandmother) … and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independant mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees usign new techniques. This farm uses the de-muscilage process where the muscilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation…

This coffee won the #3 spot in the Best of Panama competition in 2003, 2004 and #2 in 2005. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1450, an altitude many farms don’t even reach, meters and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy the coffee each year from the 1700+ meter altitudes, a very small amount of coffee. We sold out of that lot rapidly this year, but the entire crop is so good (a testament to Carlos’ innovations) we set aside this Estate lot from his later shipment to the US, based on sample approval once it got here.

I preferred the brightness of this coffee over the more floral taste of the other Panama we tried. That’s just a personal taste, as each has really bold flavours, but in different ways. I want to say this one was more sweet, although I know that was not the right word.

It was really a treat to drink it and to compare the differences, which were obvious right of the bat and in the finish, between the two Panama coffees.

Nestle gets fair trade mark

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So, Nestle has a new line of coffee that is fair trade approved… and not all are happy.

“A few days ago, global ‘food’ giant Nestlé, announced it was releasing Nescafé Partners’ Blend, a line of coffee endorsed by the much respected FairTrade Foundation. The coffee has been “bought from democratic smallholder organisations certified to supply the international Fairtrade market, and traded according to agreed Fairtrade standards including payment of the Fairtrade price.” The Foundation say that people have been “pressing the major companies to offer Fairtrade coffees.” And here it is. But all are not happy with the Foundation.” – Treehugger

Yes – the Fair Trade market should grow. Yes, they will push that brand with their marketing campaign… but, are they the ones who should get credit for being fair trade, and for what that stands for? This is, after all, only one line in their coffee brands…

For Nestle this is a cheap public relations trip to undermine the Nestle boycott – the biggest consumer boycott of any single product in the UK. For the Fairtrade Foundation, it undermines its reputation and will undoubtedly damage the success of fairtrade. Please take action below.

Problems with Nestle obtaining a fair trade label:

· Nestle has recently been found the ‘least responsible’ global corporation, subject to a boycott from for its aggressive marketing of baby milk formula which leads the deaths of millions infants in places where water is unsafe. See Baby Milk Action for more info: www.babymilkaction.org.

· Fairtrade aims to end the marginalisation of small-scale farmers in response to the corporatisation of the global food supply. Large corporations like Nestle have driven farmers across the world out of business with savage supplier relations. Farmers are replaced with plantation workers, slaving in poor conditions for a pittance. Nestle is still pursuing these tactics with all of its other coffee brands, and as such is the antithesis of fairtrade. Its fairtrade label does not signify a change of heart but a brutal marketing strategy to rescue Nescafe from its boycott image. UK Indymedia

What’s your take?

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Starbucks Fair Trade Challenge

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October is Fair Trade Month 2005, according to Transfair USA.

The goal of Fair Trade Month is to expand the Fair Trade movement in the U.S. overall, with different organizations promoting their own areas of involvement, and we encourage you to Fair Trade in every way possible! TransFair’s focus will be on the promotion of Fair Trade Certified products, and, following last year’s great success involving hundreds of events that garnered widespread national media coverage, we are once again collaborating with businesses, consumers, and non-profit organizations to raise consumer awareness and increase sales of Fair Trade Certified products.

According to Transfair USA, Starbucks is Fair Trade – you can read Starbucks’ take on its own policy (PDF). Apparently, if you ask, they’ll make you a fair trade coffee in any of its locations in any of 23 licensed countries.

Well, “GreenLAGirl” wants to test this policy with a Starbucks Fair Trade Challenge – will your local Starbucks step up to the plate and make Fair Trade coffee for anyone who walks in the door, no matter the time of day?

Join the challenge:

1) Simply visit your local Starbucks and ask: “Could I get a cup of fair trade coffee?”

2) Tell us what happened next. Was it hard or easy to get a cup? You can see our first posts here.

Simply tag your post with “starbuckschallenge” to report your findings. There’s even a prize.

So far – some have lucked out and some have not. The results are apparently being followed by Starbucks – and they are apparently in contact with the blogger who has started this challenge alerting to press releases and information, and to customer service reminders they are sending to their stores.

So, see what you can find – and let people know. Coffee can taste more bitter when served badly, regardless of its perfection (obviously, not anywhere near that for Starbucks brew…)

Via Cafe Metaphoric

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Best of Panama Coffee

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As I noted before, we had a great offer to try some new and expensive coffees when we last visited the Elysian Room.

I am first going to talk about the one we tried in the cafe – it’s from the Best of Panama crop from the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm. It was roasted by Hines. The coffee set a record at action, fetching $21 per pound with a score of 95.6 out of 100 at the Best of Panama competition – also placing first in the Rainforest Alliance “Cupping for Quality” in 2004. So, it was great to try this coffee that retails for $9 per cup and $50-$80 per pound!

Here is some information about the estate from their website:

Seven years ago we bought an additional coffee farm in Boquete, in the area known as Jaramillo. We had known for some time that the farm had good altitude (1450 to 1700 meters) and a nice slightly orange cup. It was an old farm with an interesting collection of coffee varieties planted by various owners over the years. We increased the plantings to about 60 hectares (part had been converted to a dairy) and basically ‘overhauled’ the farm. Much of the newer plantings did not come into production until the 03/04 harvest.

During this past year it occurred to my son, Daniel, that perhaps the cup of this farm was not due to an overall goodness, but rather perhaps there was one area that was producing an exceptional cup and, when mixed together with the rest of the production, a generally ‘good’ cup resulted. He tested this notion by cupping coffees from all over the farm. Sure enough, there was one small valley at the high end of the farm which produced the extraordinary cup now known as ‘Esmeralda Special’ – and which was the coffee that sold at the extraordinary price. The coffee on the remainder of the farm remains quite good, but not the really knock-your-socks-off cup of the Esmeralda Special.

We are not really sure yet whether this cup is the result of the micro-climate in the small valley, the rather unusual variety of coffee planted there, or a combination of both. We will be looking into this in the coming harvest. It is also a very low yielding area – again due to both the cool climate and very long internode variety. Thus it only produced about 50 bags this year and, hopefully, 75 to 100 in the coming harvest.

We do know that this coffee is NOT the result of intense selection – a common requirement for great coffees. We actually export a higher percentage of cherry picked in this coffee than in the rest of the farm. Likewise, it is not just coffee from the peak of the harvest – the quality seems to hold up from beginning to end. It is also not a ‘curiosity’ coffee – i.e. one that has passed through the digestive tract of an odd animal or originated in a isolated island in the middle of the sea. We suspect and hope that it will be a coffee that can be multiplied in Boquete to a point where reasonable volumes can be obtained.

So, what do I think of the coffee?

Well, at first I thought I didn’t like it. But then I realized that my chapstick had melted on the cup and I was tasting the wax. So, after wiping it off, I tried it again and really quite liked it.

It had a more flowery aroma – less chocolatey than some others. More tart to the taste, but the final taste is amazing. It was so long lasting and filling in my mouth. I really liked it.

So, that was a great treat for us and we got to learn a bit about coffee auctions in the process!

Next review – a coffee from the Carmen Estate!

Oh the craziness!

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This week has been beyond insane. If you read my other blogs, or even just Blogaholics, you know that I’ve just come out of a big product release (or, rather, 2 products) – Qumana and AdGenta. One a blogging editor, the other an advertising program that works with Qumana.

So, I have had my head down working like a madwoman. OMG it was insane. For example, I got up today, sat at my computer, and didn’t have time to leave it except to shower, grab food and talk on the phone. I didn’t get my coffee until about half an hour ago – coffee at 4pm! So off my regular 10 am schedule. If we hadn’t stocked up on coffee, I don’t even think I would have had time to go get it.

So, I have notes from my reviews of 2 awesome coffees given to us by Elysian Room and I cannot wait to post them. Soon. ;)

Buying coffee is worth the rain

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Today we ran out of coffee – oh my! Usually we purchase more before we run out, so no problem. Not today. No time this week. So, near 5pm on the dot we were out of the house and walking to Elysian Room, rain and all. Got there a bit damp, but better for the walk.

The things we’ll do for coffee!

We were rewarded for our trip – not only did we buy our pound of coffee, but were graciously offered a test of a very exciting coffee (stay tuned tomorrow for the details!) and more new coffee to take home!

Thanks Elysian Room!

Watch for all the reviews…