Coffe at Microsoft

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Experiences, Coffee Opinion, Coffee Reviews

Robert Scoble points to a new Microsoft employee talking about his experience of his first six weeks working there. What may interest you is what he says about the coffee that Microsoft provides for his employees:

First, something negative that I hadn’t expected: the coffee. It sucks, all over the Redmond campus. I would never have thought that a company managed like Microsoft would be incapable of providing decent coffee to its employees. But it’s true. This stuff is gut-wrenching bad. Coffee-addict-repulsing bad.

Read the rest at Doug's World.

Solar Roast

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Machines, Fun with coffee

Solar Roast is a roasting company in Oregon that uses 100% organic and fair trade coffee and uses most "Earth Friendly" roasting methods. They can claim this because their roaster doesn't use any fossil fuels: it uses the sun.

Roast Master Michael Hartkop wanted to create a truly organic roasting method and with the help of his brother David they built Helios.

Helios uses a 10 foot solar collector to focus the sun's rays onto a drum roaster. This is enough to reach temperatures of 600 degrees Farenheit. The mirrors automatically track the sun, using solar power for the electronics, making roasting possible all day long. Of course, this only works on sunny days, so roasting during winter in the Pacific Northwest is a bit of a challenge.

They have a nice list of single origins and blends, but they seem to be out of stock right now. I'll give them a try in a few months, when the sun comes out again.

Coffee in Disneyland

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Experiences, Coffee Reviews

Yep, I held true to the reviewing thing. I actually tried coffee from Disneyland. *shudder*

Oh, it was not fun, let me tell you. We went to what looked like the most "main" in terms of coffee at Disneyland, the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Mainstreet.


Now, the first clue here is that the cafe is sponsored by, and served by, Nestle. Oy. I was in for it there. Well, I decided to get an Americano, and Ianiv a plain old drip coffee. Can you tell which is which?


Well, the one on the left was the Americano. And you can see me trying below. What you don't see is the grimace on my face. Oh my. I have to say it was as bad as any coffee from a random gas station that was brewed 4 hours ago kind of thing. And it was watery. So watery. Skimping on pennies for sure. Ianiv's was a tad more horrible, and perhaps even more watery. Lovely.


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Pet turtle with your coffee

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee news

We are all used to finding some kind of toy inside a box of cereal, but a woman found an unexpected "prize" inside her bag of Folgers coffee. She'd been making coffee from the same two-pound bag of freeze-dried coffee for a month (that is just wrong!) when she found a hard clump that after cleaning turned out to be a dead baby turtle.

Folger's explanation is that the turtle could be the result of flooding from Hurricane Katrina. The coffee was already ground, I wonder how it is stored in those warehouses to allow a little turtle to get into the packing line.

She is not planning to sue the company and that things could have been much worse. Worse? How?
Buy fresh coffee from someone who can actually cares and can keep control of the product's quality.

From the Iowa City Press-Citizen

Coffee Jelly Frappucino

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Fun with coffee, Other Drinks

Starbucks in the Philippines has developed a new Frappucino product featuring coffee jelly (little cubes of coffee gelatin). Kind of like a bubble tea concept.

Check out more here.

Via slashfood

Italian Cafe Crisis

Related entries in Coffee around the world

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

Carmen Estate coffee

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Education, Coffee Experiences, Coffee Reviews

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

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Opinion

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:
· 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?

Starbucks Fair Trade Challenge

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee news, Coffee Opinion

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

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Reviews

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!

Ode to Hines

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Experiences, Coffee Opinion, Coffee Reviews

Well, not an ode, but more a positive rant.

I love Hines Coffee. Really. One of the best. Recently they had to vacate their premises so some condos could be put up, but they will be back. And yet, they are still roasting! The batch we just bought yesterday was roasted at Stumptown. We got it from the Elysian Room. They get a lot of our coffee buying business.

Anywho, we tried a new Hines yesterday. Oh my. Heaven in a cup. No kidding. We've had other blends before and considered them our faves, and were really partial to Ethiopian coffees from various roasters, but this new one we have is a Nicaraguan. Unspeakably good. Smooth. Strong but not in your face flavour. Something complex in the flavour. Settles nicely in your mouth. Needs hardly any milk (yes, I put milk and sugar in most coffees - unless it's a really well done Americano). Makes my mouth tingle, I love it so much. I'll have to try more from Nicaragua to compare.

So, I am very happy Hines is still roasting. Though we still continue to try other blends and other roasters so we can fully understand coffee in all its different options, we are always coming back to Hines.

Yesterday we also bought another coffee from Intelligentsia - will try it tomorrow. From my initial smell and chew of a bean (a habit I got into, probably not a good one), it seems more acidic. Anyway, won't venture too far out there, but will comment tomorrow.

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2 weeks without good coffee

Related entries in Coffee around the world

Oh, did I suffer! Two whole weeks without good coffee. Not to say I didn't try to find some! I spent the last two weeks in Ontario, and a few of those days in Montreal. I felt sure to find a good cup of coffee in Montreal, but was sorely disappointed. I stuck my head into I don't know how many cafes before giving up early one afternoon and going to Van Houtte. Blah. Don't even need to review that, now do I?

The second attempt at good coffee was in a more French part of Montreal on a street whose name I've forgotten at the moment but that starts with an L. I am on the plane right now, so I don't have my references. I will, however, fully review this cafe. Not because it was good, but because I actually believed it would be. Oh, it even smelled horrid after I got the cup. Don't be misled by a good smelling cafe - it doesn't always mean a good cup of coffee!

Anyway, after exhausting myself trying to find a good cafe, I even reduced myself twice to get Tim Hortons, which I abhor, out of sheer necessity when driving. So bad.

Perhaps I should have remembered to take my beans with me! And I totally need a travel french press for one person, I think. This whole searching for cafes thing is not working out so well! And I don't consider Starbucks a viable alternative, either!

So, unless I can scour reviews of cities before I go to see a) what is good, and b) if I can get there, I had better be prepared to travel with coffee!

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The Starbucks Logo is a Mulesine

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Experiences

So, what's in a logo? Apparently, a lot. Have you ever looked at the Starbucks logo, for example? The green is, obviously, what it is now. But, the red was where it all started.


Unless you really took time to look at it, you probably didn't notice that the figure in the current Starbucks logo is not just a woman but actually something else. It's more obvious in the older logo. The figure is like a mermaid - but with 2 tails. It's called a Mulesine.

A Mulesine is a 2-tailed siren from 15th Century French mythology.


In European legends and folklore, Melusine (or Melusina) is the name of a spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers. She is usually depicted as a woman who is a serpent or fish (much like a mermaid) from the waist down. She is also sometimes illustrated with wings, two tails or both...

the most famous literary version of Melusine tales, that of Jean d'Arras, compiled about 1382 - 1394 and worked into a collection of "spinning yarns" told by ladies at their spinning...

It tells how Elynas, the King of Albany (a poetical euphemism for Scotland) went hunting one day and came across a beautiful lady in the forest. She was Melusine's mother, Pressyne. He persuaded her to marry him but she agreed, only on the promise — for there is often a hard and fatal condition attached to any pairing of fay and mortal — that he must not enter her chamber when she birthed or bathed her children. She gave birth to triplets. When he violated this taboo, Pressyne left the kingdom, together with her three daughters, and traveled to the lost Isle of Avalon.

The three girls — Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne — grew up in Avalon. On their fifteenth birthday, Melusine, the eldest, asked why they had been taken to Avalon. Upon hearing of their father's broken promise, Melusine sought revenge. She and her sisters captured Elynas and locked him, with his riches, in a mountain. Pressyne became enraged when she learned what the girls had done, and punished them for their disrespect to their father. Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday.

Raymond of Poitou came across Melusine in a forest in France, and proposed marriage. Just as her mother had done, she laid a condition, that he must never enter her chamber on a Saturday. He broke the promise and saw her in the form of a part-woman part-serpent. She forgave him. Only when, during a disagreement with her, he called her a "serpent" in front of his court, did she assume the form of a dragon, provide him with two magic rings and fly off, never to return...

The tales are really quite fanciful and vary from region to region around the same theme of marriage with a contract of 'private time' as stipulation - contract broken - serpent form discovered and the wife then disappears. It's an interesting fable that is connected who-knows-how with Starbucks. Perhaps they liked fables or fables of the sea.

Over time, the Starbucks logo mutated to cover both the breasts and the navel. Quite PC now.

Via Industrial Brand Creative

Starbucks Knockoffs

Related entries in Coffee around the world

Tempting lawsuits seems like it is all a part of the game. There have cropped up some interesting Starbucks knockoffs around the world that I'd like to share.

Starlight Coffee

Where? Santiago, Chile... down the street from a real Starbucks
Decor inside is spot on as well
Via Boing Boing

This one is far more interesting unusual. Not even coffee. It's a pet store - bugs only.
Starbugs Beetles
Where? Danshui, Taipei County Taiwan

Proprietors of Ethiopian only coffee - all in the midst of a Starbucks-like decor, green aprons, green logo, and more.
Where? Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia
Why? Partnership into Starbucks was denied. The region is filled with knockoffs that, in many cases, spring up because of a refusal of US investment. They show proof of a growing economy. The Kaldi's shops also include waiters and ample parking for drive in service, which are a part of the new affluent society that likes to be treated well when out.

via Boing Boing and Addis Ababa Journal

She said she did not feel the least bit guilty about her imitation cafe. After all, legend has it that coffee itself originated in Ethiopia long ago when a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats prancing around with glee after eating some strange red berries. Yemen, just across the Red Sea, makes its own claim as the birthplace of coffee. Whatever the case may be, one thing is clear: coffee did not originate in Seattle.

Ms. Asrat has the history of Kaldi printed on the wall of her cafe, proudly promoting the Ethiopian roots of her product. But even there Starbucks was the inspiration. Ms. Asrat acknowledges that she knew nothing about the legend of Kaldi until she read about him on the Starbucks Web site.Addis Ababa Journal

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Victrola Coffee - a short visit

Related entries in Coffee around the world, Coffee Experiences

While we were down in Seattle we made a detour out to Victrola to have some coffee. We'd been looking forward to it for a good while. We managed to get lost on the way, but made it there. It has this real settled feeling of being a part of the neighborhood for a long time. That was nice.

We were a little rushed, but stopped in to say hi to Tonx and have a peek in the back room at the new roasting machine. What a beauty.

Victrola's roaster

Ianiv & I both went for the Americano. Lovely. Bold. Just what I needed to wake up. We were planning on going back to really sit down, have a chat, and get to know the coffee. But we were rushing around at the conference and never made it back. On the up side, we've decided to go back to Seattle early August so we'll be coming back to Victrola once again.

But, best coffee I'd had all week. Made my day.

Victrola's menu