Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Romancing the green bean: Coffee-and-love haiku

Coffee is an object of passionate love and extreme affection. Late-night coffee is a nice capstone for a lovely evening out, while morning coffee is an elixir---brewed to sate a universal thirst. And since coffee is both healthy and energizing, drinking it can fuel romantic adventures. And speaking of romance, coffee lends itself to poetry, including haiku. Here are a few odes to our beloved black brew.

Ritual of Joy-by Markus Heyder
Lifting it---
the coffee cup
leaves a ring

I love you-by Caroline Risman
Never enough sleep
Children wake so damn early
Coffee, I love you

Morning Coffee-by Nicole Gray
Cold rays of sunshine
You make my morning coffee
Thank you very much

Recipe for Irish Whiskey 
(While I'm not a drinker, I'm learning to enjoy once in a while---and this is a GREAT way in!)
Here's the short-version recipe: Cappucino (lots of foam) and whiskey or Bailey's (even I know what that is). 

According to Kiely Healy, who is an expert in many things: 
"You can feel jittery and tipsy at the same time---with the love of your life." 

Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy all of the coffee and love that comes your way. 
End-of-workday coffee love
Jess & Kiely rocking the coffee love

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Baby, it's Cold Outside

Today, December 28, 2017, the temperature in Montclair, NJ, is 12 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not only below freezing, but it’s also a shock after a beautifully hospitable and warm fall and a mild winter---at least until now.  

So what else is there to do besides drink hot drinks indoors? In fact, I’ve been drinking lots of hot, healthy coffee indoors (and out)---at the ice skating rink, with friends at cafes, alone at home, and at the office (of course).

Coffee increases the perception of likability

So the obvious takeaway is that hot drinks in cold weather make us feel better. However, there’s more to hot coffee-cold weather arithmetic than physiologic comfort. In one study, conducted at the University of Colorado, researchers recruited 41 undergrads, who were primed with either hot coffee or iced coffee before walking into the testing site. 

They were then asked to complete a personality impression questionnaire, in which they were given information about a particular individual (Person A). Some of the highlighted traits were being cautious, competent, and industrious. Subsequently, the investigators asked the students to rate the individuals on warmth and likability. Students who were primed with hot coffee (versus cold coffee) were significantly more likely to rate Individual A as warm and likable.

The implications for these findings, which have been reinforced in numerous studies, with different designs and various endpoints, are numerous, but pretty intuitive. For example, if you are trying to sell someone an idea or product, give them a hot cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) when they arrive. Likewise, in social interactions, when you want to put others at ease simply to make them happy and improve the experience, get the coffee pot brewing, because therein lies the secret to feeling warm and cozy in new surroundings.

Coffee + Coldness=Amped-up Calorie Burning

In reality, we can’t always be inside drinking coffee---just because it’s cold outside. Sometimes we have to be outside, or we choose to be outside. I like hiking in cold weather (not frigid weather like today though). It feels more vigorous, challenging and ultimately rewarding when there’s the added cold-weather factor. Plus, there’s a major upside. Scientists have found that cold weather increases metabolism. In fact, some people consider enduring cold weather a form of exercise, because the body has to work harder to generate body heat. 

And when you add the calorie-busting, metabolism-boosting effect of coffee, which increases basal metabolism by 5%-8%, you can really burn a bunch of calories, and even lose weight if that’s on the agenda for you.

Baby, it's Cold Outside (stay for coffee)

And now, an ode to the cold, featuring Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald: “Baby it’s Cold Outside”---such a sexy, sultry, romantic song that makes one yearn for coffee….amongst other things.

Happy New Year to you all! 

Friday, November 24, 2017

5 Things I Never Knew About Coffee

My friend, George B. (aka, the man on a quest for the best coffee in New Jersey), celebrated his birthday last week by having a private get-together at Java Love, in Montclair, in which Kristine Petrak, co-owner of Java Love Coffee Roasting Company, led us in a mini-course entitled “Coffee 101.”

So, we all know that coffee is good for us, right? We know that drinking coffee decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, cirrhosis, brain cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and death, in general. But, there’s a whole other side to coffee, besides drinking it for one’s good health. Here are 5 things I learned about coffee that I never knew.

#1-Coffee can only grow in what is known as the “bean belt’---the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The best locale should have moderate sunshine and rain, with steady temps around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. (Guess I won’t be able to grow coffee in my background no matter how hard I try!)

#2-Coffee grown at higher altitudes has the most flavor and complexity---the higher the more complex. Examples of high-altitude coffee include Ethiopian, Kenyan, and Guatemalan coffee, while Kona coffee from Hawaii is a low-altitude coffee.

#3-The darkest roast is French roast.

#4-Flavor=smell + taste. The tongue only recognizes 4 distinct flavors---bitter, sweet, sour and salty.

#5-You know that foamy quality that coffee gets when you pour water on it, that’s called the “bloom,” which happens because of the lipids in coffee. If you don’t get the bloom, the coffee’s not fresh---and what’s worse than stale coffee?

Over the years, Java Love has given us many good cups of coffee, espresso-based drinks, chai and other teas, as well as 2 wonderful spaces to work, play, talk and hang out. And now, they are bringing us a chance to learn more about the brew we love so much. Thank you, Java Love---and happy birthday, George!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall is National Coffee Drinking Season

It's been more than a week since we all celebrated National Coffee Day (September 29th). I say celebrated loosely, because for me the celebration basically focused on brewing K-cups at work, and drinking coffee to keep going so I could meet all of my deadlines for the day.

I wrote a lot of copy, but, alas, none of it had anything to do with coffee, except that one generic Facebook post that read like tens of thousands other posts: "Happy National Coffee Day!" (with the requisite link to all of the places that had coffee deals that day, including a lot of good BOGO offers, and some food add-ons (thank you Dunkin' Donuts for that awesome pumpkin donut). 

And thank you to all of the other places that had deals that day---Tim Hortons, Peet's, Wawa, McDonalds, Cinnabon, Starbucks, and Krisy Kreme. I've never been to Krispy Kreme, but I have to nod my respect in their direction. Krisy Kreme acknowledged that one day is simply not enough time to celebrate coffee---so they extended their offers through the weekend---until October 1.

Coffee and Fall---a Match Made in Heaven

In that vein, I hereby declare fall National Coffee Drinking Season. After all, it's perfect. What goes better with fall foliage than coffee (especially pumpkin spice coffee), and what goes better with coffee than earth-tone sweaters and crisp fall days? And how about coffee and apple crisp. It's very clear: Fall is national coffee drinking season. 

That's not to say that coffee should not be celebrated year-round. The health benefits of coffee are constant, as is its ability to get us up and going, ready to take on the day and be our best selves. 

National Coffee Day is a fairly new phenomemon. And although it's called "National" Coffee Day, it's an international occasion, with celebrations all over the world. In March 2014, the International Coffee Organization first proclained "International Coffee Day" as PR for part of an expo in Europe. And prior to that, other countries, including China, Japan, Nepal, Indonesia, and Taiwan had already celebrated various versions of a national/international coffee day. 

So I hope you had a good National Coffee Day---and I wish you a happy coffee drinking season. Bottom's up!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Drinking lavender coffee in the Shenandoah Mountains

And so just like that, summer is over. Whereas 2 weeks ago, we were braving temps of barely 80 degrees to go to the pool or hang out in seaside locales, this weekend,  the ponchos are out. I’m planting mums and shopping for school lunches. Summer’s a wrap. It’s a done deal.

The last weekend of summer---Labor Day weekend---tends to be the last hurrah of the summer for lots of people. We ended up going to Shenandoah State Park, which was established in 1935 by park planners looking to transform a motley patchwork of forest, fields, orchards, and private tracts of land, into a park preserve.  They succeeded. This beautiful park, located in Virginia, is like an outdoors United Nations, with people from all over the world coming to marvel at the vast beauty of our American landscape.

As we drove along Skyline Drive, from one overlook to the next, and decamped from our car for various hikes, I never expected to find coffee….but I did. We stopped in at Lewis Mountain Lodge, which functions as part souvenir shop, a place for campers to shower, and a place to simply relax. You can get pretty much whatever you want at the lodge: books, maps, clothing, hats, Virginia pottery, clothing, hats, sundries, cameras, batteries, snacks, postcards, jewelry, magnets---and COFFEE.

Traipsing along next to the bears
So what I can say about the coffee at Lewis Mountain Lodge? It was not remarkable. It was hot, it was good---and it was free, because the kind shop-owner noted my enthusiasm. We fell into a passionate conversation about how coffee makes life better, how healthy it is, and why we can’t live without it. Amidst smiles and a final thank you, I left with my coffee, happy and caffeinated. Good thing, too, because 20 minutes later, I found myself literally 8 feet from two black bears (a momma bear and her cub). Momma Bear saw me looking at her and her baby, she looked back at me, I snapped a quick photo, and I quickly ambled back to the path. I admit, I was nervous---but coffee kept me calm and focused.

Lavender coffee
During our trip, we stayed at a lovely resort near Harrisonburg, VA.  My parents had told me about the White Oaks Lavender Farm, a family-owned farm where more than 20 varieties of lavender grow---a total of 8,000-plus bushes of fragrant, beautiful lavender. White Oak farms even has culinary lavender, which  is used not only for coffee, but for tea, jams, jellies, and even ice cream (If you go, try the strawberry-lavender ice cream; you won’t be sorry!).

While I was there, I bought artisan-roasted, fair trade lavender coffee. The minute it started brewing, I could smell the lavender mixing with the coffee---a delicious smell that prefaced a truly amazing coffee-drinking experience. I could “taste” the lavender, and feel little tiny bits of lavender plant in the coffee. Like coffee, lavender has many healthy properties: It’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, good for digestion, good for your hair and skin, and chock full of antioxidants.

Speaking of antioxidants, it turns out that coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants in the American diet. Perhaps that’s why coffee is associated with a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer (breast, colon, liver, brain, etc.), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke. And what happens when you mix coffee with lavender…you get all of the benefits in one, with an overall feeling of being both relaxed and energized.  This was a first for me, and it led me to one conclusion. We live in a big, beautiful world, and there are so many places to go, so many things to learn, and so many coffee-drinking experiences left to come. Look towards the vast horizon of possibility---and have a cup of coffee while you do it.

Happy fall!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Drinking Cuban coffee in the land of dinosaurs

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in NYC is a local treasure. The kids never get tired of marveling at the huge dinosaur replicas (the original bones are stored in the museum’s archives---they are too heavy for display) or watching 3-D movies to pomder the mysteries of the universe while listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s soothing baritone.

Earlier this month, another mom and I took our kids to AMNH to spend the day seeing all the IMAX movies and special exhibits.  I was surprised to see a new offering---CUBA! This ambitious exhibit not only explores the astounding biodiversity of Cuba, which in reality is an archipelago comprised of more than 4,000 islands, but it also looks at Cuban society and history in a way that illuminates the beauty and brilliance of the island’s culture and people.

There are huge installations of streetscapes in Havana replete with graceful arches, Spanish charm, and splashes of color everywhere. The presentation is so big and so rich that I wanted to walk in, jump on a bike and start riding.

Beyond biodiversity
AMNH’s extensive exploration of wetlands and intact coral reefs reminds us how big the world is---so vast and dynamic, in fact, that the term “biodiversity” doesn’t really capture the majesty of Cuba.  In Cuba, you can find the smallest bird in the world (the Bee Hummingbird); one of the largest rodents in the world, the Jutia Conga, which weighs on average 15 pounds; and reptiles that are so rare it seems that they exist in a parallel universe where the dinosaurs still roam free.

At one point during the exhibit, visitors stream into a room that makes it seem as if they are on the street in Havana. There is art everywhere, including poster art advertising music festivals and baseball wins, and photographs documenting every aspect of island life, from the opera house to the domino table. But most important for me, there was a complete replica of a café with little delicate ceramic coffee cups (alas, no coffee) and a vent with the smell of coffee wafting out. (Olfactory bliss for sure.)

Coffee is a “thing” in Cuba

Coffee, it turns out, is a Cuban “thing.” Practically everyone drinks it all the time. Everyone there drinks café Cubano, which is espresso sweetened with demerara---sugar that is in the process of being brewed. Some people also like to have a cortadito, a 50-50 mix of coffee and steamed milk, or perhaps they find themselves at work in the middle of the day sharing a colada with their workmates. (A colada is a large cup of espresso---3 to 6 shots---which is intended to be shared.)
At the heart of the Cuban coffee tradition is socializing, taking in culture and lingering for long periods after meals to have lively conversations and share ideas.  It’s a beautiful tradition.  I’d love to try Cuban coffee, but I don’t see a trip to Cuba in my future any time soon. However, lots of Americans who like Cuban coffee order from Artizan. You can also buy Café Bustelo at any supermarket or bodega. And if you want to learn how to make it right, check out this tutorial


Monday, August 7, 2017

Beach-bound: Discovering Rook in Monmouth County

This weekend, we ventured down to Monmouth County with the goal of visiting friends in Middletown and venturing to the beach---weather allowing.

In fact, the weather was on the cool side---OK for the heated pool, but not so much for the gusty, cold beach, where the surf was already rough early in the day. 

So amidst all of the fun, we decided to amp up the happiness with coffee from Rook Coffee , a Monmouth County-based coffee shop founded in 2010, with a dedicated roastery that promises "great coffee and over-the-top service."

So I tried it, and guess what. They delivered. I had a hot coffee that was soothing and elevating at the same time, no bitter aftertaste and just hot enough. My friends also enjoyed their coffees. Here we are celebrating our good coffee-drinking experience.

You can see how much we like it here:

What is it about Rooks?

I was curious about the name Rook. The logo reflects the simple elegance of the rook, a crow with bare grayish white skin around the base of its bill (only in adults). Rooks like to nest high up in trees and eat everything from earth worms, to small mammals, to fruit, and even other birds. But most important, I think, is the fact that when you start to see rooks flying around towards the end of winter, it's a sure sign that spring is on the way.

But why focus on spring when there's still a bit of summer left. In fact, my goal is to venture back when the weather is warmer and drink Rook Coffee on the beach.

Over the last 7 years, Rook has grown a great deal, under the watchful eyes of the co-founders, Holly Migliaccio and Shawn Kinglsey, who left their corporate jobs to learn everything they could about coffee so that Rook could become a reality.

Well--the Rook is real and the coffee is REALLY good. There are 10 locations, which are listed here. When you're heading to the beach (or if you live in lovely Monmouth county) why not venture in for some 'great coffee and over-the-top service.' You won't be disappointed.