Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Espresso as Metaphor: Trying a New Coffee Drink and Looking Towards the Future

Several years ago when I was in grad school at NYU, my professor, Dr. Robert Bench, a respected publishing professional, often used the term “future forward.” I found the term charming and provocative all at once. The alliteration notwithstanding, the term evoked an image of people moving rapidly into a physical future space. Plus it synched with my approach to life. The reality is that we are always moving forward and need to make room for new experiences and ideas, including what we consume.

That’s why when it comes to coffee, trying a new brew or new type of drink is a good idea. Yesterday I tried a low-sugar, skim caramel macchiato. According to the barista at Starbucks, macchiato means “marked”. Basically, the drink starts with milk on the bottom, with foam above that. The drink is then topped off with espresso---you really taste the espresso. As most other coffee drinks go (lattes, cappuccinos, etc.) macchiatos are upside down. The caramel drizzle is an added plus. For me, the experience of encountering espresso ahead of foam and milk was novel and exceptionally delicious.

The same day I tried a macchiato, I downloaded “Girl Talk’s” All Day mash-up, which is ridiculously popular. Girl Talk, straight out of industrial Pittsburgh, is a DJ who mixes it up and dances until his feet bleed. I’m not sure about his coffee habits, but would be happy to sit with him over a latte and talk about music. “All Day” was all new for me and amped up my work-up. I burned 600 calories in 45 minutes---a new record. “All Day” is available as a free download under the label “Illegal Art”. It includes a staggering 372 samples and is all about danceable hooks. Think Lady Gaga meets the Beatles, who hang out with Rihanna and 50 Cent, who has a strong rapport with Cyndi Lauper and Miley Cyrus. And that’s just the beginning. Just Jared links to the download here

Now, I’m more open than ever, looking out for subtle ways to stretch and grow and avoid inertia. Coffee has always grounded me, and there really is no substitute for being grounded and having a solid foundation. Starting there, I can afford to try new things, drink new drinks, take flight, and be open to the world around me. Try a new coffee drink today!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bottoms Up… Happy National Coffee Break Day! (Free Coffee Available at a Cafe Near You)

In honor of its centennial anniversary the National Coffee Association has ordained January 20th National Coffee Break Day. From New York City, to Portland Oregon, to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, coffee purveyors nationwide are joining in the celebration by offering free coffee and other enticing opportunities. Find out how to celebrate in your area here. Visiting this link will also give you a chance to look at the National Coffee Association’s mochalicious site redesign.

In the midst of our busy, busy lives, taking a break feels good, and in reality a well-deserved break actually stokes productivity. Here’s a historical tidbit about the origins of the coffee break as a part of American culture: In 1964, 74,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members were ready to stop working if management would not agree to give them a daily coffee break. After a series of tiresome negotiations, management conceded and the 12-minute-daily coffee break became part of work-a-day life for U.S. auto workers.

Can’t wait to take a break today, or maybe 3 or 4 to celebrate. So wherever you are, whatever you’re doing—take a break (or at least plan too)---and raise your cup in celebration!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bring on the Emoticons: Coffee Makes You Happier

Coffee has long been appreciated for its buoying effect on mood. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1996 showed that women who regularly drank at least 2 cups of coffee daily during a 10-year period (between 1980 and 1990) were less likely to commit suicide than their non--coffee-drinking peers. Looking at data from the Nurses’ Health Study on 86,625 female registered nurses who were between the ages of 34 and 59 in 1980, researchers considered not only coffee-drinking, but also smoking status, marital status, alcohol intake, levels of perceived stress, and diseases that may have affected the women’s feelings about the value of their lives.

78% of the women drank coffee. Overall, women who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day were 66% less likely to commit suicide. Researchers found that 56 of the women in the study committed confirmed suicide between 1980 and 1990. There was one negative coffee-related finding in this study. The presumably positive effect of coffee on mood notwithstanding, in this cohort of women, those who consumed coffee were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. They were also more likely to be stressed. However, as researchers looked at the data more closely, other positive coffee-related associations became clear: In addition to decreased risk of suicide, the prevalence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes was lower among women who drank coffee. All of these elements were factored into the analysis, and in the end the positive effect of coffee on mood was directly attributable to the coffee itself.

Seasonal affective disorder is a very real malady. Exercise, coffee and taking in the sunshine when it comes are good strategies for feeling better!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Make Me Happy: Low-Acid Coffee=Less Anxiety and More Joy

On a recent morning that could have been high anxiety, I chose a low-acid coffee: Purroast. This smooth coffee delivered on its promise---very low acid coffee with a rich, full-bodied taste. The previous afternoon while forecasters were once again promising blizzard conditions, I had joined other shoppers in buying last-minute items that would allow me to comfortably hunker down. Puroast’s bright red-and-white packaging featuring a red bird with geometric plumage appealed to me, but I was also interested in the low-acid experience.

That evening as we waited for the snow fall to start, I was glad I had coffee and also glad that it was low acid, because the next day promised to be challenging. Despite the storm, I was expected to be at an important event involving a workout outfit, a makeup artist, cameramen---and a good friend who I would not let down. As the snow softly pelted the ground, I became increasingly anxious. Would I take the train or wake early to shovel so I could drive downtown? How much feeding and care would my newborn demand throughout the night? My response to that anxiety: set up the coffee maker and go to bed.

The next morning was bright and sunny. The coffee was hot and ready. And the amount of snow was a lot less than we expected. As I drove to my destination, I smiled as I drove by large snow-canopied trees, a bustling cafe and a throng of kids playing in the snow. Puroast lifted me up and left my tummy calm, despite the fact that I did not have time to eat.

I was only able to find the house blend, but Puroast offers a wide range of options, including Colombian Supremo, Autumn spice, Mocha Java, Vanilla, Hazelnut, and Nutcracker Sweet. I’m looking forward to more flavorful low-acid coffee-drinking---and committed to managing anxiety and finding joy every day!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

5 Reasons to Love Coffee in 2011

Love of coffee endures, but sometimes it’s nice to reflect on what we love about coffee. Here are 5 reasons to love coffee in 2011.

1. Coffee makes you healthier: Studies show that coffee reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, liver disease, and high cholesterol.

2. Coffee variety abounds: Beyond the Arabica-versus-robusta divide, coffee differs based on how its roasted, where it’s grown, how it’s brewed, and many other conditions that contribute to a flavor, acidity and overall taste. Recently, we were snowbound and coffee reserves were diminishing rapidly. In order to make coffee, I combined Seattle’s Best Blend with two Starbucks blends, including the slightly sweet Italian Roast and the super-dark smoky extra bold French roast. The result: a dark, sweet, smooth blend. It tasted even better as we watched the snow fall.

3. Coffee bolsters community: During the holiday, we enjoyed Prosecco and coffee in equal measure. Mornings and early afternoons, however, were reserved exclusively for coffee. On New Year’s weekend, we had an especially pleasant afternoon choosing between 3 carafes of coffee and combining each cup with chocolate-covered cherries. La dolce vita indeed!

4. Coffee apparently is a really good economic bellwether and things are looking up: Though consumption dipped in 2009, there was a noteworthy rebound in 2010. Residents of Seattle spent the most---$36 per month on average; Americans consumed the most---66 million cups a year; and 56% of all adults in the US reported drinking coffee on a regular basis.

5. Coffee tastes good! Good coffee has a rich, bold taste that both comforts and stimulates simultaneously. It is the type of drink that can make you feel connected to all other people on the planet. Cold coffee is refreshing on a number of levels, with cooling, invigorating effects. Delicious, refreshing, invigorating, yummy, and satisfying all at once. Coffee is a good thing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Embracing the Yang: Coffee in China

In China, 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, may very well become the year of coffee. According to a report from Marketplace on National Public Radio , consumption is up 25% a year. In the last 10 years, Starbucks has opened 400 locations, and in November 2010, Howard Schulz announced that the first Starbucks coffee farm will soon open in the Pu’er region, located in Southwestern China.

The driving force behind this trend is the collective yang energy of the legions of urban and professional Chinese city dwellers who are rapidly increasing their coffee consumption. Yan Ciyong, a 26-year-old farmer (seen here holding a red coffee bean) has started growing coffee and earning a great deal of money. He is on the cutting edge of a new trend in a country where tea consumption is the norm. Meanwhile, 70-year-old Liao Xiugui, a farmer who specializes in growing coffee and actually drinks coffee (rare among famers in China) has become a highly sought after teacher. Fortunately, tea and coffee are not competing for farmers’ attention---the two plants are grown at different times of the year.

Every day it seems, business analysts in the United States discuss China and its vast resources, including its remarkably talented, disciplined, and ambitious population. And while some pundits discuss China’s increasing crude oil consumption---many people in China are getting their raw energy from a nice hot cup of coffee.