Sunday, February 20, 2011

Simply Sunday: The Joy and Consolation of Coffee in the Neighborhood

Sunday in mid-March feels like the beginning of a major flirtation. We’re flirting with spring and all of the optimism and bright energy that accompanies it. But on this Sunday, we’re in a holding pattern. The snow is melting leaving patches of green-brown grass and slushy puddles of water behind. At the same time, forecasters call for 1 to 3 inches of snow on President’s Day. Translation: All outdoor play dates will be moved indoors. The gyms will be thrumming with activity. There will be a minimum of grousing to go with the shoveling---grateful as we are that it’s almost over.

Sunday is another day in the neighborhood. We wake up to bright sun and pre-brewed coffee. It’s Casi Cielo---an esteemed blend---and the last of the coffee to be found in the house. The baby is terribly congested to the point that we must put her semi-sitting in the stroller so she can breathe properly---and walk her around to calm her. So instead of going to my Sunday morning Zumba class at Studio360, a very energetic downtown boutique studio in Montclair, I put on a tunic and jeans and head to the drug store to get “Simply Saline” and the New York Times. I get a kick out of using my Extra Bucks.

Then I head across the street to Starbucks where I buy 2 half-pounds of coffee (house blend and Kenya). I am able to briefly sit and read about Paris in the travel section.

My week is chock a block with fitness activities—Zumba, yoga, cardio-scultping, machines, pilates, resistance workouts, long afternoon walks…but today, Simply Saline trumps zumba. I finish my coffee and head home and spend the rest of the morning dancing to Gershwin to entertain my blissfully irrigated baby.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Global Coffee Love

When you think of coffee do you think of a specific country? Perhaps you think of Italy , Turkey, or Ethiopia. Perhaps Brazil or the United States. Well, how about Japan? Writing in the New York Times on February 9, 2011, Oliver Strand makes the point that the idea that coffee authenticity is tied to a particular country is ridiculous. Coffee love is global!

Consumption varies from country to country. The Japanese, it turns out, are avid coffee-lovers, consuming 903 million pounds of coffee a year. And though Japan is not a huge producer of coffee, the Japanese do bring their inimitable style to the coffee-brewing process. Strand extols the aesthetic utility, precision, and affordability of Japanese brewing equipment. He notes that some of the best-designed coffee brewing tools, such as grinders, drip cones, and pouring kettles range in price from $15 to $50 each and deliver an exquisite experience.

Curious? William-Sonoma stocks Hario brewing equipment from Japan. Check it out here.

Happy Valentine’s Day, coffee lovers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Breaking Coffee-Health News: Roasting Coffee Uncovers Life-Enhancing Antioxidants

Coffee is celebrated for its health benefits, largely because of its daily contribution to antioxidant consumption. Antioxidants improve health by zapping the free radicals that are responsible for aging and degeneration in the human body. Joe Vinson, PhD, asserts that Americans get most of their daily dose of antioxidants from coffee, a total of 1,299 mg per day. That’s more than the 294 mg from tea or the 39 mg from apples. So what exactly is the source of all of those antioxidants? Is it from the phenolic compounds or chlorogenic acids found in coffee? How about the caffeine? Well, yes, theoretically those are all contributing factors to the presence of antioxidants in raw, green coffee beans. But when it comes to accessing those antioxidants, the magic is in the brewing!

Researchers Yazheng Liu and David Kitts at the University of British Columbia studied the antioxidant content of green unroasted coffee beans compared with roasted beans. They found that although 90% of chlorogenic acid is lost during the roasting process, antioxidant content is amped up due to a specific chemical reaction that occurs during the roasting process. This reaction is known as the “Maillard reaction.” The term refers to the work by French 20th century chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who looked at how heat affects the carbohydrates, sugars and proteins in food, such as when grilling steaks or toasting bread.

One of the most compelling things about coffee is its tantalizing, soothing, stimulating smell---its ability to stoke olfactory senses. That smell is related to the effects of roasting. So the next time you breathe in the aroma of a steaming cup of coffee, remember you are smelling the scent of good health. Cheers!