Showing posts from 2012

Dreaming of Warm Coffee on a Cold Day--Research Breakthrough from the Netherlands

When Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” in 1940, he was tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment---the desire to watch snow fall, temporarily turning the world into a magical paradise, while seeking warmth indoors---from a blazing fire, from human companionship and often from a cup of coffee or tea. Turns out that “White Christmas” is timeless not because it is about Christmas per se, but because it captures something in the human spirit. People like to be cozy and warm. Everyone wants to feel loved, and there is something about snow that brings out the child in (almost) everyone.
As snow has been falling across the nation this week, and in New York City today, pursuit of coffee has continued at a happily frenzied pace. I myself had exactly 3 coffee/espresso drinks today, starting with a skim latte at NewsBar Café on University Place (it had a nice spicy aftertaste), followed by a skim caramel brulee latte at Starbucks (hold the whipped cream), and finally capped off with a cup o…

Hurricane Sandy Update: Cups full of coffee and hearts full of empathy

In the midst of the terrifying chaos brought on by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York---property destruction, psychological trauma, seemingly relentless hardship brought on by power outages, gas shortages and death---the emergence of basic human kindness is the one thing that can be counted on.
At the center of many of the acts of kindness has been the offer of warmth, both in the form of refuge from the cold and a hot cup of coffee. Over and over that offer is made---on facebook, via email, and in person. Volunteers drive to stricken areas around the Rockaways, Staten Island and the Jersey shore with large vats of hot coffee and hearts full of sympathy.
When coffee is offered person to person, the underlying sincerity in that gesture belies the immensity of that act. What is being said is the following: “Come into my home and share space and resources with us. Use my water and our toilets. Shower and use clean towels. Sleep on our sheets, rest in our beds and close the door…

Big News From Green Mountain Coffee---in Philadelphia and Beyond

Big news from Green Mountain Coffee, widely recognized for their incredible beans and blends and their role as the #1 fair trade coffee purveyor in the world. They are in the process of introducing their new blends for the Keurig, including the Focus Blend, a medium roast coffee that is supplemented with 50 mg of L-Theanine per 8-ounce serving. In fact, I had a chance to try it today at the 2012 Food and Nutrition Conference, which is being held in Philadelphia. 
Green Mountain proudly proclaims the ingredients of its success---first integrity and unassailable business practices---and then the perfect admixture of high-mountain growing spots, warm soil and gentle tropical rains. And then of course there is that technically informed approach to roasting and brewing so that each cup of Green Mountain coffee achieves the perfect flavor, body and acidity.

But it turns out there is one more element---market research. That’s right; the hard-working folks at Green Mountain Coffee used focus…

Finding Balance With Coffee and French Fries, Finding Joy Outside of your Comfort Zone ---and Goodbye to Arthur Sulzberger

You know when you wake up at 9:47 thinking it’s 7 am, it was a late night. That means that drinking coffee becomes a late-morning experience, rather than an early-morning, the birds-are-chirping and I’m chipper experience.
Today’s coffee feels a little different because of last night’s pub food.  While the idea of drinking coffee all day long is normal, the idea of eating fries for me is a once-in-a-while experience. Last night I ate fries, drank half a pint of cider and danced to rock and roll at a bar in Middlesex. It was very interesting and lots of fun. There was no coffee---and no skim milk. So it was a paradigm shift, but the band, Road to Ruin----was amazing. Seriously, it was impossible not to dance. Until the wee hours.
Back to the pub food….We’re basically talking chicken wings, soda, and french fries, except in my quest to be healthy and eat clean, I ordered tilapia—which was literally doused in butter. Overall, the food was cooked well and the service was impeccable. And…

Drinking Coffee—An Epicurean Pleasure and a Source of Chronic Pain Relief…and my Response to the New Weeping Woman at MOMA

While dining at the 2nd Floor Café at MOMA today, I took an Epicurean delight in my chickpea/fennel salad, replete with beets and a side of focaccia, paired with a delicately brewed skim latte. Contrary to popular belief, Epicurus (b. 341 bc) was not a glutton. There were ugly rumors that Epicurus had to vomit twice a day because he ate so much, and that he would go into sexual frenzies during which time, he would write lewd letters. Not true at all.  In fact, he espoused happiness based on simple pleasures. According to Alain de Botton, writing in “Consolations of Philosophy,” Epicurus’s perception of happiness was based on several basic things: freedom from pain, friendship, freedom, and thought---meaning the possibility of thinking things through, analyzing them and discussing with others. Epicurus cultivated a group of friends, who along with him, preferred water to wine; who enjoyed long walks, and conversation. He once said, “Luxurious foods and drinks in no way produce freedom…

Is Gene Conklin Drinking Coffee in Heaven?

In March 2012, my friend Gene Conklin died in his mid-40’s of cancer. His cancer was a direct result of 9-11 exposure at the site of the World Trade Center, where he and his girlfriend were spending the morning. He was part of the World Trade Center Health Registry. When Gene and I were in college together in Middlebury, Vermont, we spent lots of days and nights drinking coffee---lots and lots of coffee. We were hyped up on learning new things and being politically left wing. In fact, I often called him “Comrade Conklin” and he called me “Comrade Gray.” We were surrounded by lots of agitprop posters—a type of random kitschy artifact that I glommed onto as a Russian major. We listened to folk rock, hip hop, trip house and bits of Bach here and there.
Time passed and we got older.  We were both indelibly affected by 9-11. He more so than I, we would later discover. For me, 9-11 made me aware of my own mortality and that of my then-boyfriend, now husband, whose office was right smack-d…

Drinking Coffee and Admiring the Palm Trees in San Francisco

The very first caffeinated beverage I drunk in San Francisco was a latte at SFO. It was not exceptional. In fact, I don’t even remember the name of the café. However, outside of SFO, San Francisco boasts a robust and unique coffee-drinking culture.  It totally makes sense that there are often two to three cafes on any given block. People need energy to ride bikes, walk up and down hills, and keep up such amazing gardens and streetscapes.  (Palm trees are everywhere in San Francisco, and they are NOT native. They are all planted from seeds—the Mexican Fan palms, the Canary Island Date palms and all the others. They grow in public areas, around institutions, in wealthy neighborhoods and in very modest areas, as well. The climate, it turns out, is well suited for all types of palm trees, eucalyptus and scrub oaks...)

August is a perfect time to drink coffee in San Francisco, because it is fairly cool.  During my family’s 2-week visit, every day around 3:30, as the fog started to roll in…

Today's Magic Numbers: 15 Percent and 4 Cups

The thing that I like about the way the New York Times handles coverage of the link between coffee and good health is that (#1) it does not shy away from revealing the controversy regarding certain outcomes and (#2) it does a good job of explaining study design and the complexities of data analysis without going on too long about it.

Today's coverage of the link between coffee-drinking and colon cancer is a perfect example. Well blogger, Anadad O'Connor reports that there has been controversy with some studies previously suggesting that coffee could increase the risk of various types of cancer. Then, of course, researchers started to parse the data more aggressively teasing out "confounding" lifestyle factors like smoking for example. Smoking can certainly put a damper on the positive health effects of anything....

However, the deciding study has come from the National Cancer Institute. In this study of more than 500,000 people, the consensus was that drinking 4 cups…

The Caffeine-Dementia Link: More Good News About Coffee


Born to be Alive

Today my family, along with many others, participated in a biking event in which we rode anywhere from 8 miles to 12 miles. The day was beautiful, the sun was bright and the event was well planned. I started my day with gluten-free, protein-enriched, organic steel-cut oatmeal and 4 cups of coffee, because FOUR is a magic number. (I’ll explain in a minute.) After that breakfast and a little early-morning folk-rock-soul-hip hop, I felt ready to take on the day. 
One of the most compelling parts of being alive is a feeling of vitality. Modern dance icon, Martha Graham, often spoke of vitality. She said, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action---and because there is only one of you in all time, your expression is unique.”
 Though physical vitality is certainly desirable, vitality goes way beyond the physical. Indeed even in the face of physical challenges, vitality can be metaphysical. In general, vitality manifests itself …

Coffee and the Art of Everyday Living

In spring everything wakes up. Life is more buoyant and seems easier. Morning coffee takes on a new sense of pleasure. Birds chirp while coffee gurgles in the background as it brews, the children are still sleeping and you can hear the sweet silence of the house and remnants of the newspaper lie waiting for further exploration before being discarded. In the case of our town--Montclair--people are also mulling over something big during morning coffee: the election, which is being covered by the New York Times. This election will elect a new mayor, a council person from each ward and two at-large council people. It takes at least two cups of coffee (at least for me) to parse the three major tickets and the idea of business development to increase ratables versus the idea of evolving the tax code creatively to protect schools and the streetscapes while not unduly burdening taxpayers. Hard to figure it out, but easy to care a great deal in a place where civic pride is not a small matter.