Sunday, December 8, 2013

Coffee Rust Threatens Coffee Farmers Across Central America

                Two months into the start of a new coffee-growing season, coffee rust is still destroying coffee crops and the dreams of coffee farmers hoping for a better harvest than last year. Coffee rust is a fungus that shows up as yellow patches on coffee leaves. It attacks the leaves and reduces the plant’s ability to feed itself. As a result, the coffee fruit will never mature and the harvest will be lost.

                Predictably, this has an impact on coffee prices, but more important, it can literally force farmers into poverty and leave them and their families hungry. In mid-2013, 437,000 coffee farmers were affected across Central America, including farmers in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Ecuador and Honduras---the largest coffee grower in the region.

                One positive exception has been Colombia, which actually saw a 26% increase in its national coffee yield year over year. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia developed a coffee rust-resistant plant strain and farmers planted it. It worked. Now---that technology needs to be transferred to other countries and other coffee farms.

                For coffee farmers like Ernestina Martinez, a widowed mother of 8, who successfully started her own farm several years ago and painstakingly got production up to 4 metric tons, the carnage of the rust-plant fungus has been harrowing. She destroyed the harvest and is looking for Plan B. She is mournful of what’s lost, but determined to keep growing.

                Part of enjoying coffee and all of the good health, productivity and contentment it brings is being aware of where it’s grown, who’s growing it and what hardships they face. Let’s hope this growing season brings a resurgence of yield and prosperity for Ernestina Martinez and her peers!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Jazz and Coffee, Coffee and Jazz. Alive and Well at the Jazz Standard. And Everywhere Else too.

Jazz is alive and well and living in New York City---and in San Francisco---and in Paris, and in the other places I love to be... Likewise, wherever you happen to be, you will most likely tell me that jazz is right there, where you are, living and breathing, and attracting devoted followers, who often feel passionate beyond words when they hear the opening strains of “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis, or “My Favorite Things,” by John Coltrane, or maybe “A Waltz for Debby,” by Bill Evans.

So it was, recently, on an October night at Jazz Standard right on 27th Street….I was there with someone very nice, listening to the Vijay Ayer Trio, and enjoying the music of this 42-year-old MacArthur Fellow, who along with his trio creates music thoroughly within the tradition of classical jazz, with a sense of brand new energy that makes you want to drink wine and coffee at the same time…so you can wake up your senses in every possible way to drink their music in all night long. 

D.C. Dowdell, a San Diego-based jazz pianist and teacher has said, “Jazz goes into my coffee in the morning, and in my wine at night.” Fourteen words of poetry expressing the love of jazz, coffee, and even wine, in a way that totally captures the exhilaration of the experience of drinking coffee (and wine) and listening to music that holds so many souls captive with its sheer beauty and ever-changing majesty.

Jazz Standard is located at 116 East 27th in NYC. The closest subway line is the 4/5/6, though you can get there other ways. World-class performers play classic jazz, funk and R&B, with performances every night of the week. There is a barbecue restaurant upstairs called Blue Smoke, renowned for its smoked dishes and sweet potato fries. However, food, drinks, dessert and coffee are also served in the club. The coffee is really good---as is the wine, the food, and especially the dessert (thumbs up to the pumpkin-ginger cake). Reservations are required.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Drinking Coffee, Alone Together, at the Whitney Museum

Drinking coffee late at night is a time-honored tradition for coffee-drinkers and a rite of passage for most ambitious young people, who pull their first all-nighter in high school. There is evidence of coffee-drinking in Edward Hoppers’s 1942 oil-on-canvas painting, “Nighthawks.” This famous painting was on view in early fall at the Whitney as part of a major exhibition that surveyed the drawings and paintings of Edward Hopper, while focusing on how he developed his work, conceptually and artistically, from idea, to drawing, to revision, to painting.

“Nighthawks” which portrays four people in a late-night diner, situated on the corner of three intersecting streets in the West Village, pays homage to urban anomie, personal freedom---and late-night coffee-drinking.

And while Hopper’s ability to masterfully present light and illumination is on full display in this painting, rife with shades of maroon, taupe, and chestnut brown—with a dab of bright red and canary yellow---it is the seeming aloneness of the individual diner-dwellers that is most striking.

Look at those clean cut people sitting alone, apparently ruminating on who knows what. Presumably the coffee they are drinking only serves to make them more wakeful, thoughtful and potentially ready for action. But indeed, all of the action it seems is internal---and in the flush of light humming down from the backlit expanse of the diner’s ceiling.

What is it about this painting that feels timeless and evokes a sense of recognition from almost everyone who sees it? Clearly, it is the innate knowledge and sense that it is possible to be alone and together at the same time. 

While at the Whitney a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a skim latte. It was well made, nicely served and energizing. But what really made it special was the big LOVE sign that graced the entrance/exit of the Whitney---in homage to the Robert Indiana exhibit, which is still at the Whitney as this post is written.

And finally, one more reason to love coffee and appreciate its health benefits. A recent study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that the average metabolic rate of people who drink caffeinated coffee is 16 percent higher than those who drank decaf. So really, when it comes down to drinking coffee at the Whitney, you have the chance to be metabolically boosted, artistically edified---and maybe even happy alone/together. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Drinking Coffee as an Autumnal Rite of Passage

                Martha’s Vineyard ferry boats, idyllic Jersey Shore beaches, summer stock theater, watching movies under the stars on warm nights, going for a midday swim at the town pool. Good bye to all of that (at least for the next nine months)!

                Remember the (very recent) days of surfing warm waves on a boogie board, cooling off in mountain grottoes and riding the subways late at night without the benefit of a “just in case” sweater? Well until next summer, those days are over. It’s mid-September. Summer is gone---though that doesn’t discount an oddly sweltering afternoon, quickly followed by a cool evening, now and then.

                And though we must say goodbye, at least for now, to beach balls and maillots and destination t-shirts, fall brings its own joys. Sweaters and squash, matzoh balls and maple syrup, academic calendars and extracurricular activities…And one of the very best things of all: Fall brings an all-out, no-holds-barred commitment to drinking hot coffee and espresso drinks (as well as chai, hot chocolate and tea).

                Starbucks has reintroduced its seasonal fave, all things Pumpkin Spice. Pumpkin spice brewed coffee, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice instant Via coffee, and  comforting slice of pumpkin loaf to accompany any of those choices.

                Hot coffee, cold mornings, good health---they all go together. So here’s wishing you a very happy, grounded, laughter-filled, hearty and active, apple-picking-trick-or-treating-fire-building-foliage-watching season. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Already Nostalgic for August 2013: Here’s to Sivasana Pose and All-Season Coffee Consumption

Om shanti! How is it possible that it’s already August? Summer, which we spend half the year contemplating, is slowly, stealthily starting to fade. More than half of the season’s barbecues are over, many people have already returned from vacation and the mums are just starting to peek though the ground. On cool evenings, it’s not hard to envision fall, with its medley of oranges, yellows and browns. Back-to-school sales are starting, and parents are already making granular decisions about the upcoming year’s extracurricular activities.

But, wait, it’s only August! There is still time to go to the beach and the pool, play tennis, frolic with children or chill with friends---and drink lots and lots of coffee (and wine too if that’s your thing). I love drinking coffee while the hot summer sun shines overhead, or when it rains in fat, warm pellets, causing people to seek shelter at the closest Starbucks.There is no right one season to drink coffee. Drinking coffee is part of daily life. Drinking coffee is a year-round event! In fact, it is O.K. to drink hot coffee in the summer and iced lattes in the winter. There are no hard and fast rules.

Surprisingly, there is even room for coffee-drinking in Ayurvedic culture.  In Ayurvedic philosophy, there are five basic elements---ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. People have various constitutional make-ups comprised of some combination of vata, pitta and kapha. Surprisingly, the experts at do not dismiss coffee drinking as bad---only if you are constitutionally unable to handle it, or it does not work well with your ayurvedic make-up. According to our Kripalu expert, the properties of coffee---its heat, dryness and stimulating properties---balance out excess kapha. Signs of excess kapha include water retention, weight gain, sinus congestion, a lack of motivation, and a feeling of being “fuzzy-headed.”

Drink up!

Here’s to a good August and an epic season finale for summer 2013. And remember before you embark on sun salutations, have a strong cup of dark brew….and feel free to reward yourself for a well-executed downward dog with a cappuccino. Namaste!

A special thank you to you, Andrew Cohen. You are a remarkably gifted photographer, and a man with a deep, deep soul. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Updates from Today's Guest Blogger...and Coffee Helps Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Happy summer! Finally, school has ended, the pools have opened and the barbecues have begun in earnest. It has been a season of celebrations---July 4th, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and graduations. The drink of choice for many of these events has been iced coffee! 

And based on all available evidence, that’s a good thing…
According to an article in the New York Times, published on June 6, 2013, coffee not only reduces the risk of diabetes, prostate cancer, oral cancer and breast cancer recurrence, but new data shows that having circulating caffeine in the bloodstream reduces the risk of full-blown Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

Also, let’s be honest about one of the major benefits of coffee---a sense of rejuvenation. Coffee keeps us young! And there is nothing quite like the exuberance of a young spirit….like that of one of my best friends, Noah, who is 13 years old, and looking forward to when he gets to start drinking coffee. He is today’s Guest Blogger.

“Lots of good news from last week, like my teacher is going to be the principal, I just had my bar mitzvah back in early June, and I got to meet my aunt Ruth Hauser with my aunt Maddi---who she has not seen in 18 years. There have been a lot of fun activities already….Going to Rhode Island in late June, my friend Josh Rapoport’s bar mitzvah, and the end of school. Here’s what’s coming up: I am having a Bastille Day Party on July 13th, and I am going to be a Junior Camp Counselor this summer.
However the bad news is I hated Sleepaway Camp.”

---Special thanks to Noah for his honesty, enthusiasm and beautiful writing. Happy summer!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clinical Data from the Mayo Clinic: Coffee has Anti-inflammatory Effects—Plus, Tips for Drinking Coffee in the Summer

Dr. Craig Lammert, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, recently completed a study showing that drinking coffee can decrease the risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare, but very serious, autoimmune disease that affects the liver. In people with PSC, the bile ducts---the tubes that carry liquid bile from the liver to the intestines--- become inflamed and hardened. Eventually, patients develop cirrhosis of the liver and often cancer.  Most patients are diagnosed between 20 and 30, and die within 25 year, unless they have a liver transplant. 

This study looked at the impact of coffee drinking not only on PSC, but also on primary biliary cirrhosis. Coffee drinking had no impact on PBC, but a noteworthy impact on PSC. Healthy controls were more likely to drink coffee than the patients with liver disease---and they also drank more coffee overall. When it came to not drinking coffee at all, 13% of the healthy controls were non-coffee-drinkers, compared with 21% of PSC patients. PSC coffee drinkers drank an average of 50 cups per month, compared with an average 78 cups per month among healthy-control coffee drinkers. When researchers considered personal history, they found that the subjects with PSC had spent only 50% of their lives “actively drinking coffee” compared with healthy coffee drinkers, who had been actively drinking coffee for 67% of their lives.

The takeaway message is pretty consistent with other studies that we’ve been seeing about coffee. Drinking more coffee over a longer period of time has positive effect on certain aspects of our health---though we are not exactly 100% sure why this is true. Certainly the antioxidants and chlorogenic acids help, but what we saw in this study was a truly anti-inflammatory effect that has far-reaching implications for the link between coffee and good health.

Now for more good news: It’s warming up! That means trips to the beach and the pool, sundresses and shorts, late nights at the museums and sipping iced coffee on the patio. Note that conventional wisdom has recently changed: Coffee counts as a liquid, so consider yourself hydrated when you’re sipping a cup of Pike Place. And if you’re watching calories, remember to use skim milk whenever possible and not too much sugar. Finally, if it’s sunny out, take care to wear sunscreen and sunglasses and sit under an umbrella while enjoying your iced latte. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Love is in the Air at Java Love Montclair

It’s spring. Finally. And love is in the air. And if you love coffee, you will love the fact that Java Love Coffee Roasters (founded in 2011 by Jodie Dawson and Kristine Petrik in Bethel, NY) has opened in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. This funky little café is located at 244 Bellevue Avenue, right next to the Bellevue Theater and Anderson Park. 

It’s been open about a week and there’s already a scene building. First and foremost, the coffee is good. Jodie and Kristine only source green beans that are sustainably farmed, organic, fairly traded, rain forest certified—and in the case of decaf bean, water processed. Plus, in addition to coffee, tea, espresso drinks, chai and juices, there is a nicely stocked array of gluten-free vegan, healthy, yummy food---from baked goods to salads to sandwiches. The vegan orange cranberry organic cookie is especially delicious. 

According to Jodie, “We try to source as many healthy, natural products as possible. Freshly baked goods, sandwiches, and salads arrive every morning from Little Daisy Bakery and Montclair Bread Company.  Other food products are sourced as locally and regionally as possible from NJ and NY purveyors and artisans. All our dairy is from Five Acre Farms, which sources its dairy from local farmers that only have sustainable practices.”

Evidence of Java Love’s artisanal coffee-related sensibilities are everywhere. On display and on sale are coffee soap, mugs, Java Love t-shirts and coffee-sack pillows. The space is comfortable, wood-planked, airy and well-lit. The vibe is positive, productive and very coffee- and tea-focused.
Now getting back to the coffee, it’s really very good. They pay close attention not only to how the beans are sourced and roasted, but also to the attributes of each cup, with specific attention paid to acidity, flavor, body and aroma.

It’s going to be a fun summer at Java Love Montclair. They are hoping to have special events, music, coffee tastings and more! 

Here's an interesting piece of metaphorical coffee wisdom from Jodie and Kristine...

"Like wines, coffee from different regions tastes uniquely different. The sweet, fruity taste of a Riseling is a world apart from dry, hard Bordeaux. Similarly, the wake-me-up snap of a Kenya AA is  distinctively different from a smooth, deep-bodied Sumatra Mandheling."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Paradoxical Musings from a Coffee Lover/Medical Writer (Generic Coffee & a Breast Cancer-Coffee Update)

Spring break is a special ritual for many families, including mine. Often, it means a chance to travel, a bit of sun, and the perfect chance to combine leisurely fun with purpose.  We look forward to it all year long. Last year, we basically stayed home because my husband had a major work project. The previous year, we went to Paris—when my youngest was only four months old. This year, we went to Washington, D.C. and to Virginia. It was a great trip. We stayed in decent, but not super- fancy, hotels and had an absolute blast, once we got past the initial drama of not being able to check into our first hotel in Dupont Circle due to plumbing problems.

At Hotel Harrington on 11th and E in D.C., we were literally only a few walkable blocks away from the Smithsonian Museums, the Supreme Court and the Metro. We woke up early every day and packed in quite a bit---the zoo, the National Museum of Natural History, the Supreme Court, the Museum of American History, even D.C. Coast—an exceptionally good restaurant on 14th and K.  I needed coffee just as much on my vacation as I do in every-day life.

The Adventure of Coffee in Terra Incognita

One of my favorite things about traveling is the adventure of getting coffee. During the day, I got coffee at various places---Starbucks, Pret a Manger, various museum cafeterias---but at night and early in the morning, I was basically on my own. The coffee options seemed grim, compared with my which-gourmet-coffee-am-I-going-to-drink-today lifestyle (one of the few areas I actually splurge!).

But I am flexible. This is what I know about myself: I must have morning coffee before leaving wherever I happened to sleep the night before. In our D.C. hotel, which had a decidedly Eurochic-meets-faded-70’s-glory aura, there was no coffeemaker in our room when we arrived. (Ugh!!!) When I requested a “coffee maker” for our room, which was otherwise fairly well appointed, the front deck sent up an electronic water boiler and several packs of instant Maxwell House. Still, it was coffee. It had caffeine, and we had a fridge to store skim milk. It would be sufficient to get me up and out.

                So after several days of purposeful discussions with our children about civil rights, the difference between moths and butterflies, the merits of duck versus salmon as an entrée,  neoclassical architecture and the mating habits of middle-aged pandas, we decamped for a more leisurely, playful mini-vacation (a vacation within a vacation). We landed in a nice, comfy, standard faire Comfort Inn on the highway in Woodbridge, Virginia. It cost much less than our hotel in D.C., but there was a coffee maker in the room---and the coffee was delicious. Not only that, but downstairs there was coffee EVERYWHERE, with sweet, little white standard-issue ceramic mugs. You could literally grab a cup of coffee whenever you went to the pool, the hot tub or decided to hang out in the “library” or the front-lobby computer suite. Pleasant all around.

Coffee and Breast Cancer-a Relevant Update

                Some of my favorite moments from this last spring break involve watching my children marvel at butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion at the NMNH, watching the shock of recognition in my daughter’s eyes when we showed her Thurgood Marshall’s Portrait in the front hall of the Supreme Court, drinking a leftover latte in bed in our hotel room while watching CNN---and drinking hotel coffee by the side of a hot tub, watching my 2-year-old frolic in her swim ring, while my 10-year-old practiced diving. 

                Now, perhaps this is a leap, but it makes sense to me---and I hope it will to you too. When I watch my children play and I marvel at the terrific investment of raising children, I often think about my own mortality.  Like many women, I worry about breast cancer---especially considering that my own mother died in her forties from this terrifying disease (which we are now learning is more than one disease, with variations and nuances that make it more complex than we originally thought).

                New data from researchers in Sweden at Lund University shows a positive association between coffee and preventing breast cancer recurrence in survivors.  In a placebo-controlled study of 600 breast cancer survivors, 300 received Tamoxifen, an estrogen-blocker used to prevent recurrence.  Among those women, higher levels of coffee consumption (at least 2 cups a day) was linked to a lower risk of their breast cancer recurring. They literally had half the risk, compared with non-coffee drinkers.

                What’s the link? Though it’s not entirely clear, the Swedish researchers hypothesize that coffee somehow “activates” Tamoxifen and makes it work more efficiently. Or it could be something about the wallop of antioxidants and chlorogenic acids that come with each cup of coffee. Regardless, it’s good news.

                Another important takeaway: Sometimes, coffee is just coffee, but it can still be good. Live happily today---and drink coffee!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

There are Moments When You Must Wait for Coffee---Just as People Wait for Justice

There are many interesting things to know about the Supreme Court. Any good docent will tell you that it was built in 1935, when Justice Taft insisted that the Supreme Court should have its own building---after 146  years of residing in various locations (including the Capital Building). 

What is difficult to capture in words, however, is the ineffable sense of majesty of this building. The power of inclusive democracy, with all of its gravity and rigorous discipline.

This is where Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka was argued in 1954---the case which would eventually officially desegregate education, and change our lives forever. The karma of that decision and that energy lives in that building. You feel it like a strong breeze when you walk in, enter the front hall and see the portrait of Thurgood Marshall (the lawyer who argued the case and later became the first African-American justice.) With Chief Justice Warren at the helm, the court decided unanimously on May 17, 1954 that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Architect Cass Gilbert designed the building in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape using a classical Corinthian architectural style. It is the perfect setting for the serious judicial work that goes on here---of the 10,000 cases requested each year, 80 are heard. It is a great privilege to have a case heard at the Supreme Court.

While visiting Washington, D.C., we had the chance to visit the Supreme Court---a short walk from our hotel. The day was temperate, but somewhat sad, happening just two days after the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Cherry blossoms bloomed all around us as we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue resolute in our determination to stand in line so that we could attend an oral argument in the Great Hall. (Court was in session!) We had not had anything to eat or drink—including coffee. We were determined to get through security and hear the arguments. Coffee and food had to wait.

I went through the morning elated, but without coffee. As I sat in the Great Hall, my eyes filled with tears when I saw Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan sitting next to their male colleagues. The proceedings reflected that unique quality of judicial forbearance and spirited innovative determination to find the truth of the matter—based on principle, but willing to set precedent. All of this---and no coffee!

So later, when we had finally sat through the arguments, we went to the cafeteria, where we had a lovely lunch---including dark roast coffee. It was a low-key and healthy lunch---rice bowls, coffee, yogurt, salad---and we felt incredibly nourished intellectually and nutritionally.

The coffee was so invigorating that I literally felt as if I could spend the day touring museums. We stayed at the court for another hour, watching a film and hearing a lecture, and left feeling lucky to be Americans in 2013.

The takeaway on the coffee situation on the Federal Mall: There is no Starbucks, but there is always coffee---and it’s often good. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Celebrating the Spring Holidays By Drinking Coffee and Tea Against the Backdrop of a Green-and-White Landscape

March in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT) has been an interesting hodgepodge of green and white.  Buds started sprouting during a welcome mild spell a couple of weeks ago, and then a sudden snow storm (the second in two weeks) weighed down the saplings with heavy white flakes. As beautiful as it was (and still is) to look at, it was inconvenient, messy and dangerous.

Snowflakes even fell as revelers marched through the streets of Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day---a happy day where many people I know drank a lot of coffee. And other stuff too!

We bought more firewood, drank more coffee and tea---and tried to hunker down in small doses before picking up our shovels and laptops and heading back out into the wild, wild world of eclectic weather.
Perhaps we got healthier as we tried to stay warm by consuming more hot beverages…I think that most likely we did.

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on March 15th 2013, confirmed something good about coffee and green tea: drinking these beverages may very well decrease the risk of stroke. In a study of 83,269 Japanese adults between the ages of 45 and 74, the more green tea and/or coffee consumed, the lower the risk of having a stroke. In fact, people who drank at least one cup of coffee or two cups of green tea a day had a 32% lower risk of having an intercerebral hemorrhage (also known as a ‘brain bleed’), compared with people who consumed less coffee and tea.

Why, I continue to ask when I read these studies, are coffee and tea so good for us? Many reasons, but in the case of this study, researchers hypothesize that the benefits derived from coffee and green tea come down to what I like to call the two C’s: chlorogenic acids and catechins---both of which contain a healthy serving of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activity.

So as you prepare for spring holidays and continue to get out and keep moving, have fun. Stay fit! Be happy and drink lots of coffee!

Chag Sameach!
Happy Easter!
Summer is coming. Yay!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 2013 MLK, Jr. Coffee-Drinking Party:Brewing up Happiness and Fun in Honor of MLK and Obama

It’s become a tradition: Each year, on the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day), we host a coffee-drinking party. There is also tea, hot chocolate and sweet treats. We do it for several reasons. It gives us a chance to honor MLK, Jr., who loved coffee, in a way that is human, inclusive and festive all at once. We also enjoy seeing friends and neighbors and letting the kids play.

Over the years, the party has grown from a handful of friends posing for a picture in Starbucks, holding up cups in honor of MLK, to more than 60 people at our house this year, including lots of families.  This year was extra special, because in addition to celebrating MLK Day, we were also celebrating the second inauguration of President Obama. It was impossible not to feel good about the perfect intersection of persistent striving, high-minded ideals and concrete ceremonial reality---Obama being sworn in for another four years.

The party was great. People arrived early with little gifts and sweet treats to offer. There was baklava. There were apple tarts and zucchini cookies; pigs-in-blankets and potato puffs; dried apricots and gingerbread muffins---and even a quiche. 

Thanks to the perks of Pandora, the music varied wildly ranging from Carly Rae Jepsen to Dave Brubeck, and then to disco.  Kids ruled, with the majority being between the ages of 9 and 11, but there were toddlers, and even a 14-month old in the mix. There were a lot of writers roaming around, as well as a couple of high-level editors, a wine-maker, an artist (who sold us two pieces, including an astonishingly moving depiction of MLK, Jr. and a picture of our youngest daughter), some lawyers, and lots of talented people who dedicate their time to various community-based causes.  The coffee flowed with ease, the hot chocolate was drunk within the hour and a few people were not shy about opting out of the coffee and heading straight for the Red Zinger. The theme of the evening: diversity---in every sense of the word.

Right before we attempted to take a group photo (that effort turned into an epic fail, though we did get some interesting shots of various people toasting MLK or just hanging out), we decided to take time out to read quotes from Dr. King and other like-minded individuals about equality, tolerance and freedom.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”—MLK, Jr.

“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”----James Baldwin

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”----MLK, Jr.

By the end of the night, people were getting really amped from coffee and chocolate and (healthy) sweets. We turned up the music---and a whole gaggle of girls born in 2002 rocked it out to disco hits that peaked in 1972. Another year, another celebration. Thanks to everyone who shared this event with us.

Thank you to for this remarkable timeline of MLK, Jr.'s life!

MLK Infographic

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's 2013: Make Your Resolutions Stick---and Use Coffee to Get Moving and Stay Healthy

Only a couple of weeks into the New Year, and we are still hoping for the best. Resolutions---both documented and unacknowledged---drive us to achieve our goals and make good on the annual quest to have a “happy, healthy (new) year.”

When I woke up this morning, I was still fatigued despite 8 hours of sleep, eating healthy food and daily exercise. I just wasn’t feeling like myself. Immediately I thought, “Time to get that flu shot, for myself and everyone else.” It’s that time of year---and the flu has been especially difficult this year. In fact, the CDC reported that there were 22,049 cases of flu between September and the end of December 2012, compared with only 849 during the same period in 2011---and the pace and intensity have continued.

So in order to kick-start my engine, I brewed not one, but two pots of coffee, starting first with Seattle’s Best Breakfast Blend, and then moving onto Allegra Espresso Coffee Blend. I added a bit of skim milk and allowed the hot, antioxidant-laden beverage to wake me up, nourish me and energize me. By 11:30, things were definitely looking up!

The day was foggy and overcast, with bits of mist floating around. Still, I got out and walked about 3 miles, stopping for a latte at Starbucks. The sky was undeniably gray, but as I walked, I felt calm and invigorated. The wind was just cool enough to chafe and the forward movement was easy. Coffee opened the door, and I walked through.

When it’s comes to being happy and healthy, coffee is the answer. Two new studies attest to its efficacy in both areas.  The first study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, focused on people between 50 and 71. Among more than 250,000 people studied, those who consumed sugary beverages were 30% more likely to be depressed, while those who drank at least 4 cups of coffee were 10% less likely to be depressed.

Data from another study, first published in December 2012 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at the effect of drinking coffee on the risk of developing oral cancers. The American Cancer Society funded this study, which included approximately 1 million people. The researchers found that people who drank 4 cups of coffee per day or more decreased their risk of oral cancer by about half.  These results are a big deal, especially considering that 35,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with an oral cancer each year, and almost 7,000 end up dying.

So while I am not counting on coffee to protect me from the flu, I am counting on coffee to give me the energy to head to the doctor for a flu shot. I also appreciate its ability to decrease my risk of depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, diabetes and stroke.
So stay happy, stay healthy---and drink coffee. Keep moving towards your resolutions. Cheers!