Showing posts from May, 2020

Smoky sweet or light and floral, doesn't matter---coffee is good for your genes

I drink a lot of French roast coffee. It is my go-to brew when there is any doubt involved, or when I’m brewing coffee at home for guests. I like its depth and its smoky-sweet quality. I like it with skim milk that has been steamed and mixed in. I like it at any time of day. French roast is considered a prototypical dark roast coffee. In default situations, this double-roasted, dark brown coffee, with its shiny surface epitomizes the best of the dark roast drinking experience. There are also lots of good light and medium roast coffees. If you want a more caffeinated brew, go for the lighter roast coffee. I used to think that the darker the roast, the stronger the coffee; but in reality, the lighter the roast, the shorter the roasting time, which results in a more caffeinated brew, with bright, fruity, herbal, flavors. It’s definitely fair to say that lighter roasts have more complex flavors. Light, medium, and dark roasts are ALL good for you Whichever roast you prefer, c

Starbucks: the (quietly grand) reopening---btw, are you a manufactured morning person?

When Starbucks closed due to the pandemic in mid-March, it hit me hard. I reasoned that if Starbucks was closing, then things must be serious, and indeed they were serious---and still are. What is it about Starbucks?   First of all, Starbucks is everywhere. However, their power in this market is about more than size. It’s also about scale, branding, and ethics. As of early 2020, there were roughly 30,000 Starbucks locations around the world, nestled into pretty much every nook and cranny of planet Earth. Everyone recognizes the logo and what it stands for---coffee and other hot drinks, with some snacks and a la carte food offerings, a place to sit, free wifi, community with other people, and the right to sit peacefully without being disturbed. Starbucks also has the distinction of being the largest buyer of certified Fair Trade coffee in the world. Early on, Starbucks branded itself as a “third space”---a place between home and work; a place to think, to read, to wo

Chock Full o’Nuts: good coffee and ethics, but no nuts & an interesting Parkinson’s connection

The first thing you should know about Chock Full o’Nuts is that is does NOT have nuts in it. It may seem obvious to people familiar with the brand, but it has been such a source of confusion that recently the folks at Massimo Zannetti Beverage Company added a statement on the container: “100% PREMIUM COFFEE, NO NUTS, JUST COFFEE.” Wouldn’t it be easier to simply change the name? Maybe, but with such a rich heritage dating back almost 100 years, it would be a loss. When William Black opened his nut business in NYC (at Broadway & 43 rd ) in 1926, he had 18 shops; however, when the Great Depression hit, nuts were considered a luxury---but coffee was still essential. In 1932, Black revamped his nut shops, and started selling a cup of coffee with a sandwich for five cents. By 1953, Black was selling his coffee in supermarkets under the “Chock Full o’Nuts’ name, and two years later, his brand became America’s #1 selling coffee. Over the years, it has been the official coffee o

Surprise take-out coffee from Panera—precious like gold

Conventional wisdom says that “it’s the little things that make life worth living.” Like walking in the park in the middle of May on a sunny day—a little thing that is not such a little thing anymore. That was me on Saturday, walking, relishing the solitude, and enjoying the sunlight. There is something magical about the quality of mid-May sunshine. It makes everything feel celebratory and new again. The only thing that was missing was a nice cold cup of iced coffee. Every year, I contemplate what it will be like to drink my first iced coffee of the season. The temperature needs to be at least 70 degrees (Fahrenheit), and the weather needs to be sunny. Otherwise, there are no rules—because, of course, under normal circumstances, there are many coffee-buying options. Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances, and because of the lockdown, Starbucks and most other coffeehouses are closed. Given that we are roughly six weeks into this situation, I’ve accepted the fact t

Drink Wicked Joe's B corp coffee--make the world a better place & live longer

Wicked Joe Organic Coffee, based in Maine, is a family-owned business and part of an elite club---one of 3,301 certified B corps, businesses that are committed to using their economic success as a force for good in the world. Unlike companies that focus solely on producing benefits for shareholders, B corps are primarily purpose-driven and focused on creating benefits for all stakeholders. Wicked Joe's is part of that community. According to the company, their mission “is to roast epic coffee in a manner that is kind to both the earth and the farmers who painstakingly grow our tasty beans.” In a 2018 Fair Trade Impact report, Wicked Joe documented $210,000 in Fair Trade premiums that went directly to the coffee farming communities that it partners with for reinvestment—above and beyond standard business profits. And is the coffee epic? Yes, I tried it and it’s wicked good coffee, with excellent branding. In fact, Wicked Joe's branding primarily focuses on it

Misguided brand loyalty & why Fair Trade makes sense

There was a time in my life when I spent a lot of time walking down the street in NYC looking for coffee to carry around, or trying to decide where to drink coffee, or contacting other people to see if they could join me for coffee. However, if someone suggested going to Peet’s Coffee, it was like a big question mark for me. To me, it was some boho-branded west coast coffee. At that time, Starbucks was my go-to favorite. Ironically, Starbucks is also a west coast brand, out of Seattle---roughly 12 hours away from Berkeley, the birthplace of Peet’s. I maintained this rigid brand loyalty for some time, until I made a conscious effort to try different coffees. That effort was partly a function of trying to save money on coffee. One day Peet’s was on sale, so I bought three 16-ounce bags of their Colombian brew. I was surprised that I liked it so much. I especially liked the dank depth of its darkness, with its bright aftertaste. Why had I been so unyielding in my attachment to Star