This morning's mailbox coffee grab bag included a fair amount of coffee news that was actually interesting, a switch from the past few weeks when my Google "coffee" alert was focused on news that was about weight loss, the stock market and a couple of coffee-house related crimes. So it was a treat this morning to find that green coffee bean extract, kidnapped baristas, coffee-throwing patrons and the trials and tribulations of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters have slipped into the background to make way for more interesting news about coffee -- like a review of the Chris King coffee tamper from uh... Adventure Journal? Apparently, there's a very good reason for a magazine on outdoor adventures is publishing a review of coffee gear -- the tamper was designed and is offered by Seattle fixture Chris King, well-known makers of high-quality precision bike components and now, apparently, of coffee tampers. Watch:
Now, my first coffee tamper was a coffee mug whose pedestal fit perfectly into the top of the portafilter basket I was using at the time. My current coffee tamper is the plastic scoop/tamper combination that came with my espresso machine -- so it goes without saying that I don't have a whole lot of experience with coffee tampers. They've been kinda on the sideline of my "one of these days I really should get..." list. I've read lots about the "perfect" coffee tamper and I know many of the guys here have a little collection of them going, but I haven't really been tempted before. These, however, are tempting in the same way that pretty coffee machines are tempting -- look how pretty:
Three sizes, four colors, precision-engineered and designed to help you gauge the right tamp -- and red? Even at $80, I'm seriously tempted.
In Other Coffee News Today...
As if getting coffee gear reviews from an Adventure magazine wasn't enough, I find that Wired.com reviewed canned iced coffee. The review is an absolute must-read if only because it's a really fun read. I mean, we're talking about a review with lines like this:
Wolfgang Puck Iced Coffee?
One of the iced coffees mentioned briefly in the review but not reviewd is Wolfgang Puck Iced Coffee, which actually comes in a bottle rather than a can. It comes in four flavors, all of them apparently with milk added. There's a great little video on the site in which a radio host interviews Puck about the coffee and he utters this kinda unforgettable lin: "When you open it you can actually smell the coffee. You can taste the coffee." Now, I gotta tell ya, that's a pretty darn low bar to hurdle for a coffee drink. I kinda expect that my iced coffee will taste like coffee. That's why I'll probably stick with making my own iced coffee at home with fresh roasted coffees from here -- or maybe cut out a step and grab a few bottles of Captain's Cold Brew, which is pretty awesome.
More coffee news from non-coffee sites:
Over at Huffington Post, Food Republic has updated its Coffee Power rankings, and it should surprise no one to find familiar names from Blue Bottle, Sweet Maria's and Counter Culture coffee on the list.
And on the coffee growers side, AllAfrica reports that a Tanzanian NGO called Envirocare is working to train farmers in sustainable coffee farming practices using train-the-trainer methods -- that is, they'll be training select small coffee farmers in intensive training sessions that include teaching them how to train others around them. Their expectations are that by next year, they will have "increased average coffee yields per tree from the current one to two kilogrammes, increase premium grades of coffee from 60 per cent to 90 per cent and to train 104 promoter farmers and five gender promoter farmers to train others." Pretty ambitious goal -- and so worth attaining.
Meanwhile, in Viet Nam, the Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute is urging farmers to replace old coffee trees with young ones and urging the government to subsidize the costs and help spread the word about the advantages of sustainable growing practices. At the same conference, a speaker from the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association talked about how unsophisticated small coffee farmers are often taken advantage of in coffee contracts with exporters, and introduced a standardized contract for coffee growers that safetguards their rights. Could it be the start of nudging the Vietnamese robusta industry toward fairer trade and better prices? Hard to say, and an interesting counterpoint to the very first item of coffee news in my roundup basket -- JM Smucker, makers of Folgers, Millstone, Dunkin Donuts (supermarket brand) and Cafe Bustelo, announced a 6% decrease in coffee prices across all of their coffee lines this morning.
I know this was a long post, even for wordy little old me, so if you actually read through the whole post -- and especially if you clicked through to some of the links -- reward yourself with a cup of your favorite coffee -- just skip the canned iced stuff, at least until they figure out a way to make it actually taste like GOOD coffee.