Savoring

Coincidentally, this post ties in well to last week’s. Today I had a special treat of spontaneously visiting a cafe I had never heard of or been to, with a friend who had recently discovered it. They serve specialty coffee in handmade ceramics. For me, it’s a delight to drink coffee out of a handmade cup that I visually appreciate and enjoy holding. There are those “I need coffee!!” times, and then there are the moments you really sink in and enjoy coffee.

What is it for you?

By yourself in the quiet of the early morning, before the rest of the household is stirring?

With others?

When you visit a favorite relative in the afternoon (grandparents come to mind), and she/he serves coffee and a special baked goodie?

As the final flourish at the end of a satisfying multi-course dinner out? (for those with low sensitivity to caffeine …)

When you’re out for breakfast?

When you go to your weekly meetup with your peeps?

When you’re on vacation?

After the rest of the family heads off for the day, and you finally have time for yourself?

When it’s cold, grey, and dreary outside?

It’s a snow day?

An easy-to-blow-by experience like a cup of coffee is an opportunity to delight in a brief moment of pleasure and indulgence in your day.

Don’t you want it to also be a good cup of coffee?

Shame On You For Your Expensive Coffee!

How and when I spend money depends on the mind games I play. There’s the British expression, “Penny wise, pound foolish.” (In this context, the pound is money, currency, not weight.) We might shop for sale items, scrimp and save our pennies, only to not apply that same frugality to large purchases, or we make an expensive purchase on a whim. The idea behind the saying is to be careful of the large numbers — be penny wise AND pound wise.

But for me, it backfires a bit. I reflect on the occasional costly mistakes I’ve made, or money I’ve spent that in hindsight was totally wasted. Think a moment … what are two occasions that immediately come to mind when you were “pound foolish?” If I am inevitably pound foolish at times, why not let up and be a little penny foolish, too? I’m not going to spend energy trying to save pennies or a few dollars, or linger with bad feelings if I spent $2 more than I should have. When I want a good coffee — a bag to make at home, or a cup at the cafe, I’m just going to get what I want (within reason).

This recent article from The Atlantic is called The Rise of Coffee Shaming, with the subtitle “Personal-finance gurus really hate coffee.” Suze Orman “has spent years turning the habit of buying coffee into a shorthand for Americans’ profligacy, especially that of young Americans.” Who hasn’t heard some form of financial advice about skipping the daily lattes at the cafe? This quote from the article gets at the gist of the piece,

“coffee endures as a personal-finance flash point because it provides such a tidy intersection of generational tensions.”

“You spent how much?!!” This Huffington Post article talks about why specialty coffee is so expensive. Doing a little math … If you use 1/2 oz of coffee per 8 oz pour-over, an 8 oz bag of coffee would yield 16 x 8 oz cups = 128 oz.  A Starbucks tall cup is 12 oz.  Ten Starbucks tall cups, where a tall costs $2, say, would mean $20. Keep in mind they usually sell their brewed coffee according to a roast profile of coffee that’s a blend from a general geographic area, e.g., Latin America. Another way we sometimes don’t consider expense is when we buy into the brew method & technology that’s expensive (e.g., Keurig cups, K-cups), and the coffee itself might not be all that special.

You get up, you get ready for work. How can you start your day with a little treat or indulgence, bait to get you out there? Don’t we all do similar self talk like this at times? I deserve a good coffee (chocolate, cocktail, massage, doo dad, insert your little vice). I’ve earned this coffee (pastry, etc.). I need this coffee …. Just give me this little moment before I start my day. I just want to enjoy my delicious cup of coffee, free of shame or guilt.

Almost Sold Out!

I knew we were close to selling out of coffee, but it’s rapidly going now. It’s like the car’s fuel gauge … it shows 1/4 tank, then rapidly approaches empty. There’s only less than 20 pounds left! This season’s harvest won’t be available until probably late September at the earliest. Last year it was Halloween.

We do still have a very limited amount of peaberry. Use the contact form to indicate whether you’re interested in some. One pound is $45; 8 oz is $25; 4 oz is $14.

Coffee’s Health Claims

Over the years there have been claims that coffee’s bad for us, then it has been stated that coffee, in moderation, is good for us. Sharpen your mental acuity, lose weight, increase your athletic performance, etc. Years ago Bea’s doctor recommended drinking two cups of coffee a day for mental alertness.

I had blogged a little about making cold brew. I never thought of it as healthier than hot coffee, but I did pass on the claim of supposed lower acidity than hot brew. However, this article debunks that point, as well as other cold brew health claims that are floating around out there.

The latest news that the media grabbed on to a couple of weeks ago had to do with coffee and brown fat. The suggestion was that coffee might be helpful in managing body weight and regulating blood sugar. I’m not going to summarize it since it is done nicely in this article from the University of Nottingham, and that article also links to the publication in Scientific Reports. Note, the study was done on only nine individuals — that fact wasn’t mentioned in many of the lighter online articles.

Brown fat has been an interesting topic for me for a while. It came up on my radar when I was interested in cold water swimming. I have swum most of my life, and the challenge of open water, ocean, and cold water swims kept the sport interesting for me after years of soaking up chlorine, going back and forth in a pool. When you look at the long distance cold water swimmers, they usually have some fat on them. They don’t usually look like a lean triathlete or endurance runner.

How do you train for an event with a climate or conditions unlike where you live? We know of a triathlete in northern California who would run in a wetsuit in the middle of the afternoon to simulate the Kona heat he’d encounter in the run leg of the Ironman World Championship at Kona.

Years ago I was on a 6-person swim relay team for the famed Maui Channel Swim. It was a horrible year for the event. Unbelievably, our boat sank on the way to the start of the race in Lanai. Luckily, a generous, very warm-hearted team from Oahu with a large enough boat volunteered to let us swim with them.

We fantasized how it’d be fun to later invite them to swim the Nevada-California Trans Tahoe Relay, a similar relay swim, but across Lake Tahoe, where water temps are 55-60, versus 77-79 of the Maui Channel Swim. How would Hawaii swimmers train for cold, open water swims and increase their brown fat? There aren’t even cold water lakes. We only thought of frequent cold showers. Here’s a poetic article that’s on the National Geographic website about cold water swimming. This is not the experience you have in Hawaiian waters. Are we now supposed to conclude we can ditch the cold showers and just drink a lot of coffee to help access those brown fat functions?

Freezing Bea’s Knees Coffee

I ran another non-rigorous experiment. Again, I wished I had the skill to cup coffee. I had shared a link to an article about “to freeze or not to freeze” coffee beans before. Bea likes to freeze many food items, usually because she can’t eat everything she buys, receives, harvests or makes. There are many legitimate reasons for wanting to freeze foods in order to keep them as fresh as possible. Many items freeze and thaw fine, but some ingredients just don’t come out the same.

Back in early April, I let a half pound of coffee sit & de-gas in its valve bag for four days after roasting, then I double-bagged that bag in ziploc bags and put it in the freezer. My plan was to later defrost it and taste it against a freshly roasted batch of coffee.

A couple of weeks ago, I took that frozen bag out and defrosted it in our cupboard, minus the two ziplocs, but still in the original packaging. I gave it two days. Then I gave my husband a blind tasting of that previously frozen coffee against coffee that was roasted five days prior. The “fresh” coffee hadn’t been immediately packaged in a valve bag, but was just stored in a ziploc bag. For each cup, I weighed the coffee, ground it the same, used the same temperature water (thanks to our OXO Brew pour-over kettle), and used the same type of cups. The last one brewed was hotter, so I probably should’ve controlled for that. But we did also taste when both were cooled.

Both of us felt the (what was revealed to be) “frozen” coffee tasted a bit more fruity or acidic, and the “fresh” coffee had more chocolate favors. Both coffees were still flavorful. This tasting reminded us of how challenging cupping was. You can taste they’re different, but how do you describe it? Back and forth we sipped, concentrating.

In hindsight, I should’ve kept a bag of coffee from the same time and NOT frozen it, as a third tasting.

Layperson’s conclusion/tips: if you want/need to save coffee by freezing it, it doesn’t seem to suffer. Do your best to control moisture when freezing and thawing, e.g., vacuum packing or double-bagging in ziplocs. Thaw the beans before you grind them; they’ll be more flavorful. In my college days, I used to store my beans in the freezer, and I ground beans straight out of the freezer. If you want the best flavor you can still get, don’t do that.