Monday, January 27, 2014

The Coffee Trail with Simon Reeve

The Coffee Trail

I happened on this documentary by doing some general reading on coffee lately. Its a BBC thing, and not readily available in the US, but with a VPN routed through the UK, you can watch iPlayer content.

Its not exactly legal, but its what we have for the United States for this kind of thing. For some reason, American documentaries tend to be lacking.

Here we have an exploration into coffee growing and production in Vietnam, a country that is bound and determined to grow mostly Robusta for instant coffees. Apparently, it mostly goes into NesCafe. (I'll get into NesCafe one day when I'm bored.)

It is a pretty evenhanded documentary exploring both sides of the issue around the cultivation, the crushing poverty growers have endured before growing coffee, the ecological damage wrought, and the political repression the country is facing as a consequence of this economic policy.

From a connoisseur perspective, it would make more sense to grow Arabica, but from a business perspective, growing Robusta works. This is, until climate change and massive deforestation finally take over.

Still, Vietnamese coffee is grown mostly by small farmers. As part of their communist ethos, they tried mass farms, but it did not work. Therefore, they went to a more competitive based market, small farms owned by farmers struggling to get by. Its making some very poor people better off than they were before. Unfortunately, because of the mass farm scheme, and because of favoring the ethnic majority over the minority groups, it caused a hell of a lot of repression.

I almost wish this series was able to go more in depth into these issues and the history. Fortunately, they were very honest that there were certain questions they couldn't ask with government minders around. They also touched on Vietnamese coffee culture and cafe culture, briefly profiling one of the big exporters and shop owners, Dang Le Nguyen Vu. (He's looking to become as big as Starbucks worldwide.)

Alas, I recommend watching the program if you've got a chance. It is always good to know where things come from. I find I appreciate it a bit more.

As a bonus, here's a look at Vietnamese style coffee over on CoffeeGeek. I haven't read it yet, but I will.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coffee and Cigarettes in War-Torn Damascus.

Here's something I found flipping through the BBC's site. There is a reason why Damascus is one of the most enduring cities in human history, despite a history of invasions, fighting, and bloodshed.

Its people like this...

From the article:
There is a table at the cafe which has the same customers every single day. They start with coffee and end up in the evening drinking locally-made arak and smoking the affordable Al Hamra cigarettes made in the coastal city of Latakia.
As much as I wanted to know about the coffee, the article really does not get into it, despite a description of how the cafe has declined over the years. I did, however, came across this gem:
Khaled is defiant and still tries to enjoy life when possible, drinking, eating, smoking and making love: "I live every day as the last day and I try to enjoy it with whoever is left in the city and with whatever means of pleasure are left," he says.
As a quote, it might pertain to anyone facing any kind of strife.

We can find the bright even in our darkest days.

Go over and read up on the article.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I don't write about software and operating systems a lot. However, all of the computers we use at home run some form of Linux, even our Android phones. I even keep my own server just for media and rss feeds I follow. After the Google Reader fiasco of last year, I learned a lesson and decided to keep as much of my Internet enjoyment in my own hands, on my own computers as possible.

Being a Linux user, it means that I am pretty accepting of trying out new things and new software. Recently, I have been increasingly annoyed with the bloat in both Chrome and Firefox, and I have never been particularly enamored with the Chromium experience. (There is just something about the color scheme that does not seem right.)

Last night, I came across a review on some tech blog, I really forget which, and came across QupZilla.

After a few hours of use, this may become by default browser. It is based on Web-Kit and QT, cross platform compatible, and so far it opens most websites without any trouble. It even opens up my TT-Rss instance which would occasionally give Chrome some fits.

For the version in the Ubuntu Software Center, it does not include native spell checking, and it seems to not like pop up forms in websites. I will be trying to update to the latest version soon just to be sure.

By default, it uses Adblocker and it blocks flash. You can chose what loads, which is always nice when you are wanting things to load quickly.

You can find it at the link below.

(It crashed as I tried to add the screenshot from the post, of course.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Home Roasting Tutorial - I Need Coffee

As I begin to get back into home roasting, I have been going back through coffee blogs to see what others are doing. Based off this one, I have been doing a few things wrong.

I am missing some things that will help with consistency.

This is great to revisit and look over. It is probably the most spelled out, well documented tutorials I've seen. Also, they use a West Bend like I do.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

80th Post!

Steve Burns - Troposphere.

I will get some coffee stuff up soon. I am just letting some thoughts come together about tamping practice.

It really is the difference between a good shot and a iffy one.

In the meantime, here's a song I dug out of my music collection tonight and remembered just how much I love.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Copy of A

Here's a killer cover by Diane Birch of "Copy of A, " by NIN, one of my favorite songs from 2013.

Found courtesy of

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


We can leave our little ice hut finally! After several snow days, frigid temperatures, and a dead car battery, I can go back into the world again.

Of course, back to work. 

In the meantime, I Am Robot and Proud "Winter at Night"

Chemex Tutorial

One of these days, I'll work on a fast and dirty tutorial for brewing with the Chemex. This is a good step by step with ideal conditions and EVERYTHING you need to do it right.

Also, is using a Chemex and taking control of your coffee experience all that of a hipster thing? When did simple craftsmanship develop such a bad reputation?

I also disagree that Chemex makes the absolute best coffee you will ever have. I have this firm opinion that the coffee should be the focus, and everything should flow from that, including the method of preparation.

Each method of preparation will remove or highlight certain aspects of a coffee different than others. Therefore, its not unreasonable to expect to try different extraction methods.

Still, this is another good, step by step if you have everything you need: scales, gooseneck kettle, hand crank burr grinder.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Day, Day 3: Made in the Shade Coffee

I have never thought I would be so excited to see the temperature reach 1 degree F. I really have nothing else to say. 

However, true to form, and apparently true to the US Postal Service, my latest order from Nespresso arrived. It is a small highlight in what is another dreary, cold day. 

Meanwhile, I have putting off talking about a coffee I have been working through that I just cannot make a decision on. It is another coffee found in TJ Maxx simple called Made in the Shade. It is a light roast, that I wonder if it isn't too light. My biggest issue with it is not being able to find it online. There's not even a website on the bag. It just says that it is distributed by "International Design LTD."

I have done the full array of extractions with it I have available to me, in multiple machines. For being a light coffee, it seems to do best as an espresso or in the Aeropress. It was tolerable in the Chemex as well. 

Some of the less experienced coffee drinkers in my circle seem to like it. Some of the more experienced ones don't like it. One described it as being a bit "dirty." 

On the tongue, its tastes fine with an odd texture behind it. It tastes a bit like almonds with the bid aftertaste. Otherwise, its not particularly overwhelming. Without the nutty taste, it would be a fine coffee. 

I have probably gone through a about pound of this coffee, and I am not sure if I would buy it again. They have a darker roast, but I wonder if it will have the same issues.

It does purport itself to be a "Shade Grown Coffee," meaning that it was grown under tree growth, which more ecologically responsible than the plantation methods more commonly used. It is a nice touch, but since I cannot find much of anything on the coffee on the internet, I cannot verify any of it. 

I also am not sure if it makes up for not being that great.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Snow Day!

Snowbound by =Dellessanna on deviantART

We're getting an amazing amount of snow to day, soon to be followed by not so amazing temperatures that will truly freeze someone's balls off.

So we've got a snow day, where work and travel and all around everything has been called off.  It a Sunday, so it isn't so bad. It is also prompting this flurry of posting.

However, here is a little panorama the remarkable Dellessa took with her phone this afternoon.

If its snowing where you are, check out the rest of her gallery and savor the spring and summer pictures. Hopefully, only a few short weeks away!

Sweet Play - Across the Sky

Just from listening to the first track, this is clearly some of best quality music I've heard on Jamendo. Its trip hop in the vein of Portishead, but without the absolute gloom.

I highly recommend a download and a listen.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Favorite Albums of 2013

I'm just in time to be late for 2014, as usual.

For the most part, at the end of every year, I put together a favorite albums list. I realize that most of the world has gone back to the single format for consuming music. I also realize that this is meant to be just a coffee blog.

However, its still my blog, and I really liked quite a few albums this year. I have mentioned about half of these artists and albums already in the past year, and this is not quite a complete list.

It also is probably missing some things that I will discover or remember in the coming weeks when reading through some of the professional music blogs. That always seems to happen. 

This list of the albums I keep coming back to from 2013. These albums stick with me for one reason or another, or simply blew me away to the point where I wonder what I was listening to before I heard it. There are a few old favorites on here, and some new things I only really got into this year.

Musically, rather than rehashing the 60's or the 80's or revisiting one part of the 90's or another, I feel like the music I am enjoying are things heavily influenced by the Southern California sound of the early to mid 1970's. 

2013 was a year to stop, pause, and smell the coffee. Somewhere along the way, I spent a good chunk of the past year figuring out just who and what I am as a person slipping into his mid 30's. Not a midlife crisis, really, but just one a little more accepting of some forms of bullshit, and a little less tolerant of other kinds.

I only have so much time, so listening to something I ought to be listening to is being replaced quickly by what I want to be listening to. They're my ears, after all. 

So here's the list. Your agreement and mileage my vary.

Jonathan Wilson - FanFaire

Turin Brakes - We Were Here

Midlake -Antiphon

Steven Wilson - The Raven that Refused to Sing

Depeche Mode - Delta Machine

Bombino - Nomad

Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe

Capital Cities - In a Tidal Wave of Mystery

Johnny Marr - The Messenger

NIN - Hesitation Marks

Tricky - False Idols

There were a couple things I did not put on the list, because I just cannot justify including Best Of's or Greatest Hits collections. However, I really kept going back to A Perfect Circle's 360 Collection, and The Killers best of album. 

Happy 2014 Everyone!