Sunday, February 16, 2014

Coffee. Some Thoughts & a Recipe. There is a Lot to Learn!

If you are a coffee drinker, and we take it very seriously in our house, do you feel that you know all that you should about the growing, raising, importing, and finances associated with the tiny bean?

I have recently started watching Todd Carmichael's "Dangerous Grounds" on the Travel Channel.  Todd owns La Colombe Torrefaction coffee here in Philadelphia. The products are great and are available in some of our finest restaurants.  Todd is also widely appreciated as a man who loves adventure (witness his trek across Antartica), and is deeply involved in social and ecological issues around the world.

At first I thought of the show as merely a vanity production - and it is to some extent - but, what I didn't count on was getting an education about the inequities and the violence in the worldwide harvesting, buying and producing of coffee. I knew that there was a great deal of unfairness and that native growers were taken advantage of regularly.  But I am learning that it is much worse than I thought.

In our home, we spend a lot on our coffee.  We always select Fair Trade and buy whole bean so that we can grind it as we use it and we store it - I think - appropriately (not in the refrigerator).  For years we've been buying our beans from the same local importer and recently we have tried some of the young start up coffee roasting businesses that have sprung up here in Philly and in Brooklyn, as well.  All good coffee.  Some better than others.  And, of course, we pay for that goodness.  I generally pay between 15 and 20 dollars a pound for whole bean, free market/free trade coffee.  

Now - for those of you who are gasping at price points, remember that the canned stuff in the supermarket is, in many cases, practically stolen from the folks in the rain forest areas and other coffee growing environments.  That's why you pay half of what I am paying!  Yours is probably treated with all sorts of nasty stuff,too, and probably has additives to increase weight, etc.  You know, the usual disgusting practices which we should come to expect and are so common to big "food" production.

Which brings me back to Todd Carmichael and the TV show.  If you are a coffee lover, I do suggest that you watch the show. You will learn a few things.  In specific, a recent show entitled "Rome", if you can access it on On Demand, presents a picture of the horrible fear and nasty consquences befalling small independent coffee growers in Rondandia, Brazil.  "Big Ag", as it is referred to in the show, literally steals the coffee fields and threatens indigent people with such punishments as branding and death (armed guards are everywhere) if they attempt to come near what was once their own land.  In other practices, the land is not stolen, but the coffee farmers are paid practically nothing for their product.  This goes on in so many places in the world where coffee is grown.  Certainly in Haiti, Bolivia and Borneo to name a few coffee producing countries.

Remember, this is where the mega corporations who manufacture most supermarket products get their coffee beans - and barely pay for them.   This is where the coffee beans in your Maxwell House, Chock Full 'o Nuts, and a host of other brand names come from - direct to those cans on the supermarket shelves.  This is hardly an abstract issue.  This is real exploitation, intimidation, and at times, serious violence being practiced - openly - by powerful corporations.  For a beverage that we Americans guzzle by the gallon!

Please consider learning more about the world's coffee production.  And always, always looks for "Fair Trade" coffee beans.  

And remember the most important rule:  Always Know Where Your Food Comes From!

Recipe:  Buttered Coffee


Two cups of good, hot black coffee (Fair Trade Coffee, you don't want additives)

One heaping tablespoon of really good unsalted butter (Farmers' Market butter, from grass fed cows or make your own with great cream or Kerrygold butter works very well too). 

Optional:  Coconut Oil or Agave Syrup


Warm up a glass container with some hot water before you pour your coffee into it

Dump the water, pour the coffee into the container and put the tablespoon of butter on the top of the hot coffee

Let it melt a bit (if you are adding a sweetener, do it now)

Then submerge a milk frother into the coffee - or a small hand whisk - and really whip it.  You can also use a blender.  
A thick foam will form on the top of the coffee

Optional:  a tablespoon of coconut oil or agave syrup for added decadence

Very delicious and it will give you all kinds of good energy for the morning!  Give it a try!

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