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Puerto Rico’s Signifcance in Coffee History August 19 2015

Coffee_free_atop_the_Maricao_mountains_in_Puerto_Rico_(5661610485) - wikiApril 25, 2011-Maricao, Puerto Rico. Photo by Lilibeth Serrano, USFWS. - Wikimedia

 

In the 1500’s, in the Sufi Muslim monasteries of Yemen, coffee was first roasted. In the 16th century, coffee reached the Middle East, Persia and Africa. Coffee reached the shores of North America during the Colonial period, however, it was not as popular as it was in England, as people in the colonies preferred alcoholic beverages over fresh roasted coffee. America’s taste for coffee grew after the Embargo Act of 1807 restricted trade with both Britain and France, leading to the War of 1812. Today, coffee is a vital and important cash crop for developing countries. It has become the backbone and primary export for the African countries of Rwanda, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Today’s leaders in the production of green (unroasted) coffee are Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Columbia.

There are two main types of coffee grown, Arabic and Robusta. Arabica coffee is generally preferred over Robusta, as Robusta tends to be bitter with less flavor but has better body than Arabica. Robusta contains almost 50-percent more caffeine as well. In the United States, coffee is grown in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. In fact, back in the day (100 years ago), Puerto Rico produced some the world’s best coffee. The production of whole bean coffee decreased and the export of coffee ceased due, in part, to the damage caused by hurricanes in the 1800’s. When the United States gained control of the island in the late 19th century economic development became more of a focus. Affluence led to agricultural work being stigmatized and coffee’s decline continued.

The nutrient rich volcanic soil and climate of Puerto Rico make it the perfect place for coffee to grown. Yauco or The City of Coffee, as it is nicknamed, is famous for its coffee. The most recognized, premium blend of coffee Puerto Rico has to offer is known as the Yauco Select brand. Another brand, a very special blend, is called Alto Grande. It is special because it is one of only three brands that are labeled superpremium in the world!

Puerto Rico produced 10-million pounds of coffee in 2014 but compared to Brazil’s 1.8-million tons, that’s a drop in the ocean. However, the island is taking measures to change that. Of late, Puerto Rico has seen a resurgence of cooperative’s and small producers growing premium coffee beans. Puerto Rico has many obstacles to overcome, including a shortage of workers to pick the coffee. There is no substitute for human workers, and as people become more educated, manual agricultural work is a last choice option. Insect pests such as the coffee leafminer can reduce crop yields by up to 40% and pests such as mealybugs and scale can cause yield losses of up to 15%.

In an effort to help Puerto Rico regain its status in the coffee world, some small production farmers have concentrated their efforts on specialty and high-quality coffees. Yet others are focusing on cultivating coffee beans in the coastal areas of the island. The hope is that planting in areas with high unemployment rates they will draw workers to the fields. In another effort to increase yield, Puerto Rico’s Agricultural Secretary signed an agreement to plant more than 16-million coffee trees over the next few years. Other improvements include the recent opening of the largest coffee processing facility in the Caribbean. Another significant development is the University of Puerto Rico’s new program dedicated to helping farmers improve the quality of their coffee beans.

Maybe some day in the near future we will talk about Puerto Rican coffees in the same breath as Kona coffees as some of the best in the world, again.


Emery Coffee and Coffee Kids May 23 2014

Emery Coffee is proud to be a supporter of Coffee Kids. By working with organizations already within coffee-farming communites, they are able to give stability and improve the quality of life of those dependent on the volatile coffee market so they are able to focus on their communities' most pressing needs. Here is a video overview of their work and an excerpt from the website below. Join us in improving their lives and providing a better future.

 

 

From www.coffeekids.org -

"The projects we support can be categorized into five program areas:

HEALTH CARE

Through effective community organizing, women in rural coffee-growing communities are learning to identify and treat common illnesses with natural medicines. In turn, these women train others about preventive health care, including traditional herbal remedies, and pre- and post-natal care.

EDUCATION

Thousands of children have continued their schooling thanks to sustainable education projects. Scholarships for high school, technical and university students help families cover the costs of school supplies, textbooks, tuition and transportation. Education projects also include workshops on youth leadership and environmental and business literacy.

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION

Women in coffee-growing communities throughout Latin America are now running their own small businesses thanks to microcredit projects. By building their personal savings and taking out small, low-interest loans ($50 – 500), these women are able to start or expand their own small businesses, ranging from selling vegetables or tortillas to running a midwifery clinic or a general store.

FOOD SECURITY

Through projects such as backyard gardens, worm composting, grocery stores and nutritional education, hundreds of families are able to ensure adequate supplies of fresh, local food. This minimizes the impact of a global rise in food prices and allows families to put food on the table after income from the coffee harvest had dried up.

CAPACITY BUILDING

Coffee Kids projects include a hands-on component that brings technical, monitoring-and-evaluation and administrative training to coffee-growing communities. We support organizational strengthening and community development to ensure the long-term success of our projects. We also help provide skill-building opportunities and the resources to increase yields, improve soils and increase farming expertise."  - www.coffeekids.org

DONATE to Coffee Kids today.


Emery Coffee Goes Whole Bean May 13 2014

In keeping with our commitment to provide you with the best coffee experience possible, we will no longer be offering grind options on most of our coffees. Why, you might ask? According to the National Coffee Association, "Storage is integral to maintaining your coffee's freshness and flavor. It is important to keep it away from excessive air, moisture, heat, and light -- in that order -- in order to preserve its fresh-roast flavor as long as possible." 

Air is coffee's number one enemy and when coffee is ground much more surface area is exposed and thus goes stale much faster. You will not get sick from drinking old or stale coffee so the question then becomes how long is my coffee "fresh?" We will define fresh as the point at which a decided difference in flavor is apparent. 

Consider this, people go to the bakery every day and not just once a week because there is a difference in bread baked 15 minutes ago and 15 hours ago. A big difference. Sure the older bread is still good and quite tasty but only a shadow of the fresh bread.

The problem is, most people have never had fresh coffee outside of a cafe. If you buy your coffee at the supermarket it is already stale before you even buy it. It was roasted, ground, allowed to "rest" and release all of the CO2 before it was vacuum sealed for freshness. The resulting paradox is fresh/stale coffee. 

Our roasters use a one-way degassing valve which allows the CO2 to escape while it is on the way to you. That takes care of the issue, right? Although a big help, if the coffee was ground it was still exposed to air before it could be sealed. The flavor starts to significantly change within 24 hours. Within three days it is not the same coffee and after 7 days is hardly drinkable.

The best solution is to buy whole bean coffee and only as much as you will drink in the next two weeks. There is no noticeable change in flavor in the first 7 days. During the second week the flavor starts to break down. Again, you can drink coffee that was roasted one month or even four months ago without problems but the majority of the flavor would be gone as it becomes less and less drinkable over time. 

This seems a good time to introduce "Babbie's Rule of Fifteens." This comes from a discussion on Barista Exchange about this very issue. There are no real rules but these make for some good guidelines.

"Babbie's Rule of Fifteens:*
Green Beans should be used in fifteen months.
Roasted beans should bused in fifteen days.
Ground beans should be used in fifteen minutes.
Extracted beans should be served in fifteen seconds.


*These are generalities, and depend on the bean, the environment, and your tastes. While there are occasional outliers, anyone that suggests that these are way off would arouse my suspicions. Especially about his tastes... "

 

BEST PRACTICES

  • Buy fresh roasted whole bean coffee. 
  • Buy only what you will use in the next two weeks.
  • Store in an opaque airtight container in a cool dry place. 
  • Grind your coffee immediately before brewing.
  • Serve and enjoy as soon as possible.
  • NEVER store your coffee in the refrigerator or reheat brewed coffee.  

- Emery

 

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Coffee Beans: Sustainable or Non-Sustainable Taste Tests December 14 2013

 

Most of us have seen items in the grocery store labeled "organically produced" or "eco-friendly." From everything we have read in the media, these food items should be healthier for you than those drenched in food coloring or grown with toxic fertilizers. Folks often buy these items because they feel they are helping the environment, and they are even willing to pay more for these items. These socially conscious individuals claim that the environmentally friendly foods taste better than foods processed the old way. But do they really taste better? Researchers devised an experiment using arabica coffee beans to find out.

The scientists arranged for groups of volunteers to taste whole bean coffee brewed from arabica beans. Coffee from the arabica bean is known for being high quality, and it is the main ingredient in most gourmet coffees. The volunteers were to answer a questionnaire that helped determine how much value they placed on an environmentally friendly coffee as opposed to a coffee that did not make use of high sustainability practices or were not friendly to the environment. The answers to the questions helped divide the group into two sub-groups: a high sustainability group and a low sustainability group. Even though the two cups of coffee served to the participants were identical, the information given before tasting was not. One coffee was described as being ecologically friendly while the other was not. Interestingly the responses of the group reflected this information.

Seventy-four percent of the high sustainability volunteers preferred the eco-labeled coffee while twenty-six percent choose the non sustainable coffee. They were also willing to pay more for the coffee. With regards to the low sustainability group, forty-eight percent choose the eco-coffee while twenty-six preferred the not ecologically friendly coffee. They were not willing to pay more for the coffee. The ecologically-friendly volunteers showed a definite preference for the coffee labeled ecologically friendly even though there was no difference between the two cups. The low sustainability volunteers were almost tied with the cup they chose. The information of the label definitely had an effect on the high sustainability group.

The results of this series of experiments show that eco-conscious individuals were willing to pay a premium for the eco-coffee. These findings were partly based on desire to do what is right for the environment rather than which coffee tasted the best. Basically the volunteers were influenced by lying about the coffee's characteristics. Similar results have been achieved using products such as nutrition bars and wine. The volunteers would pay more for the coffee they were told was ecologically-friendly whether it really was or not. These results should prove very interesting to the advertising industry!

Emery


Better Water for Better Coffee November 21 2013


Coffee is more or less 98% water. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, coffee is only as good as its weakest ingredient. When you want a drink of water do you drink tap water? Through a filter or filter pitcher? Do you drink bottled water? Whatever your personal taste, if you would not drink the water by itself why would you use it in your coffee? 

Tip #1: The water must taste good on its own. 

Best Choice 

If you have a water filtration system in place that is your best bet. Not only will you use this for coffee but for other beverages, cooking, etc. These systems filter out any unwanted odors or tastes, such as chlorine. Invest in yourself and you will thank me later. If you are not ready to take the plunge and buy a filtration system, start out with a filtered water pitcher. After using either of these for a short time tap water never tastes the same again. 

Good Choice 

Bottled water also makes for great coffee but is a little more expensive in the long run. Be sure you choose drinking water or spring water(see below). If you have a favorite brand then try using it for your next cup. Freely experiment with different brands and try to pick out the subtleties. 

Tip #2: Don’t use mineral water or distilled water. 

Water draws out the tasty goodness of the coffee and has to interact properly for a good tasting result. Mineral water is by definition hard water. With too much mineral content the water will not draw out enough of the solubles in your coffee. Distilled water is mineral free and thus has the opposite problem. Coffee will taste very bitter with distilled water as it dissolves every soluble compound. 

Tip #3: Keep the oxygen in your water. 

If you are using a manual brewer such as a Chemex, french press, or pour over remember these tips. 

Water that sits too long will taste flat because it will be missing the dissolved air that makes it taste so good. Water that boils too long leads to a poor cup also. Remove the water from the heat just as it starts to boil. The proper water temperature also plays a role in your coffee taste. If it is too cool it will not extract enough flavor. Let it cool for a moment before pouring over the coffee and you will be in the recommended 195-205 degree Fahrenheit range. If you don’t have a thermometer just use this time to preheat your brewer and cup with some of the extra water. 

Tip #4: Rinse and repeat. 

Keep your coffee maker as clean as possible and remove old grinds from the coffee maker or brewer as soon as you finish. This will prevent bitterness from old grounds marring the next cup. Coffee is a part of most American’s daily routine. Enjoy it! Make it an event. Keep your coffee from being routine and treat yourself to a cup of goodness, elixir of joy, wine of the bean or whatever your favorite name is for a good cup of coffee.

Emery


Caffeine Shown to Improve Memory in Bees November 21 2013

 

Many plants contain caffeine in their leaves naturally as a defense mechanism. The bitter taste deters hungry animals from eating plants containing it. Caffeine can  also be found in the nectar of the plant. The amount of caffeine in the nectar of a coffee plant is similar to what we find in a cup of instant coffee. The bees do not taste the caffeine at these low doses  but it is high enough to affect their behavior.   

In a recent study from the U.K., caffeine was shown to improve memory in honeybees. The bees were trained Pavlovian style to remember the scent of certain flowers. The ones that were fed the caffeinated nectar, as opposed to just sugar nectar, were three times more likely to remember the scent of that flower 24 hours later. Also, twice as many bees still remembered after 72 hours. 

Caffeine changes how Kenyon cells, neurons which are involved in memory and learning, respond to information. It leads to more sensitivity and stronger reaction to input. In other words, caffeine helps bees remember the floral scents and come back more often. This gives these plants an advantage by having a "faithful" pollinator. 

While the effect on bees is obvious, researchers are hesitant to say caffeine has beneficial effects on memory in humans. More study is needed  to see how caffeine affects us. But how many people drink coffee while reading or studying? Maybe our bodies are trying to tell us something. I think I'll have another cup just in case.

Emery


Coffee Dilemma in Central America November 21 2013

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Smartse.

Although rust is typically known as a reddish-brown flaky coating that forms on iron and other metals, coffee (or coffee leaves to be more accurate) can also "rust." Coffee leaf rust is so called because it leaves yellow and reddish spots on the foliage that resemble rust. It is an obligate parasitic fungus known scientifically as Hemileia vastatrix. 

Hemileia vastatrix must take energy and nutrients from a live host (coffee) in order to survive and reproduce. The most susceptible variety to the fungus is Coffea arabica, from which all specialty coffee is produced. 

The fungus, also called roya, has spread so widely that Guatemala declared a state of emergency earlier this year. Up to 40 percent of the Guatemalan crop may be lost this season, with Costa Rica losing between 30 to 40 percent. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are also in crisis. There are areas where plants have lost so much foliage the farmers will have to remove the dying coffee trees and replant. This will affect production levels for years to come. 

What is it like when roya attacks a coffee tree? When you have a healthy tree the plant will focus on the beans once they start developing. But when roya attacks the plant its attention turns to creating new leaves to replace those being destroyed. As a matter of survival photosynthesis takes priority over the beans and the nutrients they need to mature. Instead of ripe red coffee cherries, you see many green beans that never ripen or, even worse, dry branches and beans because of the anthracnose that accompanies roya. 

Roya is not a new problem. It was first reported in Kenya in 1861. In the mid-to-late 19th century it destroyed more than 90 percent of the coffee crops in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). The resulting collapse of the coffee industry in the area caused farmers started looking for alternate crops such as tea. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of tea in England today. According to the ICO (International Coffee Organization), the current epidemic is the worst since 1976 when it first appeared in Central America. 

The good news is the fungus has not mutated, meaning it is the same fungus that was controlled in the past and that leaves hope for the farmers. Local governments are providing assistance to affected farms with financial aid and fungicides. Among those who are contributing funds and services to the fight are: Fair Trade USA, Starbucks, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, and many others. 

While the coffee leaf rust fungus is not the end of the ever loving coffee world, it is causing quite a bit of concern, and with good cause. Coffee exports are a significant portion of revenue for these nations. We need continued research into ways to combat leaf rust for it is the farmers who suffer the most. The top echelon coffees are going to be impacted by roya this year more than ever before. There will continue to be excellent high-quality beans to fill your cup, only fewer of them.

Emery


The History of Yemen Mocha Coffee November 21 2013

Bab al Yemen, Sana’a – 13th century main entrance to the walled Old City. Photo courtesy bigstockphoto.com. Yemen is steeped in coffee tradition and the home of the infamous sea port Mocha. Although Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, Yemen has their own story as to who made the first cup of joe.

THE HISTORY OF YEMEN MOCHA COFFEE

The first authentic account of the history of coffee was written by Abd-Al-Kadir in 1587. The famous manuscript is preserved in the Bibliotecheque Nationale, Paris, and catalogued as “Arabe, 4590. A popular tale in coffee history goes as follows: In the year of the Hegira 656, the mollah Schadheli went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Arriving at the mountain of the Emeralds (Ousab), he turned to his disciple Omar and said: “I shall die in this place. When my soul has gone forth, a veiled person will appear to you. Do not fail to execute the command which he will give you.” The venerable Schadheli being dead, Omar saw in the middle of the night a gigantic spectre covered by a white veil. “Who are you?” he asked. The phantom drew back his veil, and Omar saw with surprise Schadheli himself, grown ten cubits since his death.

The mollah dug in the ground, and water miraculously appeared. The spirit of his teacher bade Omar fill a bowl with the water and to proceed on his way and not to stop till he reached the spot where the water would stop moving. “It is there,” he added, “that a great destiny awaits you.” Omar started his journey. Arriving at Mocha in Yemen, he noticed that the water was immovable. It was here that he must stop. The beautiful village of Mocha was then ravaged by the plague. Omar began to pray for the sick and, as the saintly man was close to Mahomet many found themselves cured by his prayers. The plague meanwhile progressing, the daughter of the King of Mocha fell ill and her father had her carried to the home of the dervish who cured her. But as this young princess was of rare beauty, after having cured her, the good dervish tried to carry her off. The king did not fancy this new kind of reward. Omar was driven from the city and exiled on the mountain of Ousab.

Omar had been in exile for a long time, and he was starving. He cried out in despair and a bird brought him a branch with red berries on it. Omar tried to eat the berries, but they were too bitter. He threw the berries in the fire. The fire made the berries too hard, so Omar decided to boil them. Omar loved the pleasant smell of the beans as they were boiling. He decided to drink the brown concoction. Omar found the drink revitalizing and told others about it. Word soon reached Mocha. The exile was lifted and Omar was ordered to come home and bring the berries with him. Omar shared the drink with others. People said it cured a variety of ailments. Coffee was hailed as a miracle drug and Omar was made a Saint. A monastery was built in Omar’s honor.

The earliest credible evidence of humans interacting with coffee was during the middle of the 15th century. Monks in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen were drinking coffee. Sufis used coffee to keep themselves awake during their nighttime devotion and long hours of prayer. It’s not known when people starting drinking ground coffee. The City of Mocha was a major trade center for the Mocha style of coffee bean. The green coffee beans are known for their distinctive flavor. One historian said Mocha became an important port due to an Ottoman law. The law required all ships entering the Red Sea to put in at Mocha, and pay duty on their cargoes. It’s commonly believed that Marco Polo learned of Mocha coffee during his travels through the Arab World. In 1595, Spanish Jesuit missionary Pedro Paez was the first European to taste Mocha coffee. Mocha was the major marketplace for coffee from the 15th century to the 17th century.

Yemen Mocha coffee is grown and processed today as it has been for centuries. Seedlings are grown on terraced hillsides. The dryness of the air and soil results in a small, hard bean. Yemen’s entire crop is processed by the dry method. The beans are allowed to dry completely on the tree before picking and hulling. This dry method is believed to be responsible for the unique taste of Yemen coffee. It’s described as fruity, winy and spicy.

Emery



The Coffee Bean - A Seed in Disguise November 21 2013

 

The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee November 21 2013

For years, coffee has been a mainstay at every place from the breakfast table, to the office break room, and everything in between. And for most people, coffee has been something of a joy - adding in all that sugar, cream, and more, to get out, well, a great and tasty drink that wakes you up in the morning. 

But what if it turns out that coffee is - gasp - healthy for you?! As it turns out, there are plenty of studies backing up the idea and theory that coffee is a great deal healthier than most of us have come to realize over the years, and that it's actually beneficial to drink coffee throughout the day for a variety of health reasons. 

While these studies are by no means the entire story, let's go over just a few of the important studies out there that link coffee and health benefits for you and your body.

 

Caffeine Gives You Energy 

First and foremost, people often (correctly) attach coffee drinking with caffeine, and thus, energy. And that's true! Caffeine provides a great deal of healthy energy for people, and is one of the most easily digestible and usable forms of energy for the human body on our planet today. Sure, seven cups may make you jittery, but a couple cups spread out over a few hours time provides for you a great deal of natural energy that will leave you feeling healthy, focused, and energized. 

 

Coffee As A Pain Reliever? 

New studies have recently coming out indicating that the caffeine in general, and coffee specifically, may act as a pain reliever to improve and fight back against pain symptoms and more. For people looking to get their blood moving, and pump up their blood stream naturally, and in a safe way, it turns out that coffee may do just the trick, especially when it comes to increasing circulation and fighting back against chronic pain and stiffness! 

 

Coffee Enhances Exercise Performance and Consistency 

For many people, as it turns out, coffee enhance both exercise performance and consistency, according to a study from October. Coffee can promote and assist a wide variety of people with their exercise goals when it comes to sensible and consistent consumption of the tasty drink over time, along with other healthy habits and acts ranging from consistent physical activity to healthy nutrition. 

 

Coffee Has Water... And Water Is Good 

Coffee is made up predominantly of water, and for some people, can be the only water they get all day. While we'd all love to get in the habit of drinking five or ten glasses of pure water each and every day, it just doesn't happen for most people. For that reason, then, it's critical to find other ways to get water - and for many people, that means coffee. This non-traditional method of hydration is increasingly a huge benefit to people seeking to get more water in their daily lives, and improve their health immeasurably thanks to the increased water intake.

Emery