Sunday, March 14, 2010

It’s icy, it’s delicious, it’s an iced caramel latte; great for sore throats too!

It’s that time again, my ever popular Sip of the Week. As the title of this post states, I had an iced caramel latte, but I also said I have a sore throat. No, I’m not sick, but my throat hurts and I have a legitimate excuse.

I’ve been in Cleveland, Ohio since Friday (I’m back in Athens now) for the Mid-American Conference Tournament watching the Ohio University men's basketball team. We played Kent State University Thursday in the MAC Quarterfinals and beat them in a thrilling match 81-64. This put us up again Miami University (Our biggest in-state rival, everybody here hates Miami) in the MAC Semifinals. We beat them in a slow paced matchup 54-42, and with this win we were set to play the University of Akron in the MAC Championship last night. Since I was already in Cleveland on Friday with my boyfriend, we just decided to stay in town for the championship game and boy I am glad we did. The Bobcats beat Akron in a thrilling overtime game and a dunk at the end of OT by Armon Bassett sealed us the the win and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (The Big Dance) with a score 81-75. So, as you can imagine, I screamed my head off for two games. This is why I had a sore throat.

Anyways, as much as I could go on and on about what the past two days have been like, I need to get on with this coffee drink.

As I already stated, I got an iced caramel latte today and it came from The Front Room. I was never really a fan of cold coffee before, but I really wanted a creamice (smoothie like beverage), but unfortunately the machine was broken, so I ordered the next best thing, this iced coffee drink. I was nervous that I would spend $3.10 on a drink I wouldn’t enjoy, but that wasn’t the case at all. I really did enjoy it and as soon as I took a sip my throat felt noticeably better.

I wanted to work on some homework for a bit after I got my coffee, but I had laundry in the washers and needed to go put it in the dryer. I have been to The Front Room before though and from those observations, The Front Room is the spot. People are always there studying or large groups meet there. It’s usually the place to be and if you say, “Lets meet at The Front Room,” everyone at OU knows where you’re talking about, so that is always nice (I’m horrible at giving people directions). Also, The Front Room proudly brews Starbucks coffee, so that is another reason as to why people love going's good!

For now, I must go and study for finals. This week is finals week at OU and my spring break officially starts Wednesday. I am pretty excited, but my wisdom teeth come out in a week so I’m not looking forward to that.

Thanks for reading, have a great week everyone! Good luck on your finals to those that have them.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fair Trade: Helping farmers get a fair share of trade

Have you ever been to a coffee shop and read somewhere that the coffee they sell is Certified Fair Trade? If so, have you ever taken a minute to think about what that really means? Well, if not, then I am here to tell you what it means to be Fair Trade Certified.

To start, agriculture is big business all over the world. Without farmers we wouldn’t have most of the food we have today. For large-scale farmers, their benefits of farming and selling is huge, but for small-scale farmers it is usually small. This forces those farmers into a cycle of poverty and debt. There are many middlemen in the process from growing the food to getting it to your table, so little money you actually spend on food reaches the people who grew it. It’s a very sad process for those hard-working farmers, so that is why there is such a thing as Fair Trade. Fair Trade enables those small-scale farmers to sell their food and have enough money to feed their family and survive.

The Fair Trade Movement arose during the rebuilding period post-World War II. This was a period of time when organizations were formed to help develop policies and standardize financing practices. At this time, there was a term known as “development trade,” which began with European and American organizations and churches linked to impoverished communities. These organizations and churches would purchase goods from the developing countries and sell them to customers in developed countries.

The organizations were known as Alternative Trade Organizations (ATO’s), and the number of these types of organizations increased during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the 1980’s these development organizations coined the slogan, “trade, not aid” in reaction to the corruption created by foreign aid to large organizations and directly to governments. This was the point in time when the term “fair trade” was used with this movement as opposed to the “free trade” policies of that time.

Although I will be mainly focusing on fair trade coffee, other items that are fairly traded include; handicrafts, cocoa, sugar, tea, rice, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.

In 1988, a coffee cooperative from Oaxaca, Mexico drafted a proposal with Dutch ATO, Solidaridad, to buy and sell large amounts of coffee. Solidaridad came up with the Max Havelaar label instead of forming a bridge between the Mexican group and the European group. This label was put on any coffee where the producer was paid a “fair return.”  The name came from a fictional Dutch character who was opposed to the exploitation of Dutch coffee pickers.

In 1989, the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT) was formed between multiple ATO’s to create support globally. The Fairtrade Labeling Organizations (FLO) group was formed in 1997 to set standards and made sure those standards were met. This group brought together Max Havelaar and its counterparts in other countries.

In 1999, Fair Trade coffee was introduced to the United States, the world’s largest coffee consumer. Today, the United States consumes about one-fifth of the world’s coffee.

At the time one advocacy group, Equal Exchange, was set up and demanded coffee companies begin buying and selling fair trade.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are many middlemen in the process from growing coffee to actually getting it into the consumers' homes, so the grower gets a small percentage of the money most of the time. This is why there is such a thing as Fair Trade and Equal Exchange created a different path that would allow the growers to earn more money in the end and help out their communities. The graphic below shows the path Equal Exchange has created by eliminating the middlemen, giving more money to the producers and giving the consumers a better value.

Image courtesy of Equal Exchange

According to the Equal Exchange Web site the current minimum price for fair trade coffee is $1.21 per pound, plus $.10 per pound social premium and an additional $.20 per pound for organic. *When the market rate for coffee exceeds the minimum Fair Trade price, a premium is paid above the market rate. According to an article published by Global Exchange in November 2009, the current market prices of coffee are around $.60-$.70 per pound. Since these prices are so low, many farmers don’t make enough to maintain their families, so that is why Fair Trade is needed.

Now that I told you the history of Fair Trade and how much companies have to pay the farmers for their coffee, but what are the actual criteria for being Fair Trade and how does one company receive certification?

A non-profit organization based in the United States, TransFair USA, is the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S.. TransFair’s audit system makes sure the products “verifies industry compliance with Fair Trade criteria.” This organization licenses over 600 U.S. companies that proudly display the Fair Trade Certified label. This organization is also one of 23 members of FLO.

According to the Transfair USA Web site, these are the Fair Trade principles:

•Fair prices: Organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price with a additional premium price for certified organic products.
•Fair labor conditions: Workers on fair trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Child labor that is forced is strictly prohibited.
•Direct trade: Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as direct as possible, avoiding any middlemen, which in turn empowers farmers and strengthens their organizations.
•Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and workers decide democratically how to use their Fair Trade premiums.
•Community development: Fair Trade farmers invest their premiums into the social and business development of their community. This includes; health care, new schools, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.
•Environmental sustainability: The Fair Trade certification prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), promotes farm systems that improve soil fertility, and limits the use of harmful agrochemicals.

Numbers to make note of:

•There are over 35,000 retail establishments in the U.S. that offer Fair Trade products.

•Fair Trade benefits over 800,000 farmers organized into cooperatives and unions in over 48 countries.

•TransFair USA has certified more than 74 million pounds of Fair trade coffee, which has generated more than $60 million of additional income for farmers.

•In 2009, Starbucks doubled its consumption of Fair Trade coffee making it the world’s largest consumer of Fair Trade coffee.

I had the opportunity to talk to Megan Lobsinger, an employee at Donkey Coffee & Espresso in Athens, Ohio. Below is a clip of what she had to say. The first one was a response to my question about why coffee shops should buy Fair Trade coffee to sell and the second is a response to a question asking her if she thought the fair trade label helped their business and if she thinks that makes people more inclined to purchase it.

I wanted to know just how many people at Ohio University really paid attention to the Fair Trade label when they bought coffee, so I can’t really survey 20,000 students, so I sent a survey link to over 100 people on my Facebook Friends list. Fifty people took the one-question survey and here are the results.

Graphic Illustration made by the editor.

When I looked at the final results of this survey, I was surprised to see that close to half of the people didn't even purchase or drink coffee. Also, the lowest percentage at 14% is the number of people who actually pay attention to Fair Trade, that was only around 7 or 8 people, very low I think.

As I end this post I think about how important Fair Trade is to those hardworking farmers and I will now pay more attention to it. Without Fair Trade, those farmers can't live. So I encourage those of you who drink coffee to pay more attention next time you go to Starbucks or any other coffee shop and if you have the opportunity to pay a little more for Fair Trade coffee, just think about who you are helping and the ways it will help those people and their families in the long run.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's baaaaaack!

Well this week I made a decision, I was feeling up to doing a real Sip of the Week and that is exactly what I did. Actually, I’m drinking my beverage right now (fancy, eh?). I was hesitant at first, but there are some places I want to try on Athens still, so I figured I need to go out and do it.

Today’s Sip of the Week brought me to the Pangaea International Tea and Coffee Room at the Athens Book Center. I was excited about this place mainly because I always drive by, but never have the time to stop, so I figured today would be a great day.

As I ended Plant Biology class in Walter Hall, I put in my headphones, turned on some music from iPod and made my way to the north end of town to the Athens Book Center. It was a long walk, but well worth it. As I came in the door, I was greeted by an older man, I assume he is the owner, and right away he asked what I wanted. I told him to wait a minute and once I made my decision I told him what I wanted.

I ordered a cappuccino, with one shot of espresso instead of two (still watching my caffeine limits). As the friendly man made my beverage, I took a few minutes to look around. The “coffee shop” is just a little area in the front of the store. Not only can you get coffees and teas, you can also purchase smoothies! Everyone loves smoothies, but since it was a cool day I decided to order something that would warm me up, rather than cool me down. I did notice that if you order smoothies, you have the option for nutritional additives including, antioxidant, bee pollen, multi vitamin, immune blend, soy protein, amino hydrate, whey protein and performance boost.

Photo taken on my cell phone of the "coffee shop" in the Athens Book Center.

While my cappuccino was being made, the man asked me what flavor I wanted, I was just going to say to not add anything, but I knew it probably wouldn’t taste very good, so i said french vanilla. A little while later my drink was made for an astonishing $2.50, and my flavors for today were thrown in for free. Now that’s a deal!

Now, I paid for my drink and had it in my hands, and needed some place to sit. I looked around and found some seating, but It was kind of crowded. Tables and chairs and a few couches surround the front of the store, a little too well. I had my book bag and coffee and to my luck, I almost dropped my cup o’ joe on a guy sitting at one of the tables, but I caught it and made my way to a different table right by the big windows in the front. As I look behind myself out into the street...woah, I am greeted by the butt of a stuffed animal sitting on the bar. Actually there are a few stuffed animals sitting on the bar table that sits along the windows. What if I want to sit there and can’t? I like this place, but maybe the stuffed animals are a little TOO much to be in the front of the store where people are trying to relax with a cup of coffee.

When I took my first sip, I just felt...I don’t know....relaxed. It had been a full two weeks since I had a cup of warm coffee and I have missed it. Coffee has never tasted so good. Weird, considering last week even the thought of coffee made me want to puke.

Well, my coffee is going to get cold soon if I don’t stop writing, so I am going to finish the rest and check out the book side of the store, since this is a bookstore after all. From a distance, it looks like there are a bunch of unique books and I want to check them out. If you’re looking for a unique bookstore in Athens with a coffee shop, the Athens Book Center is the place for you! I think I’ll be back to get a smoothie once the weather warms up a bit.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, don’t drink too much coffee, but try to enjoy a little bit!


Monday, March 1, 2010


I’m not much of a political person, I listen to what’s on the news, but sometimes I just don’t care about what our politicians say. I know that’s not very good since I am a journalist and all, but I’ve never really had an interest in that stuff. I’ll have you know though, I am signed up for a political science class for spring quarter, Current World Problems, so who knows what I will get out of that and how my views of political science will change after that.

Anyways, this is going to be post sort of off-topic, but I saw this and became very interested in it and thought a lot of other people would be too.

Forty-one-year-old Documentary filmmaker, Annabel Park may have just started something that could really make some changes in this country and it all started with a simple update on Facebook...this is what that update said, from the National Post.

“let's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.”

This update got enough positive feedback from her friends, that Park decided to create a ‘Coffee Party Movement’ fan page on Facebook. This movement is basically a reaction to the U.S. Tea Party movement. Park sees the Tea Party as somewhat anti-democratic- “trying to obstruct the elected government’s reform rather than working to improve it.” For those that do not know, the Tea Party movement was formed in early 2009 in response the the federal government’s stimulus package, which was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The fan page has been on Facebook since Jan. 26 and more than 43,000 people have joined to date. You may be thinking, how is this newly formed party movement going to accomplish anything? That’s where the people come into play. Local chapters are being formed everyday (already in at least 30 states) and that is their voice in the entire matter. In an interview from the Washington Post, Park said,”We are a democracy and every vote DOES count, and we have to engage everyone in the political process--that’s the only way we’re going to have a government that represents the will of the people.”

Courtesy of the Coffee Party Movement Website, this is the mission statement:
MISSION: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

The Coffee Party has a Web site where people are actively posting on forum topics and learning how to make a new chapter. The Coffee Party is diverse and 100% grassroots. This means that the party won’t go anywhere without the help of its supporters and volunteers, so if you are interested in joining you can follow the party on Twitter or join the Facebook fan page.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I am not really into politics, but I think Park started something that may help with political decisions down the road. I think it’s great so many people are supporting it so early since it was formed just a little over a month ago.

What are your thoughts on this new Coffee Party Movement?

Coffee Party Movement logo with slogan. Courtesy of the movements Facebook Fan Page.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

One cup at a time...

I’m excited about this post, mainly because I mentioned a few weeks ago I wanted to write about it and finally found some things out and now I can. My first Sip of the Week, I went to The Donkey in Athens and I tried to get the Brew of the Week, which at that point it was Dean’s Beans No CO2 coffee, but unfortunately they sold it out before I could try it. I told you all I would figure out what the No CO2 brew was and let you know, so that is what I’ m going to do now.

Before I begin, I just want to explain what Dean’s Beans is. Dean’s Beans is a company that makes coffees that are organic, fair trade and kosher. The beans are roasted in a beanery in Orange, MA.

View Larger Map

Using pesticides in coffee production really impacts the ecology of the coffee-growing world, so Dean’s Beans is committed to buying only shade grown coffees, which supports healthy environments for coffee growers and protects bird habitats.

Dean’s Beans No CO2 coffee was launched to help fight Global Warming one cup at a time. The company calculated the total carbon load generated by a pound of coffee, from growing, harvesting, and processing, to shipping, roasting, and brewing it in our homes. Once the process was complete, Dean’s Beans found that seventeen pounds of coffee generates about fifty pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They also found out that one tree in the Tropics of Coffee releases about fifty pounds of CO2 annually.

The research done by Dean’s Beans has led them to starting a project with the Ashaninkas indigenous farmers of Pangoa, whose land was denuded by illegal logging in the 1980’s. The whole goal of the project is to plant one tree in Pangoa Cooperative for every 17 pounds of No CO2 Peruvian coffee consumed.

The tree species they are planting the the Tornillo. It grows about fifty feet tall over a period of time and provided shade and critical migratory bird habitat. So far into this project, over 80,000 tress have been planted.

I think this a great project! In recent years we have all heard about global warming and how it’s affecting the world, so any little way to help it I think is perfect. So many people consume coffee, so this an excellent way to get trees planted.

One con to this project...the only time I have ever heard of this type of coffee was when I went to The Donkey a few weeks ago, so that means there probably isn’t many people who actually know about it. I think that if more people would hear about it somehow (oh...maybe through ads??!!) then this could potentially do great things. If yo are really into helping the environment and want to try this coffee, you can purchase it here through the Dean’s Beans Web site.

Have a wonderful weekend everybody!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Week two and finally getting to me

Well, this is the second week of not having coffee and it’s really getting to me. I’m finally feeling better and I want some coffee, but I’m not going to jump the gun. I think I will take one more week off and try to get back to my Sip of the Week next week, so my apologies...again.

Since I will not be doing a Sip of the Week today, I’m going to post Part II to continue Part I from last week: the effects of too much caffeine on your body.

ABC Health & Wellbeing says that caffeine not only has long-term effects but short-term and some people may experience withdrawal if they go even a day without caffeine.

Let me start by talking about withdrawal. Once someone drinks or takes in a lot of caffeine, they form a tolerance for it, just like if you take a certain medicine everyday, it probably won’t help much later on. Caffeine works the same way, after awhile it just no longer affects people, so they drink more and more so they feel energized, then a day without it for them is very bad. ABC Health & Wellbeing said that “withdrawal symptoms occur because after a day or so without caffeine the brain becomes oversensitive to adenosine, causing blood pressure to drop dramatically.”

Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:
•caffeine headaches

Excessive caffeine intake can also cause caffeinism, which is a syndrome resulting from the chronic consumption of caffeine and addiction.

Symptoms of caffeineism include:
•nervous irritability
•muscle twitching
•sensory disturbances
gastrointestinal disturbances

Reading how all the caffeine I drink effects my body really makes me think, is it worth it? Is it worth sacrificing my body for coffee or a Mt. Dew? For those that don’t know me well, I don’t drink alcohol (I know you’re thinking WHAT??!!! You go to OU and don’t drink???!!!) That’s right, I said it. Anyways...I know caffeine is bad, but I would rather drink that than alcohol and alcohol can hurt your body just as bad. Knowing what caffeine does to my body, I do want to cut down, but I don’t want to take it completely out of my diet...

All of this talk about caffeine and coffee is making me really thirsty, so I think I’m going to go grab me a big glass of water. I hope that next week I can get back out and do a real Sip of the Week, I know a few of you reading really enjoy those.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to grind your own fresh coffee!!

Have you ever wanted to grind your own coffee, but don't know how? Well I am here to help. I had never done it before either, so I figured it out and now I am going to tell you how. Here is a special video I made that I hope will help you and entertain you. Enjoy!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Did you know??

Did you know that TOO much caffeine (in coffee and pop, etc..) can be bad for you? Well I found that out the hard way last week and because of that, and I apologize, I will not be doing a Sip of the Week for this week.

Last Monday when I did my Sip of the Week, that was the second cup of “specialty” coffee I had that day and I just think that was way too much caffeine for my body. I spent the rest of the evening with a horrible migraine and upset stomach, and now when I think of getting any type of coffee it makes my stomach turn. I’ve decided to take a week or two off of drinking coffee, so then maybe that will help my body a little bit. I guess it is healthier for me to NOT drink coffee, but I’ve committed myself to writing a coffee blog and if I don’t drink it then that would ruin my purpose, so I will take a week or two off and see if I can tolerate it again. I hope I can, because I used to love coffee so much.

Anyways, since that happened to me, it sort of prompted a perfect post topic for me this week: The effects of too much caffeine on your body.

I wanted to find the perfect info graphic that would show how much caffeine comes in some of the popular drinks we all enjoy at least once a day, so I did a Google images search and found this.

Photo courtesy of Randy Krum.

According to this poster, caffeine intoxication usually occurs after you have consumed 300 milligrams of caffeine. Last Monday, I had two “specialty” coffees, one from Starbucks and the other from Court Street Coffee. Each of these drinks had approximately 260 milligrams of caffeine in them and I had TWO! That is 520 milligrams, and when coffee intoxication is when you have more than 300 milligrams, I think that could explain why I felt so horrible that evening.

According to a New York Times Health Guide, caffeine is a substance that exists naturally in certain plants and is produced synthetically and used as an additive in food products. Caffeine overdose occurs when someone intentionally or accidentally consumes more caffeine than the normal or recommended amount. This can be through too much caffeine in drinks, as seen above in the info graphic or too much caffeine medication.

Symptoms of caffeine overdose in adults include:

•Breathing trouble
•In and out of consciousness
•Increased thirst
•Irregular heartbeat
•Muscle twitching
•Rapid heartbeat
•Sleeping trouble
•Urination- increased

Symptoms in babies may include:

•Muscles are very tense, then very relaxed
•Rapid, deep breathing
•Rapid heartbeat

If you think you are experiencing caffeine overdose, do NOT induce vomiting right away, call a doctor or the poison control center and if they recommend you induce vomiting, then by all means do so. The National Poison Control Center can be reached anywhere in the United States at 1-800-222-1222. If all else fails, then going to the emergency room at a local hospital is another option.

As I have already stated, I have not had coffee since my incident and I’ve had little caffeine from soda, so I’m trying to help out my body by drinking water and juice. Hopefully I’ll be back to normal soon so I enjoy my morning latte!


Editor's Note: This is Part I of a series of posts about the effects of coffee on the body. I will post Part II next week. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"I love you a latte!"

Hey everybody! Well, I heard tomorrow was Valentine’s Day so I figured I should dedicate this post to something related to Valentine’s Day. You might be thinking, and boy I was too, how the heck is coffee related to Valentine’s Day? After a couple hours of looking around online I found something that really caught my eye and thought it would be a great subject to write about.

Before I get started I wanted to tell you guys about the title of this post, “I love you a latte!” A few weeks ago I went to The Front Room Coffeehouse in Baker University Center and got my normal caramel latte. While I was there I noticed the employees got new shirts, but they were kind of plain, just black with a small logo on the left side, where you might see a t-shirt pocket. As I ordered, the guy turned around to make my latte and I saw that the back of the shirts said, “I love you a latte!” That just brought the biggest smile to my face and I don’t even know why, but I thought the saying was clever. Ever since I saw that, I’ve been waiting until Valentine’s Day to use it as my title, so there you go, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do (which you probably won’t).

Anyways, I came across this article on WebMD titled “Caffeine: Potion for Female Sex Drive?” It was published in 2006, a little outdated, but I didn’t think that much has changed about caffeine in the last four years. The article is talking about a study done at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas titled “Coffee, Tea, and Me.: Moderate doses of caffeine affect sexual behavior in female rats.” This article basically asked one simple question, “Could something as simple as caffeine be the female version of Viagra?” On a side note, this study was the first study to examine the interaction between caffeine and sex in females.

The study was conducted by Fay Guarraci, an assistant professor of psychology at Southwestern University, and Staci Benson, a 2005 Southwestern graduate. They gave 108 female rats a moderate dose of caffeine before a mating test and wanted to look at the effect the caffeine had on the mating behavior of the rats. After Guarraci and Benson examined the effects, they found out that caffeine shortened the time it took females to return to males after receiving ejaculation. They believe this meant that the caffeine made the females more motivated to be with the rats.

Although this worked with rats, it may have different effects on humans since most humans consume moderate doses of caffeine on a daily basis. For the rats, this was the first dose of caffeine they ever had. Guarraci suggested that this might effect “people who are not habitual users.” She also said that, “Understanding the circuits that control this behavior will help us understand how the brain works and what part of the brain mediates motivation because sexual behavior is a motivative behavior.”

According to this Web site, coffee is considered to be an aphrodisiac because of the caffeine in it, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to just drink lots of caffeine for a sexual drive.

Well I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day <3


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

“I think I may have found a new favorite drink”

As I sat in plant biology yesterday I got a sudden, ehhh remember that, from last week? Well I was in plant biology and I did get a sudden craving for coffee, but it really wasn’t the class that set me off. Basically it was cold outside and I wanted something to warm me up and as of Saturday, I am now going back home this weekend for an emergency dentist appointment, so I didn’t think I would have any other time to get out and try a new coffee shop. On Saturday, I was chewing a piece of gum and out came my crown that once was on a tooth I had a root canal in, so I had no other choice than to go home this weekend and get it fixed. Well enough of my rambling on onto the post.

My “Sip of the Week” this week was from Athens’ newest coffee shop, Court St. Coffee. It is located on South Court Street and now occupies the space that one held Baron’s Men Shop. This was the first time I have ever been inside and I was very impressed when I walked in the door. Here were a few things that struck my attention:

1. It was clean and warm. Some places I’ve been to in Athens are like holes-in-the-wall and that sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable, but this place was very nice, not only because it’s new, but looks well-maintained.

2. Signs. The signs with the different types of coffee were very readable and that makes it nice. When I can’t read something I get aggravated and just leave or order something simple like water or pop.

3. Having not been here I had no idea how busy it got during the day, so I didn’t really know what to expect. This place wasn’t bad at all! I mean, there were maybe six people here when I came in, so it was quiet and relaxing.

4 (because I don’t like odd numbers). The furniture was really nice and that says a lot. It was clean and inviting. Sometimes when places have furniture that is outdated, I usually think to myself, “I wonder when that was last cleaned” or “Did two co-workers have some fun after work last night,” so I usually avoid those types up places.

As I came in, the lady at the counter kindly greeted me and asked what I wanted, like literally RIGHT when I came in. Keep in mind, I had never been here before, so I kindly replied, “Hello. I just need a minute to look.” I then began to gawk at the menu. Some things sounded incredible and it all revolved caramel (my favorite drink so far is the caramel latte at The Front Room). Since I reviewed a caramel drink last week and have that everyday, I went for something different. The first item listed on the “espresso” menu was a “Court Street Mocha.” I figures I would give that a try and it was definitely worth it!

The Court Street Mocha is:

•White Chocolate
•Swirls of Caramel
•Steamed Milk
•And as always, I asked for whipped cream on top.

When the lady handed me my coffee, I grabbed a lid and immediately took a sip. Right then I thought to myself, “I think I may have found a new favorite drink.” I then walked to the back and grabbed a seat and enjoyed the rest of my delectable drink.

I guess once my “Flex Points” run out and I stop getting coffee from The Front Room, I may try to come get the “Court Street Mocha” more often and I advise you guys to do the same. I hope you get out to enjoy, maybe not the Court Street Mocha, but any coffee, because according to Alphone Allais ; “Coffee is the beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank.”


Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Visual Tour of Coffee Shops in Athens

If you don't get a chance to venture out in Athens, Ohio much, there are plenty of coffee shops on Court Street and places out on East State Street to get coffee. I've made a video to help you find the perfect coffee shop you are looking for.

Here is an interactive map I made so you can see exactly where the coffee shops are located and get more information about them.

View Coffee Shops in Athens, Ohio 45701 in a larger map

I hope the video and map are helpful to you and that you can get out and try some of the unique coffee shops in Athens.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gettin' my "Donkey" on

Like every other student at Ohio University, there is always one class (maybe more) you take throughout your college career that doesn't particularly get you going or excited to be there. This class is one that I torture myself by going to everyday, only because I am not a class skipper. The class I'm talking about is plant biology and it's not a horrible class by all means, but there are some days that really drag and today was one of them. I wanted nothing more than to get out and get a cup o' joe and that was my exact mission when that clock struck 3:00 and believe you me, I bolted out of Walter Hall as fast as a cat (except mine) would in water. So, because of my coffee craving during plant biology, I've decided to designate today as the first post of my new feature I'm calling, "Sip of the Week."

Once a week I am going to gain some confidence, stand tall, explore out of my comfort zone, spread my wings and fly away. No...I'm not really going to fly away and I don't have wings, but I will go out of my comfort zone once a week (and my comfort zone is the caramel latte from The Front Room in Baker Center I get every morning) and try a new coffee shop in the Athens area and drink a coffee drink I've never had before.

Today's "sip" was from the popular coffee shop to many university students and townies, "The Donkey." Officially called, Donkey Coffee & Espresso, located on West Washington Street.

View Larger Map
  Map courtesy of Google Maps.

After a long trek from Walter Hall at the southern side of campus to the north end of Court Street, I had finally made it and was greeted at the door by an accordion player. I can't say it was the best musical talent I have ever heard, but the accordion is an instrument I don't hear enough of and it's just so unique that I don't care how many bad notes you play or how out of tune it is, I am willing to listen to it just about whenever.

As I made my way inside, I was expecting to have to wait forever in line to order, but luckily for myself I made it at an "off" time I guess. I wasn't complaining. I've only been to The Donkey a few times before and I usually just ordered and italian soda and then left, so today I wanted something different. As I waited in line I saw a sign for the Brew of the Week, and this weeks sounded very interesting. It was Dean's Beans No C02- "World's first carbon neutral coffee." I thought to myself, hmmm...what would that taste like? Would I even like it? Would it make me sick? Or, would it be a waste of money? I put all of my thoughts aside and got really excited to try something new, so when it was my turn to order the guy behind the counter asked what I wanted and told him I wanted the Brew of the Week. He then proceeded to ask what size and I told him a small and then he went to fill up the cup. In like a split second he turned around and informed me that they were out of it, because he just gave away the last bit. I was bummed, I got excited for nothing, so since the line was long I just ordered a normal ol' caramel latte with whipped cream. How. Unoriginal.

After I collected my thoughts and received my caramel latte, which was in a big rounded cup with the whipped cream whipped around the top and overflowing down the side, I headed to the back of the building to sit down and enjoy my coffee. I want to add that it looked....amazing, and boy it was!

My caramel latte from The Donkey. Photo taken on my cell phone because I left my digital camera at home. Sorry for it being so dark, the lighting was dimmed. I said above that the whipped cream was overflowing down the side and it really was, this picture was taken after I had been drinking it for a bit.

I want to list some things I noticed during my recent visit to The Donkey:

1. It's bigger than you would think, if you go all the way to the back there is a huge room with a bunch of tables and seats and even a few couches, so if you ever want to go there with some friends, there will definitely be room.

2. The music seemed loud in the front of the building, but once I went more to the back it seemed to get quieter and the lights were dimmed, so it made for a nice studying atmosphere.

3. They support local music, which is very cool. Athens has a unique music scene and I don't get a lot of free time to attend some of the events in town, so it was nice I could listen to some of it during my stay.

4. Games and lots of them. I am an avid board game player (especially Scrabble), so when I get some extra free time I will definitely be back to play something with my friends and not do homework. Shh...don't tell my mom!

5. The decorations throughout the building gave it a unique look and weren't over-the-top annoying and distracting. Again, this added to the calmness of it and the relaxing atmosphere.

And finally, 6, because I don't like odd numbers. The drink I had was amazing, the italian sodas are delicious, so I would assume everything from here would be worth the price and time to get here. This place is one I recommend to everyone and I will of course be back.

That is all I have for now, so get out there and get some coffee...I know you want to. I will try to do some research on that carbon neutral coffee for my next post and figure out what that is, because I am really curious now and hope you are too.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Haitian earthquake fund set up through Just Haiti

Coming into today, I had different intentions for this post. I had an idea to write about some health benefits of coffee I came across, but through my research I found something that I thought was more interesting at this particular time.

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 M earthquake struck the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. More than 150,000 people have been reported dead and the numbers keep coming in. Thousands of commercial buildings have been destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral.

After weeks of seeing all of the devastation online and on the news on TV, I have began to wonder about the economy in Haiti now, mainly how the earthquake has affected coffee production in the country. Just Haiti, a program committed to help alleviate poverty, hunger, violence, illiteracy, and disease in Haiti through developing small businesses and aims to build a equitable fair partnership between coffee consumers in North America and coffee growers in Haiti, has asked supporters to contribute to an earthquake relief fund that will benefit Baradères.

 Baradères is the home to coffee growers in Haiti, who grow Kafe Lespwa. Ever since the devastating earthquake, thousands of Haitians are fleeing to towns or other remote areas that aren't as affected as some of the main cities like Port-au-Prince and Léogâne. Many of them are escaping to Baradères, where family and friends will try to feed them, clothe them and help them through this rough time.

Baradères is located at the far end of a long peninsula that stretches west from Port-au-Prince and the region covers about 60 square miles. The economy is solely based on subsistence farming and coffee production only occurs within that context. Subsistence farming is where only enough food and crops are grown to feed the family and maybe only a little extra to sell on the market. According to the Just Haiti Web site, people of Baradères don't -or can't- participate much in the cash market.

Just Haiti is primarily focused on the coffee-growing area around the Baradères River region. The amount of coffee grown there is unknown, but two coffee varieties are grown, based on elevation. Up until about 1986, Brokers in Baradères and elsewhere in Haiti purchased the growers' coffee crop, but today the growers produce and sell their coffee primarily to local residents, sometimes for barter or cash.

Production of the coffee is all done by hand, no chemicals or machines are used during the process. When the coffee cherries are ripe, they are picked and put into a water tank. The bad cherries float and are then discarded. From this point, most countries use wet-milling processes, but the process here is a bit different. After the floating, growers dry the cherries on cement patios, which produces what the Haitians call kafe an krok. Coffee can be stored for several months in this state. Coffee that is not stored, hand tools are used to knock off the pulp and remove the husk in a single step. The husked, ready-to-roast green bean parts are sorted and cleaned. This is done by a circular mat made of palm leaves. These beans are called kafe pile. (A loan fund set up by Just Haiti, will help the growers to eventually be able to finance the establishment of wet milling methods. This will help make processing more efficient and increase earning potential of the farmers' labor).

Since the population of Baradères will be growing more quickly, they need to build a more sustainable economy, and that is what the funds will help. Just Haiti lists coffee as being the anchor of that economy and encourages supporters to buy Kafe Lespwa.

Even through this terrible time for Haiti, I think it is remarkable that they are still able to make a living with their coffee and that it wasn't destroyed in the earthquake. If you are interested in donating anything here is the link, Even if you don't donate anything, I just ask, that the next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, just think about all that has happened in Haiti and hope that the people there get the much needed support they need to get their lives back on track and the country cleaned up.

Until next time, I leave you with these couple of photos from the Just Haiti Web site of Baradères.

Baradères river valley region

Grower hand-sorts coffee.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How the java got its jo: The history of a popular American drink

I started drinking coffee when I was still really young, I know it probably wasn't the best idea, but my parents got me hooked. I would wake up and my parents would already have a big pot brewed and ready to go, all  I had to do was pour some into a cup and add cream and I was good to go for a couple of hours. For many of us, coffee is the type of drink that is usually just there, wherever you go, but have you ever sat down to actually think about how coffee even got here and where it came from?

According to National Geographic, coffee dates back to A.D. 800, when the legendary Ethiopian goatherd, Kaldi, noticed his goats dancing from coffee shrub to coffee shrub and grazing on a cherry-red berry that contained coffee beans. He wondered how the berries would effect him, so he chopped himself some and soon after he was dancing and frolicking with the rest of his goats.

As the National Coffee Association and legend has it, Kaldi shared his findings with the abbot at the  local monastery and he too was filled with much energy and alertness through the evening prayer. The abbot then shared his findings with other monks at the local monastery and from there the word about coffee started to move East as more and more people found out about the effects of it. This was just the beginning of the journey of coffee that would become a huge phenomenon all across the globe.

Coffee is grown in a multitude of countries around the world today, including; in Asia, Africa, South America, the islands of the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

The first people to begin trading coffee were the Arabs, and by the sixteenth century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Coffee was huge in this area at that time because the Muslims prohibited alcoholic drinks by the Koran, so they found that coffee was a close substitute to experiencing the same type of feelings when consumed.

Coffee then spread to Europe and by the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, a location later named New York. This new drink spread into houses rapidly, but tea continued to be the drink of choice until about 1773. That is when colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea, which was imposed by King George. This revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee.

Now that you have learned a little about the origins of coffee, I leave you all with this...

A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

And so it we go!

Hi everyone! This is the first post to this blog that I have dedicated to coffee. I am a sophomore at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and right now I am taking an Online Journalism class and one of the requirements of the class is to write a blog throughout the entire quarter, so this is why I am doing a blog about coffee.Through this blog, I hope to not only learn more about coffee, but enhance my journalism skills and learn a new form of writing-blogging. I have written articles that have been published in a couple papers and I do have another blog, but I haven't actually had a blog before that was anything more than just a "diary," so I hope this blog goes beyond that and I learn a lot from writing it.

I had a rough time trying to come up with a topic that I could connect with the Athens community and be interested in it at the same time. I came up with the idea of coffee, because my professor, Jennette Lovejoy, said that a blog should be about something you wake up and think about. When I wake up (as well as many other people) the most important thing on my mind is getting coffee. I know that may sound cliche, but over the years I have broadened my liking for coffee and started drinking different coffee drinks beyond just black, so I really do enjoy coffee and look forward to learning more about it.

I am still trying to think of different things to write about and how I can make this interesting for my readers and I have some ideas, but I hope that once I get more into this I will think of some unique topics especially since there are some pretty cool coffee shops in Athens. I look forward to learning more about coffee and enlightening my readers about things they may have never thought of and to get out and talk with people in Athens about it. Of course, I look forward to trying new coffee drinks I have not yet had.