Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clouds in my Coffee

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616
"O! Here the coffee comes,
the black sea’s round,
the drink of bitterness and grief.
The foamy haze of milk hides not thy depths
and deep inside thy cup we know thine origin.
And yet thy warmth doth comfort me,
as milk gives comfort to the lamb."



I was dismayed to see that I missed the birthday of the U.S. Army!! What an amazing accomplishment! You look awful good for 237 years old!!

Hot again as we head into summer, only a week away! Early afternoon as I write this and 90F. That sun sure is hot when you're in it...sparkling bright when you're not.

Ate our own lettuce today, so lovely! I also made my favorite cold pasta salad with the roasted tomatoes and fresh thyme from our garden. Such a blessing to have such abundance within my footsteps.
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a bitter flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Green (unroasted) coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Coffee is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world. 

Coffee berries, which contain the coffee seeds or "beans", are produced by several species of small evergreen bush of the genus Coffea. The two most commonly grown are the highly regarded Coffea arabica, and the "robusta" form of the hardier Coffea canephora. The latter is resistant to the devastating coffee leaf rust. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. The seeds are then roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. They are then ground and brewed to create coffee. Coffee can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways.

When grown in the tropics, coffee is a vigorous bush or small tree that usually grows to a height of 3–3.5 m (10–12 feet). Most commonly cultivated coffee species grow best at high elevations but are nevertheless intolerant of subfreezing temperatures.The tree of Coffea arabica will grow fruits after three to five years, and will produce for about 50 to 60 years (although up to 100 years is possible). The white flowers are highly scented. The fruit takes about nine months to ripen.

What Is Shade-Grown Coffee?

In the time that it takes you to drink your next cup of coffee, acres of tropical forest will be lost. Along with the forest will go the birds and other wildlife that depend on it. Wouldn’t it be gratifying to know that by choosing shade-grown coffee you’d be helping to conserve wildlife habitat?

“Shade-grown” refers to the way coffee has been traditionally farmed. For generations, coffee shrubs have been planted in the shade of tall trees, making these traditional coffee plantations excellent homes for birds and other forest-dwelling wildlife.

Over the past 30 years, more than half of the traditional shade-grown coffee farms in Latin America have been converted to “sun-coffee” farms to increase production. This newer method entails clearing or thinning the shade trees and growing coffee plants under full or nearly full sun conditions. These changes also demand the use of agrochemicals like synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to counter the effects of eliminating the shaded agroforestry system.

Unfortunately, scientists believe that the conversion from shade to sun coffee contributes to the decline in numbers of many of our birds that migrate to Latin America.In addition to birds, shade-coffee plantations provide habitat for myriad insects, orchids, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other less well-known denizens of tropical forests. Furthermore, shade trees provide nutrients and suppress weeds, thus reducing or eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and herbicides, and lowering farming costs.

Farmers also harvest an assortment of fruits, firewood, lumber, and medicines from the shade trees. These products make families less vulnerable to coffee price fluctuations on the world market—fluctuations that accompany any cash crop that is also a global commodity. 

If you feel strongly about our environment, look for the seal of the shade-grown coffee product!
One of the most interesting and fun art forms to emerge is latte art, or the art of creating pictures in coffee with steamed milk or sprinkled sugars. Here are a few to spark your creativity! (Editor's Note: Be sure not to miss today's Garden Games- How To Make Your Own Latte Art", seen below)

A grasshopper hops into a coffee house. The barista says, You're quite a celebrity around here. We've even got a coffee drink named after you. The grasshopper says, You've got a drink named Steve?



You will need:
Whole milk
Straight walled steam pitcher with a sharp spout
Espresso machine with a powerful steam wand
14 ounce (400 ml) latte cup

 Pour enough cold milk (34 ºF or 1 ºC)for one cup into the steam pitcher. Put the steam wand at the bottom of the pitcher. Turn on the steam, and slowly raise the wand until it is near the top of the milk. Lower the pitcher as the milk rises so the steam wand stays 1 inch away from the top of the milk. The milk should not stretch too much nor should there be any big bubbles. This should create a smooth, velvety milk as opposed to the foam that sits atop most espresso drinks.

Allow the milk to reach 80 ºF (27 ºC). Then place the steam wand on the side of the pitcher, deep into the milk, positioning the pitcher to spin counterclockwise. Keep doing this motion until the milk heats to 150 ºF to 160 ºF (65 ºC - 70 ºC). Shut the steam and remove the steam wand and thermometer from the milk. Clean the steam wand with a wet cloth.

Let the milk settle for a few seconds. This will allow a more velvety texture. Swirl the milk vigorously. If you see any bubbles, pound the pitcher on the counter several times and go back to swirling the milk for 20 to 30 seconds.Start pouring the milk into the espresso.

To create a flower pattern: pour the milk about an inch away from the bottom. Once the cup is about half filled, gently shake the pitcher back and forth while slowly moving it backwards. The flower design will move forward, filling the cup. Do this with a shaking motion originating at the wrist instead of moving your hand back and forth.

To create a heart pattern: Shake your hand as you would in making a flower. However, instead of moving backwards, keep your hand in the same general area, focusing on making a ringed circle.

Continue until the foam reaches the top of the cup. Then, sweep the rest of the milk up the center of the newly created pattern. Use a minimal amount to avoid sinking the pattern.

Embellish the design using stencils, powder, and milk foam. This step is optional, as many prefer to limit their latte art to "free form" methods, but you may want to experiment with the possibilities added by "etching."

To write a word, such as "love" in the picture, melt milk chocolate and using a pin as a paintbrush drag the melting chocolate over the foamed milk. More commonly this is done by dipping said pointy object into the cream of the drink being decorated, and then transferring that cream stained foam to the pure white foam to 'draw' a design. Are you ready to try your hand at latte art?

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