A Yen For Coffee

Written by Lori Thiessen

When I think of Japan, I have a tourist’s romantic view. Visions of kimono-clad ladies, cherry trees in full-bloom, the beautiful and elaborate tea ceremony cloud the reality of modern Japanese life. Apparently, coffee drinking has become quite fashionable there. In fact, Japan is the 3rd largest importer of coffee, just behind the USA and Germany.

The Dutch brought coffee to Japan in the late 1800’s. The Japanese found it appropriate to drink coffee, considering it is a Western drink, when discussing Western topics. But these days, the Japanese prize coffee for itself and for the caffeine boost.

Coffee is available in many ways in Japan; through vending machines, and coffee shops called kissaten. The Japanese brew their coffee strong and they don’t generally offer milk for those who are faint of heart.

Starbucks began their conquest of Japan in 1996 and they set a new standard in coffee quality. More and more Japanese coffee drinkers are demanding higher quality in their coffee and they are willing to pay for it. A cup of coffee at a kissaten can cost as much as $8.00US.

But there are more coffee chains alive and well in Japan other than Starbucks. Doutor Coffee is one of the biggest coffee shop chains and it is Japanese owned. It serves coffee priced well below Starbucks and there is a shop at nearly every train station.  As for other chains there are Beck’s, Tully’s and Caffe Veloce all which are there to serve and encourage the Japanese taste for coffee.

But coffee is more than just a taste, it is a performance in some upscale cafe’s. Here is a video of the now popular syphon method which was derived from the old vacuum style of brewing coffee. Enjoy!

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Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Coffee Benefits

Written by Lori Thiessen

The January 2009 edition of the Readers’ Digest has a short piece on the benefits of coffee. It seems that coffee may help to prevent a whole host of diseases including Type 2 diabetes, gallstones and the development of some cancers.

According to some studies, black coffee seems to have more antioxidants than a serving of fruit juice.Underline black coffee. If you put whole milk, whipped cream or sugar in your cuppa joe, you knock out any benefits the coffee may have.

If you are feeling stressed, perhaps you should think about taking a deep breath from your coffee jar. Some sleep-deprived rats were shown to be much calmer after taking just a whiff of roasted coffee beans, according to one study.

Of course, if you drink too much coffee then you are heading into a whole world of trouble. Labelled a ‘soft’ drug, coffee needs to be taken in moderation if it’s going to do you any good. More is definitely not better when it comes to coffee.

Most experts recommend not exceeding 2 cups of coffee a day. Anymore than that and you run the risk of becoming de-hydrated or raising your blood pressure.

Coffee apparently contains a substance called cafestol which can raise your cholesterol. Avoid drinking coffee made in a French press. Rather, drink coffee made with a paper filter or try instant coffee.

But do be sure to limit your coffee intake to 2 cups per day and drink ’em plain!

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Getting A Whole Lot More Than Coffee

Written by Lori Thiessen

On Saturday, April 4th over 600 people lined up at the Second Cup coffee shop at Queen and John in Toronto to participate in “Pay It Backward Day”, according to an article in the April 6th edition of MetroNews

This event is the brain child of Darius Basher who is also the founder of Daily Challenge .  “Pay It Backward Day” is a chance for coffee-lovin’ Torontonians to support the SickKids Hospital Foundation by lining up for coffee but buying the person behind you his cuppa joe, even if you don’t know them!

The website and foundation, Daily Challenge, encourages people to do some good every day.  You can click on and get some ideas about what good things you can do or suggest something good you’ve done.It’s about bringing kindness into your community, one small act at a time.

Now, isn’t that worth buying someone a cuppa coffee?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Cuban Coffee Industry

written by Lori Thiessen

In Cuba’s rich history, the coffee bean as a crop plays a part. Like most Latin American countries, Cuba does grow coffee but not in quantities of say, Brazil which harvested over 27,000,000 (60 lb) bags in 1999. Most of Cuba’s coffee is grown for the domestic market and for some limited export markets.

Coffee as a crop has a grim history as most of us are aware thanks to the initiatives like Fair Trade Coffee.  These initiatives take into account the economic well-being of the small coffee producer, and the environmental impact that the coffee crop has on the surrounding ecosystem.

Cuba’s mountains are wonderful for growing Arabica beans known for their rich flavour and low caffeine.  But mountains aren’t exactly easy to farm yet 2,000 coffee plantations were established by 1827.

The current ‘failure’ of the Cuban coffee industry is due to a lack of experienced, adequately compensated coffee farmers to properly cultivate the crop since many of them fled Cuba at the time of the Revolution, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, heavy competition from other stronger Latin American countries, and the US Embargo.

But Cuban coffee retains its enthusiasts among ex-pat Cubans, especially Cuban-Americans. The ex-pat Cuban communities try to retain their cultural identity by making ‘Cuban’ coffee with beans produced in other Latin American countries.

But it just isn’t the same as real Cuban coffee made from beans grown in the Sierra Maestra mountains. In an ever-growing niche-developing coffee market, the Cuban coffee industry may be able to flourish again by capturing the imaginations of aficionados of rare and specialty coffees.

Q: Do you buy Fair Trade Coffee? If so, why?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Cuban Coffee Culture

Written Lori Thiessen

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away in Cuba for a holiday and also to check out the coffee culture in Cuba. I must say it wasn’t nearly as obvious as I imagined. Coffee is available everywhere in most hotels and restaurants, but I didn’t see too many coffee shops.

There was one coffee shop near to my hotel on 23rd Street and the Avenue of the Presidents. It served quite a decent cuban coffee which was like an extra strong espresso. The cost of the tiny cup of concentrated coffee was $1 CUC (convertible pesos).

While I was at this coffee shop, I saw groups of university students huddled around tables talking earnestly about issues. Considering that Havana is a university town, it only makes sense that this kind of scene would occur.

In general, Cubans enjoy a rather potent cup of coffee and the more timid coffee drinker should be prepared to add hot water, lots of sugar and milk to tame it.

Unfortunately, I was in Cuba for only a week and so I didn’t get to explore Havana as I would have liked to.  But from what I did see, coffee isn’t nearly as prominent a beverage as say, aqua minerale and coca-cola.

However, I think that I should re-confirm my observations by taking another trip to Cuba! 🙂

A pronto!

Coffee and Depression

Written by Lori Thiessen

As I battle with my own chronic depression, I’m always interested in finding out new ways of dealing with it. There are some who claim that coffee can help depression and other (a great many others) who say that coffee increases your depression.

I’ve been trying to find some bona fide medical source to give me the low-down on this issue and so far all I’ve come up with are a lot of contradictory non-medical opinions. The closest article I came to was one at bodyandfitness.com which has a number of medical studies cited in it.

The writer reported that while depression can be a result of caffeine addiction, coffee drinkers are 58-66 per cent LESS likely to commit suicide than non-coffee drinkers.

But another study showed that psychiatric patients who were coffee drinkers are more likely to suffer from depression. Frankly, I think that just being labelled as a psychiatric patient  and all the social stigma attached to it could probably lead to depression.

So who do I believe? Even the writer of the article seemed to be stumped at these opposing indicators.

My father always believed in moderation. He drank one cup of coffee in the morning  with breakfast for as long as I remember. As far as I know, he never suffered from depression or if he did, he hid it pretty well.

It seems to me to be common sense that if you over indulge in anything, you are going to have problems.  Coffee does give a quick pick-me-up but drinking a lot of coffee may cause depression.

I’ve read that people who are Scandinavians or people who have Scandinavian ancestry are more likely to suffer from depression than other ethnic groups. And the Scandinavians also love their coffee.

Now, does this mean that the Nordic peoples’ heavy coffee drinking habits have created an endemic depression? Or does the coffee drinking help off-set depression caused by light deprivation from being so far north?

But as far as I know, historically the Inuit people generally do not suffer from depression and they are not noted coffee drinkers. However, as the Inuit people adapt  the North American lifestyle and eshew their traditional culture, depression could now be a problem.

Hmmm.

Some bright medical/sociological spark will have to figure this one out, not me.  For now, I’ll stick to my dad’s rule of one cup of coffee in the morning.  People with depression often have a difficult time in the morning so that one jolt of caffeine might be enough to at least get the ball rolling.  But no more and don’t add any sugar in it because excess sugar consumption has also been linked to depression.

So order me one medium americano – no milk, no sugar and I will give you a big smile and say “Thank you. You made my day begin!”

Q: What are your thoughts on caffeine and depression?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Maxwell Maximizing The Good

Written by Lori Thiessen

Maxwell House Coffee’s latest advertising campaign appeals to our inner philanthropist.

The commercials are usually along the lines of placing a tin of Maxwell House Coffee against a plain backdrop with the subtitles saying something like, The average tv commercial costs $245,000. This one cost $19,000. Tell us what you would like us to do with the rest of the money at brewsomegood.ca.

Frankly, I do find this ad campaign likeable. Will it get me to drink Maxwell House Coffee? Probably not.

But I have gone on www.brewsomegood.ca and what I found there was some heart-lifting stuff.

Part of Maxwell House’s corporate social responsibility, it is a partner with Habitat for Humanity which is good.

There is also a Random Act of Good suggestion box which provides you with some nice things to do for those around you. Some of the ideas are more labour intensive than others but they are all good.

The message area allows you to enter in a positive thought or event and when you do, a virtual coffee bush sprouts leaves and flowers. It’s a cute idea and a good one.

The ‘Top Stories from the World of Optimism’ seem to be linked to one website and there are remarkably few of them, but you can’t have everything.

And finally, you can also nominate a cause or event to which Maxwell House could donate the money not spent on the fancy commercial.  It’s a good gimmick which has the potential to do some real good.

I just wonder what was spent on developing this fancy website. Hmmmm.

Q: Would this kind of campaign get you to change your coffee brand to Maxwell House?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Be Freshly Brewed!