May 7, 2007

Starbucks and Ethiopia Strike Deal


Starbucks has reportedly reached an agreement with the Ethiopian government over the trademarking of the nation's beans. Ethiopia would theoretically be able to own the trademark for "Sidamo" and "Harrar" which are two of its best known beans. In the end, Starbucks and the Ethiopian government have agreed in principle to a licensing agreement that would theoretically boost the incomes of farmers.... my hunch is that it won't. Sorry, I just don't see the money trickling down to the farmer instead of getting "lost" in the system. Smartly, Starbucks has called for a transparent system that would allow outsiders to see the money going back the the farmers. Apparently, in Ethiopia, the average per capita purchasing power is about $1,000 per year.

In related news, Starbucks announced net income of $150.8 Million in the first quarter of the year, up 18% over year ago. (I was curious, so I went and looked; the population of Ethiopia is around 78 million people. So, no, Starbucks can't support the entire nation as a result of their profits..... Even if you consider only the 15 million people who depend on coffee, that's still not a lot of money if ALL Starbucks profits went to those 15 million.)

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May 2, 2007

The Starbucks Experience

You might be interested in how Starbucks can turn the ordinary experience into something extraordinary…. The Starbucks Experience (McGraw Hill, $21.95) by Joseph Michelli may just be able to tell you how. The author takes a look at how Starbucks designed the experience and how they replicated that experience across thousands of stores, and across dozens of cultures. If you have ever been to a Starbucks and seen their manuals, big black binders, then you’ll get an idea of how they do it at a store level. The book may just be worth checking out.

At Amazon

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April 30, 2007

Roast Coffee with a Popcorn Popper

CoffeeGeek has a nice write up about roasting your own coffee in a Hot Air Popcorn maker. Personally, I would invest in the I-Roast 2 that does a superb job of roasting, but for the adventurous there is an alternative that will allow you to play for very little money. I LOVE the fresh roasted flavor of home roasted coffee, and while I cut back in the colder months due to the need to open a window and vent outside, I have started back up again now that the weather is warmer.

So go read-up and enjoy. More at CoffeeGeek.

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April 25, 2007

What is a Barista?

Krups sponsored a pretty funny little research project, as they asked in an online poll, “What is a barista?” The answers may surprise you:

  • One Third got it right and said that a barista is the person who crafts an excellent espresso drink.
  • 11% reported it was a lawyer from England
  • 7% thought it was someone who prepares alcoholic beverages
  • 6% said it was a fashionable garment
  • 1% reported that it was a person who loves burritos
  • And not surprisingly 41% said they did not know; probably those folks still drinking Maxwell House

    Krups did this as part of their marketing campaign for the 2007 US Barista Championship that takes place in Long Beach California May 4-7. The winner gets $1,000 in cash and a trip to the World Barista Championship in Tokyo Japan.

    More about the US Barista Championships

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  • April 16, 2007

    Happy Patriots Day – Americanos all around.


    To honor Patriots Day, I decided to get up and drink Americanos today. I pulled a shot using Starbucks ESE Pods, and then dosed in a few ounces of hot water to bring it up to about 6 ounces total. I thought a more typical American thing might be to enjoy whole beans boiled in a cowboy pot over an open fire, or make gross Maxwell House in a Mr Coffee, but there’s only so far I will take this little celebration.

    What’s Patriot’s Day you ask? Up here in Massachusetts it’s a big thing, and it’s the day that the whole “Shot heard ‘Round the World” happened, you know the One if by Land Two if by sea, Paul Revere thing? It happened on April 19th, but it's always celebrated on a Monday. The Red Sox always have a home game that finishes up about the time the Marathoners start to cross the finish line in Boston for the Boston Marathon (hopefully the weather holds).

    The British regulars marched out of Boston in search of two brass cannon that were stolen from the British and reportedly hidden in Concord. Paul Revere and others warned the countryside of the impending British regulars. The British Regulars met some resistance in Lexington, which was dispatched, on their way to Concord.

    Once in Concord the British Troops split up and about the time the American Militia made up of minutemen from surrounding towns got to the Old North Bridge the British Troops in town started burning a seized arms cache. The Americans thought that the troops were burning the town and that was the last bit of motivation that they needed. The British Regulars were sent back to Concord after the skirmish at the North Bridge where several people including Issac Davis an American leader (who was the inspiration for the Minute Man Statue in Concord shown above), and those battles set the stage for the war that created the USA. (The British did not recover the stolen brass cannon.)

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    April 13, 2007

    The Most Expensive Coffee

    I saw the title of this article and had to pass it on. “Want a cup of cat’s poo coffee? That’ll be $50”. They are talking about the most expensive cup of coffee in the world, the famous Kopi Luwak coffee. The Kopi Luwak is a cat that climbs through the coffee trees, picks and eats only the ripest coffee cherries and eats them. The coffee bean passes through the digestive track and is pooped out…. The bean is then collected by people wandering through the forest, and its shipped fresh to you! The digestive acids are said to soften the flavor of the bean, reducing bitterness. (All the grossness is burnt off in roasting.)

    Anyway, I was fortunate to taste some Kopi Luwak coffee some time ago (on someone else’s dime) and I have to say that it’s not worth it. It’s earthy, and unimpressive, without the bold notes that I love in coffee. If you want bragging rights, go find some, and drink, but there’s other great coffee available for a lot less.

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    April 12, 2007

    Coffee Grounds for the Garden

    Gardening season is right around the corner, and so the other day while at the local Starbucks, I noticed that they were giving away free coffee grounds….. used ones of course. The bags are roughly twice as big as a one-pound bag of whole bean coffee. Since they were free, I figured what the heck and grabbed two. I have since turned over some of our garden and worked the grounds into the soil. Now I am no gardener extraordinaire, but I figure that I just finished the cycle of the bean, from its beginning as the fruit of the plant to soil amendment, via the coffee roaster and a portafilter.

    If you’re interested in free grounds, check out your local coffee shop and ask, I am sure they’d be happy to get rid of the grounds that they have by giving you some.

    What do you do with your used coffee grounds? also talked about this subject; check it out.

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    April 9, 2007

    Caribou Loses Round in Court

    Apparently Caribou Coffee had its store managers working an extra 10-15 hours per week, but now in the eyes of a judge, they were more barista than boss and that means that they get paid time and a half for those extra hours.... if things go as planned in this recently certified class action lawsuit. No one said that working as a barista was easy!


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    April 6, 2007

    Starbucks - Working on the Environment


    Another Starbucks post this week..... They are stepping up and using an online game to illustrate the need for action on global warming. They are continuing their environmental work by bringing awareness to people through programs like this. Check out the game and learn more about Global warming.

    ReadMore and Play at GlobalGreen

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    April 5, 2007

    Lockable Coffee Mug

    Saw this and had to pass it along. So for those of you in the office who want to avoid people using your mug, the lockable coffee mug is here. Simply pull out the plug and render the mug useless. I do wonder about the level of gunk that could accumulate down near that plug if you don'g clean it out regularly.

    At Efrat Gommeh Design


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