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March 22, 2006

I want one

Oh man, do I want one of these! The Clover is a revolutionary, $8,000 single-cup coffee maker designed to brew the best coffee possible in a high-volume, retail environment. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Dubbed the Clover, it's claimed to be the first commercial-grade machine to give baristas consistent, independent control over the four variables of drip coffee: water temperature, coffee grind, coffee-to-water ratio and brew time.

Investors -- mainly family and friends, but also some Seattle-area venture capitalists -- have pumped just more than $1 million into the company since mid-2004.

I wrote an earlier entry about the Clover's potential impact on specialty coffee on Eternal Recurrence. A nifty video of the machine in action is here.

March 19, 2006

Just Enough Coffee Plus a Shot of Espresso

The other day I linked to a video clip that shows what happens when you have had EXACTLY enough coffee.

Well, the Chris Bliss Diss Video shows what happens when you have exactly enough coffee AND a shot of espresso.

March 16, 2006

Coffee shop growth still going strong

The market research group MINTEL finds that the trend of rapid growth in US coffee shops will continue:

America's unquenchable thirst for premium coffee continues to drive US coffee shop sales, with the market showing no signs of cooling down. Latest research from MINTEL* finds coffee shops across the pond will have seen close to a five fold increase in sales between 2000 and 2010.

The market experienced 157% growth between 2000 ($3,258m) and 2005 to reach some $8,372m and despite being a maturing market coffee shops are set to continue full steam ahead. Over the next five years sales are expected to grow by a further 125% to reach an impressive $18,839m by 2010. This is phenomenal growth for such an established market and is well over twice the growth rate seen in the much younger British coffee shops market.

"Driven by the enormous appetite Americans have shown for more inventive, upmarket and premium-priced coffee, coffee shop chains have expanded at breakneck speed. The rise in popularity of this kind of coffee has been driven mainly by the expansion of coffee shops themselves. Every new opening increases demand by pulling in customers who pass by while going about their daily routines and this self feeding cycle of growth has shown no signs of slowing or market saturation," comments Billy Hulkower, Market Analyst at MINTEL.

The total number of coffee shops in the US increased by 70% between 2000 and 2005, bringing the total to a staggering 21, 400 or one coffee house for every 14,000 Americans. MINTEL believes that the number of shops could well continue to rise until there is a coffee shop for every 10,000 Americans.

[Via Bread Coffee Chocolate Yoga.]

No smoking in the Starbucks

A hot issue on my own weblog has been DC's much contested ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Of course, I prefer market solutions to an all-out ban, but even some of my usually libertarian readers argued that there was a "market failure" at work in the bar scene that made the ban acceptable. Some posts on the subject are here and here.

Tying this back to coffee, I followed up with a post about Starbucks' success at introducing smokefree coffee shops into heavily pro-smoking markets around the world. I didn't find anything authoritative on the subject, but I did uncover some interesting anecdotes and speculated on why Starbucks could offer smokefree options so rapidly while American bars seem slower to change. If you'd like to read the post or offer some feedback, check it out here.

March 15, 2006

DC's food entrepreneurs

The Washington Post ran a story today featuring seven local food entrepreneurs. Three coffee shops make the list, including my former employer Nick Cho of Murky Coffee:

Cho, 32, is one of the Washington area's new young food entrepreneurs. A tireless promoter, he hosts a popular coffee podcast and is known as a champion of "specialty roast coffee" -- the industry term for high-quality beans grown on small estates, roasted in small lots and brewed with care. Cho will help anyone -- including potential competitors -- interested in roasting, brewing or selling, in his words, coffee "that's better than customers ever imagined it could be."

Curry, chocolate, and gelatto are among the tasty offerings produced by the other new businesses. Read about them here.

March 13, 2006

Planting A Song In Your Head

Listen to Beer Run. The song is even better if you know about KPIG in Santa Cruz.

(Dial-up version)

March 12, 2006

Top 10 Coffee Spots

Top 10 Coffee Spots, at Eternal Recurrence.

Intelligentsia is one of the first high-end roasters I came across when I started exploring coffee seriously. I’ve had a few occassions to try their famous Black Cat espresso blend and enjoyed visiting one of their Chicago stores last spring. Portland’s Stumptown and Seattle’s Zoka are two I’ve tried in tastings but not visited personally, though I tried quite a bit of the latter a few weekends ago at Washington, DC’s Coffee Fest trade show.
Go read.

March 11, 2006

The Singing Barista

I'm in the Starbucks at the corner of Shattuck and Ceder, in Berkeley, California, using the wireless. It's here that you'll find Andrew the Singing Barista. A Frank Sinatra tune was playing and he was singing along, sounding JUST like Frank! He's very good. I suggest you go in, ask for Andrew, order something expensive, ask him for a song and leave a NICE tip!

Maybe they could set up a small podium - it could become the new Starbucks thing, Singing Baristas. Andrew could be the leader of the new Big Thing!

March 10, 2006

Just Enough Coffee

What happens when you have had EXACTLY enough coffee?

For the answer, go to this web page and click on the "Must-See Finale" video clip. (Alternate site here.)

You aren't going to believe this one.

March 9, 2006

The libertarian barista, part 2

When Dave and I first talked about me writing a few of posts about a libertarian look at coffee, the obvious idea for a second one was the Fair Trade label. Luckily for me, my friend Kerry Howley has written a far better article on the subject than I would have for Reason magazine.

The summary version is that buying Fair Trade beans is one way of ensuring coffee farmers get a good price for their beans, but not the only way. Any high-end specialty roaster is going to be paying more than the commodity price for coffee, some of the best among them establishing relationships right at the origin.

In addition, Fair Trade has some significant drawbacks. It's expensive (roughly five times more costly than organic labeling), forces rigid requirements on farmers, and through its imposition of co-ops forces a middleman between farmers and bean buyers that obscures market signals about price and quality.

If you want to feel good about your coffee purchases, feel free to buy Fair Trade but don't buy it exclusively. Seek out exceptional roasters who build sustainable relationships with their growers and reward quality. That way you'll enjoy some truly great coffee and help change the structure of the bean market from commodity to specialized good.

Read the whole thing.

March 7, 2006

Coffee-Related Heart Attacks and Genes

Genes determine coffee-related heart attack risk,

A genetic mutation that slows the rate that the body metabolizes caffeine increases individuals' risk of having a heart attack if they drink much coffee, investigators report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

[. . .] The team's results showed that only carriers of the gene mutation for slow caffeine metabolism were at increased risk of heart attack associated with drinking coffee.

For these patients, the increased risk was 64 percent for four or more cups per day over the previous year compared with patients who drank less than one cup per day.

March 5, 2006

USA Today's Top 10 Coffee Spots

USA Today's March 2nd "10 Great" feature "10 great places to get jazzed about great java." Coffee reviewer Kenneth Davids made the recommendations, so it's no surprise to find some winners on there.

Intelligentsia is one of the first high-end roasters I came across when I started exploring coffee seriously. I've had a few occassions to try their famous Black Cat espresso blend and enjoyed visiting one of their Chicago stores last spring. Portland's Stumptown and Seattle's Zoka are two I've tried in tastings but not visited personally, though I tried quite a bit of the latter a few weekends ago at Washington, DC's Coffee Fest trade show. (If you're in San Francisco, you can get Stumptown coffee and espresso at the wildly successful Ritual Roasters on Valencia.) Also in San Francisco, Caffe Trieste is worth visiting for the history and authentic Italian feel.

Other than a single shot of Terroir espresso and one visit to a Peet's in Chicago, I don't have experience with the rest. Anyone here who has?

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

March 2, 2006

McDonald's going gourmet?

Critics have been known to say that Starbucks is becoming more like McDonald's. Is McDonald's going to become more like Starbucks? The company is launching a new premium coffee to go along with its breakfast offerings. Though no one expects McD's to become the coffee destination that Starbucks or even Dunkin Donuts is, it could be enough to persuade people to buy coffee there instead of making a second stop somewhere else.

Also, this related story reporting a poll on Americans' retail coffee habits makes for interesting reading.

Thanks to Baylen of To The People for the link.


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