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Fondle My Balls, Please.
Monday, November 15, 2010 - 10:52 PM - 3 years, 5 months ago   - 156  Reads  - 3. Non Coffee Specific Blogs  - Jay's Strange Blog
Fondle My Balls, Please.
Do we really need xrays to find what metal detectors are designed for? "When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees." "As TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy, I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law." - Representative John Mica, republican Not long after 9/11, along with the so-called USAPATRIOT Act that started the grand erosion of our civil rights, the government (read: our politicians) decided that they would federalize all of those hapless airport security agents into a big, government bureaucracy. How in the world that anyone of salient being in 2001-2002 could not see the Transportation Security Agency growing into the train wreck that it is today is beyond me. Even then, the most obtuse amongst us could see a new bureaucracy being formed - how this was good for anyone is anyone's guess. Nearly ten years later, the TSA is a growing monster filled with long lines, poor customer service and now you get someone to fondle your balls before flying. Never mind the uselessness of taking off your shoes or pulling your laptop out of the bag. Forget the stupidity of dumping 5 ounces of water or a small tub of soft cheese (yes, that happened to me at ORD - guess Illinois doesn't like Wisconsin). Now the government is telling us that we should agree to undergo X-ray screening so that they can see the size of my balls and how it relates to my dick. Or that girls' vagina. The TSA administrators assures us that they have "security measures" to "protect our privacy." I'm sorry, but you're the last people I expect to protect my privacy - especially after you've spent the last nine years invading it. Of course, they want us to believe that those TSA people in Florida weren't passing around x-ray images and talking about the size of people's junk. In addition, they want us to believe that those images will be deleted immediately after use. Of course if you believe that, then I wear size 28 pants! This is more likely. Perhaps the only way to force the issue is to make it painful all the way around. I can't imagine the TSA people really want to fondle balls (mine or anyone else's), so maybe the best way to get the TSA to cease and desist is to have everyone opt out of the xray scanner and go for the pat down. The lines then become horrifically long, the TSA agents have a lot of balls to handle and it all goes to the crapper (maybe even literally). All I know is that when I take off later this week for points beyond, I plan on bypassing the xray screening and asking them to touch my balls. Afterall, what's the point in looking at them if they're not going to be handled?

Bona Vita Electric Kettle
Friday, January 20, 2012 - 08:30 PM - 2 years, 2 months ago   - 148  Reads  - 3. Non Coffee Specific Blogs  - Jay's Strange Blog

My Father's Tatuaje
Monday, February 28, 2011 - 08:21 PM - 3 years, 1 month ago   - 143  Reads  - 3. Non Coffee Specific Blogs  - Jay's Strange Blog

Introducing Bolivia Finca Machacamarca De Berengula
Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 10:32 PM - 3 years, 2 months ago   - 126  Reads  - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
A firm familiar favourite returns to the website after many months being away. Bolivia Machacamrca has become a staple for us at has bean, a coffee I am very happy to be judged by all day long. For those who I have not bored in the past with the story, we bought this from Cup of Excellence and have since built a relationship with the farm where we buy everything from them. What we thought was 12 months supply we wiped out in six last year, where we did a very special in my mug (see below) which sold out the coffee we had in just three weeks what should have lasted half a year. This week its back and is the InMyMug from the coming back in. At time of writing its been on the site for less than 24 hours and we have sold 5% of it. I am sure just an initial spike from everyone waiting, but a very special coffee. This weeks in my mug is below So anyway the coffee is below and you can buy the remaining 95% here The legend is back. This is a huge, huge coffee, one of our most important and one of my all time favourites. This is a world exclusive coffee, we buy everything from this farm, and we are the only ever buyer of this coffee. It has become the coffee I think we can be judged by, and this year judge away. Machacamarca de Berenguela is an old farm in Sud Yungas, Bolivia, that has belonged to the Andrade family for over 150 years. Its more than 100 hectares are located on top of a small mountain, looking out towards the high snowy peaks of the Andes as well as the rugged foothills that spill onto the tropical plains of the Beni. The adobe walls of the old farmhouse are a meter thick, and the ancient chapel (with a resident ghost) plus its belfry with heavy bronze bells crowns an open and serene landscape. In the 18th and 19th centuries Machacamarca was a traditional coca-leaf producer, but in the middle of the last century Victor Andrade drastically altered the productive scenario by planting groves of citrus fruit and various forest tree species. Coffee, however, was always present “for home and family”. Grandmother Maria, daughter and grand old lady of this land, did not conceive “store-bought” coffee, preferring to personally roast and grind her coffee in a small wooden mill each morning in order to have her coffee “as God meant it to be”. Towards the end of the 1990’s, with the precipitous drop in the citrus market and a problem with the citrus trees, the cultivation of coffee was expanded in earnest by planting varieties known for their quality and resistance in the shade of tall “siquili” trees, favored by hummingbirds and honeybees. Slowly the Andrade family has sought to improve its product, convinced that superior-quality coffee is one of the answers to the environmental drama of the Yungas valleys, seriously threatened by indiscriminate cutting-down of the forest and the proliferation of coca-leaf plantations. We first stocked this coffee from the 2007 Cup of Excellence lot, and it very quickly became my favourite of that year. It also proved to be one of your overall favourites regardless of its Cup of Excellence price premium. This is now the third year of building on this relationship, culminating in me spending the week in July 2010 living with the family, picking the coffee and helping with processing. It was one of the most stunning weeks of my life, and the hospitality of Mario and Maria was amazing. This coffee needs its own scoring system. It is one of the most complete, rounded and balanced coffees I have ever tasted. Sweetness of caramel and chocolate, mixed with a white grape acidity that adds acidity to more sweetness, then the big body, smooth aftertaste that lingers into milk chocolate. It’s as close to my perfect cup as I have found. Add to a milk based drink and it turns into a big doughnut full of sweet caramel. Farm: Machacamarca BV Farmer: Maria and Mario Nina Lupe del Rosario Andrade City: Chulumani Region: Sud-Yungas Country: Bolivia Farm Size: 67.00 Hectares Coffee growing area: 5.00 Hectares Altitude: 1790 masl Variety: Criollo (80%), Caturra (20%) Type of Soil: Clay Average Annual Rainfall: 1,790 mm Type of Shade: Hardwoods, citrus Weeding: Twice per year Pruning: Sanitary pruning Processing System: On-site wet processing, solar drying You can buy it here

Café Carajillo, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - 09:07 PM - 3 years, 6 months ago   - 114  Reads  - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Tom's Cosy Coffee Shops
Café Carajillo, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
WORLD TRIP 2010 The third great coffee shop in as many Mexican cities. Thanks to rain, more rain and mudslides, we were stuck in San Cristobal for a couple of days longer than expected. We didn"t mind too much - it"s a lovely town. The best thing to come out of the delay was Café Carajillo, which we discovered on pedestrianised street Real de Guadalupe. The baristas take an interest in coffee. I was told that the beans come from Finca Hamburgo (http://www.fincahamburgo.com ), a plantation in the southern Chiapas region, German-owned for four generations. In the early stages of WW2, Mexico declared war on the Axis powers and the then-owners were forced to flee. They bought back Fina Hamburgo a few years later and it has stayed in the family since. A little history for you there. I see from photos on the Carajillo Facebook page that the guys have rubbed shoulders with Chava, former Mexican barista champion (twice), at wonderful Cafe Passmar . They don"t seem to have quite reached the same heights on the latte art front, but my latte was nevertheless one of the nicest coffees I"ve had in Mexico. Steep, at 25 Pesos, but excellent. There are chunky wooden tables and a few seats on the pavement. A nice presentational touch is the empty espresso mugs on the tables (removed when you sit down). Another is the chunky slate on which they placed my coffee. The few Polaroids on the wall belay the fact that Carajillo only opened this year. Service is friendly, it stays open late, there"s live music now and again, and it"s popular. So I"m sure the photo-wall will fill up in no time. Fancy a hot chocolate? I highly recommend Kakao Natura on Pedro Moreno, just off Insurgentes near the craft and sweets market. They have a variety of flavours in small and large cups - I suggest trying a few (particularly chillies and cardamom). Café Carajillo Real de Guadalupe 24 San Cristóbal de Las Casas Chiapas Mexico Facebook page: click here

Koffee Kampala
Monday, November 22, 2010 - 02:33 AM - 3 years, 4 months ago   - 107  Reads  - 3. Non Coffee Specific Blogs  - Jay's Strange Blog
Koffee Kampala
Welcome to Cafe Pap. At 11:30am this morning, Claire called to check up on me. I was still sleeping. Holy crap, it's eleven thirty! I tell her I'll call her in about an hour. One of the "problems" with staying at the Kampala Serena Hotel is the very comfy king-sized bed and the excellent heavy curtains. I'm essentially cocooned in darkness and have no idea what time it is. Normally, I never sleep this late. Even when tired, I rely on the sun to roust me from slumber. Good thing today is a non-scheduled day! By the time I really wake up, get ready, call Claire and she comes to meet me, it's easily 2pm and the day is lazily passing away. She's here to brief me on the week's schedule and we negotiate some of the days, trading setup time for training time and strategize on just what we're going to do this week. Cafe Pap Espresso. Right now, it's two days of barista training and a half day of setup and half day training judges. Initially, I think there's too much time for barista training and not enough time for judges training. But it's all good and we work things out amicably. Barista training immediately before a competition. On one hand, it sounds like a great idea. On the other, it's fraught with peril since I'm going to presume these baristas have been training for months and these sessions might cause them to change what they're comfortable doing to the point where it throws off their game and they don't present themselves in the best possible light. But the opportunity here is great. Unlike other trainers who work exclusively with one barista, therefore, giving an advantage to only one person, I get to work with a field of baristas and share with them thoughts and strategies to improve their scores. Cafe Pap Macchiato. There's probably some out there who will disagree with my assessment on improving their scores, but this is a competition whose winner is decided on who gets the most points - and well, why not help them maximize their point potential? The by-product of this is that they improve their skills, make better drinks and, hopefully, make themselves more valuable to their employers (or other employers) which may command better compensation. On the competition side, it hopefully results in better competitors which raises the bar of the WBC style competitions. To my mind, this is a win-win-win situation. One of the things the International Judges remarked upon while training judges in Bogota last month was the diversity in tastes amongst the local judges. What we, as International Judges, deemed excellent was different than the local judges. One thing we acknowledged was that we were unable to take the time to explore the local cafe scene to see just what kinds of coffees the local judges were used to drinking. With that in mind, I asked Claire to take me on a tour of Kampala's finer coffee shops. How much the average Ugandan barista makes a month. So, we toured Kampala's coffee shops and luckily, three of the four of them were in the same shopping center. And the fourth was in the shopping center next door. This made for simple touring where we could spend time sitting, drinking and chatting with the baristas and coffee people about their coffees and their lives. In the process, we ended up having brunch with Louis at Boda Boda, named after Kampala's famous motorcycle transportation services whose fearless drivers transport up to two passengers on a hair-raising ride through the city's notorious traffic. Louis is a Kenyan transplant with great personality and will be the emcee for the barista competition. Can't wait to see him in action. We also took some time to do one of my favorite travel things: visit a local grocery store. There are always lots of fascinating things to discover about a place in their supermarkets. Their choices in food, fruit, drinks, snacks and foods are always interesting and I didn't come away disappointed. I also came away with some foodstuffs to ease my paying burden at the hotel. Cafe Pap Cappuccino. Thanks Anthony! I won't go much into the coffees we drank because I don't want it to seem like I'm influenced by my tasting experiences here. Today wasn't about judging coffees. It was about exploring the local coffee culture and seeing just what that culture is like. Like anywhere else, I'm concerned about the baristas and their future. What is the average wage for baristas in Uganda? Can they make a living on that wage? More importantly, can they have a future as a barista? Meaning, is their wage appropriate for buying a place to live, getting married and having children? Basically, the same issues I deal with as the owner of Spro. Without a doubt, the wages earned by Ugandan baristas seems un-Godly low and the wages of American baristas seem incredibly high. But put into context and they're still in essentially the same boat. They need higher wages to make it work. Cafe Pap Almond Croissant. Different. The coffee scene is relatively young in this country. True specialty coffee didn't really emerge until about 2008 and in discussing the future with Steven Banya, the owner of Bancafe Coffee, there's still much work to go. A coffee scene must learn to walk before it can run. Luckily, the coffee scene here isn't unfamiliar with terms like "macchiato" meaning a three ounce beverage of espresso and steamed milk. There's none of that 16z "macchiato" nonsense going on here, but the large lattes and frappuccinos of the American coffee scene are also a staple here. Another aspect of the coffee shop scene is the need for food. A food menu in Uganda goes hand-in-hand with the coffee menu. Think you're a coffee purist who only wants to serve a coffee menu of espresso in six different variations? Then either remain content with very low sales figures (at least you can rent a livable house here for US$100/month) or add food and make millions a day (in Ugandan Shillings). The choice is up to you. Going to Boda Boda for Sunday Brunch. And if you come to Kampala in search of that fabled V60 brew bar that's all the rage in the United States, you're not going to find that here - hey, remember their coffee scene is only a couple years old and they're already ahead of the curve with their macchiatos. Not to mention that Uganda is not a coffee drinking nation. True, they grow coffee and some of it is truly wonderful, but their main drink here is tea - a remnant of their days under British subjugation, but at least they're not holding on to that. One thing of note is that while Uganda's main coffee crop is the robusta, their exports of arabica coffee has declined over the past year due to greater internal consumption. Evidently, Uganda is one exporting nation that does not export all of its' best coffees. I'll follow up more as the week progresses. Fried eggs, rice, green beans, carrots, bacon, chips, tomatoes, red onions, fried tilapia, beef and a croissant. Louis and Claire discuss the finer points of Life in Kampala. Star Coffee - Uganda's most famous coffee. Safari Tea - Uganda's most famous tea. Mix equal amounts water, milk, a spoon of tea and boil. Bell Lager - Sander's and Shaner's favorite. Tea Masala - add to your favorite black tea and you have chai! Glucose on the grocer's shelves. Surprising. Cafe Java's - probably the busiest cafe in Uganda. Estimated daily revenue: approx. USh 6,000,000. Cafe Java's macchiato. The Bar at Cafe Java's. The Bar at Mokka Terrace. Talking coffee at Mokka Terrace. Serving our macchiatos. Mokka Terrace - Macchiato. Brenda and her barista at Bancafe Bancafe Coffee - Macchiato. Steer's - a local fast food joint. Two piece fried chicken, fries and salad with russian dressing.

Mahlkonig ProM
Saturday, February 13, 2010 - 08:25 PM - 4 years, 2 months ago   - 100  Reads  - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Youri Vlag's Absolute Coffee
Mahlkonig ProM
The Mahlkonig Vario has created quite a stur lately as a small and affordable grind on demand coffee grinder. Mahlkonig have now brought out a new model, the Mahlkonig ProM, and we are really excited about this! On Friday we visited the importers and after only a few minutes fell in love with it. The Mahlkonig ProM is small, grinds fast and with a great quality, is easy to adjust and most importantly grinds directly into the porta filter. We should be getting one next week and will write a full review about once we have used it a bit more. Mahlkonig ProM

Cascara Testing
Saturday, September 25, 2010 - 09:47 PM - 3 years, 6 months ago   - 98  Reads  - 3. Non Coffee Specific Blogs  - Jay's Strange Blog
Cascara Testing
Five preparations of Cascara. We've received a shipment of Cascara from Finca Mauritania this week at Spro and we're trying to figure out what to do with it. Cascara is the outer hull of the coffee cherry that has been washed and allowed to dry out in the sun (presumably). And since, at some point in time, humans like to put just about everything in their mouths (to see whether or not it will kill them), someone came up with the idea of drying out what has been traditionally discarded for compost, steeping it in water and drinking it. Luckily (for that person), the resultant "tea" wasn't poisonous and a new revenue stream was discovered. Cascara has the potential to be sweet and fruity, but handled improperly it becomes tannic and bitter. So we're trying to see just how we can bring this to our menu in a positive way (meaning: eliminating the tannins and bitters). Hot brew, cold brew, multiple hot brews, mixing hot brews - it's all very un-scientific but yields (sometimes) tasty and highly caffeinated results. Speaking of caffeine, there will be no "decaf" Cascara for the foreseeable future. More to come as they develop.

Tutmak, Ubud, Bali
Saturday, June 05, 2010 - 12:30 AM - 3 years, 10 months ago   - 93  Reads  - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Tom's Cosy Coffee Shops
Tutmak, Ubud, Bali
WORLD TRIP 2010 Our base for a fairly short stay (10 days) in Bali was beautiful Ubud. As well as a coffee shop, I also popped into a coffee plantation. Ubud"s the sort of hazy, swooning spot ripe for watching the world pass by from a coffee shop. My kind of place. We took it fairly easy (it just felt like the right thing to do) and ended up popping in to most of Ubud"s cafes. Tutmak is my favourite. It"s a large place with an upstairs lounge and, downstairs, cushions for comfy cross-leggedness. Like many places in Ubud, it"s fairly "westernised". Easily balanced out with more authentic experiences, such as roast suckling pig from Warung Ibu Oka, a show from one of Ubud"s dance troupes and trips into the countryside. The coffee is from Bali and is roasted at Tutmak. The drinks are very nicely presented, with latte art on the lattes. The taste is quite different from any coffee I"ve had, and it"s great. It"s also a very friendly place. Great for chilling out on hot days. Bali might not be one of the first places that springs to mind for coffee production. Nearby Java (another of Indonesia"s islands) is perhaps better known. But tiny Bali exports robusta and arabica, and has an ace up its sleeve; the world famous "kopi luwak" coffee. This is the coffee that"s pooed from a civet cat, selling for exceptionally high prices all around the globe. By reputation, it"s the best money can buy. I visited a small kopi luwak plantation. The cat with the smart nose was present, if asleep and curled up in a corner. He or she hunts out coffee beans on the forest floor, sniffs out the good ones and eats them, shunning the rest. The beans emerge from the cat"s rear, with the crucial coffee bean still in tact. The beans are cleaned (of course) and roasted. I was lucky enough to try a cup, which could cost up to 30 pounds in the UK. I was delighted to discover that it"s not over-hyped (well, not much). Truly delicious. Like any really good coffee, my tea-drinking gilfriend loved it without having to add sugar or milk! That"s the litmus test, surely. I saw trees producing arabica and robusta, the two main varieties of coffee (arabica is the superior variety). Robusta trees are taller, arabica trees shorter. Ripe raw coffee has a squidgy consistency (not what I was expecting). Above: coffee on the tree At the plantation, the beans are roasted in a metal dish above an open fire and constantly stirred. Then, separated into male and female (see below). I must admit I didn"t know that coffee beans had genders. I only wish I could remember the difference (that"ll teach me to write the blog entry two months late...). A fascinating little trip. I"ll leave you with a few photos. Above: beans are roasted, then separated into male and female. Above: raw coffee beans, fallen from the tree. Right: piles of male, female and kopi luwak coffee beans. Tutmak Cafe, Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

La Fenetre Soleil, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 03:25 PM - 4 years ago   - 87  Reads  - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Tom's Cosy Coffee Shops
La Fenetre Soleil, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
WORLD TRIP 2010 The previous entry touched on traditional Vietnamese coffee. This is the other side of coffee in Vietnam; the Westernised cafe. We"ve travelled south, near the foot of Vietnam. This is Ho Chi Minh City (named after the revered revolutionary leader), formerly Saigon. It"s still Saigon to the locals, and on train tickets. La Fenetre Soleil is the sort of place you"re more likely to find in "HCMC" than anywhere else in Vietnam. It"s a stylish, atmospheric, Westernised coffee shop, with muffins, toast, lattes, cappuccinos, and so on. It"s also very expensive, in regional terms; not the sort of place for a typical Vietnamese. It"s for hip students, young workers and the occasional traveller. You won"t find a traditional Vietnamese coffee here (more"s the pity). But it"s not untypical of modern Vietnam, reckoned to be changing as fast as any country in the world. So for a slice of the hip side of HCMC, it"s a good place to head. Unfortunately, my coffee was awful. Terrible. But I didn"t care too much, as this is a wonderfully inspiring place. Beautifully decked out, comfortable, quiet, friendly and relaxed, with bare brick walls, massive windows, equally massive curtains, flowers and antique furniture. There"s even a bed. One of those rare places that makes me day dream about my own hypothetical coffee shop. The effect is augmented by the most easy-to-miss entrance imaginable, followed by the dingiest staircase in the history of the world. But don"t give up... it"s the perfect prelude to coffee shop heaven. La Fenetre Soleil 2nd Floor 135 Le Thanh Ton Ho Chi Minh City A Facebook group for swing dancing nights at the cafe: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=11013545458

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