River Water in Jimma Officially Effected by Coffee Processing – SCAA

January 18, 2012 · Filed Under Coffee Farms, Coffee Industry, Ethiopia, SCAA, sustainability · Comment 

New Research Update: The Impact of Coffee Processing on River Water in Ethiopia

By Emma Bladyka, Coffee Science Manager, SCAA

A new study, published in theJournal ofEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment, has investigated the specific environmental impact of coffee waste on river water in the Jimma Zone of Ethiopia. This research was undertaken by collaborators from Ethiopian, US and Belgium Universities, as well as the local Jimma Agricultural Research Center. The article was first published online on December 9, 2011, and can be found at the journal website.

Most of us are probably aware that coffee processing can use a lot of water and impact the chemistry of that water, but this has not been quantified extensively in many growing regions. It is especially important to understand this coffee-related pollution as we progress further down the rabbit hole of climate change and dwindling natural resources.

Interesting study!  Considering that so many of us in the specialty coffee industry are also concerned about environmental responsibility, I assume this to be worth paying attention to for any buyers of Ethiopian coffee, especially from the Jimma zone.  Solid wastes from processing (I assume this is primarily from the wet process mills) are seasonal (obviously), and scientists actually evaluated river water before, during, and after wastes were dumped to see how the normal river ecosystem is effected by coffee.  The results are both better and worse that what one might expect.

In this study, the authors found significant reductions in water quality downstream from coffee processing plants during the wet season. During the wet season, they saw a large increase in organic loads, nutrients, and solids, which resulted in dissolved oxygen levels to as little as 0.1 mg/L water. They also found that during the processing peak that the average pH of river waters was lowered from 7 to 6.2. This combination of changes led to a decrease in diversity of macroinvertebrates.

During the dry season, the scientists found that the organic load, dissolved oxygen, solids, and pH had recovered to mostly normal levels. They found that the overall macroinvertebrate diversity was restored during this time period, but that the most sensitive taxa remained at low percentages, indicating a longer-term impact on the ecosystem. Interestingly, since the dissolved oxygen was reduced so drastically, scientists found that the water pollution by nitrogen was unable to recover during the dry season. This is because some oxygen is necessary during the nitrogen cycle in order to transform it to its volatile form and expel it from the river water. With this information, they determined that oxygen levels, organic load, and nitrate were all causal for the shift in invertebrate diversity. The authors considered this a very serious finding and worried that without fast action many of these rivers would pose a risk to not only ecosystem but human health.

I HIGHLY recommend reading the entire article, as it goes into more detail than I feel comfortable re-pasting here.  It does take into consideration the idea of filtering the waste water before returning it to the river, as well as composting and fertilizing practices and possibilities with coffee waste.  It also mentions that there are farms that do this, however, it does not mention any research into their overall effectiveness in preventing river water contamination.  I suspect, however, that it is quite good, considering that the bulk of the problem appears to be solids.  It appears that anything  preventing solids from ending up in the river is a good thing.

Read the full article:
New Research Update: The Impact of Coffee Processing on River Water in Ethiopia – SCAA Chronicle

Fat: The SIXTH Taste

January 16, 2012 · Filed Under Coffee Industry, Tasting, TX-Coffee · 2 Comments 

Receptor for tasting fat identified in humans 

January 12, 2012
By Jim Dryden

Why do we like fatty foods so much? We can blame our taste buds.

Our tongues apparently recognize and have an affinity for fat, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They have found that variations in a gene can make people more or less sensitive to the taste of fat.

The study is the first to identify a human receptor that can taste fat and suggests that some people may be more sensitive to the presence of fat in foods. The study is available online in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Investigators found that people with a particular variant of the CD36 gene are far more sensitive to the presence of fat than others.  …more

Scientists have agreed that the tongue can sense five distinct tastes but differed over whether our taste buds can detect fact. New research now finds that the tongue can recognize and has an affinity for fat and that variations in a gene can make people more or less sensitive to the taste of fat in foods.


Oh boy, if adding “umami” not long ago wasn’t enough, now we have “fat” as a non-aromatic taste.  Will this effect sensory tests like the Q Grader test?  Will this spawn new research by the GCQRI, SCAA, SCAE, CQI, etc?

There has already been some discussion about lipids in coffee, and how they are not true lipids since they are water soluble, but will this new discovery and its influenced research affect “legit” roast levels?

On the other hand, it could just be a trivial “huh.. interesting” facet of taste with the result of nothing changing within our industry.  Interesting, nevertheless.  What say you?

Barista Hubris: Brewing in Arrogance

July 22, 2011 · Filed Under Article, Baristas, Coffee Industry, TX-Coffee · 1 Comment 

I am pleased to introduce Graham Sample, a new contributor to Texas Coffee People.  Graham is a barista at Palace Coffee Company in Canyon, TX, and is working to bring quality coffee to northern West Texas in an approachable manner.  In addition to coffee, he apparently loves to write.

Graham has submitted the following article :

by Brad Singley via Seattle Times

“Hi, my name is Graham and it has been 3 years since I started working in the coffee world.”
(Does that remind you of a certain meeting (hopefully not from personal experience)?)

What’s sad is that this analogy is not too far off of the mark at times. Working in the industry I have met some of the nicest, most humble, knowledgeable barista and roasters that you could imagine. You know what else? They are approachable and seem human. However, I have also met some of the most arrogant, unapproachable humans that the world has seen since the hipster movement. My question is this, why?

Why is it that when a person thinks that he, or she, knows how to pull the “perfect” shot that they suddenly become the god of the universe whose glory is too bright to be approached? Why have baristas become so addicted to the pursuit of all things sophisticated?

There are many philosophical reasons that could attempt to explain this, but I will leave that to those who are schooled in this train of thought. Where I wish to go with this is merely, we are killing the accessibility to our industry that we love.

image by 'jgrimm' via Flickr

When the mere peasant walks into a coffee shop and feels less than simply because they don’t know what the difference between a full city or an American roast is, we aren’t doing our jobs. We were all there once. That starry eyed teenager or twenty something, with a portafilter awkwardly held in one hand and a tamper in the other. There was a point in all of our lives when it didn’t matter whether or not you tapped and then tamped, or overdosed, or surfed then whirlpooled as opposed to whirlpooling then surfing the milk. There was a point when you just wanted to learn; and if you can remember back even farther than that, there was a pointed when all you wanted to do was drink. Try to think back to then.

The next time someone comes into your shop and orders a macchiato, don’t sneer because they meant a caramel macchiato. Explain with a smile. We are slowly (maybe even quickly) becoming an industry that is less and less approachable as time goes on. We don’t want that. We should always be trying to grow our experience, our knowledge and our culture. However, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of closing people out.

More Starbucks News – Beer & Wine

October 18, 2010 · Filed Under Coffee Industry, Gimmicks, Industry Insight, Publicity, Retailers · Comment 

(From USA Today) – Here we go again.

Starbucks remakes its future with an eye on beer and wine

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY

…A very different kind of Starbucks is on tap. It will serve regional wine and beer. It offers an expansive plate of locally made cheeses — served on china. The barista bar is rebuilt to seat customers up close to the coffee.

Most conspicuously, the place looks less like a Starbucks and more like a cafe that’s been part of the neighborhood for years — yet that’s “green” in design and decor. This is the calling card of independent java joints that have been eating and sipping away at Starbucks’ evening business for decades. U.S. Starbucks stores get 70% of business before 2 p.m…. more…

More signs of an identity crisis, or a case of “If you can’t beat ‘em, Join ‘em?”  I just can’t help but think that Starbucks is clamoring for more attention.  Is this more of the same, or will this turn into a new format?  Remember Starbucks independent knock-off cafes?  Like 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea?  Will it last?  Will it fizzle?  Will this be a one-or-tw0-location-spinnoff in an effort to gain organic media attention in place of shameless advertising?

Only time will tell.  Is it a good idea?  I personally think that it depends on the neighborhood.  You don’t want people getting drunk in your neighborhood “upscale” coffee house… do you?  (perhaps a topic for a future post)

Are you are tired of Starbucks news as we are?

Manual Brewing Workshop: Brown Coffee Co, San Antonio

Manual Brewing Workshop, October 23, 2010 6-9pm. Brown Coffee Co. San Antonio, TX.

It seems as though this is the season for events in the coffee community.  This time, Brown Coffee Company is hosting a Manual Brew Methods workshop in San Antonio.  Manual brew methods gained steam when Starbucks bought the Coffee Equipment Company(inventors and sellers of the Clover brewer that made waves.. for awhile), and baristas were suddenly in search of a replacement for the cup-at-a-time marketing tool known as the Clover 1S.

Brewing is not the same as brewing well.  Manual brew methods require skill, attention, and concentration.  Most coffee establishments lack these basic requirements, but there are a few institutions who have, or who plan to implement a cup-at-a-time brew method to their list of options for their ever-discerning patrons to choose from.

Here is the scoop:

Brown is hosting a workshop focusing on manual brewing by the cup, which continues to find an ever-wider audience. This is a free and open workshop for serious home consumers as well as coffee professionals.

The goals for this gathering are simple:

-To continue growing the coffee community in Texas

-To provide some outlines of popular manual brewing devices

-To help level-set baristas with best practices around manual brewing

-To introduce a game-changing device for the industry that’s soon to be on the market: the Luminaire Bravo-1

Hope you can make it out for a fun evening with great coffee, great coffee people and some of the latest and greatest coffee equipment around.

Give-It-Away Latte Art Throwdown – Austin, TX

Sunday, September 26 · 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Once Over Coffee Bar
2009 S 1st St
Austin, TX

All proceeds going to Coffee Kids – a totally awesome organization working with coffee farming families to improve their lives and livelihoods.
More information on Coffee Kids can be found at CoffeeKids.org.

Everyone is welcome! Raffle prizes include a BGA membership and an iPod shuffle!

Frosted Java Closes Doors – Frisco, TX

August 30, 2010 · Filed Under Coffee Industry, Community, DFW, Franchise, Industry Insight, Retailers · Comment 

According to this review on Yelp, Frosted Java is no more.

I think it is due to a combination of things. Namely, Location. For one thing, I’m under the impression that the rent for its location was rather high. (it wasn’t on anyone’s way to work in the morning, either) Also, it is possible that it didn’t fill the role of being a destination enough for the trickle of patrons to bring in enough dough.

I understood that they were hoping to franchise. I wish you ex-Frosted Java owners/managers/employees the best of luck.

Thunderbird Coffee Serves Counter Culture

February 18, 2010 · Filed Under Austin, Coffee, Coffee Industry, Direct Trade, Publicity · 1 Comment 

The Dose: Podcast #1


I hope you enjoy it.  We had a lot of fun making it.

It can be found on iTunes. -> Click

Seven New Wild Coffee Speceis Found in Madagascar

December 23, 2009 · Filed Under Coffee, Coffee Farms, Coffee Industry, News, Texas Coffee People · 1 Comment 

Kew Gardens finds seven wild species of coffee

The discovery, in Madagascar, is good news for coffee drinkers as climate change and habitat loss is threatening an estimated 70% of global crops.

These species of coffee are seven of 290 new plants discovered by these botanists this year.  Apparently, they also “discovered” 200 species of yam that are known to cure cancer by locals in South Africa.  (yes.. It was already known to cure cancer, yet they are a new species discovery.. and they haven’t been learning to grow them around the world, apparently.  Why not!)

I wish there were more information about these coffee species.  There is so much research performed in coffee farming every year in various parts of the world, and it would be interesting to see what could be learned, if much at all, from these species found on a remote island off the east coast of Africa.

All vanilla in the world originates in Madagascar.  Cacao is a regular crop there.  It is a tropical region, and if we have coffees coming from about every island in Indonesia, I suppose it would make sense that coffee could live there.

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