My Love Affair with Alex

The deep confession is that it’s really a three-way. I was introduced to him by my husband who heard about him from one of his female friends. She was pretty adamant that he’d be right for us and DH knew I’d be receptive.

His full name is Alex by Izzo. And oh yes, introducing him into our marriage required some sacrifice but I haven’t turned back.He’s up early and it’s true, I’ve become dependent on his fresh scent to get out the door in the morning.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of ours was moving to Seattle. She envisioned going there to become a reseller of better coffee equipment. She saw people like us who really enjoyed a strong morning brew and who’d rather have it home than going through a coffee chain drive-thru.

Mornings are always best

Over the years, I’ve read much about coffee and physical health and coffee and planetary health. Yet, I remain in love with the deep dark bitter brew. And I think it’s as much about the aromatherapy as it is the drink. The nose of those fresh ground beans greet me with an unbelievable welcome. I love coffee – not a lot of coffee but my one, 2-shot mug with soy kickstarts my day.

A few of my favorite bloggers have been writing about coffee recently. Rob, the model citizen, has given up clouds in his coffee in favor of locally grown tea. I want to be like him but I’m not there yet.

Christa offers a condemnation of the Keurig. I agree with her wholeheartedly and refuse to use the one at my office because I can’t find any information on those little plastic cups and because of the waste created.

Sherry and I share many viewpoints and she’s approached the topic in a similar manner.

I enjoy my morning coffee. If I can’t give it up, then how can I best approach it?

1. First, try to find a local roaster. I’m trying out a new one right now that I came to know through the farmer where I get my CSA.

2. Understand the words that are used in coffee marketing and consider choosing these when you shop:

Shade grown – In an effort to plant more coffee shrubs and increase their yields, many plantations have razed their trees with punitive ecological results. Prior to the boom, much of the coffee supply was grown in the shade of trees. This provided habitats for all sorts of insects and birds and allowed other plants to flourish as well. This practice tends to be better for the soil and eliminate factors like erosion. Over the long-haul, shade grown trees survive and produce for up to 50 years while others not grown in shade last only 5 – 10 years.

Organic – For coffee to be labeled organic, it must be produced in accordance with U.S. standards for organic production. It must also be certified by an agency accredited by the USDA. The certification is provided to farmers using low-impact production methods. Their coffee is grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Organic coffee farms typically have lower yields resulting in higher prices.

Fair Trade – This is a┬ácertification that was developed by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International and licensed in the United States by Transfair USA. It denotes a market-based approach which aims to protect farmers in developing countries from fluctuating prices by ensuring their coffee base price is above their production cost. I had incorrectly assumed that this meant other things like no child labor and that fair wages are paid.

3. Compost the grounds. Stay away from the individual coffee packs that produce plastic waste.

4. If you go out for coffee, visit a locally owned shop instead of a chain. When you get there, talk with the proprietor so that you can order a variety based upon the labels above. If you need more grounds, ask them to save them for you.

5. When friends ask what they can bring you from their exotic vacations, have them bring coffee that meets these conditions. That way, it won’t travel in a separate shipment.

6. Unless you live in a space, where coffee is grown, consider not drinking it or at least cutting down. The planetary reasons are abundant.

Leave a comment

80 Comments

  1. brum

     /  March 10, 2012

    A 3-way without me? Grrrrrr.
    On my way to Anthony now for the funeral of my godfather emilio enriquez. Very sad.

    Reply
  2. I love your passion. Coffee is actually a brain food, according to a shaman friend. Like any other food: if you’re going to indulge, indulge in the best and prepare it well. Sounds like you’re doing just that with Alex!
    Eleanor

    Reply
  3. I’m with you on those Keurigs – plastic waste and expense. Sometimes convenient is not really

    Reply
  4. Cool stuff! I absolutely understand a love of that scent, that warmth, that flavor, that art, that pulse that comes from… a bean! Funny that despite their ubiquity our society doesn’t have the same romance with garbanzo, kidney, pinto, or black beans. I wonder if anyone has tried roasting and grinding tepary beans and making a drink from them? Hmmm.

    Thanks for the compliment! I’m no model citizen though, I’m just me. If I’m any different it’s just that I consider the needs of the birds and the trees every bit as important as my own.

    I composted coffee grounds too, and it was a very helpful way to balance the pH in our Arizona soil – which tends to be heavily alkaline. An average pH for us is 8 to 8.5, which is why we add coffee grounds but not citrus rinds. It’s important for our friends outside Arizona to note that their own soil may be different, so it’s worth checking its pH. “Ask your local botanical garden if coffee grounds may be right for you.”

    Good info on shade grown, organic, and Fair Trade. This reminded me of the documentary “Homo Toxicus” which highlighted the preponderance of toxins in the Canadian food supply and therefore in Canadians’ bodies. Our own food supply in the US is almost certainly worse, and this is a strong health case for organics. Even if one chemical is not toxic in small doses, that same dose stored in our body’s fatty tissue, then combined with thousands more doses of that chemical and thousands of doses of other chemicals too… and suddenly we have rising cancer rates. Organic, and especially organic home grown, is a great way to reduce that risk.

    Reply
    • Hmmmm. I’m feeling up for a bean roasting challenge! Love that idea. Great point on composting coffee grounds. They do not work for everyone!

      Reply
  5. Lisa H

     /  March 10, 2012

    Ha! LOVE this post! and I love your coffee! I must confess, my DH makes coffee every morning, so when he travels, I rely on friends, or my local coffee shop for my cup of brew. I’ve tried to make it myself, but it’s just NOT the same–it’s never as good as when it’s made with love from another.
    My favorite coffee shop down the street is conscientious of where they purchase their beans, and then they roast it themselves right there in the coffee shop where his patrons sip their brew! The lingering smell of his roasted beans lasts for a couple days and smells fabulous!
    When I buy my beans, I take my own container. It’s just one more small thing I can do to help our environment.

    Reply
    • OH, good tip on taking your own container! I’d love to meet you at your local shop one morning.

      Reply
      • Lisa H

         /  March 10, 2012

        Of course! Grinder’s on Dunlap and Central. Let me know when you have some time to share.

        Reply
  6. I so try for local but don’t think I could ever give up my coffe habit. I have found two coffee sources that send me fair-trade/shade grown or at the least sustainably produced coffee. My all time favorite is Tonx, http://www.tonx.org. These guys are in LA and they LOVE coffee. When they send it to you you get a description of the coffee, the grower and the best way to brew.

    My second runner up is Wrecking Ball coffee, http://www.wreckingballcoffee.com. They are a local roaster in the Bay Area and you sign up for a six month subscription of coffee.

    I also buy from a plethora of local roasters as San Francisco is full if great coffee.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
    • I love the name Wrecking Ball coffee! You have access to many wonderful things in the bay area.

      Reply
  7. HA! I’ll bet you had some people wondering!!!

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    Reply
  8. Love, love the title! :o)

    Reply
  9. The picture alone tells that the coffee is amazing. Now I wish I could smell the scent as well. :) I used to drink a lot of coffee and now don’t anymore (my body can’t handle it too well), but every now and then, I have a coffee as a treat. :)

    Reply
    • I had a spell once when I sort of woke up and was done with coffee. I couldn’t drink it and couldn’t believe I ever did. Then I found out about good coffee. Mmmm.

      Reply
  10. That espresso machine is gorgeous – I love stuff like that.
    I miss my old neighborhood coffee shop. My rural town has a Circle K and a Diner

    Reply
    • oooh, maybe you can do a fund raiser for the diner to get a good coffee maker! It would be fun anyway.

      Reply
  11. Once again I find that we share many values (and tastes). I could smell the coffee as I read your post and looked at the pics.

    Like you, Christa and several commenters, I’m no fan of the Keurig. It is so wasteful, I think. The opposite of what how I try to live. When it comes to minimizing waste, I’m not perfect but I especially try to avoid being wasteful for convenience. Sometimes I have to buy smaller packages, but the idea of single-serve packaging of coffee grounds seems extra self-indulgent, especially when the packaging is plastic or some variation of plastic.

    I also share your fondness for local-roasted coffees. My local fave is Finer Grind: http://benfranklinfollies.com/2011/08/27/finer-grind-coffee/

    Reply
  12. The best gift I’ve bought Dave is his espresso machine and we have a fantastic local coffee roasting company where we get our coffee from. They sell organic and fair trade beans which they will grind for you :)

    Reply
  13. What a beautiful coincidence. I’m drinking my first cup of roasted coffee while reading this. i love coffee too. Honestly, I am a tea person, but there are coffee days when nothing else but a strong bitter brew with milk and sugar will do. It’s Sunday here and Sunday’s are my coffee days- lavish days :)

    I use a packaged roast from “Bru” and where I live, coffee plantations do not thrive. But this particular roast is what I found to be the best. I’ll see in its label as to where is it grown.

    Thanks for the know how :)

    Reply
  14. Btw, your post so reminds me of Janice’s post! that was how I even met her. her coffee machine and her wild love affair with it :P Makes me want to do a coffee post too.

    Loved reading it.

    Reply
  15. Tammy, your posts are so wonderful! And I have a weird confession to make. I have never drank coffee. I don’t know why, but just can’t get myself to even try. I figure it’s okay . . .there’s enough other stuff I DO drink and eat. :) Loved how you titled and started this off!

    Reply
    • Debbie, if it’s not a habit that you’ve formed, then be thankful for that. I see an old Chinese herbalist who would like me to never drink it. Then, as Eleanor points out, there are some who claim it as brain food.

      Reply
  16. I enjoy a cup or two of coffee in the morning . . . with vanilla soy milk. A warm and welcome start to my day. :D

    Reply
  17. hahahaha,..a wonderful & great post, I loved it! This Alex machine is a real winner! A friend of mine also has one & it is a fantastic machine! Good for you & your family! Too bad, I don’t drink coffee anymore. I only use it in desserts. :)

    Reply
  18. How can you not fall in love!

    Reply
  19. This was all such amazing information. Thanks for posting, and thanks to all of the commenters. It is great to learn something new. I too could smell the wonderful aroma.

    Reply
  20. It’s Norwegian blood, coffee – have to have mine or bad things could happen! Really, I think the literature on coffee and health is very mixed. I swear it will be the dead last thing I give up – love it! Thanks to my neighbors I’m now composting coffee grounds (in their compost bin). I do buy locally – at least SOME of the time. My two areas for improvement are doing more shade-grown, organic, fair trade. And I have to confess – I feel like a bad progressive – I LOVE Starbucks. Very very clever post, Tammy! Love it!

    Reply
    • The literature on coffee and health is very mixed – Of course, I want it to be mixed though rather than favoring a complete boycott. Rob makes some interesting points about checking the pH of your soil. That might inform your decision about whether to compost grounds or not. Hopefully it will make a lot of sense.

      Reply
  21. I’ve never developed a taste for coffee. Nor for tea either. i usually have a hot chocolate to be sociable but I can live without that too.

    Reply
    • Good for you! Is it because the drinks are hot or that you just don’t care for the flavors?

      Reply
  22. LOVE this post, Tammy – Alex sounds so great :)

    Reply
  23. I love my coffee. Unfortunately we have a Keurig and it does make really delish coffee. But you are so right. The waste created by K-cups. :( PLUS… they’re plastic…double :( :(

    Reply
    • Yeah! Now I did hear from a friend who is working with them to compost the grounds but I think it’s really a lot of work.

      Reply
  24. What a fancy coffee maker! I have a 2 cup Mr. Coffee because until my trip to Panama, I didn’t like coffee much. I visited an organic coffee farm that grows in accordance to the lunar cycle. I still have a half written post in my head about the sustainable aspect of their farm–not only eco, but socially sustainable.

    Reply
  25. Hi, Tammy. I have a love/hate relationship with coffee. Love it so much, but the body doesn’t always love it as much as the rest of me. Have been trying to drink it more temperately, replacing morning brew with green tea. (However, had to have a cup this afternoon, just a tiny treat.) I like your thoughtful approach.

    Reply
  26. I have a (less fancy) version that my sister picked up for me at a rummage sale. I ignored it for years then last summer my college daughter got a job with barista duties, brought her knowledge home and turned us all into addicts. Such a lovely addiction–especially with the environmental and socially conscious moves you discuss!

    Reply
  27. Also gorgeous foam decoration–I can barely do a heart!

    Reply
  28. I’ve been a coffee lover for years and recently have become more interested in where it’s coming from and how it’s produced- thanks for this info!

    Reply
  29. I LOVE this post. I love the topic, I love the way it’s written…I love Alex. :-)

    Reply
  30. clever-clever, and important. I agree with whackadoodlemommy’s comment.

    coffee is my reason for hopping out of bed each morning–I love that quiet time brewing it, and then taking the first slurp—ahhhhh. I cannot think of giving this up!

    we have a couple of local roasters now for a more conscientious coffee supply, and compost our grounds.

    Reply
  31. Wow, that’s a beautiful looking machine, Tammy.

    I feel the same way about tea :-)

    Reply
  32. Coffee is a deep, deep love of mine. Our coffee machine at work is very temperamental, and to be honest at home I prefer using my French Press. I’ve lately taken to getting freshly-roasted beans at one of the two best coffee places in Canberra. Makes such a difference to the flavour!

    (It hurts me inside that our admin lady still drinks the instant Nescafe.)

    Reply
    • I love a French Press Hannah. I have a couple of restaurants where I will order coffee after a meal just because of that.

      Reply
  33. What a delightful, deliciously written and photographed post, Tammy! You have almost succeeded in converting me from being a Rooibos tea addict…but not quite :-D I also love the aroma of coffee but am consistently disappointed by the taste, so seldom drink it. Rooibos, on the other hand, travels with me everywhere, usually drunk as is, with no milk or sugar. Fairly recently in South Africa, though, the Red Cappucino has emerged, made from super healthy Rooibos instead of coffee and typically enjoyed with a twist of honey…love it!

    Reply
  34. A great post – first off what a beautiful coffee maker you have! And I hadn’t heard of the difference between growing coffee in the shade and out in the open, and the difference in the life span of the plant. Fascinating.
    I guess this post is all about thinking about what we consume, how it’s made for us and how it gets to us. As to the tea industry, I think there is some equally dodgy stuff going on there too!

    Reply
    • Haven’t done enough research on tea yet but the good thing is that you can make it from so many things!

      Reply
  35. Try coconut cream rather than soy milk in your brew for a delicious, healthy treat. Yum!

    Reply
  36. WordsFallFromMyEyes

     /  March 17, 2012

    Great post! The beginning was very catching. I’ve got to admit, the naughtiness of the threeway was why I kept reading… but I love coffee too! :)

    Reply
  37. emily

     /  April 6, 2012

    Thanks for reading our blog! I’m super excited about that brewery.

    As an enthusiastic, kind of die-hard coffee drinker I love this post, and that piece of equipment is being bookmarked under “dream home appliances.” I’m also a big fan of the idea of asking traveling friends to bring back coffee from their vacation spots. It’s such a genius way to reduce waste/food miles and getting to try different kinds of coffee. Thanks for the clarification on the terms as well, very informative!

    Reply
  1. Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Kitchen Tools « Agrigirl's Blog

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