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Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat. ~ Alex Levine, Irish actor and musician                                                                

First published on March 11, 2016

If the spirit enlivening, fine rugged roar of an Irish coffee, (emphasis on) well done, has ever struck you as something of a revelation, the story of its origin will further heighten this notion.

As all good things often are, it was a stroke of genius on the fly; in this case, in the midst of a storm. Pitted as it was against the forces of nature, this wee blast of brilliance — likened to being kicked by a mule with a velvet hoof — was intended as a tonic for embattled late-night travellers.

In particular, these travellers: the wet and weary passengers aboard a seaplane in the winter of 1943, held back by poor weather from their late-night flight across the Atlantic from the village of Foynes in the midwest of Ireland. Foynes was then one of Europe's largest civilian airports and served as the last port of call and refueling on the country’s eastern shore for transatlantic seaplanes.

When the decision was made to turn around, catering staff at Foynes’ flying boat base were alerted, and, Joe Sheridan, head chef of the Foynes’ terminal restaurant — 'terminal' a word that should not precede what was then considered one of Ireland’s best eateries — was asked to whip up something warm for the incoming passengers. So Joe did what has revived so many during trying times: he gave them liquor, adding Irish whiskey with a trick of sugar and cream to the passengers’ coffee and the rest is history. When Joe was asked if he’d used Brazilian coffee, he is said to have quipped: “No. That was Irish coffee!” And, by Jingo, that, it was.

A few weeks later, Joe shared his new recipe with his boss, Ireland’s famed hotelier and business innovator Brendan O’Regan (who also gave the world its first duty-free shop), and they both agreed this touch of the Irish had to stay.

From then on, Joe’s “Irish” coffee was served to all of Foynes’ passengers — some of them famous, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller (pictured), along with Ernest Hemingway, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Hope and Humphrey Bogart, among others. Ultimately, Joe's recipe made its way across the Atlantic to America, most notably thanks to the efforts of the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco and the travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, who introduced it there.

Joe’s 1943 ingredients have been altered, added to, jazzed up, as well as criminally cheapened over the years, so, in celebration of Joe’s original innovation, and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, here is Joe’s yesteryear recipe in all of its sweet, bitter and fiery glory taken from Foynes’ flying boat museum website (which is well worth a browse; in fact, Google to research Foynes' history, and O'Regan's biography further: it's fascinating, including this video about the golden era of giant flying boats).

Suggestions have been added in bold:

Step One
In your Foynes Irish Coffee Glass, place a teaspoon and fill with boiling water for five seconds. (Replace the 6-ounce “classic” Foynes stemmed glass with an 8-ounce handled mug or tempered glass mug for practical reasons. If you actually do possess a Foynes glass, congratulations!).

Step Two
In this pre-warmed glass, put one teaspoon of brown sugar and a good measure of Irish Whiskey. (For the sake of historical record, Joe used Paddy Old Irish Whiskey from the Cork Distilleries Company. Do not leave out the sugar. Sugar is key to keeping the cream afloat).

Step Three
Fill the glass to within 1cm of the brim with really hot, strong black (French press) coffee. Stir well to melt all the sugar. (Joe used Ireland’s Bewley’s brand but any freshly ground, brewed coffee will do. Try a medium-roast Colombian, dark-roasted Costa Rican, Guatemalan in a darker roast or medium-roast Sumatran. Sidenote: Bewley does have operations in the U.S., under Rebecca’s Cafe in Boston and Java City in California).

Step Four
Then carefully pour lightly whipped cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats on top of the coffee. (The cream — use double or whipping cream — should be whisked just short of stiff. Use spray-can cream and you will defile the memory of Joe and his coffee contribution to humanity).

Step Five
Do not stir after the cream is added, as the true flavour is obtained by drinking the hot coffee and Irish Whiskey through the cream.

And, lastly, as this Celtic coaster prompts: sláinte!


 

Christmas is nearly upon us and, once again, you're here at our online store, thinking: "Can I give them coffee two years in a row? Who else can I give coffee to? Is coffee really all that of a gift?"

First of all, coffee is the best gift anyone has ever given or received, so no fear there. And, yes; you can give coffee to everyone you know who favours it but it is preferable to not repeat yourself from one year to the next.

But don't worry. At Green Beanery, we're more than just coffee: we're also coffee equipment and coffee accessories, as well as a number of other things entirely unrelated to coffee, which is all to your good at this crunch time of year. So put away your panic. We've got you covered and covered well, my dears.

Please step this way, and let's begin.

If you're ordering online, the best thing you can do at this point, to ensure timely delivery, is a gift card. We've got scads of electronic gift cards, including Christmas and Hanukkah cards, as well as gift cards that will do nicely for sending best wishes for the New Year's. Make a jump start on other occasions too with our Chinese New Year's and back-to-school selection, and, for those brave enough to be moving house in winter, give them our housewarming and coffee-to-the-rescue gift card options.

If you're able to order online and pick-up in-store, here are some ideas that are sure to please. A number-one pleaser would have to be the Aerobie AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. To be sure, it's an odd, rather plain-looking gob of plastic (that is BPA and phthalates free, mind, and made of food-safe copolyester), but, nevertheless a gob of plastic few will comprehend the wonder of based on looks alone. Yet, a wonder the AeroPress is, day in and day out, no exaggeration. This will change your morning coffee routine forever - it's fast, it couldn't be easier to clean, it's versatile, durable and the coffee is so damn good; for $39.95, this little cracker will make you believe in the magic of Christmas again. True story: I gave this to someone, very fussy, last February and they're still, nearly a year later, telling me how much joy it brings them and I have to admit: I may never top a gift like the AeroPress.

It's hard to make something as thrillingly simple as the Aeropress better but they did by ensuring you need never be without it with the AeroPress Coffee Travel Kit, which is basically the Aeropress and a tote bag, and for more dollars, includes a Hario mini hand-grinder. Camping, cottages, conferences, hotels, work ... regardless of your location, the Aeropress is good to go.

With all the palaver about artisanal Third Wave coffeehouse culture, it's hard not to feel swayed by all the frou-frou and crave some of that cool cafe chic for yourself at home. Certainly, for coffee lovers, some of these accoutrements make for lovely and useful gift ideas. One such item is the Hario Buono Stainless Steel Kettle - with its sleek beehive design and gooseneck spout, the Buono is beloved by serious baristas and home-users alike for its reliable, precision pour and is something of a must-have for anyone attempting the pour-over method of coffee brewing. Take it up a notch with the Bonavita 1.0L Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle BV382510V - the extra finger grip and steady water stream is a real bonus for the novice to pour-over and the 60-minute heat-and-hold and real-time temperature display works beautifully for any hot beverage.

Like the Hario kettle, the Chemex pourover coffeemaker is another timeless statement piece that is both lovely to look at and lovely to use, and easy on the wallet. The classic Chemex has been restored to a place of adulation by third wave coffee connoisseurs for its function and beauty: so iconic is its hourglass design fastened with a wood collar and tie, it remains on permanent display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Choose your size preference from our selection here. For the coffee lover who has everything, you might want to consider the divine Chemex Hand Blown Glass Stovetop Water Kettle or, better still, the mouthwatering Chemex Ottomatic Coffee Brewer, which unbelievably automates the entire art of pour over without the bother.

Keeping with a more lavish theme, the ROK espresso maker is a uniquely graceful design that is sure to win a gasp once opened (check out the neat-o reusable metal container it comes in). Described as an "AeroPress on steroids," the ROK (in a different incarnation, known as the Presso) is touted as one of the best espresso makers for under $500 - it also comes in black, red and copper (which is the one I want, Santa). A "Green Heroes" design winner, it doesn't use electricity either, so it's eco-friendly to boot. But it does require hand power and a good grinder for optimal success, which is why they made the companion ROK manual coffee grinder - a looker like the espresso maker, that takes less than half the revolutions of a standard manual grinder and around only 30 seconds to grind a double espresso, the same time as it would using an electric model.

Another coffee grinder that has been making waves for us this year is the Baratza Sette 270. The coffee geeks in your life will love this one - awarded the 2016 Best New Product by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the Sette 270 has been getting "game-changer" raves all over and the raves are deserved: expect superior speed (this is a burr grinder that moves fast) with an excellent, even grind and speeds of 3.5g/sec for espresso and 5.5g/sec for filter coffee, a light body at 7 lbs, nearly zero grinds retention and easy clean-up. One reviewer compared the release of this model to Apple unveiling their newest iPhone. It's that big of a deal.

For something a lot more budget friendly, the reusable KeepCup makes for a very thoughtful present for both the environment and someone who loves their brew with a pop of colour. At our store on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor, we keep a range of these cups on display, as well as gift sets ready made-up with coffee or tea and an assortment of little delights that make for attractive stocking stuffers. Stop by for a browse and take a moment to retreat from the madness with a treat from the menu and a seat beside our Christmas tree.

Because the weather outside is frightful

But our store is so delightful

And since you hate going out in the storm

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

 

 

 

Halloween superstitions and folklore abound, as we all know. But what about coffee superstitions? Let's get on board with some, shall we?

Who doesn't spill coffee now and then? It's a nuisance, sometimes a damn nuisance, but according to superstitious coffee logic in the Middle East (and elsewhere), spilling coffee is considered a sign of good luck. So next time you whoopsadaisy coffee onto your bag and coat, know this: "You're so lucky."

In fact, aim to spill coffee. In Greece, spilling coffee on a coffee plaque (find one if you can) or a picture that includes coffee, is a sign money is on its way to you. Could this turn the economy around?

Next, Finland: If a bubble forms on the surface of your coffee but moves away from you, expect to lose money. If the bubble moves towards you, expect to gain some. If you blow the bubble in the desired direction, consider this creating good luck for yourself.

Moving on from Finland to bubbles in general.

If they form in the middle of your cup, prepare yourself for some bad weather; around the rim signals a beautiful day ahead. (In fact, high atmospheric pressure can force bubbles to the surface center so there is actually some science to this).

Try to catch any bubbles anywhere on the surface of your coffee because doing so is said to bring good luck if they are caught with a spoon and consumed.

Is gender important? Apparently. If a female brews your coffee and then spills it, her lover is thinking of her. This is significant if you thought you were her one and only. Perhaps if you had made her coffee she wouldn't have taken another lover.

If a cup holding coffee is dropped by accident, this spells misfortune. That's right. Your coffee has spilled, your cup is likely broken but in case you weren't able to ascertain this for yourself: that scenario is considered not lucky.

But if coffee must spill and you have any power of choice in the situation, spill the coffee on a saucer - yours, someone else's - as this indicates money is about to flow in. Because your saucer is over-flowing? Who knows.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic: Drinking coffee standing up should be avoided as it portends plans for the day will not come to fruition. There is a body of research that recommends drinking and eating while sitting down, but it isn't immediately apparent why taking coffee standing up would bring ruination.

Nevertheless, this superstition ranks as a good reminder to take a moment to slow down and enjoy the most important drink of the day with the pause it deserves. As do you.

Happy Coffeeween, everyone! And may this time of celebration be free of pranks and scares when your mouth is full of coffee.

Artwork: Catwoman cover Vol 3 56 (DC Comics), by Adam Hughes, deviantART

On Tuesday, July 26, American-Canadian self-taught journalist, author, activist, innovator and champion of livable cities, Jane Jacobs, headlined the discussion night at Green Beanery’s second Grounds for Thought event. Long-time colleagues Max Allen – a producer for the CBC Radio program, Ideas, and the co-founder and curator of the Textile Museum of Canada – held forth alongside Lawrence Solomon – who co-founded Energy Probe Research Foundation with Jane Jacobs in the late 1970s, the organization that owns Green Beanery.

As you might expect, there were descriptions that reflected the Jane Jacobs of popular legend: her newfangled thinking on the use of primary space, for example, was to be found in her own home, where there was no separation between the kitchen and living room. Although an open-plan layout is common today, at the time this was not the case. Jane had deliberately turned the main floor of her old house – built for a different era when servants were not permitted in certain parts of the home – into essentially a common area: a very modern idea that has since become a norm.

That glimpse of Jane in private is the Jane we have come to know in public as the revolutionary voice of mixed-use development and a relentless battler for "the good city," which she articulated as the aphorism: "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

What is less known are Jane’s views on such issues as privatization – Jane was in favour of privatizing the TTC, Via Rail and Canada Post, all public entities reliable for their terrible service and high rates when Jane launched the consumer advocacy organization, Consumer Policy Institute, in the mid-1990s. Jane also believed in competition, respected property rights and was "allergic to expropriation," but was not, as some think, anti-development and anti-change: she simply had no desire for centrally planned solutions.

Illuminating Jane’s more surprising perspectives, Lawrence Solomon remembers Jane as principled, fearless and free of ideology. Her rigorous and wide-ranging intellect makes guessing "what would Jane say?" an impossibility even for those who knew her well. Jane sought specific solutions to specific problems, she was all about process.

Although he has wondered himself many times, "What would Jane say?", as Max Allen told the Grounds for Thought audience: "You never knew because she said so many things you had never thought of before."

For more on Jane’s lesser known perspectives, read Lawrence Solomon’s Grounds for Thought discussion notes here.

Max Allen is the author of Ideas that Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs. He also produced the 1979 Massey Lectures featuring Jane Jacobs. [Pictured above at the Grounds for Thought Jane Jacobs night in sunglasses]

Lawrence Solomon was a colleague of Jane Jacobs at Energy Probe Research Foundation for almost two decades. [Pictured holding microphone]

Self-taught thinker: Jane Jacobs dropped out of Columbia University's School of General Studies after two years and never looked back. Unencumbered by planning orthodoxy, Jane formulated her views on urban living from the ground-up. How did she do it? She got out on the street, walked around, observed the "ballet of sidewalks" and what made a city good and workable for people by being a person living in and moving around the city.

Follow us on Twitter @for_grounds

Coffeehouses have always been spaces that attract the more serious thought or thinker, as opposed to the more serious drinker. They combine the spiritedness of an alehouse without the (vast) potential for alcohol's mayhem.

As engines of socialization fueled by the brain stimulant of caffeine, coffeehouses have throughout their existence served as sharp-edged but sober gathering places for the exchange and circulation of information, ideas and views, hence their at times being referred to as "Schools of the Wise" and "penny universities".

For example, back in the day, London, England's thriving coffeehouse scene of the 17th and 18th centuries provided an intellectual arena for great and otherwise (male) minds — female minds of either description were generally excluded — to gather, even across class, to discuss, debate and shape the world we live in today. If famed British essayist, biographer and cultural critic, Samuel Johnson — regarded as one of the greatest figures of 18th-century life and letters — wanted to take the temperature of his time, he'd head to his local coffeehouse, a place he defined as "a house of entertainment where coffee is sold, and the guests are supplied with newspapers." A description that suggests Johnson equated coffeehouses with ideas and, by extension, "connotations of alertness, sobriety and volubility," according to Markham Ellis, author of The Coffee-House: A Cultural History.

To that end, inspired by the tradition of the great coffeehouses of yore, we pulled the plug on WiFi at Green Beanery in the hopes of re-energizing face-to-face interaction [see: No WiFi]. And now we're taking that controversial (some would say outrageous) move one bold step further with a public discussion series called Grounds for Thought to be held on the last Tuesday of every month, beginning this month on June 28 at 8 p.m.

Grounds for Thought will feature guest speakers offering "provocative perspectives" on a range of topics. Our first topic is one many of us already hold views on: Toronto Hydro and, in particular, sky-rocketing Hydro bills. Details follow below.

Our Hydro Bills Will Soar 18% This Year

A Green Beanery Grounds for Thought discussion, held at the Green Beanery store and cafe on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor streets on June 28 at 8 p.m.

Economist Brady Yauch of Consumer Policy Institute [NOT pictured] explains why Ontario has North America’s worst record in controlling power prices.

To whet your pre-discussion appetite, read: "Toronto Hydro customers face 18% rate hike in 2016".

Grounds for Thought: mark your calendars and see you there! 

Come early to be sure to have a table. No admission charge.

For more information, contact us at GroundsForThought@greenbeanery.ca.

June — that magical time of long days and late sunsets, lush foliage and blooming spirits — has long been one of the most popular months of the year for weddings. For those of you with weddings to plan, why not make your day more memorable with a theme? And what theme could be more memorable than coffee?

Well, some things obviously: ceremonies performed in underwater cages surrounded by sharks, wedding parties painted green decked out in Shrek costumes, even stark naked, or couples strapped to the wings of planes for their I Do's are hard to top. Coffee is the sensible choice and a doddle to arrange by comparison.

Interest is definitely on the rise. Examples online of people who have pulled off coffee-themed weddings with elegance and flair is impressive. Ideas abound on Pinterest and Etsy. What's noticeable right away is how decorative coffee beans are and how variously they can be put to use: such as this bean laden, ring-bearing basket [pictured], which is so attractive it almost isn't peculiar.

What also isn't odd is a coffee bar — something all wedding receptions need to both fuel the festivities and contain the overly festive. Although servers and brewers that accommodate large events are often supplied by caterers or the venue itself [see here for what these options tend to look like], more intimate gatherings can incline to the imaginative and set tables in lovely ways with banners, condiment trays, servers, novelty mugs and/or disposable cups with DIY customized sleeves [see below].

 

Coffee-themed weddings or coffee-elevated weddings have become something of a thing with the rise of the budget-conscious DIY movement and the availability of resources via content-sharing online communities. Third Wave coffee culture with its emphasis on artisanal craft is also driving enthusiasm and, as you might expect, coffee industry professionals, who happen to fall in love with one another, are more likely to see the beloved beverage as matchmaker and one deserving of pride of place at their nuptials.

A case in point would be Drew Moody, founder of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe, who celebrated a love of the brew with his industry partner Ashley at their "the whole wedding was coffee-themed" event, complete with table cloths made from burlap (the sacks coffee beans are stored and transported in), antique brewers and hand grinders found at flea markets used as flower vases, bean-filled candle holders as table centerpieces and beans as wedding favours. Drew's blog on "Planning Your Coffee Themed Wedding" bounces with suggestions for amping up the coffee aspect of your big day, including links to other blogs for making coffee-themed invitations and ways to use burlap at your own wedding.

Just as coffee varieties are bountiful, so are suggestions for coffee-themed creativity: such as adding chalkboards with personalized messages and vintage coffee tins and cards for a coffeehouse vibe, mismatched mugs arranged artfully as a photo booth backdrop, liquor-like coffee shots and more [see: 14 Buzz-Worthy Wedding Ideas for Coffee Lovers and 7 Things Every Wedding Coffee Bar Needs to Have]. In fact, coffee as a style element is adorable! This inspiration for pour-over lovers [pictured] is both a clever and cute setup for a small ceremony [see here for pour-over specific cones, servers and kettles]. And of course many of these suggestions can be recycled for birthdays, housewarmings and celebrations of all sorts — including bridal showers and bachelor parties.


For food ideas, stop by the Green Beanery store and cafe at Bathurst and Bloor. Along with a range of coffee beverages, we serve cappuccino tartufo and crepes with coffee ice-cream. Continue to Pinterest and Yummly to browse recipes for similarly themed desserts and mocktails.

Although we don't offer a catering service as yet, we may be able to assist your event with an espresso/cappuccino station. Contact us directly with details of your requirements.

We do carry a small stash of stale beans that can be purchased for use as decoration. Do not go this route for wedding favours for your guests though! For that, you will need quality, fresh beans. Contact us here for suggestions.

Not that far along yet? For product recommendations that pop the question for you, see Marriage Proposal Ideas for Coffee Lovers.

As if we'd forget the music! Joe's Playlist is a collection of coffee-themed songs, so extensive it required its own blog: continue to Joe's Playlist.

What would it be like to travel back in time to a coffee culture from which our own was born or to one of the legendary coffeehouses of yore?

This is the inspiration behind a new performance piece by the Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, which received its world premiere last night at Kingston's Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. Set in 1740, Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House draws on the coffeehouse culture of old Europe and the Middle East to explore the early music of that period — in particular, the ancient Syrian coffeehouses of Damascus and the coffeehouse era of Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig, Germany.

Although 3,500 kilometres apart, Damascus and Leipzig shared much in common. Both served as entrepôts for key trade routes — Damascus as a caravan city at the heart of the Silk Road linking the Roman Empire to China, and Leipzig as a crossroads city between two major medieval "highways": the east-west “Via Regia” (Royal Way) and the north-south “Via Imperii” (Imperial Way). Thanks to their geographic connections, both cities spawned thriving coffeehouse communities and developed into important commercial, cultural and knowledge centres.

Referred to as the City of Heroes (or Heldenstadt) for its role in the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Leipzig is also known as the city of music owing to the hundreds of composers who have lived or worked there over the centuries, including Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, Georg Telemann and Richard Wagner, to name a few. It is said tourists to the area can visit the places where illustrious composers once performed or occupied "in a concentration unmatched anywhere in the world." But alas, not so for the city's famed Zimmermann's Coffee House, since razed in World War II, which survives now in legend only as an informal venue where Bach and his contemporaries would debut new music. Zimmermann's is where Bach conducted a musical society, founded by Telemann, during winter months on Friday evenings. It is also where Bach is believed to have first performed his Coffee Contata, a miniature comic opera about an obstinate coffee addiction at a time when coffee was all the rage but viewed by some as a bad habit.

Damascus, meanwhile, is considered the longest habitable old city in the world and Syria one of the planet's most ancient civilizations, dating back to at least 800,000 BC. Syria shares an al-hakawati oral storytelling heritage with other regions in the Middle East personified by itinerant story "experts" who would pass on Arab culture through folktales and fairy tales performed "always in coffee houses." The al-hakawati (a Syrian term for poets, actors, comedians, historians and storytellers) would sit on a stage facing their audience and recite fables, adventures and stories from memory or text, interspersed with poems and jokes, sometimes accompanied by instrumentalists playing classical Arabic music.

The Tafelmusik project aims to evoke these rich, contrasting experiences: for the Leipzig portion of the program, through the music of Bach, Handel and Telemann; a Trio Arabica ensemble will bring to life the sounds and rhythms redolent of the old Damascene coffeehouse landscape. Alternating images of 18th-century interiors descriptive of the raised ajami surfaces common to the late-Ottoman Syrian period and the rustic wood paneling of old Saxony deepen the mood on a projection screen set behind the musicians.  

Dr. Anke Scharrahs, an international expert on the conservation of Syrian-Ottomon interiors, will be on hand during the performance week to speak to audiences about Syrian culture [see here for more details]. For Tales of Two Cities booking information, refer to Tafelmusik's concert calendar. For an in-depth interview about the event with Tafelmusik's concert curator, Alison Mackay, see here. A Tales of Two Cities video teaser is available at this YouTube link.

Did you know? Tafelmusik events at the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre feature coffee supplied by Green Beanery. Tafelmusik concert-goers are eligible for a 10% discount on all food and beverage items at the Green Beanery cafe on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst streets. [Beans and retail items are not included]. Just show us your Tafelmusik subscriber card or retain your ticket receipt as proof of attendance. Offer ends May 2016.

For more photographs of the stage set, refer to the social media page of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

One of the most frequent questions we field at our cafe-roastery on the southeast corner of Bathurst and Bloor is, "What's the WiFi account and password here?", inevitably followed by, "You don't have WiFi?" The expectation is that connectivity and coffeehouses go together and it comes as a shock, even an affront to learn that we're WiFi free. Why would we do that? Are we inhuman?

In fact, the decision to forego WiFi was one we pained over for quite some time and it wasn't an easy one to implement as we actually had outlets in-store available for customers to plug their devices into; so we ripped them out. That's how dedicated we were to our vision for Green Beanery — as a follow-on from the traditional coffeehouse, old-world style, sans internet; back in time to the hurly-burly of a human connection circa 1993, the possibility of dramatic eye contact, and the circus of emotions awareness of one another forces upon us, heightened and/or relieved by the magical elixir of coffee.

As far back as the 15th century and the establishment of the first coffeehouses in Mecca, our sense of self has deepened in the attentive presence of others. In the Mecca qahveh khanehs, coffee drinkers gathered to gossip, sing and dance; in the English coffeehouses of 1728, patrons would "talk of Business and News, read the Papers, and often look at one another".[1] Coffeehouses are said to have fueled the Enlightenment era[2] and they have served throughout their history as a forum for the exchange of news and views at times when political and social chaos imperiled community otherwise.

Whatever the backdrop, the sobering yet invigorating effects of caffeine in a confined space, outside of the home, have enabled us to further the human project of sociability. At times this has led to violence, and at other times to great works of art, but despite variable outcomes, there's no getting around it: even our modern technology will not save us from the fact of one another. And according to Harvard researchers, that's a good thing.

Beginning in 1938, Harvard researchers followed the lives of more than 700 men in Boston over the course of 78 years in an effort to understand the factors that would determine which of them would grow old and enjoy health and happiness or not. It turns out that the single most important indicator of long-term happiness and health — aside from not smoking and drinking too much — is the strength of a person's relationships. "The people who were most satisfied in relationships at 50 were the healthiest at 80," said Dr. Robert Waldinger, the current director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.[3] How to obtain these life-sustaining humans? He recommends doing "something as simple as replacing screen time with people time". He did not mention coffee, so perhaps this study isn't all it could be.

Today, seated at Green Beanery to observe the novelty of no WiFi in action, I found myself immediately reaching for my cellphone. Darn it. No WiFi. A think piece I had the foresight to print out entitled, "Why Modern Relationships Are Falling Apart So Easily Today" could not hold my attention (they are falling apart because of societal malaises such as impatience and too many walls, aka computer screens).

No matter how I tried to distract myself, the drama of humanity kept calling me back; to the people walking past the enormous windows that look out onto one of the city's busiest intersections, to the conversations around me and a couple a short distance away in the corner, consoling one another, talking closely for what seemed like twenty minutes, mouth to ear.

And then they did something I haven't seen anyone in a coffeehouse attempt in years: they hugged — not a "hello" or a "goodbye" hug, nor was it a romantic cuddle, but a deeply felt embrace; the sort we give one another as comfort in times of stress. A movie-length embrace.

Without the escape of technology as a default from the physical present, I felt the urge to get in on that hug. I also felt connected to a larger sense of myself and the world around me. There really is so much to drink in besides the coffee, although that in itself was pretty good.


1. Memoirs and Observations in his Travels over England, Henri Misson, pp. 39-40
2. Did Coffee Fuel the Age of Enlightenment? Steven Johnson

Saved from Pinterest: with-grace-and-guts.tumblr.comFor some of us, the pour over coffee method brings to mind stark single-cup drip cones in mud brown made of plastic, plopped on mugs, either with or without filters (depending on the cone) a step up from instant coffee in terms of coffee ceremony, a crunchy step back in ease of convenience and aesthetic.

In the last several years, however, pour-over coffee has taken on a new sheen of prestige thanks to a resurgence in interest driven by specialized coffeehouses and DIY eco-conscious enthusiasts. That interest has now fussed over to the desire boards of Pinterest, which, according to the number of pins on the topic, has deemed pour over the big It trend of 2016 for home brewers. And there's more: it's not just this year's trend du jour, it's the tea, or rather, fine wine of coffee.

At my local cafe, the following ode to pour over takes pride of place on its proprietor's statement wall:

Pour what? Just the most amazing way to brew a small batch of coffee in a very controlled way, highlighting the true taste of coffee beans and its terroir.

Terroir is a French term associated with wine, used to describe the regional footprint that gives grapes a specificity of place (and the way in which soil and climate, among other considerations, affect taste).

How did pour over ascend to the atmosphere of terroir, you might ask?

According to Euromonitor International, a London-based market researcher, the wine reference isn't a typo. Third wave coffeehouses, writes Euromonitor analyst Virginia Lee, "treat coffee as an artisanal product akin to wine by focusing on the importance of single-origin, roasting technique, and brewing styles." Coffeehouse specialists that also procure their own beans directly from farmers "believe that manual brewing including by pour-over method brings out the nuances in their carefully selected coffee," she says. The method's newfound currency, explains Lee, is a combination of consumer demand for better tasting coffee, the availability of direct-sourced coffee with greater flavour range and pour over accessories elevated in design, promoted by indie coffeehouses and used in-house as theatre for patrons.

And visual, this method certainly is, when teamed with pour over products that offer the high sleek of lines like Chemex (pronounced KEM-ex) and Hario, the former in particular. Invented in 1941 by German innovator Dr. Peter Schlumbohm [pictured], the Chemex coffeemaker has been restored to a place of adulation by third wave coffee connoisseurs for its function and beauty: so iconic is its hourglass design fastened with a wood collar and tie, it remains on permanent display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The Chemex coffeemaker is also a star of movies, television and literature, cast most notably alongside James Bond, who considered breakfast the most important meal of the day (that meal being coffee), which he took very strong, black and without sugar, brewed in an American Chemex (refer Ian Fleming's novel, From Russia, with Love). The Chemex played a recurring role in "Friends" on Monica's apartment countertop, and it earned the unusual distinction as drip brew of choice for the mother of Satan's son in Roman Polanski's horror classic, "Rosemary's Baby". Legendary artist, Georgia O'Keeffe, was also a fan.

In practice, the pour-over method at its highest expression is a slow-mo, sensual, very deliberate affair of the heart (although that should read, higher self), and well worth the extra effort. The pour-over taste is clean, balanced and bright, and deeply pleasant (I prefer it to AeroPress, which I interchange with a Chemex when there isn't time or energy for the concentration the latter requires). The pour-over method permits beans to reveal their unique characteristics without bitterness, achieved through the slow pour of water over fresh coffee grinds in a cone filter for even flavour extraction (unless you mess up, this method relies on meticulous human craft).

The technology is a relief of simplicity and the process meditative, once you have familiarized yourself with it. The following is a basic guide to the magic: grind beans (to a kosher salt consistency), rinse the paper filter inside the pour-over vessel with heated water to simultaneously establish a seal and remove filter dust and taste. Carefully, pour out the water, add in the coffee grounds, make a divot, saturate the grounds with a small amount of heated water spiral poured into the divot to form the bloom (and the release of the gases trapped inside the beans that accumulates during roasting), stir (stick, not spoon) and step away from your vessel. Allow 30-45 seconds to pass; then slowly and gently wiggle and spiral pour (with flair) the rest of the water over the grounds in a circular, in-and-out motion.

The rugged fine and luxe feel of a pour-over vessel like the Chemex permits the cinematic quality of this method to play out in full: the rhythm of slow pouring enhanced by the carafe's soothing aesthetic becomes hypnotic and easily permits the cultivation of a meditative mindset. Yes. A coffee meditation. And if that sounds a bit much, you might enjoy some of the comments attached to the various YouTube videos for the pour-over method. Such as this one [edited for effect]: "What a pretentious way to make coffee. ... ain't no body got time for dat!" Actually, according to the latest market intelligence, people do and will continue to make time for a more handcrafted, labour-intensive coffee experience: see millennials.

There are a number of other factors to absorb along the way: craft and taste enhancing gadgets and coffee hacks to geek out on, such as correct water temperature, coffee-to-water ratio, pour rate, getting the filter folds right and so on. The Internet offers a full belly of how-to videos to this end. To get started: accustom yourself to the steps with the amiable master barista Ty Beddingfield of Florida, or an endearingly "gruff" tutorial by San Antonio's Aaron Blanco, or for a more slick walk-through complete with jazz music (scales and timer), try Stumptown's Liam.

Once you've decided on your pour-over coffeemaker of choice investment is not prohibitive, a 6-cup classic Chemex costs $53.95 and a Hario V60 ceramic drip cone $27.95 — you might want to continue to perfect your stride with apps, such as SlowBar by John Johnson on iTunes.

As economically reasonable as the pour over option is (aside from the cost of replenishing filter stocks and fresh roasted coffee), it does lead to gear goals and swooning over must-have companions for your coffeemaker, such as the gooseneck beehive-bodied Hario Buono stainless steel kettle. The Buono is ideally suited to the pour control calibre that is so necessary for this particular drip brew method and ... it's just so swell.

Image credits:
Cat and Chemex: found on Pinterest at with-grace-and-guts.tumblr.com
Chemex, Hario grinder and coffee beans: found on Pinterest at agentlewoman.com