Cold brew coffee experimentation, April 2020
Two years ago, when the pandemic had shut down the airports in Costa Rica and we had no clue how long that would last, we wondered how the artisans and the farmers who supplied our recently opened Authentica shops would fare. We had to ask ourselves what we were going to do with the roughly 7,000 pounds of coffee beans we had contracted to buy from that year’s harvest. The most obvious move was to start roasting in the USA, so we could deliver to customers who had bought from us in Costa Rica and wanted to continue buying.
Cold brew coffee was a brief experiment at the time, but with sufficiently robust results to convince us that when travelers returned we would offer samples. The time has come.
Seedlings from coffee picked in early 2021
On a couple of acres of mountain land in Escazu, on property that once was part of a larger coffee farm, we have been preparing to plant a thousand or so coffee saplings, which will eventually become trees among trees. Above are the thriving seedlings from 2021 germination, and below the early stage of germination from this year’s pickings.
Germination of coffee picked in early 2022
Coffee culture has been a long time in the making, so the slow pace of the Organikos arc has not intimidated me. And yet, if I could speed it up, I would because of the variety of beneficiaries.
Today an article by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes on the website EcoWatch brings to my attention a team of researchers who I will pay more attention to. Some are here in Costa Rica, at CATIE; the others at University of Vermont. Their work makes me appreciate the value of getting on with this:
Birds and bees work together as pollinators. DansPhotoArt on flickr / Moment / Getty Images
For many people, one rich, pleasant smell signals the start of a new day more than any other: coffee. Different techniques have been used to get the best cup of the caffeine-rich liquid, from a French press to the pour-over method.
A unique new study has found that the secret to better coffee is really in control of the birds and the bees. Continue reading
Museum number: BP.1079
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London, courtesy Frederick Warne & Co Ltd.
Do you have the inclination of switching from city life to rural? I, for one, made the switch and have no inclination to ever live in a city again. Occasional visits are fine. But as the theme song from a tv show of my youth had it “…keep Manhattan, just give me that country life…”.
My reason for thinking about this today is related to the book on the right. Whether or not you are a fan of her books, you might find the case of Beatrix Potter’s life choices worthy of consideration. Rizzoli has published this book to accompany an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our appreciation to Anna Russell for describing both, and adding plenty of detail about the author’s life, in this article:
I have mentioned more than once about my brief blacksmithing experience. I have a respect for the profession. I have a new level of respect for this particular blacksmith featured in Matthew Weaver’s article below, so would encourage you to visit his website by clicking the image to the left:
Tim Westley making a zero-waste knife at his forge. Photograph: Xavier D Buendia/XDBPhotography
Tim Westley takes up chef friend’s challenge to transform laughing gas litter
Discarded nitrous oxide gas canisters. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA
The little steel bulbs that litter parks, roadsides and city centres – the discarded canisters from Britain’s second favourite drug, laughing gas – cause misery to many communities. But now one blacksmith has found an innovative use for them: turning them into handmade kitchen knives.
The prevalence of the canisters has prompted some councils to impose local bans, while the home secretary is keen to outlaw them nationally. But Tim Westley’s handmade kitchen knives are gaining a cult following among environmentally conscious foodies after being endorsed by chefs committed to low waste. Continue reading
Joan Moliner with some of the 1,600 tiles he has found in builders’ skips. Photograph: Stephen Burgen/The Guardian
When we were working on the project that became Xandari Harbour, articles like the one below, or any about architectural preservation, were the type we most enjoyed sharing. It has been too long, so here goes:
As 19th-century apartment blocks become luxury flats, Joan Moliner is saving part of the city’s heritage
A tile display with Moliner’s Brompton bicycle. Photograph: Joan Moliner
Each morning, from the moment when Joan Moliner unfolds his bicycle for the ride to work to Barcelona city centre, he is on a mission, one eye on the road, the other on builders’ skips. His quarry, if that’s the word, is cement floor tiles.
All over the city, 19th-century apartment blocks are being made over into luxury flats. In the process, a vital part of Barcelona’s heritage – its decorative tiled floors – is ending up in a dump.
Conservation of the architectural heritage rarely extends beyond listing the facade, despite the wealth of interior detail in buildings erected at a time when Barcelona was a mecca for artists and artisans. Continue reading
A northern fulmar in flight near Boreray, an uninhabited island in the archipelago of St. Kilda. Photograph by Philip Mugridge / Alamy
Last week I read an essay explaining the allusive power that human-made objects can have. It got me thinking about St. Kilda. Reading four years ago about that place and its people spurred my imagination sufficiently that the following year I committed to a challenge. The challenge was created by the speed of change impacting travel culture, and the tendency of travel retail to homogenize over time.
Things you might see in the Authentica shops
Local artisans all over the world were finding their goods displaced in shops oriented to travelers by things made in faraway factories.
Specifically, the commitment was to support local artisans by creating a venue for selling their goods to travelers. Perhaps utopian is a concept too big to apply to this commitment; anyway, maybe the word quixotic is more apt. Authentica offers human-made things for travelers to take home with them, within the context of a travel-retail complex that operates with very different resources and intent.
We understand why the replicas are made, and why people buy them. We refuse to confuse understanding with acquiescence.
The scoop and the bird clip in the image above, two such things I also wrote about two years ago, are examples of local culturally relevant artifacts that we hope will not be outsourced to a factory in another part of the world. The coffee in that image is another example, with a twist. What I like about coffee as a memento is that it is at the intersection of tangible and intangible. It is quintessentially Costa Rican, but once you enjoy the entire bag you no longer possess that thing. As you consume it, it tells you something about Costa Rica. When it is finished you possess a memory of the coffee, and of Costa Rica.
How can you gift in a way that does not generate waste, that reduces waste, or that regenerates ecosystems? Sara has a fun and practical list in her Yale Climate Connections column, which I have linked to below. It got me thinking of what I would add to her list. Yesterday I reached back to a couple of posts from two years ago when we were preparing to open the Authentica shops, mentioning products we carry from artisan groups that recycle heavy plastics, in one case, and wood in the other. We have other products made from recycled materials, but our best selling product is Organikos coffee, all of the proceeds of which are invested in ecosystem regeneration. Laura’s question about gifting toward climate action is one we all should be asking:
Holiday cheer that’s good for the planet, too.
I’m trying to find a gift for my mother for Christmas, and I like the idea of gifting toward climate action. Might you have recommendations?
Thank you for your time
Sure thing. Here’s a list of climate-friendly gift ideas for every budget.
A board game, puzzle, houseplant, or other item from your local “Buy Nothing” group (Price: Free)
Why it’s climate-friendly: Manufacturing stuff requires consumption of energy and natural resources, so it’s better for the climate to reuse products rather than buying new. Continue reading
This glass fish was found in a fairly modest private house in Amarna, buried under a plaster floor along with a few other objects. It may once have contained ointment. The Trustees of the British Museum
We have featured stories about artisanal glass in the previous posts but this time the story is about the origins of the substance:
Featuring ingots, shipwrecks and an international trade in colors, the material’s rich past is being traced using modern archaeology and materials science
Blue glass ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck. Panegyrics of Granovetter / Flickr
Today, glass is ordinary, on-the-kitchen-shelf stuff. But early in its history, glass was bling for kings.
Thousands of years ago, the pharaohs of ancient Egypt surrounded themselves with the stuff, even in death, leaving stunning specimens for archaeologists to uncover. King Tutankhamen’s tomb housed a decorative writing palette and two blue-hued headrests made of solid glass that may once have supported the head of sleeping royals. His funerary mask sports blue glass inlays that alternate with gold to frame the king’s face. Continue reading
As we consider new canopy options, a switch to electric roasting of Organikos coffee also seems clearly worthy of consideration. I just found out about this company, and its sustainability report from last year puts it high on my list of roasters to consider:
Recycling Is Not Sufficient
We just attended an event that has been held each recent (non-pandemic) year in November, in Spanish called ExpoPYME. Small and medium sized companies are invited to show their products, and we like the messaging that this artisan had on a couple t-shirts.
Take Care Of The Environment
BioInventate is not an actual word in Spanish, yet. But if this campaign catches on it will be because more and more people are aware of the need to invent solutions to ecological problems.
Today we are introducing a Geisha varietal produced by the Candelilla estate, a family farm in Costa Rica’s Tarrazu region, into the Organikos lineup of specialty coffees. Just in time, a friend from Panama who gifted us a bag of Hacienda la Esmeralda beans in late 2019, sent me a link yesterday to this film:
What goes into your daily cup of coffee? And what is that worth? The Republic of Panama, one of the tiniest countries and coffee exporters in the world, now produces the most sought-after beans on earth. They can sell for over $1,000 a pound, while commodity coffee prices hover around $1. HIGHER GROUNDS tells the story of how Panama is reimagining coffee…and of the inspiring passion and collaborative spirit behind it all.
Roses in the cloister. SIMON WATSON
Yesterday’s post linked to earlier ones with rose references, and one of those led me to a small correction. The photo above shows a slightly different angle on the roses in the garden of the restored convent. I had assumed those roses were very old. A bit of sleuthing led me to the fact that they were planted during the restoration, and they are “indeed quite perfumed.” For that and other reasons it is worth taking another look at that project, this time told by Olinda Adeane and with excellent photos by Simon Watson:
In the library, hand-coloured prints stand out against the white walls. SIMON WATSON
Henry James once described his friend Edith Wharton as a ‘great and glorious pendulum’ swinging back and forth across the Atlantic. In a similar fashion, Holly Lueders, a designer from New York, has returned to Greece every year since she first visited the country as an 18-year-old student. Holly grew up in a sleepy town in Missouri with little in the way of culture or local craft, but her family was artistic and good with their hands. ‘Anything we wanted, we made for ourselves,’ remembers Holly. She studied art history and archaeology at Columbia University and completed her studies in Athens. Continue reading
Some of the crafts we carry seem museum quality to us, but we offer them in the context of commerce.
We would love to attend this show at the Smithsonian, primarily to see the work of Jessica Beels, whose work is showing in the Mixed Media and Paper section of the Show. Her website is full of reasons to see more of her work.
Nowhere on that site do we see works like these three bird figures. We favor birds in art, wherever it may be, and when the medium stretches boundaries as these do, all the more interesting.
We have just placed these books on display in the two Authentica shops in Costa Rica, one at Marriott Los Suenos and the other at Marriott Hacienda Belen. The author, Isabel Campabadal, has been an author and chef for nearly five decades, and is a perfect fit with one of our aims as merchants: respect traditions and respectfully update them with all that the modern world offers.
When we posted on his book a few weeks ago the title of our post suggested that it was a frivolous offering. Not so. Surprisingly we have not posted about Nathan Myhrvold before, but the best profile on him was written before this platform launched. Then his dinosaur obsession and invention workshop were his primary talking points. In recent years those have made room for food.
And in case you do not have time for his book, you can get a sense of those talking points on this episode of The Splendid Table podcast:
This week, we take a deep dive into pizza with the co-author of the voluminous Modernist Pizza, Nathan Myhrvold. We get into the history, culture, and techniques behind great pizza. We hear stories from his worldwide travels and deep dives into pizza cultures and traditions. Plus, we hear about the culinary lab research devoted to making the best pizza ever, and he sticks around to answer your pizza-making questions. He is the founder of the Modernist Cuisine Lab…
It’s a feeling we come back to again and again, especially when talking about foods we love. Coffee, cheese, wine, tea…the significance of each one resonates with both a sense of culture and place to where quite a few of the contributors to this site have called home.
In the case of the image above, we peer into the poro trees we have mentioned numerous times. This particular poro, whose thick diagonally oriented trunk is situated at the uppermost point on the land where our coffee grows, is home to several orchids, both wild and cultivated. And in the foreground of the image a young cecropia tree is making its way upward, with a reddish top.
Next to the cecropia, out of the frame, is a mature coffee tree. Next to that is a young lime tree, and surrounding are various flowers and mano de tigre, aka monstera deliciosa. Just downhill from the trees and flowers in this image are bananas, plantain and sugar cane. The best coffees enjoy diverse company as they grow.
General view of the International Perfume Museum’s gardens in Grasse. “The same rose or the same jasmine grown in Egypt or Morocco, it will be different from the rose grown in Grasse,” head gardener Christophe Meze says. “It’s like wine, you can have the same type of grape, but you won’t have the same wine because of the sun, because of the soil, because of the terroir.” Bénédicte Desrus for NPR
Perfume appeared early in our pages mostly due to their botanical intrigue–but has only been an occasional topic since then. This story of how the perfume trade developed (if the topic is of greater interest see Chandler Burr’s The Emperor of Scent) in Grasse is a fine fit with our interest in unusual museums and the intersection of farming and innovation:
Perfume flower grower Pierre Chiarla picks jasmine flowers in his field in Grasse, France. Bénédicte Desrus for NPR
GRASSE, France — The town of Grasse sits in the hills above the more famous French Riviera city of Cannes, and it doesn’t have the Mediterranean Sea at its doorstep. What it does have is fields of flowers — jasmine, May rose, tuberose, lavender. It is known as the perfume capital of the world.
It wasn’t always this way. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the industry took off in Grasse in part because this was an absolutely putrid-smelling town. Continue reading
A pizza in a wood-fired oven. All photographs by Nathan Myhrvold / The Cooking Lab, LLC.
Phaidon‘s books frequently allow us to offer a fun alternative to our heavier fare. Today is one of those days to go for the fun:
Modernist Pizza might apply the latest science to the pizzaiolos’ role, but it also dishes up deep history too
Modernist Pizza certainly applies a little science to the task of making a great slice. In this huge, comprehensive, three-volume publication, authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya share innumerable practical tips and innovative techniques to create great pizzas. Myhrvold is Microsoft’s former Chief Technology Officer and studied under Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge, and so almost all of those tips and techniques aren’t simple repetitions of old hunches and dogma, but the product of numerous test-kitchen experiments. Want to know the precise effects of ageing on mozzarella? Or which parts of your oven really cook your pie? Then get this set of books. Continue reading
The last food book we featured was not a cookbook, but had plenty of food for thought. Thanks to the Kim Severson (again, after a couple years of our not seeing her work) for bringing Matthew Raiford, his family heritage, his farm and his cookbook to our attention in her article: A High-Summer Feast to Forge Connections in the Deep South. And if time is short, click through just for the exceptional photography:
Rinne Allen for The New York Times
Matthew Raiford swore he’d never return to his family farm in coastal Georgia. But in breaking that vow, he found a sense of community worth celebrating with a lavish spread.
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — It’s not a stretch to say there may have never been a party for a cookbook like the one Matthew Raiford threw on his family farm a few weeks ago.
Rinne Allen for The New York Times
The book’s title is “Bress ‘n’ Nyam” — “bless and eat” in the English-based Creole spoken by the Gullah Geechee people who live along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida. Their ancestors were captured in West Africa and enslaved. Nowhere else in America has the cultural line from Africa been better preserved. (Mr. Raiford’s people call themselves freshwater Geechee, which means they are from the mainland of coastal Georgia. Saltwater Geechees are from the barrier islands.) Continue reading
Jacquez vines at Michel Arnaud’s farm in the village of Saint-Mélany in the Ardèche region of France. The American hybrid variety has been banned in France since 1934. Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times
We admire many French traditions, except for those, especially, having to do with birds. When it comes to wine, the French are often but not always right:
French authorities have tried to outlaw hardy American hybrids for 87 years. But climate change and the natural wine movement are giving renegade winemakers a lift.
A tasting of forbidden wines at Hervé Garnier’s “Memory of the Vine” association in the village of Beaumont. Mr. Garnier, standing third from right, is one of the last stragglers in a long-running struggle against the French wine establishment and its allies in Paris. Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times
BEAUMONT, France — The vines were once demonized for causing madness and blindness, and had been banned decades ago. The French authorities, brandishing money and sanctions, nearly wiped them out.
But there they were. On a hillside off a winding mountain road in a lost corner of southern France, the forbidden crop was thriving. Early one recent evening, Hervé Garnier inspected his field with relief.
In a year when an April frost and disease have decimated France’s overall wine production, Mr. Garnier’s grapes — an American hybrid variety named jacquez, banned by the French government since 1934 — were already turning red. Barring an early-autumn cold snap, all was on track for a new vintage. Continue reading