Archive for the ‘Latte Literature’ Category

Latte Literature: News to Me

June 19, 2011

Laurie Hertzel’s memoir News to Me:  Adventures of an Accidental Journalist affectionately captures life in the Duluth News Tribune newsroom.  Readers are swept up in the noisy and busy newsroom where reporters and copy editors work against deadline in smoke-filled air, “punctuated by the rich smell of percolating coffee.”

In the chapter “Not Making Coffee,” Hertzel’s first job as newsroom clerk included answering phones, writing obituaries, compiling the marine log, and making coffee, a responsibility she cleverly found ways to avoid until “that responsibility just sort of evaporated…”

The room lived on coffee.  The men drank it by the gallon, all day, and into the night, and it was up to me to make sure the big urn in the corner never ran dry.
And then I made coffee…badly.  Undrinkably so.  In a newsroom that’s saying a lot.  

Hertzel’s cheerful account of reporters and copy editors gathered around the coffee urn got coffeesnobology wondering about the origin of coffee breaks.

The first coffee break probably happened around 1000 A. D. when goatherd Kaldi chewed the same red berries that his goats did, but it was most likely an unauthorized coffee break.

Howard Stanger, historian at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. describes the dreary and dangerous late 19-century workplaces where workers had few breaks from the drudgery.  Because of social reform activists, Buffalo N. Y. companies and manufacturing employers in 1901 and 1902 installed in-house lunchrooms, so workers could take brief mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks.

The actual phrase coffee break is credited to a 1952 Pan American Coffee Bureau ad campaign urged consumers to “Give Yourself a Coffee Break—and Get What Coffee Gives to You.”


Latte Literature: Night of the Radishes

May 23, 2011

Sandra Benitez’s novel Night of the Radishes is a story of lost, love, redemption and renewal.  In her quest to find her brother Hub, missing for twenty years, Joe Cruz who travels with his compact Krups espresso maker along with his CDs and books befriends Annie Rush.  Over coffee, Joe explains “I drove down from California, so it was easy to bring stuff.  I don’t think I could make it without my espresso maker.”
Coffeesnobolgy understands.

Night of the Radishes is set in Oaxaca (Wah-Hah-Kuh), Mexico, known for it’s deliciously smooth Arabica coffee.  Since 1877 in the Pluma Mountain in Oaxaca, growers have followed traditional farming methods.  The coffee is a wonderfully balance of body, intense sweet aroma, low acidity with chocolate undertones.

May is Latino Book Month, and Sandra Benitez ‘s Night of the Radishes will sweep readers into the vibrant and lush beauty of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Latte Literature: The Geography of Bliss

April 9, 2011

Cabin fever got you down?

Then get out of your head and find your happy place while traveling the world in a book that the author describes as “One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.”

Eric Weiner, a long time foreign correspondent for NPR, packed his suitcase and reversed his agenda from reporting on strife to discovering bliss.  But where to look? Moldova (where exactly is that)? What defines happiness –  passivity, weather, winning Powerball?

His search did not bring him to tropical locales advertised by “all-inclusive” vacation resorts, ones that sell visions of snorkeling, scratch golf, and bikini-clad baristas for one flat rate. (I can hear you asking, “why not,” – well, remember Jack Nicholson’s character in “Something’s Got to Give).  No. Eric’s quest brought him to places like Iceland, where “coffee is a staple, as necessary as oxygen,” to Bhutan, where much to this coffee snob’s dismay, “the government is corrupt, the roads slow, and the coffee instant,” to an ashram in India where no caffeine is allowed. Still, in spite of the familiar cup of joe in foreign environs, this book is not about the search for coffee bliss. Coffee is a sub-theme, a cultural reflection of the places the author visited in his search to usurp grumpiness.

If you take this literary exploration, will you discover bliss? There’s no guarantee. But what I assure you in the author is an engaging, funny, insightful travel companion. Just be sure to bring a to-go cup of your favorite brew.

Latte Literature: Conroy’s My Reading Life

March 6, 2011

This is a story about good coffee and even better characters and how they came to life electronically.  The story begins with Rita Toews from Winnipeg, Canada, who created Read an E-Book Week that is now an international celebration.  From Sunday, March 6 to March 12, publishers, authors, retailers, and digital device makers offer thousands of original E-Books for free or at deep discounts.  Bibliophiles, this is the week to give digital devices a try.  Try it—you’ll like it.

With a light touch Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life literally springs to life on my iPad.   There on the screen, Conroy’s exquisite words carry me to The Old New York Book Store in Atlanta where I meet Cliff, the owner, and the “coffee man.”

The “coffee man” would come in once or twice a day to avail himself of the free coffee Cliff handed out to his customers.  Though the coffee man was addled and unwashed and homeless, he struck a curious figure with me.  He had a long key chain that he decorated with discarded bottle openers and house keys he would find as he searched through the trashcans of the city on his morning run.  Not once in the twenty years we knew him did he utter a word to Cliff or me, but his solitude intrigued both of us and we could never agree whether we were invisible to the coffee man or he was simply buried alive in his own private world.
If Cliff would allow it, he would sometimes consume a whole pot of coffee while standing guard at the coffee machine.
When he stopped appearing, Cliff and I assumed he was dead.  He was never heard from again.  On occasion, when drinking a cup of coffee together, Cliff and I toast the coffee man.

Pat Conroy doesn’t own any digital deices and until a year ago he was unaware that his books could be downloaded and enjoyed electronically. Conroy claims “Kindle holds no pleasure for me, and I will never own one.  Despite my enjoyment of reading on my iPad, I share Pat Conroy’s sentiment:  “I like the way they (books) look, I like the way they smell, I like the way they feel.”

Read an E-Book is just another way to enjoy books and coffee.


Latte Literature: The Invisible Bridge

February 6, 2011

Within the first few pages of Julie Orringer’s exquisite story, the reader is swept into the world of Andras Levi, a Jewish Hungarian yearning to become an architect.   We walk the Paris streets with Andras as a student at E’cole Spe’ciale d’Architecture.  We rejoiced when we follow him and Klara Morgenstern to a whitewashed café’ near the Bastille where “after dinner they had strong coffee and tiny pink macaroons.”

In The Invisible Bridge Andras and Klara, his first love, are often sipping strong coffee in small cups.  To Coffeesnobology that’s a Big coffee reference that comes in a small cup, a demitasse cup.
The French word “demitasse” literally means half-cup.  And a “half-cup” is all you need to savor either an espresso or Turkish coffee.  Espresso is a favorite drink of many and although strong, has less caffeine.  Turkish coffee is actually pulverized coffee beans, usually sweetened and brought to a boil served with grounds and all.
The Invisible Bridge is a good read enjoyed even more over with a café (kuh-fay) or a café’ au lait (kuh-fay-oh-lay).

Latte Literature

January 16, 2011

A coffee reference always attracts coffeesnobology’s attention, so our cappuccino cup runneth over when Jonathan Franzen wrote about shade-grown coffee in Freedom, a multi-layered family saga.  Readers learn that shade-grown coffee is better both in taste and for the environment.  Fact or fiction? We have all heard the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction.” A Google search turned up over 100,000 results confirming Franzen’s statements. (The truth…I didn’t read all 100,000) Go ahead, sip a cup of shade-grown coffee, and be entertained by Franzen who introduces us to the Berglunds and their struggles, sometimes comical, sometimes tragic, but always compelling.
Jessica, Walter and Patty Berglund’s adult daughter, admits “It rankles her that Walter, with his South American connection, was able to steer Joey (her brother) into shade-grown coffee at exactly the moment when fortunes could be made in it…  And there is no getting around the fact that shade-grown coffee is better for the environment, better especially for birds, and that Joey deserves credit for trumpeting this fact and marketing it astutely.”

Freedom, 533 and 534
Here are a few facts worthy of Coffeesnobology
•    Shaded coffee plantations are one of the best preservers of bio-diversity
•    Environmentally friendly coffee is a marketing niche for farmers
•    Shade-grown coffee is more sustainable than ‘sun coffee’
•    Shaded plantations preserve soil structure, preventing erosions
•    Shade-grown coffee plantations enable animals and birds to spread and prosper
“Beans, Birds and Bio-Diversity”

Latte Literature: The Girl Who Played with Fire

December 20, 2010

Stieg Larsson’s novels percolate with a rich aromatic coffee culture, a sweet elixir for readers and coffee lovers.  Journalist Mikael Blomkvist searches for the troubled, but intrepid, Lisbeth Salander.  Upon entering her apartment he “admires in awe the espresso machine on its own table.  She had a Jura Impressa X7 with attached milk cooler.  Blomkvist knew that a Jura was the espresso equivalent of a Rolls Royce—a professional machine for domestic use that cost in the neighborhood of 70,000 kronor.  He had an espresso machine that he had bought at John Wall, which had cost around 3,500 kronor—one of the few extravagances he had allowed himself for his own household, and a fraction of the grandeur of Salander’s machine.”  The Girl Who Played with Fire by Larsson, 579

Equivalent to a Rolls Royce—What makes this machine hum?
Coffeesnobology’s research supports claims of worldwide honors.
The Jura Impressa X7 is an innovated, elegant coffee maker:  a true masterpiece featuring “the utmost in internal quality and external beauty.”
One-touch process for grinding, brewing and discarding results in a “perfect cup of coffee with exact strength, volume and temperature.”  A coffee-lover’s dream for 70,000 kronor or $10,237.36 in US dollars.