Weekly Coffee News
January 15, 2015
Detailed Brazil Weather/Rain Forecast
… in case of interest ….
· The forecast lower rainfall values are roughly concentrated in the Sul de Minas/Mogiana regions while higher forecast values are suggested for more southern regions (eg border areas of Sao Paulo and Parana states).
January to March period, 2015.
Seasonal forecast for January to March, 2015 using our internal USQ system:
· most locations in the key Sul de Minas/Mogiana regions have a probability of getting their long-term median rainfall of between 26% and 29% for this period.
· Most other locations in southern Brazil (especially in the far south) have an approx. 50% probability of getting their long-term median rainfall for this period.
Seasonal forecast for January to March, 2015 using the general circulation models of our collaborators of the UK and other sources: double the risk of being in the lowest 33% of possible values for the Sul de Minas/Mogiana regions. Close to normal probability values for remaining regions.
February to April, 2015.
Seasonal forecast for February to April, 2015 using our internal USQ system:
· most locations in the Sul de Minas/Mogiana region have a probability of getting their long-term median rainfall of between 30% and 36% for this period.
· Most other locations in southern Brazil (especially in the far south) have an approx. 50% probability of getting their long-term median rainfall for this period.
Seasonal forecast for the February to April total period: using the general circulation models of our collaborators in the UK and other sources: double to three times the risk of being in the lowest 33% of possible values for the Sul de Minas/Mogiana region. Close to normal probability values for remaining regions.
14/1-22/1/15: 25%-50% of normal rainfall (ie 15-30mm) in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais States – close to normal values remaining regions (ie more southern regions) (ie 50-70mm).
22/1-30/1: 10-35mm throughout.
Temperatures for the January to March period: 50%-70% probability of above normal mean temperatures, especially in Sul de Minas/Mogiana.
January 14, 2015
Port Update : From Bad to Worse
Longshore contract negotiations on the U.S. West Coast have degenerated into a war of attrition in which the union’s work slowdowns have significantly increased operating costs for shipping lines and terminal operators, and the employers are countering by reducing work opportunities for rank-and-file longshoremen.
Caught in the middle are the ports, whose reputations have been tarnished, truckers, who sit idle in long lines, often without compensation, and cargo interests, whose cost of shipping through the West Coast has skyrocketed.
Conditions are so bad that some employers say the only way to stop the bleeding is to lock out the union as they did in the 2002 contract negotiations. However, those employers are still outnumbered by others who say that everyone will lose in a lockout, and a war of attrition is the better option.
The contract negotiations, which began on May 12, are now in their ninth month. Shipping lines and terminal operators, who are represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, can no longer afford the increased operating costs that result from work slowdowns by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. According to numbers published each week on the PMA website, terminal operators are paying 15 to 20 percent more man-hours than they did in the same weeks last year, but cargo volumes are up only about 1 to 3 percent, depending upon the port range.
Shipping lines are suffering as well because vessels are taking as long as one week to work, when cargo should be discharged and loaded in no more than three days. Carriers say they lose at least $50,000 each day that their vessels are idle. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, seven containerships were at anchor Tuesday awaiting berths. In Oakland, the port reported that eight container ships were at anchor.
The strategy of ILWU negotiators apparently is to make the hard-timing so costly for individual employers that they will cave in to the union’s demands on unresolved issues involving automation, and also jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair. The ILWU hopes the individual companies will pressure PMA negotiators to grant the union’s demands. Last month, ILWU President Bob McEllrath said the negotiations would reach a successful conclusion only when shipping lines became directly involved in the contract talks.
Employers have taken the offensive by cutting back on work opportunities for longshoremen. Terminal operators in Seattle and Tacoma have not opened for night shifts for several weeks now. Oakland’s terminals no longer work vessels at night, although they continue to employ longshoremen at night to organize containers in the yards. When longshoremen refuse to dispatch enough workers, especially equipment operators, to fill a gang, employers dismiss the gang within one hour so the workers don’t have to be paid.
Terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach caused a stir on New Year’s Eve when they informed the ILWU locals in Southern California they were reducing the number of vessel work crews at night to one, from the three 45-member gangs that had been loading and unloading ships. Employers went a step further on Monday when they informed the ILWU locals that beginning today there would be no gangs hired to work vessels at night, although yard and gate operations would not be affected.
According to letters from the PMA to the ILWU locals, these actions make good operational sense. PMA stated that since the ILWU in Southern California on Nov. 3 unilaterally decided to reduce from 110 to 35 the number of skilled yard crane operators that would be dispatched each day, the container yards had become so congested there was no space left to accept additional containers at night. Therefore the terminals would stop discharging containers from the ships at night, and would use the night shift to relieve congestion in the yards.
PMA spokesman Steve Getzug said Tuesday that reasoning is still valid. “Our sole rationale for the adjustments in night operations at L.A. and Long Beach is to free up crane drivers to clear the yards. It’s that simple.”
However, at least in the thinking of some employers, reducing work opportunities at night at all of the ports also hits the rank-and-file longshoremen in their pocketbooks. Many longshoremen like nightwork, which carries premium pay, and they reportedly care very little about the union negotiators’ stance on chassis maintenance and repair, which is one of the issues preventing negotiation of a new contract.
ILWU negotiators want the PMA to guarantee the union M&R division, which accounts for about 10 percent of the ILWU membership, the right to inspect every chassis before it leaves the terminal. This is no longer possible because the shipping lines sold their chassis to equipment leasing companies, and those employers are not members of the PMA. ILWU negotiators want jurisdiction over “red-lined” terminals that years ago signed M&R contracts with other unions such as the International Association of Machinists. The PMA can’t make any such guarantee because they have no control over those contracts. ILWU negotiators want PMA to grant the ILWU M&R jurisdiction at off-dock locations run by the chassis-leasing companies, but the PMA has no jurisdiction over the off-dock sites.
Some rank-and-file longshoremen are reportedly upset over losing work opportunities on the night shifts because union negotiators are holding up contract approval over M&R work that is performed by ILWU mechanics. Employers hope that those general longshoremen pressure the ILWU negotiators to back off on chassis demands that the PMA can not grant even if the employers’ group chose to do so.
Just as the PMA will not discuss bargaining strategy, the ILWU does not do so either. In recent statements, and in letters to the PMA, the union has attacked he employers’ decisions to cut back on night work as being bad for productivity at the ports. In a letter Monday to the PMA, the president of the three ILWU locals in Southern California said the decision to cease all vessel operations at night would not improve productivity.
“There is no evidence that there has been any effort to reallocate labor to clearing the yard,” said Bobby Olvera, president of ILWU Local 13. “We ask you to reconsider this unilateral action. It is not a sound management decision and will inflict direct damage on the industry and to retailers large and small. In the interim, ILWU Local 13 will continue to fill any orders for night-side vessel gangs it receives,” Olvera said.
Meanwhile, the war of attrition continues. The PMA, in a release on Monday, said: “The ILWU slowdowns and the resulting operational environment are no longer sustainable. The PMA has alerted the local port authorities to the deteriorating situation on the docks.” The PMA said that statement should be taken at face value, meaning the terminals are approaching complete gridlock. Others say is a not-so-subtle warning that if the slowdowns continue, the voices within the PMA calling for a lockout of the ILWU will get louder and will soon outnumber those who oppose a lockout.
It is generally agreed that no one wants a lockout. Rank-and-file longshoremen would receive no paychecks because they won’t be working. Terminals will forego revenue because they won’t be lifting containers on and off of ships, and shipping lines will lose thousands of dollars a day because their vessels will sit idle at anchorage. Furthermore, a lockout and the inevitable Taft-Hartley injunction that would follow would only prolong the agony because the work slowdowns would most likely continue.
On the other hand, cargo interests and shipping lines based in other countries seek action after eight months of inaction in the negotiations, and rank-and-file longshoremen are seeing their earnings diminish each week as employers reduce their hours, so each group is pressuring its respective negotiators to end what they consider to be complete nonsens
January 13, 2015
PORT Update : Despite mediator, war of words escalates between ILWU, PMA
Despite the involvement of a federal mediator in contract negotiations over the past week, West Coast dockworkers are continuing their policy of work slowdowns and the withholding of skilled labor, bringing West Coast ports to the brink of “complete gridlock,” the Pacific Maritime Association said Monday.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union responded with a blistering release late on Monday saying PMA conceded at the negotiating table that port congestion on the West Coast was caused by operational issues such as a lack of space to handle the return of empty containers and export loads. The ILWU and the PMA have thus appeared to break the two sides’ mutual pledge, which had largely held since negotiations began last May, not to discuss details of the actual negotiations. That by itself takes the negotiations to a new low.
The ILWU also accused the PMA of putting the economy at risk through ill-advised changes in work procedures in recent weeks and then blaming the union for the problems “in a self-serving attempt to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table.”
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced on Jan. 5 that the ILWU-PMA contract negotiations would be held under its auspices. The negotiations began on May 12, 2014, and the ILWU has been working without a contract since July 1. The PMA has charged that beginning in late October, the ILWU initiated work slowdowns that contributed to already-existing congestion at the ports. With the negotiations at an impasse, the PMA on Dec. 22 requested federal mediation, and last week the ILWU did the same.
Although the federal mediator cannot dictate a solution to the contract impasse, past maritime industry experience with federal mediation has shown that in the vast majority of the cases mediators have helped the parties to reach a compromise.
But so far that has not been the case in the ILWU-PMA contract negotiations in San Francisco. In fact, it appears the situation is only getting worse.
ILWU dockworkers in Portland on Monday walked off their jobs at noon, leaving two vessels at Terminal 6 without labor. Involvement of the federal mediator in contract negotiations this past week has resulted in “no further agreements” at any of the West Coast ports, the PMA stated on Monday. Contract negotiations on the West Coast involve both coastwide issues such as wages and benefits, and issues that are particular to the individual port regions.
Meanwhile, congestion continues to mount at West Coast ports. It began last summer with operational issues caused by big ships producing large cargo spikes, compounded by a shortage of chassis, truck and intermodal rail capacity and carrier alliances increasing the number of inter-terminal moves. The congestion got worse last fall when the ILWU job actions began, according to PMA. Terminals that were already congested due to operational problems were pushed to the breaking point when equipment operators began to drive slowly and skilled personnel were not dispatched, employers said.
The ILWU, however, said that in contract talks in recent weeks, PMA told the ILWU that employers were not blaming the union for West Coast port congestion. The PMA told the union that “the lack of space for returning empty and export containers was exacerbating the existing chassis shortage — because export-bound containers are a key source of desperately-needed chassis that have become the number-one choke point ever since shipping lines stopped providing a chassis for each container arriving to West Coast ports,” the ILWU stated.
The PMA blames the ILWU’s withholding of skilled labor as a critical cause of the congestion, especially in Los Angeles-Long Beach, the largest U.S. port complex. “The ILWU’s action in Southern California goes against 15 years of precedent and targets precisely the skilled workers who are most essential to clearing congested terminals. By withholding an average of 75 yard crane drivers each day, the ILWU has stalled the movement of tens of thousands of containers, the PMA estimates. Since Nov. 3, the union has reduced these yard crane operator positions in Southern California by 67 percent,” PMA stated Monday in a release.
The ILWU responded that PMA’s recent decision to eliminate night shifts at some of the ports has emerged as a serious problem. “In addition to cutting shifts at major container ports, the PMA cutbacks would also apply to bulk and breakbulk operations, for no apparent reason other than as a cynical tactic to generate anxiety among workers,” the ILWU stated.
Both sides have been guarded about releasing the issues being discussed in negotiations, but automation is known to be an important one. As some terminals automate, they will replace manually-operated yard cranes with automated stacking cranes that have no drivers. This technology has been used in Europe for 20 years.
U.S. terminal operators until recently have hesitated to invest in automated stacking cranes as well as automated guided vehicles, which are driverless carts that move containers from the foot of the ship-to-shore cranes to the container stacks in the yard. Employers have cited labor opposition and also the high cost of implementing automation as their reasons for not adopting this type of container handling automation.
Furthermore, some employers say that a motivated and skilled labor force can achieve productivity rates comparable to the automated machines. They are therefore surprised that rather than working productively to preserve their positions, the ILWU’s skilled equipment operators have reduced their presence on the Southern California docks by 67 percent.
Pay and benefits are not holding up the contract negotiations, PMA said. The PMA annual report states that the average annual earnings for longshoremen who last year worked at least 2,000 hours, or 40 hours per week, were $137,253 for general longshoremen and $154,842 for marine clerks.
“To date, the ILWU and PMA have reached tentative agreements on health care and increases to pay guarantees. That tentative agreement provides fully employer-paid health care benefits valued at $35,000 per worker annually. PMA has proposed pay increases and pension enhancements. There are no takeaways in the PMA proposal,” the employers’ organization stated.
Both parties have stated on more than one occasion that their goal since negotiations began on May 12 has been to achieve a fair contract without a strike or lockout. “Unfortunately, it appears the union’s motivation is to continue slowdowns in an attempt to gain leverage in the bargaining,” PMA spokesman Steve Getzfred said.
ILWU President Bob McEllrath said Monday that dockworkers are “ready, willing and able to clear the cargo backlog created by the industry’s poor decisions.”
McEllrath said employers are “making nonsensical moves like cutting back on shifts at a critical time, creating gridlock in a cynical attempt to turn public opinion against workers. This creates an incendiary atmosphere during negotiations and does nothing to get us closer to an agreement,” he said.
In a possibly foreboding comment, PMA stated, “The ILWU slowdowns and the resulting operational environment are no longer sustainable. The PMA has alerted the local port authorities to the deteriorating situation on the docks.”
January 12, 2015
Peru’s coffee harvest likely to reach 6 mn quintals in 2015
Lima, Dec. 30. The National Coffee Board (JNC) has estimated that coffee harvest in Peru will reach 6 million quintals next year due to stronger investment in fertilization and crop management practices.
January 12, 2015
Coffee Bulls Return as Drought “Menaces” Brazil Crop
Brazil is getting dry again and the coffee bulls are back.
Growing regions are forecast to get about half the normal rainfall this month and in February, according to Celso Oliveira, a meteorologist at Somar Meteorologia in Sao Paulo. Brazil is the world’s biggest grower and exporter, spurring hedge funds to increase their bets on higher prices for the first time in six weeks.
After more than doubling to last year’s peak in October amid the worst drought in decades, coffee ended 2014 in a bear market after heavy rains in November. The return of dry weather sparked renewed risks of damage to flowering coffee trees, sending prices up 12 percent last week, the biggest gain in almost 11 months.
“Coffee is very weather-dependent,” John Stephenson, chief executive officer of Toronto-based Stephenson & Co. Capital Management, which oversees C$50 million, said in a Jan. 9 phone interview. “You’ve seen a massive drawdown in stockpiles in Brazil. When that’s coupled with the drought, supply is tight-to-constrained.”
Arabica coffee for March delivery surged 19 cents last week to $1.8005 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. Prices rose 9.3 percent this month, the most among the 22 components in the Bloomberg Commodity Index, which fell 1.6 percent. The MSCI All-Country World Index of equities declined 1.3 percent and the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index climbed 1.3 percent.
The net-long position in coffee rose 6.6 percent to 27,071 futures and option contracts in the week ended Jan. 6, the biggest gain since mid-October, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data published Jan. 9. Long wagers climbed by 2,492 contracts, offsetting a rise in short holdings of 806 contracts.
Northern regions of Brazil will remain “almost completely dry” in the next two weeks, while light rain is expected in southern Minas Gerais and most of Sao Paulo, Donald Keeney, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services in Bethesda, Maryland, said in Jan. 8 interview. As much as 40 percent of the crop is at risk, because plants need water to develop cherries that contain the coffee bean, he said.
Prices could climb as high as $2.30 by the end of December, according to Ross Colbert, a New York-based global beverage strategist at Rabobank International. Continued dryness may compound last year’s crop damage, he said.
Weather concerns may not last. Arabica-coffee futures dropped 11 percent in December on signs the 2014 drought in Brazil had eased.
The crop Brazil’s farmers will harvest from May to October will reach 50 million bags, Ecom Agroindustrial Corp. said last month. That compares with a July outlook from the National Coffee Council for less than 40 million bags. Each bag weighs 60 kilograms, or 132 pounds. Prices are down 19 percent from a 32-month high of $2.255 reached in October.
“Trying to bet on weather is always just so mercurial and so hard to do,” Sameer Samana, St. Louis-based global strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, which oversees $1.6 trillion, said in a Jan. 8 phone interview. “The overall picture in coffee is more of a short-term move. It’s hard to extrapolate too much from this recent blip.”
Net-long holdings across 18 U.S. traded commodities fell 0.6 percent to 790,238 contracts as of Jan. 6, the CFTC data show. Bullish bets across 11 agricultural commodities slid 3.7 percent to 501,606 contracts.
December 31, 2014
Women in Nicaragua combat country’s macho culture
The phone rings in Alicia Arrosteguis’s wooden-framed house in La Perla, a village in west Nicaragua. “I thought you said you would just be an hour,” she says to her husband on the other end of the line. “Come back this minute. And bring some lunch.” Everyone laughs, recognising the mock annoyance in her tone. But, with Nicaragua ranking 132nd out of 187 countries in the UN’s 2014 Gender Inequality Index, there’s a serious side to her newfound assertiveness, too.
Arrosteguis is one of 78 participants in a project that seeks to recognise the unpaid work of women in Nicaragua’s agriculture sector. “Women provide integral support to the farming process, whether it’s preparing food at home, say, or helping directly with the harvest. But this work is always overlooked,” says Juan Bravo, managing director of the Juan Francisco Paz Silva cooperative to which Arrosteguis belongs.
In an effort to correct this, the cooperative approached its largest buyer – UK-based retailer The Body Shop – and requested that the value of women’s traditional roles be formally included as a cost in the production process. As a result, the contract now factors in the work of women. To date, the deal has generated additional income for the cooperative of about $30,000 (£19,000).
Bravo says the payment is not tokenistic. It is a fixed business cost that is accounted for alongside conventional labour expenses, raw materials and other inputs.
The cooperative’s female members have decided to use the extra income for vocational training in eight communities. Most include marginalised women from outside the cooperative. A proportion of the funding is used to provide seed capital for business ideas. Arrosteguis’s group has invested in an eco-efficient oven to bake goods for sale locally. Other micro-enterprises include dairy products, handicrafts, natural medicines and beauty services.
MDG : Women empowerment in Nicaragua : Marta Vargas in Sesame field Marta Vargas in her sesame field. She is a cooperative member and workshop coordinator. Photograph: Oliver Balch
The initiative is indicative of a move within Nicaragua’s cooperative movement to combat the country’s pervasive macho culture. Among the pioneers is Soppexcca, a cooperative representing 650 coffee growers in the mountainous province of Jinotega. “We were the first cooperative to define and implement an explicit gender equality policy back in 2003,” says Fátima Ismael, the cooperative’s general manager. “With the help of FLO [Fairtrade International], 32 other cooperatives in Nicaragua adopted their own gender policies over the following three years.”
Principles enshrined in Soppexcca’s constitution include equal representation for women and full participation in making decisions. The cooperative also runs workshops for its male and female members to raise awareness about issues such as domestic violence as well as laws relating to women’s rights.
Such moves coincide with efforts by the national government to promote gender equality. All public departments now have targets to ensure a 50:50 ratio of male and female employees. The police service has a division focusing on domestic violence.
“A couple of years ago, it would have been difficult to say the government had a clear policy of gender quality,” says Estella Amador, regional director for Pro Mujer, a Central American NGO promoting gender equality. “Now, there is a much stronger emphasis on gender issues across society.”
Yet Ismael says most government programmes have yet to filter through to the rural areas where smallholder cooperatives like hers are based. “Nicaragua is still a very machista culture, so it’s a whole process to unlearn this,” she says. Even within Soppexcca, only 220 of its 650 members are women. In most cooperatives, the percentage of female involvement is lower.
One notable exception is Femuprocan, Central America’s sole federation of women-only smallholder cooperatives. Based outside the small town of Ciudad Darío in Matagalpa province, the federation has more than 2,000 female members.
“Our vision is to empower women as rural producers, which we do through educating ourselves, getting better organised and sharing ideas among ourselves,” says Femuprocan spokeswoman Julia Castellón.
She doesn’t underestimate the task ahead. Femuprocan is campaigning for reforms to the law governing cooperatives, which it maintains is biased towards men. It is also pushing the government to make good on its promise to provide credit to women to buy their own smallholding.
MDG : Women empowerment in Nicaragua : Femuprocan Canteen, a women cooperative Women prepare food at a canteen during a meeting of Femuprocan, a federation of women-only smallholder cooperatives. Photograph: Oliver Balch
In Blanca Molina’s view, equipping women to become more economically independent is crucial in the battle for gender equality. As president of UCA San Ramón, a coffee-producing union of cooperatives in Matagalpa state, she helps coordinate startup loans for female coop members. “Our aim is that the women can earn their own income and have more choice in how they spend their money. That way they can start to break down the dependency [on men] that currently exists,” she explains.
She cites a group of 28 women in El Privilegio, one of UCA San Ramón’s affiliate cooperatives, who have recently set up their own small roasting plant. They now sell their own ground coffee brand in the domestic market. The coffee will soon go on sale in a new cafe in downtown San Ramón that will be run by women from another local cooperative.
In Achuapá, meanwhile, a town close to La Perla and where the Juan Francisco Paz Silva cooperative is headquartered, Juan Bravo has just overseen the organisation’s latest annual meeting. With triumph in his voice, he counts the list of new members. For the second year running, women outnumber men.
December 15, 2014
Some low mold coffee with your butter?
The Cult of the Bulletproof Coffee Diet
By COURTNEY RUBIN
DEC. 12, 2014
When Jimmy Fallon handed the actress Shailene Woodley a mug of coffee blended with butter on “The Tonight Show” in October, she didn’t recoil. Instead she raved to the audience about the cup of saturated fat:
“It will change your life!”
“It’s the most delicious thing ever,” Mr. Fallon said. “But it’s actually good for you. It’s good for your brain.”
It seems these days everyone is a coffee evangelist, but there are perhaps no proselytizers more fervent than those of Bulletproof coffee, a creation of the technology entrepreneur and biohacker Dave Asprey.
The recipe — a riff on the yak butter tea Mr. Asprey found restorative while hiking in Tibet — calls for low-mold coffee beans; at least two tablespoons of unsalted butter (grass-fed, which is higher in Omega 3s and vitamins); and one to two tablespoons of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, a type of easily digestible fat. Mr. Asprey claims having the 450-plus-calorie cup of coffee instead of breakfast suppresses hunger, promotes weight loss and provides mental clarity.
“It’s a gateway drug for taking control of your own biology,” said the well-caffeinated Mr. Asprey. Consider the strength of the addiction: At a three-day Bulletproof conference in Pasadena, Calif., in September, 200 pounds of Kerrygold butter wasn’t enough for the 500 attendees. There was also a run on unsalted grass-fed butter at the nearest Whole Foods.
Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University, was skeptical, because it’s carbohydrates, absent from the drink, that are brain food.
“This is not a breakfast of champions,” she said.
Ms. Blake put the drink in the pantheon of marketing triumphs, comparing it to the old grapefruit diet, which didn’t magically melt pounds for good, but did lead to increased consumption of grapefruit. “The No. 1 driver of food choices among consumers is taste,” she said. “If individuals continue to enjoy the taste of their coffee prepared this way, they will continue to consume it. Whether it has long-term effects on weight managementremains to be seen.”
Mr. Asprey first posted the recipe on his website in 2009 (the name “Bulletproof,” he says, was a gift from his neighbor on a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight from London to San Francisco) and soon began selling creatively titled ingredients like Brain Octane (his own MCT oil) and Upgraded Coffee, his low-mold beans (toxins from mold are “performance-robbing,” he said, and also make coffee taste bitter.)
Most recently, he added Unfair Advantage, which he asserts is one of the few supplements that helps you grow new mitochondria (“feel like you’re flipping on a switch of clean-burning energy.”) Supplements don’t require clearance by the Food and Drug Administration, and Mr. Asprey’s website contains the usual disclaimer that his statements have not been evaluated by the agency.
His company, called the Bulletproof Executive, now has a staff of 20. Some seven million people have downloaded Mr. Asprey’s podcast, and his first stand-alone shop and cafe will open in the first quarter of 2015 in Los Angeles, perhaps the citadel of Bulletproof. And Mr. Asprey’s “The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life,” is being published next week. It’s a lot like the Paleolithic diet, which eschews grains and dairy, but includes even more — and according to Mr. Asprey, more beneficial — fat.
Not one to let a marketing opportunity slip by, the book was finished with five all-nighters in a row fueled by a social-media-documented tsunami of Bulletproof products, including Mr. Asprey’s “smart drugs,” as he calls Unfair Advantage, red lights on his head (“boosts mitochondrial function,” he says), and of course, Bulletproof coffee.
“The information just poured out of me,” he said in an interview. “I would go into this high performance state and I would just sort of come out of it hours later with tens of thousands of words completed.”
According to the company, Bulletproof is also popular in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Seattle — and Milwaukee, which Mr. Asprey suggested was because of the popularity of mixed martial arts there, where any tiny edge in performance counts.
It helps that the drink has high-profile fans in Hollywood, Silicon Valley (one Twitter executive is lobbying to get the company chef to stock Bulletproof products) and sports (the Los Angeles Lakers), all of whom have personally won converts. The music producer Rick Rubin said he introduced the drink to the British singer Ed Sheeran, who promptly enthused about it on the Grammys red carpet.
Fans insist the beverage tastes like an amazingly creamy latte, though Mr. Rubin was more exclamatory: “like crisp toasted rye bread slathered with lots of butter blended in hot coffee,” he wrote in an email. “A wild classic-tasting breakfast in a cup.” For best results, the chef Seamus Mullen, another enthusiast, advised a hand blender instead of an electric one, because the electric blade heats up the oil, denaturing it and changing the taste. And start small with the MCT oil, which used to be given to hospital patients lacking enzymes to digest fat. “It can wreck your digestive tract,” Mr. Mullen said.
Being Bulletproof means never traveling light. After a MacGyver attempt to make coffee in a Chicago hotel room, Brandon Routh, who plays the superhero The Atom on the CW show “Arrow,” now carries ground beans, containers of clarified butter, a silicone squeeze bottle of MCT oil, plus a hand blender and Aeropress filter.
“My energy levels are through the roof compared to what they used to be,” said Mr. Routh, who learned of the drink at a bachelor party, of all places. He added: “My lines just kind of sink in and they’re there when I need them.”
Dr. Frank Lipman, an integrative doctor, recommends Bulletproof coffee to clients (who include the actress Gwyneth Paltrow) for “mind clarity and a bit of pep,” but cautioned that the drink is not nutritious because it lacks much protein and a variety of vitamins or minerals.
On “Good Morning America” last summer, Los Angeles coffee shop denizens gave the drink a thumbs up, but back in the studio, the anchors were dubious.
“I want to, but I’m looking down at it,” George Stephanopoulos said, grimacing as he peered into his mug. Ginger Zee decided it looked like chicken noodle soup.
In an interview, Mr. Asprey blamed the use of the company’s coffee service (“people in the building tell me it’s the worst coffee ever”), the wrong butter, no MCT oil and a failure to blend for the lack of enthusiasm. “I imagine some poor TV producer putting a stick of butter in a cup of coffee and stirring it around using the stick as the butter,” he said. “They basically drank bad butter oil slick on top of bad coffee. Of course they didn’t like it.”
Said “Good Morning America’s” Lara Spencer, “If I want butter, it’s in a baked potato.”
December 11, 2014
Partnership to promote women’s meaningful participation in PNG’s coffee industry
November 13, 2014
Blog Post – Judging a Coffee Brewing Competition: Palate Gymnastics
By Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia
Every year the Specialty Coffee Association of America holds a series of coffee competitions. Two of the more popular competitions begin at the regional level and the winners advance to the national, and finally, the world competition. This year I participated as a judge for the regional Brewer’s Cup competition held in southern California in October. This competition awards competitors that brew the tastiest coffee, and in the final round, combine that skill with a sophisticated taste experience while delivering excellent customer service.
Round one of the competition was…grueling. Each competitor was given the same coffee shortly before competition, with little time for preparation. The challenge for round one was to brew the best cup for each judge. I judged seventeen baristas and tasted seventeen unique brews of the same coffee, all behind a curtain so as not to be biased. I was surprised how different the cups were, and I found myself doubting whether they were the same coffee.
The final round, “Open Service,” was more varied and interactive. Judges sat through a short performance by the top three competitors from round one. Each barista prepared individual brews for the three judges. We were led through a tasting experience that included a background on the coffee, information about the brewing method, and detailed tasting notes. It was important for competitors to choose their words carefully. For example, during one performance, I found myself questioning whether their descriptor of “melon” should really have been “stone fruit.” To some, this may seem trivial, but this is the attention to detail that the coffee industry relies on to maintain consistency and uphold quality standards.
November 11, 2014
California Growers Seek the Next Home Brew: Coffee
The most commonly traded commodity in the world is oil. What comes in second? Coffee. It’s been grown and loved since at least the 13th century in places such as Indonesia, Ethiopia and Central and South America. As a serious fungus threatens the crop worldwide, scientists are mapping the coffee genome to learn more about this plant. Though it’s not coffee’s natural growing environment, California is actually playing a role in the future of this most beloved and lucrative crop.
Sammy Venegas stands on a hillside shrouded in fog, thick with avocado trees, passion fruit and coffee plants. With a white bucket slung around his neck like a baby carrier, he picks only the reddest coffee beans.
“The redder the bean, the better the flavor,” Venegas explains in Spanish. “It’s perfect to drink.”
Venegas’ whole family plants and harvests coffee in Oaxaca, but he’s not in Mexico right now. He’s picking coffee 2 miles from the ocean, in Goleta, California, outside Santa Barbara.
“I call my family and tell them I’m working at a coffee ranch in California and they are like, ‘Seriously?’ ” Venegas says, with a laugh. “I say, yes, we have coffee in California. It’s incredible.”
The climate in Santa Barbara is dry, but with its proximity to the ocean, its microclimates can be surprising.
“On a morning like today where it’s all foggy and socked in, you can open your eyes and feel like you’re in many parts of the world besides California,” says Jay Ruskey. He’s the first farmer to make a real commercial go at growing coffee in the continental United States. He partnered with UC Cooperative Extension’s Mark Gaskell, who’s visiting the farm today for a special occasion. Finally, after five years, Ruskey’s small crew is harvesting several coffee varieties never before grown here.
Ruskey’s operation, called Good Land Organics, takes us from the fields to the processing shed. He puts beans through a de-pulper to separate out the skin, then into a fermentation tub. The now-skinless coffee seeds sit for a day or two, while the meat separates from the bean. After they dry, Ruskey weighs 100 beans of each variety to compare their yield.
“We’re doing more than just trying to find best yields,” Ruskey says. “We’re also trying to find the best cups of coffee.”
Let’s be clear: Santa Barbara is a far cry from the tropics, where the world’s most respected coffee is grown. But Jay Ruskey is an experimental farmer, like a long line of Californians. Since the late 1800s, agricultural explorers have roamed the world looking for crops to grow in the U.S. — avocados came from Mexico and Guatemala, dates from Morocco, and navel oranges from Brazil.
Ruskey’s not the only one doing coffee research in California. Juan Medrano, a professor of animal genetics in the School of Animal Science at UC Davis, has focused on milk genetics.
“But lately, I have developed another interest, which is also looking at the genetics of coffee,” Medrano says. “If you think about it, milk and coffee are traditional companions and they make a really good latte.”
In Medrano’s lab, staff researcher Alma Esles studies the genetics of Panamanian beans that Medrano collected at different altitudes, creating a library of information. “It’s like a collection of all that RNA that belongs to that specific coffee seed,” Esles says. Temperatures and microclimates associated with changes in altitude significantly influence the flavor, aroma and “mouth-feel” of coffee.
Eventually, they’ll study the beans grown on Ruskey’s farm. “We’re interested in looking at diversity, and Jay has quite a collection of different varieties,” Medrano says.
Medrano is part of a new coffee center at UC Davis. It’s bringing together people who study food science, genetics, marketing and the social aspects of coffee. Medrano says coffee research is pretty new.
“I think it is important to study coffee. There’s several reasons,” Medrano explains. “Hundreds of millions of peoples’ livelihoods depend on coffee.” Additionally, the coffee crop is confronting some serious challenges. “The three main challenges are climate change, disease and quality,” Medrano explains.
He says California’s coffee crop is so new and small it wouldn’t really impact the worldwide coffee trade, but by growing it here we can learn about disease resistance, and farmers like Ruskey can determine if great coffee can grow outside its natural environment.
“I believe Jay’s producing very decent coffee for the conditions he’s in, so that’s admirable,” says Medrano.
Ohannes Karaoghlanian and Joanne Robles Swanson both grow avocados in Temecula. They take the bumpy ride to visit Ruskey’s farm, where coffee is growing next to and under avocado plants.
Coffee and avocados grow together in parts of Central America, and this pairing might make sense here, especially given our scant water supply.
“That’s what we’re here to investigate!” laughs Karaoghlanian.
“If they could coexist, use the same fertilizer, use the same amount of water — maybe just a little bit more — then it makes sense to put these crops together,” says Swanson.
Right now, Ruskey’s getting the best price for his beans in Europe and Japan. He’s selling coffee plant starts from his greenhouse to other California farmers, and will process their beans after harvest.
“I look forward to the day when I can cup a California coffee from Santa Barbara against a California coffee in Temecula. We’ll have a little contest, meet together, invite our friends,” Ruskey says with a grin.
This may happen soon: Ruskey is already working with farmers in Morro Bay and San Diego County.