Archive for April, 2010

SAGADA, the Philippines — Goad Sibayan went prospecting recently in the remote Philippine highlands here known as the Cordillera. He clambered up and then down a narrow, rocky footpath that snaked around some hills, paying no heed to coffins that, in keeping with a local funeral tradition, hung very conspicuously from the surrounding sheer cliffs.

The New York Times

More than 30 families are involved in the civet coffee business in Liwa.

Reaching a valley where coffee trees were growing abundantly, he scanned the undergrowth where he knew the animals would relax after picking the most delicious coffee cherries with their claws and feasting on them with their fangs. His eyes settled on a light, brownish clump atop a rock. He held it in his right palm and, gently slipping it into a little black pouch, whispered:


Not quite. But Mr. Sibayan’s prize was the equivalent in the world of rarefied coffees: dung containing the world’s most expensive coffee beans.

Costing hundreds of dollars a pound, these beans are found in the droppings of the civet, a nocturnal, furry, long-tailed catlike animal that prowls Southeast Asia’s coffee-growing lands for the tastiest, ripest coffee cherries. The civet eventually excretes the hard, indigestible innards of the fruit — essentially, incipient coffee beans — though only after they have been fermented in the animal’s stomach acids and enzymes to produce a brew described as smooth, chocolaty and devoid of any bitter aftertaste.

As connoisseurs in the United States, Europe and East Asia have discovered civet coffee in recent years, growing demand is fueling a gold rush in the Philippines and Indonesia, the countries with the largest civet populations. Harvesters are scouring forest floors in the Philippines, where civet coffee has emerged as a new business. In Indonesia, where the coffee has a long history, enterprising individuals are capturing civets and setting up minifarms, often in their backyards.

Neither the Indonesian government nor the Association of Indonesia Coffee Exporters breaks down civet coffee’s tiny share of Indonesia’s overall coffee production. The Association of Indonesian Coffee Luwak Farmers, created in 2009 to handle the rising demand for civet coffee, or kopi luwak, as it is called in Indonesian, said most civet producers were small-time businessmen who exported directly overseas.

Given the money at stake, fake and low-grade civet coffee beans are also flooding the market.

“Because of its increasing popularity, there is more civet coffee than ever, but I don’t trust the quality,” said Rudy Widjaja, 68, whose 131-year-old family-owned coffee store in Jakarta, Warung Tinggi, is considered Indonesia’s oldest.

Competition is touching off fierce debates. What is real civet coffee, anyway? Does the civet’s choice of beans make the coffee? Or is it the beans’ journey through the animal’s digestive tract? Can the aroma, fragrance and taste of beans from the droppings of a caged civet ever be as tasty as those from its wild cousin?

Vie Reyes, whose Manila-based company, Bote Central, entered the civet coffee business five years ago, said she bought only from harvesters of the wild kind. Ms. Reyes exports to distributors overseas — Japan and South Korea are her biggest markets — and also directly sells 2.2-pound bags for $500, or about $227 a pound.

Maintaining quality was a constant challenge because distinguishing the real stuff from the fake was never easy. One time, harvesters sold her regular beans glued to unidentified dung.

“I washed it,” she said. “But the glue wouldn’t come off.”

One of her suppliers, Mr. Sibayan, 37, buys beans from collectors throughout the Cordillera, a mountainous region in the north that can be reached only after a punishing 12-hour drive from Manila. On a recent day, he dropped by to see the Pat-ogs, who own a 1.7-acre lot just outside this town.

Until Mr. Sibayan began buying their civet coffee four years ago, the Pat-ogs had never given much thought to the droppings left behind by the civets that came to munch on the family’s coffee trees at night. They discarded the beans or mixed them with regular beans they sold to agents. Now, they were getting about $9 a pound for the civet beans, or about five times the price of regular coffee beans, which, furthermore, required labor-intensive harvesting.



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LONDON, UK, April 15, 2010 (ENS) – A towering cloud of volcanic ash from the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland has spread across much of northern Europe, halting air traffic in eight European countries.

Since the eruption Wednesday, thousands of flights have been grounded, stranding many thousand passengers in Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Air traffic officials say they cannot say when the airspace will be clear enough to fly again.

The last major eruption of this volcano in southern Iceland lasted for two years – from 1821 to 1823.

Plume of ash from the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland rises above the cloud layer. (Photo courtesy Icelandic Coast Guard)

Today, the ash plume rises at least eight kilometers (five miles) above the Atlantic Ocean. The plume is near the flight paths for most routes from the United States Atlantic coast to European destinations.

Pilots can never fly through clouds of volcanic ash because these bits of pulverized rock and glass can melt in aircraft engines, causing power loss. The ash can damage aircraft electronic, hydraulic, ventilation, and data systems. Sulfur dioxide, another product of volcanoes also carried within the ash clouds following an eruption, is corrosive to aircraft.

Britain’s National Air Traffic Service advises that restrictions will remain in place in UK airspace until 1300 (UK time) Friday, at the earliest.

However, flights from Northern Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick may be allowed in the period from 0100 to 1300 (UK time) Friday subject to individual co-ordination. North Atlantic traffic to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick and Belfast may also be allowed in the period, NATS said in an advisory statement.

European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas, who is responsible for transport said today, “The volcanic ash cloud is a very significant threat to air safety. National authorities are required to take decisions to ensure safety under international law, such as closure of airspace and airports, without discrimination between airlines.”

“In this case, the airports and those responsible for air traffic control have taken very swift and appropriate action to safeguard the public. And there is excellent co-ordination and co-operation at European level, notably within Eurocontrol,” said Kallas.

“This is a situation which is causing immense difficulties for passengers travelling throughout Europe. It can be considered a very exceptional circumstance. Nevertheless, it is important to remind passengers and airlines that EU passenger rights do apply in this situation,” Kallas said.

He reminded stranded passengers that they have the right to receive information from airlines, “on your rights, on the situation as it evolves, cancellations and length of delays.”

Passengers have the right to care such as refreshments, meals, and accommodation. And passengers have the right to chose between reimbursement of fares or be re-routed to final destination, Kallas said.

Streaks of ashy clouds cross the sunset sky in The Netherlands. April 15, 2010 (Photo by 1banaan)

“In an exceptional circumstance such as this, passengers are not, however, entitled to additional financial compensation that would be the case where delays or cancellations are the fault of the airline,” he said.

Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, said that today’s main north Atlantic east bound flow of aircraft arrived at European airports with little disruption.

Routes to handle the afternoon westbound flow have been moved to the south to avoid the volcanic ash zone, but it is expected that this flow of traffic will be disrupted.

Regular teleconferences attended by air navigation service providers, airport authorities, airlines and Eurocontrol’s Central Flow Management Unit are being held to advise all parties of the status of air traffic.

Passengers seeking information on flights should contact their airline or airport.

At 1,666 meters (5,465 feet) in height, Eyjafjallajokull is one of Iceland’s smaller glaciers. The current eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes starting in early March, and a small eruption on March 20.

Wednesday’s eruption is below the highest peak of Eyjafjallajokull, at the southern rim of the caldera. The Icelandic Met Office says, “No lava is seen yet but melt-water flows both north and south of the mountain.”

Icelandic authorities evacuated some 800 residents from around the glacier as rivers rose by up three meters (10 feet).

Previous eruptions in the area have caused flooding due to the melting of glacial ice, but scientists say the current eruption is in an area covered by winter snow, not permanent ice.

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LONDON (AFP) – Scottish health authorities warned people Thursday to beware of possible health problems from ash falling to the ground over northern Britain following a volcano eruption in Iceland.

Shetland Islands for a time this afternoon when we had some very small deposits of dust,” said Met Office forecaster John Hammond.

“Over the next few days or so, with winds as they are, there is a chance we will see some small deposits but these will be quite difficult to see.

“It might be easiest to see anything that comes out of the sky on cars because the amounts will be very small.”

Fallout from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southeast Iceland threw up a huge cloud of ash across northern Europe, prompting authorities to close the airspace in Britain and at least seven other countries.

The volcano fallout is unlikely to pose a major health risk, but people should watch out for symptoms including itchy eyes or a sore throat, said Health Protection Scotland.

“Updated information on weather patterns in the UK now indicates that volcanic ash associated with the current eruption in Iceland will reach ground level over the UK, starting in Scotland this evening before moving south over the course of the night,” said a Health Protection Scotland statement.

“It is important to stress that the concentration of particles which does reach ground level is likely to be low and should not cause serious harm.”

But it said: “if people are outside this evening and notice symptoms such as itchy or irritated eyes, runny nose, sore throat or dry cough, or if they notice a dusty haze in the air or can smell sulphur, rotten eggs … they may wish to limit their activities outdoors or return indoors.”

The British Met Office however downplayed the risk, saying any ash that did fall to the ground would be barely visible.

“There’s always been a small chance of it reaching the ground. It happened over the 

Shetland Islands for a time this afternoon when we had some very small deposits of dust,” said Met Office forecaster John Hammond.

“Over the next few days or so, with winds as they are, there is a chance we will see some small deposits but these will be quite difficult to see.

“It might be easiest to see anything that comes out of the sky on cars because the amounts will be very small.”

Fallout from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southeast Iceland threw up a huge cloud of ash across northern Europe, prompting authorities to close the airspace in Britain and at least seven other countries.

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Volcano Ash

It is very strange, living near one of the busiest airports in the world, not to have one airplane in the air!  Airports are closed everywhere with thousands of people stranded, waiting……..waiting, for this to pass.   The sky is becoming dark here in Schiedam.  What happened to our beautiful spring sunshine?

They are saying it will pass by late afternoon.  I do hope so.

I am so glad that I am not traveling at the moment!  My what a mess!  And there is absolutely nothing that anyone can do but wait.  Mother Nature is in control at the moment.

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Participants in the United States Barista Championship at the Specialty Coffee Association of America expo are finding themselves going up against some tough judges.

Baristas make specialty coffees like espresso and cappuccino, along with specialty coffees of their own concoction.

The 58 baristas get 15 minutes to prepare and serve four espressos, four cappuccinos and four of their own drinks to the seven judges during the four-day competition at the Anaheim Convention Center.

They are judged in terms of quality of the drinks, cleanliness, technical skills and overall presentation.

After the first round, the contestants are whittled down to a semi-final, with the finals and awards on Sunday, the last day of the exposition.

Mokk-a’s Cafe Italia!  Winner and still the champion!!


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Taste Texas Gold! Texas wineries won 22 medals at The Dallas Morning News Wine Competition – including 3 Golds! Meet our local winemakers and food producers, and sample the cream of the crop. World-class quality, friendly Texas atmosphere, great wines, and live music. Wear ‘Western Chic’ and shop the products presented by local food artisans. Hosted by Cathy Barber, Wine and Food Editor of The Dallas Morning News.

Taste the perfection of Mokk-a’s collection of European coffees!  www.mokk-a.com ABSOLUTELY ADDICTING!!

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Milwaukee’s Common Council has agreed to the use of industrial bonds to help a coffee company expand. 

Alterra Coffee Roasters wants to upgrade its local operations, including, creating a bakery and café in an old bank building in Bay View. The council voted today in favor of issuing Industrial Revenue Bonds, so Alterra could get a lower interest rate from lenders.
The vote came despite Alderman Jim Bohl’s concerns that the bonds are designed for manufacturers.
“Do not think that ultimately you may not have someone say, I went to a conventional lender and they’re not providing. I’m looking to create a larger restaurant and we manufacture food,” Bohl said.

The City Attorney’s Office indicate the bond use is legal. Alderman Tony Zielinski says that’s good enough for him. 

“Everybody knows how difficult it is to get a number of these economic development projects going. Everybody’s hurting. And to have a four million dollar project take place in a vacant store front property, I think, is something that is very positive,” Zielinski said.

Alterra’s plan includes upgrading its facilities in Grafton and Shorewood.

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