Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your Daily Caffeine Fix

Many of us need a cup of coffee to get our days started (I'm actually more a tea person...), so much to the point that it really has become ingrained in our culture. Everyone knows the Folger's jingle; Starbucks sits on every corner; the default meet-up is grabbing coffee. In fact, 400 million cups of coffee are consumed every day in the United States ... our population is 300 million.

Coffee has made an appearance before, when I blogged about the sustainability of the commodity. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight A month ago, the Nourishing the Planet blog showcased wild coffee in Ethiopia, the location of origin for this prized bean. In the highland forests of Southern Ethiopia, local people have harvested, roasted, ground, and brewed wild coffee for thousands of years. The post tells the story of a region under threat from deforestation, population growth, and climate change - and the efforts by organizations such as Slow Food International to preserve these rare varieties.

But such a geographically-specific bean is not going to satisfy the crowds clamouring for a Starbucks trenta. At the same time, we can't afford the deforestation and exploitation of low-wage labor associated with coffee production. In response to this, certification schemes and sustainable agriculture projects have been implemented, scaled up, and marketed as a niche product. With any eco-label, the actual impact on the ground is questionable. However, a study in 2007 in Latin America concluded that a combination of organic, fair-trade, and shade-grown certifications yield the broadest set of benefits. Finding such a coffee is not easy, but there are a few out there*...
So, once you've identified a preferred sustainable coffee, you can make some tasty goodies to go along with your morning java.

Jump-Start Cupcakes (8-10 cupcakes gf/vg)

1 cup almond meal
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 shots espresso (about 4oz coffee)
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Mix together almond meal, rice flour, tapioca, xanthan gum, baking soda and powder, salt and sugar. Pour in coffee - it is fine if it's still hot. Also add the oil.
2. Combine only until all dry ingredients incorporated. Add the vinegar and mix one last time.
3. Slop into muffin tins. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, straight. Do Not Open Oven Door!!! I did this and they fell!
4. Remove when they past the clean knife test. All to cool before piping on some chocolate frosting.

I topped these babies with some of Ricki's Chocolate Buttercream! No one has yet been able to guess the key ingredient...

Anywho, you can see that coffee has its sinister side, and even a sweet side. Care to grab a cuppa coffee?

Coffee Shop Reading Material:
* Organic, Fair-Trade, Shade-Grown Coffees: there are a lot of small roasters out there certified in all three. Look for the organic, fair trade (such as TransFair or Fair Trade Federation), and Rainforest Alliance or Smithsonian Bird Friendly labels. Small cooperatives are starting to gain steam in both coffee and cocoa, and are considered more sustainable in some schools of thought.

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