Some musings to welcome 2012

A new year has arrived! Did you wake up this morning feeling much different than yesterday (and I’m not just talking about a post-party hangover)? For some people, the new year is a time to reflect and make big plans for the year. It’s a chance to start over again with a fresh slate. For me, the calendar changes, but not much else.

Remembrances and Predictions

One year ago today, I posted a review of the Spunky Monkey, one of Portland’s quirkiest and weirdest hippie cafes. I don’t know if the café made it into the upcoming season of Portlandia, but it would certainly fit right in.

The past year was full of news of economic stagnation, natural disasters (especially the major Japanese earthquake), and an Arab spring which captured the world’s attention. We saw the end of several dictators in 2011 (hooray!), but with their demise came uncertainty about what the future holds. Hopefully whatever replaces them will be an improvement.

Most of the world economy is still struggling along and in the US, many people are out of work or working bad jobs just to get by.  Optimistic economists say things are going to get a little better in 2012, but it will be a slow grind upward. Europe is going to have a hard year. The effects of European austerity measures will be on display for all to see.

In the US, 2012 is going to be a busy year. If you haven’t heard there is a presidential election coming up. I predict that Obama narrowly defeats Romney for the presidency, and those in power will continue to avoid making important decisions unless a catastrophe is imminent. Feel free to share your own predictions.

Coffee in PDX

The upcoming year will be a big one for coffee in Portland. For a few days in April, the specialty coffee world will revolve around the Rose City (then again, doesn’t it already?). The SCAA is holding its annual gathering at the Convention Center from April 12-17. Around town, you might see more coffee nerds than usual discussing the finer points of various brewing methods or arguing over which espresso machine has the best technology.   

The US Barista Championship coincides with the convention, so the best of the country’s best baristas will be in town. It will be fun to see how Portland’s finest stack up with the rest of the country. My prediction? One of Portlands’s best (Sam Purvis, Ryan Willbur or Laila Ghambari, perhaps?) will bring home the national championship and go on to represent the US at the World Barista Championship in Vienna, Austria.


I don’t like resolutions that much, but I’m going to make one anyway. First, I want to get back to posting more regularly. The last few months, the number of posts have decreased significantly. I sat down to write the other day and remembered how much I enjoy the writing process, so I want to do more of that this year.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on preparing our next Harada Method course, coming up January 16th-18th (there are still slots available). We have reworked the training materials to give them a better flow and make them more professional. My spare time has also been filled with hours of guitar practice. My goal is to have an hour-long show prepared by June 1st. After that, the onus will be on me to find a place to perform it. The thought of performing makes me nervous, but each day I convince myself a bit more that I can do it. Actually doing it will be a big victory.

Do you have any big plans for the year? Something exciting like traveling around the world or starting a new career project?


Over the last year, I met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot about coffee.  It was fun to share these coffee adventures with you. Thanks for reading, and have a great 2012. 

Vacation caffeination

I’m on vacation the next couple weeks, which really means that I went home to work harvest. If you missed it last year, I wrote a few stories about harvest. Here’s one of my favorites that I wrote while I was in Beijing (link). I’ll try to post a few times while I’m here, spending all day in the field doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing.

Here are a couple links from around the coffee world:

Headed to LA and need some coffee recommendations? Oliver Strand, who writes The New York Times’ Ristretto column, just visited and has some thoughts to share with you. link

Could coffee drinkers finally getting some good news about coffee prices? It appears so, at least if you drink Maxwell House. link All of those recent price hikes? They’re working, at least for shareholders (according to the video embedded in the article).

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz is urging CEOs of American corporations to stop all political campaign donations until Congress starts compromising and coming up with forward-thinking, long-term solutions to our nation’s economic problems.  link [Note how the content of the article was molded to fit the WSJ’s political viewpoint. The CEO quoted in the article was not even a part of Schultz’ group and he was only quoted as concerned with cutting spending.]

I know it’s bad form to answer a question with a question, but the answer to this headline should be, “Will anyone care?” link According to the author, DD’s “pastries and coffee are craved by a large portion of the western United States.”  Really? How many DDs are there in Portland?

And with that, I’m out…

Save it for later

My grandmother was a saver.

When I was growing up, my grandmother, like many of her era, was well-known for saving things. She grew up during the Depression and World War II, and those times left a pretty strong impression on her. Having gone through some pretty lean times, small possessions became more valuable, and Grandma didn’t like to throw anything away, even when she could afford to. She saved greeting cards, paper clips, rubber bands, canisters, cardboard boxes, jars—lots of small items that in today’s throwaway culture we might not think about saving. Some of the stuff she ended up using. The rest of it—well, that’s what the cellar was for.

I’m sure that the Recession has left a considerable impression on many in our country, though probably not quite to the same degree (yet). We still seem to throw away a lot of stuff,  though it does appear that we are holding on longer to our more expensive possessions (e.g., cars).

If one result of the economic turmoil is that we end up buying fewer things and appreciating them more, that would be a good thing. Industry might not agree, but it already produces more stuff than we can buy and keeps trying to sell more to us—on credit.

All that to say, today when I was walking downtown, I saw this and it reminded me of my grandmother. Someone had the idea to make a dress out of used coffee filters. It is an example of saving that even Grandma never would have considered.

The preferred gown for the CoffeeFest Saturday night afterparty

Whether you are a saver or not, I think you can appreciate the effort it took to make the dress. By my estimation, there are about 500 coffee filters in the dress. It was sewn to raise awareness (it worked!) about what happens to all of the coffee filters that are used in this town every day. You can read the description for yourself (click to enlarge).

I’m not suggesting that you start saving your coffee filters to turn them into retro chic clothes (the compost idea sounds like a better use to me—easier, at least), but it might be a good idea to think about what you’re buying beforehand so you don’t just end up throwing a bunch of stuff away.

Or saving it, if you’re like my grandmother. 

Buildings of Grandeur

The airport terminal at San Francisco is gargantuan. Walking into the terminal check-in area, you are immediately struck by how much space is all around you. It feels like you are up in the sky. You feel insignificant. It is simply nearly impossible to see from one end to the other. It is like walking into an old, majestic field house that hosted the basketball team at your alma mater (or the indoor track team, if you went to WSU). Your eyes are drawn upward toward the ceiling, where light gray massive steel girders, hoisted on massive round white cement pillars float lazily overhead. On one side, the windows reach all the way up to the ceiling giving the terminal an open airy feel that contrasts with the massive structure surrounding you.

If PDX claims to be an international airport, SFO actually feels like one. Apart from its sheer size, the diversity of the people traveling is much greater. From Sikhs to sheiks, every type of language, country and culture is on display. If you sit at a café for 15 minutes and watch people pass by, you will have no shortage of entertainment trying to guess where each person comes from. SFO is like a smaller version of the UN, except that the people get along better in SFO, if only because they have to in order to reach their destinations.

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