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Category Archives: caffeine

The small matter of integrity

Recently I was approached by a guy I met briefly several years ago when we were setting up Dr. Coffee’s Café – he (or at least, someone on his team) actually designed our logo and signage for us. I remembered him because he was very personable, seemed like the type who ought to be the patron of some amateur theatre troupe. And also because we had a meeting in Robin’s, where the coffee was so bad I threw up in the bathroom (mainly due to pregnancy, I should add). Anyway, that was early 2015. I am amazed he remembered me!

He is no longer making signs. Instead, he wanted to talk to me about an amazing business opportunity. Alarm bells rang. I am wary about that sort of sales pitch. However, he told me it was coffee related, so always worth checking out, I reckon.

230px-instant_coffee

Coffee in the very loosest sense, apparently. The poor guy has got himself mixed up with Valentus. It’s one of those MLM schemes and he was trying to recruit me into the bottom of a strangely triangular type of business model, if you get my drift. The product that allows you “an opportunity for an extraordinary life” and a global business that you can run from home, with the chance to make 6-figure monthly incomes, is called Slim-Roast. This magical substance is part energy-drink, part weight-loss supplement and part soluble coffee.

Not one part of that last sentence enamors me to the product.

According to Valentus’ website, this drink powder is

Great for:

  • Controls appetite
  • Regulates sugar absorption
  • Regulates fat absorption
  • Promotes brain health and focus
  • Elevates mood
  • Antioxidant

Aside from the obvious grammar error, black coffee manages all of that on its own with neither the bizarre additives nor the hefty price tag.  Apparently though, this is coffee mixed with green tea extract, l-theanine (also a green tea extract) and cacoa (raw chocolate) AND added caffeine. This all produces a substance with 127mg of caffeine for every 8oz fluid ounces, which is roughly double the strength of a can of Red Bull, but without the sugar.

As I have said before, caffeine itself doesn’t actually give you an energy boost (you get that from the sugar in most energy drinks). Instead, you feel more alert after a caffeine boost because caffeine molecules inhibit adenosine receptors in the brain, which are the bit that makes you feel tired. You’re not actually any less tired if you drink coffee, you just don’t feel it until your body metabolises the caffeine. Caffiene already does all the other stuff to some extent: it’s a minor appetitie supressent, it boosts your mood and helps you focus, keeps your brain healthy and can boost your metabolism. But in excess it leads to anxiety, insomnia and hypertension. There is no good reason to add more caffeine to an already beneficial caffeinated drink.

The green tea, the cacao and then ‘green coffee bean extract’ AND extra chlorogenic acid (again with the overkill) are all supposed to increase your anti-oxident intake. It’s also, somehow, made soluable. I wrote about why this is bollocks here.

There is also ‘Garcinia Cambogia’ (tamarind, in other words) which is touted as another appetite suppressant, and Phaseolamin (derived from cannelli beans) that apparently stops your guts from digesting some starches so they pass through you without you taking in so many calories. The key bit there is ‘passing through you’. What is another thing coffee is well known for? Making you poop. The coffee and the raw coffee extract, the tamarind, the phaseolamin and the other superfluous additives come together to form one big … laxative. I guess that would help you lose weight then.

YUCK.

Inevitably though, the product is NOT the main focus of this enterprise. No, this guy was not looking to sell Slim Roast to me, he wanted to recruit me to sell it to other people. I’d have to agree to buy a certain amount from Valentus, and I’d only start getting commission on it if I sell a specific amount every month. The real money only starts when you recruit four people, as you then get commission off their sales too. Ignoring the way the products play in to the cult of being busy, fetishizing stress and the need for constant energy and alertness, or preying on people’s body insecurities (yeah, I really don’t like this stuff!) – someone, somewhere is going to get ripped off. The whole thing relies on people feeding money upwards, and not everyone is going to succeed.

As this guy correctly points out, coffee, weight loss products and energy drinks are all massive global industries right now. I am sure there is a huge market out there for this stuff, somewhere. But it’s not a market I want to step foot into. I am a coffee geek, that’s my passion. I don’t think I am capable of selling anything I don’t believe in, and putting my name to any sort of psuedoscience-hyped coffee derivitive would be the ultimate sell-out. I’ve accepted the fact that my business passion projects are never going to make me rich, and that is fine. I’d much rather be poor and drink real coffee!!

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All hail Kaldi, discoverer of the black drink of happiness.


Once upon a time, in ancient Ethiopia, Kaldi the goat herder sat, no doubt picking his nose or dreaming of that really beautiful ewe he saw in the market last week, or whatever 16th century goat herders usually did while sitting in a field full of goats.

This was no ordinary day, however. Today, the noise of frantic bleating drove Kaldi to get up from his comfy rock and check on his subjects. The goats were acting strangely; their already-mad yellow eyes were stretched wide and darting about uncomfortably. Some were dancing manically, to music no sober mortal could hear.. others were eating the ancient african equivalent of hot water bottles. The head Ram had just completed a phenomenally complex and ground breaking PhD thesis in a little over three hours, which sadly Kaldi didn’t even notice in all the comotion.

The centre of the bedlam seemed to be coming from a small shrub, with dark waxy leaves and bright red berries. Some of the kids were skipping round it excitedly, then taking large bites, chewing the tasty-looking red cherries.

Instead of rounding up the goats and sending them home for the night, possibly with mugs of horlicks and security blankets, as all good goat herders should, Kaldi decided to find out what all the fuss was about. Grabbing a handful of cherries, he chewed them slowly, wincing at the intensely bitter flavour. The cherries had small green seeds in the centre. These were good. You couldn’t chew on them, they were far too hard. Kaldi didn’t want to swallow them either; even he knew that goats could digest things far better than humans could. But sucking on the hard little green things was very pleasant. Not too bitter, just, nice. Exciting even. Yes, he could take to these. In fact, he was goingtogoandtelleveryoneallaboutitrightnow! Yes! He’druntothevillagerightnow and hemightevendoalittledancejusttocelebrate! Woohoo! Ow. now his head hurt. Butitsstillgood! yusyusyus!

Kaldi abandoned his goats, with no thought to their welfare, and bounced energetically off to the village, where he confidently ran up to the local Imam.
“Hey!” he panted, “Igotthese aaaaaaamazing beans! They’re brilliant! you can chewtheredbits and suckonthegreen bits and they make you wannadanceandsingandstuff!”

The Imam gave the manic fool a whithering look. Having mentally slowed down that sentence, he eventually patted Kaldi patronisingly on the head, and calmly told him he must be possessed by an evil spirit. The red cherries were obviously designed by the devil to tempt gullible souls, and therefore must be disposed of accordingly.

Kaldi ran home, fuming, humiliated and nursing the world’s first caffeine come-down. The goats could not sympathise. The small, seldolm used walnut thing that rattled about behing their yellow eyes seemed to be aching. This was far too much for your average cloven lawnmower to comprehend.

The Imam, however, in an act of incredibly fortunate but righteous stupidity, threw the cherries on to the fire. They cracked and popped, and turned a deep, shiny brown colour. The resulting aroma was intoxicating, almost like luxurious incense. This couldn’t possibly be the work of the devil. The beans must be divine, and the resulting drink a gift from God himself…

Ok, so this is an example of artistic license rather than historical integrety, but you get the general idea! And I much prefer this version of events.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2007 in caffeine, coffee, Ethiopia, goats, Kaldi, legend, Yemen

 

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Coffee (part 2)

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and as sweet as love

That is a Turkish proverb, apparently, but it could also be Latino, or possibly even Geordie! I once had an Amazing Day Out with a good friend, apparently part of my ‘training’, and after that I think I can now safely call myself an espresso gourmet, or at least, a coffee geek.
Off we toddled to The Big Coffee Factory In The Sky (which, ok, isn’t big and is in Blaydon, Newcastle, not the sky) and got officially tutored in the art of making the perfect espresso. It was so much fun!!! Sounds silly, especially given my job, but I had no idea at all of the complexities involved in the perfect brew. The guy teaching us, just called ‘Jim’ is apparently the 7th Best Barista in the World. That’s quite a title – I wasn’t even aware that there were competitions for that sort of thing. He is Master of the Chrome Monstrosity. Yay Jim.
Anyway, The Perfect Espresso not only has to be brewed for the correct amount of time (25 seconds ish), it also has to have the correct water pressure (30 bars?) and the right amount of coffee (14g for the double shots we use at Voodoo cafe), and, even more complicatedly, the correct grind – finer for espresso makers, coarser for cafetieres, and so on. The final product has to be served as fresh as possible, and it should be thick – not watery (too bitter) or syrupy (too burnt-tasting). And it should have a decent, brown crema on the top. If the crema is pale then its under-extracted or something. This is Just the espresso – we also got to hear about correct procedure for frothing milk too which took another hour or so…
I daren’t mention the existence of my own inventions – Ubercoffee (three espressos, made palatable by copious amounts of cocoa) and Love Potion (essentially, pink cappuccino) since the resident gourmets probably would’ve had heart attacks and /or banished the cretinous heathen to the underworld of Starschmucks forever.

I feel all excited about Life and Work, because it’s yet another New Thing I’ve learnt, and Caffe Nero is the only chain of coffee shops that is staffed by enthusiastic people trained by world class baristas. Costa (Fortune) Coffee has nothing on us…..The Nero’s stuff is all fair trade or better than fair trade, mainly from Brazil, but I am battling with them to get them to stock Donna’ coffee from Building New hope in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan coffee, incidently, is served up very very strong, very black and very sweet – brewed with love, hell and death, I’m sure. Beginning to think extending that simile is a bad idea now….

 

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