Jun 11, 2013

Caffeine Withdrawal, Intoxication now defined disorders

Caffeine

Caffeine has been described as the most widely used and most popular drug in the world, and as with all drugs, there is some potential for addiction. If you are a regular coffee drinker and typically have a few cups a day, you know that going without can result in bad headaches, as well as a feeling of tiredness. For some people, however, these symptoms can be severe. In the new edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, both caffeine intoxication and withdrawal are included as mental disorders. They aren’t always severe enough to be a true mental disorder for most of us, but they are termed this way because they can actually be significant enough to “impair a person’s ability to function in daily life” in some (fortunately relatively rare) cases.

Caffeine intoxication is also known as an overdose of caffeine. Symptoms can include jitters and increased heart rate. Withdrawal typically is associated with intense head pain and sometimes flu-like symptoms. Caffeine is still associated with plenty of health benefits, but since it is appearing in more and more products – such as energy drinks and foods, in addition to coffee and tea – people sometimes do consume more than they are aware of and labeling these two conditions can help bring a little more awareness to consumption.

Jun 5, 2013

Starbucks aims to raise the bar for croissants

French Croissants

Most of the croissants that you can get at American coffee shops are large, soft things that are buttery tasting but bear little resemblance to the ultra-flaky croissants you’ll find at French cafes and bakeries. The soft pastries are mass produced and inexpensive, while the French style pastries tend to be made by hand by artisans and they come in smaller sizes with a higher price tag. Starbucks has been stocking an acceptable American-style croissant for years, but they are aiming to improve their offerings in the future.

Last year, Starbucks acquired San Francisco bakery chain La Boulange, which has been turning out deliciously authentic pastries since the first one opened 1999. The acquisition of the bakery came after a meeting with the owner turned into a conversation about was that Starbucks pastries could stand out from the crowd. La Boulange was already raising the bar on bulk-baked pastries by producing artisan quality goods in the San Francisco plant. Starbucks ended up purchasing the whole business for $100 million.

The plan now is to use the San Francisco plant as a headquarters, not only to churn out pastries for the West coast, but to use as a model for other facilities across the country. Starbucks aims to have their products produced close to their stores so that they arrive as fresh as possible, and the key with this new venture – in the words of Nicolas Bernardi, the French-born manager of La Boulange’s marketing and product development, “to see if the managers are the kind who ‘want to grow and learn’ or the kind who are content to just ‘vomit products.’” so that every pastry that makes it to a Starbucks store will be as good as the ones headed to La Boulange locations.

May 31, 2013

NY does not ♥ coffee shop’s logo

Everyman

New York has the most iconic logo of any state: I ♥ NY. It is known around the world – and it is also often copied by fans who love it’s short, sweet message, which was created by created by Milton Glaser in the mid-1970s. New York is also very diligent about following up on instances of trademark infringement when people are caught using their trademarked logo, and that includes asking a New York City coffee shop to stop using a version of it on their merchandise.

The owner of Everyman Espresso has “I <coffee cup> NY” inked on his fingers (pictured above) and this found its way onto the merchandise inside the East Village coffee shop over the years. The state asked them to cease and desist – and the shop shelved their merchandise in order to comply with the state’s request. Customers, however, are less eager to see the state’s side of things and have launched social media campaigns to bring back the cup logo, saying that there is no way that the red cup featured on the coffee shop’s merchandise could be confused with the heart in the state’s logo. It remains to be seen whether the logo will make it back into circulation.

May 30, 2013

What is Fair Trade Coffee?

Fair Trade

Fair trade is a term that is often tossed around in coffee shops, but it is often not often well explained. Fair trade coffee is coffee that has been certified to be produced and marketed to a certain set of standards that ensures things like fair prices and improved living conditions for the farmers behind coffee production.

Fair trade is an accepted term in the industry, but there is not one set of standards that is universally recognized as fair trade because there are several different groups that oversee fair trade production and certify it. The biggest fair trade certification is run by Fairtrade International and coffee producers pay the organization a fee for the right to use their logo, in addition to ensuring that their standards of production and sale are met. For Fairtrade International, this includes assurances that the coffee is produced by a democratically run cooperative, without child labor, there are restrictions on the use of pesticides, and that certain price standards are met. Producers of fair trade coffees can sell their coffee as Fairtrade certified or not, depending on market demand.

There have been many criticisms of the fair trade certification schemes, mostly citing a lack of evidence that poor farmers are really reaping benefits from being part of the system, though it is generally viewed in a positive light. A lack of overall transparency in the certification schemes, few clear standards of production and inconsistent pricing guidelines are often issues of contention. On top of that, consumers are not well enough educated about what fair trade coffee is, so they don’t know where the money may (or may not) be going and whether it is worth the premium that they pay at a pricey coffee shop.

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