I will admit that I’m not the most skilled latte artist out there when it comes to free-pouring rosettes and such, but I do like to practice even though my creations sometimes look a little on the abstract side. I can make some darn good microfoam, though, and will often opt for etched latte art – made using a toothpick – to decorate my drinks. This lion is a recent favorite of mine and I’m pretty sure that he makes the drinks taste even better.
I always love to hear good news about research that reveals new potential health benefits of coffee (or tea, of course), because I don’t want to cut back on my coffee consumption. It also never hurts to feel like you’re doing something good for yourself by pouring another cup during the day. A recent study focused on older adults found that regular coffee drinkers who drank four or more cups a day were at a much lower risk of depression than non-coffee drinkers. This was particularly true of the non-drinkers who consumed a lot of artificially sweetened beverages, since that was linked to the highest risk of depression in this particular study. There are many other factors that could start to explain these findings, but the preliminary results of the study – which was large and, unusually, focused primarily on older people in the IS – are very interesting. The results were released by the American Academy of Neurology and the study was led by Dr. Honglei Chen, an investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Coffee and caffeine have already been linked to a happier and more optimistic outlook on life in other studies, so lowering the risk of depression may not be too much of a stretch.
The popular independent coffee chain, Intelligentsia, is planning to expand its reach a little further this year. The Chicago-based coffee company already has several locations in Chicago and Los Angeles, and distributes its fresh-roasted coffee to numerous stores, such as Whole Foods, all over the country. The cafes are known for their coffee loving, independent minded customers (and, in LA, a very high number of hipsters filling their tables) and their skilled baristas. This expansion includes one store in New York and one in San Francisco, connected to their roasting facility in Potrero Hill. They’ll also own three new locations in the Chicago area. Fans of the coffee beans will definitely want to stop in to the cafes for the atmosphere and a cup perfectly prepared to Intelligentsia’s high standards.
A handful of Starbucks stores across the country are getting a new program: Starbucks Evenings. These cafe locations will now be serving wine, beer and a variety of snacks to compliment them in the evenings, from 4pm to closing time. Starbucks says that “After 4 p.m., you’ll experience a more mellow, less hurried atmosphere perfect for winding down” and be able to get a glass of wine and a bite to eat someplace other than a bar or a traditional restaurant. You will still be able to get all of the usual coffee drinks and pastries, but you’ll now also have options that include truffled mac and cheese, cheese plates and chocolate fondue with a variety of dipping options. The wine selection isn’t as extensive as you’d find at a wine bar, but it is curated to provide a range of reds, whites and even sweet, sparkling wines that should offer something for everyone.
The Evenings program is definitely not going to be available at all Starbucks locations, but more stores will be launching the program as the year wears on. The stores where you’ll see this catch on are large stores, with plenty of seating and a customer base that already likes to hang out and relax in the cafe – a lot like many of the stores that offer Clover machines at the moment.
Currently, there are stores in Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and in Dulles Airport in Washington DC. There are also two stores in the LA area and I will post a review as soon as I have a chance to visit one. I’m definitely curious to try a little wine before my coffee in the evenings – especially if I’m in the cafe doing a little blogging!