Green Coffee, Great Time …

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Merchants of Green CoffeeYesterday was my dad’s birthday. My dad loves his coffee. Really loves his coffee. He can drink a coffee before bed and be fine. Always has. One of my favourite memories as a child is the sound of the milk being frothed for his cappuccino as I fell asleep. So today, as a surprise, my mom – who is never short on interesting ideas and fun adventures to go on – gathered a bunch of close friends and family at a rather fitting location – the home of the Merchants of Green Coffee.

We gathered for some snacks and nibblies and talked and caught up and wished my dad a happy birthday – and then it began … the history of coffee 101. Our host was a walking encyclopedia of information about the 2nd largest commodity industry in the world next to oil (over 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year). He began by giving us a very concise and fascinating look into the history of coffee. Its origins begin in Ethiopia where they have an entire ceremony built around coffee.

Ethiopia is the cradle of humanity and birthplace of the arabica coffee tree (coffea arabica). Green coffee beans are crushed by tribes people and mixed with animal fat as a food source for long expeditions.

You’d never think it, but coffee has an incredibly fascinating history! I would suggest you take a look at the Merchants website about the history of the drink – which is the second most consumed beverage after tap water (!). So there we were, all 20 of us sitting around tables with five mugs in front of us – one for water to clean our spoon, one for drinking water to cleanse the pallete, and three for various types of coffee that were going to taste. The main reason the Merchants exist is to promote and educate consumers about fair trade and organic coffee.

Our mantra is Fresh Coffee, Fair Trade, Green Business. Merchants of Green Coffee strives to be a sustainable company – a business that creates financial and social wealth without degrading the productive and aesthetic capacity of the environment for both present and future generations. Essentially, we look at the triple bottom line; equal treatment of the economic, social and environmental components of trade. We exist to re-acquaint coffee drinkers to the wonderful taste of fresh roasted coffee using beans brought to market under sustainable conditions.

The Merchants subscribe to a mantra for coffee that has three key points noted here: 3 Keys to great coffee

We were all fascinated by what our host had to say. He jumped back and forth through time, threw out facts left, right and centre, but it all made sense and came together in the end. For example, Mocha Java – which for most of us North Americans means a blend of coffee and hot chocolate (or something similar), is actually two different types of coffees from two different regions split 50/50. The Java beans are higher in acidity and less full of body while the beans from the port of Mocha (where the beans were shipped from) are less acidic and more full of body. The combination of these two beans makes for a nice even brew.

Here’s another fascinating fact: Indoensian Monsoon – grown in India (one of the larger producers of coffee beans) – is created by drying the beans (which when done by hand can take up to two weeks), then placed in a large house-like structure with a roof but no walls and left there for another two weeks while the monsoon winds and moisture blow their way into the beans creating a “musty” taste. This process was created as a result in the decline of beans being sold to Europe. You see, when India used to ship their beans to Europe in wooden ships, they were known as one of the best coffee beans in the world because of their taste – which developed whilst at sea in these wooden ships and containers. But then metal ships came along and new ways of transporting the beans and suddenly when the beans arrived in Europe, they no longer had that “musty” taste and were rejected by the Europeans as “not real coffee”. So the process of creating Indonesian Monsoon beans was created!

I’m not retelling the story very well, but trust me – it’s a fascinating story.

The best part of the experience is knowing that the Merchants are here promoting a sustainable way of growing, roasting and distributing a commodity that we all want … they are concerned about the consumer and want the consumers to know how coffee is prepared from the minute it’s picked from the tree to the first sip. Coffee beans, when roasted, are only good for up to 5 days – and then they go stale. And once they’re ground, they’re only good for about 3 days max. So pretty much the coffee that you get at Starbucks, Second Cup – you name it, is not fresh but stale. Not only that, but the environmental impact of growing and roasting these beans is devastating to some of our most precious forests such as the rainforest in Brazil. Here are some interesting facts about the coffee trade:

  • Every cup of coffee consumed destroys roughly three square centimeters of rainforest, making coffee the 2nd leading cause of rainforest destruction.
  • Coffee is the 2nd most heavily pesticide sprayed crop in the world.
  • Coffee is the number one cause of water contamination in most producing regions.
  • Supply chain inequities exploit millions of small subsistence farmers.
  • Small farmers produce the highest quality coffee.
  • Fresh coffee, consumed one to three days after roasting, is dramatically superior in taste to any other coffee.

Fair TradeThere was so much information to soak up over the two hour session – and not a dull moment to be sure. But if anything, I learned that we have to be more conciously aware of the coffee that is being served out there. Look for the Fair Trade sign and organic labels.

There are numerous certification organizations throughout the world. For fair trade, look for coffee certified by members of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) such as TransFair Canada and TransFair USA. For organics, look for coffee certified by members of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movemenbts (IFOAM) such as the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA). For shade and biodiversity, look for coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre (SMBC) and Rainforest Alliance. 

One last tidbit, when you buy your coffee – see if there is a “roasted on” date … if not, you can be sure that the beans in your hands have been sitting there far longer than the 5 day limit.

For more information – definitely check out their website: merchantsofgreencoffee.com. Their location may be a bit out of the way (it’s just north of Queen, west of Broadview – you can see it from the Don Valley), but it’s worth the trip for sure. They do have coffee classes that give you a more indepth look at the trade and bean that has become so imbedded in our culture, and they havea fantastic store set up for you to browse and sample various coffees. You can also become a member of the Merchants and recieve 30lbs of coffee over the year (delivered straight to your door) plus recieve a free roaster of your own! Be sure to check out the many stores around Toronto that offer Fair Trade and organic green coffee beans. There are tons of them out there.

Now if only I drank coffee…


A beautifully crafted Overcoat

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Everyone has a Pokeroo in their lives (someone or something that always seems to elude them no matter how hard they try to find it/see it) – or a Snuffleupagus for our American friends …

The Overcoat adapted by Morris Panych currently playing at CanStage (Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre) has been my Pokeroo since 2000. I remember hearing about when it first premiered in Toronto and thinking “Wow, this sounds like something I’d like to see!” But I missed it then … and then in 2002 when it came back … but now, after years of travelling around the world and mesmerizing audiences internationally it has returned to Toronto and you can be sure that I was not going to miss it this time.

You can imagine my excitement when my invitation to the opening night arrived in the mail – I was on the phone right away to reserve my seats.

This play does not disappoint. I suggest everyone buy a ticket and see some great performances. The play centers around a man who’s life is pretty standard – nothing exceptional. His co-workers bug him because he’s a bit of a “loser”. His landlady continually throws herself at him, but he’s not interested. His life is rather plain – as is his overcoat. But one day – after his coat becomes not much more than a rag hanging off him, he finds a taylor who designs him his very own overcoat – fitted and everything. This is one of the best parts of the play – watching the taylor and the sewers work tirelessly to create this amazing overcoat.

It’s love at first sight. Our protagonist is thrilled with his new coat and so is everyone else. He finally becomes noticed by everyone and is invited to drink and dine with the socialites of the town.

Unfortunately, fame has its price as he soon finds out and the second act takes a decidedly darker turn. While The Overcoat doesn’t end up on the happiest note, it is a wonderful story. One of the things I liked most about this show is the fact that the entire thing is done sans text. It is completely told through movement and music. It’s not a musical, there are no ballads, and it’s not dance per say. The staging of it is incredible, the set is beautiful, lighting superb, the music is fantastic … and the acting is brilliant! I can’t say enough about this show. I love shows that don’t rely on text to tell the story, and this show delivers.

I highly suggest you check it out. You can buy tickets through CanStage or T.O.TIX if you want to try and get some discount tickets – www.totix.ca.


Collective excitement …

Sunday, February 11, 2007

CHAOS COLLECTIVE PRESENTS…

BLIND SUBMISSION:
Reliving the Exquisite Corpse
Created and Performed by Dmitry Chepovetsky, Jenn Griffin, Liesl Lafferty, Heidi Waters

BLIND SUBMISSION is a theatrical creation inspired by the parlor game fashioned by Surrealist Poets called “Exquisite Corpse”. In the game, each person scratches a few words onto a paper without having seen what the last person wrote. The result is a poem that represents the collective unconscious of the group. The name is derived from a phrase when the game was first played in 1925, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.)

For the theatre, the Chaos Collective has adapted the game with a postmodern, deconstructivist twist, creating their own form of Surreality Theatre.
For 28 days, three playwrights, in three different cities, wrote three separate plays. Without a previously determined theme and without having seen each other’s words, the playwrights blindly submitted their contributions to the dramaturge. The dramaturge has collaged the pieces together ignoring constricting rules of modernism including “form follows function” to create theatre that is beautiful and vulnerable.

Surreality Theatre does not only require blind submission from the artists. The Chaos Collective recognizes the audience is also submitting blindly. Therfore, the Chaos Collective is offering 6 “pay-what-you-think-it-is-
worth” performances of BLIND SUBMISSION, February 6 – 8 at 8pm and February 11, 18 and 25 at 4pm. All other performances are $20.

Together for the first time in Toronto, the playwrights will become the actors and the dramaturge will become the director and after two weeks of rehearsal, the audience is invited to witness the extravaganza that is BLIND SUBMISSION!

CHAOS COLLECTIVE PRESENT
BLIND SUBMISSION:
Reliving the Exquisite Corpse
Created and Performed by Dmitry Chepovetsky – Toronto-based Playwright/Actor,
Jenn Griffin – Vancouver-based Playwright/Actor, Liesl Lafferty – Winnipeg-based Dramaturge/Director, Heidi Waters – Montreal-based Playwright/Actor
Choreographed by Patrick Tubajon – Designed by Steve Marsh – Stage Managed by Shauna Japp
The Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen Street West, 416.538.0988
February 6 to February 25, 2007
Previews February 6 – 8 @ 8pm, “pay-what-you-think-it-is-
worth”
Opening Night: Friday, February 9, 2007 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday – Saturday 8pm, all tickets $20 (cash only)
Sunday @ 4pm, “pay-what-you-think-it-is-
worth”
For more information visit http://www.liesllafferty.ca


If my life was a soundtrack …

Saturday, February 10, 2007

This was just sent to me by a friend and it looked like something fun to fill out so here are my answers … what are yours?

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that’s playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don’t lie
7. It ends up being REALLY creepy if you don’t lie!

Opening Credits: Theme of Luxury – Fantastic Plastic Machine

Waking Up: Well Adjusted – MXPX

First Day At School: Angelica – Lamb

Falling In Love: Bunchajerks – Ladybird Sideshow

Fight Song: DarkJagged – Phil Strong

Breaking Up: Halcyon – Chicane

Prom: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles

Life: Birthday Preparation – Yann Tiersen

Mental Breakdown: Weightless – Enigma

Driving: A Case of You – Joni Mitchell

Flashback: Machete – Moby

Getting Back Together: On That First Night – Napoleon The Musical

Wedding: Westwind – Ute Lemper

Birth of Child: You Never Know – Dave Matthews Band

Final Battle: Think – Aretha Franklin

Death Scene: Lifestyle – Good Charlotte

Funeral Song: The Sweetest Thing – Lauren Hill

End Credits: You Don’t Make it Easy Babe – Josh Ritter


Thinking Big About Culture-led Regeneration …

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

This should be an interesting discussion!

Artscape Launches Vision 2011: Thinking Big About Culture-led Regeneration
at Canadian Urban Institute Leadership Forum

Celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, Artscape, a non-profit enterprise regarded as a global leader in the field of culture-led regeneration, co-presents an Urban Leadership Series session of the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) entitled The Path to Culture-led Regeneration: Who’s Leading the Way? on ThursdayFebruary 15, 2007 from 8am to 11:30am at the Joseph Workman Auditorium.

The session comes at a particularly relevant time, as recent OMB rulings on the Queen West Triangle illustrate what happens when condominium development is the driving force of regeneration. The Path to Culture-led Regeneration session will illustrate how creative city builders and developers can work together to make cities and communities livable, prosperous and competitive.
Tim Jones, Artscape CEO, will chair an expert panel addressing the tools, strategies and resources Toronto needs to build creative advantage; how cities can integrate creativity into their planning process and how developers can be constructive players in city building.

Jones will also launch Vision 2011: Thinking Big About Culture-led Regeneration, Artscape’s road map for the next five years. “The challenge Toronto and other cities are facing is how to translate new understanding about creativity as a central driver of growth, change and transformation into effective strategies and tangible projects on the ground that build the arts and creative sectors,” stated Jones. “Artscape is at the most important crossroads of our 20-year history. Vision 2011: Thinking Big about Culture-Led Regeneration outlines how Artscape will respond to the urgent needs of Toronto’s artists and creative entrepreneurs, fulfill a role as a major player in city-building, and enhance our position as a global leader in the field.”

Under Jones’ direction since 1998, the non-profit Artscape has grown from a Toronto-based affordable space provider for artists into an international leader in the culture-led regeneration of communities. Its work includes anchoring creative communities within affordable spaces and building authentic and dynamic places by connecting creative and cultural resources. In 2007, Artscape will work on more than 25 projects, programs, plans, strategies and initiatives that aim to unlock the creative potential of people and places.

The Ontario Government recently announced $3million towards the development of the Green Arts Barns, a project that Artscape manages. Other major achievements at Artscape have included: the creation of Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts on Toronto Island, the revitalization of the Distillery Historic District, the blossoming of Liberty Village as an arts hub, the Queen West Art Crawl, two iterations of the Creative Places + Spaces Conferences, the introduction of the Creative Clusters Development Program, a major research study on the spillover effects of investment in cultural facilities, the development of an international consulting practice, and the launch of a new charitable foundation.

After Jones presents Artscape’s Vision 2011, he will chair the panel consisting of keynote speaker, New York-based author of The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way and Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown, Roberta Brandes Gratz and:

Don Eastwood,
General Manager, Economic Development, Culture, and Tourism, City of Toronto
– What tools, strategies, and resources does Toronto need to build creative advantage
Ken Greenberg,
Principal, Greenberg Consultants Inc.
– How cities can integrate creativity into their planning processes
Margaret Zeidler,
President, Urbanspace Property Group Ltd.
– How developers can be constructive players in city building

Creativity and innovation are recognized internationally as the keys to making cities livable, prosperous, and competitive in the 21st century. Copies of Artscape’s Vision 2011:Thinking Big About Culture-led Regeneration will be available at the session.

Artscape and the Canadian Urban Institute present
The Path to Culture-led Regeneration: Who’s Leading the Way?
Artscape CEO Tim Jones Chairs and Launches Artscape’s Vision 2011

Keynote speaker: Roberta Brandes Gratz;
Panelists: Don Eastwood, Ken Greenberg, Margaret Zeidler,
Thursday February 15 from 8am to 11:30am
at the Joseph Workman Auditorium, 1001 Queen St. West
Tickets: $99.00 for CUI members; $125.00 Non-members
For online registration: http://www.canurb.com;
For questions on registration: call 416-365-0816 ext. 234