March

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Mariachi Static by Izaak Opatz

This is an album of lovely “dirt wave” folk from a songwriter who spends most of his time cutting trails for the National Park Service. He’s formerly of the alt-country group the Best Westerns. I’ve struggled to listen to anything but this album lately. My favorite tracks are “Everything (But One Thing),” “Arm’s Length Away,” and “One Way Or Another,” but every song is fantastic.

 

“Getting Fermental on Fermentation with Lucia Solis” (Opposites Extract)

While esoteric to anybody who isn’t in the coffee industry, this is an interesting debate and discussion on the topic of fermentation practices in coffee production. Washed coffee in particular undergoes an intentional fermentation process post-harvest which helps separate sticky fruit material called mucilage. Usually this process is carried out by wild yeasts and bacteria, but the practice of using specific yeast and bacteria cultures has shown promise in experimental trials. Continuing this practice will be beneficial in promoting quality consistency and price stability.

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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist explores the ingredients used to create the world’s most significant fermented and distilled drinks. The book is presented as a list of these most ingredients, starting with the basics that comprise our most familiar beverages (such as agave, barley, potato, wheat) and continuing to the more obscure or exotic ingredients that often flavor them (clove, elderflower, wormwood). Each entry is, more or less, a brief examination of the ingredient in terms of the spirits derived from it alongside its biology and historical significance.

“An Absurdly Complete Guide to Understanding Whiskey” by Jake Emen (Eater)

Hyperbole aside, this guide provides a nice rundown of the major factors that determine a whiskey’s flavor. Emen specifically discusses aging and warehousing conditions, barrel types and sizes, ingredients, and distillation techniques.

February

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Twin Solitude by Leif Vollebekk

This is a hauntingly beautiful album from the Quebecois songwriter. Twin Solitude is more ambient than North Americana or Inland, turning away slightly from Vollebekk’s earlier, more Dylanesque instrumentation.

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“The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond” by Klaus Schwab (World Economic Forum)

Schwab writes, “The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.”

Schwab predicts that modern computer systems and digital connectivity combined with emerging technologies will usher in a Fourth Industrial Revolution characterized by “a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.”

This kind of revolution would seriously disrupt the way we live and work. What is this likely to mean for food and beverages? More and better integration with technology as we’ve seen at Atlanta’s Huge Cafe? More self-service or partial automation, which could both alter and reduce the role of bartenders and baristas? Or more coffee served by robots a la San Francisco’s Cafe X, eliminating human service altogether?

The Advanced Genius Theory: The Life of Pablo and Kanye West by Ryan Bassil (Noisey)

Bassil offers an alternate response to the question of whether Kanye West is a genius. Invoking a theory originally conceived to explain the later work of Lou Reed, Bassil suggests that Kanye West is actually becoming an “advanced genius,” transcending his earlier work by not creating more of the same but not creating the exact opposite either.

“The Turning Point I Feared” and “Make or Steal” by James Hoffman (jimseven)

There are two common avenues of growth in the specialty coffee industry (though this applies to many other industries too): by capturing a greater market share by taking customers from competitors or by growing the industry and welcoming entirely new customers. Hoffman warns against the former and advocates the latter, claiming that growing the industry and making space for oneself is a slower but more sustainable route.

“Conscious Consumerism Is A Lie” by Alden Wicker (Quartz)

Here’s a compelling opinion piece on why voting with your dollar is perhaps admirable but inconsequential in the face of systemic moral hazards and environmental threats. Wicker argues that conscious consumerism fails to achieve its big picture goals and instead deplete’s consumers buying power and political will while diverting our attention from more meaningful issues. The more I reflect on this argument, the more important it seems.

“Weird Twitter: The Oral History” by John Herrman and Katie Notopoulos (Buzzfeed)

This is an amusing and interesting glimpse into the loose-knit online community of pseudonymous comedians known for their brand of surrealist, sometimes absurdist humor.

“How Netflix Is Deepening Our Cultural Echo Chambers” by Farhad Manjoo (The New York Times)

Manjoo observes that with the growing popularity of content streaming, our viewing habits are becoming more personalized and therefore television shows are becoming less ubiquitous. This is lessening the role of TV in unifying us in shared cultural experience. Despite charges of TV’s banality, broadcast TV as cultural unifier is likely to be seen as a distinctly mid- to late-20th century phenomenon.

January

Read

“Manifesto for a New Nordic Cuisine” (Jonathan Hayes, Food & Wine)

If you haven’t fallen in love with Claus Meyer and Rene Redzepi, I urge you to watch the episodes of Mind of a Chef and Parts Unknown featuring Noma, the highly acclaimed restaurant in Copenhagen for which the pair are known. This brief feature recounts their role in the conception of New Nordic cuisine, which might be thought of as contemporary and expansive approach to Scandinavian culinary tradition. The title of the article alludes to a New Nordic food manifesto published in 2004 at the onset of the New Nordic movement. It’s splendid, brief, and can be found here.

“Speaking Out” (Daniel Patterson, MAD Feed)

This is a great, short piece about coping with depression in the culinary world (though it has much wider applications). We stigmatize mental illness which in Patterson’s words “amplifies its effects” while wrongfully linking mental illnesses and morality. He advocates speaking out about mental illness as a means of eliminating the taboo and encouraging those who suffer to seek help.

“The Sami Coffee Ceremony: An Interview with Anne Wuolab” (Chris Kolbu, Nordic Coffee Culture Blog)

This is a really fascinating glimpse into the Sami, a Nomadic culture indigenous to Northern Scandinavia whose population numbers 50,000-80,000 today. The Sami have been drinking coffee for a little over 100 years–since around the time it became commonplace in Southern Scandinavia. It was originally drank alongside Reindeer broth but quickly became a more focal beverage. Because the Sami have gradually urbanized, it’s conceivable to see Sami groups consume coffee in a somewhat ceremonial manner even in the setting of a modern Scandinavian cafe.

Wuolab describes a normal Sami coffee ceremony as “a quiet affair” in which a host serves steeped coffee, cheese, and reindeer meat, often near an open fire. The pace is relaxed, the mood is contemplative and relational, and mythical, spiritual, or comedic stories are told, often concerning the origins of Sami coffee culture. She draws comparisons to Japanese tea ceremonies and describes Sami coffee tradition as the antithesis of a short espresso or takeaway coffee.

The interview is a pretty short read but really fascinating.

The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman

I’m rereading this book for a refresher on coffee producing countries, but I’ve forgotten how thorough an introduction it provides. This has become my go-to suggestion for people interested in learning more about coffee. (James Hoffman’s blog, jimseven, is a fantastic resource for some more industry specific topics.)

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Welcome by Slaughter Beach, Dog (Bandcamp)

Slaughter Beach, Dog is Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball, whose album Holy Ghost came out last year. The A.V. Club writes that Welcome “…sees Ewald building a record around detailed character studies of people who live in the fictional town of Slaughter Beach,” shifting perspective away slightly from the intensely personal narratives that characterized MoBo’s Holy Ghost. My favorite track is “Bed Fest.”