Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Caffeine’ Category

Like coffee? Want to know more about brewing coffee? Have I got a YouTube channel for you.

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Take a look at this channel. Here’s a sample:

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 6:54 pm

The invisible addiction: is it time to give up caffeine?

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I drink coffee from time to time, but definitely not regularly because I too easily become physically addicted, so that if I don’t have it in the morning, I feel tired and too sluggish to move, and if I then skip it for a few days I get terrible headaches. Tea does not affect me the same way, so I stick to tea as my main morning cuppa.

Of course, coffee has many health benefits, or so coffee companies tell us, and God knows they paid scientists handsomely to come up with those results. Michael Pollan writes in the Guardian:

After years of starting the day with a tall morning coffee, followed by several glasses of green tea at intervals, and the occasional cappuccino after lunch, I quit caffeine, cold turkey. It was not something that I particularly wanted to do, but I had come to the reluctant conclusion that the story I was writing demanded it. Several of the experts I was interviewing had suggested that I really couldn’t understand the role of caffeine in my life – its invisible yet pervasive power – without getting off it and then, presumably, getting back on. Roland Griffiths, one of the world’s leading researchers of mood-altering drugs, and the man most responsible for getting the diagnosis of “caffeine withdrawal” included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the bible of psychiatric diagnoses, told me he hadn’t begun to understand his own relationship with caffeine until he stopped using it and conducted a series of self-experiments. He urged me to do the same.

For most of us, to be caffeinated to one degree or another has simply become baseline human consciousness. Something like 90% of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, and the only one we routinely give to children (commonly in the form of fizzy drinks). Few of us even think of it as a drug, much less our daily use of it as an addiction. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, an altered state. It just happens to be a state that virtually all of us share, rendering it invisible.

The scientists have spelled out, and I had duly noted, the predictable symptoms of caffeine withdrawal: headache, fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, decreased motivation, irritability, intense distress, loss of confidence and dysphoria. But beneath that deceptively mild rubric of “difficulty concentrating” hides nothing short of an existential threat to the work of the writer. How can you possibly expect to write anything when you can’t concentrate?

I postponed it as long as I could, but finally the dark day arrived. According to the researchers I’d interviewed, the process of withdrawal had actually begun overnight, while I was sleeping, during the “trough” in the graph of caffeine’s diurnal effects. The day’s first cup of tea or coffee acquires most of its power – its joy! – not so much from its euphoric and stimulating properties than from the fact that it is suppressing the emerging symptoms of withdrawal. This is part of the insidiousness of caffeine. Its mode of action, or “pharmacodynamics”, mesh so perfectly with the rhythms of the human body that the morning cup of coffee arrives just in time to head off the looming mental distress set in motion by yesterday’s cup of coffee. Daily, caffeine proposes itself as the optimal solution to the problem caffeine creates.

At the coffee shop, instead of my usual “half caff”, I ordered a cup of mint tea. And on this morning, that lovely dispersal of the mental fog that the first hit of caffeine ushers into consciousness never arrived. The fog settled over me and would not budge. It’s not that I felt terrible – I never got a serious headache – but all day long I felt a certain muzziness, as if a veil had descended in the space between me and reality, a kind of filter that absorbed certain wavelengths of light and sound.

I was able to do some work, but distractedly. “I feel like an unsharpened pencil,” I wrote in my notebook. “Things on the periphery intrude, and won’t be ignored. I can’t focus for more than a minute.”

Over the course of the next few days, I began to feel better, the veil lifted, yet I was still not quite myself, and neither, quite, was the world. In this new normal, the world seemed duller to me. I seemed duller, too. Mornings were the worst. I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep. That reconsolidation of self took much longer than usual, and never quite felt complete.

Humanity’s acquaintance with caffeine is surprisingly recent. But it is hardly an exaggeration to say that this molecule remade the world. The changes wrought by coffee and tea occurred at a fundamental level – the level of the human mind. Coffee and tea ushered in a shift in the mental weather, sharpening minds that had been fogged by alcohol, freeing people from the natural rhythms of the body and the sun, thus making possible whole new kinds of work and, arguably, new kinds of thought, too.

By the 15th century, coffee was being cultivated in east Africa and traded across the Arabian peninsula. Initially, the new drink was regarded as an aide to concentration and used by Sufis in Yemen to keep them from dozing off during their religious observances. (Tea, too, started out as a little helper for Buddhist monks striving to stay awake through long stretches of meditation.) Within a century, coffeehouses had sprung up in cities across the Arab world. In 1570 there were more than 600 of them in Constantinople alone, and they spread north and west with the Ottoman empire.

The Islamic world at this time was in many respects more advanced than Europe, in science and technology, and in learning. Whether this mental flourishing had anything to do with the prevalence of coffee (and prohibition of alcohol) is difficult to prove, but as the German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch has argued, the beverage “seemed to be tailor-​made for a culture that forbade alcohol consumption and gave birth to modern mathematics”.

In 1629 the first coffeehouses in Europe, styled on the Arab model, popped up in Venice, and the first such establishment in England was opened in Oxford in 1650 by a Jewish immigrant. They arrived in London shortly thereafter, and proliferated: within a few decades there were thousands of coffeehouses in London; at their peak, one for every 200 Londoners.

To call the English coffeehouse a new kind of public space doesn’t quite do it justice. You paid a penny for the coffee, but the information – in the form of newspapers, books, magazines and conversation – was free. (Coffeehouses were often referred to as “penny universities”.) After visiting London coffeehouses, a French writer named Maximilien Misson wrote, “You have all Manner of News there; You have a good fire, which you may sit by as long as you please: You have a Dish of Coffee; you meet your Friends for the Transaction of Business, and all for a Penny, if you don’t care to spend more.”

London’s coffeehouses were distinguished one from another by the professional or intellectual interests of their patrons, which eventually gave them specific institutional identities. So, for example, merchants and men with interests in shipping gathered at Lloyd’s Coffee House. Here you could learn what ships were arriving and departing, and buy an insurance policy on your cargo. Lloyd’s Coffee House eventually became the insurance brokerage Lloyd’s of London. Learned types and scientists – known then as “natural philosophers” – gathered at the Grecian, which became closely associated with the Royal Society; Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley debated physics and mathematics here, and supposedly once dissected a dolphin on the premises.

The conversation in London’s coffee houses frequently turned to politics, in vigorous exercises of free speech that drew the ire of the government, especially after the monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles II, worried that plots were being hatched in coffeehouses, decided that the places were dangerous fomenters of rebellion that the crown needed to suppress. In 1675 the king moved to close down the coffeehouses, on the grounds that the “false, malicious and scandalous Reports” emanating therefrom were a “Disturbance of the Quiet and Peace of the Realm”. Like so many other compounds that change the qualities of consciousness in individuals, caffeine was regarded as a threat to institutional power, which moved to suppress it, in a foreshadowing of the wars against drugs to come.

But the king’s war against coffee lasted only 11 days. Charles discovered . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 July 2021 at 3:02 pm

How to enjoy coffee

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Full disclosure: I most often drink freeze-dried instant coffee (Folgers). But I still found the article by Jessica Easto in Psyche of interest:

Need to know

Coffee hasn’t always received the attention it deserves. In many Western countries especially, the beans were low quality. Drinkers didn’t know or care about how coffee was produced, bought or brewed. A lot of coffee was cheap and tasted bitter, and its purpose was practical: medicine or fuel.

But over the past few decades, things have started to change around the world. A global band of intrepid producers, buyers, roasters, baristas and scientists have been elevating coffee to the craft level, like fine wine and beer. You might think that you know what coffee tastes like – roasted, toasty and bitter – but that’s only a sliver of the variety available to you now.

Coffee – what’s called ‘drip’ or ‘filter’ coffee, not espresso – can taste smooth and sweet like chocolate, or provide a zip on your tongue like a bright Champagne, or taste fruity, just like a blueberry. And when I say ‘chocolate’ or ‘blueberry’, I mean the coffee itself literally tastes like those things, without any added syrups or flavourings. The first time you drink coffee that tastes like more than coffee, you’ll never forget it.

This expansion of flavours is partly down to a global trend towards new roasting techniques. All coffee roasters create a roast profile – a manipulation of time and temperature – to achieve flavour in the beans. Historically, coffee has been roasted for relatively long periods of time at relatively high temperatures (think of traditional Italian coffee culture or the giant coffee chains in the United States). This profile tends to emphasise roast character, the flavours imparted by the roasting process – akin to how the process of ageing bourbon in oak barrels imparts a distinct flavour to the spirit. But more recently, distinct coffee cultures – including those of North America, Australia, Britain, Scandinavia and Japan – have been pushing other roasting techniques forward, ones that focus on the qualities of the bean. For example, roasting at relatively low temperatures for a shorter amount of time tends to accentuate what I call coffee character, the unique flavours inherent in the bean itself and where it was grown – or its terroir, to borrow a term from wine.

At the same time, producers all across the ‘Bean Belt’ – the band of coffee-growing countries that fall between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn – are refining their growing and processing techniques, supplying the speciality coffee market with unique, delectable coffee beans. All this has opened the door to a world of possibility for consumers. Coffee has never had more variety or more potential to taste great than it does right now.

Whether you’re a regular coffee drinker or just starting out, the best way to enjoy a cup is by honouring all the craftspeople – the producers, green-coffee buyers, roasters, baristas and more – who made your brew possible. Today’s speciality coffee offers as much range and variety as wine and craft beer, yet it’s mostly still not appreciated and savoured in the same way. Whether you see coffee as an occasional treat or as a daily essential, there is so much more you can learn and enjoy.

What to do

Select high-quality beans. Say goodbye to the large canisters and bags of preground coffee that line the grocery store shelves. You won’t find quality there. I recommend seeking out independent local roasteries, or looking online if there isn’t one nearby. If you can, try to talk to the roasters personally about their coffee, either at their café or over email. In my experience, the more information they’re able to give you about the beans, the more likely that their business values quality and transparency.

A craft roaster (or the barista who is slinging their coffee) should be able to tell you what country the beans come from, the variety of coffee it is, the name of the producer, how the coffee was processed, and even what elevation it was grown at. Knowing this information indicates that care was taken during the production process and that the roaster values their ingredient, both of which are marks of quality. (If the roaster can’t or won’t share this information, then run away fast.) Many craft roasters even take trips to origin – where the beans are grown – to taste and select coffees for their clientele.

Craft roasters often carry both single-origin coffee (meaning the beans come from only one country) and blends (a mix of beans from more than one country). Both of these can be great, but single-origin beans tend to be of a higher quality – they have more potential to be distinct and interesting, with flavours that vary greatly depending on the variety of bean, where they were grown, how they were processed and sorted, and more. In contrast, blends tend to be developed to have a more consistent taste, no matter the season, but are cut with lower quality (but still good) beans for the distinct purpose of making them affordable.

It’s always worth spending a bit more money, if you can. This is partly because of taste – high-quality coffee is more expensive – but it also means your coffee is more likely to be ethically produced. Coffee producers have historically been exploited, and even ‘fair trade’ prices – designed to protect farmers – often aren’t enough; they have barely increased in recent decades. That’s why some speciality coffee roasters make a point to buy above fair-trade prices, which inevitably costs more for consumers. Where possible, buy your coffee from roasters who purchase their beans ethically and transparently at a price that reflects the tremendous amount of human effort and skill involved in coffee production.

Drink thoughtfully prepared cups. One challenge that great coffee has . . .

Continue reading. There is much more — much much more, considering that the article is undoubtedly an extract from her book, Craft Coffee: A Manual (2017).

One strange omission: no link to Sweet Maria’s for those who want to roast their own coffee beans (not difficult).

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 4:49 pm

How Newt Gingrich broke politics and brought dysfunction

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McKay Coppins wrote in the Atlantic two years go:

Newt Gingrich is an important man, a man of refined tastes, accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and so when he visits the zoo, he does not merely stand with all the other patrons to look at the tortoises—he goes inside the tank.

On this particular afternoon in late March, the former speaker of the House can be found shuffling giddily around a damp, 90‑degree enclosure at the Philadelphia Zoo—a rumpled suit draped over his elephantine frame, plastic booties wrapped around his feet—as he tickles and strokes and paws at the giant shelled reptiles, declaring them “very cool.”

It’s a weird scene, and after a few minutes, onlookers begin to gather on the other side of the glass—craning their necks and snapping pictures with their phones and asking each other, Is that who I think it is? The attention would be enough to make a lesser man—say, a sweaty magazine writer who followed his subject into the tortoise tank for reasons that are now escaping him—grow self-conscious. But Gingrich, for whom all of this rather closely approximates a natural habitat, barely seems to notice.

A well-known animal fanatic, Gingrich was the one who suggested we meet at the Philadelphia Zoo. He used to come here as a kid, and has fond memories of family picnics on warm afternoons, gazing up at the giraffes and rhinos and dreaming of one day becoming a zookeeper. But we aren’t here just for the nostalgia.

“There is,” he explained soon after arriving, “a lot we can learn from the natural world.”

Since then, Gingrich has spent much of the day using zoo animals to teach me about politics and human affairs. In the reptile room, I learn that the evolutionary stability of the crocodile (“Ninety million years, and they haven’t changed much”) illustrates the folly of pursuing change for its own sake: “If you’re doing something right, keep doing it.”

Outside the lion pen, Gingrich treats me to a brief discourse on gender theory: “The male lion procreates, protects the pride, and sleeps. The females hunt, and as soon as they find something, the male knocks them over and takes the best portion. It’s the opposite of every American feminist vision of the world—but it’s a fact!”

But the most important lesson comes as we wander through Monkey Junction. Gingrich tells me about one of his favorite books, Chimpanzee Politics, in which the primatologist Frans de Waal documents the complex rivalries and coalitions that govern communities of chimps. De Waal’s thesis is that human politics, in all its brutality and ugliness, is “part of an evolutionary heritage we share with our close relatives”—and Gingrich clearly agrees.

For several minutes, he lectures me about the perils of failing to understand the animal kingdom. Disney, he says, has done us a disservice with whitewashed movies like The Lion King, in which friendly jungle cats get along with their zebra neighbors instead of attacking them and devouring their carcasses. And for all the famous feel-good photos of Jane Goodall interacting with chimps in the wild, he tells me, her later work showed that she was “horrified” to find her beloved creatures killing one another for sport, and feasting on baby chimps.

It is crucial, Gingrich says, that we humans see the animal kingdom from which we evolved for what it really is: “A very competitive, challenging world, at every level.”

As he pauses to catch his breath, I peer out over the sprawling primate reserve. Spider monkeys swing wildly from bar to bar on an elaborate jungle gym, while black-and-white lemurs leap and tumble over one another, and a hulking gorilla grunts in the distance.

At a loss for what to say, I start to mutter something about the viciousness of the animal world—but Gingrich cuts me off. “It’s not viciousness,” he corrects me, his voice suddenly stern. “It’s natural.”

There’s something about Newt Gingrich that seems to capture the spirit of America circa 2018. With his immense head and white mop of hair; his cold, boyish grin; and his high, raspy voice, he has the air of a late-empire Roman senator—a walking bundle of appetites and excesses and hubris and wit. In conversation, he toggles unnervingly between grandiose pronouncements about “Western civilization” and partisan cheap shots that seem tailored for cable news. It’s a combination of self-righteousness and smallness, of pomposity and pettiness, that personifies the decadence of this era.

In the clamorous story of Donald Trump’s Washington, it would be easy to mistake Gingrich for a minor character. A loyal Trump ally in 2016, Gingrich forwent a high-powered post in the administration and has instead spent the years since the election cashing in on his access—churning out books (three Trump hagiographies, one spy thriller), working the speaking circuit (where he commands as much as $75,000 per talk for his insights on the president), and popping up on Fox News as a paid contributor. He spends much of his time in Rome, where his wife, Callista, serves as Trump’s ambassador to the Vatican and where, he likes to boast, “We have yet to find a bad restaurant.”

But few figures in modern history have done more than Gingrich to lay the groundwork for Trump’s rise. During his two decades in Congress, he pioneered a style of partisan combat—replete with name-calling, conspiracy theories, and strategic obstructionism—that poisoned America’s political culture and plunged Washington into permanent dysfunction. Gingrich’s career can perhaps be best understood as a grand exercise in devolution—an effort to strip American politics of the civilizing traits it had developed over time and return it to its most primal essence.

When I ask him how he views his legacy, Gingrich takes me on a tour of a Western world gripped by crisis. In Washington, chaos reigns as institutional authority crumbles. Throughout America, right-wing Trumpites and left-wing resisters are treating midterm races like calamitous fronts in a civil war that must be won at all costs. And in Europe, populist revolts are wreaking havoc in capitals across the Continent.

Twenty-five years after engineering the Republican Revolution, Gingrich can draw a direct line from his work in Congress to the upheaval now taking place around the globe. But as he surveys the wreckage of the modern political landscape, he is not regretful. He’s gleeful.

“The old order is dying,” he tells me. “Almost everywhere you have freedom, you have a very deep discontent that the system isn’t working.”

And that’s a good thing? I ask.

“It’s essential,” he says, “if you want Western civilization to survive.”

On june 24, 1978, Gingrich stood to address a gathering of College Republicanat a Holiday Inn near the Atlanta airport. It was a natural audience for him. At 35, he was more youthful-looking than the average congressional candidate, with fashionably robust sideburns and a cool-professor charisma that had made him one of the more popular faculty members at West Georgia College.

But Gingrich had not come to deliver an academic lecture to the young activists before him—he had come to foment revolution.

“One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty,” he told the group. “We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal, and faithful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire but are lousy in politics.”

For their party to succeed, Gingrich went on, the next generation of Republicans would have to learn to “raise hell,” to stop being so “nice,” to realize that politics was, above all, a cutthroat “war for power”—and to start acting like it.

The speech received little attention at the time. Gingrich was, after all, an obscure, untenured professor whose political experience consisted of two failed congressional bids. But when, a few months later, he was finally elected to the House of Representatives on his third try, he went to Washington a man obsessed with becoming the kind of leader he had described that day in Atlanta.

The GOP was then at its lowest point in modern history. Scores of Republican lawmakers had been wiped out in the aftermath of Watergate, and those who’d survived seemed, to Gingrich, sadly resigned to a “permanent minority” mind-set. “It was like death,” he recalls of the mood in the caucus. “They were morally and psychologically shattered.”

But Gingrich had a plan. The way he saw it, Republicans would never be able to take back the House as long as they kept compromising with the Democrats out of some high-minded civic desire to keep congressional business humming along. His strategy was to blow up the bipartisan coalitions that were essential to legislating, and then seize on the resulting dysfunction to wage a populist crusade against the institution of Congress itself. “His idea,” says Norm Ornstein, a political scientist who knew Gingrich at the time, “was to build toward a national election where people were so disgusted by Washington and the way it was operating that they would throw the ins out and bring the outs in.”

Gingrich recruited a cadre of young bomb throwers—a group of 12 congressmen he christened the Conservative Opportunity Society—and together they stalked the halls of Capitol Hill, searching for trouble and TV cameras. Their emergence was not, at first, greeted with enthusiasm by the more moderate Republican leadership. They were too noisy, too brash, too hostile to the old guard’s cherished sense of decorum. They even looked different—sporting blow-dried pompadours while their more camera-shy elders smeared Brylcreem on their comb-overs.

Gingrich and his cohort showed little interest in legislating, a task that had heretofore been seen as the primary responsibility of elected legislators. Bob Livingston, a Louisiana Republican who had been elected to Congress a year before Gingrich, marveled at the way the hard-charging Georgian rose to prominence by ignoring the traditional path taken by new lawmakers. “My idea was to work within the committee structure, take care of my district, and just pay attention to the legislative process,” Livingston told me. “But Newt came in as a revolutionary.”

For revolutionary purposes, the House of Representatives was less a governing body than an arena for conflict and drama. And Gingrich found ways to put on a show. He recognized an opportunity in the newly installed C-span cameras, and began delivering tirades against Democrats to an empty chamber, knowing that his remarks would be beamed to viewers across the country. . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

The rest is immortalized in the history books that line Gingrich’s library. The GOP’s impeachment crusade backfired with voters, Republicans lost seats in the House—and Gingrich was driven out of his job by the same bloodthirsty brigade he’d helped elect. “I’m willing to lead,” he sniffed on his way out the door, “but I’m not willing to preside over people who are cannibals.”

The great irony of Gingrich’s rise and reign is that, in the end, he did fundamentally transform America—just not in the ways he’d hoped. He thought he was enshrining a new era of conservative government. In fact, he was enshrining an attitude—angry, combative, tribal—that would infect politics for decades to come.

In the years since he left the House, Gingrich has only doubled down. When GOP leaders huddled at a Capitol Hill steak house on the night of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Gingrich was there to advocate a strategy of complete obstruction. And when Senator Ted Cruz led a mob of Tea Party torchbearers in shutting down the government over Obamacare, Gingrich was there to argue that shutdowns are “a normal part of the constitutional process.”

Mickey Edwards, the Oklahoma Republican, who served in the House for 16 years, told me he believes Gingrich is responsible for turning Congress into a place where partisan allegiance is prized above all else. He noted that during Watergate, President Richard Nixon was forced to resign only because leaders of his own party broke ranks to hold him accountable—a dynamic Edwards views as impossible in the post-Gingrich era. “He created a situation where you now stand with your party at all costs and at all times, no matter what,” Edwards said. “Our whole system in America is based on the Madisonian idea of power checking power. Newt has been a big part of eroding that.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2020 at 5:03 pm

A very nice green tea this morning

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A tea The Wife brought me from Paris. It has an unusual taste. It tastes a bit like food, somewhat like a freshly baked bread. It provides 7 brewings.

Brewed leaves

Initially it looks like short, fine pieces of dried grass, but the leaves unfurl in the brewing and look like tiny bits of paper. Here:

The back of the package notes:

Precious Liquor

The rarest of the Gyokuro Grands Crus, whose minuscule production is limited to less than 10kg per year, is organically cultivated in a family garden for Mariage Frères. This “White Leaf Gyokuro” is an absolute masterpiece, the tea buses being shaded from the sun for almost a month. Their newly grown tender buds yield a unique pale colour. The velvety, sweet infusion offers rich umami and ooika notes, deliciously refreshing and redolent, flourishing with fragrance and unforgettable emotions.

Tea for an emperor.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2020 at 9:42 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

These tea bags release billions of plastic particles into your brew, study shows

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Plastics are endocrine disrupters, so small amounts do big damage. (I always make tea using loose tea: cheaper and also makes better tea. I do have a stainless-steel fine-mesh tea strainer that’s amazingly easy to use.)

Kayla Epstein reports in the Washington Post:

A couple of years ago, Nathalie Tufenkji stopped by a Montreal cafe on her way to work and ordered a cup of tea. She sat down with her mug, enjoying its warmth, before she noticed something strange: Her tea bag appeared to be made of plastic.

“I thought, ‘That’s not a very good idea, putting plastic into boiling water,’ ” she told The Washington Post.

Tufenkji was worried that the plastic bags could leach particles into the beverage that she and her fellow customers were consuming, and as a professor of chemical engineering at McGill University, she was well positioned to investigate. She dispatched her student Laura Hernandez to purchase tea bags from stores in the area and bring them back to the lab.

It turns out Tufenkji’s hunch was right. The bags were releasing plastic particles into the brewed tea. Billions and billions of them.

Hernandez, Tufenkji and their fellow researchers at McGill University tested four kinds of plastic tea bags in boiling water, and found that a single bag would release more than 11 billion microplastic and 3 billion nanoplastic particles. You would not be able to see the contamination with your own eyes; the researchers had to use an electron microscope. But it’s there.

Their findings were published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology this month.

The four brands of tea they tested came from regular grocery stores in Montreal. After emptying and cleaning the tea bags of any trace of tea leaves, they submerged them in water heated to 203 degrees Fahrenheit, and then they left the bags to steep for five minutes.

The researchers then examined the water for leftover particles, placing drops on a slide and examining them under an electron microscope. There, they could see particles of varying sizes, some a little larger, some frighteningly small. Further testing of additional samples revealed their structures and confirmed that the material was made of the same plastic materials as PET, a kind of polyester, and nylon. It was clear, Tufenkji said, that the plastic was coming from the tea bags themselves, not the tea.

Though Tufenkji declined to name the brands they used for fear of singling out one company over others, she said that some frequent tea drinkers could be repeatedly dosing themselves with billions of particles of plastic as they drank the beverage day after day. Some of the particles, she noted, would be small enough to potentially infiltrate human cells.

Some manufacturers sell tea in plastic bags rather than loose or in paper bags, even as the public becomes increasingly aware of how plastic is clogging our bodies of water, as well as our bodies. While the health implications of consuming plastic are unknown, people around the world are inadvertently eating quite a lot of it.

Earlier this year, a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature estimated that on average, a person might ingest 5 grams of plastic a week, the equivalent size of a credit card. Researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia compiled dozens of studies on the presence of plastic in water, as well as in food such as shellfish and even beer. Studies are underway to establish how plastic consumption can affect human health, according to WWF’s study.

While the McGill study did not explore the human health effects of consuming this plastic, when some of the particles were given to water fleas, they began acting erratically and developed some deformities, Tufenkji said. . .

Continue reading.

This is exactly the sort of hazard that requires government action. A law forbidding the use of plastic mesh with food is needed.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2019 at 12:57 pm

Green Ray + Tallow + Steel Grog + Rockwell

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A great start to a beautiful morning: bright sun, no clouds, light breezes, cool but short-sleeve temperature. Tallow + Steel makes very good and very interesting soaps and aftershaves, and Grog is a favorite among all my soaps. “Grog” in part because it’s a twist on Bay Rum, and the lather I got this morning with the Green Ray brush was luscious.

Three passes with the Rockwell did a superb job. I notice that the new Edwin Jagger 3ONE6 is $125, $25 more than the Rockwell 6S, and the 6S offers 6 baseplate options rather than one. I don’t see that the EJ razor is worth the price charged. But I may in time try it.

A splash of Grog aftershave, and the day is launched. My Temperfect mug is by my side, BTW, filled with delected Murchie’s No. 10 blend of tea. I do like that mug, and starting the day with a pint of good tea is a pleasure. I also like Murchie’s Storm Watcher and Harney & Sons’ Malachi McCormick.

Written by Leisureguy

12 June 2019 at 7:51 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Rediscovering and reclaiming the past: The Brown Betty teapot

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Interesting story of the classic British teapot, the Brown Betty, newly available with some improvements (stackability, for example). A quick search found local sources. If you’re a tea-drinker, this is a bit of history. A “cup” in teapot usage is 6 oz (not 8 oz, the standard measuring cup), so a four-cup teapot holds 24 oz and will pour 4 teacups or 2 large mugs.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2019 at 8:27 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Beanless coffee

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From a newsletter from Institute From The Future:

Call it Impossible Coffee. Seattle’s Atomo has developed coffee that uses “upcycled plant-based materials” instead of coffee beans by combining about 40 of the compounds that give coffee its distinctive taste, smell, and mouthfeel. Why would anyone want “molecular” coffee over the real thing? Because coffee is often produced by slave labor and is a cause of deforestation, says Atomo.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2019 at 5:08 pm

How To Brew Pu Erh Tea

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This is for tea fans.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2018 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Caffeine

More on pu-erh tea cakes: how they’re made, how to age them, how to break them up and rewrap them

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Three videos:

First, how the tea cake is made (and you’ll notice that the cake contains a lot of tea):

Next, how the tea cake is aged. currently offers some tea cakes that are 20 years old and some that are 16 years old, and neither is particularly expensive (around CDN$20). So if you want an aged tea cake, they’re available.

And finally, how to break the cake and how to rewrap it. (There’s much more to this than I realized.)

Written by Leisureguy

24 August 2018 at 3:38 pm

The Forgotten Drink That Caffeinated North America for Centuries

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Ben Richmond writes in Gastro Obscura:

EVERY MORNING, EVERY DAY, 85 percent of Americans alter their state of consciousness with a potent psychoactive drug: caffeine.

Their most common source is the roasted seeds of several species of African shrubs in the genus Coffea (coffee), while other Americans use the dried leaves of a species of Camellia plant from China (tea).

Americans love caffeine, but few realize just how ancient the North American craving for caffeine truly is. North Americans have been enthusiastically quaffing caffeinated beverages since before the Boston Tea Party, before the English founded Jamestown, and before Columbus landed in the Americas. That is to say: North Americans discovered caffeine long before Europeans “discovered” North America.

Cassina, or black drink, the caffeinated beverage of choice for indigenous North Americans, was brewed from a species of holly native to coastal areas from the Tidewater region of Virginia to the Gulf Coast of Texas. It was a valuable pre-Columbian commodity and widely traded. Recent analyses of residue left in shell cups from Cahokia, the monumental pre-Columbian city just outside modern-day St. Louis and far outside of cassina’s native range, indicate that it was being drunk there. The Spanish, French, and English all documented American Indians drinking cassina throughout the American South, and some early colonists drank it on a daily basis. They even exported it to Europe.

As tea made from a species of caffeinated holly, cassina may sound unusual. But it has a familiar botanical cousin in yerba maté, a caffeine-bearing holly species from South America whose traditional use, preparation, and flavor is similar. The primary difference between cassina and maté is that while maté weathered the storm of European conquest, cassina has fallen into obscurity.

Today it’s better known as yaupon, and . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2018 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Caffeine

Jiggly coffee sounds great

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It also sounds as though it’s made from jiggly beans, but no. Tautiana Bautista explains in Taste:

How do you take your coffee? Cream and sugar? On ice? In Jell-O form? Walk into any 7-Eleven in Tokyo and amongst tuna onigiri and Calbee butter potato chips, you’ll find coffee jelly—a perky dessert made with coffee-flavored gelatin mixed with condensed milk or heavy cream. In the refrigerated desserts section, it’s sold in a foil-sealed plastic cup with a shot of creamer on the side or in a slightly fancier plastic sherbet dish, filled with jelly cubes and milk with a dollop of cream on top. The simple combination of coffee, agar, and cream is sublime—it’s bouncy and chewy, milky sweet and bitter, creamy yet gel-like.

An array of Japanese desserts are made with agar, a vegetarian gelatin derived from seaweed, including bowls of anmitsu (translucent jelly squares topped with red bean paste, fresh fruit, and black sugar syrup) and mizu shingen mochi (the raindrop cake that went viral a few years ago). So it’s a no-brainer that the Japanese have jellified their cups of joe.

First served in Tokyo at Mikado Coffee in 1963, creator Kanasaka Keisuke marketed it as “coffee you can eat.” Coming from a culture that has so many jiggly, jelly-like desserts, it quickly became a popular summertime treat, soon stocked on grocery store shelves and slapped onto café menus. Even Starbucks caught on, serving its own limited-edition coffee jelly Frappuccino, which garnered tons of online buzz back in 2016. Served with a boba straw to slurp it all up, the drink has layers of coffee jelly, vanilla custard, and frozen coffee finished off with whipped cream.

But coffee jelly isn’t just a Japanese thing. It dates back to the early 19th century and has British origins. The first traceable recipe is circa 1817, when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2018 at 3:22 pm

Best solution so far to keeping a pot of tea hot

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After some experimentation, I have a combination of pot and cosy that works extremely well. I fill the pot with hot water from the tap to warm the pot, and put the pot in the cosy to warm the cosy. When the water’s boiling in the kettle, I dump the hot water from the pot, insert the filter with three measures of tea, and fill the pot with the boiling water. I let it steep 3 minutes, remove the filter with the leaves, and return the pot to the cosy. The tea stays warm quite a while.

Above is the pot I like: Tealyra Drago Ceramic, available in various colors. It’s 1.1 liters so you get several cups of tea.

And this is the cosy I like: Ulster Weavers Twitter Muff Decorative Tea Cosy. The muff design consists of two halves attached to a base. You put the pot on the base and bring the two halves up on either side, and an elastic band secures them together at the top. This leaves the handle and the spout uncovered, so you can use the teapot without removing the cosy. (The little bow knot is fake: it’s merely for decoration. The elastic band is independent of the bow knot, which is sewn into place.)

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2018 at 9:09 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Cold-brewed coffee note

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I’ve been making cold-brewed coffee for a while now and have my routine perfected.

I have found that a 1-qt Mason canning jar works extremely well. The jar has measurement markings on the side, so I can easily fill it to the 3-cup mark. And since a canning funnel (which has a large opening) fits nicely inside the mouth of the jar (because the funnel is in fact made to fit canning jars), it’s easy to add 2/3 cup coffee grounds with no spills. Then 12 hours later, I strain, filter, and add water equal to the amount of coffee, which (after straining and filtering) is 2.5 cups. I pour the coffee concentrate into a pitcher and add 2.5 cups water, so I get 5 cups cold-brewed coffee.

The Younger Daughter passed along this interesting tip: add a few springs of mint leaves when you add the coffee grounds. I can’t wait to try it.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2015 at 11:04 am

Countdown to the Joeveo Temperfect mug

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Back in November 2013, there was a Kickstarter campaign for a double-walled coffee mug that would quickly cool the coffee down to drinking temperature and then keep the coffee at that temperature for a long, long time. The space between the walls contained a wax that absorbed heat (by melting) and then slowly released heat (as it resolidified).

I was eager to get one for The Wife, and today I got this email from the company:

A year and a half ago we ended our Kickstarter campaign for the Temperfect Mug and were launched head first into the trials and tribulations of taking a plan from paper to production. We are committed to delivering a class A product that we know the world will love. We can proudly say we have reached Joeveo’s biggest milestone to date, beginning pilot-scale production of the world’s first Temperfect Mugs!

It seems that we have run into every problem in the book, plus some! From a tree collapsing the workshop to an engineer being injured in the factory, we’ve seen it all. Recently we have been delayed by defects at the production level, and other larger orders taking precedence in the factory line. The latter is to be expected somewhat, as it is the busy season for these facilities. But even through these setbacks we have managed to make progress, and the train is leaving the station. It might be moving slowly, but it’s only going to pick up speed from here.

Over the last few months we have been in constant contact with our sourcing partners and manufacturing facility to make sure the project stays on track. It has taken some serious effort to tie up loose ends and have all aspects of every part finished according to their specifications. These efforts are finally culminating in a pilot batch of 500 Temperfect Mugs, which are being manufactured while you read this. These proto-mugs are slated to be finished August 16th, and will serve as an indicator of how the factory will be able to handle larger orders. If these mugs are defect free, we can move forward to full-scale production, and will finally be able to announce that the mugs are on their way!

We’ve been pretty poor at predicting the shipment date of our first mugs in the past [massive understatement – LG], so we hesitate to make shipping estimates at this point. We do know that once full-scale manufacturing is approved, production should take about a month and a half. Add to that about a month for ocean freight, and then we will start finishing and shipping the mugs here in NC.

We want to give a special thank you to everyone reaching out with their comments, words of encouragement and enthusiasm. It means a lot to us to know people are still excited about the product and the idea. We really appreciate everyone’s patience and support as we forge forward in this endeavor. The first milestone is down and we’re moving onward to full-production and delivery of the world’s first Temperfect Mug.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2015 at 2:49 pm

Caffeine Boosts Memory Consolidation?

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Tracy Vence notes at The Scientist:

Consumption of caffeine after learning could boost memory consolidation, according to a study published in Nature Neuroscience this week (January 12). A team led by investigators at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, studied the memory performance of 100 participants, half of whom received a pill containing 200 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of two regular cups of coffee—after completing a learning task. The other half were given placebo. The next day, members of the caffeine-pill group were better able to identify images that were the same, similar to, or different from those they were shown during an initial learning tasks than participants who received the placebo.

“The paper demonstrates that giving caffeine after seeing images does improve recognition of them 24 hours later, supporting the idea that it helps the brain consolidate the learning,” the University of Oxford’s Anders Sandberg told BBC News. “However, there was no straight improvement in recognition memory thanks to caffeine. Rather, the effect was a small improvement in the ability to distinguish new images that looked like [the old ones], from the real old images.”

And as National Geographic’s Only Human blog pointed out, some scientists are questioning the statistical significance of the study’s results on Twitter. One of those scientists, Jon Simons from the University of Cambridge, told The Guardian: “The claim that caffeine affects the consolidation of memories is based on quite a small effect that would really benefit from replication in a larger sample to be convincing.”

OTOH, caffeine doesn’t seem to harm memory.


Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2014 at 11:03 am

Ice Cream, Chocolate, Coffee, and Beer

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The piece on some small new businesses in Redlands, CA, sound quite idyllic.

Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2014 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Business, Caffeine, Food

The perfect coffee/tea mug

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Wow. I want one of these, and I’ve already put a note in my calendar for July 14, 2014.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2013 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Matcha for me

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Steve of Kafeneio pointed out to me the health benefits of matcha, so I got a kit: bamboo spoon, sieve, bamboo whisk, whisk stand, and bowl, along with some matcha. It came yesterday—and I could have had it sooner by getting the components at Whole Foods, which also carries it, but I’m an on-line sort of guy.

Last night I had my first two cups. It tastes very good—sort of like wheat grass: a fresh, green taste. I cannot get the foam right yet, but it’s early days. And I do like it: quite refreshing and quick and easy to make (since I don’t do the whole ceremony thing).

Well worth a try. I checked out some YouTube videos on making matcha to see the whisking technique in action, but I’m still struggling.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2013 at 11:11 am

Posted in Caffeine, Drinks, Health

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