From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.
A remarkable culinary competition is making its way to DC this week as The Coffee Bar hosts the area’s first-ever Iron Tamper Competition.
The format of the event borrows from the popular Iron Chef shows and challenges the creativity of coffee professionals and foodie types in their ability to craft espresso-based drinks using any of three mystery ingredients.
The Iron Tamper Competition will be held Thursday, January 17, 7 to 10 pm, and is open to all, from seasoned baristas and bartenders to home cooks with a flair for creative ingredient combinations.
There’s a $5 fee to compete, or you can watch for free and enjoy the spirit of competition. The event is sponsored by Batdorf & Bronson, an Olympia, Wash., coffee roaster that has held similar events across the country where its coffee is sold.
The rules are simple. Each competitor is paired with another (at random), and the team has 10 minutes to make use of one or more of the secret ingredients to craft an espresso-based drink, which may be served hot or cold. The drinks are then judged for flavor and creative use of the ingredients. Prizes will be given to the top competitors.
Check out the action, or put your own skills to the test, this Thursday at the Iron Tamper Competition.
Iron Tamper Competition
- Thursday, January 17
- 7 to 10 pm
- The Coffee Bar, 1201 S Street NW
From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.
We’re roughly a week in to the new year … so, how are those resolutions going? Statistically speaking, some 75 percent of you are going strong. Congratulations! But come July, that figure looks to settle somewhere closer to 40-46 percent  (references listed below). And before you know it, 2014 will be knocking on our door and only a strong few will remain. Bummer.
This column isn’t to make you feel bad, nor is it a push for coffee resolutions, per se. Rather, I’m here to share the good news that coffee can help you keep those pesky resolutions. Whether you want to get fit, quit smoking, get ahead at work, be a better person or find love in the new year, coffee’s here to lend a hand. So consider your resolutions (you can check out the Borderstan team’s here) and learn how coffee can help you supercharge your chances of success in 2013.
Resolution #1: Exercise More & Lose Weight
Getting fit is on top of most people’s priority lists at the beginning of the year, but it’s such a drag. It requires substantial effort, both mentally and physically, to adjust to new routines and make healthy lifestyle changes. A quick and easy way to jump start weight loss is by grabbing a cup of coffee, which enhances your metabolic rate  – that is, the calories you can burn just sitting! The caffeine in coffee also causes increased force of muscle contraction at lower frequencies , and is found to increase endurance for activities like cycling and running . Just steer clear of copious sweeteners and go easy on the half-and-half if you want to cut calories.
Resolution #2: Improve Work Performance
I’m just lousy in the morning without my coffee. But there’s more to simply perking up to getting the job done. Having a cup of coffee can improve memory performance under sub-optimal alertness conditions  (e.g., the morning after that killer party). Researchers have also linked caffeine to activity in the hippocampus and cortex , the areas of the brain most involved in cognition. There’s even evidence that a cup of coffee can improve work productivity for women under stressful conditions . Why again was that espresso machine rejected on my expense report?
Resolution #3: Spend Less & Save Money
This sounds counter intuitive, right? I’m telling you to buy some coffee to save money. Okay. But unless cutting out coffee is something you’d really consider (and it’s not, right?!) the savvy alternative is to make a modest investment in a simple, low-tech home brewing setup. For under $100 you can pick up some manual brewing tools and a hand-cranked burr grinder to brew some damn fine coffee that’ll rival anything you’ll find in the fancier cafes, all the while reducing the financial impact compared to daily visits to the coffee shop. Oh, and if you’re a K-Cup user, you could be spending up to $50 per pound  for capsuled coffee. Yikes!
Resolution #4: Find Love
Coffee has a way of bringing people closer. It can be a remarkably intimate experience to share a moment with someone you care about, sipping a cappuccino and talking about that little town in Italy you’ve always dreamed of visiting. There’s also a bit of science behind coffee as a social lubricant. Psychologists have noted that holding something warm can make you more likely to think warmly of someone else , a subconscious connection we have between heat and emotion. There are also links between coffee and mood, particularly among women , and we’ve already noted that in Borderstan, coffee is for lovers. So consider it your wing man in the quest for love and you could be inviting some up for coffee in no time.
Resolution #5: Do Good Things
The direct trade model for coffee buying is a growing trend among U.S. coffee roasters that removes the middleman and skips over large certification programs like Fair Trade. It’s gaining steam, thanks largely to demand from consumers who are increasingly keen on sustainability and financial equity of their purchasing decisions. You can do a good deed just by supporting roasters who adopt the direct trade philosophy and invest in the communities where they buy their beans. For instance, Intelligentsia is committed to paying a minimum of 25 percent above Fair Trade prices to farmers and cooperatives, and Counter Culture Coffee and others have made similar promises. The commitment to fair wages, better farming practices and a focus on social issues and sustainability can have a profound impact on people who contribute so much to our daily experiences in coffee.
Whatever you’ve resolved to do in 2013, just know you’re not alone in the endeavor. Coffee is our friend, and we’ll tackle this year one sip at a time.
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