A Little Word on the Specialty Coffee Association of America [And Why You Should Drink More Joe]

My dear friends,

As many of you may know, I am based in Boston, and this has been an unfathomable week for my city. I’m comitted to giving you a little word bite each week.  While I had intended to publish my post on Monday – as I typically do in “Monday holidays make Mondays – Sundays” fashion, in light of the tragedy that struck Boston, I could not bring myself to do so.

Boston is still fighting to recover. We are all coping with the effects of this tragedy in our own ways. But I have seen so much strength and love and resilience from this city – the way everyone has banded together to stand against this horror is a true reminder of the good in this world worth fighting for.

Meanwhile, my own life has been chaotic and hectic. I’ve been from food symposiums in Boston to Connecticut to celebrate my birthday with friends and family – back home to Boston before catching a Greyhound to New York for job interviews – and home to Boston again. The craziness is far from over, but I’ve had so many incredible experiences, many of which I’m hungering to share with you here: Birthday bites, healthy sips, and a where to get in on NY’s locavore movement.

But in honor of Beantown – this amazing city I am so grateful to call home – I’m resuming LWB with a look at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 25th Annual Event, which was held last weekend in Boston, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.  It was a spectacular demonstration of a diverse group coming together to share with, and learn from one another. Little Word Bites was invited to attend, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about America’s famous bean – right here in Beantown.

More than 9,000 coffee-brewing, latte-crafting,

More than 9,000 coffee-brewing, bean-roasting, latte-crafting professionals gathered from across the world to take workshops, exhibit the latest products and services, and partake in informative lectures on sustainability, business practices, and coffee science.

Naturally, my Friday morning began in such a rush that I didn’t have time to brew or buy my morning coffee. Instead, I hurried immediately to the lecture, “A Dilemma for Roasted Coffee,” presented by Alan Leviton, a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Mark Corey, a food scientist currently with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

The lecture focused largely on the various health myths and studies surrounding the brew. In recent years, coffee – a beverage which has been consumed for hundreds of years and is a social pillar in Western society – has been given a bad reputation. With over 1,000 compounds, many of which occurr during the bean-roasting process, coffee is a complex food that science is only just beginning to understand.

Corey addressed the negative reputation coffee’s caffeine-content has developed, making a point to differentiate it from the artificially caffeinated, high sugar, quickly consumed energy drinks. In strong contrast, coffee contains naturally-occurring caffeeine and high levels of antioxidants. It is also a social beverage, meant to be sipped slowly and with little or no added sugar.

Professor Leviton elaborated on the scientifically studied health benefits, citing a variety of long-term population reports that indicate total and cause-specific decreases in risk of death with increased coffee consumption. Type 2 diabetes, decreased likelihood of neurodegenerative disease, and enhanced cognitive performance were other benefits evidenced in the scientific evaluations.

“Coffee is safe to drink,” Leviton said. And with such strong statistical evidence demonstrating coffee’s direct link to longvity, Leviton added confidently that “coffee drinks [also] live longer.”

After the lecture, I headed downstairs to the massive exhibition center, and had the opportunity to sample some of the most delicious coffee, tea, and specialty beverages from across the globe. Hundreds of related vendors were also sharing their latest products. Everything from dark-chocolate covered organic espresso beans to sweet guava fruit tisanes. I am so grateful to have met so many fantastic people, and had such a first-hand taste of the market’s latest and greatest.

Some of my absolute favorite bites, sips, and tips from the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 2013 Exhibitors:

A Little Something Sweet
Little Word Bites is always seeking to strike the perfect balance between healthy, wholesome, and delicious. I always take my coffee with “a tiny splash of skim and two splenda,”but it isn’t for a lack of trying to find better alternatives to my calorie-free sweetener. At the 25th SCAA Event, I discovered Natvia, a new calorie-free sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. Unlike splenda, this sweetener is all natural and contains no aspartame. Natvia also has no aftertaste, has a natural, crystalline texture, and is equivalent to sugar for baking and cooking.

Perfect in coffee, or sprinkled over whole grain oatmeal, this natural zero-calorie sweetener is a wonderful alternative to Splenda or other artificial sweeteners.

Perfect in coffee, or sprinkled over whole grain oatmeal, this natural zero-calorie sweetener is a wonderful alternative to Splenda or other artificial sweeteners.

Also on my radar is Wholesome Sweeteners, a familiar brand seeking to expand their Fair Trade, natural and organic sweeteners to food service. You can now enjoy their Organic Blue Agave in single-serve packages, as well as Zero, their calorie-free sweetener made from fermented fruits and vegetables.

A Little Sip
I’ve always had a weak spot for chai-anything. Lattes, tea, spice, candles – you name it. Pacific Natural Foods drew me to their station with a sample of their Organic Pumpkin Chai Latte. Their unique, organic soy milk is designed to withstand high temperatures, and creates a notably frothy, smooth texture, which most soy beverages lack. With their organic pumpkin puree, and organic chai concentrate, the sweet sip was one of my favorite of the day. Pacific is dedicated to leaving a smaller environmental footprint, and knowing the source of all of their ingredients.

The Organic Pumpkin Puree in my latte contained only one ingredient: Pumpkin. And that's precisely the philosophy behind Pacific's products.

The Organic Pumpkin Puree in my latte contained only one ingredient: Pumpkin. And that’s precisely the philosophy behind Pacific’s products.

A Little Something Extra
Like Little Word Bites, the founders of Smoothie Essentials: Add A Scoop blends are comitted to helping people lead healthier lifestyles. All of their suppplements are 30 calories or less, GMO-free, have no added sugar, and are certified Kosher and Halal.
Most are vegan, and most are gluten-free . Try adding a boost of Omega 3’s, Matcha Green Tea, or Soy to your favorite latte or smoothie. Get Immune Support with extra Vitamin C and Echinacea, or Relax with a calming dose of Ginger, Chamomile and Valerian root.

I also enjoyed a sample of a Mango Chili smoothie, containing Sweetbird syrup. This company is comitted to producing vegetarian, vegan, GMO-free products with a low environmental impact, no artificial colorings, and no high fructose corn syrup.   Plus, they’re adorable.

Clean ingredients, and a teeny tiny environmental impact make this little smoothie sip extra sweet.

Clean ingredients, and a teeny tiny environmental impact make this little smoothie sip extra sweet.

And, of course, there was not a single sample of coffee that was not divine. From a custom brew of Boston Creme Pie coffee (all natural, calorie-free, gluten-free, sugar-free coffee blends from Beck Flavors to exquisite sustainable, and environmentally-conscious Salvadoran coffee from El Salvador, this year’s Portrait Country.

This was an incredible experience. Thank you to the SCAA for allowing me to participate in this year’s event, and to everyone who took the time to talk to me – to share their perspectives on wholesome, healthy food, delicious coffee and drinks, and  changes in business and personal life we can all make to leave a smaller environmental imprint.

Until next time: Boston, stay strong, my beautiful city.

Melanie

 

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