Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Really Love Coffee!

I have a confession to make.

I don’t just like coffee….I have a deep, abiding passion for it.  If you see me without a mug in my hand in the morning, I’m probably still asleep. The first thing I do in the morning is stagger into the kitchen for java. My name is Laurel, and I am a coffeeholic.

It’s not just me – the nation is coffee-obsessed.  Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and a host of other shops compete on every street corner, at the malls, and anyplace else they can plug in an espresso machine. There are entire aisles at the grocery store dedicated to nothing but coffee from the far corners of the earth and various flavored creamers to please the palate.

Like nearly everything else that is sold for profit, however, coffee has become tainted.  Artificial flavors, toxic sweeteners, chemical creations, and pesticide soaked beans make a lot of the offerings out there downright toxic.

Starbucks -

At nearly $6 apiece and an appalling amount of caloric damage, Starbucks, the trendiest coffee joint around, is serving you an unhealthy cup of java.  It’s not only the high CALORIES that you have to worry about.  Starbucks recently came under fire for the food coloring in the very popular Strawberry Frappuccino. The frothy drink receives it’s lovely pink color from “natural coloring” aka “Natural Red #4″.   It comes from dried, ground-up bugs. “Hi. I’d like a venti Strawberry Frappuccino with whip and extra beetles, please. ”Cochineal insects are the source for pink and red “natural color”.

The light versions of popular drinks are even worse – they might be lower in CALORIES and fat, but it comes at a price for your health.  They are a chemistry project in a cup, full of neuro-toxic artificial sweetener, as well as an abundance of artificial flavors to make up for the fat and sugar that have been removed.

It might seem better to make your coffee flavorings at home. While it’s definitely better for your wallet, if you are using some kind of "Random Delight” flavoring, you may be ingesting some very unpalatable ingredients – and the ones labeled “natural flavorings” sound even more disgusting than the chemical versions. Particularly bile-inducing is the source of  “natural raspberry and vanilla flavorings,  Castoreum. Well, castoreum is made from a secretion from the anal glands of beavers.  I'm not kidding! So if an ingredient label says “natural raspberry flavoring” or “natural vanilla flavoring” this may be what you’re consuming.

I really love coffee!
Some studies show measurable HEALTH BENEFITS for coffee drinkers.  Those who drink more than 4 cups per day have a decreased risk of oral cancer, prostate cancer, and basal cell carcinoma.  Moderate coffee consumption can also reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.  Coffee drinkers are also less susceptible to Alzheimer's and dementia.

Some feel that coffee is not exactly health food, but it is incredibly high in antioxidants.  Also, you can make far better choices than the usual offerings.

You should start with a good quality organic coffee bean.  Green, or unroasted, coffee beans store the longest – if properly stashed away in a cool, dark place. It can last for ten years or more.  Roasting coffee releases the oils, which means that the bean immediately begins to age.

Consuming conventionally grown coffee means that you are also consuming a significant amount of pesticides, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola.  If you simply MUST drink coffee here are a few tips to help reduce the chances of harmful effects:

Use organic coffee – Again, coffee is a heavily sprayed crop, so drinking organic coffee might reduce or eliminate the exposure to toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. The only drawback is that the countries where coffee is produced probably have less control and monitoring for compliance to organic practices. You will also be helping to protect the health of the people working in the coffee fields, as you will be helping to reduce their toxic exposure as well.If you want to go a step further, look for fair-trade certified coffee, which means the coffee farmers have been paid fairly and treated well.

“Swiss Water Process” decaf – If you are going to drink decaffeinated coffee, be sure that it is one that uses a non-chemical based method of decaffeination. The “Swiss Water Process” is a patented method and is the best choice. Most of the major brands are chemically decaffeinated, even if it says “Naturally Decaffeinated” right on the container. If you are unsure of the methods, contact the manufacturer.

Unbleached filters – If you use a “drip” coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones, which most people use, are chlorine bleached and some of this chlorine will be extracted from the filter during the brewing process

Be your own Barista

First…the milk:

Choose organic milk to avoid the addition of hormones, antibiotics and GMO-fed dairy.
Other options include animal product alternatives like soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk.  If you make the milk yourself you are sure to have a wholesome ingredients list.

The sweetener:

Look for a non-GMO, less processed sugar like organic Sucanat or Coconut Palm Sugar.
Try stevia, a LOW CALORIE sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant.  (Some people dislike the licorice-like flavor of stevia)
Raw honey is always a delicious and healthy option to sweeten anything.

The flavor:

Try adding any of the following and you’ll be ready to open your own coffee bar. Stir them into a base of 1 1/2 cups of organic milk and 1 1/2 cups of organic cream. I use Organic Valley brand milk and cream.

If you don’t want to make a full batch of the creamer, stir just a small amount of the flavorings into an individual cup of coffee and add milk.

Mix the flavoring into the milk and bring to a simmer on the stove, whisking constantly until it begins to steam slightly.  Remove from heat, allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator.  Feel free to adjust the amounts for stronger or sweeter flavors.

Mocha Java:  2 tbsp of cocoa powder, 4 tbsp of coconut palm sugar

Almond Toffee:  4 tbsp of raw honey, 1 tsp of almond extract

Vanilla Latte:  2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract, 4 tbsp of raw honey

Mocha Mint: 2 tbsp of cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract, 4 tbsp raw honey or organic cane sugar

Caramel Macchiato:  6 tbsp of coconut palm sugar, a dash of sea salt, 1 tbsp of cocoa, and 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Amaretto: 1 tbsp of almond extract,  4 tbsp organic cane sugar

White Chocolate Mocha:  1 cup of white chocolate chips, 1 tsp of cocoa  (melt the chips into the milk, whisking constantly)

Chocolate Coconut Mocha: 2 tbsp of cocoa, 4 tbsp raw honey, 2 tsp of coconut extract (or replace half of the milk with coconut milk)

Irish Cream: 2 tbsp cocoa, 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp almond extract, 4 tbsp raw honey

Hazelnut: 1 tsp of hazelnut extract, 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract, 4 tbsp of raw honey

Chai Latte: Simmer 3 chai teabags in creamer mixture with 4 tbsp of coconut palm sugar

Almond Joy: 2 tbsp of cocoa, 4 tbsp of raw honey, 1 tsp of almond extract, and  2 tsp of coconut extract (or replace half of the milk with coconut milk)

All of these delicious combinations can be made ahead of time and stored in your refrigerator for 7-10 days (although they don’t last that long here). Always look for pure extracts without artificial ingredients.

Do you have any homemade versions of “fancy” coffees that you’d like to contribute?  Please add them in the comments section below.

Intuitively Yours,
Laurel xoxo

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