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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Tea Fungus May Help Tea Plants

INDIA - Scientists are planning to introduce a fungus later this year in hopes that it will kill off a plague of green weed that is strangling India’s tea crops. They must first check that the fungus won’t kill other plants as well, reports the New Scientist. Research has been done for a long time in order to find a biological agent to kill the green weed, Mikana micrantha.

“The plant can grow at a phenomenal rate,” says Seana Murphy at CABI Bioscience in Egham, UK. “In the monsoon season it is like seeing a green tidal wave coming down from the hills.”

Hardest hit by the weed are the tea-growing areas of the northwest, including Assam, Darjeeling, West Bengal, and Magalia.

Farmer usually try to control the weed with machetes and chemicals, but chemicals can only be used early in the season so as not to contaminate the crop’s leaves.

Mikania was introduced to India during World War II as a way to camouflage airfields, but without any natural enemies it spread uncontrollably.

Now, after a 7-year search for suitable biocontrol agent, Murphy’s team has settled on the rust fungus Puccinia spegazzinii, which attacks the weed in its native South and Central America. The fungus has been delivered to India after testing in England to check that it doesn’t harm other Indian plants. It is now in quarantine, where it will undergo further tests before a planned release later in the year. If successful, the fungus may also be deployed against Mikania in China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Jasmine Tea Made Him Do It

UNITED STATES - A judge dropped aggravated assault and burglary charges against a man who chased a woman with a dagger, after three psychologists agreed the episode was provoked by jasmine tea, reports the Montreal Gazette. On Dec. 3, 2002, Gilbert Walker, 43, burst into his neighbor’s home after hallucinating that ceramic Chinese dogs were barking or talking. Walker threw a brass duck through his neighbor’s glass door, then chased the woman out of her house. Police found him, wild-eyed, outside the home, shouting: “I’m crazy.” A judge dismissed the charges this week after receiving reports from three court-appointed psychologists who agreed Walker suffered from psychosis induced by jasmine tea. Walker, a software designed and engineer for a government contractor, was apparently drinking 10 cups a day to calm his stomach.
Calgary Boutiques Can’t Serve Shoppers Coffee

CANADA - Health officials are cracking down on businesses that serve their customers gourmet coffee without having permits and other professional kitchen equipment, reports the National Post.

Norm Carlson, Calgary Health Regional manager of environmental health, said inspectors are encountering more cases where boutiques, salons and spas have “crossed the line” from offering patrons regular coffee or water in a disposable cup to whipping up beverages commonly found in cafes. “When you have a milk constituent and a fair amount of handling and using reusable utensils, that is carrying the practice to an extreme and we have to start asking for a food permit and make sure we’re inspecting them regularly,” Carlson said.

Many medium-sized businesses have opted to upgrade their kitchens and pay the permit fee, while small businesses have found the expensive equipment was not worth it.

Second Annual Latte Art Competition
Slated for Coffee Fest Seattle

UNITED STATES - Having launched the nation’s first Latte Art Competition one year ago at Coffee Fest Seattle, Coffee Fest is extremely excited to announce the return of Dillanos Latte Art Competition presented by Tea & Coffee Trade Journal and Atomic Distributing, October 24th through the 26th at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.

The Second Annual Dillanos Latte Art Competition is provided for Coffee Fest Seattle attendees to further their awareness and appreciation of this culinary art form. One cannot adequately produce Free-Pour Latte Art without first having a grasp on the scientific and artistic factors of world-class espresso preparation.

Baristas from around the globe will be invited to show the world their best free-pour art.

“This competition is going to be incredible,” said David Heilbrunn, Coffee Fest Show Manager. “In addition to applicants from all around the Seattle area, we expect Zack Zlatin - Caffé Artigiano, the champion from 2002, to defend his title.”

With preliminary rounds from 9-12pm on Friday and Saturday, contestants will each have five minutes to produce their best free-pour art. At the completion of the five minute period each contestant will select their favorite pour as their one contest submission. Five semifinalists will advance to Sunday’s final round from Friday and Saturday’s preliminaries. On Sunday, the top ten competitors will face off and the Free Pour Latte Art Champion will be crowned, courtesy of Dillanos Coffee Roasters and Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. The winner will walk away with $1000, with second place receiving $500 and 3rd place, $250. A few spaces remain available in the competition as of this writing. Interested parties may call (425) 283-5058 ext 13.

Coffee and a Different Kind of Pot

CANADA - A new kind of coffeeshop is opening in Montreal, according to the Montreal Gazette. Canada’s first Amersterdam-style cafe will allow patrons to smoke marijuana while they sip their lattes.

The basement cafe won’t actually sell the marijuana, but its patrons will be allowed to bring their own.

Founded by Bloc Pot and Marijuana Party, advocates of legal marijuana use, one name being considered for the cafe is Second Puff.

St. Maurice, a marijuana party advocate said Bloc Pot lead decided to open the shop after a series of court ruling across the cuntry put in limbo the legality of simple possession.

“This is simply excercising our newfound rights to smoke marijuana,” St. Muarice told the Gazette.”A cafe is a good place for recreational users to smoke pot, as opposed to doing it on the street.”

In the last couple of years, Ottowa has been moving towards decriminalizing marijuana. In 2001, the federal government drafted regulations granting exemptions to the sick to possess and grow the plants.

Last May, Justice Minister Martin Martin Cauchon introduced legislation to decriminalize possession. Under the proposed law, being found with up to 15 grams of marijuana carries a fine, but no longer results in a criminal record.

St. Maurice said he looks forward to the cafe one day selling marijuana. But for now, in addition to coffee and pastries, only rolling papers will be sold.

Tea & Coffee - October/November, 2003
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