Blog

New Year’s Eve is finally here. And thank God for it.

Dec. 30, 2020. By guest blogger Michael Manto

2020 felt like a Contagion and Groundhog Day movie sandwich. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. So I created this graphic to express how the year felt…like being trapped in a re-run of a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.

I’ve been actually excited about New Year’s Eve this year, which is a first for me – I’ve never been one to really get excited about a new year. Normally its just another number. But not this year. This year I’ve been looking forward to New Year’s Eve with all the anticipation and excitement I used to have as a kid for Christmas.

See you in 2021!

.… Michael Manto

Epic Honduran Roast from Oddfellow Coffee Roasters

Coffee farm in Honduras

It’s 6:30 AM, and I am just finishing a 3rd cup of coffee I brewed with a Honduran roast from Oddfellow Coffee Roasters. Oddfellow is a local roaster in Brantford Ontario that I ‘discovered’ last winter at the Brantford farmers market, and I’ve been hooked ever since. What I like about Oddfellow is not just the amazing flavour of his roasts, but that the owner, Ryan Wlodarek, buys direct from just a handful of small growers in Honduras, El Salvador and Brazil.

Today I am going to talk about his Honduran roast, because Honduras holds a special place in my heart – especially when it comes to coffee. But I’ll get to that momentarily, after I rave a bit on Oddfellow’s coffee.

Ryan at the Brantford Farmer’s Market

Oddfellow’s Honduran Roast is semi-sweet and fruity, with a hint of toffee and citrus and easy on the stomach. He buys the beans directly from Finca La Fortuna farm in central Honduras.

Finca La Fortuna is run by Delmy Regalado, a 2nd generation farmer who inherited the land from her father. Originally it was a sugar plantation. Perched 5000 feet above sea level, this farm receives amazing tropical heat, sun and rain fortified by cool nights. Perfect conditions to produce some of the most sought after beans on planet earth. The beans must work harder at higher elevations to develop and ripen, lending to unique fruity and sharp sweet characteristics. The blend is made up of Pacas, a natural mutation in the Bourbon bean and Typica, one of the main varieties of Arabica coffee.

I love this coffee from Oddfellows, not only for its incredible flavour, but because, as mentioned, I have a soft spot for the country it comes from.

Coffee has been part of my morning ritual for my entire adult life, so it is safe to say that I’ve enjoyed thousands of cups of coffee over the years, yet there is one cup I had more than 3 decades ago that I still remember with vivid clarity.

I was in Honduras for a short visit, not as a tourist but to help an organization setup a computer system. The family I stayed with in La Ceiba knew a local farmer, and one afternoon they took me out into the countryside for a visit. The family was very hospitable, and we spent a very pleasant afternoon visiting under the shade of a palm tree. It was not long before they served coffee, with cream and sugar.

The coffee, of course, was excellent, but I soon learned that the most amazing thing about the coffee was that the family produced absolutely everything that went into it. They roasted the beans from coffee plants they grew on their own small farm. They also grew their own sugar cane and made the sugar that went into the coffee. And the cream came from their own cow.

Later, the farmer asked me if I would like a cup of water. I said yes, and he motioned to his young son and pointed to the palm tree we were sitting under. The young boy scampered up the tree, picked a coconut, and came back down with it. He gave it to his father, who used a machete to slice off the top and handed it to me. I drank from it, feeling like I was a supporting caste member in The Jungle Book movie.

That afternoon was three decades ago, a coffee experience I have never forgotten. Oddfellow’s Honduran roast transports me back to that afternoon every time a brew a fresh cup using the beans from Delmy’s farm, Finca La Fortuna.

Oddfellow Coffee Roasters has some of the best roast I’ve ever experienced. Their website is still under construction and Ryan tells me it will be ready shortly. When it is, I will add the link to my List of Best Coffee Blogs. In the meantime, you can reach him by email at oddfellowroaster@gmail.com.

Have a great day. Stay safe and stay sane.

Staying Sane in Quarantine

The Writer

We just got through a period of roughly 3 months of almost complete lockdown in which we were barely able to leave the house. Recently things have gotten better. In my province, Ontario, they’ve allowed restaurants to re-open, and just last week I sat inside a restaurant for the first time in 4 months. But we still need to be careful, and medical authorities are already warning of a second wave. We might be subject to another lockdown come the fall or winter.

Knowing how to maintain your sanity has become a vital new life-skill in 2020, and not everyone is coping so well.

How do you stay sane while in quarantine during a pandemic? I’ve kept my sanity with hobbies, two of my favorites being: writing novels and making knives.

This is a knife I forged from steel cable, using deer antler, brass and leather for the handle.

As much as I love the creative process of writing, it has one serious drawback: it involves sitting down at a laptop, which is essentially what I do for a living all day long. I’m a Project Manager at a large financial services company, in which I spend most of my day on the phone with my laptop in virtual meetings. It had always been a dream of mine to write a novel, and I’ve spent the last fourteen years getting up between 4 and 5 AM to put in a couple of hours writing before going to work. People look at me like I’m crazy, but that’s what you have to do if you’re serious about writing. It’s worth it and I feel really proud of my writing. To-date I’ve completed 7 full length novels.

And I’m glad I’m pursuing that dream, but I also needed to find something that got me on my feet, is physical and hands-on and kept me in shape (more-or-less). Gym memberships never worked for me, even before Covid-19 made them unwise. I’ve tried them several times and I’ve always found it too boring to keep up, and they are not a viable option during a pandemic.

What I needed was something physical that wouldn’t bore me to death, and keep me interested enough to stand and use my muscles for hours. So in the summer of 2016 I started another hobby – knife making.

I forge them by hand from raw hunks of high carbon steel. It seems to be working. One hot Saturday in the summer, I rolled my forge and anvil out into the backyard under a shade tree and spent the entire day forging.

I was in complete bliss, and lost almost 10 pounds. It was in that moment that I realized I’d found something that holds my interest enough to keep me physically active for hours at a time.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I made my own forge out of an old barbeque I found abandoned at the side of the road. For an anvil I use an old piece of railroad track that was given to me. Some good files and a couple of heavy hammers, and that’s basically all you need to get started.

The knife I made pictured below won’t win any prizes for beauty, but I had a lot of fun forging it.

I forged this knife from a car leaf spring. A piece of the leaf spring it came from is shown above it. The handle wood is from an old horse yoke that was left on the wall of our den by the previous owner when we moved into our house.

It’s important to have interesting hobbies when you are stuck at home self-isolating. Forging steel may not be your thing, but you could try baking bread. Take up cooking. Learn to sow and make masks. Take up carpentry. Start blogging or write that novel you’ve always wanted to. All these things have become huge since the pandemic. In my area stores can’t keep flour in stock because of the numbers of people who’ve taken up baking. I see that as a very positive thing. Stay safe and above all, stay sane!

Blogs for Coffee Lovers

Best Blogs for Coffee

As one might suspect, with novels such as “Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte”, and “Coffee to Go, With a Spaceship”, I rather like coffee. I don’t think that will come as much of a shock.

In today’s post I thought I’d share links to some of my favorite coffee related blogs. Sometimes it’s just really nice to ignore the news, Facebook, Twitter and anything else on the internet that can get too serious, and go to a website to relax and read about something you enjoy without having to hear anything about pandemics, Trump, US Presidential elections, economical calamities, financial collapse, or Justin Bieber.

And 2020 is still only half over, but we won’t talk about that right now …

Not that I don’t take what’s happening seriously. I do. But sometimes we all need a mental break. So here are some good coffee blogs, carefully screened to exclude anyone who might be tempted to talk about Trump. I’ll be updating this list from time to time.

The Bean Ground Coffee gear buying guide and reviews. If you’re shopping for anything related to your favorite addiction, this is a good place to start. Also, good indepth info on coffee beans.

The Coffee Channel. A great all-round website for coffee lovers, with reviews, blogs, buying guides and recipes all about coffee. They also have a list of what they consider the best coffee blogs.

I Love Coffee. This is a fun website that focuses on coffee related humour, coffee quotes and fun infographics about the world’s greatest beverage.

Brewed Coffee. As they say in their About Us – “We are All about Coffee, including coffee news, tips, recipes, and more!”

The Coffee Hunters Journal These folks search the world for the perfect bean!

Have a great day and stay safe!

A “nothing whatsoever to do with Covid” post

It seems there is no news except Covid news. And for the last 8 weeks or so, what other kind of news has there been? What else mattered?

But some of us still remain preoccupied with much more interesting issues, such as “Do aliens exist?”, leading up to the most pressing question on all of our hearts and minds these days: “And do they like coffee?”

I don’t actually have the answers, but I’m pretty sure that …

Do aliens drink coffee?