Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 19th, 2014

The History of Coffee

Began in a Tiny City port of Yemen

Think coffee and you probably imagine a simple, black cup of joe, a mellow cafe au lait or the incessantly long lines at Starbucks to get your triple venti soy no-foam latte.

For many, coffee has become a integral component to start the day, catch up with friends or take a casual business meeting.

The origin of this ubiquitous beverage has been fiercely debated with stories of its birthplace ranging from the foothills of Latin America to a goat shepherd named Kaldi who noticed his goats behaved rather strangely after eating a mysterious fruit in Ethiopia.

Image Credit: NPR

While the most popular story of origin seems to be Kaldi’s first brewed cup of coffee in Ethiopia, the earliest cultivation came from a city you probably know very little about.

In fact, coffee comes from the highland areas of the southern tip of the Red Sea in port Al-Mokha (also spelled Mocha) in Yemen where locals gave it the Arabic name qahwa, the word from which coffee and cafe are derived.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

“Coffee was everything for Yemen,” said Sheikh Shabbir Ezzi, a Yemeni businessman at Al Ezzi Industries. “It’s a gift from our ancestors. You can see how important coffee was for Yemen from the emblem of the country. Inside the bird’s heart is a coffee plant.”

Considered the “Wine of Arabia,” coffee drinking first appeared in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen in the 15th century where Arab Sufi monks adopted coffee as a drink that would allow them to more easily stay awake for midnight prayers.

Soon enough the beverage slipped into everyday use and evolved into a lucrative trade item that spread throughout the Islamic world and sprouted clusters of kaveh kanes or coffee houses in Persia, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and North Africa.

These coffee houses became centers of intellectual life where men would meet together to talk, listen to and discuss poetry, share their opinions on the issues of the day or play games like chess and backgammon.

Image Credit: AP

Coffee then spread to Europe through the Ottoman Empire, as well as by sea from the Yemeni port of Mocha.

The English and Dutch East India Companies, who were major purchasers at Mocha in the 17th century, managed to transport the Mocha beans and trees back to Europe, India, Sumatra, Bali and other islands in the East Indies.

In The Joy of Coffee, Corby Kummer explains that the word mocha “became associated with chocolate because Europeans’ first experiences with cocoa, in the 17th century, reminded them of the bittersweet coffee they imported from Yemen.”

“It is very provincial … a treasure from the earth,” said Jim Reynolds, a coffee buyer and taster at Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Berkeley, Calif. “Rich, full-bodied, green, nutty, woody, yet inconsistent and unpredictable. Very pronounced tastes: fruity, chocolatey, winey, exotic and complex. Subtleties of flavor are often on a subconscious level — not quite there, if you know what I mean. As in a good friendship, a bit of mystery remains, and this is what makes Yemeni coffee so great.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The delicious Arabica coffee bean also takes a long time to cultivate and perfect.

According to 60-year-old Yemeni coffee cultivator Mohammed al-Maisi, the beans used to make the coffee can only be harvested 5 years after being planted at 2,500 meters (about 8,202 feet above sea level) and must be picked by hand after changing from green to red in a careful, labor-intensive process.

“I usually prefer to pick them myself, because if done incorrectly one can damange the stem or even the tree,” said Maisi.

After harvesting, the cherries are cleaned and sun-dried for up to 4 weeks until finally the last layers of dry skin are removed.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yemenis also traditionally use every aspect of the coffee plant.

While the beans are used to make traditional coffee called Bun, the husk is also used to make another coffee drink called qishr, spiced with cardamom and ginger, which is filled with antioxidants. The leaves are also used to make a red-tea-like herbal medicine.

While the unique identity and flavor of the original Mocha coffee bean did not translate to plantations overseas, the culture of coffee itself translated into coffeehouses or cafés throughout continental Europe that soon became egalitarian meeting places in the 17th century, filled with rich discussions, companionship and delicious food.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. 17th century café in England.

According to coffee historian Ian Bersten, the brewing styles also evolved from country to country in part due to genetics. While many Europeans took to taking coffee with milk, Mediterranean people including Arabs, Greek Cypriots and southern Italians took their coffee straight and often well-sweetened because they tended to be lactose-intolerant.

“From the two ends of Europe,” writes Bersten, “There eventually developed two totally different ways to brew this new commodity — either filtered in Northern Europe or espresso style in Southern Europe. The intolerance to milk may have even caused cappuccinos to be smaller in Italy so that milk intolerance problems could be minimized.”

Image Credit: Getty Images

While global coffee production has declined in Yemen, there are still attempts to revive cultivation to its former trading glory.

As the famous song by Ayoub Tarish goes, “Yemeni coffee, oh pearl, oh treasure above the tree; Whoever grows you, will never be poor or humiliated.”

Hyacinth Mascarenhas  is a graduate of the George Washington University where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications.

Her interests include cultural, social and political trends in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as human rights issues across ..

“Friends” and a few Memorable Ross Geller Moments

I love Friends and any of their reruns cracks me up. And Ross Geller is the least funny among the actors, although his character was best suited to be the funniest.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On “Friends”

“Ahhhhhhh, unagi.” (“I besiege” in Arabic)

1. When he tried to move a couch up the stairs in his apartment building and yelled at Rachel and Chandler.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

Everything just went terribly wrong, even though he drew a sketch.

2. When he tried flirting with Phoebe but it was just painfully awkward.

3. And when he got too excited about Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

Look at that beautiful jump.

4. When Donald threw away Ross’ leftover moistmaker and he was a little emotionally attached to it.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

Lesson: do not eat Ross’ leftover Thanksgiving sandwich.

5. Or when Ross pushed the boundaries a tad too far.

And pretended to be dead to see if anyone would show up to his funeral.

6. And the other time when he taught Rachel and Phoebe about the total state of awareness.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via


7. When Ross tried to prove himself to Chandler.

And Chandler straight up laughed in his face.

8. And when Ross wouldn’t let the little things go.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

9. When he tried to be optimistic about the New Year, but his thoughts sounded dirty instead.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

Oh, Ross.

10. And when he admitted he has no luck with love and relationships.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

That’s yikes.

11. When he proved he was the best dad in the world by teaching Ben all about Hanukkah.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

12. When Ross took it to the limit during Emma’s childbirth.

13. And the time he showed his “quiet-down” quirk.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

14. When he passionately played the keyboard.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

“Infinite tii-iiii-iiiiime.”

15. And thought playing the bagpipes would be a good idea.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

“Celebrate good times, come on!”

16. When he couldn’t help being the grammar police during a fight with Rachel.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

17. That time he wasn’t afraid to display his creative imagination to his students.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

18. When he revealed just how nerdy his childhood was.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via


19. When he made Emma happy in the most obscure way.

“That girl is all about the ass!” —Rachel

20. When he tried to play it cool with Rachel and Joey.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

21. And relieve the tension by making fajitas.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

22. When he got stuck in a difficult situation on his 30th birthday.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

23. That time he got a mega-tan because he couldn’t count “Mississippi’s.”

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

24. And when he caught Paul singing “Love Machine.”

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

25. When he tried to be adventurous but got stuck in his leather pants.



26. And realized he might have gotten a little too close with Monica.

What did Chandler marry into?!

27. When he’s trying to fit in with his new neighbors at Howard the handyman’s party.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

28. When he and Monica lived their childhood dream by performing “The Routine.”

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

29. When Ross was the best friend ever and helped Joey with his audition.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

Oh, that Ross.

30. And when Ross used a secret language against Chandler.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

31. When Ross wasn’t afraid to be himself on Halloween.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"

No, not doody.

32. When he got extremely drunk in Las Vegas.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via

Those kitty whiskers are too fine.

33. And most importantly, when Ross finally acted on his emotions and kissed Rachel at Central Perk.

33 Of The Most Memorable Ross Geller Moments On "Friends"
NBC / Via


The source may be anonymous, but the shame is all yours

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“The two main downsides of anonymity, out of many, are two:

1. Anonymous sourcing reduces the pressure on official sources to take responsibility for their utterances. And

2. it promotes the gaming of news outlets, with anonymous sources gravitating to the most pliant reporters and editors. Neither is good for the news.

Photo of Bob Woodward, a former Washington Post reporter, discusses about the Watergate Hotel burglary and stories for the Post at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California April 18, 2011. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo
Jack Shafer published this JUNE 16, 2014

Twice over the past two weeks, New York Times reporters got taken for long rides by anonymous sources who ultimately dropped them off at the corner of Mortified and Peeved.

The first embarrassing trip for the Times came on May 31, as the paper alleged in a Page One story that a federal insider trading investigation was “examining” golfer Phil Mickelson’s “well-timed trades” in Clorox stock, according to “people briefed on the investigation.”

On June 11, the Times rowed the story back — citing anonymous sources again, namely “four people briefed on the matter” — calling the original story about Mickelson’s role “overstated.” Mickelson did not, the paper reported, trade shares of Clorox.

Heads bowed, the new Times article explained the error:

The overstated scope of the investigation came from information provided to the Times by other people briefed on the matter who have since acknowledged making a mistake.”

Gotta love the wording. The people briefed made a mistake, not the Times for relying on anonymous sources.

The Times got its second joyride in a June 3 Page One story about Bowe Bergdahl.

A “former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into the private’s disappearance” claimed that before Bergdahl fled his unit on June 30, 2009, he left a note in his tent expressing his disillusionment with the Army and the American mission in Afghanistan, and stated that he was leaving to start a new life.

This marked Bergdahl as a deserter for many in the press.

But the assertion was false, according to a June 6 Page One story in the Times. Again, the Times cited unnamed sources to correct the mistakes of its original anonymous source: These new anonymous sources had read a classified military report about Bergdahl, completed two months after his disappearance.

The report made no mention of a goodbye note in Bergdahl’s tent, which likely means the note never existed.

The Times contacted its original anonymous source — the former senior military officer — for an explanation of how he could have been so wrong. He now recalled having read about the Bergdahl note in a field report, but “was unable to explain why [the note] was not mentioned in the final investigative report.

Instead of condemning the Times for so recklessly depending on anonymous sources, I’d rather praise them for reminding readers why they should discount anything a shadowy unknown source is allowed to say in a news story.

Shielded from public accountability and defended by the journalists who rely on them, anonymous sources pretty much have their way with the New York Times and Washington Post, which tend to rely more heavily on them than other print outlets.

In the past four days, the Post cited unnamed sources in at least 18 pieces and the Times did the same in 17 stories ranging from the Iraq civil war to a smartphone app that predicts what a user will type next.

How did anonymous sourcing become the rule rather than the exception in American journalism?

Journalism professor Matt J. Duffy informs us in a new (and securely paywalled) paper that anonymous sourcing was sufficiently rare in the first three decades of the 20th century that none of the journalism textbooks and guides he examined made mention of the practice.

The first textbook mention Duffy encountered was published in 1955 — An Introduction to Journalism: A Survey of the Fourth Estate in All Its Forms, by Fraser Bond. According to Bond, anonymous sources appeared primarily in foreign diplomatic reporting and in those cases that reporters wanted to attribute information from the president.

The proliferation of anonymous sources appalled journalist and journalism professor John Hohenberg in his 1960 textbook, The Professional Journalist. In the earlier era, Hohenberg wrote, editors generally insisted that the sources of news be identified.

“The presence of an anonymous figure, who could not be described in any way except in relation to what he represented, was almost an affront to many reporters,” he wrote. As the editorial bars to anonymous sources lowered, Hohenberg continued, newspapers allowed their eagerness for news to permit nameless spokesmen, and the practice spread to manure the less prestigious beats.

Duffy regards the Washington Post‘s Watergate coverage (1972-1974) by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as the watershed moment for anonymous reporting, as anonymous sources crept into practically every reportorial niche, including sports.

All major newspapers have policies about anonymous sources, and largely ignore them and editors largely don’t enforce them vigorously.

In the past decade top editors such as Al Neuharth of USA Today and Leonard Downie Jr. of the Washington Post have criticized the practice, campaigning in their own pages against anonymity.

Press criticsombudsmenpublic editors, and standards editors have howled about anonymous sources, to little avail.

(In 2008, I devised a crowd sourced spreadsheet to collect the more egregious examples of anonymous sourcing, but I soon become overwhelmed by the volume and surrendered. I wish Times public editor Margaret Sullivan the best in her current AnonyWatch project, which tracks “gratuitous, anonymous quotations” in her paper.)

The practice has become so normalized that a single-sourced, anonymous assertion about a desertion-type note can make it on to Page One of the Times with no corroboration.

Anonymity benefits sources by allowing them to feed their versions almost unimpeded to the press if they locate a gullible or corrupt reporter. Anonymity benefits reporters, too, by potentially increasing their byline counts, by giving them “scoops” (however spurious or short-lived), and by signaling their availability to other anonymous sources.

The downsides of anonymity, of course, are too many to list in a column, but here are two: Anonymous sourcing reduces the pressure on official sources to take responsibility for their utterances. And it promotes the gaming of news outlets, with anonymous sources gravitating to the most pliant reporters and editors. Neither is good for the news.

Do anonymous sources have any place in journalism?

Obviously there’s a difference between listening to anonymous sources and masked whistle blowers and putting into print what they say verbatim.

I have nothing against anonymous sources who help guide reporters toward the verifiable — I just draw the line at routinely printing what they say.

Several years ago in New York magazine, writer Kurt Andersen made his case for anonymous sourcing, pointing out that one hundred times as many on-the-record lies make it in to print than anonymous ones.

While this may be true, on-the-record lies are much easier to hunt down and strangle than anonymous ones. In the long run, on-the-record liars injure themselves. Anonymous ones injure journalism.

When the New York Times bestows anonymity upon Tony Awards Administration Committee members for stories, as happened last week, we all know the practice has gone too far.

I concede that it’s nearly impossible to break a national security story without turning to some anonymous sources. (If only each of us had a Snowden stash!) But even then, I put more stock in the journalists that buttress anonymously sourced stories with so many facts they can’t be knocked down.

Among the best journalists plowing this field is Dana Priest of the Washington Post, whose approach I applauded several years ago.

The only good news about anonymous sourcing comes from Duffy’s earlier study (with a co-author) that examined the years between 1958 and 2008 and notes that the practice appears to have peaked in 1978.

“The frequency of unnamed sourcing in 2008 decreased to levels not seen since the late 1950s,” the paper stated. Which is to say that the flood has retreated from the high-water mark but we’re still waist deep in its drift.

My advice: Keep your news nose high, or you’ll drown in this stuff.


Journalism prof Matt J. Duffy will be a visiting assistant professor at Berry College this fall. Don’t be a wise guy and send anonymous email to






June 2014

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