In episode 3 of the Edible Potluck podcast we talk about straws with Edible Louisville’s Ann Curtis and Hawaiian coffee with Shawn Steinman.
Recommended Recipe: Roasted Parsnips with Nutmeg and Honey
By now, most of us are well aware that single-use plastics spell trouble for our environment. Many of us have replaced plastic grocery bags with reusable canvas totes, for example. But those bags are far from the only problematic plastic out there. Forward-thinking restaurants are now working on getting rid of another all-too-common plastic: Straws. Ann Curtis wrote about this trend in Edible Louisville & the Bluegrass, where she is managing editor. She is also the board president of Slow Food Bluegrass and the co-host of the radio show, The Local Life.
Edible magazines all cover the topic of coffee. Cafes and coffee shops are part of local food culture all around the world. And of course, coffee can be roasted just about anywhere. But there’s really just one Edible that can claim coffee as a truly local product: Edible Hawaiian Islands. In a recent issue, the magazine tapped Shawn Steiman, a coffee scientist and author, to write an overview of the current coffee scene.
Ann Curtis on Instagram @edible_louisville
Shawn Steiman at Coffea Consulting
Joy Manning: This is Joy Manning. And you’re listening to the Edible Potluck Podcast. Today we’re going to Kentucky to talk to Edible Louisville & the Blue Grass Managing Editor Ann Curtis about why some restaurants there are eliminating plastic straws. And then we’re off to Hawaii for a little coffee talk with edible Hawaiian Islands contributor and coffee scientist Shawn Steiman.
Recipe: Roasted Parsnips with Nutmeg and Honey
Joy Manning: But first let me tell you about a recipe I made last week that I think you might like to. It stars an unusual ingredient, parsnips. I found this recipe in Edible Vancouver & Wine Country and what drew me in most was honestly the photo. It’s just one of those food photos where the food looks so alluring, you need to immediately head to your kitchen and make it. We have golden parsnips sitting in a baking dish that is red enameled cast iron and you can see little brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. I was really sold right away. Then when I saw that the ingredients list was so short, just parsnips, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, and nutmeg, I was intrigued. Especially by that nutmeg. I don’t usually season my roasted vegetables with much of anything but nutmeg was really something that was out of the box for me. I happened to have parsnips on hand so I started making it right away. Of course, I’m going to share a link to this recipe with you in the show notes for this episode.
But you barely even need the recipe, I’m telling you. The trickiest part was cutting up the parsnips because if you’ve, you know, worked with parsnips you know they’re pretty fat on the top and then skinny at the bottom, and you like things to be cut evenly for even cooking. You know, you don’t want some pieces that are mushy, or where pieces are raw. So, I just basically used my judgment to cut them in to sort of finger length and size pieces, as best I could. Then I tossed the parsnips with two tablespoons olive oil, two tablespoons honey, plenty of salt and pepper, and of course that nutmeg. It’s a whole half teaspoon. And it really gave it a wonderful aroma, and sort of a warm flavor.
I really am going to think of nutmeg as a spice with other vegetables and sort it of take out of it’s gingerbread box because it really made this dish very interesting, and I think that once you try it, it’s going to become a staple. I imagine it on a plate with a beautiful roasted chicken, it would be wonderful with steak, it would be terrific with lunch with just a light salad, or the night that I had it I just actually roasted a bunch of vegetables and had a big old roasted vegetable bowl for dinner. But however you do it, I think you’ll like it. Give it a try and please do let me know what you think.
Straws with Ann Curtis
Joy Manning: Right now most of us are well aware that single use plastics spell trouble for the environment. Many of us have replaced plastic grocery bags with reusable canvas totes for example. But those bags are far from the only problematic plastic out there. Forward thinking restaurants are now working to get rid of another all too common plastic problem, straws. Ann Curtis wrote about this trend in Edible Louisville & the Blue Grass, where she’s the managing editor. Hi, Anne and thank you for being with us today.
Ann Curtis: Well, thanks for having me, Joy.
Joy Manning: What inspired you to cover this topic in the pages of your magazine?
Ann Curtis: You know, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish. And did you know that in the United States alone approximately 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded each day? Joy, that’s enough straw to circumnavigate the planet two and a half times.
Joy Manning: It really is disturbing.
Ann Curtis: It really is. And so when we learned of these staggering statistics we wanted to raise awareness and offer easy alternatives.
Joy Manning: Right. And so, did this start with you learning about the plastic in the ocean or did you start noticing it around Louisville?
Ann Curtis: Well, you know actually it was our publisher Steve Makela was in California visiting his daughter and it’s a huge topic there. And you know like anytime you travel outside your own little world, you learn of new things. I think it’s why travel is so important. So, when he came back, he said, “Wow, we’ve got to really think about this”. So, I started doing some research and was pleasantly surprised to see a very hopeful situation.
Joy Manning: So, you do cover a few alternatives to plastic straws in your piece, options that some restaurants are using. Can you tell us about a few of those?
Ann Curtis: Yeah, so we’re lucky that the market is really shifting so the number of options are increasing and as the numbers and invention increases the costs comes down making it so much more affordable for everybody. So, in Louisville and Lexington hay straws have become really popular. And so we’ve got many restaurants that have been replacing plastic straws with hay. There are many old standbys that have been around for a while like acrylic, and paper, and metal, and glass. But plant based compostable straws are starting to really rise up and so bamboo and hay are kind of becoming a big thing. So, we have some restaurants that have been using hay straws. We have some that have been using metal for in-house eating and then hay for take home orders. But really, I think the bigger trend that we’re seeing in a lot of restaurants is they’re just not using straws at all. I mean they’re just removing them, elimination completely.
Joy Manning: Right. I think that’s an interesting point, when you start to … I bought metal straws for my own use at home and I didn’t love using them. So, I just started using nothing for my ice coffee and I find it to be not a big deal. Now the hay straws, I’ve never used those. What are they like? What do they feel like?
Ann Curtis: They’re sturdy. They’re more sturdy than you think. What’s really great about them too is that they’re really minimal processing and they’re gluten free. I think texture has a lot to do with it for people. It’s changing a paradigm.
Joy Manning: Right.
Ann Curtis: Right, so like the plastic bags you just have to kind of behave your change a little bit and work on that, and just be more open, but I think you’re right, I mean just not using straws and I keep a bag of acrylic straws in my purse, so if I like out and about in a situation where I really would like to use a straw especially when I’m driving it’s not as easy to tip that cup up when you’re at the wheel.
Joy Manning: Yeah, that’s true.
Ann Curtis: That’s a great, a great strategy.
Joy Manning: Are hay straws something that the average individual person can buy for their home or is that more of like a restaurant, industry thing?
Ann Curtis: I think it’s both. I think it’s accessibility, it probably is a little challenging right now, I mean sourcing is kind of an issue.
Joy Manning: I haven’t seen them.
Ann Curtis: Yeah there aren’t a lot of local stores so I know we try not to promote a lot of big box amazon purchasing –
Joy Manning: Right.
Ann Curtis: – but you also kind of have to meet it where it is to then increase it, right? And increase the demand. So I know there are some local, we do have one local store Rainbow Blossom, it’s a natural food market that offers alternatives.
Joy Manning: You say in a piece that one of the issues with these plastic straws is they cannot be recycled the way other plastics can. Can you say a little more about that? Why not?
Ann Curtis: Yeah, so as you probably know plastic straws are made out of type five plastic, also known as polypropylene. And although it can be recycled, most recycling facilities don’t accept plastic straws because of the size. So as plastic travels down the conveyor belt while being sorted, small items like bottle caps and straws often fall through the cracks and end up being sent to the landfill and as you know there are many, if any, special store recycling facilities which means that when you use a straw it’s going to end up in the landfill forever.
Joy Manning: Yeah, that’s a really important to keep in mind. We can be so unconscious about the single use plastics that we just use and discard in a matter of minutes. Since I read your article I’ve definitely been more aware in my own behavior, and I’m wondering since it came out have you seen other restaurants eliminate straws? Or what has your feedback been from readers?
Ann Curtis: Yeah, so when I initially did the research we didn’t have a lot of space so I did a quick survey of places in town and since the articles come out, people have been coming forward really sharing other places that have been doing it. There have been some challenges so some restaurants have challenged other restaurants to stop using as well. But I think it’s also been kind of a gateway into a much larger conversation about single use plastics.
Joy Manning: Right.
Ann Curtis: – and take out containers and just using being more mindful in general about water bottles and you know all that stuff. But what I think is really positive is that it’s happening on a national scale too. So you know we’ve had some really large companies kinda jump on board, you know places like American Airlines and Hyatt, and Ikea, and Starbucks, so local endeavors are really important as well as national endeavors. You know who can have such a dramatic impact.
Joy Manning: Do you have any quick tips on how you know just the typical customer might talk to their favorite coffee shop or their favorite restaurant about this issue, you know without being preachy. Just to sort of help the message get out.
Ann Curtis: Yeah definitely. I mean consumers own the power to drive this change, right? I mean consumers have the power to drive any change. And so the next time you’re ordering your beverage just simply ask your server to hold the straw. You know, even if you’re in the drive-through. And I think just that simple request doesn’t have to be an overcomplicated situation. I do know that one restaurant in Lovell uses that topic as a platform. So when the customer asks for a straw they are able to express why they don’t use straws, so I think it’s coming from both sides.
Joy Manning: And I just wanted to touch on one more thing before wrap up, which is the complex issue of plastic straws and people living with disabilities. And you touch on in your article that it is a good idea for establishments to have someone hand for this reason. Why is that so important?
Ann Curtis: According to the American’s With Disabilities Act, plastic straws are really only the viable option for disabled individuals and that’s because many straw alternatives kind of create secondary issues, so paper straws and similar biodegradable options fall apart too quickly. Silicone straws are often not flexible for those with mobility challenges. Reusable straws need to be washed which can be challenging for some, and metal straws which conduct heat in cold in addition to being hard and inflexible kind of pose a safety risk.
Joy Manning: Yeah, so I guess we should just keep our eyes on our own cups and not judge other people for whether they have a straw or not. I guess that’s what I took away from it.
Ann Curtis: Right, exactly.
Joy Manning: Well, thanks again for covering this and for being with us here today. I really appreciate it.
Ann Curtis: Awe, thank you. Thank you for bringing this topic to life.
Joy Manning: That was Anne Curtis. In addition to her role as managing editor at Edible Louisville & the Blue Grass, she’s the board president of Slow Food Blue Grass, and the cohost of The Local Life. We’ll have a link to her article “Straw Poll” in the show notes for this episode and you can find Ann’s Instagram at @Edible_Louisville.
Coffee with Shawn Steinman
Joy Manning: Edible Magazines all cover the topic of coffee. Cafes and coffee shops are part of the local food culture all around the world. And of course coffee can be roasted just about anywhere. But there’s really just one edible that can claim coffee as a truly local product. Edible Hawaiian Islands. In a recent issue the magazine tapped Shawn Steimen, a coffee scientist and author, to write an overview of the current coffee scene there. He’s with us today to talk more about what’s brewing with coffee in Hawaii. Hi Shawn, thanks for being with us.
Shawn Steiman: My pleasure Joy.
Joy Manning: So when most of us think about Hawaii and coffee, we think of Kona. What does the word Kona really refer to though?
Shawn Steiman: Kona is a place. So on the big island of Hawaii there is a political distract all around the island and there’s two of them, a North Kona and a South Kona. And any coffee that’s grown in those political districts in Kona coffee.
Joy Manning: Does all Kona coffee taste the same?
Shawn Steiman: No, not at all. There’s a huge variation actually.
Joy Manning: Huh. Can you tell me a little bit about the range of Kona coffee flavors?
Shawn Steiman: Oh that’s a tricky question. I’m going to actually start with a little bit of a quick background which is Kona coffee was for a long time a bunch of small farmers who all sold their fruit to big processing mills, and all got mixed together mechanized and you had this sort of sense of a single origin flavor. But in the last couple of decades individual farmers have been doing their own things with different varieties and different processes and different ranges of temperature they grow in. We see a whole range of flavor showing up.
Joy Manning: In just Kona?
Shawn Steiman: In just Kona. The elevation in Kona has quite a range so you get quite a range of temperature that it grows in.
Joy Manning: That’s interesting. So when you’re saying a range, you get what lighter fruiter coffees and roastier coffees?
Shawn Steiman: Well roastier is an artifact of roasting process so that could happen anywhere.
Joy Manning: Right.
Shawn Steiman: But if you were to roast all the coffees the same from all over Kona and taste them you’d get coffee’s that are very sort of coffee forward maybe chocolate, very simple in the cup all the way to coffees that are acidy and fruity and floral and have a whole range of nuances in them.
Joy Manning: Hm. That’s interesting. I think most people think of it as just one thing. But a major frust of your story is that it’s not just Kona coffee coming out of Hawaii anymore, and that the industry has expanded to other parts of the island. Can you tell me more about these other regions and how it expanded?
Shawn Steiman: Absolutely. So at the late 1970’s/1980’s the big companies that did most of the agriculture in Hawaii were growing sugar and pineapple and those crops were becoming clearly not gonna be profitable anymore so the companies wanted to diversify, and they tried coffee as one of their crops. And they planted big plantations if you will or big farms on four different islands, not in concert but sort of just doing their own things but sort of doing it at the same time. And we got these four big plantations which helped the regions outside of Kona become these new coffee growing regions. And once they did that and once things like the internet happened where farmers could have a little farm and get their own coffee roasted and sell it to someone very easily, there was this boom in coffee growing outside of the Kona region. So we now have coffee growing on five islands and ten different geographical regions, across the state.
Joy Manning: Are there any other names we should know? Any regions becoming sort of like a name brand like Kona has become?
Shawn Steiman: Uh the closest one is probably a region quite close to Kona called Kau on the big island. It has done really well in some competitions and they’ve got some folks who are really trying hard to get that name out and recognized and familiar to people. But I’d be remiss not to say there’s amazing coffee coming from all the islands. Maui has a couple of regions up country in Kanaapali, there’s Oahu and Wylewa there’s Molokai, there’s Kauai, there’s all sorts of stuff happening and there’s more stuff on the big island in fact. It’s really exciting.
Joy Manning: Are these coffees ones that we might find in the continental US at our favorite boutique coffee shops or are they not making their way over here yet?
Shawn Steiman: That’s a great question, honestly I don’t know the answer.
Joy Manning: You’re not sure. I’ll have to keep a lookout.
Shawn Steiman: I suspect that they’re without question there are some boutique coffee shops that have them but Hawaiian coffee is, there’s not very much of it and it’s very expensive so, it only ends up in places where there’s lots of interested coffee drinkers.
Joy Manning: Speaking of that expense, you mention in your article that there are challenges to growing coffee and producing coffee in Hawaii. The cost of living and doing business there being one of them. Can you say a little bit more about those challenges and how people are facing them?
Shawn Steiman: Yeah, well I think the best way to think about it there is quite a higher cost of production because we’re out in the middle of nowhere and we’re the United States which is unusual to be growing tropical crops and so we have a baseline more expensive coffee. But then we also have people who are Americans who want to live like Americans. And for that to happen, and this is true across all industries not just coffee, we need to make our things more expensive and coffee is no different. So how do people deal with that? Well people deal with it by creating stories and getting connected to their buyers and saying “Look, I’m a face here, I’m a real person and you want to support this idea of buying American and buying local and this is the best you can do when it comes to coffee”. And then you just also strive to make really great coffee and if the cup is really great people are more inclined to be okay with spending more money on it.
Joy Manning: I think that’s really true, we’re seeing in coffee shops people willing to pay quite a bit more than was once true I think, especially in these types of shops where they have single origin pour overs, at least I’m seeing that on the east coast in Philadelphia. So I think that that’s only probably going to grow.
Shawn Steiman: I agree.
Joy Manning: I’m a coffee lover so I’m certainly willing to pay a little more for a very interesting cup of coffee. You mentioned that some of the coffee farms in Hawaii are starting to grow different varieties than in the past, and that most of the coffee beans grown have been a variety called topeka? And now there’s some new varieties being cultivated only on Hawaii. Can you tell us what some of those are?
Shawn Steiman: Yeah, well I’m going to expand that and talk about all the different varieties. So for most of our history we have been growing topeka from one place or another and it wasn’t until really the coffee and the internet where farmers started thinking “Oh we should try different things to make different flavors”, and that was probably late 90’s early 2000’s. And we had a bunch of common varieties you’ll find all around the world ber bones, catwaii’s and catorres and things are sort of considered heirloom varieties if you will. But also at this time especially coffee began developing, folks here realized that it’d be great to have varieties that were truly Hawaiian varieties that nobody else in the world had. So there was a breeding program started by a private industry group, done at private research center that aimed to develop new varieties based on you know crosses from the things we had here, these heirloom varieties. And just this year one was released called mamo which is a stable variety that is a hybrid of two varieties, Mocha and I think margohepay or topeka, gosh terrible expert I am. It’s a really spectacular variety available from the single farm and then there’s other of these variety from this trial that are roundabout scattered around the state. They’re harder to find because they’re not as well established. But they do exist, so we now have this beginnings, if you will, of truly Hawaiian coffee varieties. It’s really spectacular.
Joy Manning: That’s so cool. And if somebody was interested in tasting those could they be mail ordered and shipped, do you know if that’s possible?
Shawn Steiman: I’m pretty sure it’s possible, the one called mamo is exclusively available from Greenwell Farms in Kona.
Joy Manning: Can you say that again, Greenwell Farms?
Shawn Steiman: Yeah.
Joy Manning: Greenwell Farms, cool.
Shawn Steiman: Correct.
Joy Manning: That sounds easily googleable.
Shawn Steiman: Very easily googleable. And you know, it’s just a cool historical note Greenwell Farms is probably the oldest continues coffee farm in Hawaii, they’ve been in operation since 1850’s, maybe earlier? It’s pretty amazing.
Joy Manning: Wow.
Shawn Steiman: Yeah.
Joy Manning: I mean, to me the way I want to taste this coffee is I think I just need to visit Hawaii.
Shawn Steiman: I don’t see why that would be a problem.
Joy Manning: You know, what are shipping costs? It’s probably going to be about as expensive to just go. Have coffee on the beach.
Shawn Steiman: Specially during the winter right?
Joy Manning: Yeah, it’s pretty chilly here today, where I’m talking to you from in Philadelphia. So you also wrote intriguingly about the role of technology in coffee cultivation. Obviously coffee cultivation has been around a really long time and I’m really interested to hear more about how modern technology is changing the way we produce coffee in Hawaii.
Shawn Steiman: Okay. Well there’s on most farms in Hawaii, like most farms that are quite small, a few acres, and in terms of modern technology it tends to be tractors and small things that easily go through the farm, and I wouldn’t say it’s super modern but it’s pretty common place here. But when we think of really cutting edge technology there is a farm on Kauai that is really, they’re a large farm they’re about 3000 acres and they are really pushing the envelope with using modern technology. They use drones to check things out, they have senors in the ground that report back to a central hub that helps them when to irrigate, where to irrigate, when to fertilize, which is not exactly a water thing but it’s related. And they’ve got these really spectacular cameras on their machine harvesters that look at the color and report back to the machine and the driver how they should be manipulating their machine to best use it to harvest. And this is just the beginning of what they’re looking to do. They have very open minds and they’re very interested in exploring.
Joy Manning: Is the goal to produce higher yields or just better tasting coffee or simply be more efficient?
Shawn Steiman: All of those things. Clearly more yields per area and it should be more profitable but also optimizing the health of the tree and the ripeness of the fruit when it’s harvested translates to a better tasting cup, and that’s what every farmer wants. A better tasting cup and more of it, and saving money in the process.
Joy Manning: You mentioned something very intriguing to Edible readers, Farm the Table’s Coffee House, now most of us cannot imagine such a thing, obviously coffee is not grown in most of the North America. So paint me a picture of what the Farm to Cup Coffee House is all about.
Shawn Steiman: Surprisingly, or maybe not too surprisingly it’s still a pretty rare idea. Just because you know it’s hard to be an expert in any one thing, imagine trying to be an expert in many one things. So in this case an example I wrote about in the article is a company called Kona Coffee and Tea, and it’s a family run operation, they have pretty sizable farm and they’re Kona residents and they wanted to not just have coffee to sell to someone around the world they wanted to support their local community and share the story locally. So they opened a café some years ago, and the only thing their café sells is their coffee. So all the coffee they grow, they have one variety but they do different processes, different roast levels, and do different things, and you go in their café and you can drink their coffee prepared in all kinds of ways. It’s a really unusual, I mean for most crops it’s pretty unusual to do this, almost like the closest thing you might have in the mainland is often anyways, is a farmer’s market. Where a farmer can grow something and cook it or prepare and serve in some kind of form in a market. Very few restaurants right are able to grow their own food and sell it in their restaurant though they do exist. So it’s pretty rare and it’s a great chance to meet farmers and brewsters and coffee shop owners for all the same person.
Joy Manning: Talk about an opportunity for story telling.
Shawn Steiman: True, true.
Joy Manning: That’s really an amazing chance to connect with someone who’s very knowledgeable about how the cup that you’re drinking was produced. That’s something that I think would be very cool and I surprised I think we’ll probably see more of that in Hawaii, it just seems like something people would connect with so much.
Shawn Steiman: So that’s one of the most amazing opportunities in realities of Hawaii is that you can easily connect with the farmers. All of our farmers are modern Americans, they have phones or email or certainly mailboxes. It’s very easy to connect with these farmers, and the farmers want to connect with people and customers because they’re excited about what they’re doing and they of course want to make connections with people and they want to tell people “Look, this is how it really happens, this is why it’s so much work and there’s so much risk, and there’s so much quality and there’s so much everything”. You don’t get to do that when you go into your fancy café in most of the world. They just don’t have that opportunity, but here you can come visit, you don’t even have to visit just go to their website.
Joy Manning: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Shawn Steiman: You can connect with these people and everybody, the stories create themselves and that’s what food’s about, that’s what Farm the Table’s about it’s really learning about where your product comes from. And it’s so easy to do in Hawaii, with Hawaiian products like coffee.
Joy Manning: You’re story was so full of tidbits and little intriguing pieces of information and we’re going to link to it in the show notes but I just have one more thing that I have to ask you about before we go.
Shawn Steiman: Sure.
Joy Manning: You write about how some coffee businesses are using other parts of the plant to make coffee adjacent products. Can you tell about some of those? Like I was especially intrigued by the notion of a coffee bar like instead of a chocolate bar?
Shawn Steiman: Yeah, I’m really good friends with the folks who do this, they have a wonderful farm and make great coffee and they’re just delightful people. And they wanted to diversify, I don’t know why I never asked them why, but they decided that what if you can use coffee, roasted coffee, and treat it you might chocolate, cacao. And turn it into an edible object and many iterations and much experimentation they’ve come up with this delicious, what do you want to call it? A coffee bar, a candy bar, it’s very much like a chocolate bar but instead of made from cacao it’s made from coffee.
Joy Manning: That’s so interesting.
Shawn Steiman: Yeah, it’s edible coffee if you will, but done really well. A lot of people who use coffee in food products don’t necessarily use really great coffee to start with, really well roasted coffee, but these guys are really passionate about everything. And so this bar is really fun and interesting. And…
Joy Manning: Do you happen to know what the caffeine is from something like that?
Shawn Steiman: They claim that it’s about the same as a few shots of espresso. I think three or four. It’s on the label so it’s easy to find out.
Joy Manning: Interesting.
Shawn Steiman: Yeah.
Joy Manning: It seems like it would be a concentrated source of caffeine which sometimes is a really good thing.
Shawn Steiman: It is a really good thing. And the reality is that any snack bar like a chocolate bar or coffee bar you don’t have to eat the whole thing at once. So you can sort of enjoy the flavor and mitigate the caffeine intake.
Joy Manning: Well maybe you don’t to eat the whole thing. I might have to. Well, thank you so much for being here with us today, Shawn. It was really great to talk to you about this piece.
Shawn Steiman: It has been such a pleasure. Thank you for inviting, I really am honored.
Joy Manning: That was Shaw Steiman, founded of Coffea Consulting and co-owner of Daylight Mine Coffee Company. We’ll have a link to his article “What’s New in Coffee Across Hawaii” in the show notes for this episode. Check out his books “The Hawaii Coffee Book“, and “The Little Coffee Know-it-all“. Thank you for joining us today on Edible Potluck. Our podcast producer is David Wolfe. If you like this episode please subscribe on Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Please take a moment to leave us a rating or a review. You know it helps other listeners find the podcast. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of your own Edible magazine. If you don’t know where to get one find out at ediblecommunities.com. You can find links to everything we talked about today in the show notes for this episode at ediblecommunities.com/podcast. Until next time remember, eat local.