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Coffee: Six Degrees of Caffeination

New York City’s love affair with the perfect cup of coffee

Coffee crazies: “Some people use coffee as a drug, and some people use it as a joy,” says filmmaker and Swallow Magazine founder James Casey. “I went from being the former – needing it when I was tired or as a digestif – to learning that, more than just a beverage, it’s a culture.” Casey’s rousing film captures the frenetic pace of caffeinated New York, featuring a cast of obsessives like Jesse Kahn of roasters and educators Counter Culture, and Oliver Strand, the pre-eminent New York Times coffee writer, as well as more casual sippers such as Nancy Whang, formerly of LCD Soundsystem, and Mission Chinese Food’s Angela Dimayuga. Coffee cultivation first took place in Southern Arabia; the earliest credible evidence of coffee-drinking appears in the middle of the 15th century in the Sufi shrines of Yemen. In the Horn of Africa and Yemen, coffee was used in local religious ceremonies. Coffee plants are cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, India and Africa. The two most commonly grown are the highly regarded arabica, and the less sophisticated but stronger and more hardy robusta. “Coffee culture was far more prevalent in places like San Francisco, and there’s no defining aspect to coffee in New York because it is so broad,” explains Casey. “There’s everything from Scandinavian-style coffee in parts of Brooklyn to a prevalence for blue collar, dark roasted Italian coffee. I also learned that it is not just about taste, but that there’s a qualitative aspect with regards to the ethical question of coffee, fair trade, and what you are willing to support.” While I love great coffee, I have been known to settle for rubbish just to get a hIt of the black magic – I can not even contemplate my day until I’ve had a cup of coffee and I wouldn’t be giving it up for anything or anyone. Life is just way too short.

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