Last week I was gifted a beautiful calligraphy painting of coffee in the clouds, which is now put up at a central spot in my office.




Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, and as a consequence what happens there has a large impact on the price paid for this produce all over the world.
This year Brazil sees one of the warmest and driest summers in many years. The drought not only leads to smaller beans of lesser quality for the current season, but might also influence the growth, and hence the production for the next season. As a result prices on the world market have gone up and are now at their highest in many months.
The drought may not be good news for the Brazilian coffee farmers, but on the other hand the price for farmers elsewhere in the world has gone up. Which is good news for our farmers.
It is well-known that drinking a cup of coffee can give you a boost when you're feeling a little tired. But apparently the extent of this effect depends on when you drink this cup. At least, that is what PhD student Steven Miller discovered.
Miller, attached to the University of Health Sciences at Maryland, recently discovered that the effect of coffee is highest when our cortisol level is lowest. As cortisol levels peak right after we get up, it is best to wait for about an hour before enjoying that first cup of coffee. Cortisol also peaks around lunch time and between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m.
He explains that drinking coffee will increase cortisol levels in the blood. When it is drunk when cortisol levels are low, the caffeine will give us that boost we are looking for. If, on the other hand, one drinks it when the cortisol level in the blood is already high, the effect is much less and one will need stronger coffee to reach the same effect.
So, no matter how strong the desire right after you get up in the morning, it might be a good idea to just wait a while to get the most out of that cup of black gold.
On behalf of our team I would like to wish all of you a Happy Year of the Horse.
A few weeks ago we already wrote about the cold winter in Kunming. It wasn't just Yunnan's capital, though, that was suffering from the cold. Several coffee areas were also affected. According to the Pu'er government it concerns no less than 17,300 ha of coffee, 5,400 of which have been destroyed. It will take at least two years for the affected trees to recover from this cold spell.
In order to assist the affected farmers as best as possible there have been several meetings with the Vice-Mayor and the Coffee Office. NAS agronomists have participated and contributed to these meetings, and have been developing training material for the farmers on how to manage the affected trees. Our findings on how to best deal with this issue were presented to the members of Pu'er Coffee Association and last, but definitely not least, we have done several field trips and training sessions in cooperation with Pu'er Coffee Office.
Research at the Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore has shown there is good reason to believe that a moderate consumption of coffee enhances long-term memory storage in the brain.
A group of volunteers were shown a series of everyday images. Half of them was given a pill with 200 mg of caffeine five minutes after the test, the other half got a placebo. The next day they were shown another series of images, some the same as those shown before, some new ones and some slightly different than those of the previous day.
While there was hardly any difference between both groups in distinguishing between the new and old images, the group that got the caffeine pill was better at picking the images that were slightly different than those of the first viewing session. According to the researchers this shows that caffeine enhances the brain's capability for pattern separation, i.e. recognising the difference between two similar but not identical items.
And though there is some doubt about the validity of these tests among other scientists, and the researchers do not know how caffeine helps the brain to store memories, a moderate consumption of coffee just might be able to help jog your memory.
Some time ago I came across an article about a perfume that smells like coffee. Turned out it was a limited edition, created by Macmillan Cancer Support for their fund-raising in September 2013. They created three different scents: Coffeelicious, Macpresso and Mochamorning.
And though I can understand the idea behind this all, people love the smell of coffee, so why not make a coffee-scented perfume and aftershave, I'm still not too sure if I would like a coffee-scented aftershave. It just might make me crave for a cup of real coffee the whole day long.
If we overheard correctly on the news, this winter is the coldest in Yunnan since they started keeping track of the weather. We can't say if that is or isn't true, but we can tell you it is truly cold here at the moment. Temperatures have plunged below zero and on Sunday afternoon we saw our first snow in almost nine years. Little did we know that we would wake up on Monday to find the world outside covered in a white blanket.
And though beautiful this white world may be, it does create the challenge of keeping warm as insulation of most housing around here is rather poor, and there is no central heating system.
A few weeks ago I gave ten good reasons to drink your daily cup of black heavenliness. Just in case they didn't convince you, here are a few more.
1. It helps to burn fat - caffeine is one of the few natural substances of which it has been proven it helps to burn fat. It is scientifically proven that it can increase the metabolism, though more studies are needed to see if consuming coffee over a long period reduces this effect.
2.  It contains essential nutrients - coffee isn't just black water, it contains vitamins B2 and B5, potassium and magnesium.
3. It reduces the risk of liver and colon cancer.
4. Less risk of suffering from a stroke - even though it has been proved coffee can increase blood pressure, studies do not support the myth that consuming coffee would lead to more heart and vascular diseases. On the contrary, some research shows that people who drink coffee have a reduced risk of suffering from a stroke.
5. Long life - it will come as no surprise that, given that coffee reduces the risk of a number of diseases, it might help to live longer.
The China Beverage Industry Association (CBIA), which was established in 1993, held its annual meeting last week in Shanghai. During this event a number of awards were handed out, and I was invited to receive the International Friendship Award. No need to say I am really pleased with this honour.