Thursday, May 10, 2012

Decaffeinated Corpse by Cleo Coyle



24. Decaffeinated Corpse - Book 5 in the Coffeehouse Mystery series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery, 2007
fifth book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
Nook book 6
finished 4/26/12


In every one of the Coffeehouse mysteries, Cleo Coyle teaches the reader more about this beverage. I'm constantly amazed at how much there is to learn. As you may have guessed from the title, this installment is all about decaffeinated coffee. Our heroine sleuth Clare Cosi and her team of baristas at The Village Blend are facing the fact that more and more people want this coffee option, and that they need to drop their prejudices against decaf, and look into it more seriously.
Most baristas viewed asking for decaf on a par with asking a French chef to hold the butter. Even coffeehouse slang had labeled it a "why bother?"
Still, the last time I'd researched the subject for a trade journal article, I'd learned that fifteen to eighteen percent of coffeehouse customers wanted the lead out. The Village Blend was coming up short in that department. Over the years, we'd given a number of decaffeinated methods a shot on our menu, but maintaining the trademark Village Blend quality had been a challenge.
Then the book goes on to explain the whole process.
Decaffeination robs beans of their acidity (coffee speak, not for bitterness but the lovely brightness of flavor that keeps the drink from tasting flat). On top of that, the best decaffeination methods required fifty-five bag minimums. To manage that amount, the Blend had to rely on a third party roaster, since decaffeinated green beans had a significantly shorter shelf life than untouched beans. But that solution went against our century-old philosophy of micro-roasting daily.
The product quality sank so low, we just pulled it.
Frankly, I could read a book that was just about the coffee world. I find this stuff fascinating - like olive oil or wine or whisky, there is so much involved. Esther, one of Clare's baristas had just read in a science magazine about how caffeine works.
Caffeinated coffee stimulates frontal lobe activity in the brain, so working memory is improved. It also lights up the anterior cingulum, which controls your ability to focus attention.
So, when Clare's ex-husband Matteo, whose work is traveling the world in search of the best coffee, announces that an old friend Ric has a new and better way to produce decaffeinated coffee, there is a lot of interest. Ric is coming to New York to the International Coffee Growers Exhibition to offer a taste testing of his revolutionary scheme. Upon arrival he is attacked and left in an alley, and does not want the police involved.

There's a lot going on in this book. In addition to the coffee angle, there are old friends bringing their pasts to the present. Clare and Matteo's daughter Joy is, as always, worrying Clare. Clare's policeman friend Mike Quinn makes a welcome appearance.

This book is an homage to New York City, as are the others in the series. As Clare drives around, we the readers are passengers looking out the window. When Clare arrives at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza,


she says to her mother-in-law
"Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. Okay, I've finally found a winner for the most obscure, hard to pronounce place name in New York City."
"Clare, I'm surprised at you. Don't you know who Dag Hammarskjöld is?"
"What do you mean who? Are you telling me Dag Hammarskjöld is a name?"
"He was secretary general of the United Nations. He died in a plane crash in Africa in the 1960s. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize. In my time, every schoolchild knew his name."


Though I'm many years younger than Clare's mother-in-law, 'in my time' we all knew his name as well. I was stunned that nearly forty-year-old Clare had never heard of him. This is another example of why I love these books. They offer history in a most palatable and interesting form.

The Coffeehouse mysteries are part mystery, part history, part cookbook, and pure fun. There are coffee tips and recipes, as well as desserts and main meals to go along with your coffee. Here's a fun one from Decaffeinated Corpse:

PB and Nutella Sandwich
Peanut butter
Nutella
2 slices of bread
In this sandwich, the jelly in your PB&J is replaced with Nutella.



What is Nutella? It's a wonderful hazelnut chocolate spread that originated in Italy, where the hazelnut is king. Most major American grocery stores now carry it. Look for the jar in the peanut butter aisle. And speaking of peanut butter, if you actually need the recipe, here it is:
Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread. Spread Nutella on the other. Put the slices together and enjoy. (Hey, didn't somebody once say peanut butter and chocolate go well together?)


Please do visit the incredibly complete website. I could easily spend a whole day or more there.

22 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you're enjoying these. I finished this on 8/1/07. I also see from my list that I am way behind on these books. The last one I read was in 2008. Yikes! Need to put this series back on my schedule. LOL

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    1. Wow! Five years ago! I am just wild about these books.

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  2. I really want to read this series, Nan. This one, as do the others you have posted about, sounds fun and interesting. While I love "real" coffee, I can't take much caffeine Sigh. Sometimes, though, I just "gotta have a cup".

    Yum. I have some Nutella in the cabinet right now. I made a pound cake with Nutella swirled through it for Jennifer's birthday. Now I can use the jar to make this sandwich.

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    1. I have just one cup in the morning, but it is quite a strong cup.
      Yeah, that sandwich sounds pretty good, doesn't it? When we were last in England we bought a jar of combined peanut butter and chocolate. That was good!

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  3. Nutella is HUGE in Germany and has been since the 1970s. Ask any German born in the 1960s and they will tell you that they have practically been raised on it :-)
    Never heard of Mr. Hammarskjöld, either.
    And to be honest, I never understood the point of decaf coffee... just like decaf coke.

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    1. I'm not sure when it first appeared over here. I actually prefer Rapunzel's Choconut which is from your neck of the woods!
      I have a feeling that the United Nations isn't taught in schools as much as when I was a kid, and it isn't in the news as much.
      It must be that people want the taste without the caffeine, but I don't get it either.

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  4. This might be a series for me to read - NYC, cozy mysteries and coffee - three of my favorite things. Throw in some Nutella and you have heaven. Thanks for this interesting review, Nan.

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    1. If those are three of your favorite things, I don't think you could go wrong with this series.

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  5. Cleo Coyle and the Coffeehouse mysteries were fun reads for me. Think I read the first 4 or 5. Nutella -- not for me though:(

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    1. I just told Librarian above that I prefer the Rapunzel alternative!

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  6. There are so many 'foodie' mystery series now, Nan, it's hard to tell which ones are worthwhile to try. This definitely sounds like one. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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    1. I think these stand out because of the locale, the historical information about the many areas of NYC, the information about coffee, and the intelligent writing. If you click on the authors tab under the blog header photo, you can read about the others to see if they are for you or not.
      These books aren't really about food, though there are recipes at the end. The 'food' in them is coffee!

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  7. I went to Dag Hammarskjold Middle School, so I know both who he was and how to spell his name.

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    1. Wonderful! I feel such sadness when people aren't remembered.

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  8. Wait--so it's a PB and Nutella sandwich?! That sounds incredibly tasty but also incredibly rich.

    I love your enthusiasm about this book.I haven't heard of the series but agree with you that coffee is fascinating. Honestly I'm not sure I've read any "foodie mystery" books but I'll be on the hunt for this author!

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    1. If you want to read more of my 'enthusiasms' :<) you could click on the authors tab under the blog header photo, and scroll down to Cleo Coyle. I love this series.

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  9. I just received Espresso Shot yesterday, it is my second coffee house mystery. You have got me hooked Nan, I would never ever have found these books without your site. Thank you.
    Carole

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    1. I haven't gotten to that one yet. I'm so pleased you enjoy them, too.

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  10. I've been scared to try Nutella!! But I have the first one from this series on request for summer reading!

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    1. As I mentioned above, there's an alternative, organic product by Rapunzel that is even harder for me to resist! Probably not any more fattening than plain peanut butter, and heck, chocolate is good for you!

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  11. I've seen these in the library and they do sound like fun. Must check the series out. I don't actually drink coffee, but I love the way it smells--does that count? :)

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    1. I didn't start drinking coffee until the 1990s, and I began after loving the smell!
      This series is great even if you don't drink it. The historical stuff is fascinating, and as I noted the books make it fun learning.

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.