Retrotechtacular: Time For Coffee

If you ask us, it’s almost always a good time for coffee. In the spotlight this week is an educational/promotional film made by A&P, who started in the 1800s as with a chain of shops offering coffee and tea. By the 1950s, they were operating full self-serve grocery stores with a trail of shuttered mom and pop operations in their wake.

This is the story of coffee as it goes from the nursery to the field to the shelves of your local A&P. It covers the growing, cultivation, and distribution of coffee from South American crops that at the time covered more than one million square miles of Brazil alone.

Coffee trees leave the nursery at two years old and are planted in nutrient-rich red soil. Two to three years later, they bear their first crop. Coffee blossoms appear first, and the fruit ripens over the next 8-9 months. Skilled workers pick the berries by hand. We are told that the average tree produces one pound of roasted coffee per year.

sun dried beansThe day’s harvest is collected, weighed, and bagged for further production. The fruits are crushed to remove each bean from its red jacket. Then, the beans are washed and spread out in the sun for 8-10 days. They are frequently rotated so they dry evenly. The dried coffee is packed in bags and sent into the city.

bag stabbingAt a warehouse, the coffee is inspected, sorted, and graded. Bags are stamped with the coffee’s country of origin and intended destination before going to the seaport. A very important step happens here. As each bag walks by on the shoulders of a worker, another guy stabs it to get a sample of the beans. The on-site A&P officials take over at this point and do their own inspections, sending samples to the US. Here, the coffees are roasted and taste tested for both strength and flavor from a giant lazy Susan full of porcelain cups. taste testing

The film takes a brief detour to tell us that the great cities of Latin America were built upon the labors of coffee exportation. We see a montage of vistas, skylines, and shorelines, which bring it back to the subject of shipping the coffee to various ports of call. At the dock, bags are tumbled onto large nets to be loaded on the ship. As coffee is susceptible to moisture, special care is taken to avoid the ill effects of traveling out of the tropics.

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Gambiologia – Brazilian Physical Item Hacking

Gambiologia, according to the source article, is the “science of Gambiarra.” For those not from Brazil, Gambiarra is “a Brazilian cultural practice of solving problems creatively in alternative ways with low cost and lots of spontaneity.” In other words, the hacking of real-world items. Gambiarra also has a connection to recycling, as instead of throwing something used out, it becomes something else new.

Although hacking may not be thought of as art in the traditional sense, [Fred Paulino] aims to change this with his exhibition of 20 Brazilian and international artists. A “Gambiologist” himself, he’s put together quite a collection of hacks and mods for the world to see. From computer monitors with eyes displayed on them, to a toilet held open with a two-by-four, his exhibit seems to cover a wide range of physical hacks, or Gambiarra.

Be sure to check out the article, as many of the hacks are quite clever or unusual (even if some may seem a bit unsafe). For more examples of hacking items into something new, check out this drill made out of a pencil sharpener or this remote control camera trigger using air freshener parts.