How to Buy the Best Coffee Beans


The easiest way to brew good coffee at home is to start with good beans. Whether you’re buying coffee at the grocery store, a coffee shop, or direct from a roaster, you need to know what to look for on a bag of coffee. And that can get confusing. But fret not. We’ve distilled all that information and handed you exactly what you need to buy the best beans you can.

Let’s start by talking about black pepper. You know that freshly ground pepper is better than pre-ground pepper, right? Well, that same theory applies to coffee beans. You should buy your coffee beans whole and grind them right before you brew. The oils that drive those fruity, toasty, beautiful flavors start to degrade in quality the minute the beans are ground, much like spices. That means pre-ground coffee loses flavor as it sits in the package on a shelf in the grocery store for weeks or months or years. Making the switch from pre-ground to whole-bean will put more flavor, aroma, and energy in your cup, which is exactly what we want first thing in the morning.

Raw and Roasted Chopped Salad

But there’s more information to unpack than “Whole Bean” or “Pre-Ground” on a bag of coffee. (And when we say bag, we mean bag. You shouldn’t be buying whole coffee beans out of large open barrels in your grocery store, the ones that have been exposed to oxygen and UV rays and the hands of small children.) There are two important things you should always look for on a bag of coffee. Once you really get into coffee, you can get more specific, but for now, you just want to know where your coffee was grown and where it was roasted. Tasty coffee is all about transparency, and great coffee roasters will make sure to provide as much information about the farms, regions, and roasting locations as possible. If your coffee doesn’t say where it was grown and roasted, it’s probably not that great. And we’re all about buying coffee that was roasted close to where you live or are traveling.

There’s one more thing that’s even more important: when that coffee was roasted. The roast date is the most important piece of information on a bag of coffee. You want beans that were roasted no longer than two weeks ago. Once they pass that stage, they start to lose flavor. And once they hit a month, they’ll start to taste like cardboard. Can’t find the roast date? That’s because the people who made the coffee don’t want you to know when the beans were roasted. That’s not a good look, and you should definitely put those beans back on the shelf.

Basically Coffee 0219 Reko

Photo by Chelsie Craig

When you pick up a bag, make sure to look for the roast date first!

And since buying whole-ground coffee is all about getting the most flavor from your beans, we’d like to ask a favor of you: Please don’t put your coffee in the freezer. The cold messes with the oils and fibers that lead to full, flavorful coffee. Instead, store the beans on your counter or in a cupboard, out of direct sunlight, sealed in the same bag they came in. And remember, you only want to buy as much coffee as you’ll drink in a week or two. Buying whole-bean coffee in bulk isn’t doing you any favors in the storage or taste departments, because of the way coffee’s flavors and aromas degrade over time.

That’s all you need to know to start your brew off on the right foot. The foundation of your coffee future starts with fresh, whole-bean, transparently grown and roasted coffee. From here, there’s nothing else to do except catch a nice little caffeine buzz.

Now that you’ve got coffee, breakfast:

Medium-low heat is the key to the fluffy, creamy, melty texture of these eggs. We like to serve them when they’re still runny, but keep them on the stove for another 15 seconds if you prefer them completely set.


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Plan to buy more fighter jets puts Canada on hook for bigger share of F-35 costs


Canada is being forced to shoulder a bigger share of the costs of developing F-35 fighter jets even though it has not decided whether it will actually buy any.

Canada is one of nine partner countries in the F-35 project, each of which is required to cover a portion of the stealth fighter’s multibillion-dollar development costs to stay at the table.

Each country pays based on the number of F-35s it’s expecting to buy. Canada has pitched in more than half-a-billion dollars over the last 20 years, including $54 million last year.

But that amount was based on the Stephen Harper government’s plan to buy 65 new fighter jets to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s, which the Trudeau government has since officially increased to 88.

Even though Canada has not committed that those 88 jets will be F-35s, the Department of National Defence says that change means it will have to pay more to remain a partner — including about $72 million this year.

« Canada’s costs under the F-35 (partnership agreement) are based on an intended fleet size, » Defence Department spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said in an email.

« Canada changed its fleet size within the F-35 (agreement) from 65 to 88 aircraft to align with government decisions on the size of the intended permanent fighter fleet to be acquired through competition and the payment increased accordingly. »

As each partner contribution is determined annually, based on the overall cost of the F-35 development program for that specific year, Lemire said she could not provide details on how much more Canada will have to pay.

The F-35’s development costs have been a constant source of criticism over the life of the stealth-fighter program, which Canada first joined under the Chretien government in 1997. The entire program is believed to have already cost more than US$1 trillion.

The Trudeau government says it plans to keep Canada in the F-35 development effort until a replacement for the CF-18s is chosen — partners in the development work can buy the planes at a lower price and compete for work associated with their production and long-term maintenance.

Canadian companies have so far won more than $1.2 billion in contracts related to the F-35, according to the government.

‘Biased toward performance’

The F-35 is one of four planes slated to participate in the $19-billion competition that the government plans to launch this spring, the others being Boeing’s Super Hornet, Eurofighter’s Typhoon and Saab’s Gripen.

The competition isn’t scheduled to select a winner until 2021 or 2022, meaning Canada will be on the hook for several more payments. The first new aircraft is expected in 2025 and the last in 2031, when the CF-18s will be phased out.

F-35 maker Lockheed Martin says more than 350 of the stealth fighters have been delivered to different countries, while Israel became the first country to use the plane in combat last year when two of the jets struck targets in neighbouring Syria.

Acting U.S. defence secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, nonetheless criticized the program on Monday, saying it « has room for a lot more performance. »

« I am biased toward performance, » he was quoted as saying when asked if he is biased toward Boeing. « I am biased toward giving the taxpayer their money’s worth. And the F-35, unequivocally, I can say, has a lot of opportunity for more performance. »


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What we know about Alberta’s plan to buy thousands of oil tank cars


In late November, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that within « a few weeks » her government would unveil its plan to buy thousands of railcars to help transport the province’s oil to market. 

Eight weeks later and the provincial government is still in negotiations with railway companies and suppliers. The latest update from Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd was only to say « it’s an ongoing conversation. »

The government says it needs the cars because there’s a backlog of oil in the province and a lack of pipeline space to export it.

With few details coming from the Notley government, here’s what we know — and don’t know — about its plan.

Total cost

The government hasn’t provided an estimated cost for buying the railcars, as negotiations are ongoing. It’s difficult to hazard a guess considering how few details are known about what the government is trying to acquire.

Notley has said Alberta needs to buy as many as 7,000 tank cars to meet its goal of shipping an additional 120,000 barrels of oil a day by train. She has also said that could include about 80 locomotives, with each train pulling 100 to 120 cars.

Workers prepare to start loading a tank car at an Altex Energy terminal. (Dave Rae/CBC)

Each tank car can hold nearly 700 barrels of oil.

The province likely won’t buy the cars, but instead lease them for between three and five years, which experts say is the industry standard.

The government also wants to sign agreements with railway companies and secure capacity to load oil in Alberta and unload the trains at destinations in North America.

Railcar shortage

Finding that many tank cars may prove difficult because of a shortage throughout North America.

In the third quarter of 2018, railcar manufacturers received orders for 11,000 new tankers, according to data from the Washington-based Railway Supply Institute (RSI). About 3,000 new cars were produced in that quarter and the backlog of orders now sits at about 31,000.

The shortage of tank cars is partly the result of Canada and the U.S. both transitioning away from the old model DOT-111 tank cars, which were involved in the deadly rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in 2013. The new standard is the TC-117 in Canada (DOT-117 in the U.S.), which features a thicker steel hull, thermal protection, and protective valve covers, among other safety features.

Premier Rachel Notley has said she’s disappointed with Ottawa’s lukewarm response to the province’s plan to ease oil bottlenecks by buying more railcars. (Canadian Press)

Some rail companies are also retrofitting the older tank cars to meet the new safety standards in North America.

« We’re seeing fairly strong demand over the last few quarters in terms of tank car manufacturing and retrofits, » RSI president Mike O’Malley said in an interview.

Premium price

The shortage is one reason why Alberta will likely have to pay a premium to secure the thousands of tank cars it wants.

One of North America’s largest railcar leasing companies said prices are increasing.

On a conference call with investors and analysts earlier this week, GATX executive Thomas Ellman said market lease rates for tank cars were up 25 to 50 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year.

Another factor driving up tank car prices has been an increase in the amount of crude shipped by rail in both Canada and the U.S.

Canada set several records in 2018 for shipping oil by train. (Dave Rae/CBC)

For eight straight months, Canada’s rail system set new records for crude volumes, according to the National Energy Board. The NEB’s most recent data is for November 2018, although recent statements from CN and CP Rail indicate crude-by-rail volumes have since dropped. 

In the U.S., volumes increased to more than 20 million barrels in October, but the numbers are still lower than in 2014, when oil prices were about $100 US per barrel and more than 35 million barrels were transported by rail, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

‘Insurance’ plan

The potential impact of the Alberta government’s railcar plan is debatable. The first railcars are only expected to arrive at the end of this year, with the bulk of them arriving in 2020.

By then, Alberta should have more space to export oil by pipeline, which is cheaper and faster compared to rail. Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, which runs from Alberta to southern Manitoba, is expected to be complete by December 2019, just as the first of the government’s railcars are expected to roll into the province.

« If that’s the case [with Line 3], we really don’t see a need for crude-by-rail volumes to continue to grow, » said Michael Dunn, an analyst for GMP FirstEnergy.

Considering delays that pipeline projects can face, Dunn said the government likely wanted to have backup measures in place in case Enbridge wasn’t able to get the pipeline up and running on time.

« I view their purchase as basically an insurance policy. »


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Sana Javeri Kadri of Diaspora Co on Why You Should Buy Better Turmeric | Healthyish


This story is part of the Healthyish 22, the people changing the way we think about wellness. Meet them all here.

Sana Javeri Kadri distinctly remembers the first time she tried a turmeric latte in the U.S. It was the summer of 2016, she was commuting to her old job in marketing at San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery, and she spotted it on the menu at a local café. “It was disgusting,” she recalls. “They used way too much turmeric. They had added it to make the drink bright yellow without giving any thought to making it delicious.” She threw the latte in the trash.

“I dismissed the turmeric trend as silly,” she says now, sitting in the living room of her pastel-colored house in Oakland, surrounded by clear encyclopedia-size bags of the vibrantly hued spice. “I was like, ‘This is going to go away really quickly.’” But it didn’t. Soon enough turmeric was on countless coffee shop menus and in the pages of glossy food magazines, praised as a miracle spice for its nutritional benefits. “I realized that, clearly, something was happening,” she says.

Sana Javeri Kadri, a 25-year-old Mumbai native with bouncy blackish-brown curls and a bubbly voice, is the founder of spice company Diaspora Co. Her house, which she shares with her girlfriend, Rosie Russell, and their rescue dog, Lily, doubled as the headquarters of the business at the time of my visit and, thanks to all that turmeric, smells perennially of earth.

It’s a sunny, cloudless morning, and Javeri Kadri offers me something to drink. She quickly clarifies that she doesn’t do turmeric lattes. “I have never made one in my life,” she says proudly. This is because, like many Indians, she associates the combination of turmeric and milk—also known as haldi doodh—with sick days.

Instead, she sets about whisking matcha and water in a small bowl, pouring it into two glasses lined with maple syrup and adding rice milk and ice. It’s delicious, like a pot of melted green tea ice cream. While I sip, I ask Javeri Kadri how business is going. She tells me that when the company launched online in August 2017 with essentially no advance marketing, all the turmeric sold out in three hours. The irony here is palpable: The very drink that Javeri Kadri refuses to make, that she hated so much when she tried it back in 2016, made her business wildly successful from the start.

hea turmeric 1

Photo by Prarthna Singh

Javeri Kadri handling turmeric at Chavan Brothers Masala, a family owned spice shop and local grinder at Lalbaug Market in Mumbai.

Long before Diaspora Co., Javeri Kadri had been interested in the single-origin food movement—companies that responsibly source ingredients, like, say, coffee or cacao, from a particular grower. “I saw how these people were taking a crop where there is injustice and a lack of transparency and solving a problem,” she says.

In India, many aspects of the food industry have been similarly whitewashed—particularly the spice trade, which relied on enslaved people to grow, harvest, and transport goods during European colonization 200 or so years ago. “It was completely scrubbed out of Westerners’ consciousness that you should care about your spices and where they come from,” Javeri Kadri says. “It was to the benefit of colonizers to not say that this comes from slave labor.” While colonization is long gone, a similar supply chain persists. The vast majority of the money from spice cultivation goes into the hands of corporate food companies and various middle men (auctioneers, processors, wholesalers), while farmers in India aren’t fairly compensated.

As she watched the popularity of turmeric grow throughout 2016, Javeri Kadri asked a few owners of American spice companies if they knew exactly where their product was coming from, but no one was able to give her a precise answer. So in early 2017 she moved back to Mumbai and visited the Indian Institute of Spices Research in Kozhikode, Kerala. What she found was that the most popular varietal of turmeric sold in the U.S.—Alleppey turmeric—wasn’t actually a varietal at all. It was the name of a vacation destination in southern India favored by Europeans during colonization. “They decided that all turmeric that met a [certain shade] and size would be Alleppey turmeric,” Javeri Kadri explains. “Any indigenous knowledge of local varietals and nuances had more or less been stamped out.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Institute of Spices Research had been seed-saving scientific varietals of turmeric that were aromatic, brightly colored, high yielding, and high in curcumen—the ingredient that gives the spice its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. But those varietals didn’t exist on the commercial market. So Javeri Kadri decided she would work directly with Indian farmers—eliminating all of the middle agents—and export these turmeric varieties herself.

Getting the business set up was not easy, even for an India native like Javeri Kadri, who speaks Hindi, Gujarati, and Marathi. She had to file unending paperwork with the Spices Board of India, spend months going back and forth with farmers to understand the cultivation process, and educate herself on the complex Indian laws governing exporting spices.

Javeri Kadri also had to contend with being a queer woman in a country where women are still not afforded equal rights as men, and gay sex was illegal until this September. “These farmers have never seen anybody like me,” she says, and many of her partners in India tell her that she is the first woman they have ever done business with. She also hasn’t directly come out to any of her Indian colleagues for fear that it would jeopardize her fledgling business.

hea turmeric diasporaco

Photo by Prarthna Singh

Turmeric being processed into a powder at the Lalbaug Market market.

Diaspora Co. now has two full-time and four part-time employees and primarily sells pragati turmeric, an heirloom varietal with a high curcumen content. You’ll find the modern, playful pink packaging everywhere from Third Culture Bakery in Berkeley to the sleek Indian all-day café Pondicheri, which has locations in Houston and New York and sells T-shirts that say “Keep Calm and Curry On.” Twenty percent of her business is selling to these restaurants and shops, while the other 80 percent comes from her online store.

She just published Diaspora Co.’s first zine, Cooking with Gold, which includes recipes for coffee with turmeric and ghee and “millennial face gunk” (a turmeric-based scrub that Javeri Kadri swears by). She sells Diaspora Co. tote bags, whose bright color is an exact match with the turmeric (“You don’t even want to know how much effort went into making that happen,” she says). Of her approach to branding, she says: “I was adamant about saying that I am not a woo-woo wellness Ayurvedic yoga instructor selling you turmeric. I am a queer woman of color who is a supply-chain nerd selling you turmeric.”

Back at Diaspora HQ, finished with her iced matcha, Javeri Kadri wanders into her small kitchen to make us some eggs fried in ghee. She lays the sizzled eggs over a leftover batch of pinto beans and ham hocks and sits down to eat. She loves cooking in this hybridized, not-strictly-Indian way.

That said, she has complicated feelings about the way in which turmeric has suffused mainstream American cuisine, from wellness tonics to soups to salad dressings, and how health junkies are treating the spice like a new discovery. “I wish I could show you the messages I get from women who tell me how their chakras are in sync and Ayurveda has saved their soul,” she says with a sigh. And despite the fact that the coffee shops she sells to keep offering her turmeric lattes, she hasn’t changed her mind about the drink.

On the other hand, Javeri Kadri reasons, “If people are paying a premium for my turmeric so I can pay the farmers the best price possible, I don’t really care what they do with it.” Eventually Javeri Kadri wants to build a sustainable supply chain that can be applied to other spices, like cardamom and cumin, and then to crops like rice. Colonialism ruled India for so many years, she says. “We just don’t know how to separate ourselves from that.”

But food, Javeri Kadri believes, can be a powerful means of changing this mentality. “It’s world domination, our way.”


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How to Buy All the Ceramics in the Feel Good Food Plan | Healthyish


Our Instagram DMs have spoken, and the people want to know: What are those ceramics making the Feel Good Food Plan look so damn good? Well, creative director Michele Outland worked with prop stylist Kalen Kaminski to source thoughtfully made dishes from ceramicists like Mondays and LRNCE that echoed the vibrant, plant-forward recipes. « Kalen pulled a wonderful selection of earthy yet modern ceramics, and we divided each week of the plan into a color palette—one with warm tones like mustards and oranges, and one with cooler tones like inky and watery blues, » says Outland. The result is a collection like you might find in your coolest friend’s home. But, hey, why not be your own coolest friend? Here’s how to buy the bowls, plates, and platters that brought the Feel Good Food Plan to life.

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


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Pot growers turn to gifting, trading with no legal way to buy cannabis seeds in Canada


EDMONTON—Cannabis consumers who can’t buy seeds are finding creative ways to grow their own pot.

Even though the federal government made it legal on Oct. 17 to grow four plants per household, officials say there is no place to buy seeds without breaking the law.

“As far as I know, there’s none in the country,” said Kaleigh Miller, a spokesperson with the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC).

Officials with the AGLC, the provincial government agency that distributes cannabis to stores across Alberta, say they’ve only received 20 per cent of the pot they were promised under contracts with 15 licensed producers.

None of that 20 per cent includes seeds.

“We’re working very hard to get them, because we do know that it is a market that people want to partake in.”

Heather MacGregor, a spokesperson for Edmonton-based licensed producer Aurora Cannabis, said in an email that the company is “currently working hard to review the optimal product portfolio for starting materials, both in the form of seeds and live plants.

“We are concerned about rushing this sort of product to market and wish to ensure the utmost quality at all stages of the supply chain before beginning these offerings,” she said.

“We will continue to work with our provincial partners to ensure the best possible product offering is available to patients and consumers in the near term.”

With nothing in the stores, people are finding other ways to grow.

Darryl Kolewaski, a homegrower with a medical licence in Spruce Grove, west of Edmonton, said he has had hundreds of frustrated people approach him looking for seeds after being unable to find them in stores.

He said he’s allowed to gift plants under the Cannabis Act, which he does when he has capacity to do so.

“You can’t just hand out stuff, you’ve got to plan for it,” he said.

The Cannabis Act states adults can share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent with other adults.

Kolewaski said he usually points people to “reputable” seed banks in Europe, though it would technically be illegal for Canadians to plant seeds at home that were purchased from another country.

Tom Neumann, who has a medical grow-op in Ardrossan, east of Edmonton, is launching a website Wednesday called Home Grown Connect that will give cannabis users a place to access seeds, clones, and cannabis through trading or gifting.

Users will pay a fee to join the website, but won’t pay for the product itself. He said a lawyer has assured him it’s all above board.

Neumann hopes to get 4,000 people in the Edmonton area to join the site.

“There’s a bigger market than I thought from all of the action that’s happened already,” he said. “A lot of people want to grow cannabis. It’s amazing.”

In the retail market, Brendon Tomiuk, a manager at north Edmonton store Cannabis House, said he will bring in seeds as soon as he’s able.

He said about one in 50 customers asks if the store carries seeds.

“We would have liked to have been (selling seeds). It would have been nice if that was available,” he said.

Seeds will come in packs of four and customers will be allowed to buy up to 30 at a time.

James Burns, CEO of Alcanna, which runs Nova Cannabis stores in Edmonton and Calgary, said the lack of stock has been frustrating, but there’s no point getting upset about seeds while retailers wait for anything at all to stock the shelves.

“Until there’s something to buy, there’s not much we can do about it. Everything comes from the government and the government gets everything through the (licensed producers), so it’s not a traditional retail. You’ve just got to sit and wait,” he said.

While head shops have openly sold cannabis seeds in the past, Miller said that’s always been illegal.

She said the AGLC has gone to all its contracted producers and new ones trying to access more product, but everyone is tapped out. Some producers sound “fairly hopeful” they can start supplying seeds within the new year, she said, but it’s too early to give a more specific timeline.

Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in an emailed statement that seeds and seedlings can be legally purchased for non-medical purposes “only from a provincially or territorially authorized cannabis retailer,” or for medicinal purposes from a federally licensed seller. Jarbeau added that supply arrangements are negotiated directly between federally licensed producers and the distributors and retailers that are authorized by the provinces and territories.

Kevin Maimann is an Edmonton-based reporter covering education and marijuana legalization. Follow him on Twitter: @TheMaimann

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Art Gallery of Ontario shows off the Yayoi Kusama infinity room it’s crowdfunding to buy



That’s the name of the infinity mirrored room the Art Gallery of Ontario plans to purchase from world-renowned artist Yayoi Kusama — that is, if its crowdfunding campaign is successful. And yes, it’s always spelled in all-caps, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) said.

Over 3,000 people have already chipped in a contribution to permanently acquire the brand new Kusama installation, even though they hadn’t seen it until now.

The AGO said its campaign has brought in around half of the $1.3 million it needs to buy the work, but it’s hoping more people donate on next week’s « Giving Tuesday, » a day devoted to donations following « Black Friday » shopping.

Here’s a look inside the room:

The art gallery is crowdfunding to buy the permanent installation. 0:37

The major installation, which will be given a special place at the downtown Toronto gallery, features mirrored orbs on the ground and suspended from the ceiling — similar to the work Narcissus Garden, which dominated a large room in the AGO during last year’s ultra-popular Kusama exhibit.

There’s also a mirrored rectangular column inside the LED-lit room, which creates what’s said to feel like an infinity room inside an infinity room.

The work of Yayoi Kusama, pictured here, was celebrated during a special exhibit at the AGO last year that the gallery said attracted some 169,000 people. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Four people will be able to fit in the room, which is set to arrive in spring of 2019.

The AGO said more than 169,000 people checked out the Infinity Mirrors exhibit last year, which featured a number of rooms created by the Japanese artist along with other works of her art.

 To date, just 17 museums around the world are home to one of Kusama’s mirrored rooms.


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BlackBerry to buy cybersecurity company Cylance for $1.4B US


BlackBerry Ltd. has signed a deal to acquire U.S. artificial intelligence and cybersecurity company Cylance for US$1.4 billion in cash.

The Ontario-based company called Cylance a pioneer in applying artificial intelligence, algorithmic science and machine learning to cybersecurity software.

« Cylance’s leadership in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity will immediately complement our entire portfolio, UEM and QNX in particular, » John Chen, BlackBerry’s executive chairman and chief executive, said in a statement Friday.

In addition to the purchase price, BlackBerry will also assume Cylance’s unvested employee incentives.

Blackberry’s shift from smartphone to software, security

Cylance will operate as a separate business unit.

BlackBerry made its name as a smartphone pioneer, but has shifted in recent years to software and security services.

The company is also growing its QNX software business, which is focused on the automotive sector.

BlackBerry said the deal to buy the California-based firm is expected to close before the end of its financial year in February 2019, pending regulatory approvals and closing conditions.


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Gondre Is the Buddhist Temple Herb You Can Buy at Costco | Healthyish


As a kid spending summers in Korea, my mom would drag me away from the video arcade to go mountain hiking. In May, the hills of Gangwon Province are a lush green, blanketed in soybeans, lotus, mugwort, burdock root, and other herbs that form the basis of Buddhist temple cuisine. My mother’s real motive for ascending so many miles of steep mountains was to teach me to how to pick those curative herbs and collect the fresh spring water that nourishes them.

Thirty years after my first foraging trip in Gangwon Province, I was shocked to roll down the aisles of Costco and encounter one of these Korean mountain herbs. Gondre is a leafy green renowned for flavor and health benefits—it forms the basis of one of the most well-known Korean Buddhist temple dishes, a simple bowl of steamed rice and herbs known as gondre rice.

Costco was the last place I expected to find authentic Korean food, much less this beloved temple cuisine dish, but South Korea is steadily exporting the food to the club retailer. A crafty sample lady knew she had my number when she called out, “Healthy Korean rice!” Slowing my hunger-induced rapid cart roll, I gratefully took her small paper cup of tender white rice, which had a spinach-like leaf nestled amongst its grains. Tucking the little spoonful into my mouth, I marveled at the pure, pleasant taste of the gondre bap. (Bap literally translates to “rice,” but also colloquially stands in for “food” in Korean.)

healthyish gondre 1

Photo by Chelsea Kyle

Dried gondre rice, ready to be cooked.

Known scientifically as cirsium setidens, gondre (also written as “gondeure”) has been called the Korean thistle. The wild mountain herb is now grown in large quantities in greenhouses across Korea. Costo’s producer, a Korean company called Hanwoomul that works exclusively with local farmers in Northern Jeolla Province, packages the herbaceous green in a frozen sesame oil-seasoned rice bowl. Amazon offers a standard Korean format: dried gondre that is ready to be reconstituted in soup, steamed with rice, or blanched in water, and most large Korean grocery stores sell a frozen or dried version of the herb.

Hanwoomul reports that gondre’s health benefits include improved digestion and blood cholesterol regulation, and recent studies have confirmed that the herb is rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin A. Its most promising benefits, however, may come from its flavonoids—in particular, one flavonoid with a proven anti-diabetic effect in mice. The antioxidant’s effects fight cancer, and an herbal drink called taemyeongcheong, which contains gondre, has been shown to prevent acetaminophen-induced liver damage in mice.

In its raw state, gondre is earthy and a little bitter. But usually by the time the average Korean consumer has gondre in her hands, it has already been soaked, blanched, or dried, then packaged in a frozen or preserved format. Gondre gives off a deeply herbal and earthy aroma when cooked, similar to hearty cup of oolong tea. Salt and sesame oil are all you need to complete this minimalist rice bowl, but for an extra umami boost, mix in some soy sauce or soybean paste, or any bibimbap-style toppings you desire.

As Hanwoomul makes an effort to provide information about gondre in English and if club stores like Costco continue to stock it, gondre could be poised to be next big superfood. Perhaps a Gondre Greens smoothie mix isn’t far away. My mother probably wouldn’t drink it, but she’d be tickled that Americans have found a way to drink this healthful vegetable.

Find a gondre recipe here.


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Notley calls on Ottawa buy more rail cars to get Alberta oil to market


Premier Rachel Notley is calling on the federal government to buy more rail cars to transport Alberta oil.

« The best and only long-term solution to the price gap is building new pipelines, » Notley said Monday in Calgary after a meeting with local energy industry officials on market access.

« In the meantime, however, we need to take a close look at the tools available to us to close the differential where it’s feasible. Like, for example, increasing the efficiency and availability of rail capacity to move our products. »

Notley said the more than $50 per barrel differential between West Texas Intermediate and Western Canadian Select is a « punishing » number that’s costing the federal government tens of millions of dollars a day.

« If it continues, it is going to have a significant impact, frankly, on Ottawa’s bottom line, » she said.

Notley pointed out that the federal government supports grain transportation by rail, and said it’s time to increase the capacity for oil as well.

Railways have struggled to keep up with exports this year, with reports of both grain and rail cars marooned on the Prairies.

Bill C-49, which was passed this year, imposed reciprocal penalties on railways that leave farmers waiting months for grain to be shipped.

Notley said there are no specific details on the province’s request just yet — which could include a call for a number of rail cars and locomotives to be purchased, or a requirement that rail companys’ shipments include a certain portion of oil. She said Alberta is in the midst of putting together a specific business case to take to Ottawa. 

And, she said, the investment would pay for itself through the economic benefits from increased capacity and by a boost in investor confidence.

« It’s something that ultimately will be paid for by the way of increased value to the federal government’s own coffers, » Notley said.

Not the ‘best outcome’

When asked if she was concerned that increasing rail capacity could lead to accidents like the 2013 disaster in Lac-Megantic, Que., she said there’s not much choice if needed pipeline projects continue to be stalled.

« We all know pipelines are the safest and lowest-emission means of transporting oil and gas out there. But as a result of years of successive federal governments’ inability to move forward on getting these major infrastructure projects … putting them on rail I don’t believe is the best outcome, but at the same time a $45-per-barrel differential steals tens of millions of dollars a day out of the pockets of Canadians and redirects them south of the border, and that is profoundly unwise, » she said.

The volume of crude shipped by rail has spiked in the past eight years since the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was first pitched, with an increase from 30,000 barrels to 200,000 barrels being shipped per day.


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