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Jun 18, 2007

We don’t sell much but there, under the pastries is a line up of bottled water.

I’m considering making it disappear for this reason: By the elbow of our barista is a tap plumbed to Crystal Lake’s municipal water supply. Beneath the tap is a very high-end filtering system installed to improve purity to our espresso and brew machines. The filters eliminate the chlorine, fluoride and mineral taste of our municipal well water.

Does it make sense that we provide drinking water that is bottled in plastic or glass and shipped long distances, perhaps from overseas with the fancy waters sold by Evian and Perrier, and San Pellegrino. Spell Evian backwards: Naïve.

I surfed onto this topic because it is rising nationwide. Here Daniel Gross writes in Slate of the “Snob Appeal of Tap Water.” 

"It takes a lot of energy to create a bottle of water and ship it from
Europe to California. And so of-the-moment bistros can boost their enviro cred (sic) by giving away tap water instead of selling promiscuously marked-up bottled water (emphasis added)."

Interesting phrase "promiscuously marked-up." We sell standard bottled water for $1.60 in a 12 ounce bottle, which is the equivalent of $22 per gallon. Google up some fancy-labeled bottled water from a
Tennessee spring selling for $240 a case. If that were gasoline prices we’d all be pedaling and walking everywhere. Perhaps we should anyway.

Restaurants in San Francisco and New York (we do all know where trends start don’t we?) have stopped selling bottled water.

"Our whole goal of sustainability means using as little energy as we have to," Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Shipping bottles of water from Italy doesn't make sense." (Gross cites this quote in Slate, too.)

The safety issue is probably a wash. Both bottled water and municipal water are regulated; the former by the Food and Drug Administration and the latter by EPA regulation. Put whatever faith in the government agencies that you wish.

The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) argues that health and safety regulation for municipal waters is more stringent than for bottled water.

NRDC also regularly cites poor performing municipal water systems. Bottled water isn’t without problems. In 1996, the Illinois Department of Health ordered a recall of Arkansas-bottled Natural Springs due to high coliform bacterial counts. In 1999, NRDC tested 103 bottled brands and found contaminates in one-third of the samples. The study unfortunately has not been updated.

Even Forbes, The Capitalist Tool, in April 2007 weighed in on the subject of bottled versus tap water and, essentially, called it a draw.

The debate is mostly about profits. We drink, on average, 26.1 gallons of bottled water a year, second only to carbonated soda. The tally: $10.9 billion.

Much of our perception is marketing. And, with $10.9 billion at stake, the marketing can get edgy. Nestlé’s Poland Springs brand was sued in 2003 alleging false labeling of its water as “spring water.” The suit alleged the Poland Springs spring dried up in 1967 and that the water being bottled was from drilled wells.

Adept m
arketing means we’ve come to believe that bottled water is somehow safer, better and, to some, fashionable. But bottled water is certainly not green, given the bottling and transport carbon costs.

So, I’m considering giving up on bottled water. In its place, I’m thinking of putting a nice ceramic water cooler, really simply a big jug with a spigot. Ice it up. Pour in the filtered water. Enjoy.
 What do you think? Do you think an honor payment jar would work? We do, after all, make a tidy bit of profit off of bottled water.

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Posted: Jun 18, 2007 7:48pm
May 29, 2007

On May 26 the café opened and we thumbed through the Northwest Herald to find that you voted us the best coffee shop in McHenry County and “one of the best” for snacks.


“Best” is a wonderful word. We like it a lot. Sure, we aim for “best” because, well, what else is worth aiming for?


It’s been a bit less than 18 months since we opened with a clear premise: Freshly roast carefully selected green coffees and prepare each drink by hand. We buy only top-grade, Arabica coffees that are economically, socially and environmentally conscious.


In the shop that Saturday morning May 26, Adam congratulated us on the Readers’ Choice award that Northwest Herald readers gave us. We must say that Adam, Sean, Jenna, Karissa, Cindy, Anne, David and, though she’s gone away to finish college, Janelle, are really the reason for your attention. Their bright personalities and passion for what we’re trying to do carry us day by day. Like our sons, Jason and Mike, they all smile and say “thank-you” a lot.


Earlier this week, one of our barista made a latte with a beautiful Rosetta pattern poured into the espresso crema for a customer at the drive through. The drink could easily have been delivered with the cap on and without the extra care and, so, without notice. A little extra flourish: We hope it drew a smile from the customer.


We’re pleased our barista are having fun preparing your drinks. They get better each day. Perhaps that difference in how your drink is prepared and delivered is what you notice when you stop in. Thank-you for your vote.


If you haven’t taken the one-block detour off Highway 14 at Pingree toward the new METRA station, come on by and find out what all the fuss is about. You won’t be disappointed whether you order our freshly roasted and brewed coffees, a traditional or fancy espresso drink, tea, chai or smoothie. Try out pastries. Wayne brings his Goldies scones by every week and we bake them in the café so they’re fresh, too.


Roseanna & Jack Shipley

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Posted: May 29, 2007 6:22pm
May 20, 2007

Have you asked a question and taken up the answer as a challenge?

Our friend, Christine Peak, asked a question on a visit earlier this year to the highlands of rural Guatemala. The answer was simple and direct: The children of Aguas Calientes Elementary School walked long distances to learn. They arrived eager but hungry. They leave the school for home and chores hungry.

If the school just had a kitchen the children could all get a hot lunch each day, the principal replied to Christine's question.

This May 12, we hosted MayaWorks at the café and the event, Christine's brainchild, helped to quickly raise enough money to build the kitchen for the school.

Jason and Mike whipped up a nice Latin American blend – tasty! – and 50% of the purchase price went to the fundraising. But basically, all we did was move some furniture around.

Christine and a MayaWorks colleague, Gail Krueger, up from Texas, set up a wonderful display of textiles, bags, hand-beaded items and jewelry made by Mayan women, mainly from Guatemala. We met wonderful new friends filtering in and out, some attracted by the kind publicity in our local media.

This is a very simple and direct accomplishment. It will mean much to a gaggle of radiant young children. Congratulations to Christine for responding to an answer that needed an action. We're looking forward to an update from MayaWorks on this project.

We have a gallery of Christine's photos from the initial trip at Read more about MayaWorks and its microeconomic development for artisan women of the Maya.

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Posted: May 20, 2007 7:56pm
Apr 11, 2007
Have you read about the "death train?" Its a freight that runs from Central America through Mexico toward the U.S. border. That's where the Minutemen stand guard in the dessert night in their lawn chairs.

Gaining some insight to this migration and the horrors we do not see because they occur beyond our border is reason for a shift in mind and a question about when a commitment is firmly held or mere PR cover.

It's called the death train for one simple reason. That's what it sows along its lines as people from broken communities grasp tenuously to ladders, vents ... anything they can. In Nicaragua, volunteers staff a medical clinic. Amputees, people who have fallen from the train, make up a large number of the patients. Others are victims of gang violence. Some get close to our borders and then hike north.

Many of these people are leaving the still stressed coffee communities for our land of milk and honey. (Antony Wild describes this more deeply in his recent book Coffee: A Dark History.)

You may know that the favorite drink of many people is coffee. You may not know much about the tightly twisted link between the global slave trade and coffee.

Paul Katzseff, once president of the Specialty Coffee Association, knows me only be an e-mail he once responded to in which he pointed out that slave conditions still exist in some coffee plantations. In many others the labor conditions are abysmal.

This isn't meant to disturb you or convince you to boycott coffee. My wife and I own a coffee shop, Conscious Cup. We only hope to make a small contribution to changing this business. The Katzseff's are true change agents on a global scale. Others, like us, follow.

So, here's the point. Recently the media reported that Wal-Mart will be offering Fair Trade coffee. That's fine, particularly if this reflects a sea change in Wal-Mart's corporate philosophy. Perhaps, they will start paying people better ... treating women equally ... not selling sweatshop clothing.

You see, to us, values are firm and not selective. You make a commitment. You keep a commitment. Or, not. Selling some Fair Trade coffee isn't a commitment weighed against all the billions of dollars in other goods Wal-Mart sells under its Happy Face.

Many independent coffee shops like ours have made the commitment to only sustainable, socially caring and environmentally aware coffee. Not less than 5%. Not 20%. Not 50%. All of it.

You have choices to examine what you buy and where it came from and how it was made and who it was made by and under what conditions they worked.

So, don't give up coffee. Much of the Fair Trade coffee goes unsold because the big sellers don't sense "demand" from consumers. Can you take a small step tomorrow and ask the barista at your favorite coffee shop to use coffee that is somehow certified so that the small farmers who hand pick the coffee cherries can earn a dignified living and keep their children off of the death train?

Also, mark May 12 on your calendar. That's World Fair Trade Day. Watch and see if the chain shops make a 1/365th commitment to serve Fair Trade coffee.
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Posted: Apr 11, 2007 8:02pm
Mar 18, 2007

When the ground softens and good, waterproof boots are a must, I walk my friend Koiya through Spring Creek park west of our home in Wauconda, IL.

Spring Creek is a bit of a maze of woods, prairie and soggy wetlands. The park itself is low land and, in part, borders the west shore of the Fox River. This time of year, the wetlands dominate as water has little place to go. The river is full.

The air is thick with the musk of spring. The ground thick with decay uncovered from its winter coat and now damp and clingy. I can sense spring girding its strength and ready to burst through the tan and brown and squish and bring this part of the world back to green.

Koiya roots for mice or, rather, anything that moves in the grass alongside the soggy path.

I stop short of the parking lot by a half mile and sit on a rustic bench. The sun warms. Koiya trots up. Sits and backs up to snuggle between my legs, turning and looking for a good scratch. I sit for a while enjoying the small sounds.

What's your favorite spring walk?

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Posted: Mar 18, 2007 1:40pm
Jan 28, 2007

A bit more than a year ago Roseanna and I stood in the midst of what looked like weeks and weeks of work yet to be finished.

We had people coming in that week for training, both staff and two wonderful people who contributed greatly to Conscious Cup. The first was Phil Hand, an exacting roastmaster and partner with The Supreme Bean in North Hollywood, CA. Phil’s insight and patience we hope you taste every day. The second was Andrew Hetzel whose barista training is a high standard we strive for every day. Andrew was sensory judge in the most recent World Barista Championship.

But as we stood in the midst of scaffolding, sheetrock stacks, paint buckets, plastic sheets and just stuff, frankly it looked like a train wreck. And, of course, it was a costly train wreck. We were already drawing upon reserves and shuffling money because in our naiveté we had woefully underestimated building costs.

We were questioning our faith in our dreams.

We had come almost three years to that moment just before we opened on Jan.. 17, 2006. I think the steadiness, perhaps because they weren’t writing checks, of Jason and Mike kept us going.

Construction did pull together. We held our training, though the cafe was unfinished. Then we waited for those last things, like the acid stained floor, to be finished.

And then you came along.

Our excitement was reborn. Of course, sometimes, as when Roseanna served a hazelnut iced tea instead of hazelnut coffee, our excitement and inexperience overtook us. Whoever you were you didn’t complain. I hope you returned to laugh with us.

We stumble sometimes along the paths of our dreams. Sometimes we fall but when the dream is powerful we get back up, dust off our knees and hands and keep moving ahead. This is cliché but also reality.

It’s been like that this past year. Pingree Road construction seemed to take forever and we wondered if the people who we wished to serve would ever find us just off the worn and beaten path of Northwest Highway.

We kept up a good face but I’m sure at times some of you had far more faith in Conscious Cup than did we.

So, now we’re a year old, a big birthday for any new, small business. You did find us. A year gone is a turning point in a way, a time we can look back at the train wreck of an opening and smile, even if a little wryly.

As a one-year-old Conscious Cup is on its young, wobbly legs. The dream continues to unfold. Stop by, have a hot (and fine) cup of coffee. Watch with us.

One thing we’ve discovered in this year is that a business like this is fertile ground for friendships. To each of us, this has been the greatest reward of this past year.

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Posted: Jan 28, 2007 9:35am
Jan 11, 2007
Focus: Human Rights
Action Request: Write E-Mail
Location: United States

We've long been involved with World Vision.

This link will lead you to a web site to submit a letter to your congressional delegation and President Bush not to cut the meager $1 billion in US aide to help work against extreme global poverty and AIDS.

We can choose how the world views the American people.

Take action today

Thank you,

Jack Shipley

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Posted: Jan 11, 2007 3:35pm
Dec 31, 2006

This is to a sometimes challenging but in sum a terrific 2006. I like to look at 2007 as filled with possibilities.

1. My son Jeremy and Beth were married.
2. My son Jason and Kristin were engaged.
3. My mother (Roseanna's actually) success to date battling cancer.
4. To sons Jason and Michael and their dedication to Conscious Cup.
5. We opened Conscious Cup Coffee, Jan. 17, 2006
6. We'll be a year old, Jan. 17, 2007!
7. To my wife, Roseanna, whom I simply adore.
8. To children for they are joy.
9. To inspirations ... Greg Mortenson, Benjamin Zander. (Read their books!)
10. To faith that common people will find an uncommon peace together.
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Posted: Dec 31, 2006 8:54pm
Dec 31, 2006

Pass this one along. From Sarah McLachlan at YouTube.

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Posted: Dec 31, 2006 8:24pm
Dec 26, 2006
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

I listened intently to NPR's interview with Greg Mortenson and was struck dumb by the simple eloquence of his actions.

Greg heads what is now the Central Asia Institute, which grew from his promise to a remote village to build a school. One school became 55. The book is his story. I've eagerly ordered it.

I'm particularly drawn to the human connections across the globe, something Greg relates with a story of his time in the Pakistan/Afghan border area the day of 9/11. He was told he should leave but did not. During his stay, as news of the insanity of that day in New York spread, an elderly woman approached Mortenson.

She carried five eggs she requested of Mortenson to deliver to the widows of 9/11.
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Posted: Dec 26, 2006 8:38pm


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Jack S.
, 2, 3 children
Wauconda, IL, USA
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