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Brewing a different cup of coffee

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One of the top ten Arabica varieties of  coffee in the world, our own Lak Parakum is now being promoted by the Department of Export Agriculture in all Arabica coffee-growing districts in the island. Plants of this variety are distributed among growers through several coffee nurseries in the upcountry. The coffee rust which ended the  island’s coffee romance in British-occupied then  Ceylon is given hope for resurgence with the promotion of the new  variety.

BY RANDIMA ATTYGALLE

History has it that coffee was introduced to Ceylon in 1503 by the Arab traders from Yemen. However, the planting of coffee as a commercial crop in the island commenced with the Dutch occupancy and continued under the British rule. Planter R.B Butler who had experience in coffee plantations in Jamaica came here in 1837 and introduced methods to yield a better coffee crop. By 1863, the value of coffee imported into Europe from all parts of the world amounted to £270 million, and we were exporting nearly a third of that. By 1870, Sri Lanka’s coffee production peaked with over 275,000 hectares being cultivated, according to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) data.

The colonial Ceylon was among the top coffee producing and exporting nations and a coffee-drinking culture complete with kopi kaday (coffee kiosks) and kopi kele (coffee forests) evolved. Christine Spittel-Wilson’s famous book The Bitter Berry revolves around the ethos of a Ceylonese coffee plantation.

Sadly, the coffee rust of 1870 (caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix) destroyed all plantations bringing the coffee romance of the country to an end. Although rust-tolerant varieties were later introduced, today coffee is an intercrop with tea and coconut. However, Lak Parakum promoted by the Department of Export Agriculture (DEA), encourages planters to expand their coffee acreage.

Sri Lanka’s coffee cultivation covers around 4,600 hectares and the two main commercially important species locally grown are Arabica coffee (Coffea Arabica) and Robusta Coffee (Coffea canephora). These two main species grown here include several varieties. “While Arabica coffee varieties are recommended for mid and up country areas with an altitude of over 400m (Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Matale and Badulla), Robusta variety is recommended for mid and low country with an altitude of less than 800m( Kegalle, Kurunegala, Kandy and Matale). These

recommendations are made depending on the temperature variation. While Arabica prefers a temperature of 15-28ºC, Robusta thrives in a temperature of 18-36ºC” says Dr. H.M.P.A Subasinghe, Director (Research), Department of Export Agriculture (DEA).

The global specialty coffee market as the EDB notes, is projected to reach over USD 80 billion by 2025 which offers enormous growth potential for coffee producers. In line with this increasing demand, Sri Lanka’s coffee exports have increased in recent years, growing 84 percent from 2017 to reach nearly USD 355,000 by 2019 according to EDB data. The coffee industry as the EDB notes, has attracted increased investment from the private sector and increased local demand and consumption of locally grown coffee in hotels, restaurants and cafes.

More than 80% the world demand is for Arabica coffee and the requirement is 8.8 million mt, says Dr. Subasinghe. Lak Parakum with its quality parameters stands among the best ten Arabica varieties in the world, he adds.

Even after releasing the new variety Lak Parakum, it did not become popular among farmers due to lower prices offered for coffee. But the Director (Research) of the DEA then, Dr. J.M.Seneviratne initiated collaborations with the authorities at the Nuwara Eliya District Secretariat to popularize the new variety among growers in the Nuwara Eliya District. He also worked with Mr. Kenneth McAlpine, a member of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) for the global coffee industry to find the quality parameters of Lak Parakum and found that overall score was 85.5 which is way above the cutoff point for the best coffees which is considered to be 75.”

While Lak Parakum is promoted for higher elevations, IMY which is of Robusta variety is also promoted for lower elevations right now. While the domestic coffee consumption is 2,300 mt. our annual production was 2,345 mt. in 2020 according to DEA’s statistics. Our annual export volume was 26.6 mt in 2020. Australia, UAE, USA, Maldives, New Zealand, Chile, UK and Germany are the major buyers of Sri Lankan coffee. The annual coffee import volume was 104.9 mt in 2020.

“Due to immature coffee harvesting and bad processing practices, most importing countries are rejecting our coffee and with the new variety if we can practice timely harvesting and good processing practices, the export potential is very high,” observes Dr. Subasinghe.

Several new measures are now in place to tap a lucrative market for Sri Lankan coffee. Production of planting material with private sector nurseries, awareness programmes for harvesting and processing practices for high quality products, promotion for value addition, introduction of GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Certification to get premium prices and increasing the coffee extent from 4,600 ha to 5,800 ha and the export volume from 30 mt. to 200 mt by 2025 are among these. Collaborations with the Australian government-funded Market Development Facility for the improvement of the coffee industry are also in place.

Although threats from rust diseases are still prevalent in coffee fields, they can be controlled with good management practices and available control measures, points out Dr. Subasinghe. “Apart from the rust disease, the major pest problem is the coffee berry borer damage. This too can be managed with good crop management practices. While Robusta varieties are highly tolerant for rust, Arabica is medium tolerant.”

Due to the low prices offered for coffee (Rs. 350 to 400 per kilo), many growers had neglected coffee in the last few years, however, currently a kilo of coffee could get Rs. 1,200. “We also offer coffee growers incentives including free planting material, technological assistance for planting, crop management, harvesting, fertilizer application, processing and management of pest and diseases. Subsidies for irrigation facilities and machinery used for post-harvest practices and support for GAP are also offered.”

Managing Director of Kelaneiya & Braemar Estate Maskeliya, Murugiah Balendran, a leading grower of Lak Parakum first experimented with it in 2014. Director (Research) of the DEA then, Dr. J.M.Seneviratne who collected a gene pool from old plants from many areas including Walapane, Ramboda, Galaha and Nilambe offered me mother plants of Lak Parakum and encouraged me to experiment with them,” reflects Balendran who goes onto add that the ‘trial and error’ exercise eventually turned out to be successful. His own estate which was once an exclusive coffee plantation still has coffee trees more than 100 years old.

The senior planter who is now well versed in producing seed stock of Lak Parakum has released about 1,500 kg to nurseries since 2018. “Each kilo of seed could produce 2,000 to 3,000 plants, so a sizeable amount of plants have been generated todate.” Balendran has dedicated four hectares of land to coffee alone today and urge fellow coffee growers to move away from the ‘intercrop mindset’ and allocate more fertile land for the crop. “Many growers plant coffee in vacant land space where largely tea had been removed. However, unless the soil quality is improved, planting coffee in vacant tea and coconut estates won’t do.”

Balendran who also grows several other varieties of coffee including a few Indian ones remarks that there is a notable difference between those and Lak Parakum in terms of the yield, resistance to disease and the texture of beans. “However it will take us another four to five years to show the true potential of it.”

Lack of fertilizer has taken a notable toll on the crop, laments the planter. “At the time of blooming and berries start setting, we need to give some fertilizer. But unfortunately last year our crop was very poor and didn’t match our expectations. Even the seed delivery to DEA and other agents got curtailed to a large extent. Moreover, although I have been supplying coffee seed material from 2018, I have so far not received any significant assistance from any government agency,” remarks Balendran who moots an effective result-oriented incentive scheme for coffee growers.

Photo credit: Murugiah
Balendran, Royal Commonwealth
Society, W.L.H. Skeen & Co.



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Life style

How Celebrities Influence Fashions

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Celebrities have always shaped and influenced the ongoing fashion trend.

Celebrities both Hollywood and Bollywood influence fashion by wearing whatever is in fashion and also sometimes they create their fashion trend by wearing something enormous, created by the world’s leading fashion designers.

Some of them are known to having better knowledge with fashion than other celebrities, we look to them as fashion icons. They are numerous ways celebrities can influence fashion.

Celebrities set the rule on how to dress to a certain event or how you should dress at a certain age. A lot of times celebrities will promote certain fashion trends. People dress a certain way because their favorite celebrity that they stalk on social media is wearing the same thing.

Fashion can be influenced by social media, the person wearing a certain type of designer or a piece of clothing from that designer.

Research says the some individuals who are referred to as opinion leaders has a major impact on what society thinks of a certain type of fashion. With having celebrities as a fashion opinion leader it leads to higher percentage of market sales. It is agreed that they tend to have more knowledge about fashion than a regular person would, even though if they do not dress accordingly to society at the time. The key aspect of fashion on celebrities is to be seen in the public eye which helps the consumer/designer get more clients or fame.

When it comes to celebrities and trends, clothing is one of the easiest ones to follow. It doesn’t matter what article of clothing celebs have on, if it’s in a magazine or on an Instagram feed, the next day stores are selling the same piece of clothing that said celebrity wore in a photo. It is easier to keep up with the changing trends because of Instagram and TikTok where many celebrities will post videos of their outfits when going out for an event or just spending the day at home. Everyone has their own unique sense of style but how do celebrities influence our style, and are we really dressing in the clothes we choose because we like them, or are we doing it to follow a trend?Celebrities have been known to popularize trends even after they go out of style. One of the reasons why people are so drawn to the styles celebrities wear is because many will choose to dress in a style that brings back nostalgia.

For example, some fashion trend that has been in and out of style for the last couple of years. Various stores and clothing brands have been selling items from tthis fashion collection for a while such as Hot Topic, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters. But the downside to clothing trends is that we realize “I’m never gonna wear this again,” or “I don’t even like this style, why did I buy this?”

Celebrities are good at advertising the clothing items they’re given because it’s part of their job, but sometimes they don’t even like the items they wear. So, why do we continue to follow clothing trends? They have been given lots of beautiful pieces of clothing to wear and when we see them in it and how people respond to them, we want the same reaction they get, so we choose to follow the trend people say

These celibritiescan also influence where clothing is sourced from. Some of the clothes that we wear are made from animals and harmful products that we don’t even realize are made from insects (silk), goats (cashmere), and sheep (shearling). Numerous celebrities have taken a stand against animal products in clothing, and have chosen to wear clothing that is vegan and animal-free.

For example, Ariana Grande’s wedding dress was made from stating vegan which, according to VeganFashionWeek, has “the soft and lustrous texture of satin to create the perfect wedding gown for Arianna Grande. Satin is made from synthetic materials (polyester, nylon, rayon fibers…)” The choice to buy ethically can influence fans’ styles because they may be inspired to purchase clothing that is made from vegan materials and animal-free products.

Another reason could be because many items that celebrities wear can be used on various occasions. Because celebrities have millions of fans who follow everything that they do, some celebrities have their own clothing lines designed to fit every size and every occasion so that they’re fans can dress comfortably and stylish. Cardi B partnered with Fashion Nova, Kendall and Kylie Jenner have a namesake clothing line, as do many other celebrities. It gives fans the confidence to expand their wardrobe, and it has made people feel comfortable in their own skin.

More positively, celebrities can influence our style by advertising to their fans to dress as themselves and not for anyone else. Angelina Jolie shared her views on fashion in an article last year, saying, “I think we all know boldness when we see it. Nothing makes me smile more than when I see someone being fully themselves, with their own individual style and character, whatever that is.”

Remember: celebrities have their own individual styles that match their own unique personalities and so do you. They can influence our styles because we might like how they look in movies, TV shows, and Tiktoks. It is worth mentioning that celebrities have stylists who dress them for special occasions, and designers who want them to wear their clothes. Style and clothing should be about self expression and instead it has become about trends and influence. Clothes are the reflection of the person you are on the inside so instead of following a clothing trend that’ll be over in a few weeks, dress for yourself.

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Sade Greenwood Miss Sri Lanka world 2022, speaks about Fitness and lifestyle 

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by Zanita Careem

The reigning Miss Sri Lanka world Sade Greenwood gives insight into the importance of a balanced and healthy lifestyle for achieving goals and overall wellbeing.

Sade is currently a student at Tokyo International University in Japan where She studies International Relations. She hopes to make a difference in her country using her degree, where she hopes to be involved in youth programmes and education. When Sade is not studying she is usually doing her charity work which involves environmental services and animal welfare. .

Sade with her sparkling personality and penchant for positivity personifies ‘beauty with a purpose’. She has brought immense pride to us all with her ‘walking the talk’ through her numerous charitable endeavors.

Q• Sade tell us about your journey from modelling to competing nationally, and winning the coveted Miss Sri Lanka World 2022 title?

A•

It’s been a surreal journey! Definitely a lot of adjusting as it was a huge shift in my life but all the same I’m so grateful and blessed to be able to represent my country on the  international stage. 

Q• You have always been in model shape. Have You had to change your workout routines when focusing on the beauty industry? 

A• I think I more so needed fitness to help me balance my busy schedules. It was always great to have a release from everything through fitness, it’s definitely something I used more for my mental and physical health in becoming a stronger version of myself.

Q• Being a part of The Fitness Connection Family and working out at the Gym what do you feel has been the biggest change? 

A• I think learning to achieve my goals. One thing about fitness is that consistency plays a huge role but so does diet! Learning to cut out on some of my favourite food is a little tricky!

Q• I know You have a hectic schedule and many commitments. How have your workouts at the gym impacted you positively? 

A• It’s impacted my mental and physical health and overall helped me balance my life and find a release from all the stress and strain.

Q• As you and your pathway have inspired so many, what advise would You give to those looking to balance their goals with their everyday lives? 

A• Make sure you love what you do! That makes it easier to balance anything in life because you’re putting your heart and soul into what you do. It doesn’t feel like ‘work’ then, so train your mind!

Q• What motivates you the most, and gets you moving even on the most tiring of days? 

A• My goals and how the future version of myself would be proud that I made the decision to do something then and there.

We are all looking forward to your next chapters in what is definitely going to be an exciting and fulfilling journey. I will surely be speaking with you again soon!

*Sade Greenwood photographed at The Fitness Connection,

Racecourse Colombo 07

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The Little Black Dress: Never out of style

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It is the women’s wardrobe staple that always manages to capture the spirit of the times. Katya Foreman from BBC examines the enduring appeal of the Little Black Dress.

The little black dress, that Christmas party staple, is a bit of an enigma. It is both one of the blandest elements of a woman’s wardrobe – as the default option when stuck for what to wear for an occasion – and a stubbornly  timeless, persistently revisited icon. Essentially a simple black cocktail dress, the garment goes by the affectionate nickname of LBD, which has its own entry in the dictionary.

According to André Leon Talley, a contributing editor at Vogue who recently staged an exhibition dedicated to the LBD, the term ‘little black dress’ first appeared in 1926, in an American Vogue illustration of Coco Chanel’s first black ‘Ford’. Vogue editors had named the dress after the era’s democratic black Model T automobile, predicting that the straight, long-sleeved design in unlined crèpe de chine accented with four diagonal stripes would “become sort of a uniform for all women of taste.” They were spot on.

The garment cut a radically modern figure, as much for its stark design as its sober shade, which since the Victorian era had been associated with mourning. For Chanel, black was the definition of simple elegance and, ever disregarding of conventions, she helped bring the colour into everyday wear. Among the displeased, rival couturier Paul Poiret is said to have sniped at Chanel in the street, “What are you in mourning for, Mademoiselle?” The equally scissor-tongued designer is said to have retorted: “For you, dear Monsieur.”

Frock and awe

To put it in context, three decades earlier, John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Madame Gautreau, better known as Madame X, in a black dress had provoked outrage in Paris. The jet-black look, with its skimpy straps and plunging décolleté, was considered indecent. “Displayed in the huge jury-selected exhibition, the Salon, in 1884, it horrified Parisians so much that the ignominy drove Sargent across the Channel to take refuge in Britain,” wrote the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones..

“In this case it wasn’t anything about the style, or the flash of naked shoulders, that upset a public used to ‘modern nudes’. It wasn’t the morbid paleness of the New Orleans-born high society personage Madame Pierre Gautreau… or even the impressionistic way in which Sargent, a friend of Monet, rejects the crispness of academic naturalism. No, it was the dress that caused distress.”

Fellow independent style maven, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, who owned several LBDs, once said of the versatile garment: “When a little black dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place.” And, swiftly embraced as a staple of French elegance in the 20s, the shape-shifting LBD nearly 90 years on is still going strong, with a family of icons still fuelling its myth. Notably, there is something about the slim sleeveless black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s that continues to mesmerise generations. Accessorised with black elbow gloves, a pearl choker, dark glasses and a cigarette holder, on Hepburn the gown transcended the sum of its parts.

“I am absolutely dumbfounded to believe that a piece of cloth which belonged to such a magical actress will now enable me to buy bricks and cement to put the most destitute children in the world into schools,” a tearful Dominique Lapierre told BBC News after auctioning off the dress for charity at Christie’s London in 2006, for £467,200 ($765,000) to an anonymous telephone bidder. Lapierre, a French writer and philanthropist, had been given the dress by its maker, French couturier Hubert de Givenchy. According to Christie’s, a second version of the dress remains in the Givenchy archives in Paris, while a third is in the Museum of Costume in Madrid.

Stitches in time

Deceptively simple, the LBD, with its morphing silhouettes and features, can be seen as a marker of shifting social codes. The va-va-voom black Versace safety pin dress worn by Elizabeth Hurley to the 1994 premiere of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, for instance, encapsulated an era, as did Catherine Deneuve’s prim LBD by Yves Saint Laurent in Belle de Jour (1967), with its white silk French cuffs and collar.

 “The little black dress has managed to adapt to all of the socio-political changes,” vintage specialist Didier Ludot has noted. He has been championing the cause since 1999, the year in which he created his line, La Petite Robe Noire, with a dedicated store in Paris’s Palais Royal. And designer Miuccia Prada, quoted in Talley’s aforementioned book said: “To me, designing a little black dress is trying to express in a simple, banal object, a great complexity about women, aesthetics, and current times.”

From the wearer’s stance, nothing is more flattering and versatile than the LBD. Offering new personalities in the tweaking of a neckline or sleeve length, it smoothes contours, serving as an inky frame to exposed areas of flesh. All lines and shadows, the LBD is an ally to curves. To Ludot it is “an iconic, magical garment as it enhances a woman’s features and erases imperfections”.

As the epitome of the blank canvas, the LBD has become a rite of passage for generations of designers, and a fixation for some, such as cult couturier Azzedine Alaia, whose roots lie in architecture.  “The little black dress is interesting to designers because it is a wardrobe classic that we can experiment with and twist. The cut and the volume form the foundations, with the fabric bringing it to life. It’s a real creative exercise,” commented French couturier Alexis Mabille who was among five designers tapped by French lifestyle chain Monoprix to design a little black dress for this Christmas season, along with Giles Deacon, Hussein Chalayan, Anne-Valérie Hash and Yiqing Yin. Suited to all types, the affordable capsule, which premiered at the style emporium Colette in late November, once again reflects the codes of the black Ford Model T.  From Hash’s split-personality design, which melds two styles of dress in one piece, to Deacon’s black satin t-shirt style with an oversized satin bow at the neckline, each offers a new take on a perennial wardrobe classic whose capacity for reinvention seems inexhaustible.– BBC

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