I recently attended a local art gallery opening. They had the usual hodge-podge of food: a few dips here and there, some healthy stuff to quiet the health freaks, and of course, COFFEE. I watched as everyone hovered around the coffee bar, one guy nervously spilling it all over the counter top. I approached the bar, poured a little coffee for myself, and waited for it to cool down. When I finally got the chance to drink some, the only thought in my mind was that it tasted like brewed cardboard water. Everyone else was seemingly enjoying it, constantly revisiting the coffee bar for a warm up.
I pretended to sip on so as not to “be rude,” and as my eyes wandered the room, I caught a glimpse of a woman in a gold party dress that was over-adorned with sequins and glitter – way too much for her petite frame. At that moment, I thought to myself: “Is this what coffee has become? Over-adorned with a mess of ‘stuff’ we think looks good, but actually tarnishes the beauty of what’s underneath?”
This brought me to a question, which has been toiled over for years: What constitutes good coffee? Is it good for only satisfying our morning jolt? Or is it only good for awakening us to break us from the afternoon’s robotic work patterns?
We yearn for good food, to be cultured, artistic, entertained, and to be “in the know…” But has our taste for good coffee fallen by the wayside? Why do we even drink it? To socialize with friends? To talk about how many espresso shots we had stuffed into one drink (that ended up giving us the JITTERZ for the next two days straight)?
Or is it only good by a coffee connoisseur’s suggestive dialogue? Terminology and recommendations forced upon us, and we – like human nature – rebel and do exactly what we want anyway, too afraid to try something new.
Coffee doesn’t have to be crammed with unnatural flavor for it to be enjoyed; and it doesn’t have to be sans milk and sugar or “under-brewed” either. But shouldn’t it have its own character and elegant flavor, not something we’ve forced it to be? Example – Ethiopia: Naturally sweet coffee, it can have honeyed tastes, chocolate undertones, and may even be loaded with berries. Sometimes I take it black, sometimes with a little sugar. Example – Café au lait: historically prepared with steamed milk, mostly tastes like toasted nuts, the coffee most likely from Brazil or Nicaragua, somewhere conducive of a great espresso blend.
We are feel good people and some brands of coffee know how to tap into that human element. SBUX… As people, we have always demanded better coffee, but without knowing the true element of “better coffee,” it was defined for us and excited us enough to buy fancy machines and syrups, host parties, collect art, all in good efforts to make it good just like SBUX taught us. Coffee can still induce good friendships, family, conversations, fun… The cup itself can truly be a lively experience that complements our relationships, conversations and friends, but it doesn’t have to be completely empty or over-adorned with postiche beauty.
And while Starbucks isn’t exactly the devil, we as consumers have managed to demand a beautifully wrapped package. Some “uber cool” coffee shops have answered the call and have assessed our aesthetic needs by dazzling us with tasty syrups and whipped cream. We’ve allowed ourselves to become drawn to the package without appreciating the beauty of the cup underneath all the wrapping…
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL…
If you haven’t already heard, today is blog action day (BAD2010)– and I’m challenging you in two major ways. Both are relatively easy – and yes, they have everything to do with coffee. Anyhoo, today’s focus is all about water, and I’m going to share how you can guzzle down exceptional coffee while helping out other communities – ALL from your kitchen. Then we’re going to take our next action to the streetz, PLAYAZZZ! BAM! Photo Credit: Gevon Servo
So I’ve been reviewing some Vietnamese coffees from BaristaOnDutY.com, and I was excited to see that there was a surprise coffee for me to review – no label or anything. So I’ve decided instead of testing it and telling you about it, we should find out the surprise together. c(_) Cheers! *Clank*
I am going to play with this in the roaster and give you a full review soon!
Suggested Preparation: Wait & See!
One of my biggest mottos is “Great Coffee Moments Start at Home,” so I wanted to share this little recipe for you coffee junkies who are always on the go, but never really have time for breakfast (and for you guys & gals who feel you deserve a midday treat :-P ).
Chocolate Coffee Mug Cake:
I found this recipe a while back, but of course mine is modified a bit to enjoy with coffee. I like to add coffee that fits the “chocolate” profile, but add whatever your fave coffee is. If you are the most basic home chef, you should have all of the ingredients right in your pantry.
- 50g dark chocolate
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 4 tablespoons prepared coffee
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
- Add flour, ground cinnamon and sugar to a small mixing bowl, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and mix well. Add the melted chocolate, and prepared coffee and mix again.
- Pour the mixture into a large microwavable coffee mug. Microwave for 2 minutes on medium, 1 minute on high. It should be cooked (skewer test comes out with moist crumbs), but still a lil moist. Remember, it will continue to cook while standing.
- Allow to cool a little, eat up, and enjoy with your favorite brew!
If you want, you can even heat up a little extra chocolate to drizzle over the top of the cake. I’ve even enjoyed mine with a nice cigar from time to time. You literally transition between these two in five minutes! YUM!
This is a follow up to the last blog post “Making Coffee Tasting Fun!”
Some coffee aficionados might ring my neck for this, but…you don’t have to be a master at coffee to recognize its intricacies. If you’ve got taste buds and your nose works, you can properly describe the taste qualities of coffee as well as experiencing its simple pleasure.
- Start with a bag of whole bean fresh roasted coffee. If you don’t have fresh roasted, purchase a bag of whole beans from your local grocery store or from your fave coffee shop.
- Using a course grind setting, grind the proper amount of beans for your brew.
- Brew the coffee using your preferred brewing method (French press is my fave!) Make sure to use fresh, cold water.
- Pour into your fave coffee mug.
The Taste Test:
Once I prepare my coffee, I usually take it black, and if I am tasting it for the first time, I most definitely take it black. All coffee producing countries have certain taste characteristics and identifiable qualities, but sometimes you have to approach tasting without any expectations but with an open mind. Many coffee connoisseurs can identify what region a coffee is from just by smell alone. But we’re going to approach it a little differently. Soooo, Let’s Start! Today we are tasting a coffee from Peru.
- Dive head first into the mug and SMEELLLLL the coffee’s aroma. Do any memories come to mind? The aroma of your coffee is going to trigger certain scents that you’ve smelt before. This coffee from Peru smells like raisins, pear, and a little bit of a soft cream.
- Slowly taste the coffee, first letting it touch the tip of your tongue, of course letting it cool to a temperature that is acceptable enough to drink.
- As the coffee begins to wet your palate, let it roll from the tip of your tongue to the base of your tongue, again inviting personal memories of combinations of smell and taste. A lot of aficionados are very cultured and well travelled, and sometimes they tend to apply “high-end” terminology to describe a coffee’s taste. But on a personal level, use the tastes that you’re used to and that you identify with the most to describe your coffee. My coffee tastes like pear, a bit of cocoa – very balanced.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “taste is 80% smell and 20% taste” – it’s true. When we combine the wonderful aroma of the coffee with what our taste buds are telling us about the coffee, we get the awesome opportunity to experience the world of coffee on a much deeper level. And that is the simple pleasure you can have each morning in your cup!
Some coffee aficianados use high-end terms and their world travels to describe the many taste characteristics of coffee. I’m going to share how you can apply your most personal and local memories to the coffee in your mug.