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A Fresh Cup

Written by Lori Thiessen

There is the old saying that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. Well, the caffe culture twist on this is: when life grinds your beans,  make coffee! And boy, let me tell you, in the last few months life has ground my beans to super fino espresso powder. But enough about me.

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has dropped by this space over the last few months. Your interest in the cafe lifestyle is much appreciated.

This blog will still cover everything to do with the artier side of the coffee shop lifestyle, very fun and frothy but with an underlying intellectual kick. Everything from how to make a great cup of coffee to investigating coffee houses around the world and through the ages will be discussed here.  There will also be reviews of coffee houses included in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

Caffe Culture is the sister blog to “Coffee Shop Office” which talks about how the coffee shop has become the alternative or even preferred office of people from all walks of life and business.

So look for new posts, new fun facts and a new insight into the cafe lifestyle!

Until next time,

May your coffee always be freshly brewed!

 

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Coffee Tasting

Written by Lori Thiessen

Wine isn’t the only beverage that is rigorously judged. There are beer, spirit and even coffee  connoisseurs. Like me you may have been baffled by the coffee ads and packaging that tout the heady aroma of this brand over the sultry dark flavours of another.

Oh and whatever you do, don’t call it coffee tasting. The correct term is coffee cupping. Check out this website dedicated to the art and practice of coffee cupping, http://www.coffeecuppers.com.

For this post,  I just want to provide some definitions of what coffee cuppers mean when they talk about what a coffee tastes like. My thanks to The Coffee Faq website which is where I found the following definitions.

Acidity
Related both to the roast and to variety. This term is akin to the description of acidity in wine, not to acid content. Indeed, retailers may avoid using this term in order to avoid confusion, and rely on terms such as “bright” or “lively.” Acidity is more of a sensation than a taste, and is experienced on the tip of the tongue and/or the roof of the mouth. During roasting, acidity varies in an approximately inverse relation to body or bittersweet aspects; as the degree of roast increases, perceived acidity decreases. Coffees without acidity tend to taste flat, lacking a pleasant palate-cleansing aspect. Acidity can often have wine-like aspects, especially in many Kenyan coffees, or can come across as citrusy. When acidity is extreme, it can feel astringent, as if the moisture has been sucked from your mouth.

Aroma
Related to both roast and variety. Most of our taste perception comes from our sense of smell, so the volatile aromatics emitted from brewed coffee play an important role in its taste. Aroma develops during roasting, but as the roast starts becoming dark, the carbonized sugars become dominant.

Baked or Bready
A roast related term. Baked coffee is flat, with little aroma; typically the result of an insufficiently high roasting temperature over too long a period of time. In other words, if the heat applied to the unroasted coffee is too low, the physical and chemical changes do not occur in a desirable fashion.

Balance
Roast and variety related. The pleasing combination of multiple characteristics, none overpowering.

Body
Roast and variety related. Body is a textural quality, a perception of viscosity or fullness on the tongue; one roaster has likened it using your tongue as a weight scale. Body develops with the degree of roast, falling off sharply with over roasted coffee, but it can also vary by origin. Distinguish between body and the “thickness” imparted by some brewing methods, like coffee from a press, where fine particulates remain suspended, or espresso, which contains emulsified coffee oils. Underextracted coffee will also have a defectively light body.

Bitter
Roast and preparation related. This is not always a defect; up to a point, it can be desirable. Robusta is more bitter than arabica, but mild coffees can become bitter if over roasted or over extracted during brewing.

Bittersweet
Roast related term. Often mischaracterized as “strong,” the bittersweet aspect is created by the caramelization of sugars in the bean. The longer the coffee is roasted, the greater the caramelization, until at last the sugars are completely burned, giving the coffee a taste akin to charcoal (see next entry).

Burnt
When very mild, this aspect may be desirable for cutting through drinks containing a lot of milk and/or sugar, though there are those who like it in a straight cup. When overdeveloped, it is the flat taste of charcoal; this taste can be overwhelming.

Clean
Clean-tasting coffees are free of defects or undesirable distractions.

Complexity:
Complexity simply means that the cup has many elements–aromas, textures, and tastes–apparent at once, or in succession. Since it is rare to fnd all of the desirable elements in a single origin, roasters often roast different coffees to achieve a varied profile.

Earthy, or Natural
Within limits, this can be a pleasant note, but more commonly a defect in which the brewed coffee has an aftertaste akin to freshly turned soil. Commonly relates to poor processing, one way this defect can occur is when the beans absorb flavor from the dirt on which they were spread to dry. In more muted degrees, this quality can add interesting notes to a coffee.

Flat
Lacking in taste or aroma; low in acidity. Often occurs when the coffee goes stale.

Grassy
Processing related. The aroma and taste of hay, or a newly mown lawn. This can result from prematurely picked cherries.

Musty
Moldy, mildewy ; often the result of some improper storage conditions. Improper aging also can cause mustiness, while proper aging can contribute a desirable flavoring aspect

Rioy (REE-oh-ee)
A harsh, medicinal quality, the term derives from a reference to low quality coffees from Brazil (i.e., Rio De Janiero).

Sour
Unpleasantly acrid or sour, as if contaminated by vinegar. This taste can occur in low-growing, unwashed coffees, but commonly occurs in under roasted coffees, or even properly roasted beans that were then brewed with water that was too cool.

So there you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about coffee flavours and were afraid to ask!

Q: Which kind of coffee do you like the best?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

All The Best for the Holiday Season

From, Lori Thiessen

I wish  every one of my dear readers a happy holiday and a bright, prosperous New Year. Thank you for your support of this blog by taking time out of your busy days to read and share your thoughts.

Though I am taking a Christmas break, I will be back on January 6th with more stories about cafe life.

In the meantime, please feel free to read past posts. I’m pleased to say that there are 40 of them to choose from. And do write in to share your own cafe life adventures.

Until the New Year,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Coffee Not for Colds or Flu?

Written by Lori Thiessen

I’m sick.

I’m home in bed feeling crappy, but well enough to bang out a post. My husband’s been sick too and the first thing we generally do is make a cup of tea when we start to feel poorly.

I’ve noticed that coffee is never mentioned in the same breath as chicken soup or the traditional, nice hot cup of tea when offering homemade cold remedies. Why is that?

In “A Cup of Coffee A Day Keeps the Doctor Away?” I wrote that coffee was actually good for certain ailments like preventing Type II Diabetes and some cancers.

But I’ve also read that caffeine can lower your immune system’s defenses and may make you more susceptible to flu’s and colds.

Like most medical advice, it’s mixed.

My dad split the difference and had one cup of coffee with his breakfast and one cup of tea with his dinner. He had water or a cup of juice with lunch. He rarely had colds or flu, but I don’t know if that is more to do with his staying moderate and regimented with his eating habits or the hot bevvies.

Personally, I think when you are sick, your system can’t take something as strong as coffee. A weak cup of herbal tea is just about right for a person in the throes of fighting the flu.

Of course, there are any number of plants, herbs, and bark that can be made into a tea. Coffee is made from coffee beans or chicory if you want non-coffee bean coffee.

For now, I’ll stick to tea until I’m better, then I’ll start up with coffee again.

Q: Do you ever drink coffee when you aren’t well?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

A Beautiful Bean

Written by Lori Thiessen

In my blog entry entitled “Grounds to Garbage? – No Way!”, I mentioned used coffee grounds as a homemade facial mask. Coffee is now showing up in many commercially made cosmetics. Elle Canada Magazine (Fall 2008, p190-192) has a feature on the benefits of using caffeine topically.

Coffee has been used as a body scrub in Indonesia because not only are the grounds great at getting rid of layers of dead skin, but coffee is a heavy-duty anti-oxidant. If you want to keep your skin looking youthful and glowing, look for products that have the un-roasted coffee bean (or berry) as part of the ingredient list. The humble coffee berry is a more powerful free radical fighter than green tea.

The diuretic effect of coffee is not only limited when being imbibed, but it also works when applied to the skin. Basically, the coffee draws moisture out of the lower skin layers so that wrinkles, etc are temporarily plumped out; emphasis on temporarily.

With so many cosmetic companies getting on the coffee kick, Starbucks may be looking into setting up their own cosmetics counter in store to help some of their 12,000 workers recently laid off to have paid employment again.

Q: Have you ever used coffee-based cosmetics? If so, which ones and did you like them?

Until Next Time,

May your coffee always be freshly brewed!