Browsing articles from "December, 2011"
Dec 22, 2011

Homemade Gingerbread Latte

Homemade Gingerbread Latte

Spicy gingerbread lattes are a coffee shop favorite around the holidays. Most are made with a gingerbread-flavored syrup, but I find that you don’t get quite as good results as you do at the coffee shop even when you use the same brand of syrup at home. I prefer to make my Homemade Gingerbread Lattes using ingredients that are actually found in real gingerbread instead of some artificially flavored syrup. The results are more gingerbread-y and much tastier.

This gingerbread latte starts, of course, with strongly brewed coffee. You can use espresso if you have an espresso machine. I lightly sweeten the coffee and stir in molasses, along with a pinch of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Go easy on the spices, as in a small cup of coffee they will add a lot of aroma and flavor. Top off the coffee with hot or steamed milk, as well as some whipped cream, and you’re ready to serve. The drink can be sweetened to taste or with more molasses, for a stronger flavor, but it is definitely a holiday in a mug.

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Dec 20, 2011

Darker Roast = Higher Quality?

I love a good single-origin coffee, whether from a specific region or a specific plantation, that has been roasted to bring out the very best qualities of that coffee. I’m not going to base my coffee choice on how dark or light the roast is as long as I know that the flavor of the beans has been taken into account and allowed to shine. I have noticed, over the past couple of years, that there has been a real trend for people to think that a darker roast = higher quality when it comes to coffee. I’ve had plenty of seriously over-roasted “gourmet” coffees that just about burned all the real flavor out of their beans.

On the flip side of this coin, I’ve also met many people who won’t touch any dark roast with a 10 foot pole because they believe that they will always been far to strong to taste good (hence why Peet’s and Starbucks are marketing new lighter roasts).

The reality is that a dark roast alone isn’t the mark of a high quality coffee, and it also isn’t the mark of a coffee that is going to make your spoon stand up in it. You can generalize that Indonesian coffees often work best with a dark roast and many Central American coffees work beautifully with a light roast. In the end, coffee should be roasted to bring out the best flavor profile of the beans, whether they’re a unique single-origin coffee or a blend of a variety of beans. As more coffee roasters take the time to promote this fact, more people are going to open up and try new coffees outside of their comfort zone – dark or light – and learn that the color of the coffee bean matters, but only if the color is the best fit for that particular bean.

Dec 13, 2011

Peet’s Heads East

Peet's Sign

Like most businesses, coffee shops are always looking to expand their market. For smaller shops, this often means bringing in specialty desserts or coffee beans. For larger chains, this means looking for new markets. Peet’s Coffee & Tea has long been a West Coast favorite – particularly for those in and around the San Francisco Bay Area – and they are setting their sights on the East coast markets where they’ll compete with favorites like Dunkin’ Donuts for consumers’ morning cup o’ joe.

The biggest obstacle that Peet’s has to face, according to the Wall Street Journal, is not the popularity of Dunkin’s Donuts, but the popularity of a medium roast coffee with East coast consumers. Roughly 30% of nationwide consumers prefer medium roast coffees, while about 40% of East coast consumers due. Peet’s is known for their dark roasts and has even introduced two brand new medium roasts especially to appeal to that East coast market. The new roasts are blends called Café Solano and Café Domingo and they’ll hit grocery stores before they hit the coffee shops soon.

Clearly, not all Dunkin’ fans are going to switch to Peet’s, even as more Peet’s stores open, but it will be interesting to hear if those medium roasts do manage to pull in a few new fans as Peet’s moves east. Only time – and whether the company continues to launch medium roasts – will tell.

Dec 7, 2011

Chai Tea Spiced Cider

Chai Tea Spiced Cider

Apple cider is one of my favorite winter drinks, not just because it’s tasty, but because like its seasonality. It is something that I only drink in the winder and I like it served piping hot. While there are many different brands of apple cider (and ways to make your own spiced cider), you don’t really get the variety of flavor with cider that you get with tea. Combining tea and cider seemed like an easy way to combine two of my favorite drinks into one new one that is perfect for a cold day.

This Chai Tea Spiced Cider is simply chai tea that is steeped in apple cider, as opposed to water. The spicy tea gives a lot of flavor – and a subtle tea note – to the sweet apple juice, and the combination of hot cider and spices is ideal for taking the chill off. It’s good enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up on the menu board at a few coffee shops. Using cider that is already spiced will yield an even spicier drink, though plain apple cider works perfectly with the chai tea. You can use any tea brand that you like and loose leaf works just as well as bagged tea. I use loose leaf for a larger batch, but will often use bagged tea for convenience when making just one cup.
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