I’ve seen pistachio flavored coffee on the menu before (wouldn’t recommend it unless you LOVE spumoni ice cream), but I’ve never heard of coffee that is made with pistachio nuts instead of coffee beans. Recent research conducted by chemists at the University of York indicates that this just might be possible – and that there are quite a few reasons why coffee drinkers, as well as coffee companies, might want to take note.
The nut in question is variety that grows on the Pistacia terebinthus tree. It is smaller than the pistachios that you would find in a bag of mixed nuts, and it has the same chemical “signature” as coffee. In other words, when the nuts were roasted to the same types of high temperatures that coffee beans are roasted to, they took on a very coffee-like aroma and flavor. The “coffee” made with pistachios has no caffeine, although it can be brewed up just like the real thing, making it seem like it might be a fantastic fit for those who want coffee without the kick and would otherwise opt for decaf on a regular basis. Even better, the nuts are much cheaper to buy and produce than coffee beans are, so pistachio could be a very cost-effective business to get into, as well.
But the process of turning pistachios into coffee isn’t perfect yet. The Sunday Telegraph challenged a couple of local (UK-based) coffee experts to try the pistachio coffee and see what they thought about it. One tester found the flavor to be very distinctive with a much stronger pine flavor than any regular coffee, but noted that the overall aroma was very pleasant. Another trial ground the nuts to brew espresso with. Like most roasted nuts, the pistachios were too oily to be ground so finely and turned into a buttery paste (think peanut butter) that would not pull a shot. When it was brewed, however, the pistachio coffee had a pleasant “woody and spicy flavor.”
With these small issues taken into account, researchers are trying to perfect the roasting process to remove excess oil and make the pistachios perform more like coffee beans. The hope to keep their unique flavor but improve their performance. Coffee prices are still increasing and for some manufactures an affordable alternative could have a lot of appeal.
This week I had the opportunity to take part in a great Starbucks tasting event, tasting some of the Starbucks Reserve coffees with a Coffee Master, Yuli. Starbucks Reserve Coffees are rare, small batch coffees that are being released in very limited quantities at various Starbucks stores across the country. They have coffees like Jamaica Blue Mountain, Organic Blue Java and 100% Kona Coffee. They’re coffees that come from small growers (in some cases, from single farms) and they’re items that will appeal to serious coffee drinkers (like me!). Of course, limited quantities also mean that once they’re gone, they’re gone for good – or, with any luck, until the end of the next growing season.
Our tasting was of Sumatra Tapanuli and Kenya Tana River. This was also my first time experiencing the Clover coffee brewing system first hand. It’s a very unique brewer designed to produce the perfect cup of coffee. Very few coffee shops have these, and only a handful of Starbucks locations. The way they brew, they are supposed to give you the most flavorful cup of coffee possible.
Cold brewed is a coffee term that has been popping up more and more frequently, even though there are plenty of cafes – including the chain Seattle’s Best – that have been offering up cold brewed coffee for quite some time now. Cold brewed coffee is just what it sounds like: coffee that is brewed cold, not hot. To make it, ground coffee beans are placed in cool water and left to sit in a cool place for around 12 hours to brew. Cold brewing produces a milder and sweeter cup of coffee than simply refrigerating coffee that is brewed hot. You don’t get the harsher, more bitter notes of coffee that are often brought out after chilling hot-brewed coffee. Cold brewed coffee will keep very well for several days in the refrigerator after it has been made, and it is easy to make a big batch and keep it on hand. As with regular coffee, you will want to experiment with the ratio of coffee grounds to water to get a concentration that you like, but err on the side of using too much coffee. Not only are you not rising adding bitterness to your drink by doing this, but you can always water down a cold-brewed coffee concentrate with a bit of extra water before serving if it is too strong.
Jonathan Stark wants you to use his Starbucks card, which he is using as a kind of social experiment. He has posted the screenshot of his mobile Starbucks card from the Starbucks iPhone app and is inviting people to use the card and get their drinks, free, on him! He asks that purchases be kept to under $3 and that users Tweet or blog about his project to keep it going. And, if you want to pay it forward to the next coffee-lover in line, you can go ahead and add a little money to the card’s account.
Since the project started in July, the account has seen more than $4000 come and go through it. Stark seeded the account, but the vast majority of that money has been contributed (and used!) by everyone using Stark’s card at a Starbucks store. The Providence, R.I., based Stark says that “he sees his experiment as setting an example of ‘humans being good’” – not because people are sharing coffee with others, but because mobile payments allow people to do good things in such an easy way. ‘Imagine,’ says Stark, ‘if you had a CVS card and you could give someone $10 for their Alzheimer’s medication. The concept of frictionless social giving is very attractive. And this is just the beginning of that.’