Did you know that Cafe Bustelo is the best selling espresso brand in the US? I had no idea until recently, primarily because this is a brand that is really only distributed in New York and Florida markets and I never see it in stores out in California. It is hugely popular for making Cuban coffees, so since the company is moving into the refrigerated beverage market with the new Bustelo Cool.
Bustelo Cool is a cuban-style cafe con leche made with intensely flavored coffee (Cafe Bustelo espresso) that is sweetened with sugar and given a splash of milk. I’m already a fan of cuban style coffee, and this drink delivered. I really appreciated that you could taste that dark, smoky espresso note clearly even with sugar and milk added. It was well balanced, not too sweet (my pet peeve with packaged coffee drinks) and really stood out from similar coffee drinks already on the market. Of course, if you want your drink to be super sweet, than Bustelo Cool probably isn’t going to be your favorite. Chill the can as much as you can, because the drink isn’t quite as good when ice has melted into it and thrown off the ratio of coffee to milk. There is also a mocha version out there, which I’ll be keeping an eye out for.
Coffee gets us going in the morning, but it also gets The Coffee Car going in the morning. The coffee car is a heavily modified Rover SD1 redesigned by a team of British engineers that is powered by organic waste – specifically, coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are a waste product in thousands of coffee shops and there is plenty of it to go around. Many shops will even pack up leftovers as “grounds for your garden” for people looking for fertilizer or compost. This coffee fueled car is sort of an extension of that. The coffee grounds are dried and turned into pellets, which are used to power a machine built into the car that turns them into fuel.
The record that the car set was a land speed record for a car powered by coffee. You can bet that there weren’t too many competitors, but the fact that they got that car up to more than 70 mph (average speed of more than 65 mph) says a lot for the success of the project. That said, I don’t think we’ll see a wave of coffee powered vehicles in the future – but I am hoping to see this one appear on an episode of Top Gear someday.
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.