I recently gave some friends who weren’t too familiar with Sumatran coffees a little bit of a crash course in them by serving them some Sun Dried Sumatra Rasuna, one of Starbucks’ current Reserve coffees. This particular coffee is rather unusual because Sumatran coffees are typically semi-washed, not sun dried, during processing. Totally dry processing is uncommon in Indonesian coffees, due at least in part to high humidity, which doesn’t create ideal conditions for drying coffee.
My friends either loved or really disliked (fortunately, most loved) the coffee, and I think that Sumatran coffees tend to be a little bit polarizing because they have very bold flavors. I, personally, really enjoy Sumatran coffees and think that this is a great example of one when it comes to its flavor profile. It is dark, rich and super earthy. I got some very juicy, sweet fruit towards the beginning and a very moist, tropical earth flavor throughout, with a nicely clean finish. This coffee was also good served cold, over ice (I did that with the Clover).
As for the dry vs semi-dry processing method, I couldn’t say that one is better than the other based just on this one coffee, but would be interested in doing some side-by-side comparisons sometime to see how much of a difference I could detect.
Peppermint Bark is a very popular Christmas and wintertime chocolate treat. It typically consists of layers of dark and white chocolate studded with bits of peppermint. Some have more chocolate than others, and some have more mint, but they all get the same chocolate and mint combination across. Peppermint mochas are already a popular winter drink in coffee shops and, after getting a huge box of peppermint bark as a pre-holiday gift, I decided to use it as a base for my own peppermint mochas.
The recipe is easy: melt peppermint bark into hot coffee, top with milk and serve. You can garnish it with a peppermint stick, if you like, or just munch on any unused peppermint bark while your sip your holiday drink.
The amount of peppermint bark you will need for this recipe will vary, depending on the type of bark you have and how minty it is. Start with the 2-oz I recommend and go up from there as needed. If you need to add more, just go ahead and do it. You can always reheat your drink a little bit in the microwave to ensure that it is hot enough to melt all the chocolate.
Continue reading »
Peppermint Mocha is now a must-have holiday drink that you can find at just about every coffee shop across the country, and it is a favorite for many at Starbucks. The drink is so popular that this year the company came out with an instant version of it, Peppermint Mocha Via. Peppermint Mochas are a little bit rich for me, so they’re not a drink I have too often and I was definitely curious to know how the Via version stacked up to the real thing.
To keep things short, it is a toned down version of the “real” drink. The Via version is quick and easy to make, but the flavors just aren’t as strong as they are with the real thing. You don’t get the richness of the chocolate sauce in the via drink, though you do get a nice peppermint flavor. I also didn’t think that it was quite sweet enough, mostly because the peppermint was so much stronger than the chocolate or coffee flavors. I personally felt that it could have used a little more coffee or a little more chocolate to balance things out and turn it from “ok” to “very good.” That being said, I also had a few friends test this out and some of them loved the fact that it was milder and less rich seeming than the original because they found it a little easier to drink, stating that the “real” drink is a little too heavy for them.
The best thing about this Via Peppermint Mocha is that it is easy to customize at home. Since I didn’t think there was enough coffee flavor, for instance, I added another packet of Via or stirred mine straight into a hot cup of coffee. This way I got a little Peppermint Mocha and a much stronger coffee flavor, a drink that I would have a little more often expressly because it is less intense than the real thing (and I would opt for the real thing when I have a craving for a truly indulgent peppermint mocha).
I saw lots of headlines over the weekend that attempted to blast Starbucks for offering a cup of coffee that could cost as much as $7. Fortunately, I also saw plenty of commentators who seemed to have a little perspective about coffee and realized that this is not as big of a deal as some people were making it out to be. First of all, when it is common to pay from $2-5 already for a cup of specialty coffee, $7 is not that big of a jump. Secondly, if you are already into specialty coffees, you have probably either paid or seen that price at some other shops.
The specialty coffee market is like the market for wine and chocolate. Namely, as consumers become more educated about the products they’re buying and learn to tell the difference between a higher quality product (or simply a more unique one) and a lower quality product, they are going to start to see more value in the product at a higher price point. At one time, Hershey’s was synonymous with chocolate and that is all that was available to most consumers. Playing $20 or $40/pound for some frou-frou European chocolate wasn’t even an option on the table, and when they became more widely available, some consumers still shook their heads and wondered how could it be better than the inexpensive chocolate they were familiar with. Once consumers started to see the difference between the two in texture and flavor, many realized that the more expensive chocolate was more expensive for a reason.
The chocolate market is a great parallel for coffee, since some consumers will never care that their bar of chocolate came from a single plantation in Costa Rica that only produces tiny batches of beans every year. But some people will, and when you are a fan of unique chocolates or coffees, it is amazing to have those types of products available.
It goes without saying that price doesn’t necessarily mean that something will be better, or that you’ll like the taste of it personally (I’ve had plenty of lousy wines and also some rather unpleasant, but pricey, cups of coffee). But it is worth noting that not all coffee (or chocolate, or wine) is created equal and that sometimes justifies a higher price point.
Off my soapbox now…. and off to get a very good cup of coffee.