My favorite coffee from Starbucks was a limited edition Aged Sumatra that was released back in 2008 (wow – time flies!). It was rich, smooth, dark and complex in the most perfect and memorable way. I like Sumatran coffee in general, but this was a real showstopper. As a result, I was very excited to see a new Starbucks Reserve at my local store, the Aged Sumatra Lot No. 593. This coffee is unique because it is one single lot of coffee. Much like wine from a single vineyard, it has its own quality and character that is different from similar coffees. With wine, when you work with a single vineyard, you can really learn the qualities that make that piece of earth unique (terroir) and it is no different from coffee – except that we don’t often see coffee treated like wine.
The coffee was dark and smooth, with a earthy, woodsy quality at its core. It had a slight sweetness and hints of anise, as well as a subtle cocoa note to it that rounded out all of those other flavors. It was absolutely nothing like that long-lost Aged Sumatra that I liked (except for the deep earthiness that I tend to find in most good Sumatran coffees), but it was excellent nonetheless. I also tried this coffee iced and it worked quite well, making a very rich cup of iced coffee that was both dark and satisfying, though I noted that some of the lighter anise notes were less noticeable over ice.
An Yashi is a man with a very unusual – and somewhat unappetizing – idea. He is a lecturer at Sichuan University in China and has been collecting panda poo to make what will be the world’s strangest and most expensive tea. He has collected over 5.5 tons of panda droppings to turn into tea. The method that he plans to use has not been revealed, but one could assume that the plant-rich droppings will be dried (and hopefully cleaned) before making into any teapots. Yashi has sampled the tea himself, of course, and says that “it has a mature, nutty taste and a very distinctive aroma while it’s brewing.”
As if the fact that it comes from the droppings of an endangered species didn’t make it sound enticing enough, Yashi also believes that the tea could have some amazing health benefits (although I have yet to see any research supporting these theories). Yashi says “Pandas have a very poor digestive system and only absorb about 30 percent of everything they eat. That means their excrement is rich in fibres and nutrients…Just like green tea, bamboo contains an element that can prevent cancer.” Personally I would wager that the 30% of the bamboo that pandas do manage to digest is probably the part containing nutrients. Perhaps Yashi would consider simply using undigested bamboo to make tea if he were only looking for health benefits, but bamboo alone would not warrant the $36,000 per pound potential price tag of the panda poo brew.
I visited the Smuckers headquarters in Ohio just over a week ago, and while I was there I got to spend a little bit of time in the test kitchen. Smuckers owns Folgers, which is one of the largest coffee brands in the world. I don’t typically use Folgers coffee, but it was fun to taste all the different varieties of it and use it in some of their coffee recipes. One relatively new product that they were particularly excited about were the Folgers Single Serve Packets, which put instant coffee in a handy travel pack. This was a simple mocha, which I made using Folgers travel packs and dark chocolate syrup.
I like instant coffee for making flavored coffee drinks at home because it’s very low maintenance and easy to customize. It is also easy to make just one or two servings in less than two minutes with basically no cleanup. In this case, I made a very short cup of instant coffee (quite strong, with much less water than recommended) then sweetened it up with dark chocolate syrup, milk and whipped cream. It may not sound as elegant as a mocha latte, but it definitely tasted delicious.
Continue reading »
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.