COFFEE: Redefining your Ideal Blend
Ah coffee. That good friend of ours that puts the kick in our step, makes us feel put together, and our reason for running late to class most days. I don’t think there is anything better than curling up with a warm mug and chatting with an old friend at your favorite cafe downtown. And as cliche as this may sound, I would argue it is one of the small luxuries in life we take for granted. The industry of coffee has created an entire culture in itself; crafting different flavors, tastes, and experiences all over the world.
Now, I don’t consider myself an acclaimed coffee critic, but merely an observer who appreciates the craft which brings so many a sense of harmony in their day or provides the spark they need to conquer their responsibilities. In this article, I would like to highlight the different blends and brews that dominate the coffee industry, as well as share my personal opinion on the popular coffee industries.
Roasts: How do you like to wake up in the morning?
The traditional potent and strong taste of coffee doesn’t work for everyone. Yet the New England Style Roast is one of the lightest flavors there is that still gives you that jolt in the morning without an overly strong taste. Because a lighter roast is more highly concentrated, it produces a higher level of caffeine compared to the other roasts.
For those of you who enjoy a little bit of a kick for your taste buds against the cold of a winter’s morning, the American Roast offers a unique medium blend.
There tends to be some oil on our medium-dark roasts. This is because the coffee bean is not roasted long enough for the oil to fully break through to the surface. The Vienese and Full-City roasts fall under this category.
For our die- hard dark roast fans, the French Roast stems from heavily roasted beans that cures a stronger flavor. This actually means the beans are less caffeinated due to the amount of time they are roasted. So if you’re looking for that smoky, burnt taste with less of a wake up call, similar roasts such as the Espresso or Italian Roast fit the profile.
The Hand-Crafted Experience Itself…
You’d be surprised by how little people know when it comes to the standard coffee drinks on every cafe’s menu. Some of these variations are so small that you would not notice a difference. But for those who have fine tuned taste buds like myself, or simply don’t want to be clueless when they next walk into the coffee shop, familiarizing yourself with the basics can’t hurt:
Espresso: Boiling water forced through ground coffee beans at a high pressure
Caffe americano: Espresso & hot water
Cappuccino: Espresso and hot milk topped off with a steamed milk foam
Cafe mocha: Espresso, steamed milk, and the desired amount of chocolate
Cafe au lait: Espresso and milk
Chai Latte (tea)
Earl Grey Latte (tea)
Iced Black Tie
I have always wondered why people gravitate to one coffee brand name over the other. After much speculation and trying it for myself, I have created my own opinion on the matter.
This corporation has redefined what it means when you buy one of their Frappuccino’s or Holiday Specials. Growing up with a Starbucks Coffee shop on every corner was always a treat as a kid for me. And when I say treat, I mean literally a dessert. The rich, sugar packed beverages that make up the majority of Starbucks’ menu is one reason that they are the #1 coffee shop in the world today. Personally, I am not a huge fan of their beverages, and frankly feel it is a very Americanized version of coffee. There seems to be more syrups, preservatives, and artificial flavors than coffee itself. But I guess that’s what people pay for, right? Starbucks also cleverly brands itself to the public, and I am sure like myself, others feel a sense of luxury or pride in holding their Starbucks venti cup (especially when those festive red and green patterns for the holiday season come out). Was the $4.50 that much more worth it when the cup looks cute? Now despite my criticisms of the brand name, that is not to say Starbucks doesn’t have a great variety in beverages that meet everyone’s taste. It has created the social culture that encompasses the coffee experience in a trendy, satisfying way. Almost every other big name coffee industry does exactly what Starbucks does. Cute tumblr’s in store windows, frothy sweetened beverages advertised and so on.
It was only recently that I encountered Dunkin’ Donuts. Despite the brand’s motto America Runs on Dunkin’, the West Coast does not include the chain. I was eager to try a classic on their menu last month for the first time. I believe I ordered the iced latte or something along those lines and I must say I was rather disappointed by the experience. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I can’t say I am a fan. In comparison with local bakeries, cafes, and even different large coffee chains, there was nothing particularly “revolutionizing” about the coffee. Many of my friends from New England rave about this line, and it baffles me as to why students will drive off campus before a class for the sole purpose of a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. What I have found particularly interesting (and keep in mind this is just one opinion from an outsider looking in) is that the sense of cohesion Dunkin’ brings to the New England area makes the chain look that much more appealing. Similarly, back home the reputation of In-N-Out Burger has seemed to hit the opposite coast as a unique and awesome experience as well. A very California food chain that reps itself with palm tree decor on the packaging and low carb, protein oriented burgers. As a native, I can’t say I find those particularly phenomenal either, and same goes for Dunks coffee. Yes, they are both good to some extent, but I fail to see what all the hype is when it comes to a patty or in this case a coffee that seems to taste like your average cup of joe.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea.
There are thousands of coffee lines across America, and I certainly have not tried them all, but I am going to use this article as a prime opportunity for a shameless plug. My all time favorite coffee brand is Peet’s Coffee & Tea. It reaps a bitter, traditional menu for coffee while also offering something for those with a sweet tooth (might I strongly recommend the Chai Latte or Coconut Black Tie as personal favorites). Founded in Berkeley, CA, 1966 (okay so maybe I am a little biased) the chain has managed to nurture a neighbourly vibe with its customers. Believe me when I say I have been to Peet’s from coast to coast, and continuously find a welcoming, relaxed vibe from the cafe and its baristas. Peet’s also does an excellent job of marketing itself with a distinct signature look to their interior and on their packaging. Their handcrafted coffee is made to your liking, and if it isn’t what you expected, they make you a fresh cup free of charge.
Another line I encourage readers to try is Philz Coffee. If you haven’t figure out by now, I personally enjoy the traditional strong taste of coffee over the sugary beverages. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, California, Philz Coffee founds the innovative approach to brewing coffee. For Philz, coffee is no longer viewed as a commodity, but as an artisanal craft. In the cafe, baristas are trained to customize your drink (granted the extra $1.50 to the purchase). It is not uncommon for them to ask you to take a sip before you leave, just in case you want anything added or redone. There are currently only 47 locations in the US along the west coast, and has provided the groundwork for yet another revolution in the coffee industry. Their menu is stylized by blend, something I have yet to encounter anywhere else where most coffee menus are sectioned by gourmet drinks, teas, and coffee.
The mind set in which people think about coffee has been changing in recent years and will continue to do so. Whatever your “ideal blend” is, the craft is creating and recreating a culture in itself that reigns over not only the way our body functions, but our social lives as well. Who would have thought that a cup of ground beans could create a global community of coffee lovers?