Try Coffee for A Warm Winter Treat
By Carla Lucente and Stacey Jackowski
Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia by a goat herder who found his goats “dancing” after eating the red berries of a dark-leafed bush – the coffee plant. Different cultures experimented by cooking the fruit and seeds of the coffee plants. As the plants were traded, imported and exported around the world, each culture began cultivating the plants and preparing coffee in their own way.
Coffee beans actually come from the fruit of the coffee plant, called a cherry. Each cherry produces two coffee beans. There are two primary species of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. Robusta has twice the amount of caffeine as the Arabica.
BUYING: Try to find a local coffee roaster in your neighborhood. (We have a few in the Annapolis area, including Caffe Pronto.) They will have a large selection of fresh, whole beans from a dark roast to a light decaf. If not, your local grocery store will offer a wide variety as well. Look for small, independent coffee roasters selling whole beans. Look for a “roast date” on the packaging and use coffee within two months of that date for optimum freshness. It is best to buy coffee in small quantities instead of bulk.
FLAVORED COFFEE versus SYRUPS: Flavored coffee is merely coffee with artificial flavoring sprayed on the beans. Instead, buy a coffee that you like and add flavored syrup, like Hazelnut or Vanilla, after brewing. Monin is a popular brand carried at most retailers.
STORING: Coffee is best stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in a cool, dry area. Contrary to popular belief, neither the refrigerator nor the freezer is the place to store your coffee. The coffee beans will act as a sponge and absorb any smells or flavors. Condensation affects the quality of the coffee beans. Store your coffee beans at room temperature.
WATER: Use filtered water when brewing your coffee. Clean water is not only going to make your coffee taste better, but will also help your coffee equipment stay cleaner.
SWEETENERS: There are several different types of sweeteners. Flavored syrups can be found at your local coffee roastery or grocery store. Look for brands that use “pure cane sugar” instead of corn syrups. They will have a truer flavor and are better for you. If you need a sugar-free option, most of the flavors are available sweetened with Splenda or Stevia. These flavored syrups along with a little half-and-half will replace your expensive and artificially-flavored “creamers,” and will produce exceptional flavor.
BREWING: It is preferable to grind your beans immediately before brewing. Coffee that is ground will go stale 100 times faster that whole bean coffee! The recommended recipe: two level tablespoons of ground coffee to six ounces of water. Each cup marking on home brewers is usually six ounces, not eight ounces as is a measuring cup. Once again, use fresh water for optimum taste.
DRINKING: Coffee should be enjoyed within 30 minutes of brewing to prevent the coffee from “cooking” and producing a bitter flavor.
We prefer to drink our coffee in a ceramic mug; it tastes better and protects the environment at the same time.
*Carla and Stacey’s tip of the month: Save your coffee grounds and use them to fertilize your tomatoes.
**BEAUTY TIP: Use a tablespoon of used coffee grounds for an exfoliating hand scrub. The oils from the coffee will soften your hands.
Carla and Stacey are chefs and co-owners of b.b. Bistro in Annapolis. They specialize in locally grown, seasonal food and locally roasted coffee and can be reached at 410 990-4646.
A CHRISTMAS CUP OF JOY
2 shots espresso or 6 ounces fresh brewed coffee
1 tbs. chocolate sauce
1 tsp. peppermint syrup
Place the chocolate sauce and peppermint syrup in a mug. Add your espresso or coffee and stir. Add milk to taste and ENJOY!!