The Silent Scream
For the morning impaired that first blissful cup of java juice is absolutely critical in their awakening routine. Yawning is often recognized as the silent scream for coffee - the early morning sign that it is definitely time to rise and grind.
First introduced to England around 1650, drinking coffee quickly rose in popularity and by 1675 over 3,000 coffee houses existed. Historically these coffee houses were known as "penny universities" as they offered an alternative form of learning to the classical format of academic education. Philosophers, lawyers, scholars and academic intellectuals congregated together to read and hatch new ideas while enjoying the company of like minded peers over the new conversation inspiring beverage.
Coffee continues today to be tugging us into this social behavior because it is a well known habit forming stimulant; with baristas, culture psychologists and connoisseurs recognizing that there is a great deal more to drinking coffee than just enjoying the caffeine buzz. Appreciated as the most commonly consumed beverage at home and in the workplace, the rituals of the coffee culture continue. Highly revered as a friendly component in human socialization, the phrase “Let’s go for coffee.” has become synonymous with spawning creativity, expanding friendships and sealing business deals.
The really cool thing about coffee is that it hosts a complex array of molecules that provide its unique qualities and distinctive flavors. Molecules such as diacetyl contributes to the buttery flavor and guaiacol is responsible for that quintessential roasted coffee aroma. Flavors can be analyzed, categorized and factored into taste and aroma wheels similiar to those used when exploring the wine world. Interestingly coffee proudly boasts of 1500 aromatic characteristics that vary based on region, growing practises and roasting techniques. Comparitively, wine has roughly been categorized with 200 different aromatic compounds. An expert coffee officianado can detect subtle and regional flavours such as mediterrean figs or Mexican chocolate as well as the less desireable notes of rubber, petroleum and even concrete.
With Millenials, Gen Y, iGens and Gen Z being known for valuing new experiences over owning possessions, a current quest with the younger generations is coffee tasting - which is much like wine touring. Becoming a coffee enthusiast can begin by exploring coffee with a few flavor experiments.
A great cup of coffee can be broken down by analyzing three basic components: aroma, taste and flavour. Acidity, body, colour, balance, sweetness and aftertaste are a few other terms used in describing both the quality and essence of this favored beverage.
Aroma refers to the aromatic compound with a specific scent that can be identified solely by smelling. From fruity and floral to spicey and nutty - things like raspberries, toffee, almonds and chocolate all have very specific aromatic molecules found naturally in coffee that allows us to identify them solely through the sense of smell. The smelling of coffee helps to activate specific chemicals in the brain that assist in coping with stress and create an emotional response that is positively charged; basically paving the way to that "I feel good" morning mood.
This experiment will help enhance the experience while savoring your next cup of joyful java. Start first by smelling your coffee with your mouth closed, then smell the coffee a second time with your mouth open. Smelling with your mouth open helps to activate the taste buds at the back of your tongue which creates a more robust tasting sensory connection to that brewed cup of heaven.
TASTE + TACTILE - The tongue provides us with our sense of taste and feels the texture of both food and beverages. The senses of sweetness (the presence of sugar), sourness (the presence of acidity), bitterness, saltiness and umami are all resident on areas of the tongue. Umami is a word borrowed from Japan that can be loosely translated as that round in the mouth or "pleasant-savory-yummy" taste. In addition, the tongue senses temperature, astringency from tannin and creaminess from flavor enhancers such as milk.
FLAVOR - Our brain rapidly assembles all those sensory details and makes associations between what it smells through the nose, tastes with the tongue and feels inside the mouth. Individual experiences will vary immensely based on one’s exposure to the endless variety of food flavours in existence.
Conducting a few flavour experiments can open up a whole new appreciation in the sensory sipping game. Coffee tannins can be quite bitter and are typically softened by adding milk or cream. Experiment and compare a tannin shift in a coffee by whisking in a dab of unsalted butter or coconut oil. Oil will lower the bitter flavour of tannin while introducing an interesting flavour note. Next try perking a cup of java with a tiny pinch of salt and adding a crushed egg shell over the grounds - both are known as flavor enhancers. Spice notes can be explored by laying a small chunk of a cinnamon stick in the brew basket. Stir in some demerara sugar to create a well known Mexican delicacy called Cafe de Olla.
For another adventurous experiment try perking merlot infused coffee. Coffee roasters are now bathing beans in red wine and aging them in oak wine barrels followed by roasting to add a unique smell of fresh, red berry flavors and subtle taste of blackberry and current. Not only a great conversation starter, the caffeine experience shifts from everyday ho-hum to distinctively unique.
Adding to the newest fad in coffee consumption is brewing a fungi-focussed concoction with powdered medicinal mushrooms added to regular ground coffee. Arabica beans are brewed with endurance-boosting reishi, calming chaga, or lion’s mane mushrooms to create a smoother overall earthy flavour while claiming to increase antioxidant levels, boost immunity and stimulate brain cell function.
Today's coffee enthusiasts have a profusion of innovative mind energizers to explore and savour while staving off their caffeine driven silent scream. W