Originally in our first little shop I would buy in high quality, carefully grown and carefully roasted beans and brew them to display the character of the coffee along with balance in the cup. I would taste the coffee in the morning as espresso, then get very excited and proudly serve it up all day asking “how would you like it?"
People would drink it as an Americano and to my disappointment would comment that they didn’t think it was very good at all, that it was either bland or sharp and bitter. At first I thought that maybe it just wasn’t for them. The same would happen with the addition of sugar to the espresso. “This is very harsh, sour, bitter and just weird tasting”
I began to taste the coffee's in every which way and I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly-Yes this isn’t very pleasant at all. It definitely doesn’t have the types of flavours I was describing to you that made it so great when I tasted it this morning.
Where do we go from here?
We could source and serve a commercial blend that suits all cocktail needs but this would compromise the whole concept of exploring coffees flavour.
Historically coffee has been largely consumed as part of a cocktail or recipe along with ingredients such as milk, sugar and water, becoming a set constant in each drink’s given equation. All equations require the various parts to work together and a specific ingredient is there to do a job. If it does not work as part of the mix does that make it a bad ingredient? well yes – as an ingredient of that particular recipe. But take away the shackles of the equation and the ingredient may be able to flourish in its own right.
Speciality coffee is exploring this individual ingredient and the cocktails are no longer working.
For espresso this idea is especially pertinent. The more successful an espresso becomes without sugar the worse it seems to become with sugar. The more elegant and fruity the espresso the more disappointingly bland and sharp the Americano
Using other beverages that display complexity and variety as an analogy is very useful here. How are they sold and presented to the market?
Take single Malt Whiskey and Wine for example. Whisky can be used in an Old fashioned and white wine in a spritzer. But the point is you would use a particular wine and whisky for these purposes, one which you knew would “work”. You would not expect the nuanced flavour of a floral single malt or an interesting sauvignon blanc to shine through the respective cocktails and in each case certain types may actually make the cocktails worse.
The complexity of the product has been recognised and the question of whether or not they play well with others is always asked.
Both of these industries have matured to the point where there is no longer a singular idea of what the product should be. Instead there is more choice and variety for the consumer, A marketplace that is fleshed out creating more diversity that benefts the whole industry.
With whisky you can choose to opt for a blended brand that through limiting the individual character delivers a standardised taste, One that you can rely on to make your cocktail.
You can choose to leave the safety of the blends behind and explore the variety and character of a single malt on its own, saving the cocktail for another day.