Sexy machines to pull off the perfect espresso at home, convenient pods,
single-estate coffees and latte art are some of the thrilling new trends in the world of coffee
It’s best to confess at the outset that I’m one of those people whose heartbeat revs into overdrive on the consumption of a cappuccino. An after-dinner espresso will have me tossing between the sheets like a dinghy ducking about on the Hartbeespoort Dam on a windy day and even a little icy coffee concoction will render me just a little more edgy, a little more wired. So my order at the coffee bar is consistently decaf and the Moka pot only gets an airing for friends.
There’s no comforting early-morning whirr of the coffee grinder, no opportunity to bury my nose in the bag of coffee beans and imbibe that sensational aroma. My friend Alan, on the other hand, has been grinding up beans, filling the chambers of his stove-top Moka pot and offering his gorgeous Italian wife her morning libation every day since they were married 16 years ago.
It’s a ritual, a labour of love, a pleasurable moment of shared luxury, so incontrovertible that wherever they go, they travel with the pot, the beans and the espresso cups. This coffee habit is in stark contrast to the majority of South Africans, says Christos Kellaris, one of the pioneers of pure coffee in South Africa, and the importer of illy. “We spend a billion rand a year on coffee for the home but only a paltry six percent of that is on beans and pure ground coffee. Pure instant coffee accounts for another 18 percent of the market, while the large proportion is spent on chicorybased coffees.” Yet there’s a growing awareness of the pleasures of real coffee, filter, espresso and all its variations in South Africa.
Interestingly though, according to Anso Spencer, a Joburg-based food and coffee consultant, the sales of filter coffee makers are relatively stagnant. The fireworks are in sales for converts to espresso and cappuccino makers. And indeed, my entirely non-scientific sample of friends confirms this, for recumbent on their kitchen counter tops are an increasing number of impressive, shiny pieces of quality coffee and espresso makers.
Worldwide trends in the startlingly dynamic and changing coffee industry are fascinating. In Britain, the switch from tea to coffee drinking over the last decade was referred to as a “coffee revolution” in a recent Financial Times article. And there, as in the United States where chains of coffee bars like Starbucks have revolutionised the liquid landscape, it generally happens out of the home. Wander London’s high streets and the choice is astonishing. Will it be Prêt a Manger, Costa, Café Nero, Carluccio’s or Coffee Republic?
Back home, a browse around Exclusive Books seems almost unthinkable without a pit stop at Seattle Coffee Company and indeed the chain has grown to more than 20 stores in a decade of operation. BP’s The Wild Bean Café at the petrol station convenience stores is the first national, pure coffee-to-go chain. But we’re not nearly as outgoing as our European and American counterparts.
Local coffee industry trend spotters such as Christos Kellaris and Anso Spencer believe that because of the South African lifestyle, the most significant growth will be in the home market. As in the more mundane worlds of automatic dishwashing powders and pool chemicals, the pre-measured, single dosage, individually wrapped cake form is gaining ground. Named the “pod”, this singlecup sachet inserted in a pod coffee machine offers less mess and more convenience, and unlike conventional fast foods, the quality is superb. So people want them in their homes. In the United States, small appliance giant Salton introduced the coffee pod in late 2003 and since then has sold nearly a million machines.
In South Africa, Russell Hobbs (with the Uno:Uno) and Kenwood launched home pod coffee machines last Christmas. Either pods or loose grind can be used in the sexy, retro-futuristic coffee maker that graces the countertops in Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Will and Grace’s kitchens. It’s available locally so pod options are definitely seeding themselves.
The trend towards knowing the source of your food is expressed in the coffee world too, in coffee sourced from a single estate. Like the wine industry, where single origin and terroir concepts have gained enormous credence over the last decade, alternatives to coffee blends are slowly becoming available.
Dylan Cuming of Redberry Estate Coffees on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, and the face behind the Coffee-of-the-Month Club, is interested in offering consumers the opportunity to taste the full diversity of coffee from different countries, regions and estates. Join up and you get to taste six different coffees every three months. The coffee may come from Guatemala or Brazil, the Bucaramanga region in Colombia or from a particular estate in Zimbabwe. Luckily for me, decaffeinated coffee continues to be a major trend. And there’s more clarity in the information available. “Drink espresso rather than filter coffee and limit yourself to a pure Arabica blend,” suggested Christos Kellaris when I confessed my coffee-drinking shortcomings.
Owing to the shorter contact time between coffee and water, an espresso contains nearly a third less caffeine than a filter coffee. And, though there are exceptions, Robusta, the hardier, higher-yielding, cheaper bean usually has more than double the caffeine content of Arabica. Then there’s the art of coffee, literally. When the foam on a cappuccino is so perfect, and the skill of a barista so finely tuned, it’s possible to draw pictures in the foam.
Actually, it’s all in the pouring technique, made possible by the natural tendency of the thick milk and espresso to flow in waves. Hearts, petals and leaves are some of the glorious designs that these coffee maestros can conjure into the foam on top of a cappuccino. As Carl Adendorff of Durban-based company Caffé Pronto believes, latté art is the mark of perfection because simply, it’s impossible without it.
Finally, in terms of hot coffee trends, there’s the flavoured syrup frippery. Fancy drinking your cheesecake in your cappuccino, or lacing your latté with hazelnut and honey? A kaleidoscope of syrups from specialised outlets such as Seattle Coffee Company and Caffé Pronto offer endless possibilities for in-cup variety. Think flavours such as almond roca, blackberry, ginger spice, pumpkin spice and Italian egg nog – just some of the seductions in the expansive range available from Caffé Pronto – then banish forever the notion that coffee could possibly be a daily grind.
HOW TO PREDICT THE QUALITY OF YOUR ESPRESSO AND CAPPUCCINO IN A COFFEE BAR
Roberto Monterrege from Ciro Alliances is passionate about coffee quality and is a veritable walking, talking coffee encyclopaedia. Here are his pointers for gauging quality.
• The crema (foam) is the most telling sign that the correct amount of fresh coffee was ground to the proper consistency and that a precise amount of water at the correct temperature was quickly forced under pressure through the fine espresso grind. There should be a golden-brown foam encrusting the top of espresso.
• Foam on the top of a cappuccino must be dense and compact – think shaving foam rather than frothy bath bubbles. The problem with cappuccino forecasting is that it’s coffee under cover, so who knows what lurks beneath the bubbles.
• Lily-white coffee cups show off the colour of the crema. Porcelain is even better. Black coffee mugs should be avoided.
• Ground coffee begins to lose its fragrant potency after just a few minutes, so a barista who grinds regularly is a service provider to be cherished!
• The perfect size for an espresso is 25ml – 30ml, a cappuccino 165ml – 200ml. Smaller or larger and the water-to-coffee-bean ratio may be out of sync, and the coffee burnt or over-extracted. Oversized cups are not a good sign.
HOME BREW TIPS
• Choose a blend and roast that suits your taste – light, medium or dark.
• The coffee and water must be fresh. Open the bag or tin and smell that headily scrumptious aroma. This should be the beginning of an incredibly pleasurable multisensorial coffee experience.
• Use the correct quantity of coffee: 7g per 40ml of water.
• Grind according to your method. Fine for espresso, medium-fine for Moka pots, medium for plungers and coarse for filter. The coffee must be evenly ground so that there’s no easy path for the water through the coffee.
• Start with an impeccably clean machine. Coffee grinds or coffee oil residues will taint the taste. Use hot water or soak overnight in Milton for stubborn residues.
• The water temperature should be just below boiling point. Boiling water will burn the coffee.
• Warm coffee cups will keep the coffee hot a little longer and add immeasurably to the experience.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some coffee facts courtesy of www.caffepronto.co.za
• Caffeine is on the International Olympic Committee’s list of prohibited substances. Athletes who test positive for more than 12 micrograms of caffeine per millilitre of urine may be banned from the Olympic Games. This level may be reached after drinking about five cups of coffee.
• Legend has it that cowboys made their coffee by putting ground coffee in a clean sock and immersing it in water heated over a campfire.
• Beethoven, said to be a coffee lover, counted 60 beans into each cup when he prepared his brew.
• Coffee actually comes from a berry. Each coffee berry has two beans.
• A kilogram of roasted coffee requires 4 000 – 5 000 coffee beans.
• Turkish bridegrooms were once required to make a promise during their marriage ceremony to always provide their new wives with coffee. Failure to do so was grounds for divorce.