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Adding Spice to Coffee

We know the first thing added to coffee beans were cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and anise. Today that has expanded beyond spices to sugars and flavorings. What is responsible for all this expansion is called coffee aroma along with the mouth-feel, sweet, salt, bitter and sour taste attributes that are perceived by the tongue. All the present day specialty coffee flavor attributes are desired because of the aroma first. Instant coffee and decaf coffee have components that are responsible for stimulation of the taste buds. Instant coffee is different in that it lacks most of the aromatic volatile compounds that create a decrease in the overall flavor of the coffee.

There are many decisions to be made before anything is added to the coffee beans to alter its flavor. There many kinds of coffee beans that came from all over the world. These beans, it is believed, all originated in Ethiopia and were taken by merchants back to Yemen and Pakistan where they were crushed and boiled the beans in a coffee maker called an ibrik to make the first coffee. From there they ended up in Europe where Dutch traders took them to different parts of Asia, the Caribbean and South America. English sailors brought coffee beans to America and later brought coffee plants. These beans were known as Arabica because they came from Arabia. However, these beans when planted in the different soils around the world took on different tastes. Today, we have Ethiopian coffee, Brazilian coffee, Java coffee, Kenyan coffee, Jamaican coffee, Sumatran coffee, Haitian coffee, Vietnamese coffee and Argentine coffee are just a few of the beans from countries around the world that have there own unique taste. These new tastes were created by the new soil in which they were planted.

How you make the coffee from all the different coffee makers makes an added difference in the taste. We have French press made coffee, percolator coffee, pourover drip coffee methods, and espresso machines and other modes to make our coffee. This is just the beginning before adding anything to the beans. However, we can mention at this point that your taste buds may want to add a sweetener and /or a dairy product such as cream, milk, half and half, or soymilk. The flavored creamers available also add to change the taste of your favorite cup of coffee.

We have not even started on the spices that at added to the roasting process or are added when the beans are ground. Sometimes spices are added to hide the bitterness of the taste of the coffee from certain beans. This was certainly the case with the original coffee drinkers. Beans were ground and spices were added because they boiled the beans for hours until there was a thick sludge at the bottom of the coffee maker. The coffee was drunk by straining it through ones teeth. Since the beginning and even today cinnamon is used to sweeten the coffee taste. One must be careful in the amount added here as it may become too sweet or bitter. Cinnamon also absorbs the oils while infusing the flavorful mask of bitterness. Cloves has a stronger taste that adds a woody flavor and rich earthy overtone that makes one of the pleasant scents; this reminds of the scent coming from a home-baked ham. Cardamom remains the most popular spice in Saudi Arabian even today and cardamom coffee, gahwa, remains a symbol of hospitality. Gahwa is crushed green coffee beans and green cardamom pod seeds along with saffron or ground cloves are added along with a sweetener then boiled for two or three minutes. The coffee is then strained through a filter and served. Anise is the last of the oldest spices that were added to coffee and has a licorice-like flavor and odor. Anise, too, has been used for ages to cover up bitter tasting coffee.

Today, nutmeg, is a smooth, sweet, yet highly spicy addition used with eggnog coffee and chocolate (cocoa) flavored coffees. Cloves and nutmeg added to coffee are said to create a pure cup of goodness. Vanilla with its sweet scent and deep flavor has become one of the most used sweeteners in coffee today with French vanilla coming in at a close second. Both do an excellent job of hiding a bitter taste in coffee. Add cocoa to coffee and you have Mocha. Love your real bitter sweet chocolate? Add a little sugar to your shredded chocolate and coffee and you have a rich bodied barista’s Mocha.

Other flavors added to coffee include honey, clover honey is the most popular, but don’t dismiss all the flavored honeys that bee keepers are offering. White refined sugar, raw sugar and organic sugar cannot be left out of the picture, and we cannot forget brown sugar either.

Last, but not least, are the different kinds of roasts. City roast is the lightest gourmet roast while a full city roast is slightly darker and produces a heavier and slightly caramel flavor. French roast produces a slightly burnt taste without the acidity that many find most enjoyable. The darkest roast is Italian espresso roast. The beans are black, brittle and shiny with a very distinct burnt flavor without any acidity. Espresso machines help create the favorite coffee for espressos and cappuccinos. For flavored coffees, the highest grade of one hundred percent Arabica beans is used in the infusion process of actual flavor ingredients into the beans. There of hundreds of flavored coffees you can buy, but I thought I would leave you with a few of my favorites. They include: Coconut and Swiss Chocolate, Orange and French Vanilla with a touch of cream (Orange-Sicle) and Mint Chocolate.

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