Spice up Your Life


As a roaster, I was offended the first few years when people would ask why I did not have Hazelnut or Vanilla flavored coffee.  Sometimes they would refuse to even try it without first adding cream and sugar.  I would have strongly preferred that they, at least, TRY my coffee unadulterated.  Was that too much to ask?  I mean really!  Then I got over myself. 

While I have persuaded some flavored-coffee junkies to try my roasts without any additions, and turned them into pure coffee drinkers, there still exists a population that loves their flavored coffees.  No matter how much attention we pay to buying the best beans from the best plantations, handcrafted roasting, quality control, creating exciting blends, or showcasing an amazing single origin, blah blah blah…there are always going to be people that prefer their coffee to be flavored.   

I realized the coffee industry was much broader than just coffee itself.  From the beginning it has included other things, such as spices and brew techniques …all in an effort to continually improve the experience of one of the world’s most treasured traditions, to keep it relevant in everchanging times, and keep it that way for nearly a millennium.  

As coffee professionals, we are already sold on how special coffee itself is.  While the continual efforts of proper growing, processing, and roasting techniques will always remain the essential staple of our industry, the quest for coffee shops to stand apart to draw new customers will always be the catapult to make coffee interesting and new to the masses.  In other words, we must start with the base of a superior product always, but the creativity and presentation is what keeps our product interesting through the generations.  The retail side of the business is mainly responsible for the marketing and presentation of our product to the world.  It is vital for them to always be looking for new ways to prepare and present it.  They must pay attention to health, food, and social trends, as well as develop new recipes and offer the best brewing techniques.  

This was even relevant in the very beginning of coffee history.  Coffee, as we know it today, was introduced during the era of the Spice Trade.  Cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, etc- all were and are simple delicious spices that make you feel at home.  In those days, different countries were known for their signature drink, and still are today.  Some recipes were pure coffee.  Others added spices and creams.  Rules existed for some that you must not boil your coffee, others said you must boil your coffee.  Some had finer grounds than others.  Nowadays, we know what basic processes bring out the best in our black gold.  It starts at origin with the growing and processing techniques, then on to the proper roasting style.  The retailers find the greatest beans of choice and then are at the helm to create their own unique recipe.  Brew style is very important in an effort to showcase the purest form of the bean.  Those qualities will draw repeat customers.  They do notice, by the way, even the most novice ones.  However, what will get them through the door to begin with?  Recipes and presentation.  

Our industry is forever inventive.  We are definitely keeping the party going into this new millennium!  Customers see advertisements of beautifully presented lusciousness and have no choice but to try it…then get hooked.  Hundreds of flavored syrups in bottles, powders in bags, liqueurs, fruit, herbs, and spices exist as coffee drink ingredients.  Some are used more than others.  With the organic and whole foods trend sweeping our nation, I wonder sometimes if coffee consumers would appreciate a modern twist on the original simple spices that have been with coffee since its inception.  Sometimes a step back in time is a step forward.  The old becomes new.  Something to think about.

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