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Archive for Coffee & Tea

TIP OF THE DAY: Aged Coffee & Nespresso Limited Edition Selection Vintage 2014

Conventional coffee advice tells you to buy the freshest roasted beans, and grind them as you need to make coffee. Don’t buy more than you need for the week: Fresh is everything.

But now, there’s aged coffee, a growing trend.

Aged coffee is not analogous to old, stale, flat coffee. It comprises specially selected beans, that are aged using techniques that bring out the best aged qualities.

While the marketing message compares aged coffee to aged balsamic vinegar, whiskey, wine, etc., that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Still, aged coffee isn’t exactly new. The first coffee drunk by Europeans was aged.

THE HISTORY OF AGED COFFEE

Venetian traders first brought coffee to Europe in 1615, but it wasn’t a “quick trip” from Venice.

At the time, all imported coffee beans came from the port of Mocha, in what is now Yemen. It traveled south by ship around the Cape of Good Hope, then all the way up the west coast of Africa, continuing northward to England.

By the time the coffee arrived, exposure to salt air over time significantly changed the taste of the coffee. When coffee was subsequently grown in Indonesia, the voyage was even longer.

Europeans came to prefer the flavor over “fresh” coffee. In fact, when the Suez Canal opened in 1869, greatly shortening the voyage, Europeans still preferred the aged coffee to the fresher beans.

And so it came to be that some coffee was intentionally aged for six months or longer in large, open-sided warehouses in shipping ports—plenty of salty ocean air to transform the beans.

Over time, preferences changed. Fresh coffee beans became the preferred type of coffee in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

However, everything old is new again, and aged coffee has become the old new style to try.

Here’s more history of coffee.

AGED COFFEE HAS BEEN IN THE U.S. FOR A WHILE

Starbucks has been aging coffee for certain single-origin coffees and for signature blends, such as Anniversary Blend and Christmas Blend.

At Peet’s, you can find Aged Sumatra Coffee.

Boutique producers also have introduced customers to the joys of aged coffee.

Ceremony Coffee in Annapolis has a Barrel Aged Coffee Series.

Water Avenue Coffee in Portland, Oregon sells Oak Barrel Aged Sumatra Coffee and Pinot Noir Barrel Aged El Salvador Coffee.

So is aged coffee a connoisseur product, or a marketing throwback to the past?

It is definitely the former! Everyone who savors a full-bodied cup of coffee black should try it. Why black? Well…add too much milk and sugar and you won’t taste the marvelous nuances.

What To Know About Aged Coffee

   

Nespresso Aged Coffee 2014

Sumatra Coffee Beans

Espresso Beans

[1] A glass of Nespresso aged coffee from the 2014 vintage (photo courtesy Nespresso). [2] Sumatra coffee beans: aged (top) versus unaged (photo courtesy Starbucks Melody). [3] Roasted and ready to grind (photo © Nebojsa Rozgic).

  • Only certain types of green (unroasted) coffee bean varieties age well; but there’s no single formula. Indonesian beans that are full-bodied and low in acidity, particularly Sumatra and Sulawesi beans that are semi-dry processed, can develop a spicy, complex flavor as they age.
  • On the other hand, some bright, acidic wet-processed Latin American coffees (which mellow as they age).
  • The beans must be aged under the right circumstances, including humidity, or their oils will evaporate, taking with them much of the aroma and flavor. Depending on the bean and the terroir, the aging technique can vary.
  • As with wine, each vintage has its own characteristics, and must be aged accordingly to create a unique, complex taste profile.
  • Unlike with some wines and whiskeys, ongoing aging does not improve the coffee: It simply loses more of its flavor.
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    Nespresso Aged Coffee 2014

    Nespresso Aged Coffee 2014

    [4] and [5] Nespresso Limited Edition Selection Vintage 2014 contains three sleeves.

     

    HOW TO CREATE AGED COFFEE

    Beans with the promise to age well are carefully aged under conditions that are best for the particular type of bean and vintage. As with many agricultural products, the “terroir” of the bean—the type of land, climate, seasonal weather and other environmental factors—produces different flavors and aromas in the finished product.

    After harvesting, the beans are bagged in burlap and regularly rotated to distribute moisture and prevent mold and rot. Some roasters prefer to age the beans in wine or whiskey barrels to impart still more flavors and aromas to the finished beans.

    The beans are usually aged at their origin, often at a higher altitude, where the temperature and humidity are more stable.

    Aging time ranges from six months to three years. Samples are roasted and brewed several times a year during the aging process and when the desired flavors have been achieved, are roasted after they are finished aging.

    A dark roast is best, as it evens out the flavor and accentuates the body of the coffee. Sometimes they are blended with other aged beans.

    However, some connoisseurs prefer a light roast on single-origin aged coffees, which better emphasizes the single-origin qualities.

     
    As more people embrace aged coffee, no doubt, there will be options to everyone’s taste.

    INTRODUCING NESPRESSO’S FIRST AGED COFFEE:
    THE LIMITED EDITION SELECTION VINTAGE 2014

    For the first time, super-premium coffee brand Nespresso now offers coffee lovers the chance to taste aged coffee.

    After years of development and expertise, Nespresso experts selected Arabica beans from the highlands of Colombia, which promised to age well. These beans, from the 2014 harvest, were then stored under controlled conditions for two years.

    They were then ready to roast. The experts selected a sophisticated split roasting technique: One part of the beans was roasted lighter to protect the elegant aromas specific to these beans; the other part was roasted darker to reveal the maturity of the taste and enhance the richness of the texture.

    The result: a cup of espresso that is rich in body, mellow in flavor and velvety-smooth in texture. An elegant woodiness is layered with fruity notes.

    The goal—to create a new sensory experience for coffee aficionados—has been achieved! The aged coffee is a real treat—and a great gift idea.

    Don’t let this limited edition slip through your fingers. Get yours now, in either original or Vertuo capsules.

    Then, we can both look forward to the next aged vintage!
     
     
    HOW MANY COFFEE REGIONS CAN YOU NAME?

    More than 40 countries around the world grow coffee.

    How many can you name? (The answer.)

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Chocolate & Tea

    Tea and Chocolate

    Tea and Chocolate

    Tea and Chocolate

    Tea and Chocolate

    Tea With White Chocolate

    [1] Simple: a bite of chocolate, a sip of tea (photo courtesy Republic Of Tea). [2] Fancier (photo courtesy Marcolini Chocolate). [3] Elegant presentation from [3] Republic Of Tea and [4] Woodhouse Chocolate. [5] White chocolate pairs with black, green and herbal teas (photo courtesy Lindt).

     

    If you’re a tea lover, here’s an idea for just the two of you, or for a larger party of friends: Pair chocolate with tea.

    Tea and chocolate are excellent pairing companions. There is so much variety of flavor in each, it seems that there are endless possibilities.

    If you have an educated chocolate palate, go further in your exploration. As you would with wine pairings, see what works with what.

    We’ve provided some guidelines, but before you start, the rules are:

  • You need quality tea and quality chocolate.
  • Remember that as with wine, tea is adaptable to unconventional pairings. The fun (and learning experience) of a tasting party is that you get to try them all, and see which you personally prefer.
  • There are obvious pairings—citrussy tea with citrussy chocolate, for example; and opposite pairings. Otherwise stated: enhance or contrast.
  • In other words, there is no right or wrong: just what you like.
  • Try the teas black, before adding milk (as desired) and sugar (only if you deem it essential).
  • You don’t have to taste everything in one day. For example, we focused on event only on white chocolate pairings.
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    TEA WITH DARK CHOCOLATE

    Dark chocolate also calls for a hearty black tea. The aforementioned Assam, English Breakfast and Masala Chai work here.

    But for adventure, try:

  • Green tea: Try a nuttier green, such as Dragon Well or Gen Mai Cha.
  • Lapsang Souchong, Russian Caravan: heavily smoky teas work well with bittersweet chocolates.
  • Pu-erh‡.
  • Hojicha: If the chocolate has “red fruit” notes. Single origin bars from Cuyagua, Ocumare, Rio Caribe, São Tomé, Sur del Lago.
  • Jasmine-scented Pouchong or lightly-oxidized Oolong. These have floral that pair with a single-origin chocolate that has natural floral notes, such as Valrhona Guanaja.
  •  
    Here’s more information on single origin chocolate flavors.
     
    TEA WITH MILK CHOCOLATE

    Milk chocolate should be paired with a hearty black tea that takes milk.

  • Assam, from the highlands of India has malty characteristics, is ideal (and is one of our favorite teas). As an alternative, English Breakfast is a blend which has a base of Assam*.
  • Masala chai is Assam with spices. Each home or manufacturer has a favorite mix, which can include allspice, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel seeds, ginger, nutmeg and star anise. Here’s how to make masala chai with spices from your kitchen.
  • Darjeeling* is lighter, but an interesting contrast to the stronger black teas. With a floral aroma. The flavour can include a tinge of astringent tannic characteristics and a musky spiciness sometimes described as “muscatel.”
  • Earl Grey with milk pairs well with creamy milk chocolate.
  • Houjicha green tea, Wu Yi Oolong tea or other “toasty” teas with sweet milk chocolate.
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    TEA WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE

    White chocolate is milky, often with caramel notes. These teas both compare and contrast:

  • Assam or Earl Grey black tea.
  • Gen Mai Cha (genmaicha): green tea with toasted rice (also the perfect pairing for a bar with crisped rice [like an artisan Nestlé’s Crunch]).
  • Herbal teas: rooibos, peppermint and numerous others. This is a pairing where you can find favorite flavors, from anise to lavender.
  • Jasmine black or green tea.
  • Masala Chai.
  • Matcha, Dragon Well or Sencha green teas.
  • Oolong semi-oxidized† tea.
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    WITH FILLED & FLAVORED CHOCOLATES OR SINGLE-ORIGIN CHOCOLATE BARS

    Bonbons and chocolate bars and bark can be flavored with particular seasonings; but single origin chocolate bars carry the flavors of their particular origins.

    When we say an chocolate bar has, say, a profile of “red fruits,” it doesn’t mean that raspberries have been added to it. Rather, the beans produced in that particular area. Here’s more about single origin chocolate flavors.

    But whether the red fruits—or citrus, or coffee, or other flavor—is inherent to the bean or an added flavor, the pairing strategy is the same.

  • Any fruit-filled chocolate or fruity bar: Earl Grey, Jasmine black or green, floral Oolongs like Ti Kuan Yin Oolong.
  • Berries: Raspberry, strawberry or other berries pair nicely with Hojicha.
  • Caramel: Assam or Ceylon black tea, Houjicha green tea, Wu Yi Oolong teas or “toasty” tea.
  • Cherry: Try Darjeeling with chocolate-covered cherries.
  • Chile/Aztec: Lapsang Souchong, Pu-Erh or other strong black tea; Masala Chai.
  • Citrus: Bai Hao Oolong, Ceylon, Earl Grey (which is scented with Bergamot orange oil).
  • Floral: Jasmine, Pu-Erh.
  • Nuts: Pai Mu Tan (White Peony Tea), Dragon Well green tea or others with nutty notes.
  • Sea Salt: Assam.
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    SUPPORTING INFORMATION

  • Tea
  • Chocolate Flavors Chart
  • Single Origin Chocolate Flavors
  • ________________

    *For food geeks: Most of the tea grown is the original Chinese tea plant, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, known for thousands of years. The only other known variety, the larger-leaf Assam plant (C. sinensis var. assamica), was observed by a Scottish explorer. It was sent to Calcutta There, for classification and the plant was finally identified as a variety of Camellia sinensis, but different from the Chinese plant. While most of the tea grown in the world is Camellia sinensis, Assam is the largest tea-growing region in the world. The region is extremely hot and humid, which contributes to Assam’s unique malty taste. Darjeeling, also an Indian-grown tea, grows in the highlands, and is the original Camellia sinensis varietal.

    †Oolong is semi-fermented or semi-oxidized (semi-green) tea that falls between green and black tea on the fermentation continuum (black tea ferments for two to four hours; for oolong, the fermentation process is interrupted in the middle).

    ‡Pu-erh is a special category of tea from Yunnan province of China. The tea is fermented and aged so that the flavors and aromas are very earthy. Pu-erh teas are available in black, brick green, oolong, and white. Here’s more about it.
     

      

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    PRODUCT: New Earl Grey Teas From Twinings

    Lavender Tea

    Jasmine Tea

    Twinings Earl Grey Extra Bold

    Bergamot Orange

    [1] Lavender-scented tea (photo courtesy Doctors Health Press). [2] Jasmine-scented tea (photo courtesy Par Avion). [3] Earl Grey Extra Bold has more bergamot flavor (photo courtesy Twinings). [4] A bergamot orange: a sour orange popular for marmalade and flavoring (photo courtesy Clove Garden).

     

    Earl Grey is one of America’s most popular flavored teas, a Keemun base flavored with a splash of bergamot oil, the latter pressed from the peel of the bergamot sour orange from southern Italy.

    The tea is named for Charles Grey (1764-1845), the second Earl Grey. A distinguished aristocrat, he served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1830 to 1834.

    WHO INVENTED EARL GREY TEA?

    There are different legends to explain how the tea recipe came to bear the Earl’s name.

    According to the one told by the Grey family, the tea was specially blended for Lord Grey by a Chinese mandarin*, at Howick Hall, the family seat in Northumberland, England. The Earl never visited China.

    The mandarin particularly chose bergamot to offset the preponderance of lime in the estate’s well water.

    Lady Grey, a political hostess, used it to entertain in London. She had her tea blended at Twinings, beginning in 1931.

    The blend proved so popular that Lady Grey was asked if it could be purchased by others. This is how Twinings came to market “Earl Grey” as a type of flavored tea.

    The Greys (ostensibly lacking good business advice) did not to register the trademark. As a result, they have never received a penny from the worldwide sales.

    However, they are sporting about it: Today’s boxes are signed by the current Earl Grey.

    Traditionally, “Earl Grey” was made from black teas, but tea companies have since begun to offer Earl Grey in other varieties as well, such as green and oolong, along with dual-note flavors, such as the new varieties from Twinings.

    TWININGS NEW EARL GREY BLENDS

    Twinings North America has added to its line of Earl Grey black teas with the introduction of three new blends:

  • Earl Grey Extra Bold, with a more robust bergamot flavor.
  • Earl Grey Lavender, with the scent and flavor of lavender flowers.
  • Earl Grey Jasmine, with the scent and flavor of jasmine blossoms.
  •  
    Stephen Twining, the tenth-generation manager of Twinings, commented:

    “Lavender and jasmine compliment the bold flavor of bergamot. Extra Bold is perfect for Earl Grey lovers who crave an intensified, more vibrant taste. We know these new blends will resonate with a new generation of tea drinkers.”

    In addition to enjoying the teas at home, you can visit the gardens at Howick Hall, the home of Earl Grey, and have tea in the Easrl Grey Tea House.

    Here’s more information.

    DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEA TERMS?

    Take a look at our fully illustrated Tea Glossary, one of the most popular of our 100 food glossaries.

     
    ________________

    *In imperial China, a mandarin was bureaucrat scholar in service of the government.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Spiked Chai Tea

    Just got in for the cold and the rain. Time for a cup of hot tea.

    Make that hot spiced tea, chai.

    Make that spiked spiced tea: chai with a hit of bourbon or rum. If you want to add more, go ahead: You can make this the tea version of Irish Coffee.

    If you don’t have any chai bags or loose leaves, make your own from Recipe #2 below.

    RECIPE #1: CHAI WITH SPIRIT (BOURBON, RUM, ETC.)

    Ingredients For 3 Tea Cups Or 2 Mugs

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 teaspoons loose chai tea (or cut open chai tea bags)
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar (substitute 1 tablespoon agave)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • Splash of bourbon or rum (silver, dark, spiced)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then add the tea, sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon and optional cayenne. Stir and reduce the heat to low, heating for another 2 minutes (keep your eye on the pot). Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a liquid measuring cup or small pitcher with a lip. Add the bourbon. If the mixture has cooled a bit, stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

    3. POUR into cups and serve.

     
    RECIPE #2: CHAI TEA BLEND

    If you don’t have some of the ingredients, you can make do with what you have.

     

    Hot Chai

    Chai Tea Blend

    [1] On a chilly day, pour some spirits into the chai (photo courtesy Charles Chocolates). [2] No chai at home? Mix it up from your spice shelf (photo courtesy Foodie Underground).

     
    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2-3 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3 teaspoons loose tea
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Optional: slice fresh ginger root
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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Fine Teas From Steven Smith Teamaker

    Steven Smith Chamomile Tea

    Steven Smith Teas

    Steven Smith Lord Bergamot Tea

    [1] A calming herbal blend. [2] The selection of black, green, herbal and white teas will please everyone. [3] Lord Bergamot, the company’s version of Earl Gre;, powerfully blended (all photos courtesy Steven Smith Teamaker).

     

    Steven Smith of Portland, Oregon was* tea royalty in the U.S., first as co-founder of Stash, then as founder of Tazo, then as co-founder, with wife Kim, of Steven Smith Teamaker.

    Steve not only had the expertise; he had the commitment to seeking out the best, and the palate to know the best. When he started his eponymous label, his curated teas were noticeably superior to other “superior” tea brands.

    The company’s staff travels the globe to to personally select the finest small-batch teas and botanicals. They buy from longtime colleagues in the world’s best tea-growing regions in Africa, India, China and Sri Lanka.

    We drink a lot of tea, and try every brand that comes our way. There are many “artisan teas” that arrive in beautiful packaging, but trust us: Steven Smith’s teas are the best we can remember having. While the shape of the sachets (tea bags) and tins of loose tea looks familiar, the artistry inside is unique. For example:

  • Assam is big and malty black tea, blended by Smith with a bit of smoky Keemun.
  • Lord Bergamot is an “upgrade” of Earl Grey tea that combines Ceylon and Assam teas with the bergamot oil from Reggio Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot.
  • Meadow blends chamomile flowers with hyssop, linden flowers, rooibos and rose petals—a memorable herbal infusion.
  • Rose City† Genmaicha, our favorite green tea, grassy with the light, nutty flavor of roasted rice. Here, the unique touch is a bit of rose petal and manuka honey.
  •  
    Prices vary based on the cost of the ingredients, but an example with Lord Bergamot:

  • 2 ounce package of loose tea (for stocking stuffers), $5.50
  • 4-ounce packs $10.00
  • Loose tea tins $11.99
  • Box of 15 sachets, $11.99
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    Steven Smith Teamaker teas are all natural, gluten free, GMO free. The bags are compostable.

    Each container has a batch number that you can enter to see the provenance of the ingredients, the date it was packed, and personal notes from the tea blender.

    SPECIAL HOLIDAY BLENDS

    Celebrate the season with:

  • Silent Night herbal blend won’t keep you up at night. The caffeine free ingredients include locally-grown peppermint and sweet blackberry leaves accented with cassia (cinnamon), ginger root, sarsaparilla and sweet licorice root.
  • Morning Light black tea blend combines high-grown Ceylons, caramelized North Indian Assam, wild rosemary and a pinch of Northwest Douglas Fir needles. Oh Tannenbaum! (Check out this version, sung in English by Aretha Franklin.)
  •  
    Each tin is $14.99.

    There are dozens of teas, each totally wonderful with or without milk and sugar, along with:

  • Gift Sets: Chocolate Peppermint Latte or Creme Caramel Latte Kit, $25.00, are just two of the gift sets that any tea lover will be happy to receive. Check out the gift sets.
  • Franklin.)
     
    Custom-label tins are available for wedding parties, in blends customized to the couple’s preferences.
     
    HEAD TO SMITHTEA.COM TO BEGIN YOUR TEA ADVENTURE.

    If you’re in the Portland area, stop by the tasting room for a cup or two.

    WANT TO EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF TEA?

    Check out our Tea Glossary.

     
    ________________
    *Mr. Smith passed away last year.

    †Portland is called the Rose City for its proliferation of roses. The climate is ideal for growing roses outdoors: warm, dry summers, rainy and mild winters, plus heavy clay soils.

      

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