By Michael Fewson
I know, you're thinking “what do onions and parfait have to do with coffee?” A strange combination, an even worse pairing. So let me explain:
In the animated movie “Shrek”, the donkey has decided he and Shrek were to become ‘stalwart friends off on a whirlwind adventure”. On the journey Shrek attempts to explain his personality as layered, ‘Ogres have layers, like an onion’. The donkey said, “onion? Why you wanna use onions? Nobody likes onion! How about parfait? Everybody likes parfait, you don’t hear anyone say no I don’t like parfait!” Shrek retorted, “onions NOT parfait.”
There you have it… some people like onions others prefer parfait. A clear observable fact, people have different tastes and preferences. I enjoy eating oysters, wifey on the other hand, does not do oysters in any way shape or form. Lesley, being well-articulated– I’ve learned she has a unique gift in stating observable truth – says that oysters are “disgusting – like swallowing snot”. This may indicate why we are coffee folk and not seafood merchants.
Again, what does this have to do with coffee? Here’s my point! Coffee, though an amazing drink, supporting creative expression, scientific discovery, boardroom brainstorming and plots to overthrow governments, is not a consecrated sacrament. It is a great natural not-created-in-a-lab drink, with many known health and life benefits (which we won’t go into here) but precisely how it is imbibed is really a matter of preference.
It is not blasphemous to add milk or cream to your brewed coffee. An espresso shot is not more righteous than a Chemex, it’s just different, a matter of taste. If you prefer French press to pour-over, or a dollop of cream rather than without, not a sin. An espresso, ristretto, latte, flat white or cappuccino; none are ‘the only way to drink coffee’ but different ways to drink coffee.
The bottom line is, we all have preferences, they are not right or wrong, they are just what we prefer. Nothing sacred about personal preference. Of course, this idea that preference is not consecrated truth can be applied to many areas of life. The ability and willingness to transfer knowledge is a useful gift.
As a coffee guy, what is important to know is that if your favorite drink is a coffee-based drink then it should be the best you can get. If you like a bit of vanilla or caramel in your latte that’s fine, BUT, if you NEED it to make the drink palatable then not so fine. If it tastes burnt, ashy or tobacco-like; if it is bitter or sour then it is time to find a better roaster and a better coffee shop.
I often hear people say coffee smells better than it tastes. If this is your experience, then your drinking low quality coffee. Specialty coffee tastes as good as it smells.
My number one ‘coffee guy’ consideration is, find great coffee. Here’s what to look for:
- An artisan roaster who carefully selects specialty quality beans, processed to carefully preserve the beans unique qualities from seed to cup. Like all food, quality start at the farm and is preserved through terroir, picking and processing.
- Beans roasted to exacting standards ensuring the essence of the bean is preserved. Roasting is much more than adding heat to green beans until they go brown or worse black.
- Brew methods that include proper ratios, brew temperature and extraction time, all of which play a part in producing that amazing taste. Even milk steamed too hot will destroy the milks natural sweetness.
If you like flavors added, then consider syrups made in-house without artificial flavors and colors. All these things will elevate your gustatory experience.
After all, life is too short to drink bad coffee.
A second ‘coffee guy’ consideration, less important but a professional annoyance :P is the name of traditional coffee-based drinks. Some prefer onions some parfait, so enjoy what you prefer… but an onion is not a parfait, so I like to keep the drinks names traditional. (There will always be minor difference between locations)
Please don’t walk into a coffee-house and ask for a caramel macchiato. Macchiato is an Italian word that means marked, stained or spotted. In the most basic term, it is an espresso shot marked or spotted with a dash of milk foam. Though the name and style may vary from place to place a specialty coffee house will offer close variants. If you want a bucket with coffee, steamed milk and caramel ask for a caramel latte.
If you ask for a latte in Europe you will get a glass of steamed milk. Café Latte will get you an espresso with steamed milk. At Essence we use the café latte or latte as the alternative for flavored drinks. After all if your preference is a 16oz espresso based drink with steamed milk and caramel, then this is the simplest format since other more traditional drinks, like the macchiato, cappuccino or the Australian Flat White, are about ratios and techniques that create their uniqueness as a drink. Adding flavoring to them makes them, well, a caramel latte.
Cappuccino is an Italian morning drink made from espresso, steamed milk and foam. Usually 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk 1/3 foam. It is thus a 5-6oz drink. At Essence of Coffee, we use a ristretto shot for the base (1.5oz shot rather than 2oz) with a dash of powdered chocolate dusting the cup and sprinkled over the finished beverage.
So, onion or parfait? Neither is sacred just different. Your choice! But an onion is not a parfait.