Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coffee Tasting 101

It's raining heavily outside, whether you are at the comforts of your home or busy with work, the nicest companion would be that warm cup of beverage that will complement the mood.  For many, it will be 'coffee'.  So for non-coffee drinkers, you may opt to continue reading or not (but I hope you do, eheee).  I was able to gather bits in pieces of nice-to-know things about coffee and memories of my previous stint to judge a coffee making competition came.

The peg was 1598 when the word in reference to coffee was used in the English language.  The word is derived from the Ottoman Turkish 'kahve' also related to the Italian word 'caffe'.

COFFEE HISTORY (captured from coffee
The favorite bedtime story about the origin of coffee goes like this: Once upon a time in the land of Arabia Felix (or in Ethiopia, if an Ethiopian is telling the story), there lived a goatherd named Kaldi. Kaldi was a sober, responsible goatherd whose goats were also sober, if not responsible. One night, Kaldi's goats failed to come home, and in the morning he found them dancing with abandoned glee near a shiny, dark-leafed shrub with red berries. Kaldi soon determined that it was the red berries on the shiny, dark-leafed shrub that caused the goats' eccentric behavior, and soon he was dancing too.
Finally, a learned imam from a local monastery came by, sleepily, no doubt, on his way to prayer. He saw the goats dancing, Kaldi dancing, and the shiny, dark-leafed shrub with the red berries. Being of a more systematic turn of mind than the goats or Kaldi, the learned imam subjected the red berries to various experimental examinations, one of which involved parching and boiling. Soon, neither the imam nor his fellows fell asleep at prayers, and the use of coffee spread from monastery to monastery, throughout Arabia Felix (or Ethiopia), and from there to the rest of the world.

As I mentioned, I am not expert.  My weekly limit for coffee is one (1) cup in a week since I am battling an acid bout ehe... but Knowing a good coffee taste need not come from an addict. I was able to get this quick guide.  So next time you take that cup of coffee, do it like an expert and check for the following:
Taste those high, thin notes, the dryness the coffee leaves at the back of your palate and under the edges of your tongue? This pleasant tartness, snap, or twist, combined with an underlying sweetness, is what coffee people call acidity. It should be distinguished from sour or astringent, which in coffee terminology means an unpleasant sharpness.

Body or mouth-feel is the sense of heaviness, tactile richness, or thickness when you swish the coffee around your mouth. It also describes texture: oily, buttery, thin, etc.

Strictly speaking, aroma cannot be separated from acidity and flavor. Acidy coffees smell acidy, and richly flavored coffees smell richly flavored. Nevertheless, certain high, fleeting notes are reflected most clearly before the coffee is actually tasted. There is frequently a subtle floral note to some coffee that is experienced most clearly in the aroma, particularly at the moment the crust is broken in the traditional tasting ritual. 
If aroma is the overture of the coffee, then finish is the resonant silence at the end of the piece. Finish is a term relatively recently brought over into coffee tasting from wine connoisseurship. It describes the immediate sensation after the coffee is spit out or swallowed. Some coffees develop in the finish -- they change in pleasurable ways.  

Flavor is a catch-all term for everything we do not experience in terms of the categories of acidity, aroma and body. In another sense, it is a synthesis of them all. Some coffees simply display a fuller, richer flavor than others, are more complex, or more balanced, whereas other coffees have an acidy tang, for instance, that tends to dominate everything else. Some are flat, some are lifeless, some are strong but mono-toned. We also can speak of a distinctively flavored coffee, a coffee whose flavor characteristics clearly distinguish it from others.

Now that coffee drinking (tasting) has become more complicated for you, ehe... Do you know of the most expensive coffee in the world?
It's the Civet Coffee variety and glad to know that a variety can be found here in the Philippines.  To the local dialect, it is more popularly known as the 'Alamid' coffee coming from the name of the 'cat' (actually a weasel) where this coffee comes from. 

Yep, go visit the net for information on this rather exotic drink, or better yet get the chance to taste one!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spice... It Up!

Love food?  For what?  Apart from texture, I am a person who is big on flavors, lots of them. As much as possible, I want every bit to be exploding with assortments of tastes.  I am however not a technical expert.  I just know what food I like and the taste that satisfies me.

Writing this blog for almost seven (7) months now, It dawned to me that the type of food I have featured here so far have one thing in common --- they pack heavy flavors.  So an idea came to me to gather some information about these sources of flavors and share it with my readers.

Spices have been part of our lives since time immemorial (ehe, it was nice writing that word). Yet man continuously search for combinations and uses for these natural wonders.  Some even view and revered them for their medicinal and 'magical' enhancements.  For me, I am already in awe for the wonders they do in flavoring food.

Research from the internet defined a spice as: a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as food additive for flavor, color or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth.  It may also be used to flavor a dish or to hide other flavors.  In the kitchen, spices are distinguished from herbs which are leafy, green plant parts used for flavoring and garnish.  Many spices are used for other purposes:
  1. Medicine
  2. Religious rituals
  3. Cosmetics
  4. Perfumery
  5. Preservative
For me specifically, I like the wonders dry spices do on meats.  Sorry for those non-meat eaters but 'spice rubs' make miracles on meats used for grilling.
Spices are also good for stews and as a partner to tomato-based dishes.

Our kitchen has a few spice selections since my mom is very fond of experimenting and serving international cuisine.  She has also traveled in the middle eastern countries which are known to be the seat of these spices too.

I am also reminded of having spices mentioned in our World history class wherein humanity's history was largely because of the spice route that made the power struggle more exciting.  There is this famous line: "He who controls the spice, controls the universe".

CINNAMON ROUTE - began somewhere in the Malay Archipelago, romantically known as the “East Indies,” and crossed the Indian Ocean to the southeastern coast of Africa. (spice route).

CLOVE ROUTE - from Southeast Asia is the trail of cloves from Maluku and the southern Philippines north to South China and Indochina and then south again along the coast to the Strait of Malacca. From there the cloves went to India spice markets and points further west. (spice route) This is the same route where we belong!

Below is the world map for the spice route.

I was also able to gather a useful spice chart which may be handy for those who want to try: