Friday, July 27, 2007

Simple Isn't Always

The simpler things are, the harder they are to get right. The cappuccino is one of those things. One part espresso, two parts milk… sounds easy enough. But for the same reason that it consists of only two ingredients, if either one of them is the least bit off, what otherwise would be a symphony of flavors and textures ends up being crap.

First, the espresso -
The coffee needs to have been grown, harvested, processed, transported, roasted, blended, ground, and brewed properly for it to realize its full potential. Because espresso has such a concentrated flavor, any flaws are greatly magnified. The other side of the coin is that when things come together in the right way, it can be transcendental. Properly prepared espresso should exit the portafilter looking like warm honey and be topped with a brown-flecked layer of crema the color of mahogany.

The milk –
If you’ve been in very many coffee shops, I’m sure you’ve heard the high-pitched squeal of milk being steamed. That, my friends, is a sure sign that you should leave the shop. When you find a good shop, watch the attention that the baristas give when steaming milk. Notice that they don't shove the pitcher under the steam wand and walk away to perform other tasks. Properly steamed milk has a velvety texture and natural sweetness that is the perfect complement to espresso, not something to cover up the bitterness. A cappuccino should never have a layer of dry milk froth on top, but the milk should be fully integrated into the drink, giving it a rich creamy mouthfeel.

Just as food can be plated in a way to enhance its appearance, experienced baristas know how to manipulate the milk pitcher while pouring to create "latte art." Different shapes include, rosettas, hearts, apples, and more.

Prepared properly, the cappuccino is a joy for the eyes and the palate.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I collect all kinds of coffee-related things. This, from Korea, is one of the stranger things that I’ve come across in my travels. Carbonated soda and coffee isn’t a flavor combination that I would’ve come up with on my own. I’d like to report to you that the combination works, in spite of it being quite unorthodox. I’d like to, but I can’t. It’s horrid. There’s nothing good about it, except for the wackiness of the packaging. Korea, like Japan, has an infatuation with the English language. And much like a pre-pubescent boy who is infatuated with an older woman, what seems right in theory, doesn’t apply itself very well in reality.

The packaging is attractive enough, a stark metallic or black can with bold graphics. Upon closer inspection though, the illusion falls apart. The text reads, “First impression is sensational taste of soda. Second impression is deep yet smooth taste of coffee. If such taste has to be described numerically it would be 1052(LOVE)!”

Math not being my strong suit, I’m not exactly sure of the correlation between the number 1052 and love, but according to the soda manufacturer, it’s preferred by the new generation. There are two different cans: the black one has the “male” symbol, and the silver can has the “female” symbol. I thought that maybe the two different types tasted different, but not a chance. Both are equally bad.

Any of you math wizards out there want to clue me in on the 1052 code?