Coffee 101: What’s a Macchiato, really?

So many coffee terms these days refer to totally different things depending on where you order them. Machhiato is one of the terms with the most varied uses I’ve found.

An espresso “macchiato” literally means “marked” or “stained” with milk (just the teensiest touch of milk). Traditionally, this is served as an espresso shot with a dollop of steamed milk foam on top, which is what you’ll get if you order a macchiato here at Faking Sanity. And what about an espresso “con panna“, you ask? Well, that’s an espresso with a dollop of real, rich whipped cream on top. Mmmmm!

Coffee 101: More Espresso Drinks

While my favourite espresso-based drink is and always has been a good latte, there are many other great drinks to sample if a latte isn’t quite your cuppa.

Many coffee drinkers try an Americano as their first espresso-based drink. That’s an espresso, topped with hot water. It’s a great alternative to a regular brewed coffee if you want something  just a little bit different. It’s also a fabulous option if you have a home espresso machine, and don’t want to make a whole pot for yourself. A perfect, fresh coffee every time.

Or, for something a little different, try a Misto or Americano Misto. It’s the same basic drink, but after the espresso shot, the remainder of the cup is filled half with hot water and half with steamed milk. If you find a latte just a little too milky or an Americano just a little too potent, this drink may be your perfect match!

Coffee 101: The Land of Lattes and Cappuccinos

Ah… a perfect latte. Is there anything better? Well, depending on which coffee lover you ask, they may just say there is: a cappuccino!

What’s the difference? Both drinks start with the same ingredients; they’re just prepared differently. The basis for a great latte or cappuccino is always a good espresso. From there, a latte gets steamed milk, with a dollop of frothed or foamed milk to top it off. A cappuccino gets steamed milk as well, but about half of it is frothed or foamed, rather than just a dollop on top.

Wondering about mochas or mochaccinos? They’re something a bit different at every shop you go to. The general idea, though, is a drink like a latte (espresso and steamed milk), with the addition of chocolate. Here at Faking Sanity, we use steamed chocolate milk to add a very smooth chocolate flavour. If you like a bit of extra chocolatey goodness, we also have a chocolate macadamia nut syrup or chocolate sauce we can add (and whipped cream, of course).

We can also switch up the milk: regular, skim or soy, and if you’re looking for a sugar free mocha, that chocolate macadamia nut syrup is sugar free! And if you’re thinking it sounds great, but it’s way too hot for coffee, don’t fret! We can make all of these drinks on ice, too.

 

Coffee 101: Espresso

There are oodles of coffee drinks around these days (yes, oodles is a technical term)!  We’ll do more posts in the coming weeks about some of the yummy modern variations, but nearly all of these drinks are based on a very traditional preparation: the espresso.

Espresso is made by forcing very hot water through compacted, very finely ground coffee. So, “espresso” is not a type of coffee bean or a roasting level, but rather a method of coffee preparation, and the name of the drink produced when prepared in this manner. A few posts ago, we talked about caffeine: that yummiest of addictions is also present in espresso. In fact, there’s more caffeine per ounce of espresso than there is in a regular brewed coffee. However, since the portion is typically only 1 to 1.5 ounces for a single espresso, as opposed to an 8, 12 or even 16 oz coffee, you end up with less caffeine per serving.

A good espresso is a question of good beans, good equipment and the skill of the barista – the person preparing that espresso. The choice of beans, how they are ground, the temperature of the extraction, even the amount of weight you apply when tamping or compacting the grounds will affect the end result. Because of the method in which espresso is extruded, the flavours are much more concentrated. A properly pulled espresso is also a bit thicker than a plain brewed coffee, and the bean’s natural oils are emulsified, which produces a rich foamy layer known as the “crema”. That’s where the magic lies. This is not a drink for the faint of heart, but when done right, it’s fabulous!

 

 

Coffee 101: Coffee History, part 2

Our modern version of coffee preparation stepped onto the scene in 1675.

Turkey besieged Vienna, and Franz Georg Kolschitzky, a Viennese man who had lived in Turkey for a time, slipped through enemy lines to lead relief forces back to the city. Franz Georg was successful, and as the Turkish lines were broken and they left behind sacks of dry black powder in their hurried escape. Franz Georg recognized the powder as ground coffee, and claimed the the bags as his reward. He began central Europe’s first coffee house with these supplies. The very same man also began refining the drink by filtering the grounds out of the brew, sweetening it and adding a touch of milk. And voilà! Modern coffee has arrived!

In the 18th century, King Charles II tried to ban coffee houses in England because they were hotbeds of revolution. In America, on the other hand, the Boston Tea Party made drinking coffee instead of tea an act of patriotism.

There were several interesting developments in the 20th century, too. The first soluble instant coffee was invented in 1901 by a Japanese-American chemist, while a German coffee importer researched the process of decaffeinating coffee without ruining the flavour, marketing it as Sanka in 1903. By the 1920’s, prohibition in the States meant a huge boom to the American coffee industry. As for our wonderful European coffee drinks, such as espressos or cappuccinos, those came into play in 1946 when an Italian named Gaggia perfected his Espresso Machine; cappuccinos were so named because the colour of the brew was similar to the colour of the Cappuchin monks’ robes.

Coffee 101: Coffee History, part 1

Yup – even once you’re done school, you still get history lessons! Actually, coffee has a fascinating history, so I thought it would be good for our Coffee 101 series.

We’ve found evidence of certain tribes in Ethiopia eating coffee berries over 1000 years ago, specifically for the energizing effect produced by grinding the berries up and mixing them with animal fat. Not a particularly appealing method of getting caffeine to my modern palate!

Right around 1000 years ago is when Arab traders first brought the coffee back to their homes and cultivated it in plantations. It’s also the first time we see coffee beans being boiled to produce a drink (which they called “qahwa”, literally “that which prevents sleep”).

Skip ahead a few hundred and you get to some really cool stuff. Coffee was first brought to Constantinople by the Turks in the 15th century, and that is where we see the first shop dedicated solely to coffee, Kiva Han, which opened its doors in 1475. The most interesting bit, though? The crucial piece of information to remember for the history test? Here it is.
Make note: Turkish law at this point makes it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he fails to provide her a daily quota of coffee. Not that’s a bunch of dedicated coffee addicts!

Through the 16th and 17th centuries, coffee became a powerful influence, affecting both politics and religion.For instance, in 1511, Mecca’s corrupt governor tried to have it banned, fearing it would turn people against him. The sultan, though, decided that coffee was sacred and had the governor executed. In 1600, Pope Clement VIII’s advisors try to convince him to see coffee as part of the infidel threat of the Ottoman Empire, as it is a favourite drink there. Instead, the Pope chooses to officially claim it as a perfectly acceptable Christian beverage.

By the 17th century, coffee has made it not only to western Europe, but all the way to the Americas. Coffee houses begin springing up, and in England, they become such popular places of discussion for both educated and uneducated alike that they are nick-named “penny universities” (referring to the cost of a cup).

We don’t see our modern style of preparing coffee show up on the scene until 1675, which is where we’ll pick up next time.

Coffee 101: Caffeine

Many people who drink coffee do so for the caffeine pick-me-up.

Coffee is grown in several high altitude regions around the world, mostly in South America, Africa and Indonesia. Much like tea, coffee grown in different regions take on their own distinctive flavours. That being said, the biggest difference is between those coffees grown at slightly lower altitudes. These coffee beans tend to be of lesser quality when it comes to flavour, but do have a bit more caffeine. They are known as “robusta” type coffee beans, and are almost exclusively used for instant coffee. Those coffee beans that are harvested from higher altitudes and are of a higher quality are known as “arabica” beans. These are used for nearly all brewed coffees and espressos or coffee drinks.

In its raw state, coffee contains lots of caffeine. As you roast the coffee beans to release all those yummy oils and flavours, you also lose some of that caffeine. So, while many people believe the strong flavoured dark roasts have the most caffeine, it is, in fact, the lighter roasts that give you the biggest caffeine jolt.

If you’re looking to avoid caffeine altogether, there are a couple of methods to decaffeinate coffee. The chemical method is the most common, since it’s the most cost efficient. Some people are concerned about the effects of this process, though, so some coffee companies choose to use a “Swiss Water Decaf” process; although it’s less cost efficient, there are no chemicals to deal with, and many people feel it is much healthier option which produces a much better tasting cup.

Here at Faking Sanity, you can sample our Three Sisters coffee if you want a regular coffee with a good dose of caffeine. If you’re looking for a little extra punch, try a “Wake Up Call” – a coffee with an added shot of espresso. That will get you going in the morning! For a little less caffeine, but a stronger flavour, our Kick Ass coffee is a great choice. Our decaf is Kicking Horse’s Organic Swiss Water Decaf.

Join us here for future posts in Coffee 101 to learn more about coffee, and some of our specialty European coffee drinks.

Coffee 101

Last year we ran a “Tea 101” series of posts here on our blog. The posts covered a little bit of everything, from types of tea, to tea terminology, to custom Faking Sanity blends. We’ve just decided that it’s time to do a Coffee 101 series. So, stay tuned over the next few weeks as we tell you all about coffee and coffee drinks, and even how you can enjoy them in the hot summer weather!

Organic Coffee is Kick Ass and Three Sisters and…

My favourite coffee for the past several years has been Kicking Horse’s Three Sisters, so it was a no-brainer for us to use Kicking Horse coffees here at Faking Sanity.

Kicking Horse is a BC company, and we’ve always felt it important to buy locally whenever we can. Did you know, though, that all Kicking Horse coffees are certified organic and fair trade? Yes, that’s right. Whether it’s the mellow Three Sisters, the Kick Ass-iest dark roast, or the basic Decaf, it’s all shade-grown organic and fair trade coffee. The Decaf is also processed with the 100% Swiss Water method, rather than the more common chemical method. Even their take out containers are eco-friendly – they’re all recyclable, and compostable too!

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