Due Cappuccini, Per Favore : A Coffee Lover Goes Italian

It’s been too long, coffee lovers! It’s been a crazy summer, I’ve been doing some weird excursions like graduating from college and getting a job…insanity.

But the best adventures have been the ones involving – you guessed it – coffee.

My favorite liquid substance.

Most of the time.

Anyways.

The biggest and best adventure of the summer was, without a doubt, my trip to Italy. My fiance and I went to stay with my uncle in the ancient monastery that he’s remodeled into a bed and breakfast in the mountains of Tuscany.

I know, right? You can’t write this stuff.

I Romitit

This is the unbelievably beautiful monastery we stayed in for FREE while celebrating my great-aunt’s 75th birthday. There was so much wine and so many amazing stories, plus a crazy old French woman who smokes illegal substances with grill lighters, but those are stories for another blog.

What REALLY blew my mind, and I’m sure you can all believe it, were the Italian cappuccinos. Obviously, cappuccinos were invented in Italy and are defined as “an Italian coffee drink”. So, naturally, their cappuccino game was on point.

Cappuccinos in Italy are like their own food group, their own meal, their own snack. The cappuccino is respected and adored. As it should be.

Me and Coffee

This is me (hi!) sitting on my uncle’s patio (I guess that’s the American version of what this was) and drinking my morning cappuccino, made by his own personal cappuccino maker. There was no coffee makers in Italian homes and hotels. No Mr. Coffee. No Keurig. Cappuccino makers only, sorry.

For anyone who may not know, cappuccinos are prepared with espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam. The name derives from the Capuchin friars who originally drank cappuccinos in the 17th century, referring to the brown color of their habits that mimic the coffee’s color.

Cappuccinos are served in Italian restaurants in 5-6 oz. cups, HALF the size of a traditional American 12 oz. cup of coffee (and that’s our small…) The little cups take you by surprise! They’re so tiny and cute and you can’t help but think, “Is this going to be enough?”

Well, if the fact that you drink at least 4 or 5 of them a day doesn’t do it, the fact that cappuccinos are practically PURE espresso will reassure you that yes, it will be enough.

The hot milk (and when Italian’s mean hot, they MEAN hot – caution drinking right away!) and steamed milk foam give a creaminess to the drink that helps to offset the extremely harsh, strong taste of the espresso.

While sugar in American coffee is often frowned upon (flavored creamers, ya’ll), sugar packets are ALWAYS given with espressos; those little guys have some serious punch to them and sugar is needed. At least for a wimp like me.

But my favorite thing about the cappuccinos in Italy were how ingrained they are into Italian culture. There were coffee shops on every corner of even the smallest town my fiance and I visited, and it was perfectly acceptable to stop and just take a cappuccino break. It so perfectly reflects the relaxed European attitude; sitting at a table in the middle of the work day just to drink a cappuccino, smoke a cigarette and look around nonchalantly.

In fact, when Dan (my fiance) and I arrived in Venice for our first day, we were determined not to look touristy…but we were incredibly lost and overwhelmed. What did we do? Casually went into a coffee shop, ordered two cappuccinos, relaxed and made a game plan so when we emerged we 100% knew what we were doing.

It worked. We were mistaken for Venetians more than once. Coffee saves the day!

Honestly, we passed as Italians because one of the only phrases we knew was the one we used the most frequently: “due cappuccini, per favore”, or “two cappuccinos, please”. We knew this little phrase by heart and it immediately broke down language barriers for us left and right.

Coffee is truly like a universal language, and Italians speak it fluently.

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It’s Been Swell

I am so glad coffee and I decided to work on our relationship. I’ll admit, we were a little distant before, but I feel like now we understand each other and are closer than ever.

It has been so much chronically this journey, and I really don’t think this is the end. I will be taking a brief hiatus in writing on The Bean Stream, but while that hiatus happens, my love for coffee will only grow.Which MEANS…there’s always room for more posts!

Thank you to all the readers (whether dedicated or sporadic, I think you’re all fabulous) who took the time to read all the dumb things I had to say. I hope maybe you learned a thing or two, tried a new kind of coffee, or just felt more compelled to love coffee more than you already did.

Even if none of those things happened, still thank you for reading!

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see any posts for a while or if in a few weeks I come back to keep writing. Who knows? All I know is that this is exactly what coffee and I needed to get back on the same page.

If you don’t hear from me again, keep brewing and love every cup of coffee you drink more than the last!

Peace out, coffee lovers.

I’m going to go brew myself a pot.

Weekly Brew Review: French Toast Coffee

I really enjoy efficiency. For instance, why not instead of having french toast for breakfast and coffee with it, just combine them?

Be hopeful! What I have just described is a real thing. That’s right! French toast coffee.

For this week’s brew review I tried some of this glorious sounding breakfast-food-flavored coffee. I gave Green Mountain Coffee’s blend of “GoldenFrench Toast” a try, and was pleasantly surprise! I was expecting a coffee flavor similar to the “Dirty Chai” that I tasted a few weeks back; cinnamon-y, spicy, but maybe a bit too watery.french toast

However, this was not the case. The French Toast coffee had the bite of cinnamon, but was much sweeter than the Dirty Chai and had a much fuller flavor. I was really pleased by the nice balance of sweetness and bitterness in the coffee; the bitterness was nicely accented in the cinnamon, but the cinnamon also brought out the sweetness as well, and the beans themselves had a nice balance between bitterness and a really smooth roasted taste.

If I had to come up a critique for the coffee, it would probably be that (although the balance was a lot nicer than the Dirty Chai) it did lean a bit more to the bitter side. The brewed the coffee with a drip, which I think brought out maybe too much of the bitterness. If I maybe tried a pour over instead, I think I would have been able to more comfortably drink black than I did drinking it as a drip brew.

But even that is a stretch at a shot of criticism! This was a mellow brew with a nice combination of flavors and a very full taste. AND I got a two-for-one for breakfast.

Keurig MINI

Hi there! My name is Sean and I’m going to be a guest contributor here for a little bit.  I’ll start by saying I don’t know as much about the fancy forms of coffee as Tessa does, but when it comes to the simple stuff and certain coffee brewers I know plenty.  Anyways, let’s get to the point, okay?

Today I want to do a review of the Keurig® MINI Plus brewing system.  I personally have one in my apartment at school and figure I’ll share my knowledge on it.  If you are completely unaware of what it is, here’s a link to it.  The Keurig MINI Plus is a K-Cup style brewer that brews one cup of coffee at a time.  It’s about a foot tall and about five inches wide, so it will fit on that counter-top of yours just fine.  There’s a spot in the top of the machine to pour water in for your coffee that typically only holds one or two cups worth of water.  There’s also a catch in the bottom to catch excess liquid.

Now if you don’t mind, let’s get into the good and the bad about this thing.

The good.

Something I really like about this brewer is that it doesn’t take very long to brew a nice hot, fresh cup of coffee for you.  I’ve never actually sat down with a stopwatch to time the thing, but it prepares your coffee in just about two or three minutes.  I personally think that’s great because I can walk over and start my brewing and then get ready for the day while it does its thing.

Another thing I like about it is that K-Cups aren’t terribly expensive and having the Keurig saves me the trouble of walking/driving/flying/teleporting to my nearest coffee shop for my daily brew.  Convenience is key when it comes to this thing.  It’s also incredibly simple to use as well.  All you really need to do is pour water in the top, put your K-Cup in, and press brew.  Simple.

This is completely unrelated to coffee but if you like those little cups of ramen noodles that you pour hot water into to prepare, this thing is great for that too.  Just put your ramen under it in its cup and hit brew without any K-Cup in it and you’ll have a perfect, hot cup of ramen right there in a few minutes or less.

The bad.

Something I don’t like about this brewer is that it is very inconsistent with how much water it uses to brew your cup of coffee.  Sometimes I’ll brew a cup and it will be half full and other times it will be overflowing.  This is mostly just inconvenient, but if you’re buying a coffee maker for convenience the damn thing should be consistently convenient.

The price.  This thing costs about $80.  That’s a decently high price tag if you ask me.  There are several other coffee brewers of the same nature that are just slightly more expensive and better quality than this one.

It wastes a decent amount of water.  The catch in the bottom fills up with water and a little bit of coffee after just four or five brews.  Maybe that’s not a big deal to you, but it annoys me a little.

It only brews one cup at a time, so if you have a bunch of roommates, family members, moochers, or anybody in your home who also loves their coffee it might be a better idea to just by a coffee pot brewer instead.

Overall I would give this coffee brewer a 6 out of 10.  I recommend Keurig brewers, but I do not recommend this one unless you get it for free like I did.  If you’re going to invest your hard earned cash in a Keurig I’d recommend looking at the Keurig K45 Elite for just $20 more.

Weekly Brew Review: Butterscotch Pudding Coffee

Before I get to any reviewing, even before the stupid jokes and puns come out, I want to take no credit for the creation of this coffee.

I stumbled across a blog called Putting Weird Things in Coffee, so of course I had to check it out. I was expecting like cats and staplers, but they actually have real recipes involving weird (but edible) coffee creations.

For those brave coffee drinkers, I suggest checking this blog out. For those slightly less brave, acquire some courage and then go check it out.

Some of them were a little too weird for me (can someone please tell me what Blood Pudding is, I’ve always wanted to know and I’m too lazy to Google), but I did find one that was simple and sounds as delicious as it was: Butterscotch Pudding Coffee.

I abandoned my go-to French Vanilla roast for this experiment. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of the potentially delicious or potentially vile taste. So I went for some plain Eight O’Clock coffee, medium roast, and brewed myself a cup.

My roommate just happened to have this unopened box of butterscotch Jell-O lying around. Seriously? What does she need that for? So I took it upon myself to use it for her.

jello

According to the Putting Weird Stuff in Coffee, after putting in the dry packet of Jell-O into the coffee, it needs to be stirred with a cinnamon stick. Again, my roommate’s freakin’ weird and she has a jar of cinnamon sticks around. So, again, I took one off her hands to stir my coffee creation.

The end result was a thick, creamy, and sweet concoction that tasted like I had just swallowed a smooth butterscotch chew with a bit of bite from the cinnamon. The taste definitely reminded me of a less-bitter cappuccino, with the same cinnamon kick neutralized by the sweetness of the butterscotch.

Absolutely delicious. Two big thumbs up.

Then, of course, I went and made my big mistake. I thought, “Hey, cinnamon, this is a good idea!” and dumped some ground cinnamon into the coffee.

Good one, Tessa.

The addition of the cinnamon really soured the drink for me; it made it far too spicy to the point where it took away from the creamy sweetness of the butterscotch, which is the whole point of the coffee! So, if you’re going to try this at home, don’t be like me, learn from my mistakes and just use the stick to give that little spice to the butterscotch so that the flavors are more balanced.

Unless you’re some kind of cinnamon fanatic, in which case, go crazy.

 

You Never Forget Your First…Cup of Coffee

I am getting all nostalgic today. Nothing like a good flashback to get you blogging.

Today I want to revisit the moment I fell in love with coffee. I’m doing this because, after having been blogging about this for many weeks now, trying new kinds of coffee, learning a ton about coffee, and viewing coffee from a variety of new different angles, I want to remind myself how and why I started this blog.

The day I fell in love with coffee was the day I brewed my first cup of coffee. It was my freshman year of college (late bloomer, I know, I was a spoiler Keurig brat) and it was in a Mr. Coffee (I know, I know, there was no grinder, no dripper, no fancy coffee brewer — just a plain, old Mr. Coffee. Give me a break, it was my first time).

I remember I tried to make my first batch and completely ruined it by forgetting to put in the filter. Yep. Embarrassing.

It smelled, literally, like burnt eggs and crushed dreams.

So my mom had a little intervention with me. She told me that this was how to make coffee, how to really make coffee, and I needed to learn. We had a little work shop and then she pushed me from the nest and I tried again to brew my own pot.

I remember it all very vividly. I can still remember the hissing, bubbling noise of the water boiling in the machine. I can still see the perfectly dark brown stream of caffeinated gold dripping steadily into the pot, my own face reflected greedily in the glass as I watched in anticipation.

Just the right ratio of water to beans (thanks, Mom) created the perfectly alluring aroma of thick, rich beans, with the sweet, soft hint of vanilla (it was Gevalia Vanilla coffee, highly suggested) in the beans. It filled up the whole kitchen and it was unbelievably intoxicating.

When it had finally brewed I poured a mug and let the warm clay sit in my hands, watching the steam rise up from my perfectly crafted creation in transparent ribbons before taking the first sip. The bold taste was perfectly balanced with sweet vanilla of the beans — the first and last time I had coffee without cream, the taste was too perfectly balanced and rich to hide with flavored creamer.

I swear I’ve never made coffee as perfectly as that first time.

Since then, I’ve come into my own routine of how to make coffee the right way for me, the right amount of water to grinds, cream to use, sugar is it’s a strong blend, but nothing will ever compare to that first time.

Cliche but true: you never forget your first.

Can I Get an Easter Blend, One Jesus and Extra Holy Spirit?

I am about to make everybody’s day better. It certainly was the highlight of my day when I found Abbey Roast, a coffee brewing business run by…wait for it…monks.

Is that, or is that not, the coolest thing you HAVE EVER HEARD?

No, just me?

Whether you agree or not, you have to give these monks a little credit. They offer nearly a dozen different types of roasts, with all their beans imported straight from Brazil, their holy blends only cost $12.50 AND all proceeds go toward expanding their monastery so they can give more money to charities knocking on their doors.                                                                                                                                    monk

Well, then.

Can you think of a better reason for buying coffee? Because I literally cannot.

What I really wanted to highlight is their seasonal blend that is now available for purchasing: The Easter Blend. This blend is described as,

“A mysteriously excellent tasting coffee, very smooth, with a slight bouquet of berries. We have handcrafted this interesting blend using four custom roasts with three Gourmet Arabicas, including one from an ancient Biblical country.”

 

Delicious and soul-cleansing. Even if you’re not Christian, or religious at all, the cause for this coffee is as good as they come and it sounds absolutely wonderful taste-wise. Either way, this could be a perfect Easter present or just a generous (and delicious, for you) contribution to charity. And if you are religious or Christian, imagine them serving this at mass instead of wine.

Seriously, people should petition for that.

 

Weekly Brew Review: The Dirty Chai

Let’s get dirty.

With our coffee, you animals, get your mind’s out of the gutter!

When I visited Tony’s Coffee in Thomaston, CT, last week I tried their drink called Winter Spice. I didn’t do it because it was seasonal (it’s spring now), I was just fascinated by how the woman behind the counter described it: “a Dirty Chai”, she said. Count me in.

Often Dirty Chai’s are made with spiced black tea and contain spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Then a single shot of espresso and steamed milk is added.

I will start off with a large: DELICIOUS. The mild, spicy taste was tantalizing and unlike any kind of coffee I have experienced before. Although it is out of season, I could imagine this being the perfect winter time drink; especially with the cinnamon, it tasted like a big liquefied ginger bread man and had that warm, spicy kick of holiday foods and drinks.

That being said, the coffee was rather watery. I attributed it to the possible combination of tea and espresso. With their being only one shot of espresso, the thicker, coffee-consistency was overrun by the watery tea.

The best way to describe it was rich flavor with not-very-rich consistency.

Despite the drink being so thin, it was a new, flavorful experience that I would definitely suggest. I don’t even think it would hurt to ask for maybe one more shot of espresso or add some milk or coffee yourself just to fill out the drink a bit more. Keep this one in mind for the winter, or even for a rainy spring day or cold summer night, it’s the perfect drink to warm you right up!

A Conveniently Caffeinated Conflict

Who doesn’t like a good dose of caffeine? That’s what coffee’s for, right?

Sadly, wrong.

There has been some discussion lately about caffeine pills coming up hot on coffee’s tail. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the pill, most of them contain somewhere around 200 milligrams of caffeine, are quick and easy to take, and do not stain your teeth yellow. Those aren’t my words, I swear to the coffee Gods.

Some people would rather avoid a medley of things that come along with coffee drinking: yellowed teeth, dehydration, overuse of sugar and cream which can often be unhealthy, and spending excess money on coffee.

Alright, caffeine pill-poppers, I’ll play along.

I can definitely see the convenience of the pill. You are monitoring exactly how much caffeine you want in your body and you also don’t have to keep spending money on coffee throughout the day to get the 2, 3, 4 cups some people need to keep going.

HOWEVER, I think these poppers are missing some big points here.

First of all, I won’t deny the yellow teeth thing. I’ve said it before, it’s my one big issue with coffee. Nothing’s perfect.

Secondly, dehydration? Yeah, FROM CAFFEINE. Sure, coffee dehydrates you…but, news flash, so does straight-up, concentrated caffeine.

Third, I get the cream and sugar thing, too. But there are plenty of organic, natural options for both sugar and cream that are a million times better for you than crap like artificial sweeteners and even regular sugar. Also, ween yourself off of one. That’s what I did! I no longer take sugar in my coffee, only cream or skim, which cuts down my sugar and caloric intake by a ton.

Fourth, the money…I might have to give you that one. When it’s $7 for a bottle of pills that lasts you a few weeks, whereas some people spend $7 a day buying the coffee they need to get through the day (though I think those people may be crazy).

But I have one final counterpoint to contend with that excellent point of the cost of coffee vs. the cost of caffeine pills: coffee brings something more through the taste and often the experience of coffee.

What do caffeine pills taste like? Fake energy and plastic? Yum.

ImageCoffee — albeit, well made coffee, — brings flavor to your day, flavor to your life, and as I’ve talked about before, it can bring people together. You can make rituals and dates and communities over coffee, you can utilize coffee has an experience instead of just that boost of energy you need. This is probably one of the biggest things about coffee that I, myself, have learned through my new-found relationship with the delicious beverage, and I hope people won’t stray from coffee for convenience’s sake only.

The day that becomes acceptable is the day when the term “caffeine pill date” starts becoming a thing. That’s sound riveting, doesn’t it?

Vote for the Independent (Coffee Shop)

Embed from Getty Images

You walk into a Dunkin Donuts. You stand in a line, order your usual, and the coffee is presented to you in .2 seconds, pre-brewed with a quick pump of flavored syrup. Is it good? Most of the time. Is it convenient? Hell yes. Is it personalized? Not so much.

For some people, coffee is about a quick pick-me-up, keeping full, or enjoying a sugary coffee drink (Dunkacino shout out). And that is okay! The wonderful thing about coffee is that it can be a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

But for some people, coffee is more than just a quick, cheap stop on your way to class or work. For some people the flavor, the richness, the taste of the coffee is key. For others, the atmosphere of the coffee house plays into that. And while there’s nothing wrong with a Dunkins date or doing your homework in the dark corner of a Starbucks, there is something special about the atmosphere of an independent coffee house.

Independent coffee houses are often few and far between, which creates a strong sense of solidarity in them. Being an employee or a regular of that coffee house is something special; there is no other coffee house like that specific one, it is made unique by the people that visit it and the area it is located in.

I don’t think I could better capture the sense of community in independent coffee houses better than the small business support organization, Indie Coffee Shops, did:

“We believe that coffee chains pose a threat to the authenticity of our unique neighborhoods. Although there is room both the homogenous corporate enterprise and the independent ventures across the nation, our independent, community-operated businesses deserve your dime.”

They’ve got a good point there. Not only are you supporting a jewel in your community that represents your area and bring people together, but it is economically-savvy to help support small businesses.

Win, win? I think so, my friends.

So the next time you walk into your local indie coffee shop, look around and appreciate the fact that you are helping a community of coffee lovers thrive. Then pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.