by Ann Zuccardy
Back in the mid-80s (yikes, was it really
20 years ago?), I was a young teacher working in New Orleans.
To earn extra money, I worked part time across the street
from my Magazine Street apartment, at PJ's Coffee and Tea.
Having grown up on instant Maxwell House, I was not the most
coffee-savvy drinker in the world.
In the days before Starbucks, before coffee
houses became trendy and common, I learned the basics about
roasting coffee beans and serving coffee from experts. I learned
about coffee's origins, roasting methods, and how to prepare
the ultimate cup. In my opinion, the best cup of coffee can
only be made with a French press, a glass carafe in which
you mix ground coffee, boiling water, and use a simple plunger-press
device to push the grounds to the bottom when you want to
serve the coffee. This is the best way to make coffee because
you don't "cook" the coffee as you would in a drip machine.
Cooking coffee releases its acidity and makes it bitter. I
was so in love with my French press, I used to bring it on
camping trips. There's nothing quite like rolling out of your
tent in the woods at dawn, wrapping your cold hands around
a warm cup (not a paper cup, perish the thought!) and sipping
slowly as you tend the fire for your morning breakfast.
I might also argue that the cold drip method
is up there with the French press. This method produces a
coffee concentrate that you can keep in your fridge, but it's
slow and I believe best suited for iced coffee, which is how
I learned it at PJs.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-drip or
anti-percolator. Heavens, no! For large scale convenience,
there's nothing like machinery. I own a drip coffee maker
and a Krups cappucino/espresso maker and use them frequently.
When I'm bolting out the door in the morning, I fill my metal
thermal mug (never plastic, ick!) with a dark, rich French
roast. If it's a particularly good roast, I drink it black
so as not to sully the flavor. If it's mediocre or I'm just
in the mood for light coffee, I use Half-and-Half. No sugar
in my coffee, thank you. My husband uses skim milk which upsets
me to no end because it produces a grayish colored murky coffee
I find unappealling. But hey, he likes it and as long as he
knows never to use skim milk in MY coffee, we're cool.
Now about those flavored coffees...I often
take flack for this, but let me say I am vehemently opposed
to flavored coffee. Coffee IS a flavor, so adding additional
flavor to it is like adding ice cubes and club soda to a pricey
bottle of merlot. How would you possibly appreciate the personality
of a bottle of wine if you added extra stuff to it? You'd
change the entire personality of something elegant and simple
and make it complicated and confusing. With coffee, as with
many foods and drinks, simplicity is elegant.
Back in my coffee house days, we did not
serve flavored coffees. We offered a dark roast, a medium
roast, and a water-processed decaf to our customers along
with an assortment of fresh baked goods, made from scratch
by local bakers. We believed flavored coffees were just wrong
because they covered up the true essence and beauty of the
bean. Plus they weren't popular then. I know they are popular
now. The rows of syrupy flavors in bottles lined up in some
coffee bars are testimony to the popularity of flavored coffee.
I'll pass, thank you.
To eat or not to eat with coffee? Again,
keep it simple. Toast or an English muffin and a steaming
cup of java comprise the ultimate breakfast. A medium roast
in the afternoon with fresh biscotti is heaven. A demi-tasse
of dark espresso with the tiniest slice of lemon rubbed around
the edge of the cup allows me to linger and enjoy the afterglow
of a perfect meal.
Ahhh, did I mention shortbread and coffee?
Always appreciated, always appropriate, a wedge of Vermont
Shortbread with your coffee is the ultimate in luxury and
pampering. It's probably not something you'd eat every day,
but for those times when you want to practice extra self-care,
why not enjoy your coffee with the most elegant and simple
of all cookies, shortbread?
When food and drink are pure, simple, and
flavorful without being contrived, you will want to savor
them slowly and purposefully. You will want to sit quietly
with your steaming cup and your snack with your eyes gently
closed and allow flavors, aroma, and warmth to dance their
slow, sensual dance of comfort and nurturing. And guess what?
The world feels a whole lot friendlier when you take the time
to enjoy the simple beauty in your bean...or in whatever you're
eating and drinking.
Ann Zuccardy, creative entrepreneur, food
lover and owner of the Vermont Shortbread Company, invites
you to sample a taste of her buttery-rich, authentic Vermont
Shortbread. Place your online order for shortbread
boxed fresh from the oven and shipped right to your doorstep
(Back to Shortbread Articles