Coffee. The rich, dark, piping-hot elixir that binds all college students. I admit, I LOVE coffee. It's become as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth or checking my email. If there were a way to permanently attach my french press to my hand, I honestly would consider it.
"So, what's so great about a bitter-tasting, murky cup of joe?"
Being a barista, I've surprisingly been asked this questions more times than you may think. What is so great about coffee? Caffeine is generally the answer for most people, but not for me. Although the energy boost is an incentive to chugging down a cup or two before leaving the house, it's definitely not the main reason I drink it. I drink it because I like the flavor. A good cup of coffee should be nu†ty and full-bodied and complex. The aroma should linger in your mouth and nose long after you take a sip. But, this type of experience doesn't come out of a 99 cent jug of day old drip coffee from 7-eleven, sorry. If you truly want to taste, smell and experience coffee the way it should be, here are a few pointers:
1. Know where the coffee beans come from. If the roasters are local, they tend to baby their product. It's a competitive market out there, and in order to go up against the bigger companies (Starbucks) and survive, they need to have something even better to offer. Have you ever noticed how bitter Starbuck's coffee and espresso are? It's because machines oversee the roasting NOT actual, hardworking people. The senses are a huge part of properly roasting coffee beans. Machines can't smell when the caramelization stage is reached. Bottom line, respect in the roasting process can be tasted in the final product. Go local when you can.
2. If you're brewing from home, use a french press or a percolator. Yes, I realize brewing coffee this way is much more labor intensive, but the pay off for your patience is worth it. A french press requires a course grind. The coffee grounds steep in the water for several minutes, allowing their natural flavors and oils to stay in your coffee rather than get trapped in a paper filter. It does take a bit of practice to get the desired strength, but once you have it down, you'll never go back to drip. So, buy a local bag of coffee beans and experiment with your new french press!
3. Find a few local coffee shops in your area. Keyword here is LOCAL. I know Starbucks is seemingly ubiquitous, and thus, their coffee is readily available. But, compared to some of Salt Lake's best local places, Starbuck's coffee fails. Don't fall into the "caramel macchiato" trap. It's a made up drink, people! A traditional macchiato is far from the sugar-laden latte of Starbucks. Okay, it's sweet and fattening and some may say delicious, but it's an insult to coffee's flavor potential. So, like my suggestion to buy local beans, buy coffee from local coffee shops. The quality is always so much higher, and they don't tend to stray from the traditional. If your heart is set on a sweet coffee drink, try a regular latte or be bold and go for a soy cappuccino. Steamed milk and soy have a natural sweetness that doesn't over power the flavor of espresso.
Here are some suggestions for excellent local coffee shops in the Salt Lake area:
The Rose Establishment - 235 South 400 West
This place loves coffee just as much as I do. The design of the actual shop is adorable, and the drinks are very well made.
Salt Lake Roasting Company - 320 East 400 South
This is my favorite place to study. I can spend hours here sipping coffee and eating some of their house-made pastries.
The Coffee Garden - 898 East 900 South
This coffee shop is sophisticated and cool. It's a popular hang out for both business people and Salt Lake City hipsters. Their baristas know what they're doing.
Alchemy Coffee - 390 East 1700 South
Although this place is rather small, it is cozy and often quiet. The design is very eclectic and the employees are very friendly.
So, the next time you reach for that grande caramel macchiato, remember these tips to reach coffee nirvana!