Brew Love

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks

As I’ve written before, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until a few years ago. Even then, I’d only indulge a couple of times a week and would often take a break from coffee altogether for a month or more, but over the past year my boss has developed an addiction to Starbucks’ Chai Tea Latte—and addicts don’t like to drink alone.

She began bribing me to pick up her tea by offering to buy me a coffee, so each time I went I’d order whatever was featured on the board that day. Eventually, I moved through most of the menu (recently finding a favorite in their seasonal Juniper Latte), so when my mother informed me that she’d read about Starbucks’ new Rose Hazelnut Latte, I jumped at the chance to try it…only to discover that it’s actually available from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (mothers, amirite?).

Most people have taken sides in the Battle of the Brew, with SEAL* Team Starbucks in one camp and the “Bean” Berets in another, but I see myself as a sip-lomat—able to reconcile both. Since there’s a Coffee Bean location less than one mile from my house, I raced right over and HOLY HAZELNUT, THIS LATTE IS DELICIOUS!

Rose and hazelnut is not an obvious pairing, and I had been dubious about this duo, but it was like magic in my mouth. The rose dominates, while the hazelnut provides a subtle note of warmth. A common complaint with floral flavors is that they can taste like soap or perfume, but this rose is strong and sweet without being cloying. My mother, who doesn’t typically enjoy florals, declared this drink to be the best latte she’s ever tasted. Kirsti gave it an A+.

I have since tried both the iced and Ice Blended® versions (although I prefer it hot) and gained name recognition among the baristas, who informed me yesterday that this is a seasonal flavor—presumably for Valentine’s Day—which will only stick around for another week! Once I picked myself up off the floor, I began to gear up for a campaign to rescue Rose Hazelnut from retirement, because this is BREW LOVE, and brew love is supposed to last forever.

So get your latte while it’s hotte (or iced) and join me in contacting the company before this delightful drink becomes a has-bean.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Rose Hazelnut Latte

 

“Stellar” Espresso And Lattes

 

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Awesome Floss

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Sweets

Happy New Year, Swooners! Unfortunately, I spent much of my time over Christmas and New Year’s recovering from illness, so I wasn’t able to schedule our annual holiday posts, but I found comfort in sipping my new favorite drink: the Juniper Latte. I swoon over the scent of evergreen, but never thought it would grace my Grande until I saw this seasonal brew on Starbucks’ menu. Once I experienced the flavor of winter foliage, I wanted MORE of this “treet,” but adding pumps of the juniper syrup to my coffee order also meant adding unwanted sweetness, so I began to look online for a juniper extract to jazz up my java. That’s when I discovered Nature’s Flavors.

I ordered juniper in the form of an organic flavor concentrate (which works like a charm in my latte), but fell down the rabbit hole while exploring the many extracts, oils, syrups, powders, and other natural and organic flavors offered by the company. There were so many to choose from in such a variety of forms that I had to create a spreadsheet to make sense of them all! In addition to evergreen essences like juniper and pine, they have an endless assortment of fruit, vegetable, herb, spice, floral, liquor, and baking flavors, as well as surprising options running the gamut from acorn to zabaglione.

I wanted to try them ALL, but before I broke the bank buying up bottles, I found that they offered many of their flavors in the form of “floss.” Cotton candy may be referred to as candy floss or fairy floss in some parts of the world, but it’s still the same fairground staple we know and love, and it provides a light and (f)airy vehicle for sampling all types of tastes (Alfredo, anyone?). Naturally, I gravitated to the florals: jasmine, lavender, orange blossom, rose, violet…and one I’d never tried before—apple blossom. Awesome!

Nature’s Flavors also carries juniper cotton candy floss, but next time I might try something more daring, like dragon fruit, or bold, like bay. With their slew of selections, I won’t need a reminder to floss daily.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Nature’s Flavors Cotton Candy Floss

 

For the do-it-yourselfers, Nature’s Flavors offers all natural and organic cotton candy sugars. Click here for some more fun ways to floss.

 

Pluff Piece

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food & Drink, History, Hot Drinks, Tea

This date is steeped in history. Two hundred and forty-four years ago today, trouble was brewing in Boston Harbor as colonists, angry about the British Parliament’s recent tax on tea, boarded ships of the East India Company and tossed chests of imported tea into the water. To commemorate this act of defiance against taxation without representation, you can now host your own Boston Tea Party with American heritage teas from Oliver Pluff & Co.

A purveyor of historic beverages, Oliver Pluff offers Colonial teas and remedies, pressed tea bricks, coffee, toddy mixes, and other early American potables. I wrote about their cacao shell tea last year, which now comes in a mint mixture that is perfect for seasonal sipping. Also apt for the holidays are their wassail mulling blends for making spiced wine and cider.

Among a variety of themed collections is a Teas of the Boston Tea Party gift box, featuring five teas that were popular in 18th-century America. A favorite of colonists was Bohea, a blend of pekoe and souchong teas with a strong, smoky flavor that will have you yelling, “Boo-hee!”

Taxes are once again on everyone’s mind, so after you stand up to make your voice heard on the issue, sit down to enjoy a cup of Colonial coffee or tea and celebrate the freedom to participate in representative government. There’s still time to treat yourself or someone on your list to a taste of history this holiday season with a gift from Oliver Pluff.

Leaf and bean come to you, and to you your wassail too, and we bless you and send you a Happy New Year. Cheers! ☕


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Oliver Pluff & Co.

 

Turn to Mushrooms

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Wellness

In a recent email to his subscribers, Tim Ferriss recommended the Superfood Mushroom Sampler Box from Four Sigmatic. Despite our sleep mask setback, I decided to order the box after reading about Tim’s experience with their mushroom coffee: “I was on FIRE for the entire day. I got more done that day than three or four days prior to that.” For a product that claims to deliver energy and focus with less than half the caffeine of regular coffee and none of the jitters, this was a ringing endorsement.

The “Finnish Funguys” at Four Sigmatic combine mushrooms, adaptogens, and superfoods to make earthy elixirs with nootropic properties. Translation: these plant-based brews can improve mental clarity, enhance memory, and increase productivity.* I was excited to try the samples, including two coffees, two hot cocoas, and four tea-like blends, but when I told Kirsti that I’d ordered mushroom coffee, her reaction was immediate and emphatic: “Yuck!” I thought she’d be intrigued, having just returned from a trip to Finland, where she found both the country and the people to be beautiful and charming, but she’s a coffee purist who was horrified at the thought of a fungus among us. Her too cool for toadstools attitude meant that I was on my own with this experiment.

Check out the effects of coffee #onshrooms.

I’d been expecting the mushroom coffee to taste just like java, but it had a slightly burnt flavor that wasn’t wholly unpleasant, although it wouldn’t pass muster with a coffee connoisseur. What I didn’t actually expect was the physical and mental boost I experienced during the day. I’d already been at work for hours flitting from project to project and talking a mile a minute before it occurred to me that this excellent new work ethic might simply be the effects of my morning joe. I stopped to check in with myself: no jitters or agitation, merely a feeling of energy and drive.

I waited a couple of days and tried the second packet of coffee. Again, I felt that increased and sustained energy as I went about my day. Since I’m not usually a strong placebo responder, I can only attribute the vroom to the ‘shroom. I’ve tried the hot cacao mixes (not sweet enough for me, but easily remedied) and the four elixirs, which tasted like bitter herbal tea. The addition of stevia leaf to Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane and Reishi softens the edge and imparts a light sweetness, but Chaga is best downed like a shot. To help make sense of its sampler, the company has compiled this handy guide, or enroll in their free Mushroom Academy.

The brew that started it all may be more “champignon of coffee” than champagne of coffee, but if you’re looking for a pick-me-up at work that won’t get you worked up, a comforting cup of Four Sigmatic will make you turn to mushrooms. So live like the Funguys and give these fungi a try.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Four Sigmatic Superfood Mushroom Sampler Box

 

As of this writing, the Superfood Mushroom Sampler Box is sold out, but Four Sigmatic products are available separately or in discounted bundles.

For a more in-depth review of Four Sigmatic and their mushroom coffee, visit Nootropedia.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, so nobody’s minding the spore. Drink responsibly.

 

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Coffee, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and while I may not be Irish, I like to celebrate a holiday on which people are encouraged to dress in my favorite color. Always having some article of green clothing on hand, I haven’t been pinched yet!

Sweet Dreams 1This year, in addition to the wearin’ o’ the green, I’ll be drinkin’ o’ the Dream. In our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide, I chose Dream Catcher Legendary Toasted Irish Liqueur as one of my picks, and I’ve discovered that it makes a swoon-worthy Irish coffee. Simply replace the traditional whiskey with an equal amount of Dream Catcher and top with whipped cream. It’s magically delicious!

Serve up a mug with breakfast and you’ll feel on top o’ the mornin’. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a wee nip while you avoid a wee pinch. As a nightcap, the comforting warmth of the coffee and liqueur will help you catch some Zzzzz…and net some sweet dreams.

With luck, there’s still time to lurk in the liquor aisle and trap this treat from the Emerald Isle to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. One sip of this toasted chestnut liqueur and you’ll know you’ve found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Sweet Dreams 2DREAM CATCHER IRISH COFFEE (adapted from the Food Network)

1 cup freshly-brewed hot coffee
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 ½ oz. (3 Tbsp.) Dream Catcher Irish liqueur
heavy whipping cream and sugar, to taste*

Whip the cream with a beater or whisk until stiff peaks form, adding sugar, to taste (if desired). Set aside.

Fill a footed mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Dream Catcher Irish liqueur. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!

*To veganize this recipe, substitute whipped coconut cream for dairy whipping cream.

 

For a store locator and recipes featuring Dream Catcher Irish liqueur, visit the company’s website.

 

Going Native

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Sweets

Going Native 1I rarely consume dairy milk, but I wasn’t crazy about most of the alternatives until I discovered the wonders of coconut milk. I’m not talking about the highly diluted version sold in Tetra Paks that you can find on store shelves next to the almond, soy, and hemp milks. I mean the thick, creamy coconut milk sold in cans that is located in the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets.

I found my way to canned coconut milk when I was looking for a natural, non-dairy creamer to use in my morning coffee and brewed chocolate. I like to control the amount and type of sweetener I add, but all of the soy and coconut creamers I’ve come across contain sugar, and the milk alternatives are too light to replace creamer. When I decided to try canned coconut milk, I went…well…coconuts!

Going Native 2Over the years, I’ve tried many different brands and grades of coconut milk, and Native Forest is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. It comes in three varieties, but I’ve only seen the Classic and Light versions at my local market. The Light Coconut Milk has a beautifully smooth texture and a mild, sweet flavor that mixes well with coffee and tea. It can be thinned with water and poured over cereal or used in any recipe that calls for milk. I use the full-fat Classic Coconut Milk to make non-dairy ice cream and whipped coconut cream. Melt a bar of dark chocolate in a pan of hot coconut milk for the most swoon-worthy cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

All of Native Forest’s coconut milks are organic and come packaged in BPA-free cans. Once opened, the milk should be consumed within four days, but I get around this by freezing it in ice cube trays. I just pop a few cubes out every couple of days and let them thaw in the fridge until I need them. The cans are shelf-stable for years, so I always keep several on hand.

This past week, I saw Native Forest coconut milk at Trader Joe’s, where they were selling it for half the price I normally pay. Previously, I’d only found the brand at health food stores and high-end markets, so I asked an employee about it. He said that Trader Joe’s is repackaging its own coconut milk and sourced the Native Forest brand to offer as an alternative in the meantime. I have no idea how long the situation will last, so I suggest you look for this fantastic deal and milk it for all it’s worth.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk

 

Native Forest coconut milk is sold at Whole Foods and some health food stores. It is available at Trader Joe’s for a limited time.

 

Update 7/20/16:

Native Forest Coconut Milk PowderNative Forest now offers a convenient Coconut Milk Powder. Just like their canned coconut milks, the powdered version is vegan and gluten-free. It dissolves instantly in hot water, making it ideal for use as a non-dairy creamer. It also comes in a resealable pouch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great for travel or if (like me) you don’t have a fridge at work. Mix with cocoa powder and a little xylitol for a quick and easy sugar-free hot chocolate. That may not sound appealing in the midst of this heat wave, but fall will be here before you know it, so enjoy your summer vacation and be sure to take the powder when you take a powder.

Native Forest Coconut Milk can be purchased at Sprouts, the stores mentioned above, or online from AmazonEdward & Sons, and Thrive Market.

 

Loca for Mokka

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks

I am not a morning person. For most of my life I’ve leapt out of bed with just enough time to throw on some clothes, run a brush through my hair, and grab a toaster pastry or a bowl of cereal before heading out the door. Savoring a mug of freshly-brewed coffee isn’t in the cards, so I never developed the habit of most Americans to start the day with a cup of joe. I acquired a taste for afternoon tea instead and almost took pride in the fact that I drank coffee only a few times a year.

Loca for Mokka 1A while ago, I started seeing bottles of cold-brewed coffee on the shelves of various local markets. The idea of simply adding hot water to a ready-made concentrate appealed to me, so I decided to try it out and found that I enjoyed having a cup of coffee with my croissant on the weekends. Using the concentrate, I began to drink coffee more and more frequently, although not enough to become addicted (unlike my co-swooner, whose sunny personality has been known to turn dark when her caffeine fix is not delivered in a timely manner).

Loca for Mokka 2One day, when I’d run out of cold-brewed coffee and hadn’t yet been to the store to buy another bottle, I saw an open bag of Maui Mokka coffee in my mother’s refrigerator, which she’d brought back from a recent trip to Hawaii. The bag was full and it smelled divine, so I decided to appropriate a small amount to hold me until I could buy more concentrate. Having only tea accoutrements, I put the coffee in a pot with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes before pouring the brew through a fine mesh strainer. Delicious!

When I ran out, I pilfered more coffee from the green bag in my mother’s fridge. I figured she wouldn’t notice such small amounts, but this went on for more than two months. On the day I realized that there were only a couple of scoops left in the bag, I knew the jig was up. Loca for Mokka 3Innocently, I asked her, “How attached are you to this Maui Mokka coffee?” This is my sly way of saying I want something (i.e., “How attached are you to this cookie?” “How attached are you to the rest of these potato chips?”), and the response is, invariably, “Oh, you can have it.” So I was dismayed when she said, “I’m saving it for when Sophia arrives [her friend who was soon to visit from Greece].” Damn.

I had to come clean. She was none too happy, so I offered to buy another bag online. In doing so, I discovered that MauiGrown Coffee refers to their Mokka variety as “our Champagne of coffee”—and that it was going to cost me more than $40 to have a bag shipped from Hawaii. Crime doesn’t pay, but I did!

Since then, I’ve had to drink other brands, but—though I’m by no means a connoisseur—I haven’t liked any coffee as well as the Maui Mokka. And, although my mother often drinks decaf, I suspect that she asked me to order the decaffeinated version for her because she knew I wouldn’t touch it. So I got the decaf and she got the last laugh. Alo-ha!

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Maui Mokka Coffee

 

Maui Mokka coffee can be obtained by ordering from the MauiGrown Coffee website or by hopping on a plane to Hawaii. I recommend the latter.