The Buzz on Grab ‘n Go Coffees

By Marisa Finetti & Kirk Peterson

Prized for its ability to cool and caffeinate, iced coffee is a warm-weather ritual. Ready-To-Drink single serving versions are perfect for on-the-go, but which one will you choose – the traditional iced coffee, or the increasingly popular cold brew? I’ve teamed up with sommelier and beverage director of B&B Hospitality Group Las Vegas Kirk Peterson (a fellow coffee addict and contributing wine writer) to taste (and smell) a sampling of both styles to help “filter” through the choices.

Cold Brew (CB):  Created by steeping ground coffee in room temperature water for 12+ hours, the result is typically unadulterated flavors and aromas of coffee with less acidity.

Iced Coffee (IC): Brewed hot coffee that is cooled instantly is often blended with flavor enhancers resulting in a tasty, often-time sweet and milky beverage.

1. Chameleon – Espresso Coffee (CB): This medium-bodied black coffee is round, supple and smooth with Swiss Miss cocoa-like qualities and a mellow finish.

2. Stumptown Original (CB):  Portland-based coffee roasters’ original brew is ever-so-slightly reminiscent of instant coffee crystals.  Quite angular and high-acid for cold brew, this lightly-roasted style offers aromas of bell pepper and over-steeped tea.

3. Kohana – Sweet Black (CB):  Delicate and faintly sweetened (by monk fruit) coffee has aromas of caramel, walnut, and banana. Zero tannins makes it soft and easy to drink.

4. High Brew – Double Espresso (CB):  Boldly flavored with medium acidity and a touch of condensed milk, making a creamy and generous coffee that reminds of chocolate milk and butterscotch.

5. Lucky Jack- Old School (CB):  Las Vegas coffee company delivers a lightly effervescent brew that recalls the aroma of a fresh-brewed pot of classic diner Joe with good body, mild acidity, and minimal bitterness.

6. illy issimo Caffè No Sugar (IC): This Italian coffee company offers outstanding, bold taste with all the qualities of freshly-brewed espresso (cold): velvety texture, measured earthiness, balanced bitterness, and a smidge of caramel.

7. Bob Marley’s One Drop- Coffee (IC): Made from Jamaican beans, the taste is creamy, sweet, and smooth with subtle vanilla and cane sugar flavors.

8. UCC Original with Milk (IC): The original coffee in the can from Japan is light, sweet, milky, slightly bitter, and charming in its simplicity.

The Buzz:  If you’re more of a Frappuccino fan and prefer your coffee softened with sweetness, then go more for the traditional iced-coffee.  Drink cold brew if you enjoy a well-crafted coffee-flavored coffee, tend to enjoy your coffee unadulterated by cream and sugar, or are worried about your hipster street cred.

This piece originally appeared in VEGAS SEVEN http://www.vegasseven.com

Coffee from Vietnam Brews Hope

Occasionally, I’ll drop in to the thrift store to hunt for treasures, such as an overlooked vintage Bauer or McCoy pottery.  But, this time I came across a display of coffee from Vietnam.  It wasn’t too surprising, since Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world, after Brazil. But, what I didn’t know was the partnership between the coffee farmers in Vietnam and The Salvation Army.   If you haven’t already heard of this coffee,  it’s a good story.

Pleiku, which is located in central Vietnam, is largely covered with coffee plantations.  The local people live in small villages wedged between the plantations, and through years of isolation, these communities have developed their own language and culture. In an effort to help these poor communities,  The Salvation Army started a partnership with the Pleiku coffee network in 2009 with the purchase of 44,000 pounds of beans. It’s been going strong ever since.

In general, the world loves Arabica coffee beans, but what is largely grown in Vietnam is Robusta, which has a harsher, stronger taste. Its higher caffeine content (double that of Arabica) also makes it slightly more bitter.

Cafe La V _coffee_love_and_relish_blog

The Salvation Army hired a San Francisco coffee company to come up with the right blend:  75% Robusta from Vietnam and 25%  Arabica from Guatemala. If you’re wondering what this blend tastes like, think Café Du Monde without the chicory.  What you’ll find in The Salvation Army stores is called Cafe La V.  The brown foil bag features a big map of its country of origin. I love the saying on the back, which reads, “FRESH HOT HOPE.”

coffee_vietnam_condesed_milk

While Robusta is generally regarded as inferior to Arabica, it’s still good coffee.   The slightly bitter, earthy flavor of the Robusta is balanced with the more delicate sweet flavor of the Arabica.

Try preparing the coffee Vietnamese-style by adding one to four tablespoons of rich and gooey sweetened condemned milk to your cup.  Knowing that the proceeds from the purchase of this coffee assists local farmers and various projects in Vietnam makes each sip a sweet “feel good” experience.