It's not a secret that I prefer spending my time in the kitchen creating rather than on the shop floor, but I find it beneficial to do this from time to time. Last week I have spent a few hours behind the counter, listening to customers' orders and feedback. This made me thinking about writing a quick blogpost about coffee.
Once my lovely team has been confirmed, I have called a trainer barista to set my staff for success. I am Italian, and, as you can imagine, I do take my coffee black, short and very seriously. Therefore the importance of spending a few hours with a proper trainer to get those coffees right. Sadly, sometimes all our efforts are vain. This is because, in 90% of the coffee shops, coffee is served wrong, mostly too hot, making "seriously bad coffee", the norm.
There is nothing wrong in having preferences that are not "by the rule", but you should be aware that this is the case, and be specific when you order and let the barista know what you like. After all, there are people that like pineapple on pizza or the steaks well done. To each their own, right?
So, what are these rules that make a coffee, the best?
1- Quality counts: like tea, quality does count. Surely there is a difference between "builder's tea" and some coming in those fancy tins, right? We serve "Supremo" by Italian Aroma Coffee. We get told daily that our coffee is outstanding and we believe in the product so much, that we have made it available for our customers to bring it home with them. You can also order it online here.
2- Milky coffees (read cappuccino, latte, flat whites, etc...) are served at a specific temperature. The magic of the perfect foam happens between 55 and 65 degrees. Within this range, the milk proteins form the perfect microfoam that makes our coffee so special. Also, cow's milk, maintains its natural sweetness. Last but not least, milk curdles over 82 degrees. So, if you really love your coffee extra hot it's ok, but you have to specify when ordering, because no serious trained barista would ever do that unless asked.
3- Plant based milks are tricky, but we know hot to handle them. We have available 4 different kinds of plant based milks, to satisfy every customer. One of my staff is dairy intolerant and she is the absolute star of all our dairy free products, including our hot drinks. There is something you should know about these, though. Because of the nature of these milks, they tend to get served under 60 degrees. This is because none of them handles high temperatures really well. The proteins break easily turning a latte in a flat white in a space of a couple of minutes. The best plant based milk for coffee is soy, then oat. Coconut is ok, although most people find the combined taste with coffee a bit weird. Almond is the leanest and weakest one of them all, so, not great with foam. I personally think it's best with iced coffee.
4- Latte or Flat white. What's the difference? Generally speaking, latte is stronger. Mostly made with 2 shots, it has a thicker layer of foam on top, making the proportion between coffee and milk, on the stronger side. A flat white is usually with 1 or 2 shots, with more milk and less foam, so, a lighter and milkier coffee.
The size of the cup has nothing to do with the type of coffee (unless you order an espresso). It's a common misconception that a latte is a larger coffee than a flat white. This is because the 2 big American names of the coffee shops chains have decided that that's how they were going to serve them.
Just for a little bit of fun: if you are travelling to Italy and you order a "latte", you are going to be handed a cup of plain milk. "Latte" means milk in Italian, it's not a type of coffee.
5- Cappuccino. Ok, this is not really a rule, but a bit of light fun at the end of, what I hope this was, an informative little post. If your barista is Italian, they will find quite weird to serve a cappuccino after 11AM. We consider this coffee (or any milky coffee really) just for breakfast. It took me ages to adapt to this habit. Also, if I am not sure of the quality of the coffee served, or the skills of who's making it, I'd rather have a cappuccino than a bad espresso. Also, do you know where is the name of this type of coffee coming from? The name comes from the Capuchin friars, referring to the colour of their habits, and in this context referring to the colour of the beverage when milk is added in small portion to dark, brewed coffee (today mostly espresso).