To all the tea drinkers out there, I apologize in advance for coffee’s monopoly on the conversation in this week’s column.
I am someone who enjoys both these hot beverages, so I want you to know I will give tea its equal due in a future column very soon. In the meantime, feel free to sip whatever you like as I take you on a wild ride learning a few recent innovations in drinking a good old cup of joe.
Coffee comes in many variations, what with different roasts in beans and the many permutations of dairy and added flavours that can be combined. It can be drunk hot and cold. But like most things in today’s world, there is apparently no end to the new innovations that can be created and sold.
I was dismayed when I first heard about “bulletproof coffee” with its addition of coconut oil, thinking that was just another avant-garde health craze. Certainly it does add a creamy sort of texture to the coffee, but I wasn’t convinced it was my cup of tea. (Sorry to be mixing my metaphors but mixed up was how it made me feel.)
I wondered, were we messing too much with one of the world’s time-honoured beverages? Was this the kind of thing that might just put a crack in the multiverse or at least change the future in this one?
The modern version of roasted coffee is said to have started in Arabia, as a popular stimulating beverage useful in long prayer sessions. In the 1600s many European countries established coffee estates in tropical regions to compete in the trade as coffeehouses sprang up across the continent. They were the centres of society, where many intellectual discussions were held on topics from politics to art.
In America, the Boston Tea Party in 1773 was perhaps the biggest turning point in encouraging people to drink coffee. By the late 1800s coffee had become a worldwide sensation. It is now the second most commodity traded in the world, after oil.
Coffee culture is different around the world, but nowhere does it seem as pervasive as Italy. Getting a coffee is a social activity in Italy that embraces people of all socio-economic levels; it is not seen as a luxury but a right.
Starbucks may serve Italian-style coffee, but it took them almost 50 years to open a store in Italy. There, the notion of big chains is often seen as suspicious. There is much more support and loyalty for small, neighbourhood businesses. Tradition holds a special place in people’s hearts, even with all the modern advances in any industry.
I was curious this week when I read an article about Starbucks’ new venture called Oleato beverages. It turns out Howard Schultz, the founder, was in Italy last year and he came up with a new idea. What would it taste like, he thought, if they combined two morning rituals from Sicily—a shot of olive oil and that first dose of coffee. Talk about mixing things up!
This is for real – the Starbucks testing lab has developed and sampled new drinks that contain olive oil infused in the coffee or the milk. They will be debuting in Seattle and Los Angeles this spring. You can see how they do it in this video.
I did read another article this week, and it took another approach on adjusting your daily coffee for a better experience. This one was entitled, “How to make bad coffee taste better”. Part of me was saying that life is too short to bother with bad coffee in the first place, but my curiosity got the better of me. If you’re curious too, you can read it here.
My favourite coffee pastime learned in my research this week was an Italian one. Maybe I’m just old-school in liking an old tradition, but I do think Starbucks could add “caffè sospeso” to their menu. It means “suspended coffee”, and it’s the act of buying an extra coffee for someone else – a stranger who cannot afford it.
I am a firm believer that life is all about the experiences we have and the meaning we take from them. I suppose it doesn’t really matter how you take your coffee, as long as you enjoy it. And if we can help someone else enjoy theirs too by sharing our experience in some way, doesn’t that magnify the good vibes?
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.