By Marsha Fottler –
Next month, I’m going to participate in a coffee cupping event organized by one of the local publications in my town. Cupping, however, isn’t a local phenomenon, it’s a national trend that has to do with tasting several blends of coffees and evaluating each for acidity, body, sweetness and finish. You don’t need any special skills other than drinking and enjoying coffee daily. All coffee in a cupping event is served black. The idea is to sip several different blends and write down your thoughts about each coffee you taste. There is a form provided. The ritual requires that you look at the color, sniff the brew, take a sip letting the brew cover the inside of your mouth (swirl it a bit) and then you either swallow or spit. Then you record your impressions.
The cupping host (sometimes a representative for a particular brand of coffee, but not always), sets out cups, grinds the beans and brews the coffee for each cup to be tasted. The water ideally should be 202 degrees and after the cup is brewed and poured, the tasters wait about four minutes before trying. Generally, the tasters are silent during the experience. Being part of a cupping event can be a fun way to spend an evening with like-minded people. And you will probably get to sample things you may not be able to purchase locally. So, if you’ve invited to a coffee cupping and you already drink and enjoy coffee, there is every reason to accept the invitation.
There is also every reason to cook and bake with coffee. Here is one recipe I like very much and make often.
(The combination of chocolate and coffee, which results in mocha, is one of the best and most popular flavors in the dessert world. Serve these brownies cut in big squares and top with a dollop of coffee ice cream).
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon instant-espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 15-by 10-by 1-inch baking pan with foil and grease foil well with 1 tablespoon butter. Or use non-stick spray and omit the 1 tablespoon of butter. Melt remaining 11 tablespoons butter with unsweetened chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt (mixture will be grainy), then add eggs 1 at a time, whisking after each addition until batter is smooth.Toss together flour, chocolate chips and pecans in another bowl and add to batter, stirring until just combined. Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake in middle of oven until top is firm and edges just begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes (do not overbake). Cool in pan on a rack. Cut into large squares and remove from pan with spatula when cool.