Seasons change… and so do I

It’s the holidays and you’re probably looking forward to a seasonal drink. Maybe a pumpkin spice latte or a peppermint mocha. Perhaps a spiced eggnog latte. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

I know what you’re thinking. DoubleShot would just as soon serve dog $#!+ as even let one pump of Starbucks syrup pass through the golden gates of crema layered artfully atop our lattes. But not so fast. That was the old DoubleShot. The one with teenage angst. We’re nearly twenty now, and we’ve grown to appreciate the way salted caramel intermingles with the taste of a proper espresso. The way cinnamon and sugar round out the edges of a single-origin shot.

We’ve come to realize we have been too subtle all these years, relying on nuances to elevate an experience that, at the end of the day, really is just coffee. I’m guilty as charged, talking endlessly about berries and chocolates and nuts buried somewhere aromatically in the cup, indiscernible to most people, and probably just a figment of my imagination. Why did my wishful thinking cause me to strive to look for things in a cup of coffee that I could’ve just PUT into the coffee? My dad would say I was a “dumb head.”

But I’m cured. I get it now. PSL and all.

I remember way back when I first started drinking “coffee,” I’d go down to Seminary Street in my hometown of Galesburg. There was a boutique called Calico Cat that had all manner of shiny objects, including an entire Godiva Chocolate counter. A white, circular affair with glass panels guarding every conceivable combination of chocolate and flavored sugary ganache swirled into truffles and bonbons. Oh, the delights. It wasn’t just the flavored chocolates I was after though. I’d buy little sachets of pre-ground, flavored coffee and we’d brew them after dinner for a bougie treat. My favorite was chocolate mint. Went well with, not very imaginatively, chocolate cookies with those Andes mints melted on top.

Of course, that was when I had become more of a sophisticated coffee drinker. Once I’d gotten past the delectable (thence detestable) International Coffees in their rectangle tin cans lining the grocery store shelves. French Vanilla Café and Suisse Mocha, instant coffee at its finest.

Well then I went and got all sophisticated, as memories of those early “dessert coffees” swirled in my mind like the cacophony of smells erupting into the mall corridor from Gloria Jean’s bins of beans.

There has been an interesting trend in coffee over the past couple years. Whereas coffee in the 80s was all about spraying artificial flavors onto coffee beans after they’d been roasted (cheap, commodity coffee, might I add), nowadays producers are harvesting excellent varieties and fermenting them with adjuncts in order to produce wildly flavorful and aromatic beans. Coffee flavored at origin.

I recently spent a few days in Colombia, where I cupped coffees that had been fermented with bananas and peaches and strawberries, and a couple fruits you’ve never heard of. These were certainly interesting coffees, and for the most part they didn’t taste like you’d think they would. But the most striking coffee on the cupping table was a Pink Bourbon that was fermented with cinnamon. It tasted just like cinnamon. Reminded me of Java Dave’s “Snickerdelicious.” (When I first got involved in the Specialty Coffee industry, I’d tell people I was from Tulsa and they’d exclaim, “Snickerdelicious!” That’s the “specialty” coffee we were known for.)

Speaking of Pink Bourbon, that’s actually a coffee variety, not a Valentine-tinted whiskey. Bourbon was once a Typica, taken from Yemen and planted by the French on the Island of Bourbon – home of a famous variety of vanilla. French vanilla, you might say, since the French colonized the formerly uninhabited island and developed a plantation economy in the Indian Ocean. The name was changed after the fall of the Bourbon Dynasty to Réunion, then to Île Bonaparte (after Napoleon), and back to Bourbon a few years later, then “permanently” renamed Réunion after the French Revolution. The coffee went through a couple revolutions of its own. Mutating into a variety distinct from its Typica origins, the new strain has played a significant role in filling out coffee fields throughout the Americas. And thank your god they didn’t rename it Bonaparte.

Coffees normally ripen into red “cherries,” but Pink Bourbon actually ripens… pink! Tastes pink too. The cherries tend to grow a bit plumper than usual, bursting with sugary mucilage that aids in the fermentation and creates unique aromatics in the cup. I tasted one a few months ago that I fell in love with. Produced by a woman named Luz Helena Salazar in the Quindio region of Colombia, near the town of Armenia, the coffee really just made all the others pale in comparison. So I bought it, and I’ve roasted it, and it’s sitting on our shelves right now in pink bags and wrappers as the first Holiday Coffee release of the season.

A seasonal drink, you might call it. The coffee wasn’t fermented with cinnamon or anything. Just picked pink and put on raised drying beds where time and sunlight slowly shriveled the fruit into seed-filled raisins, the natural way. I didn’t roast it with fruits or spray any flavorings on it afterward. I actually performed a ritual on the little coffee beans, infusing them with flavors of the season. I stirred in a little passion. I sprayed on a little love. And I soaked them in the pinkest version of joy that I could find. I was going to kill them with kindness, but I thought that was a little much. I think when you taste this coffee, you’ll sense all the “adjuncts” that make this a true seasonal drink.

Imbued with cherry and lemon or plum and raspberry or raisin and banana, it’s a versatile coffee that stands up to different temperatures and grind sizes and spits out a variety of different flavors. Or maybe it’s my temperament that changes its taste, like the mood ring of coffee. I suggest drinking it “black,” as they say, sans milk or sugar or pumpkin spice. Maybe munch on a pink grapefruit tart while you’re at it.

I introduce to you DoubleShot Coffee Company’s first seasonal drink: The Pink Bonaparte.

OK, you’re right. I lied. I’m still a dumb head. Some things never change.

But most things do. And you might know, we’re coming to the end of an era. So enjoy these coffees while you can.

The Coffee Purist could change everything.