Home > Art, Coffee, What is it?, wine > Coffee and Wine – Ultimate Twins?

Coffee and Wine – Ultimate Twins?

February 11, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

img_7157I know that many of the wine lovers live by the principal “coffee in the morning, wine in the evening”. The sad part is that for many, coffee is just a source of the jolt, the charge for the day, so it is expected to be strong and bitter, to deliver that “wake up punch”. But it is not what the coffee should be – while coffee bean has no genetic relationship with the grape, spiritually, it offers the same qualities: it can be as nuanced as wine, and should be consumed for pleasure – I’m also assuming here that this is why one drinks wine, looking for pleasure.

Before I will make an effort to prove to you my “twin” statement, I want to mention first that this post is also an answer to the last Weekly [Wine] Quiz #122. The object in the picture is coffee – these are so-called coffee cherries, and the coffee beans are inside of those cherries. Red coffee cherries are the ripe ones, and once they reach that color, they will be picked – but more about it later. For now, I’m happy to say that we had a number of winners – Kirsten (The Armchair Sommelier), Bill (Duff’s Wines), Anthony (Oz’s Travels) and Danielle (Naggiar Vineyards) all correctly identified coffee cherries in that picture – congratulations to the winners, you all get the prize of unlimited bragging rights!

The reason coffee came to the forefront on the wine blog, is simple. Well, it is more than one. First of all, I love coffee. Growing up, I was spoiled – not with the best coffee beans necessarily, but rather with one of the very best preparation methods for the coffee – so called Turkish coffee, where the coffee is made without letting the liquid to boil. Second, I just came back after spending the week on Hawaii’s Big Island, a home to one of the very best coffees in the world – Kona coffee. See, I simply had to talk about the coffee.

So what is going on in the coffee world today that it starts resembling the wine world so much? You be the judge:

Terroir and Origin Protection.
There is a growing understanding that similar to wine grapes, it matters where the coffee beans are growing. Hawaiian Kona region is a 26 miles stretch of land along the coast of Pacific Ocean, with the elevations from 800 to 3000 feet above sea level. All Kona coffee can be harvested only within that stretch of the land – any addition of the coffee beans from outside of the designated borders will render the whole batch of coffee not eligible for “100% Kona Coffee” label. Jamaican Blue Mountain designation has similar protection, as I’m sure many other places around the world.  img_7161

Ancient trees.
In winemaking, “old vines” refers to the vines which can reach the age of 100+ and still produce delicious grapes. With proper care, coffee trees can do the same – the ones you see below are more than 110 years old (planted in 1900), and they are expected to produce good fruit for at least another 20 years:

coffee trees

Vintage designations, aging and blending.
An absolute majority of the wines specify their vintage on the bottle, the year when the grapes were harvested, and we all know – vintages matter, not all vintages are created equal, by the powerful hand of Mother Nature. I never heard of vintages in conjunction with the coffee – until now. If any of you are Nespresso fans, there is a good chance you recently received an email, offering Nespresso’s 2014 vintage (!) – here you can find the description of that coffee. I will take a liberty to quote a few lines from the description:

Nespresso experts selected promising fresh Arabica beans from the lush Colombian Highlands and stored them under certain controlled conditions to create a whole new sensory experience” – aged for 3 years.

“Nespresso experts selected a more sophisticated split roasting technique. One part of the beans was roasted lighter to protect the specific elegant aromas of these precious coffee, and the other part was roasted darker to reveal the maturity of the taste and enhance the richness of the texture” – blending!

Harvesting by hand.
Kona coffee is always harvested by hand. The major difference here, of course, that during the coffee’s growing season, which is typically July through February, the coffee is harvested 4-5 times,   were in most cases grapes are harvested only once. Nevertheless, the Kona coffee is harvested by hand, picking only red ripe coffee cherries and leaving greens to continue ripening in the cluster.

coffee berriesI hope you see my point about similarities between coffee and wine, and I think coffee producers are only starting following the steps of the winemakers – for instance, I’m sure we will see more single cru designations for the coffee, more blending and more aging. While production process of coffee and wine are very different, the similarities conjugate again in a major way once the final products reach the consumers. Both coffee and wine deliver pleasure. And it is all in the taste – the nuanced, seductive goodness, which delivers excitement to the taste buds and challenges the brain.

What is uniquely different between coffee and wine is what happening with each product in the “last mile”. The “last mile” literally non-existent in the world of wine – once the wine lands in the hands of the consumer, it is necessary only to open the bottle and enjoy. Yes, the consumer still can affect the taste – try rich California Cabernet served ice-cold – you will see what I’m talking about – but still, the consumer actions are minimally impactful around the wine.

With the coffee, it is a totally different story – even if properly roasted, the coffee still has to be prepared by the consumer, and opportunities to totally destroy the taste are boundless. But – this probably deserves its own post (or two).

That’s all I wanted to share with you for now. Are you a coffee drinker? Do you drink it only for the jolt, or do you actually seek pleasure in that cup? Cheers!

  1. February 11, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    I don’t drink coffee, but i totally enjoyed reading about it! Really interesting post.

    • talkavino
      February 12, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      It is never too late to start 🙂 Coffee gets better and better nowadays.

  2. February 11, 2017 at 10:46 pm

    For the pleasure 🙂
    I get a minor kick, but nothing worth spending time over. Coffee is a social and personal ritual for me. Sensory delight, so it’s a real shame when it’s made with less than spectacular results.

    • talkavino
      February 12, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      A sensory delight for sure!

  3. February 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Anatoli – interesting post, never thought about it that way, but you are right about the similarities. i like my coffee too. Apart from beans and terroir the way its roasted makes a difference and the water you use to prepare the atm of the machine etc etc. I think for wines the consumer can destroy be serving at wrong temp as you mentioned, this is frequently seen for reds, like a primitivo which people might serve at 20 degrees but which are best at around 12 degrees so says my resident expert, or reds in summer when its 35 degrees outside nd reds are served rt eg too hot. But i guess beyond temp you cant do too much to wine. For coffee the damage inflicted is endless – and whoever believes pots of filter coffee being heated abd reheated in US gas stations is coffee should reconsider. Coffee in Switzerland is often burned if you order an espresso. in the US I have had many really bad cups on the obe hand or ok cups that have been elevated to performance art, i think the place us called BLuebottle in SanFran. For me uou dont need theater to make great coffee, substance over style any day. The French and Germans don’t really serve great coffee either. Grenada has some excellent coffee too. But, for me the Italians and Ethiopians do the best job. Kona coffee i remember too, but prefer Italian roast style. If you can get your handson Elena coffee (small producer in liguria) Quarta coffee, small producer in Apulia, those are great roasts (arabica) love to hear your thoughts – I also go to a local guy who makes his own blends. This is a very random reponse to your post, but you get the gist!!! I agree. Same for cocoa pods and olive trees too though, thoughts?!!! Happy sunday poli

    • talkavino
      February 12, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      You’d be surprised, but I know of a few gas stations which make a decent cup of coffee. The situation much improved with gas station coffee, for sure in my area.
      How Italian roast differs from French roast? “Italian roast” is not a terminology you can hear here in the US. If it is the same as French roast, I’m not a big fun of it – I prefer medium roasts always, as they create more nuanced coffees – to my taste, of course…

      • February 13, 2017 at 3:48 am

        Hi Anatoli – oh I am sure there is decent coffee to be found now, last one I can remember, that wasn’t decent was Holiday Inn in Phoenix with a pot of filter coffee on a burner if I remember rightly, this was the breakfast buffet and it tasted, the coffee, not the breakfast, of burnt tire. Italian roast – I am not even sure it’s only the roast but also the way the coffee is prepared, french press, versus percolator, versus italian stove top espresso machines versus “shot pullers” is that what they are called? It was interesting that when googling coffee makers in English all I got were drip filter coffee makers, which pretty much died out here in Europe in the 80ies, to be replaced by more complex models. lastly of course how you grind impacts the flavour. So difference Italian or French roast, I don’t know, I had to look it up, the Italian roast is I suppose darker, but according to what I could find, this means that there is very little acidity of the young green bean left over in the final result and a smoother finish. I like my coffee to be round and not bitter, almost velvety or chocolatey with a good aroma. I really dislike it when it is highly acidic, which for some reason I have encountered mostly in drip filter coffees.
        Below wikis comments on coffee.
        If we ever meet I will make sure to bring you a little Italian roast just to see how you like it.

        PS love turkish coffee too, I have fond memories of drinking turkish style coffee with cardamom ground into it at the foot of Mount sinai

        (alt. Dark French, Neapolitan, Spanish, Heavy) is the name applied to a degree of roast of coffee beans resulting in a very dark brown bean. In this roast, the beans pass second crack. Italian roasted beans have a dark color and a shiny surface from its oils. Coffee brewed from Italian roasted beans will have very little of the natural characteristics inherent in the green bean, especially acidic notes. Flavors will range from bittersweet tones to burned or charred tastes[1].

        • talkavino
          February 15, 2017 at 6:02 pm

          Poli – we now have even more reasons to get together – now we need to do both wine tasting and coffee tasting…

  4. February 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Hi, A! We go out of our way for the best coffee (as you can imagine). Columbian? Eeew! I drink it for the taste, as I can’t handle the jolt. Decaf for me!!! We actually blend a combination of beans, to suit our preference, because no one has the blend we like best.

    I definitely see the resemblance between coffee and wine drinking. Besides all you mentioned, both are acquired tastes.

    Why coffee? I have a strong preference for bitter, and love its manifestation in kale, turnip greens, hoppy beer, dandelion, arugula, sesame seed…..

    • talkavino
      February 12, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      I hear you, Tracy! Do you roast your own coffee? What do you consider “the best” or at least one of the best?

      • February 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

        We don’t roast our own, but do grind our own. Right now, the best close to us (in Central MN), is Dunn Brothers, Sartell, where owner/operator Troy Turney roasts fresh daily. But at $16/pound, it’s a special treat, not our everyday thing. When we blend our own, we use 1/4 Sumatra, 1/4 Espresso or French roast, and 1/2 Kenya AA or a similar taste. Neither of us is partial to the citrusy-acidic taste of Columbian. We found a great little co-op in Wisconsin that roasts a terrific Mexican coffee. We like dark roasts. How about you?

        • talkavino
          February 15, 2017 at 5:59 pm

          I don’t go as far as creating my own blends 🙂 We have a very good store in the town where I live, Fairway Market, where the roast their own coffee and every time they have on hand 30+ different kinds. We usually by coffee there. Mostly I buy whole beans and we have the machine which grinds and brews regular coffee (not espresso). I also have a copper vessel for the Turkish coffee which I make once in a blue moon. But our second most used machine is Nespresso, and I love absolute majority of their coffees – most importantly, the quality is super-consistent.

  5. okiewinegirl2015
    February 13, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Morning Anatoli, it’s amazing what a delicious cup of coffee can do for one’s demeanor and outlook! I absolutely love the stuff and am surrounded by family that does too, they search for wonderful roasters where ever they go & bring back beans as often as wine bottles! I read an article once on coffee tasters who climb thru jungles and comb SouthAmerican villages to obtain beans and how their palettes are hypersensitive to the nuances in each region similar to wine tasters. Cheers to your next cup! 😊☕️

    • talkavino
      February 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Allison, I fully agree. And when people have passion, nothing can stop them.
      I had one of the very best cups of coffee at the Ethiopian restaurant, where the green beans were quickly roasted over the open fire, ground and steeped into something very delicious. No super-expensive and super-complicated machinery, just the same tools which were used for thousands of years…

  6. February 13, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Interesting comparison! Coffee and wine also both get incomprehensible (and expensive) tech upgrades from time to time. This coffee bar in Brooklyn has a “Steampunk” brewing machine that brews your coffee in a special way… for $3-$18 per cup.

    http://bedfordandbowery.com/2017/02/ultra-modern-steampunk-coffee-brewer-gets-a-showcase-cafe-in-brooklyn/

    • talkavino
      February 15, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      Yes, the tech upgrades can be insane. I read an article about some very special Japanese coffee machines which not only cost $20K+, but also require a very special training for the proper operation. Meanwhile, if you got a good coffee, a simple French Press makes wonders…

  7. February 16, 2017 at 3:32 am

    Hi Anatoli, I love your comment, a simple french press makes wonderful coffee. That was how I felt with the overly complicated approach to coffee some shops are using – mainly to give you a reason to spend 18 dollars, otherwise, you wouldn’t would you? It’s a bit like the emperors new clothes. I am not saying that there is no difference at all with good machines, if you are in italy they have the most wonderful machines that look very impressive, sadly I still don’t know how to post a photo but you know the ones I mean. and an espresso costs 1 euro – and it is amazing, never better, never thick and pungent, never tarry and never makes you pucker up your mouth in that universal sign, of, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t drink this (this happens to me most often when I order an espresso in Germany) – I am going to make a point here, it’s just taking me ages to getting there. At an airport lounge in the UK the wine was corked, the bottle was half empty. I told the waiter, who said, ah yes, that happens a lot, but many people cannot tell so we just leave it out, it always gets drunk. Now if many people in airport lounges cannot tell if the wine is corked, which is a major flaw that I would have thought most palates would pick up, then I am extrapolating that the individuals, who cannot distinguish between nuances of coffee flavour due to different preparation methods would have to be even higher, hence the question on whether the cost differences of prep methods are justified or whether it’s really emperors new clothes and smarty pants marketing for the majority of the target pop? Anyway – need to get on with the day, although it’s always fun conversing with you :)!

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