There are people with good taste. Then there are people who are good tasters. Shannon Steele, roaster and brew specialist at Passion House Coffee, has a preternatural skill at discerning flavors in coffee and, as I have found lately, her skill translates equally well into the world of food – she recommended a cookbook that I had dismissed wrongly which turned out to be fantastic – and gin – she recommended a wonderfully aromatic French gin.
When Shannon talks about flavors, I listen. When she combines a little food with coffee, I drop what I am doing to listen, then immediately follow along. I wrote last year about my preferred method for cold brewing coffee, so when Shannon mentioned infusing her cold brew with basil and lime, my ears perked up.
For the longest time, every time iced coffee came along, it was dull and bitter – which is why you see most iced coffees loaded down with sugar and cream. The thought of steeping the cold brew with citrus and herbs really interested me and the addition of fizzy soda water pushed me to act immediately. I had tried the combination of cold brew and soda water at Next, it was Passion House coffee and Shannon’s bending the ear of the staff no doubt, and loved the lightness it brought to iced coffee. Continuing to add lightness, brightness and flavor was too intriguing to wait.
After brewing a particularly strong batch of cold brew (100g coffee, 200g water off the boil, 550g ice water), combinations began to bounce in my head. I have a lovely lavender bush in the yard and, after trying a roast of coffee this summer with serious lavender notes, I thought the pairing would work, so I added flowers from 2 sprigs. Since it was my first shot at this, I stuck with the herb/citrus pairing and added zest from half of a lemon. I briefly consider orange zest, but I wanted tartness not sweetness.
After a brief steeping period (8 hours), I strained the coffee again and chilled it. In the evening, I filled a tumbler with ice, then a bit of sparkling soda water. After adding the cold brew, I smelled not only the coffee, but the lavender as well. The flavors from the lemon were more forward than the lavender, despite the aroma being amazingly strong. The coffee sparkled even beyond the bubbles from the soda water. The combination of coffee roasted with skill and brewed with care combined with a few small additions made this cold brew an incredible treat.
Brainstorming later with Shannon, I think my next go will be with anise hyssop flowers and noyaux. Kind of a bubble gum/almond combination that will differ substantially from the herb/citrus combination, but has possibilities.