Nespresso, Tequila and (good grief) Bourbon are not exactly libations that come to mind when I think of drinks that I would like to consume let alone mix. I am more of a dirty martini, G&T and Champagne lover kind of lady. For heaven’s sake, I don’t even drink coffee for that matter.
References to cappuccinos, espressos, macchiatos and Americanos have more than often left me in a state of bewilderment…seriously! The array of java terms and coffee lingos when ordering these coffee bean concoctions have always sounded like another language that Rosetta Stone would be offering in order to get by in today’s society.
But here I was, wanting to step out of my comfort level and educate myself on areas in which I have always avoided. This grasshopper had so much to learn from the masters…one step at a time or in this case, one cup and glass at a time.
Waiting for the spirit tasting class to commence at the Wine and Food Festival hosted by the uber elegant Ritz Carlton Cancun Hotel , I was very happy and excited to hear that the wine director (a select few chosen for the festival) was Canada’s very own, Elyse Lambert! (Go Canada, Go!!!) Lambert has made Canada very proud by bringing home the title of BEST SOMMELIER OF CANADA 2015! Lambert’s career as a sommelier has garnered her with numerous achievements and titles, including being classed in the top 12 sommeliers in the world in 2010. And here she was, about to teach this grasshopper the tapestry of flavours involving spirits and coffee!
Lambert passionately explained that she wanted to integrate not just wine, but also how it integrates with coffee, tea and cigars for the ‘after dinner’ experience. Lambert for the past 2-3yrs has been working with Nespresso where she acquired the Coffee Sommelier Program in Switzerland. Ok, this is the part where I was literally in shock…a coffee sommelier program? really?! No disrespect intended, it’s just that I never realized that there was so much involved in learning about the perfect or ideal marriage between coffee and spirits. But then again, that’s why I was here attending the class right? To learn and hopefully appreciate the science and fundamentals behind the pairings that I was soon to try.
Elyse Lambert in her element…teaching about coffee and spirit pairings
All this time, I just saw coffee as some black tar-like substance that managed to keep people focused and functioning and at times overtly jittery. The only time I would ever ‘indulge’ in coffee would be ironically enough on vacation. Don’t ask why only on vacation? I’m convinced that when I’m on vacation my alter ego kicks in and ‘she’ likes to ‘try new things’ – one of which is drinking coffee. But I have to explain that my idea of coffee would usually consist of 4-5 sachets of sugar to make it somewhat ‘tasteful’ for me to enjoy – a diabetics nightmare!
Lambert explained that it was very hard to have a perfect coffee pairing when the coffee taste ‘is always different’. However, she has found that with Nespresso, its flavours are consistently guaranteed and that is one of the main reasons as to why she had joined forces with the brand. Nepresso without fail always has the same true taste without ever swaying on its signature flavours – “It’s stupid simple…having a good day, bad day, tired or happy – all you have to do is push the button and you always have the same coffee!”
It was insightful to learn that coffee can be ‘read’ much like wine, bearing in mind that coffee has a different level of power, has different levels of acidity and its with these components that with time it will change the overall taste. Avid coffee drinkers know without a doubt that coffee can be more robust depending on the type, just like how certain wines can have more tannins – all of which affect the pivotal taste.
Much like in wine tastings, there are factors that play critical roles in tasting coffee: the visual, the olfactory and the gustatory. I quickly learned that the cute silver spoon placed in front of me played a more important role than just aesthetics. I was about to learn that there was a certain way to properly taste coffee, to fully appreciate its multitude of flavours. Just ask any wine aficionado and they will be more than happy to point out the ‘do’s and don’ts’ to savouring wine and it all starts with how you hold the glass. The spoon was not meant to mix or blend the frothy crema but rather to dig and scoop, to see how the ‘crema’ (the beautiful hazelnut-colored foam) was consistent, to view the color of the crema and eventually to sip on. For those of you like myself, who thought ‘crema’ was another coffee term for frothy cream…we were wrong. Crema is not based on cream or milk but rather it’s a naturally formed coffee foam that is air produced during the process)…and now we know better!
Just a side note…the aroma of the Nespresso (all of them actually) was incredibly rich and it literally awakened my sense of smell and corrected me on what I thought all this time was a good coffee smell. The key to enjoying a good coffee as Lambert kept reminding us was to: sniff sniff sniff and slurp slurp slurp!!! Slurping the coffee allows you to bring the coffee up onto the palate and taste the refine notes of the coffee. Lambert also pointed out an obvious observation (something many coffee drinkers can easily take for granted when enjoying Nespresso) – the temperature of service. Nespresso is always at a constant ‘drinkable’ temperature to avoid burning yourself and your precious taste buds.
For the chocolate pairing, 70% chocolate and dulce chocolate were matched with their respective Nespresso partner.
• The 70% chocolate was paired with the Nepresso Ristretto blend. Lambert used the perfect analogy to describe this union: ‘the chocolate with the coffee makes the coffee want to tango!’
• Next up was the Nespresso Espresso Leggero paired with both the 70% chocolate and the dulce chocolate. I preferred hands down the pairing with the dulce as it was a light toast, much smoother taste with low acidity. Plus the fact that I just LOVE dulce chocolate..no biasness here 😉
Lesson learned: if you are pairing a chocolate that has lots of cacao than its best to compliment it with a powerful and robust coffee.
A perfect pairing is to have the perfect counter balance, so for coffee and chocolate it’s about finding the right balance of cacao.
(left to right) Nepresso Ristretto and Nespresso Espresso Leggero with 70% chocolate and dulce chocolate
Maestro Tequilero añejo was paired with the Nespresso Espresso Forte.
• As Lambert stated, the perfect way to compliment a meal is to match it with a spirit.
• They went with a high end product – 12 months of ageing. The clear amber color came from the oak ageing – very smooth in taste.
• Nespresso Espresso Forte had noticeable herbal and cereal notes, ‘very elegant’ in taste with less acidity.
• There was a “good discussion between the coffee and tequila, where everything finds a balance”, Lambert said smilingly.
Nespresso Espresso Forte with Tequila Maestro Añejo
Bourbon Whisky Pairing
Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky was paired with the Nespresso Lungo Forte.
• The Nespresso Lungo Forte had more water in the coffee profile.
• Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky uses wheat which makes the Bourbon much smoother.
• The bourbon also had a high pronunciation of cherry aromas – which I actually picked up on….this grasshopper was starting to grasp it 😉
Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky paired with the Nespresso Lungo Forte.
Wow, what an experience that was! I learned so much and pleasantly shocked myself as I knew how to distinguish and point out flavour subtleties that I didn’t think I could in relation to coffee!
(left to right) Gonzalo Cabanas (Head of Marketing & Public Relations for Nespresso), The Food Tease and Elyse Lambert
I personally thanked Elyse Lambert for sharing her vast knowledge of coffee and spirit pairings and for taking the time to answer my very novice questions. I also disclosed to her that at the beginning of the class I disliked not one, but all three liquids being presented…but with the right information and proper guidance I was able to not only appreciate them but more importantly now enjoy them!
Since this ‘tasting’ was such an eye opening event for this grasshopper, who knows what else is in store for me if I just put aside my personal biases and let the professionals do what they do best. The world can be my oyster if I want it to be!