If you want to taste a special coffee, an excellent blend, made by skilled hands using a professional machine, is not enough. It takes heart. Heart and taste. To serve it and to savour it. We are not just thinking about the patience it takes to accommodate the now typical scenario at the bar counter where people ask for a coffee that is “ristretto”, but not excessively, sprinkled with unfrothed milk that is warm tending to lukewarm and with a pinch of cinnamon that couples with the cocoa powder on the bottom of the cup. We are talking about a coffee ritual which, although it remains sacred in Italy, is increasingly embracing personalization. And to avoid disappointment, nothing beats a “spiced espresso”, a coffee customized according to mood, taste and aroma. Because, as in many other parts of the world, the expanded range of coffees on offer is also reaching Italian cafés, where alongside descriptions of the bouquets of Specialty Coffees, we find a list of “flavoured” coffees.
Purists may not forgive us, but the addition of flavours in coffee harks back to ancient traditions: cardamom and nutmeg evoke Middle Eastern memories of traditional Arabic coffee, orange peel and cinnamon conjure the taste of mulled wine, cocoa and cloves are reminiscent of Brazil, while those who enjoy Italian flavours will appreciate the addition of star anise, which resembles “caffè corretto”, coffee laced with sambuca. Even large-scale producers offer coffee with hazelnut, caramel or amaretto to emphasize the taste of coffee, but for a “spiced espresso“, you have to add a little of the chosen spice powder to the traditional blend directly in the filter or let the spices decant in ground coffee, so that it absorbs the aromas.
The benefits of spices
In some cases, spices are added not just for their taste, but also as a substitute for sugar. For example, a vanilla-flavoured coffee has a soft, delicate, almost sweet flavour, while the addition of cinnamon can help control blood sugar. If you have a headache, you should add a few drops of lemon, while the addition of a few drops of mint extract has an invigorating, refreshing effect, literally turning the coffee into a summer treat. For those who relish an energizing, digestive drink, ginger coffee meets your expectations, especially if the ginger root has been first left in an infusion of water and sugar, while substituting the classic blend with a green coffee, without the addition of sweeteners, can even give coffee a cleansing effect.
The new trends
The most delicious? Adding a little piece of chili chocolate to an espresso. A more extravagant option is the addition of pink pepper and rose petals, while the most exotic espresso contains coconut milk, a vanilla pod and – for more daring drinkers – a splash of rum. The latest trend really takes the biscuit: espresso tonic combines tonic water, orange peel and a rosemary sprig. There’s no accounting for taste…