He may have been poking fun at the overly complex ordering practices of his fellow Angelenos, but Steve Martin’s humorous cafe scene in LA Story is a (semi-)appropriate backdrop for our tip today: Brewing rich, delicious espresso with just a bit of a kick.
When we’re craving the taste of coffee but still need to get to bed before 2am, we meld together a blend of 1/2 Lavazza Super Crema and 1/2 Lavazza DEK espresso. Mixing the caffeinated with the decaffeinated takes things up a notch, but not the full whammy we usually find at the bottom of our cup. And while Lavazza’s DEK is some of the tastiest decaffeinated coffee out there, we love the added creamy dimension of the Super Crema.
We carry a diverse selection of Lavazza’s whole bean coffees, and sometimes the bags are puffier than others, so we asked our importer to give us the lowdown on bean packaging.
It’s fundamental to their freshness that they are packed in manner that will give them a long shelf life — if they’re allowed to oxidize, flavor compounds and aromatic properties will slowly degrade. To preserve freshness, Lavazza immediately packs their beans directly after roasting in high-barrier multilayer material that guarantees perfect vacuum packaging.
The roasting process, however, allows for the release of carbon dioxide and this represents 90% of the gas that forms inside of the package. To keep the bag from bursting, one-way valves are sealed into the package to allow the gas to escape without letting any air in. This one-way valve system guarantees vacuum packaging, even though the bag may sometimes be “puffy” and not compact.
If you’re like us, you might regard decaffeinated coffee as a disturbingly man-made mutation on the bland side of the flavor spectrum. Not that we’ve ever actually tasted it — we’re working largely from gross assumption here — but we often get raving reviews of Lavazza’s DEK decaffeinated coffee, so our interest was piqued: How is the caffeine removed from the bean, without it losing all it’s flavor?
We found that there are three different methods for decaffeinating coffee: Organic solvents, water or carbon dioxide. The roaster often performs each method before they begin the roasting process.
We love working with you and we love coffee, so it’s important to us that what we love doing helps others do what they love as well. Sustainability in the coffee industry will keep us all in delicious cups of coffee for years to come, and while we’ve written before about our support of the non-profit organization Coffee Kids, as well as about Lavazza’s Tierra! coffee, we decided to put our money where our mouth is this holiday season and launch a fund drive!
Now through 1/15/09, we’re donating 5% of all sales of Lavazza’s Tierra! coffee to Coffee Kids! Featuring smoky molasses aromas and flavor undertones of floral and bittersweet chocolate, Tierra! is a tasty gift for anyone you love that loves coffee — and, yes, that includes you!
OK, so it might not necessarily be as age-old as the chicken vs. the egg debate (wait, didn’t they solve that?), but the argument over which has more caffeine — drip coffee or a shot of espresso — is often kicked around the ol’ coffee shop. Obviously, like any good debate, the answer varies almost as widely as the number of preparations for caffeine-carrying plants around the world.
The first thing to keep in mind in this discussion is the plant: Are we talking Robusta or Arabica? Arabica has less caffeine than Robusta, so the bean blend is important to know before you guesstimate your caffeine intake. Secondly, what’s the roast look like? A super dark roast eliminates a large portion of the caffeine content, sending those molecules up in smoke. Lastly, take a look at how much you’re consuming, because quantity matters: If you’re drinking 4 oz. of espresso vs. 7 oz. cup of drip, your intake will be a lot different than these standards:
- Percolated (7 oz): 140mg
- Drip (7 oz): 115 – 175mg
- Espresso (1.5 – 2 oz): 100mg
- Brewed (7 oz): 80 – 135mg
- Instant (7 oz): 65 – 100mg
- Decaf, brewed (6 oz): 5mg
- Decaf, instant (6 oz): 3mg
In general, the longer the coffee grounds are in contact with water, the more caffeine will be extracted into your brew. Caffeine is largely responsible for coffee’s bitter taste, which was one of the motivations behind the development of espresso: The relatively short brew time results in a significantly less concentration of caffeine, allowing you to taste other flavors in the coffee.
(Caffeine concentration amounts and molecular image courtesy of Erowid)
“…all for the price of a cup of coffee.” The Christian Children’s Fund might have to change their pitch-line in the coming months, as India reports their Robusta coffee crops are down due to the excessive rain they’ve been experiencing — a drop which may result in an increase in coffee prices around the world.
India’s highest producing region, Karnataka, experienced intense rains during coffee’s blossom season, which will likely impact the amount of beans they are able to harvest. While this news story focuses on the fact that Robusta is primarily used in instant coffees, it is also very often used in high-end gourmet brands (such as Lavazza or Illy) in their espresso blends to create a thicker crema and a bolder body. Robusta is bitter due to it’s higher caffeine content, so it’s not used in high quantities, but the increase in prices could have an impact on the cost of your favorite coffee beans — whether or not you’ll see this passed on to you remains to be seen.
However, coffee’s global commodities pricing has dropped significantly over the past several months, due to the economic issues seen in Europe and the US, so perhaps these environmental and economic issues will balance each other out.
Lavazza is renowned around the world for some of the best coffee available, and we’re often asked about the differences between their six main whole bean blends. So, we took these guys to the tasting lab and came back with a comparison chart that should help you pick the blend that’s going to taste best to you.
Some of the highlights are the smoky chocolate and loam undertones of Grand Espresso and Super Crema‘s sweet & earthy fruitiness. Our descriptions might not do them full justice, however, so why not have a tasting party yourself? You’re sure to find a favorite among them.
Agricultural sustainability is a global challenge — from biodiversity to non-toxic farming practices, there are significant issues that we face in regard to ensuring our food supply is healthy, scalable and, most importantly, fair to everyone involved.
To that end, Lavazza launched the Tierra! Project in 2004, which supports sustainable economic, social and agricultural development in three coffee growing communities located in Honduras, Peru and Colombia. The Tierra! beans are 100% Arabica, completely traceable and you’ll know your money goes toward supporting an overall increase in the standard of living in these communities.
While coffee is regaled the world over and is the 2nd highest traded commodity, the farmers that grow these delicious beans receive very little of the economic boon you’d expect given the place their product has in the market. Supporting fair trade and economically sustainable coffee outfits is one step that you can take to help change this global dynamic. Sure, it’s small — but will likely make more of an impact than you can imagine.