Monday, February 28, 2011

Warm Weather Coffee

If you're like me, the weather drastically affects your eating and drinking habits; once the mercury tops the 80 degree mark I find myself living on fresh vegetables, the occasional piece of grilled meat, chilled white wine and, of course, cold-brew iced coffee.
Today, in Richmond, we're not going to top 80 degrees (thank goodness, because it is still February) but we'll get pretty darn close. The unseasonably warm forecast has gotten me thinking about interim climate coffee; those days in the early spring and autumn when a cool damp morning lends to a hot cup of coffee but warm afternoons might discourage that three o'clock booster.
During these climate-confused months I generally tend to lean towards sticking with hot coffee; though I'm not sure exactly why, I think it comes down to the more ritualistic nature of preparing hot coffee, not to mention the steam and aroma factor. Still, I find my deep-winter obsession with full bodied brews and dark roasts ends up leaving me wishing I had gone the way of the Oscars and opted for afternoon tea instead of weighing down with heavy coffee.

The answer? I certainly have no desire to give up on coffee while waiting for South of the James Farmer's Market iced coffee season to begin, so I turn to my roster of light-bodied, brightly acidic coffees to keep the hot, but not heavy java flowing. I am an unabashed lover of all coffees African but though most African beans share a floral, fruity character, they don't all fit the mold of "light". For this, I turn to a perennial Blanchard's favorite, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The Blanchard's Yirgacheffe is the perfect spring-time coffee with a bright, almost sparkling acidity and notes of sweet flowers and tangerine. The Yirg is one of the most aromatic coffees readily available and simply begs you to have another cup--something you probably won't regret! I also fall back on another, sometimes less touted, Blanchard's favorite, the Fair-trade Organic Peruvian. The FTO Peru is, as Blanchard's own Joe O'Hallaron says, "just a great cup of coffee". I agree with Joe, this is the kind of coffee anyone can love just about any time of day. Why is it so enjoyable? Peruvian coffee is extremely balanced in acidity, sweetness and the nutty character so many South American coffees exhibit. The effervescent acidity sparkles off the tongue and I always end up not only satisfied, but refreshed.

So when you're nodding off at your desk this afternoon wishing you were outside enjoying the warm pre-spring day (considering we're not amidst forecasted tornados and deluge), don't let overbearing palate busting coffees discourage you from your afternoon cup; branch out and discover the world of light bodied, brightly acidic coffees--you'll be glad you've discovered these gems once we're in the throes of Richmond heat.


  1. I love the ethiopian brewed, but do NOT recommend making espresso with it which I did and regretted. It actually tainted my enjoyment of ethiopian in general! It's lovely floral bouquet just got to overwhelming in the condensed nature of espresso.

    You turned me on to some FTO Bolivian, and that is a nice cup of coffee too. I drink brewed coffee straight up black, and it's perfect for these not-yet-spring days.

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    I totally agree with you actually. I DO like to prepare all of the coffees I try as an espresso because I believe it is, at the least, interesting to see how different brewing methods work with, or against, each type of coffee. I find that the Yirgacheffe alone makes an overbearingly bright and tart espresso, but as a spice in a blended espresso, it offers some great character to a shot.

    The Bolivian is wonderful but it does boast a huge round body. Most of the time that is counteracted by its light, soft finish, but I think I'd lean more towards the more crisp coffees if I were going to, say, head out to the garden for a couple hours of grubbing.