THE VOYEURISM OF THE NEW.
What customers expect from the changing of the seasons
Eduarda Cristovam, Head of Coffee
The time for coffee shops to dust off their summer drinks menus is here. Colour and the attraction of the new and unusual will draw us in like bees to a flower. We will flock to it thirsty and willing to experience the tasty cheap thrill of novelty. Cups will be flaunted, ice will flow, whipped cream will run free and the mouth-watering pleasure of gawking is inevitable.
It's a new dawn, a new season and it was a long time coming. Spring is here with flowers blooming, leaves bursting, and birds chirping while driven by a longing to mate. The flaunting begins. Nature is showing off, birds are shaking their tail feathers brimming with allure and we are no exception. We peel those puffer jackets, throw away the woolly hats and heavy boots, and on come the shorts, shades, and flip flops. Bright colours replace the drab darks of winter and our wardrobe is suddenly loud, breezy and stands out in a colour riot-like thank you offerings to the season.
With the shedding of woollen layers comes the desire for sun, fun and ice-cold drinks. Those planning the shape of the food and drink industry think constantly ahead of the new thing, the new flavour to enrapture and boost a trend. Think salted caramel, cold foam or bubble tea. Some are big hits others fall under monumental misses.
I think a flair for the creative, a touch of artistry and some sound ingredient knowledge are essential in creating summer coffee concoctions. Breaking all the rules and with it the hearts of coffee purists is often the price to pay for innovation.
To deliver summer surprises embrace the sun and look at coffee, tea, and chocolate as mere ingredients to be moulded and twisted into outrageous cold delights. If you lack the ingenuity of a mad scientist and can’t quite pull off the Cocktail look, turn to those who can for help.
The look of love Colour is essential in summer drinks; layers add interest and toppings are a must. All eyes are on that cup strolling down a street with whipped cream peeking through a domed lid. Colour contrast makes drinks stand out. Red makes us think strawberries (or raspberries) and our brains tell us it’s sweet, yellow we think mouth puckering lemon, green shouts fragrant mint and orange is obvious. Use colour, extract it hot or cold but make it a focal point worthy of falling in love.
Bling my drink just a little but show self-control. Ice cubes with frozen berries, sauce on the inside of a cup, flowers, chocolate flakes, fresh fruit and a bounty of lemon or lime. Be it wedges, slices, or peel, all release oils, and aromatics to make anyone swoon. On the other hand, you can throw subtlety away and craft a blended iced drink dripping in drizzles, sprinkles and a mountain of cream that would make Everest blush. Like a peacock flaunting its wares be brazen with your creation and fashion the drink equivalent of a selfie when cameras flash and the Tweeting drowns any birdsong in spring.
Whether we make drink choices on flavour preferences or appearance is unclear, but the old saying is true, we eat with our eyes. Colour influences our likes and dislikes and predetermines our flavour expectations. Nature is clever and if flowers and birds turn on the charm with bright colours to attract, ice-cold drinks are no different. They should entice and draw us in, so those posters showing off the goods are really like Venus traps to flies or bees to honey. We look at them and we crave and imagine the flavours so don’t disappoint in the delivery if you want me hooked. I want my drink to look just like the picture.
Sweetness and light Lockdown may be responsible for our waistlines, those “tops-off” moments may be rarer this year and our summer wardrobe might have mysteriously shrunk. With that in mind I ask that when you gift me with a beautifully crafted ice cold or blended drink, the gift of cholesterol and diabetes is not included in the package. Dropping the temperature lowers our perception of sweetness but let that not be the excuse to madly pump away at those flavoured syrups. Think hidden sugars and count how many spoonsful are being thrown into each drink. I don’t want my ice-cold cup of magic to have enough sugar to sustain a small village. Sugar-free options are available and sought after by many, their aftertaste is prolonged to survive even the coldest of recipes so you might need to use less than their sugary counterparts.
Blend on the Texture
Many of us want creaminess in our drinks, and that can be easily conjured into reality. Frappe powders help create the mouthfeel and texture thickness that make the hard job of sucking on a straw and the brain freeze that follows worthwhile. Let’s accept that fat makes creamy dreamy and milk powders help deliver the perfect texture, but elasticated trousers are uncool whatever the weather. It’s hard to find texture alternatives but avocado, banana and oats are great contenders. I may be mad as a bucket of squirrels, but another solution is cup size and there’s courage in offering a regular size only when it comes to creamy blended drinks. Ice can be a friend when delivering texture and the ice ratio in the cup is crucial. Too little and the drink will feel like a slimy warm handshake. Too much and pinched red cheeks will struggle dragging what feels like thick syrup up a feeble straw.
The art of Fluff
The final touch is whipped cream, used as the equivalent of bird head feathers. Perilous mountains sit on drinks craving attention. It looks pretty, and its texture often contrasts the icy mouthfeel of the beverage which can be fun both for the palate and our brains. Listen carefully and “mmmmmm” sounds, like pigeons cooing, can be heard when an offering of whipped cream is made. Bearing in mind that I don’t want my derriere the size of a small country, if your recipe looks bare without cream, consider a zig-zag instead of a peak. Skimmed milk may also balance the overall calorie intake. With the growing army of lactose intolerant and an overall desire for plant-based options, it’s with great pleasure that I say “no thanks” when cream is offered as an add on. Instead, tempt me with non-dairy alternatives.
Old favourites Vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut are top flavour favourites in lattes. We all know what to expect and there is reassuring familiarity in classic recipes that never get old. Dropping the temperature to bone chilling is perfect for the holy grail of sweetness and bitterness balance. Coffee is versatile and the standard much loved hot latte is easily transformed into an iced version.
Some flavour combinations never get boring. Mint and chocolate are perfect whatever the season; iced tea with peach is now a staple offering; tropical flavours like mango, coconut and pineapple were made for summer; and as far as I’m concerned lemon goes with everything. Although the new draws the eye, classic recipes and old favourites live on.
Every summer we join the slipstream of ice-cold drinks sifting through the new and perhaps finding new favourites. Warm weather makes us pine for an iced latte, a colourful iced tea, or a creamy frappe. They are now part of our seasonal rituals and most importantly they are fun. Long live the ice cube!
About Dr Eduarda Cristovam
Head of Coffee at Matthew Algie
Eduarda is our resident sensory expert, with 21 years of experience in Sensory Analysis; 19 of which are specific to the coffee industry. As a result, Eduarda has a unique and inspiring way of describing coffee attributes and her interactive tasting sessions come highly recommended.
In addition to holding a PhD (Quality drivers in Port Wine and Espresso Coffee), Eduarda has lectured in Sensory Studies at Adelaide University, Australia, and is an Honorary Guest Lecturer at Strathclyde University, Glasgow.
As Head of Coffee at Matthew Algie, Eduarda oversees the development and introduction of all our new coffee and non-coffee products.