Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Hot, dark, steamy...? Sounds like a good romance!
Most of us probably drink coffee in some form. Coffee is a highly traded commodity and one of the most popular beverages in the world. My preference is a cup of quality dark roasted coffee freshly ground and brewed, and I drink it straight up - black. I occasionally like a latte or cappuccino, but for me, those are a treat, like candy. We buy our coffee from a small independent roaster (Here, Trevis, a plug for you Black Pearl Coffee) and that’s partly what inspired my two stories about coffee.
As I researched, I realized the incredible story of what happens between the coffee grower (coffee is grown in over 70 countries, primarly in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa) and the barista who hands you your steaming cup in the coffee shop. What rich potential for story telling!
Someone who’s the very best at what they do always inspires me and I find that sexy, so I was fascinated to learn about barista competitions, and my barista hero was born. But Carter in Sexpresso Night is more than just a barista. He owns his shops and seeks out quality coffees direct from the growers. I learned more about how that happens and the contrast between that business model and the big multi-national companies who buy boatloads of coffee beans. I learned the difference between direct trade and fair trade. I learned about the difference between arabica coffee and robusta coffee, which is bitter and has less flavor, but is more disease-resistant and can be grown in areas where arabica can’t. Often it’s the robusta coffees that are turned into those flavored powders you mix with water (and I will admit to drinking that on occasion!). I learned a bit about the science of roasting coffee and some crazy roasters who use popcorn poppers to roast their own beans to the exact right degree of darkness, and about cuppings, or coffee tastings, and what a sensual experience that can be. I incorporated a coffee tasting into Sexpresso Night.
I invented the fictional South American country of Matagalpa. In Sexpresso Night, both Danya and Carter have spent time there. In my other book involving the coffee business, not yet published, my hero and heroine travel to Matagalpa and get involved in a dangerous escapade there in pursuit of an exquisite, unique coffee bean.
Here’s a short excerpt from Sexpresso Night. This is part of the coffee tasting scene:
“Let’s talk about some of the characteristics of coffee,” he said. “Acidity could be described as the brightness or sharpness of the coffee. Acidity can be intense or mild, soft or edgy, subdued or wild—like sex.” That got some laughs.
“Body is sometimes called mouthfeel. It’s the weight or heaviness of the coffee in your mouth. Think about thickness when you taste, the physical feel of the coffee in your mouth.”
Christ, he couldn’t stop making sexual comparisons tonight, and as he caught Danya’s eyes he knew she was thinking the same thing.
“Then we have sweetness. Sweetness eases the acidity of a coffee. You need the balance of the two to appreciate both. Just like the balance between pleasure and pain.” He caught another wide-eyed look from Danya and grinned. “And finally, there’s finish. As I mentioned, there’s an aftertaste that lingers and it should be clean and sweet.
“Make mental notes as you taste,” he encouraged, walking behind his guests. “Really think about what you’re tasting. Which one do you find sweeter?”
Most of the people made a face of uncertainty. Danya pointed to the Columbian. “This one.”
He nodded approvingly and she beamed. “Yes, that one is sweeter. What else did you notice about it?”
She took another delicate slurp, making him smile, then said, “Um…chocolate?”
“Very good! I also think there are hints of caramel in it. You might perceive it as burnt sugar. But it’s not burnt.”
She nodded, hanging on his every word. Sexy as fucking hell.
“This Ethiopian coffee has a nice fruity cup.” He indicated which one. “And the Costa Rican is full bodied and spicy—you might taste hints of cinnamon and cloves. The Sumatra is intense, earthy and aromatic.” He inhaled deeply over the cup, eyes closed to deepen the sensory experience. When he rose and opened his eye to see Danya staring at him, cheeks flushed, lips parted, heat sizzled through his veins. “This Arabian bean is wild and exotic. And our French roast, which is our darkest roast, is smoky and intense.”
He clamped down on the arousal that was threatening to derail his cupping.
So...how do YOU like your coffee?