An existential question — are you simple syrup, or half & half? Or are you feeling used today? Barefoot Coffee gives you food for thought in a literal way.
In my quest for good coffee, I have been exploring cafes featuring artisan roasters in California and Oregon. Barefoot Coffee was on my list, and I had the chance to visit their Santa Clara, CA location recently. What I learned, is that the roastery is in San Jose, CA and all of the Barefoot Coffee retail locations are franchises.
“Barefoot Coffee was born from the idea of treating coffee as a culinary art. Just like great produce at your local farmers market, our coffees are offered in season, fresh from the farm, when they are at their most delicious. Throughout the year we travel to origin, to hand select and purchase directly from artisan farmers whom we have established a personal and truly sustainable long-term relationship. From conscientious cultivation to beautifully developed roasts, we hand craft each exceptional coffee to speak for itself.”
So…the coffee does speak for itself. I bought Barefoot’s Red Cab decaf for a friend, and while I am not usually a decaf drinker, I did try it, and thought the Red Cab was pretty good.
I always sip coffee black before adding milk, cream or sugar, just to get the essence of it and to see if I can discern what flavors are there. While I give it my very best effort, I can rarely finish drinking an espresso straight, with no sugar, and no milk. I can handle a macchiato. My drinks of choice are usually flat whites and cappucinos. I am sure, that one day I will find an espresso smooth enough that I will be able to handle the intensity. I’ve also noticed that when I order an espresso shot, I sometimes get a nod of respect from the barista…which I assume has to do with drinking straight espresso for it’s character and nuances, and for being a purist.
The way I look at tasting coffee black, with no sugar and no cream, and espresso black, with nothing else, is to evaluate it as a baseline. I would love to be able to say, “I detected notes of dried apricot and citrus followed by a nutty chocolate finish.” Realistically…I may need more practice tasting and cupping coffees, and an aroma kit would probably help.
What I do know, is that from espresso, or black drip coffee, all of the other coffee drinks will be based upon it. The coffee itself must be good to start with, so that you know you have a good base drink upon which to build your lattes, flat whites, pour overs, and so on.
I still enjoy reading the flowery descriptions and tasting notes for coffee written on the package, such as “vanilla chiffon” and “honey crisp apple” used to describe the Palo Blanc reserva at Barefoot Coffee.
I believe that there is likely a crossover in consumer tastes between beer and wine drinkers in profiling preferences in coffee.
People who prefer sweeter drinks will probably not like lager or certain types of beer that are hoppy and bitter. Those same people will probably like coffee that has sweeter, lighter notes to it, and a rich, but mellow flavor. My preference is for coffee that is full bodied with nutty and chocolatey characteristics.
There is a line (that is probably somewhat fine) between masking the flavor of the coffee, and accentuating the coffee’s natural flavors with additional ingredients.
Signature drinks in a Barista Competition would likely be an example of complementing the flavors existing in the coffee. Coffee purists and snobs will sometimes say that certain coffee drinks, such as Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, or the the Cinnamon Dolce Latte, cover up and overpower the true flavor of the coffee with syrups and whipped cream. I have to agree. The syrups they use have alot of sugar and artificial flavors, not to mention the portions they use like Venti or Grande are enormous and watered down compared to what you would get in a cafe in Italy, for example. I have also heard people say that coffee roasters can cover up defects in the coffee bean, that would affect flavor, by over-roasting them.
Jim Seven has something to say about roasting too dark in his blog.
Home Barista has a beautiful pictorial on roasting defects here:
While at Barefoot Coffee, I had a drink called the Voodoo …and wow was that good. It was really tasty. I drank it so fast I didn’t manage to get a photo for this posting. It is a “sweet concoction of espresso, dark chocolate, coconut milk and muscavado sugar”.
A few of the other interesting drinks on the menu included:
The Orange and Ginger Cubano – a Cubano (a cappucino with muscavado sugar carmelized into the shot) with orange and ginger steamed into the milk.
Cafe brulee – A perfectly balanced cappucino with a crust of carmelized muscovado sugar.
Vanitte – A latte with Madagascar vanilla extract steamed into the milk.
The Whim (heated) is as follows: “Put your hands in the fate of the creator. Our skilled baristas will choose from their wide knowledge of flavors to create you something magical..an out of this world concoction.” The Shakerado is the iced or cold version of the Whim. They also had a nice selection of teas, such as Keemun Premium, Yellow Mountain Mao Feng, and an aromatic, refreshing Lavender Mint.
Barefoot Coffee is also offering classes on brewing methods for coffee, tea and espresso and latte art.