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Monday, November 28, 2016

Wine & Coffee

As the joke goes, "Take the bench coffee. Wine, you're up."  But this is more about the similarities
between the two industries.

I first realized this when visiting the Big Island of Hawaii several years ago. It's home to the famous Kona Coffee area. As the Kona Coffee Council says, the area has the right combination of sunshine, rainfall, and volcanic soil. Sounds like a promotion for a wine region.

Many of the little coffee companies have a tasting room--just like wine regions. As we're approaching one I heard the host tell other guests, "This one got 95 points!" Well, we've all heard this before.

There is a coffee industry and coffee regulations. Different places have different coffee growing and coffee making rules. Coffee grows best only in certain areas.

There are a couple classifications for coffee beans. Arabica, used for premium coffee, and Robusta, the utility-grade coffee used in grandma's Maxwell House. Premium wine comes from Vitis vinifera grapes. Within this there are many varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet. Coffee has cultivars (varieties) of Arabica beans. Each cultivar will have different properties and will smell and taste different depending on where they're grown (terroir--or sense of place). Sound familiar?

Coffee cupping
image from

Professional coffee tasters (cuppers) look for attributes like flavor, body, and acidity. Among many coffee geeks those dark, highly roasted coffees are for the amateurs as the roasting is hiding the true flavors of the beans. They will tell you it's the lighter coffees that truly taste like coffee. Compare this to those who complain about the use of too much oak, especially with Chardonnay, that hides the true flavors of the grape.

Of course, you should buy and drink what you like, not what others tell you. However, I'm worried those lattes I so enjoy are really the Sangria of coffee. Guess I'd better not order one around a coffee snob.

There are numerous gadgets you can buy to brew your own just as there are a multitude of gadgets available just to store and open a bottle of wine.

Like them or not, Starbucks brought premium coffee knowledge to Americans in the way the Judgment of Paris and Mondavi Winery first turned Americans on to quality wines.

I've already had my coffee today. Is it time for a glass of Zinfandel yet?