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The Language of Gourmet Coffee

Have you ever gone with a friend to the local coffee shop online to find out that there is no such thing as “just a cup of coffee” anymore? You stand there in awe and feeling rather out of place as your friend quickly fires off her order, something along the lines of “a grande, skinny, caramel macchiato with a double shot and equal, no whip”. If you felt like you were in a foreign country don’t despair. The lingo is easy to learn and yes you can order just a cup of coffee.

First things first, coffee shops have morphed into gourmet coffee shops. They now offer everything from coffee to lattes and iced cappuccinos. You can get Jamaican coffee, dark roasted, light roasted, chocolate and even pumpkin flavors when they are in season. Before you feel like you are in a foreign land and go running out the door take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these common terms that gourmet coffee shops are most likely to use.

Gourmet Coffee Lingo

Acidity: The acidity level of a coffee is typically a general overall description of the coffee. Coffees with a high acidity level may be described as having a bright, dry flavor. Good quality coffees should have a higher acidity level; this comes from longer roasting periods.

Arabica Bean: The Arabica bean is the most common type of coffee bean found in gourmet coffees. These beans are of a higher quality than coffee you buy in cans at your local grocer. Arabica beans are rich and bold with a strong aroma.

Bitterness: A coffee’s bitterness factor has more to do with the water it is brewed with than the bean.

Blend: Blends are usually a mixture of coffee beans to create a balanced, unique flavor. Often Arabica beans will be blended with Robusta beans.

Body: The body of the coffee is how it feels when it rests on your tongue. A flavorful, aromatic coffee has more body than a weaker coffee. The body of a coffee is determined by the fat, protein and fiber content of the coffee.

Earthiness: A coffee that is described as earthy usually has a smooth, full body. They are generally from Indonesia and surrounding areas. This term does not imply an organic attribute.

Exotic: If used in a coffee shop it should be implying that there are spicy, herbal, fruity or floral undertones. Oftentimes coffee shops overuse this term in a marketing effort to entice customers.

Varietal: Refers to the region the coffee was grown in.

Espresso: A highly concentrated coffee beverage served in a 2-3 oz. portion. It should have a frothy top layer called the crema. You can sweeten this if you like; there is no right or wrong way to drink it. In drinks that are espresso based (cappuccinos and lattes) you can specify a single, double, triple or quad shot (1, 2, 3, or 4). This determines how much espresso is in your drink.

Cappuccino: Cappuccinos are lighter than coffee due to the amount of milk involved. This drink starts with a shot of espresso and is mixed with hot, steaming milk. The froth from the milk is then floated on top. Cappuccinos come in a variety of flavors.

Latte or Caffe Latte: These are very similar to cappuccinos except that they have more steamed milk than a cappuccino. It resembles an American coffee with a lot of milk more so than it does a cappuccino. Mocha Lattes are a very popular drink made with chocolate added to the latte. Other flavors are available.

Sizes: Depending on the gourmet coffee shop you are at, you may encounter different names for the size of beverage you order. Typically these are short (8 oz), Tall (12 oz) Grande (16 oz) and Venti (20 oz).

Skinny: These drinks have no fat and no sugar, meaning that they are made with fat free milk if milk is involved and no sugar is added.

Ordering a coffee at the local gourmet coffee shop no longer has to be intimidating. Just walk right up and ask for your own double shot and get ready to for your own caffeine jolt. You should now know that your friend ordered a 16 oz. non-fat, sugar free, caramel flavored espresso with a bit of steamed milk with equal added and no whip cream. Gourmet coffee has never been easier or more fun.

-Sharon V. Chapman

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