The holiday season is, once again, nigh upon us. This is that special time of year when roasters all over the world gauge the flavor profile of the season and concoct a roast of beans that is designed specifically to match the flavors consumers look for this time of year.
Over the next few weeks, A Table in the Corner of the Cafe will dedicate itself to finding the best holiday coffee of 2013.
Before we dive into the season, though, what should we be looking for in these festive cups?
What makes a holiday coffee good?
This time of year, especially here in Chicago—where cold, harsh winds whip against your frostbitten face and the snow piles high—, you want your belly to feel full and… warm.
That’s why, when it comes to holiday blends, I like my coffee to be medium- to full-bodied. Robust, even. When I step out into the subzero temperatures, I want my insides to be warm and roasty toasty.
Everything about the holidays suggests comfort. So you want your holiday coffee to be just that—comfortable.
Nothing silty, nothing grainy. The best descriptors to look for are silky, velvety, and creamy.
There is not one holiday item that is loaded with acidity, that leaves a lump in your throat, that one would classify as zesty, tangy, or spicy. Honestly, a great coffee doesn’t have that sort of acidity either—not an acidity that dominates the flavors of the cup anyway. You want it to complement the cup, not take it over.
For holiday coffee, I want the acidity to be mostly mild; but I definitely want it there. I want citrus or apple or grape to be the final note of the veritable fruitcake in the cup.
Last, but certainly not least, we need to think about what flavors to look out for in a holiday coffee. Do we festive fruit bombs? Do we want sweet sugars? Do we want comfort coffee? Or do we want it to throw everything at us like a holiday smorgasbord?
Honestly, I think it varies from cup to cup. I had the Falstaff Blend from Metropolis last year and it was a great winter coffee: notes of fig, caramel, nougat, milk chocolate, brown sugar, raisin—the sort of flavors that make you think about putting on your galoshes, tromping through the snow to find the perfect Christmas tree, then resting by the fire while Grandpa regales the kids with stories of mirth and merry. Earlier this year, I had a non-seasonal Sumatra from Kuma that was very similar to that feeling: flavors of pine, tobacco, and black cherry.
For me, those are the sorts of flavor profiles I want a holiday coffee to have.
But I’ll also be looking for some of these notes: roasted nuts, milk chocolate, nougat, caramel, cherries and berries, floral aromatics, and light citrus. And yes, this will be the one time of year I forgive roastiness.
What about you, Dear Reader? What do you think makes the perfect holiday coffee?