Coffee a la mode

Wait! I have waxed philosophic on the subject of coffee for two days and have yet to discuss and dissect the flavor of coffee? My bad. So allow me. Coffee – the tasty, beautiful, rich beverage with an aroma of nothing but love. Love? Yes, love. You can’t not love the smell of coffee. Taste, sure, it might need to be acquired, but the smell? Heaven. And though it is difficult to believe one can actually elevate the experience of drinking and smelling coffee we can try. A friend and I talked today about all the natural flavors that could be infused into this sweet nectar. Flavors that would complement, elevate, dare I say, a la mode ?

Now, I love flavored coffees but I have often wondered what, aside from the actual coffee bean, is added to make those flavors last. So spend your money on a good basic coffee and play with flavoring at home. Aside from the health benefit of knowing what you are drinking, you can play with flavors, mix and match or just decide what you like without committing to more than a pot. Here are some natural flavors to play with.

Cinnamon stick or powder: This spice is a natural. And if you are going to be adding sugar to your coffee, cinnamon actually can help keep your blood sugars low. Tasty and healthy! A few other spices that taste as good as they sound….nutmeg, cardamom, cloves and star anise. Though I am not a huge fan of cloves, I am certainly putting in on my list to try.

Vanilla bean or extract: Oh, is there anything that vanilla can’t improve? Either with a vanilla bean or natural extract, vanilla is a no brainer. And a wonderful companion flavor cardamom. Take a look at other extracts available, like almond, cherry, anise, pistachio, brandy or whatever extract you have sitting in your kitchen cabinet.

Hazelnuts (among others): Every nut that I can think of has me craving a taste. Hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts. And along with vanilla, these flavors scream for pairings, like chocolate hazelnut, orange walnut or pistachio cherry.

Chocolate (in all its glorious forms): Really, do I need to say it. Chocolate, it is a given. There is nothing that chocolate does not improve, including coffee. There’s cocoa powder, dark chocolate, bitter chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate….I really want some chocolate now.

Oranges and other citrus fruit: Next time you use an orange or lemon, take some of its zest, the outer part of its skin, and toss it in with your beans.

Lavender: Yes lavender. I recently saw a Sam Adams beer that contained essence of lavender. I am intrigued. And will be tasting that beer in addition to some lavender cafe au lait of my own making. And now that spring has arrived, I plan on seeking out a few edible flowers to play with. Just be sure any blooms you add to your brew are pesticide free.

I am sure I have not even begun to list all the wonderful flavors that will elevate your morning cup to an a la mode moment! If you have any, please share!

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