It’s winter, after all, even in the South.
And some folks wouldn’t think of starting the day — or taking a break during the day — without a cup of coffee.
A cup of Joe. Java. Mocha. Café au lait. Perk. Brew. Cappuccino. Espresso.
Although slightly different, these are just a few of the ways of making a hot, steaming cup of this delectable concoction.
Both Robbie Hutchens and Lester Snow love a cup of coffee. That’s part of the reason they meet almost every day at the McDonald’s at the corner of Independence and Renfro Streets to have their daily brew. Hutchens, affectionately nicknamed “Peanut” by his friends, likes his regular coffee with four creams and three sugars.
But it’s much than just the taste and the added jolt of the caffeine Hutchens likes. It’s socializing with his buds who also gather at the McDonald’s to enjoy a cup of joe almost every day. The guys have been meeting there ever since this location of McDonald’s opened.
“But it just wouldn’t be the same without a cup of coffee,” Hutchens said.
Contrary to Hutchens, Snow likes to drink his regular coffee black — nothing else mixed in. And, Snow added, McDonald’s has some real good coffee … and everywhere you travel, it’s the same good coffee.
“I’m drinking a cappuccino,” said Marjorie Walker as she sat drinking her one daily afternoon cup of coffee at Pages Coffee and Books shop. A cappuccino is a little stronger than regular coffee, but with some frothy skim milk added — about half and half of each, she explained. Then, she usually has some sort of flavoring, especially chocolate, added to the mix. “That’s my favorite.”
Walker usually has three cups in the morning, she said, but it doesn’t keep her up or make her jittery. She only drinks decaf.
“I really just love the taste,” she added. “I look forward to my coffee every day.”
Cliff Christian agreed. Christian is the minister of the nonprofit Timothy Project in Asheville, a volunteer organization that coordinates missions, retreats, and recreation for church groups and student groups to bring the message of hope to people in need through hands on ministry and emphasizing service learning.
But since Christian grew up in Surry County, he often makes the trip back and forth to go to his family’s farmhouse he still owns in Westfield and hopes to renovate one day. Passing through Mount Airy the other day, Christian decided to get his afternoon coffee at the Mill Creek General Store. He usually just limits his coffee consumption to about three per day. Two in the morning and one in the afternoon, no later than around mid-afternoon. He used to drink at least five cups per day, but his doctor nixed that. His favorite is just black coffee, 100-percent Colombian arabica beans.
“But I enjoy all kinds … but not flavored coffees … I’m a coffee snob of sorts,” Christian said. “I’m almost like those folks who are wine connoisseurs. But each coffee has its own distinctive aromas, flavor and depth of flavor.”
But coffee is much more than just a drink, he added.
“Coffee is a social thing,” Christian said. “It’s also part of the routine of getting through the day.”
Helen Holmes, co-owner of Mill Creek, said the store not only carries mainly the Green Mountain Coffee brand, both ground and whole bean, but also a house brand coffee. In addition to the many specialty coffee shops that have popped up around the country, buying specialty coffees has become quite popular among coffee lovers andthe norm for coffee drinkers.
In order to make a good cup of coffee, it is said coffee lovers first will need to get good, fresh coffee beans bought as soon after the time it is roasted as possible. Then, make sure to store them properly to keep them fresh. It is recommended coffee drinkers should grind them themselves as close to the time the coffee is brewed as possible. The size of the grind will affect the taste of the coffee. If the coffee tastes flat, the grind is too coarse; if the coffee tastes bitter, the grind is too fine.
Also, make sure to use only the best-tasting water and the best filters. Make sure the temperature of the water is correct as well — 195- to 205-degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold, the coffee will taste flat; too hot, the coffee will lose some of its taste value. Be diligent about keeping the coffee making system you prefer clean. But for serving, coffee should be somewhere between 155- t0 175-degrees Fahrenheit.
According to just one lore — many exist — sometime during the 1200s or 1300s, coffee first may have been “discovered” in Ethiopian, when a goat herder noticed how animated his goats because after eating the berries of a certain tree became so animated the goat couldn’t sleep. When told of this odd effect, monks made the berries into a drink, and also discovered how much more alert they were. This concoctions quickly spread around the globe and is now grown in a wide variety of countries around the world.
However, some have suggested that tea is gaining in popularity.
And, that may very well be true, especially in the South. But the tea Southerns think of when asked in an informal survey is not hot tea. It’s the Southern tradition of sweet tea. So, even here in the South, between hot coffee and hot tea, coffee is still the clear winner — by roughly eight to one. Which works out great, healthwise, as well, because although the general perception is that tea is healthier. It’s not so because both drink contain healthy antioxidants.
So, bon appetit. Drink up.
Lucie R. Willsie can be reaches at 719-1930 or on Twitter @LucieRWillsie.
PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE COFFEE
1 Tablespoon of chocolate syrup
2 Tablespoon of peppermint syrup or peppermint baking chips
½ cup of hot, fresh-brewed coffee
Whipped cream, for topping
Chocolate Shavings, for topping
Into a coffee mug, add the chocolate syrup, peppermint syrup, and coffee. Stir together. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.
IRISH CREAM-TASTING COFFEE
1/4 cup of hot chocolate
1 1/2 cup of hot coffee
1/4 cup of Irish Cream or Irish Cream-flavored creamer
Fresh whipped cream
In a medium saucepan, heat the chocolate and coffee until warmed. Then add the Irish Cream or Irish Cream-flavored creamer. Heat for a few minutes. Pour into a mug and top with whipped cream. Add chocolate shavings and/or some nutmeg as toppings to taste.
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
6 packets of sugar sweetener
1 teaspoon of rum extract
4 cups of freshly brewed dark roast coffee
Ground cinnamon, optional
Beat whipping cream until fluffy. Add vanilla and 3 packets of the sugar sweetener. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Divide whipped cream among 4 cups. Stir remaining sugar sweetener and rum extract into the brewed coffee. Pour the coffee over the whipped cream. Sprinkle of cinnamon to taste.
8 cups of cold water
1 egg, cleaned well
16 rounded teaspoons of coffee, plus one for the pot
Bring the water to a boil in a coffee pot or saucepan. In a small bowl, crush the egg, shell and all, into the dry coffee grounds and mix thoroughly. When the water has come to a rolling boil, add the egg and coffee mixture. Then stir the mixture quickly. Let it come to a boiling point and remove it from heat just before it boils. Repeat this twice more, then cover and let it stand about 5 minutes so the grounds can settle.
2 tablespoons of ground coffee beans
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
2 Tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk
Place the coffee and cardamom in the filter of the coffee machine. Place enough water to make 2 cups of coffee in the machine and brew. Pour the brewed coffee into 2 coffee cups. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of the sweetened condensed milk into each cup.
1/2 cup of milk
3 to 4 Tablespoons of caramel flavored syrup, plus a little extra if to be used as a topping, if desired
1/4 cup hot, fresh, strongly brewed French roast coffee
Or 1/4 cup hot, fresh, strongly brewed black silk coffee
Baking toffee bits, for topping, if desired
Pour the milk into a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until hot but not boiling. Whisk until foamy. Pour the caramel syrup into a standard-size coffee cup. Microwave on high for 20 seconds to warm the syrup. Stir in the hot coffee. Add the steamed milk to the brim of the cup. Top with a swirl of whipped cream. Drizzle with the caramel-flavored syrup and/or with toffee bits, as desired. Serve immediately. (BAKER’S NOTE: This drink can easily be changed to whatever flavor syrup you prefer.)
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT COFFEE
4 envelopes (1 oz. each) of instant sugar-free hot cocoa mix (3/4 cup total)
3 cups of hot, freshly brewed hazelnut-flavored coffee
Pour the cocoa mix into a large heat-proof pitcher. Add the coffee. Stir until the mixture is dissolved.
3/4 cup of hot freshly brewed coffee
1 Tablespoon of caramel ice cream topping
1 Tablespoon of chocolate syrup
2 Tablespoons of thawed whipped topping
Mix the first three ingredients in cup or mug until blended. Top with the whipped cream. (BAKER’S NOTE: Sprinkle lightly with unsweetened cocoa powder before serving.)
CARAMEL COFFEE CUPCAKES
1/2 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 1/2 Tablespoons of instant coffee powder
3/4 cup of water
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of water
6 Tablespoons of real butter, margarine will not taste right
1/2 cup of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of shortening
1/2 cup of butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla
4 cups of icing sugar
2 Tablespoons of milk
Preheat the oven to 360-degrees Fahrenheit. Line 12 muffin cups with papers. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla. Mix together. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after adding each egg. Add the dry ingredients, including the coffee, and mix well. (BAKER’S NOTE: The mixture will be slightly dry.) Add the water, 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each 1/4 cup. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool.
Put the sugar and water in a deep sauce pan. Heat over medium heat. Whisk the mixture until the crystals are dissolved. Allow the syrup to boil at the same temperature for several minutes until an amber color begins to show. Add the butter and whisk until melted. Remove from the heat and count to five. Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly. (BAKER’S NOTE: Be careful. The mixture will bubble.) Let the mixture cool slightly and then transfer to a mason jar to cool overnight. (BAKER’S NOTE: This mixture and be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.)
Cream the shortening and butter together. Add the vanilla. Mix together. Add the icing sugar in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the milk. Decorate the cupcakes.
Lucie R. Willsie may be reached at 336-719-1930 or on Twitter @LucieRWillsie.