‘Let’s get together for a coffee’, ‘Shall we take a break and have a coffee?’… And we could on like that forever. Coffee is part of our lives, of our conversations, of our waking up, of our post-prandial table talk, and even those moments when we need its stimulating power to pick us up. But really, what do we know about coffee? What do we know about its special qualities, about its secrets? Some, those who are coffee lovers, might know; but, in general, for most people it is a world as dark as the roasted beans of the Rubiaceae family.
Myriad myths and erroneous clichés abound about coffee. The main one, according to Ricardo Oteros, managing director of Supracafé, ‘is that coffee tastes bitter while, in fact, good coffees are not bitter, but sweet and fruity.’ People also mistakenly equate very dark coffee with quality coffee, but in fact, the colour ‘is the result of roasted coffees – roasted with sugar, very darkly roasted coffees, or burnt while being prepared – and which implies, in all three cases, a significant deterioration in quality.’
It is clear, then, that there is much ignorance about coffee in Spain but, as Santiago Rigoni, a partner of the Toma Café café (in Madrid) points out, ‘today we are experiencing a new awakening in the world of coffee.’ This coffee culture is flourishing thanks to the emergence of new philosophies where the quality of the product is promoted as a differentiating element, not to mention a general public that demands differentiated products that are respectful of the environment, and with which they can establish a link, a connection. It is within this framework that, as Rigoni says, ‘many young people are encouraging a new type of specialized café.’
Specialty coffees. That’s the key. The entire sector is turning towards these top-quality coffees, because the market and, little by little, the general public as well, understand that quality and knowledge about the product are essential in this new gastronomic culture. Ricardo Oteros (Supracafé) spells out the characteristics of specialty coffees, ‘single origin coffees, varieties and very careful processing by farmers, as well as coffees with great traceability.’ Santiago Otero (Toma Café) mentions another detail, and believes that it is essential to have ‘professionalization at every step of the coffee production: respect for seasonality, roasting it properly, and serving it so that it doesn’t lose its original characteristics.’ This specialization also extends to the various ways of preparing it (filtered, Chemex, espresso, AeroPress, etc.), each one with its own profile and particular technique. In a nutshell, there are many options and diversity of experiences for enjoying one of the world’s most aromatic beverages.
There is a shift in the model that is now very much part of the scene in cafés and specialized stores, and that must now make the final leap to haute cuisine. ‘Coffee is, without a doubt, one of the great forgotten elements of haute cuisine,’ Ricardo Oteros insists; a vision that Santiago Rigoni shares, but is convinced that it is going to change soon because ‘it is absurd to have a bad taste in your mouth at the end of an extraordinary meal.’ Customers are now demanding this quality and knowledge about this product in restaurants, and Oteros ventures that ‘the way coffee is treated will be increasingly similar to the way wine is.’ The presence of Ricardo Oteros and Santiago Rigoni – and their workshop dedicated to specialty coffees (that will take place on 29 January at 16:00 at the Madrid Fusión congress) – is a sign of this change in the perception of coffee by big names in gastronomy.
Those in the coffee world are committed to a more ‘gourmet’ coffee that is aromatic, flavoursome, and has personality and character. Consumers have picked up the baton. Perhaps a few still need to be converted, but the solution is easy: Coffee anyone?