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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coffee or Tea? - Just a Starting Point

There are rules and recipes for making all our favorite drinks. So many amazing folks out there endlessly practicing to concoct the perfect glass/cup of whatever you fancy. Balancing each one to perfection is of the moment art to be admired. The first sip can be a revelation. Now, ponder how any drink came to be. The origin stems from necessity, use of available ingredients and some level of preservation. When you think about these guidelines, all you need is in your kitchen even if you're out of "everything".


A couple years ago I was on an agua fresca kick. I was looking to infuse watermelon with a single ingredient other than mint, a little too refreshing and overdone. Initially, I was thinking acidity by adding dried hibiscus flowers, but that tanked hard with way too much astringency. Fortunately, I had chicory come in with the same order. All I did was sprinkle some on pieces of watermelon. It was bittersweet in the best possible way. Describing the flavor play wouldn't do it justice, so just try it.



So if chicory works, why not freshly ground coffee? Cold brewed watermelon coffee was born. So good!



Coffee ice cream is a favorite. Why not chicory, coconut milk & maple syrup? Vegan happens.



Often apple cider is too sweet and needs a touch of acid to make it great. A splash of apple cider vinegar does the trick. Infusing with hibiscus is way better.



If you think about tea as dried leaves with complexity, why not curry leaves in a kombucha? It adds a smoky element without fire. Thickened the fermented liquid as well. Crazy!



If your kombucha SCOBY needs sugar, why not koji, the sweet base for sake? A killer marriage of amazake & tea. Ultimately used to make a wonderful blueberry sauce to compliment a buttermilk umami ice cream.



If you like both coffee and tea, why not combine them? When there's cold brewed coffee in the fridge and garam masala hibiscus syrup around, there is really no choice. I couldn't stop drinking it.



Have you considered using the delicious flesh stuck to mango seeds as the sugar to feed your kombucha? What about infusing it with fresh elderflower you found on a walk and palm sugar that's been sitting in your pantry for a very long time. Perfect for a secondary fermentation. Gotta love natural carbonation.



Coffee or black tea dulce de leche is pretty great. Why not roasted medicinal reishi mushrooms?



Two years later we're still putting stuff on watermelon to tip the balance. No wild mint on the walk, but plenty of sassafras leaves. This definitely needs to be shared with family and friends.

Long story short, your favorite drink originated from experimentation and experience, so why not make a new one that's truly yours?

As always, please share your discoveries to keep the ideas bouncing.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Roasting Reishi Like Coffee - Bitter is the Next Umami

I'm pretty new to the world of foraging and was crazy excited when I found reishi on a walk with my friend Nick. The brilliant color on a tall, dead pine was a beacon from across the woods. The lacquered beauty of this fungus is really something to behold. You'll understand if you ever come upon one.


So, what's up with this mushroom? This fungi is not typically for eating. Pretty tough and bitter. From the little I've read, it's used in Asian medicine for detoxification and boosting immune response. I'd love to know more, so please reach out to share knowledge and resources on the subject. 


Based on a multitude of suggestions from friends on Instagram, dehydration to create a powder for extraction is the first step. Many of these cool cats also pushed sweet applications that sounded delicious. As the slices of reishi were drying, I noted a malty scent on top of the earthy mushroom that sealed the deal. 


One suggestion that really spoke to me was Jeremy's suggestion to roast the mushroom after dehydrating it. Hmm... YES! Roasting is a wonderful way to transform a nice flavor into something seriously complex and downright brilliant. So how do we get there without too much fuss? The answer is a hot air popcorn popper. 


For beginner coffee roasters just getting into the game, there's a method of using a hot air popcorn popper to make small batches. It's quite simple and has the best even heating for the price. Having done this for years, I figured cut up chunks of reishi would work just as well. 


And so it did. The picture above shows the first trial run and the browning consistency is pretty good. Just a matter of dialing it in. The aroma during the roast was killer. I can't wait to get the rest done for infusing. It just so happens I have a mildly smoked dulce de leche hanging around. 

As always, please share your discoveries to keep the ideas bouncing.