*This tasting was sponsored by Nespresso
There’s been heated debate going on about whether bloggers should accept tasting invitations. One camp argues that an element of bias will be present for invited meals, ruining the creditability of a blog. That’s why I salute the bloggers who choose to stay objective and blog on their experiences in the guise of a full-paying customer. Yet, I find myself still getting excited whenever I receive such invitations, largely because they signal that there are some people around who appreciate the efforts of my late night blogging, which just makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.
So apart from the fact that I need that ego boost as a pick me up sometimes, there are other perks in accepting invitations for workshops and tastings (apart from just the free food that most people tend to associate tastings with). Firstly, its the chance to mingle and befriend other like-minded souls who are equally if not more crazily obsessed with food. Secondly, it’s the chance to interact with industry professionals like chefs, barristas and restaurant staff, where you actually get to learn more about certain aspects of dining that you were previously ignorant about.
I attended a Nespresso Tasting today and am pleased to have fulfilled the above mentioned perks, meeting bloggers from The Silver Chef, sgdessert, Superadrianme and DaintyFlair, in addition to learning more about Espresso appreciation. Nespresso is one of the sponsors of Savour 2012 and this invitation was part of their publicizing efforts. They will be down over next weekend during the Savour 2012 event to host an Espresso appreciation class as well should you be interested to attend.
We were first given a tutorial on what makes a good Espresso and one defining element is the presence of a generous layer of “Crema” or what is seen as the hazelnut coloured froth on the surface of your Espresso. The Crema is formed by a mixture of air and liquid and helps to liberate aromas above the cup after extraction, but once it stabilises, it helps to preserve the aromatic richness present in the Espresso instead. To get the perfect Crema, the water must be hot enough, the water pressure high enough and the coffee fresh and grounded finely enough.
Some interest takeaways I learnt today was that the caffeine present in an Espresso is only about half of that present is a standard 240ml mug of drip coffee and that the intensity (bitterness) of a coffee is defined by its degree of roasting (the longer the roast, the more bitter and intense flavour you get) and has no correlation to the amount of caffeine that is present inside.
I have always associated “Grand Crus” with wines but Nespresso also calls its 16 varieties of coffee as “Grand Cru“, possibly because a coffee’s flavour and tones can be just as complex and varied as wines.
Of the 16 types, 3 are Pure Origin Espressos (meaning the beans are sourced from a single location), 7 are Espresso Blends (meaning beans from several locations are mixed to create a unique flavour), 3 are Lungos (Coffees that are meant to be enjoyed in a large cup instead of a 40ml Espresso shot) and 3 Decaffeinated (consisting 2 Espresso flavours and 1 Lungo). Of the 16, I managed to sample 4 different types of Espressos and 1 Limited Edition Espresso that is no longer on sale.
Our planned tasting was to consist of the 3 Pure Origin Espressos, each with its own unique aroma.
We started off with the mildest Espresso of the lot, Dulsao do Brasil. It is supposed to taste of honey, malt and cereals but apart from being rather smooth and not as bitter as I’d imagine, I had some trouble detecting the sweet undertones. A piece of advice we were given was to slurp our espressos as we do our ramens, so as to allow the espresso to splash with around your tongue and provide a burst of flavour.
For our second Espresso, we tried the fruity Rosabaya de Colombia. In describing coffees, NEVER use the term sour unless you are describing coffee that has turned bad. The appropriate term to use is citrus-sy. I was able to detect light winey tinges in this Espresso, so I was quite happy that my palate wasn’t a total flop after all.
In relation to citrus-sy coffees, one of the bloggers asked how do we differentiate good citrus coffees from bad sour coffee. Given that question, we were given another Espresso Blend to try called Cosi. This was a very light Espresso Blend that wasn’t very bitter. What I discovered about this blend is that I didn’t detect the lemony tones until after swallowing the coffee. So it was more of an aftertaste. For spoilt sour coffees, you will be sure to notice right away once it touches your tastebuds. This was probably my favourite of the 4 coffees, probably because I found the citrus-sy flavours unique and easily discernible.
I’m not one for “Kopi Gao” but if you are, you might want to try the Indriya from India, one of the most intense and bitter Espressos that Nespresso has to offer to kick start your morning. As per the Cosi, I only discovered the intensiveness of the Indriya during the aftertaste, where I was taken by surprise with a bitter blast of flavour, causing my face to cringe. I was not the only one though, as I was keeping my eye on the guest seated next to me who had similar reactions.
I also took a look at the various Nespresso machines on sale. The latest model is the Nespresso Pixie, which is better than previous models because of its compactness and certain extra features such as an auto power-off function to save electricity and a light indicator to signal the current level of water in the machine and when it is time to top up with more water.
Truthfully, I always stick to my lattes and cappuccinos, and have often steered clear of espressos, scared that the bitterness will overwhelm me so I was pleased that this tasting gave me a chance to discover the depths of Espresso appreciation that I have yet to unravel.
Special thanks to Nespresso and Crowd PR for hosting the Espresso tasting.
2 Orchard Turn, #01-14 Ion Orchard