Coffee Drink Recipes and Stories of Love
I got divorced from caffeine years ago, but can never end my love affair with coffee. Yes, I drink decaf. The smell of coffee is what I'm so fond of, not its awakening effects or even its taste. I think a love story of man and coffee is not that much different from a relationship between two humans. Everyone has their own way to enjoy coffee; everybody adopts their own tactics to nurture a relationship.
A cup of strong espresso is like a faithful partner who's always there to support you, whereas an incompetently-prepared cappuccino might remind you of a failed blind date. It takes a while for many people to discover their perfect type of coffee drink; and once they find it, some of them remain loyal to it for the rest of their life. For some others, however, such discovery seems impossible; the excitement of variety is what they prefer. Coffee commitment is just not for everyone.
Whenever I stand in line at a coffee shop, I can't help eavesdropping what other people are ordering. Sometimes I can figure out what type of coffee they are going to have even before they open their mouth. Our personality and perhaps our mood of the day have a lot to do with the coffee we choose to drink. This cafe fact has granted me a writing whim to intertwine this collection of coffee drink recipes with some little tales of love, obsession and downright stubbornness. All the people and stories below are fictional. If one of these names coincidentally sounds like yours, I do apologize.
Cafe Au Lait Ingredients
- 1 tsp. ground roasted chicory
- 6 - 8 tbsps. ground coffee (preferably coarse or medium-coarse grind)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tsp. sugar (optional)
In France, they call the coffee press "cafetière à piston" which means "coffeepot with a piston." In America, it is known by many aliases: French press, press pot or plunger pot. Watch the video below to see how it works.
French Coffee Press
Cafe Au Lait and the French Granny
Suzette Dubois will make cafe au lait herself. Her recent adventure at the nearby coffee shop, Moonpucks, was a total disaster. She had to stand in line for half an hour. And when she finally ordered, the young barista proposed a ridiculous question, "Whole milk, non-fat or soy?" Suzette was startled; she thought she might have confused him.
"I ordered cafe au lait," she tried to make herself clear.
"Yes, I know, ma'am," he replied. "What kind of milk would you like in it? Whole milk, non-fat milk, or soy milk?"
Soy milk? Blasphemy! She frowned at him with disdain and responded, "Whole moo-cow milk!"
The cafe au lait she got was weaker than the mocha milkshake she makes for her grandchildren. In French, they call this type of coffee "jus de chaussette," literally translated into English as "sock juice." What a shame. Oh, those clueless American baristas, they have raped her favorite coffee drink! She doesn't know why younger people seem to like this chain coffee shop so much.
Moonpucks will not get another penny from her. Never again. Today Suzette will be her own barista. With an agile hand, she spoons some ground coffee and chicory into her old French press. Chicory, as her mother told her, was used in the old days as a coffee substitute, due to either the scarcity of coffee beans or the lack of francs to buy them. Now when coffee is affordable and ubiquitous, chicory has become like an extra spice. It peps up the drink with its robust roasty scent, and offers a health benefit that a normal cup of coffee doesn't deliver. Legend has it, this special herb can rid harmful toxins from the blood.
Suzette pours some near-boiling water over the coffee and chicory grinds, then stirs and covers. While allowing the coffee to steep and release its full flavor, she begins warming some milk in a little saucepan. Like an experienced barista, she turns off the heat right before it starts to boil, then whisks the warm milk until it's frothy. Is it the time yet? She watches the second arm on her clock tick. Oui! The grinds have been infused in water for four minutes, and now her coffee is ready. She pushes the plunger of her French press down to the bottom to trap the spent coffee grounds, then gingerly grabs a chipped porcelain cup from a kitchen shelf, the same cup Aunt Eleanor used to serve cafe au lait in Marseille twenty years ago. With the saucepan in one hand and the press pot in the other, she simultaneously pours the milk and coffee into the cup.
Sitting down in her armchair with her cup of cafe au lait and a buttery croissant, Suzette utters a gentle sigh of satisfaction. She dunks the croissant into her coffee drink and takes a big bite. The bread is soaked with coffee the same way her heart is filled with love for the old French tradition. Young people might find it hard to understand and think she's a hard-to-please granny, but she can't help it. This is her favorite petit dejeuner (breakfast), and she will have it precisely the way she wants.
How to Use a French Press
Mocha Milkshake Ingredients
- 2 cups coffee ice-cream
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tbsps. chocolate syrup
Mocha Milkshake and Randy's Gaydar
It is the year 2010. Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most popular T.V. icons; Elton John is as widely admired as the Pope; and gay marriage is legal in quite a few countries. Many gay men, however, are still closeted. Randy Burlisimous is not one of those covert gays. At work, he looks like a typical businessman in a suit and tie, but at night, he wears his red high heels and leather corset proudly. Everyone knows he is happily homosexual.
Today Randy goes to the break room a little early to make two glasses of mocha milkshake for himself and his colleague, Steve. They have had lunch together almost every day in the past three years. Oh, Randy loves him so. He could ask Steve whether he wants to go to that overrated coffee shop, Moonpucks, but Randy would rather make this coffee drink himself. Mocha milkshake is just like Steve; cool, sweet and delightful. Deep inside all that milk and sweetness, the solemn taste of coffee lingers obscurely. Even so, there's no need to take a sip to know that it's there. He can smell it. He knows Steve is one of those closeted gays. His dear colleague watches America's Next Top Model, knows the difference between a pillow sham and pillow case, and hasn't dated any girl for nearly ten years. All these bits of information just make Randy's "gaydar" go BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Calm and blithe, he mixes some coffee ice-cream, milk and chocolate syrup in the blender until smooth. Humming Diana Ross' I'm Coming Out, he pours the mocha milkshake into two glasses. Today the two of them must have a heart-to-heart talk. It might not be easy for Steve to reveal his true coffee flavor, but Randy will try his best to delve the bejesus into that mocha milkshake and make him admit the truth.
"Hey, Randy!" Steve yells, stepping into the break room.
Randy turns around to find his colleague standing hand-in-hand with a young Asian woman.
"I'm not gonna have lunch here today, man," says Steve. "This is my girlfriend, Lulu. We're going to that Moonpucks around the corner. Wanna join us?"
"Your girlfriend?" Randy replies, flabbergasted. The girl says hi and gives him a smile. He remembers hearing Steve talk about her before, but not as his girlfriend.
"Yeah, long story," Steve chuckles. "So you're coming?"
"Uh....no, thanks. You guys have fun." He watches the couple unblinkingly as they leave. What a charade. He doesn't believe his gaydar is broken. It can't be. Too bad, Steve will always remain a mocha milkshake and never become an espresso.
Flavored Espresso Ingredients (for 2 servings)
For the Lemon Syrup: 1 tsp. sugar, 4 tbsps. water, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, a pinch of lemon zest
For the Clove Syrup: 1/2 tsp. sugar, 2 tbsps. water, 1/2 tsp. cloves and 1 vanilla bean
For Each Serving of Flavored Espresso: 2 tbsps. lemon syrup, 1 tbsp. clove syrup, 1/2 cup espresso
The moka pot was invented in 1933 by an Italian craftsman, named Alfonso Bialetti. Since then, this stovetop espresso maker has always been a must-have kitchen device in many Italian homes. Affordable to buy and simple to use, it has fulfilled many Italians' dream of "in casa un espresso come al bar" or "an espresso in the home just like one in the bar."
Each moka pot is designed for a set number of servings, therefore the size of your moka pot will determine how much coffee and water you need to use. Fill the lower section with cold water up to the safety valve. Then fill the filter with finely ground coffee up to the brim. Screw the top section onto the base and heat it on a stovetop. Once it reaches the boiling point, the steam pressure will force the brewed espresso to rise up through the center nozzle and trickle down into the upper chamber. Watch the following video for more details.
Moka Pots or Stovetop Espresso Makers
Flavored Stovetop Espresso and the Odd Couple
"You put too much water in it," says Gertrude in her German accent.
"Did I? I don't think so," Salvatore replies, placing his moka pot on a hot burner. How dare she say that to him? Telling an Italian how to use a moka pot is like teaching a Chinese how to eat with chopsticks. "Now I'm going to make the clove syrup," he says.
Gertrude gives him a sly smile. "I've got an idea. How about I make my lemon syrup; you make your clove syrup or whatever, then we put both in our espresso. Okay?" She starts heating some water and sugar in a saucepan. With the tips of her fingers, she daintily sprinkles a pinch of lemon zest on it.
"Uh...Okay," Salvatore finally brings himself to answer. Originally, they were going to make their espresso in their own style. She was supposed to season only her coffee with the lemon syrup, and he was going to use the clove syrup to spice his. He hates it when people mess up his coffee the way those inept baristas at Moonpucks always do. But this time, he will put up with it. He really wants Gertrude to become his girlfriend. He will have his coffee with the damn lemon syrup. Without further ado, he begins boiling some water and sugar in another saucepan.
After just about three minutes, Gertrude removes her boiled syrup from the stove, then strains and spices it with a spoonful of fresh lemon juice. She turns to Salvatore and teases him, "What's taking you so long, Sal? Hurry up. Look, the espresso is also ready."
"Yeah, I can see that," he replies. His voice comes out a bit curt. As the water starts to boil, he drops some cloves and a vanilla bean into the saucepan, then lets it boil for another two minutes or so. He tries to remind himself of all the nice things about Gertrude, as he strains his syrup into a small cup. She is smart, kind, pretty and usually doesn't interfere with his ways of doing things. She's the one; he still believes so.
Gertrude pours the espresso into two cups, and Salvatore adds the syrups to each of them. "Now, let's put some panna on it," he says.
She giggles. "What the heck is that? I think it needs some schlag."
Schlag? That doesn't sound like something he would put in his espresso. He doesn't know what it is, and it surely doesn't sound appetizing. "No, no, no, panna is better," he adamantly argues.
"No, believe me schlag is good," she says, trying to think of the English word for it.
"I'm going to put panna on mine." He grabs his cup of espresso.
"No, wait!" She snatches the cup from him.
That's it for Salvatore. He might let her tamper his espresso with her stupid lemon syrup, but no one can tell him he can't have his panna. He loves this extra ingredient dearly and can't date someone who doesn't share the same admiration for it. She's not the one after all. "Gertrude, you know maybe you should just leave."
"What? You're serious? I'm sorry," she says. "Go ahead and have your coffee with your penno."
"It's called panna!" Salvatore yells. "Just leave, okay?"
As Gertrude steps out, Salvatore's roommate, Pierra, walks into the apartment. "Is everything okay?" he asks. "She seems upset."
"Nothing," says Salvatore. "You just went to see your Aunt Suzette, didn't you? How is she?"
"She's fine. She was savoring her cafe au lait. We had a little chat. That's all." Pierre sips the flavored espresso from Gertrude's cup. "Ahh bon! Great espresso. But seriously, what's the matter with you and Gertrude?"
"The stupid girl didn't want panna with her espresso. She wanted schlag."
Pierre laughs, shaking his head. "Idiot!" he says. "What's wrong with you? Schlag and panna are the same thing. What's the English word for it? Oh yeah, whipped cream!"
How to Make a Stovetop Espresso Using a Moka Pot
Kahlua Frappe Ingredients
- 2 tbsps. ground coffee (preferably medium grind)
- 1 cup water
(Brew coffee in a coffee maker or a French press, and let it cool before mixing it with the following ingredients in a blender.)
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
- 1/4 cup crushed ice
- 1 tbsp. kahlua
Kahlua Frappe and the Unsung Writer
Drip, drip, drip - Lulu listens to the sound of her old coffee maker. The smell of freshly brewed coffee slowly pervades the whole room. She prolongs her inhalation, trying to suck in every smidgen of the coffee aroma in the air. Her article is about to be done, and her kahlua frappe is soon to be enjoyed. She removes the carafe from the machine and waits for the coffee to cool.
An unsung writer's life is pretty much like coffee; it is bitter. Some writers may leave it that way, but some others would rather use their creativity to sweeten and spice it up a bit. As for Lulu, she chooses to transform her plain bitter coffee into a kahlua frappe. "Why kahlua? Isn't a coffee frappe good enough?" you might ask. Well, it's more exciting to be slightly risque. Sometimes writers have to take risks and embark on an unconventional route. If such unusual path ends up leading her to nowhere, at least she can have fun with the wild ride. She might not be one of the best writers on the planet, but she loves writing as much as those top-notch writers do.
Her coffee has finally cooled down. Lulu pours it into the blender, then adds a tablespoonful of kahlua, some vanilla ice cream, condensed milk and a bit of crushed ice to it. Watching the ingredients twist and twirl in the blender, she feels vaguely contented; her mind whistles a jovial tune. Once it turns out all smooth, she transfers her kahlua frappe to a tall sleek glass and sips it with a straw. Hmmmm, much better than Moonpucks coffee. Her boyfriend won't be able to convince her to visit that coffee shop ever again. She will go back to her writing now. Only one more paragraph to complete in this article, but a lot more writing to do in the future to come.