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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Java Enabled: Fifteen Shots Later, Part 1

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Page 2 of 2

PT's baristas worked to accentuate the flavors present in the coffee and, in one case, take coffee where it's never been before: soda.

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Morgan Smith's signature drink was a Venezuelan-spiced mocha cortado. "I tried this drinking chocolate in Kansas City, and I thought it was a perfected combination" with the espresso, she says.

Smith served her cortado in wide-mouth shot glass with the rim coated in chocolate. With Brazilian, Ehtiopian and Sumatra coffees in her espresso, she tried to highlight the vanilla and cacao notes while adding chile. Cortados are served with hot (not foamed) milk. She instructed the judges to stir the espresso drink with a small skewer on which there was an orange peel.

Kasey Klines from PT's prepared one of the most original -- and delicious, I'm told -- signature drinks. He describes its origins: "I spent a summer backpacking through the Northwest after graduating high school. The trip became a coffee tour of sorts and really showed me coffee's potential. The trip also introduced me to Indian food. ...I would be drinking espresso on my trip, and as I opened my bag, I would get this whiff of curry powder. That was the inspiration for this drink."

Klines combined his Yirgacheffe/Sumatra espresso with garam masala curry powder, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla bean and brown sugar infused into coconut milk. Ideally, the heavy spices of the drink would match the body of the Sumatra, while the natural sweetness of the Yirgacheffe would contrast those same spices. The drink was served with mango and yogurt.

The Midwest Regional defending champion was PT's Robin Seitz. In his fourth competition, Seitz set out to make an espresso soda. Coffee and soda? "Creepy is the only word that comes to mind," Seitz acknowledges. "It's a disaster. Allowing [the espresso] to rest and chill ahead of time was the answer."

Seitz pulled his shots in silver gravy boats and let the shots rest. Letting the shots "chill" like this runs counter to the conventional wisdom that cream and flavor start to dissipate as soon as the shot is pulled. While his espresso cooled, Robin prepared a simple syrup with figs, dates, brown sugar, blood-orange zest and water over a hot plate. He shook the syrup and espresso in a small shaker and poured it over ice and then hit it with soda water before the judges tasted it.

Zach Dyer is a writer living in Saint Louis. He did his thesis research on coffee farmers in Southern Mexico. Since then, he has visited coffee plantations in Costa Rica and Mexico as well as roasters and cafés across the U.S. He blogs about coffee every Wednesday.

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