Giving Coffee a Makeover

Coffee connoisseurs and billion-dollar businesses are taking a shine to several new methods of harvesting and preparing coffee. Perhaps coffee-lovers need not apply, since the reliability of a simple cup of drip, or the routine of a morning cappuccino at a local café, is enough for most die-hard fans of the bean. Anyone who tires of the stuff (or overdoes it) probably only needs to go on a green tea stint to rekindle their romance. But the industry persists. Below are some of the ways the global coffee market is trying to spruce things up, presumably to woo new coffee drinkers as well as the more loyal drinkers among us.

Green coffee

Starbucks, which recently shuttered 900 stores worldwide, appears to have a new strategy of introducing somewhat radical types of drinks to its menu in order to lure more people into a store–and hopefully into a new drink routine. The Reuters story announcing the company’s latest venture, “green coffee,” may sound like it’s talking about environmental ethics, but green coffee is actually just raw coffee beans transformed into a powder and presumably mixed up in a blender with lots of ice and sugary syrup, knowing Starbucks. The substance is described as a “flavor-neutral powdered extract,” and may be popular to those who find coffee too powerful to their systems because it has “less of a caffeine kick” than the roasted brew.

“It’s coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee,” said Julie Felss Masino, Starbucks’ vice president of global beverage, which is how some people describe Starbucks coffee.

Kopi luwak

A rare and expensive kind of coffee reported ’round the Web, including in a recent New York Times story, comes, colloquially speaking, from cat poop. The delicacy, called kopi luwak, is Indonesian in origin and is derived from the Asian palm civet cat (the luwak). The civet cat eats the coffee cherries containing the coffee beans. While not interested in the beans themselves, which are covered in parchment, the cats eat them anyway. The coffee harvesters then pick the beans out of the cats’ droppings (true story), remove the parchment, and ship the beans off. Kopi luwak has actually been available in the U.S. since the 1980s. The amount of beans available are naturally limited, which makes kopi luwak expensive (around $100 per pound). But its flavor is said to be unlike any other kind of coffee. Because the civet’s digestive system has broken down certain elements of the coffee bean’s flavor, to the drinker, the finished product tastes “smooth, chocolaty and devoid of any bitter aftertaste,” according to the Times.

The Clover Brewing System

At $11,000, it’s hard to picture the commercial-grade coffee brewer the Clover 1s in your kitchen, but the company behind it, Coffee Equipment Company, might just convince you (if not, many cafés have been convinced). The Clover system advocates that each cup of coffee be brewed with the utmost care and attention. To that end, the machines only brew one cup of coffee at a time.

It’s a rather soothing process to watch, which you can witness (and taste) at Café Grumpy in New York, among other places. Slate writer Paul Adams actually found it a little scary when he tested a Clover at Grumpy back in 2008. After you press ‘brew,’ “a circular platform sinks down from the top of the machine into a steamy cylindrical operating chamber,” Adams writes. “I’m sure I’m not the first Clover user to experience a quick flashback to a vivid childhood memory—watching, horrified, as Darth Vader lowers Han Solo into his carbonite freezer.”

By combining high-quality coffee with the Clover, the Grumpy brew does achieve the effect Clover is going for: you can really taste the depth and breadth of a coffee’s flavor, if that’s the kind of high you’re looking to get from your coffee experience. Your cup will be more expensive than your typical home, deli or café brew, but it’s worth trying at least once. TC mark

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