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Lattes, Cortados, and Biscotti

Like most kids, my earliest memories of coffee were tasting my mom’s coffee and promptly, and dramatically I might add, spitting it out. My mom always took her coffee black. No sweeteners. No milk. So needless to say, if you are a kid growing up in a world without Starbucks, this was an unpleasant shock to the palate.

It took almost two decades and the mass arrival of specialty coffee houses for the beverage to solidify a presence in my life. After college, I would occasionally treat myself to an iced mocha. As time went on, occasionally grew to weekly, and weekly grew to well…daily. Mostly due to cycling. Cycling many, many miles weekly had a profound effect on my coffee drinking, even though drowning a perfectly good espresso in milk and chocolate is a long way from what coffee could and should be. 

Saturdays were always reserved for long rides with friends. It didn’t matter if it was freezing, raining, windy, hot, or that rare and coveted perfect day. We always started and finished at a coffee house. After the ride, we would lean our bikes up against the windows, click clack our way across the tile floor in multi-colored spandex, that only we thought looked normal, and ordered. Back then, after a long day on the bike, it didn’t obsess over how good the coffee was. The company, stories, laughs, and memories more than made up for the often bitter, watered-down drinks anyway. 

While my bike miles have dwindled significantly over the years, my love and interest in coffee has grown significantly. I have read books, attended coffee festivals, participated in coffee-tasting events, and took espresso-making classes at a local shop. I learned how to time my shots, how to appropriately grind my beans, all about the crema, and the difference between a ristretto and a lungo. A ristretto is a “short shot” that uses less water and a finer grind, whereas a lungo has a milder flavor that comes from a longer brewing time and more water.

Like my long bike days, my mocha drinking days are a thing of the past. I now oscillate between lattes and cortados, depending on the time of the day. Typically starting with a latte as the sun rises and relaxing with a cortado when the moon illuminates the darkened sky. A now self-proclaimed home barista, I enjoy the process of pulling shots, steaming milk, and picking the perfect glass for my coffee to fill before enjoying all its flavors and undertones. But it isn’t a full home cafe experience without some nibs on the side. 

When it comes to coffee snacks, I definitely lean towards smaller fares - biscotti, chocolate wafers, made-from-scratch graham crackers, macarons… Right now I am locked into biscotti. For the past few months, I have been testing and retesting an orange, almond, and fennel biscotti. Adjusting the zest, the size of the almond chunks, and the baking time of the twice-baked Italian treat trying to find perfection…or at least something in the neighborhood of. With a multitude of trials under my baking apron, I think it has just about the crunch and flavor I’m seeking. But…then again maybe it is just going to be something that keeps evolving like my (home) barista skills.

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