Last month, Drink Like Royalty attended a wonderful seminar on the history of coffee & tea and their diverse applications that can be used within mixology and food & beverage pairing. The Community Brew course is one of several courses that Diageo offers to bar professionals, with their "World Class Studios" series. The invitation was sent to Nashville's USBG chapter, and it was held at the pristine Grand Hyatt bar and restaurant, The Continental (www.thecontinentalnashville.com). Community Brew happened to be held at the same time as Nashville's CMA fest, which is a week-long event where folks travel in droves to experience the city and its downtown music scene, the punishingly spicy plates of hot chicken and over-the-top Bloody Mary garnishes, the pedal taverns and nightlife, and to simply celebrate life in general. Understandably, you could imagine that Nashville's service industry was busy to say the least.
Those able to attend Community Brew were treated to an informal, in-depth discussion by bar expert Anu Apte (IG: dayglowbeige). She won Diageo's World Class Competition in 2012, and has carved out quite an impressive, decorated career and portfolio that includes owning and consulting multiple top-notch bar and restaurant programs in Seattle, WA. If you ever find yourself in Seattle, you should experience her cocktail den Rob Roy (IG: @robroyseattle), known for utilizing scotch as the main spirit on the menu. She also runs Navy Strength (IG: @navystrengthseattle), a bright and tropical bar that gains inspiration from the world's various regions and countries when they change their menu, which seems to be often. Vinnie's Wine Shop (IG: @vinnieswineshop), the Tradewinds Tavern (IG: @tradewindstavern) and The Bar Bazaar (www.thebarbazaarseattle.com) round out her current entrepreneurial endeavors in the Northwest. Her programs have gained national and international accolades, including two James Beard nods, and Navy Strength winning Best New Cocktail Bar from the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail Foundation in2018.
It was quite the treat to learn from such a dedicated bar & spirits professional.
One of the reasons this seminar was designed for was to give us a better understanding of the many varietals of tea and coffee, the ancient history of the drinks, and also to explore ideas I had never thought of, such as grinding certain teas into a powder and using that as a garnish, or responsibly sourcing coffees and teas like you would a wine in order to reach a desired outcome.
As you can imagine, where you source your product matters in terms of the flavor profile, and it also directly impacts the sustainability of the farmer. Many local stores already have Fair Trade options outside of the larger brands, and buying from those Fair Trade certified companies truly make a difference for a farmer growing crops in a developing country. The world's regions also have a dramatic impact on the final product that sits at your favorite local tea/coffee shop. I must also pause to say that it's okay if you've never considered coffee to have much of a variety of flavor. I learned that the majority of the coffee on the shelves in America are roasts of the Arabica coffee bean, which makes up roughly 70 percent of the coffee consumed in the world. Arabica beans are more subtle in taste compared to Robusta coffees, which have twice the caffeine content and tend to taste more bitter and harsh. If you train your palate over time to pick up the nuances in what you consume, you can start to notice some new notes from your favorite coffee blend besides "bitter", or "strong". You may be able to sip your favorite cup of coffee and begin to discern notes such as tart fruit, dark chocolate, and toasted almond, and also spices like cinnamon or pepper.
Tea can be used in the right recipes to create harmony in cocktails, and there are many wonderful cocktails on menus throughout the world that incorporate tea for not only flavor, but for their striking and robust colors, such as Rooibos or Butterfly Pea Flower teas. You can pair green teas and matchas with drier gins and vermouths to explore new delicious flavor combinations. Kombucha highballs have become popular as well, and it isn't a stretch to use teas in tandem with citrus or berries to find new avenues for flavor, or even for cocktails in a low/no proof menu.
Natalie and Jon at The Continental treated us to a wonderful Gin Matcha Martini, which was a lovely and balanced sipping experience. I had an excellent carbonated Cosmopolitan at the happy hour that followed the seminar, along with Oysters a la Mornay and decadent Prime Rib Sliders finished with cantal cheese, cornichons, and horseradish cream. 🤩
The Community Brew seminar inspired me in many ways, and I am glad I went. I'm going to experiment with blending various teas to achieve different outcomes, and experiment with different sweeteners like honey or demerara syrup to see where the profile of the cocktail leads. A special thanks to Anu for coming all the way to Nashville to teach us about coffee & tea, and thanks to Nashville USBG for making it all happen! Cheers y'all ☕
A Gin Matcha Martini, courtesy of The Continental
Anu Apte beginning the Community Brew seminar with the History of Tea
The House Cosmopolitan, and those delicious Prime Rib Sliders in the background
Happy Hour at The Continental