Try your hand at coffee cocktails

This is a feature of ours which appeared in the Publican on 14th December. We think we are probably the only coffee trade paper which works to promote the industry through other publications!

An important cocktail contest begins next month – and the unexpected backers of it are the speciality coffee trade. The aim of it is to show the licensed trade that true profit from coffee only comes from an understanding how to serve top quality in the cup – many in the trade still treat coffee as a tin-and-spoon commodity, but it is coffee-making skill that achieves over two pounds for a cappuccino, and in some restaurants, £5 for an espresso.

The event is the Coffee in Good Spirits contest, run by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, which says that top-class coffee, if handled and served with the same care as wine or ale, can be surprisingly profitable.

Organiser of the Good Spirits contest is Paul Meikle-Janney of Coffee Community in Huddersfield, who is regarded as probably the leading coffee-trade trainer in the country. His own experience ranges from bar work to Michelin-starred kitchens, and several pub companies and high-street coffee names now use him as their ‘auditor’, a roving trainer and assessor who keeps an eye on coffee quality across an estate.

“Coffee and alcohol make a natural combination in European bars, but not in ours,” observes Meikle-Janney. “In the British trade, the espresso machine is still that much-maligned thing at the end of the bar that nobody wants to touch!

“However, with the rise of pub food, and a growing interest in reaching different kinds of customer at different times of day, we’re beginning to see licensees take more of an interest in what they can get out of coffee. Some pub groups have seen what Wetherspoon have done, and know they should now be taking coffee very seriously.

“I’ve done a lot of coffee training in trendy ‘style’ bars, and the staff have just lapped it up – the owners see the profit potential, and the staff see the beginning of a whole new career path.”

In the Good Spirits contest, entrants have to serve the judges an Irish Coffee, and then follow with a coffee cocktail of their own devising. The Irish Coffee has both commercial value and staff-training value, says Paul Meikle-Janney.

“Coffee people see this as a dated drink, but It’s still the biggest-selling combination of alcohol and coffee in the hospitality trade. It’s also a very important drink for training, because the difference between a great Irish Coffee and a bad one is a question of balance.

“The coffee has to have the right body, and the whiskey cannot be so harsh that it strips your mouth dry. You don’t want an aggressive whiskey, and the reason that Irish whiskies suit is because they have a slightly softer taste – if you’re not using Irish, then you’d go Speyside rather than Islay.

“The bit that really scares bar staff is floating the cream. It’s really not difficult at all, just a question of training them to know how to get the cream to the right consistency – get the bubbles right, and you won’t need a spoon, but you can just pour it on.”

When you make one well, says Meikle-Janney, the Irish Coffee is a profitable menu item.
“Do it well, and I think you’re probably scooting around just under a fiver in price – given the price of most pub desserts, anywhere between £3.95 and £4.95.

“Exactly the same goes for the Espresso Martini, which is another matter of balancing two main ingredients. Get it right, and you have a very desirable and profitable menu item – get it wrong, and you can end up serving a horrific cocktail.”

Entries for the Coffee in Good Spirits contest will open on November 1st, online at a new website, http://www.scaeuk.com.

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