When’s the last time that you tasted a hint of pineapple, strawberry, or apple in your coffee?
It may seem hard to believe, but these flavors aren’t impossible, they are possible, and even fairly common. You just need to know where to look for them.
Within the specialty coffee world, you can find fruity tasting coffee in a lot of places. These unique and sometimes odd flavors are exotic, fascinating, and we’ve learned to love them.
But of course, not everyone likes fruity coffee and that’s just fine.
However, fruit flavor coffee isn’t something that you should immediately dismiss. It actually holds quite a lot of value, even to lovers of regular coffee. So, let’s take a look at the deal with fruity tasting coffee.
HOW IS COFFEE MADE TO TASTE FRUITY?
As well all know, coffee is a plant, and like all other plants, its flavor originates from many sources. So, let’s take a look at the different things that affect the taste of the coffee we drink:
- Composition of the soil – When soil is rich in nutrients as opposed to being nutrient-weak, the coffee is more flavorful. A coffee plants becomes healthier the more nutrients it can get, and the beans comes enhanced in flavor the more flavor the coffee cherries have.
- Climate – Weather patterns, including rain, wind, and humidity, help plants know when it’s time to be dormant, produce cherries, or flower. When plants are able to benefit from a balanced annual cycle, the cherries they produce will also be balanced. On the other hand, if there are abnormalities with the climate, the plant can produce cherries too late or early, resulting in coffee that isn’t as tasty as normal
- Altitude – Coffee plants that are grown at high altitude normally have brighter acidities when compared to those grown at lower altitudes. This brightness is often interpreted by our brains as crispiness or as a fruity tang.
- Harvest – When cherries are picked too early and before they are actually ripe, the coffee produced is quite yucky and tastes “green”. If you leave it too long to pick the cherries, and they are picked when they are overripe, the coffee will again be unpleasant, this time tasting fermented. When the cherries are picked at the right time, and indeed handpicked, they are vibrant, flavorful, and well-balanced.
- Processing – A processing process that is correctly controlled will help bring out flavors that are well-balanced. In particular, the natural process produces flavors that are fruity, as the coffee beans are left to dry inside the cherries for days or sometimes even for weeks, during which time they soak up the sugary goodness.
- Roasting – When coffee is roasted at a light or medium range, the result often has a fruity note. When coffee is dark roasted, these fruity notes actually become bitter as they decay. Before specialty coffee became popular, super-dark roasting was the norm, and it’s now easy to see why fruity coffee is both new and a little strange.
Fruitiness is not just a flavor that is made up by hipsters to make coffee exotic and weird.
The fruity flavor you find in specialty coffee is actually developed at the farm, the flavor being brought out in the roasting process; the cherries are actually a fruit.
No use of Flavor Oils
So, let’s get something clear here. Fruity flavor coffees are not the product of flavor oils.
Back in the 1960’s, toasters sprayed lower-grade beans with artificial oils when the price of coffee shot up, this meaning that bad flavors were masked and the roasters didn’t go out of business.
However, the truth is that these beans were never great-tasting; in fact the cinnamon and raspberry sprays used were awful and tasted fake. Even the natural ones didn’t taste too great.
When coffee is well grown and processed and roasted properly, it has a lush, exotic flavor, without the need for any oils.
TASTING AND ENJOYING FRUITY COFFEE LIKE THE PROS
There’s one very important thing that must be remembered about flavored coffees and that is that they are nuanced. The coffee will always have that same “coffee” flavor that we all love, but there are some little changes made.
So, let’s take as an example a coffee that has a tangerine acidity. It won’t taste like orange juice; it will however have a tang of citrus and sweetness that your brain will interpret as orange.
The important word to remember here is nuance.
And, when tasting coffee, the most important question to remember is what the coffee reminds you of.
So, let’s take a look at some of things you should look for when tasting fruity coffees.
- Acidity. Coffees that have high acidity will remind you of crisp fruits, acidic acid reminding you of orange or lemon. When the acid used is malic, the tangy taste will remind you of grape or apple.
- Aroma. Naturally processed coffees often have vibrant and fruity aromas. Your taste receptors found in the nasal passages actually interpret these aromas as flavors when you drink the coffee. Common aromas in coffee that has been naturally processed include flowers, strawberries, and blueberries.
- Sweetness. Sugars in coffee can be quite noticeable and will come across as a gentle sweetness. This could be caramel or honey, or when we are talking about regular sugar, when paired with an aroma or an acid your brain will interpret it as a fruity flavor.
These are the main sensory elements that contribute to the flavor of a fruity coffee. Bitterness, aftertaste, and mouth-feel can also be contributing factors.
WHERE TO BUY FRUITY COFFEES
If you were thinking you could buy fruity coffees in your local supermarket, you are wrong. Coffees in supermarkets come from low grade beans and are darkly roasted and often stale.
The delicate and nuanced fruity tangs and flavors to coffees are the first to disappear in the roasting process.
If you want to experience fruity coffee, you need to find coffee beans that have been recently roasted. Coffee beans are at their peak up to three weeks after roasting.
So, it’s important to buy coffee from a coffee shop or specialist that has just been roasted.