Zen and the Art of Making Coffee

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I work from home so when I’m not able to nip out to my local coffee haunt, one of my favourite mid-morning rituals is to indulge in good cup of coffee. It’s an occasion I seem to relish more when alone.

There’s something therapeutic about the art of making coffee at home. I love hearing the espresso stovetop slurping and burping. I enjoy the wait. On the other hob, I watch swirls of steamy, creamy-coloured soya milk rise from the stainless steel jug. I place a piece of frozen croissant dough on the baking tray and set the timer for fifteen minutes.

I froth air into the milky puddle, pour the thick molasses liquid into my mug sporting a pattern of pink flamingos and an old fashioned hot air balloon – I top it with a creamy foam and a sprinkle of gingerbread flavoured chocolate flakes.

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Clinging to the familiarity of my coffee companion, I then head upstairs on the mezzanine level of my loft-like office in the clouds, with views of our fine city – and suddenly work becomes less strenuous when armed with a creamy caffene hit. It’s often my favourite ‘tea-break’ moment of the day.

I’ve drastically reduced my caffeine intake during my pregnancy so these days I really savour this occasion which happens once or twice weekly.

But when this moment does arise, it’s got to be right, the ingredients have got to be perfect and the conditions almost Zen-like. These are the things, which make my coffee moment so special for me…

Armed with vintage Italian methods

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My Bialetti stovetop espresso maker is my pride and joy. I prefer the simplicity of using this traditional Italian method. I love cleaning out each compartment carefully, the authentic gurgling it makes and the fact it will never break from a technical malfunction, only from wear and tear a few years down the line (I’ve had this little beauty for six years and it’s still going strong).

Pick a blend for your taste buds

Everyone’s taste is different. My favourite coffee at the moment is a single-sourced Fairtrade Ethiopian espresso blend, with chocolatey notes, from my local bean man on Norwich market.

Remove the edge from your coffee

In my Bialetti, I don’t use tap water but spring bottled water. Sounds a bit poncey I know, but I can really taste the difference in tea and coffee with tap water which tastes metallic (something you don’t really want your coffee to taste of).

Use a planet-friendly milk

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I don’t tend to use dairy milk in my cappuccinos or lattes. I’ve been drinking soya milk for around five years or so now and I prefer it for so many reasons in coffee (tea, smoothies, sauces etc).

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Firstly, when warm it froths up like a dream (easier than dairy) – the foam from soya is so much creamier and thicker, great for cappuccinos. It’s better for the planet compared to dairy (uses less Co2, water and land to produce) and is lower in saturated fat (err, no-brainer!). I’ve always used unsweetened organic soya, until recently, when I tried Alpro’s newest soya milk, Simply Mild (which can be found in the chiller next to the diary).

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This variety uses a high quality soya bean with a milder, milky flavour. The gentle taste makes it all the more smooth on morning cereal, in coffee or tea and smoothies. It’s my new favourite soya milk – I love that it’s smooth, light, yet creamy. It’s perfect for coffee.

Serve with the perfect partner

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After all of that care and thought, I couldn’t just settle for a chocolate digestive. You need the right kind of partner in crime for a coffee made with such thought. I tend to throw calorie caution out of the window here. I love the freshly baked (frozen dough) croissants from Waitrose and always keep a stash of these in my freezer. More recently, nothing else will do apart form a locally-made gourmet doughnut from the Doughnut Lab. (Pictured below are Doughnut Lab’s latest flavour: Banoffee – filled with banana salt caramel and topped with biscuit crunch and chocolate.)

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With a peanutty twist

Sometimes, I forfeit the doughnut and instead I add a different twist into proceedings. I make a peanut butter flavoured latte. Simply take two tablespoons of peanut butter and add to the warm slightly frothed milk until it melts. Stir and froth once more. (If you use chunky peanut butter – instead of smooth – you’ll need to strain the liquid and nuts in a sieve.) The end result is a subtle flavour, but by adding peanut butter makes the milk nutty (funnily enough) and a little bit rich. I sometimes also top this with caramelised marshmallows (well, I am pregnant!).

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And at the moment, during this heat wave, it’s all about serving your latte in a large vessel (this Kitchener jar was the biggest thing I could find that didn’t already contain flowers) – and served over a truck-load of ice, made with spring water, obvs!

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Do you have any special coffee rituals? What’s your favourite way to make coffee at home? Do you have any recipes or twists you’d like to share. Feel free to mention them here…

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