Caffe et Truffe - Sacré Bleu!
I watched eagerly, as the artful and talented barista at my Napa coffee destination, Ritual Coffee Roasters, poured my single cappuccino, admiring her grace as the silky foamed milk gradually caressed the coffee crème to make that perfect “heart” partnership.
On this instance, though, it was the time of year when fresh aromatic Australian winter Perigord truffles from the Wine and Truffle Company take over my world, and I could discern a faint whiff escape my bag from the little black gems within. As the delicate notes of the coffee and the heady aroma of the truffles found each other in my senses, my instant response was, “Surely not - coffee and truffles. God forbid!”.
But the lingering of the two distinctly individual scents seemed to dance around and I had to find a way to make it work. Pardon to the French who must think “sacré bleu”!
I dared to leave a nugget of my “treasure from Down Under” and my trusted truffle shaver with the experts and took my seat to enjoy my café, while they played with the two ingredients. But I couldn’t resist sneaking a shave for myself and watching it sink through the velvety milk to infuse into the warm liquid hidden below.
I slowly sipped through the foam, enjoying the anticipation that awaited when I was going to be either severely disappointed or have my sense of smell affirmed. The experience was beyond what I had expected. What ensued from the partnership was a smoky; slightly tobacco character that I had not noticed in the coffee before, and the truffle aroma hinted background notes that lulled the tannins of the coffee to a soft slumber.
Perhaps as Levi Lillie, barista at Ritual, suggested, “The milk softened the dominant flavors of each, giving the truffle a taste for the coffee.” He found, like I, that the truffle created a whole new flavor profile for the drink, bringing notes that neither had on their own.
Mind you, I wouldn’t be trying this at Starbucks, and nor would I be using a dropper to assault the coffee with truffle oil. The beans on this particular instance were what Ritual call “Seersucker” – 50% Producers Pride, Costa Rica, 25% Matalapa, El Salvador, and 25%: La Amistad, Colombia. When roasted, the beans open up with a delicate floral fragrance, paired with a heavy, sweet caramel aroma. In their own well-chosen words, Ritual baristas describe it “in the cup” as having bright lime and grapefruit with deeper cedar and root beer, ending with a crème Brule finish. No wonder a magical home for the truffle.
I would think this kind of marriage would be well deserved at a Fine Dining Restaurant…..”Cappuccino, sans or with truffle”, just add a few dollars to the tag. Or perhaps one of these cult coffee bars, where young techies and disguised actors are happy to spend well-earned cents on their coffee with a shave of Black Gold.