Monday, May 14, 2007

I have to admit, I'm a skeptic. And I was a bit skeptical when I was first asked to meet with someone to discuss fortified coffee. I'm a coffee purist - and have been since I started writing about coffee nearly 15 years ago. So, when someone asked me to sit down and learn a bit more about this new innovation for the coffee industry, I had my reservations, but also was intrigued.
Fortified foods - we all consume them, even if we don't realize it. From cereal to bread to water and juice, science has found a way to make foods more beneficial to the consumer. In fact, I don't even think about it when I drink orange juice fortified with calcium, or cereal with added vitamins and minerals, but my coffee? My sacred cup of black coffee?
Actually, it is an interesting concept. Why not fortify coffee? It is a widely consumed beverage, so why not get a little something extra in it when you enjoy your coffee, latté, or mocha?
My meeting was held at the recent Specialty Coffee Association of America annual Conference and Exhibition. Earlier that morning, I sat in on a panel discussion that touched on the "Third Wave" of coffee cafes. In the past couple of years, the term "Third Wave" has come to represent those coffee cafes which have refocused on the community, offer more traditional beverages (as opposed to offering a broad spectrum of milk-infused coffee beverages) and are generally small in terms of number of outlets. These Third Wave cafes are manned by well-trained baristas who love to connect with their customers. As the panel discussion progressed, they came to the conclusion that Third Wavers are simply those cafe owners who are re-embracing the world of coffee. Going back to their roots. As they do so, they are representative of an evolving specialty coffee scene. I guess that is what fortified coffee is part of as well. As we take a look at the next 'new' thing in the specialty coffee world, this seems like a natural progression.
As I listened to the story about fortified coffee, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this unique 'fortification' process doesn't alter the taste of the coffee at all. It doesn't affect the roast, it isn't an additive. It is simply a process that can add a whole host of beneficial qualities, even calcium to my morning cup of coffee.
Well, if it doesn't change the taste of my favorite brew - and it gives me something good for my body, then I'm all for it. While it has yet to hit the cafes, keep an eye out for a fortified brew at your favorite watering hole.