Frozen Sweet Latte Recipe

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It’s summer in Southern California, and my frugal self can’t help but turn on the AC once the loft nears 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In a moment of weakness (I blame the heat), we went to our favorite local coffee shop in Santa Ana last Sunday, to reap the benefits of their AC in lieu of turning ours on. Which also is a confession for: we ordered coffee at a coffee shop, something we haven’t done in a while. Despite the regrets of spending $11 in exchange for two hours of AC time (we stayed until closing hour), we were introduced to a splendid drink, which they call the Frozen Sweet Latte.

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Hopper and Burr’s Frozen Sweet Latte

The drink comes from a slushie machine, and while $5.50 a glass seems like a steep price, the joys of sipping one of these babies as icy crystals twinkle on your tongue is indescribable. It’s enough to evaporate any heat wave (well, the AC in the shop helped). Regardless, once we had a taste of their medicine, we just knew we had to replicate it, or at least try. Hence, the sharing of a similar, but slightly different, frozen sweet latte recipe. Without a slushie machine, we made up for their textured ice crystals with a more distinct taste of espresso. Here’s how you could avoid paying for coffee, and sit through another hot afternoon in a blazing room.

Makes 6 servings

Things you need:

    • Blender – You’ll need a blender to mix all this goodness right before serving. Having worked at Jamba Juice for almost two years, a blender was one of the first things to go on our registry. No Annie Banks Mackenzie crying over a blender as a wedding gift here (Father of the Bride fans, anyone?). This is the one we own.
    • Scale – I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
    • Grinder – The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious cups of Joe ever since.
    • Espresso MachineThis is the machine we’ve been using to sling espressos since before I knew what an espresso was. It’s a very affordable espresso machine, with is the main reason we chose it over others. One day, we will upgrade, but for now, it does the job.
    • Freezer safe bowl – Honestly, we just use a glass Tupperware to store the coffee in the freezer. We have a Tupperware set similar to this one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of espresso
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 cups of crushed ice

The Process:

  1. Pull 1 cup of espresso from the espresso machine. We had to pull approximately 4 espresso shots, at 20 grams of freshly ground coffee beans extracted at 25 seconds each shot.
  2. Pour the espresso in a freezer safe bowl. Add the sugar and mix until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Add 1/2 a cup of milk.
  4. Freeze in the freezer for at least 8 hours.
  5. Thaw slightly in the fridge right before use. We placed it in the fridge for approximately one hour.
  6. Transfer to a blender with 1/2 cup of milk. Add 6 cups of crushed ice (depending on the consistency you want).
  7. Blend on high until thoroughly mixed. We still wanted some crushed ice pieces in there.
  8. Pour into 6 glasses. Sprinkle with freshly ground coffee.
  9. Enjoy with a metal straw.

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The Verdict:

Our version is definitely not as light as theirs, but if you really like the taste of coffee, the flavor stands out more in this version. If you could budget out $5.50 a glass, it’s still worth trying out their slushie machine version at Hopper and Burr. Really, the texture is better than ours! The owner, Severson, is doing other pretty neat stuff worth checking out too.

Café de Olla

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

On Sundays, we occasionally indulge by making Tartine’s French toast recipe using our homemade sourdough bread. Despite the clash in cultural origin, nothing goes better with a slice of French toast than a cup of Cafe de Olla, in our opinion. We first tried this sweet coffee drink when we dined at Pujol on our trip to Mexico City. We consumed many cups of coffee but the uniqueness of this traditional drink really stands out to me. The bitterness of coffee and the spiciness of cinnamon marries well with the sweetness of piloncillo. Piloncillo is an un-refined brown sugar that is usually shaped in a cone form. When we don’t have it lying around, we substitute brown sugar, but cut the amount to reduce the sweet factor. This coffee is very easy to make, and is the perfect activity while the French toast souffles in the oven.

It is a very easy recipe and the richness of the drink is lovingly understated. In order to make the drink, we use the following kitchen items:

  • Scale – I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
  • Grinder – The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious cups of Joe ever since.
  • Chemex – You can use any drip-coffee vessel, but we love our Chemex. We like the style with the glass handle, but there are ones with a wooden middle, if aesthetics are more of a concern.
  • Filter – We used to buy disposable paper filters for our Chemex. Over the holidays, Mike’s sister gifted us a pair of reusable hemp filter, and we have never thrown a filter out since then. Surprisingly, it is such an easy clean up process. You simply wash it like you would a towel and hang to dry.
    A similar one, here.

Ingredients:

  • 1L water
  • 50 g piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar)
  • 1 cinnamon sticks
  • 25 g coarsely ground coffee

Instructions:

  1. Add the water, cinnamon, and piloncillo in a saucepan.
  2. Bring the water to a boil for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add ground coffee and stir.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow to steep for five minutes.
  5. Filter the liquid using a Chemex.
  6. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

Travel: Coffee Shops in Mexico City

Mexico City has an up-and-coming coffee scene, so subtle that the locals themselves may not even realize it is happening. While a majority of cuidadanos still ask for coffee as our grandparents once knew it, (that is, black, watered down, bland, and prepared in seconds), a lot of foreigners were seeking out newer coffee shops that are not far off from the third wave cafes that one would find in California. Because these coffee shops take more than a minute to brew coffee, many locals prefer to stick with shops such as Cafe El Jarocho, serving Coyoacan since 1953. With a city as fast-paced as the cars intermingling amongst themselves within the same lane, no one who really lives in the city has time to wait for someone to time an aeropress to the correct second, let alone wait for a barista to grind coffee beans so that they are fresh for the steeping.

The great thing about the coffee being served in Mexico City is the knowledge that the coffee beans are being made not too far away. Unlike the coffee being served in California cafes, these beans did not have to travel halfway around the globe, and were not picked from cherry trees months ago. These were from local farmers in neighboring cities, and supporting the farmers that are working hard to preserve the quality coffee bean in Mexico is especially important.

With the recent escalating spread of roya, also known as coffee rust, among coffee plantations, there has been a significantly decreased output of coffee cherries in areas that used to be heavy coffee producers, such as Oaxaca. An air-borne fungus that spreads rapidly and causes an infectious orange “rust” color of the leaves of cherry plants has the ability to prevent photosynthesis of plants which leads to failure of cherries to ripen. Affected trees will have much fewer leaves, or at times are even fully defoliated, by the second season. What results is a loss of jobs for many farmers, and miles and miles of barren and abandoned trees. Due to the roya outbreak, Mexican coffee production has decreased by more than half in the last five years. Additionally, coffees being produced are not scoring as high as they used to. Coffee is considered competitive when they score above 85/100, and with the spread of roya, fewer and fewer coffee make the cut.

The fantastic thing about Mexican coffee is that, unlike most other coffee producing countries which export their best produce to other countries, Mexico keeps its coffee within its own country, due to the increasing demand in cities such as Mexico City. Many coffee shops only serve Mexican coffee exclusively, something that is not found in California cafes. Because of this interest in trying to preserve good Mexican coffee beans, specialty coffee shops in Mexico City have been helping coffee farmers maintain their livelihood. I like to think we did our part too, by supporting specialty coffee shops that are buying nothing but high quality coffee from farmers in nearby regions. Here are my top caffeine stops, starting with the favorite and working down to lesser loved stops.

Almanegra Cafe

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Cafe Avellanada

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Buna 42

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Cafe Passmar

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Amor Perfecto

The Daily Grind, Two Ways.

You’re dreaming of something unremembered, when the blaring of a device set in such a way to guarantee waking you brings you back to reality, to another work day. The sun is shining in your bedroom window, predicting another blissful day in Southern California. Without the time to soak up the natural warmth of the sunlight as it floods in to warm your bed, you exchange that leisure awakening for a warm shower instead, meant to shock you awake and get you started for a new day. You rush by the coffee pot and push a button, to stream a liquid medicine into a portable mug, one that is ready as you rush out the door to join others in their morning commute. The drug dilates you to match your already feverish pace. You drive by the same scenery every day, but you don’t notice the scenes, barring a car accident pulled over on the side of the road, or new construction on the outskirts of the freeway. Your mind is elsewhere, on an island far away or on your to-do list, to which you’re driving momentarily. Or your mind is still dreaming of the bed you wish you were laying on, while the gears of your car transport you to where you don’t want to be. You sit at the same desk as you did yesterday, and despite the long hours and the hard work, the pile of boxes on your checklist never decreases. It’s a time machine that takes you back to yesterday. The daily grind, one way.

 

You wake from this nightmare one morning, in time with your natural bodily workings, and only after a full night’s rest. The first sound you hear is of birds chirping outside your window. Slowly turning to your nightstand, you pick up the book you were reading before you fell asleep, and thumb the pages, noticing the way they feel under your fingertips. You read a few pages as you wake, even if you have to re-read a line or two a few times before registering the words. Meanwhile, the sunlight warms you under the heavy comforters, until the heat prompts you to stand. You slip on your warm slippers to protect your feet from the cold floods, and walk downstairs. You savor the smell of pine from the Christmas tree, as the sun light filters onto your dining table, creating glittery fractured fragments as it passes through stained glass windows. You think about coffee. You weigh the appropriate amount of coffee beans on a scale, as you heat up the espresso machine. A bean too many. You return the devilish seed back into its home, saving it for another day. The beans are freshly ground, the smell, enticing and bold. You extract the right amount of espresso, then foam the milk. You pour the milk, and regardless of the outcome, you already know that you’ve created something for yourself. The routine is immersive, the experience entirely sensory. You sip, sit, and stay awhile, with your daily grind, another way.

Environmentally Friendly: KeepCup.

“If I would not use a new baby bottle every time I fed my child, why would I do the same for a coffee cup?”

This is what Australian Abigail Forsyth, owner of Bluebag cafes in Melbourne, thought when she decided to create her product, the KeepCup. Frequenting coffee shops on the regular, I could not agree more. In American culture, getting coffee to go is a very common part of one’s day. The amount of to-go cups I see consumers go through in every coffee shop is astounding.

A woman smiles while sitting holding a glass coffee cup, open plan office through window in background.

“I thought, ‘this is revolting’, there is so much packaging that is just being wasted.”

-Abigail Forsyth

In 2008, KeepCup was first manufactured in Melbourne, Australia, where the coffee industry is booming. Disturbed by the amount of waste that customers produced, the KeepCup was created with both the customer and the barista in mind. Most re-usable cups at the time were a hassle for baristas to use, because the height and width of the cups were usually not compatible with the spouts of espresso machines. There is nothing more discouraging than to go to a coffee shop and asking to use your own cup, then seeing the barista roll their eyes at you. But Forsyth thought, if we could create a cup that baristas would be cool with, then customers leave with the feeling that they did something right. So she created a cup that had the width compatible with coffee machines, in sizes that common drinks came in, namely 4oz, 6oz, 8 oz, 12 oz and 16 oz. A band is placed on every cup which mimics coffee sleeves and prevents customers from burning their hands on their hot beverages. The lid to the cup has an optional cover so that the sipping hole can be completely covered and then tossed into your bag, making it a great portable option.

Originally made from PP, LDPE and silicone, there are now glass options with cork bands, since a lot of Americans did not embrace the plastic material that the KeepCups were made of. Although they were very mindful of the plastic materials they were using to manufacture their cups, a lot of Americans were wary of all plastics, especially those containing hot beverages, after the BPE scare. Listening to her consumers and hoping to increase the use of reusable cups globally, she created the cup that I choose to carry around, to calm people’s concerns about the emission of toxins in plastic products.

Ever since its creation, the KeepCup has gained popularity, but not as much as we would hope, especially in the U.S.  This could partly be explained by the fact that the coffee culture boomed in the U.S. before a barista-friendly re-usable cup was produced, making Americans accustomed to their usual disposable cups. Breaking a habit is much more difficult than creating one. In an interview with Drift magazine, Forsyth proposed a way to make this trend more globally widespread by introducing KeepCups to countries such as China, which are on the brink of starting their coffee boom. If we could get people to embrace it early on and create a habit, it could really make a difference in the long run.

Others say they would prefer to carry the cups of the shops they frequent, with their logos and labels on it, as a way to show others, “This is where I like to get my coffee, but I am too busy to stay there and drink it.” Hearing this, KeepCup has started partnering with coffee businesses to imprint their logo onto their cups. You can usually walk into a coffee shop in Southern California and find a KeepCup on their shelves with their signature logo on the front. But even this isn’t enough. You are more likely to see these cups on the shelves rather than in a customer’s hand. What we find is that most people claim to be ethically conscious and express interest in such a product, but then reach for that disposable cup when they are at the cafe.

I think that the major reason why the KeepCup has not taken off in the United States is due to our particular culture and mindset. Countries such as Australia, Germany, and New Zealand are more environmentally aware, especially with the legal banning of Styrofoam, to-go containers, plastic and harmful chemicals cropping up here and in other parts of the world. It’s safe to say that America lags a little behind other countries when it comes to leaving behind a green footprint. When Americans were asked why they would not carry a disposable cup, the consensus is that they view a disposable cup as an inconvenience. To remember to carry a disposable cup every time they go to get coffee is too much work. The honest truth is that it isn’t any more work than remembering to take your wallet with you or a jacket when it’s cold. Lack of interest in decreasing waste in general is common in the United States. It’s the mentality of, “We can’t stop global warming, so why bother try?”

Here’s the bad news:

  • Half of the plastic used in the world today is for single use disposable items.
  • Every minute, over one million disposable cups are discarded to the landfill.
  • In the United States alone, 58 billion disposable cups are thrown out annually, with the majority ending up in the landfill. That is, 158 disposable cups for every U.S. inhabitant.
  • The 500 billion disposable cups used in the world each year placed end to end could circumnavigate the earth 1,360 times.
  • World paper use has exploded by 400% in the last 40 years. Now nearly 4 billion trees of 35% of the total trees chopped down are used in paper industries on every continent.
  • Very little recycled paper is used to make disposable cups because of contamination concerns. Because most disposable cups are coated with plastic, both composting and recycling of disposable cups is uncommon. Most disposable cups are lined with polyethylene which makes them non-recyclable. Disposable cups that are “compostable” require commercial composting to biodegrade.
  • Urban rubbish has increased ten-fold over the course of the 20th century, from 92 to 1242 pounds of pure product waste per person per year. At this rate, we discard approximately 14.4 times our body weight in waste every year.

But there is also good news.

The KeepCup compared to a disposable paper cup (including coffee) sees a 36-47% reduction in global warming carbon emissions, 64-85% reduction in water use, 91-92% reduction in landfill waste annually. Over one year, the KeepCup, when compared to disposable cups, reduces landfill by at least 99%, greenhouse gas emissions by up to 92%, and reduces water use by up to 90%. You can monitor the amount of disposable cups you save from the landfill with Reuse HQ, a program KeepCup started to better monitor the progress it was making. And the best news of all. Most people open up to the idea of using a KeepCup when they see others using it. I get questions every day from baristas and consumers alike asking where I got my “cool” cup. Some people in line or baristas behind the counter pipe up and answer for me or tell me of their own alternatives. What it does is it starts a conversation. I learn new alternatives to re-usable containers (today I learned about HuskeeCup) and people learn of the benefits of using any re-usable cup. Awareness and inspiration are what we need most. Actions speak louder than words, and I can’t think of a better way to show the world the impact one cup can make than to carry it around with me at all times. I can spit out facts all day, but most people will brush it off and continue with their usual routine. It isn’t until we do what changes we say we want to see that perspectives shift ever so slightly towards the right direction.