Let’s face it – it’s just as easy to say ‘Coffee Snob’ as it is ‘Wine Snob’ these days. The coffee industry has embraced the need for a fine palette and basic region understanding, similar to the wine industry. Both are starting to tear down the secret club walls and invite all who are interested into the circle. It’s not that far of a stretch when you really break it down. Wine and coffee share many of the same traits. Coffee shops have started incorporating a wine list to their menu offerings. Chefs look at wine and coffee pairings when mapping out food pairings. There are actually more similarities than differences between the two. Let’s explore the similarities of both products and how you can use these to strengthen your bond with your customer.
The Fruit, the Soil, the Season
Both coffee and wine come from a fruit. Many people do not realize coffee is a fruit and they are essentially drinking the seed. Typical of most fruits, both can flower before producing. Both coffee and wine flavors will be affected by the skin of the fruit and are influenced by soil, altitude and climate. Coffees from Kenya will produce more full bodied profiles, which is the same for wines from California. Farmers can take a cutting from a healthy tree or vine to start a new plant or start from scratch with a seed or pip. Coffee will average two years to produce from transplant where wine averages three. Harvest typically happens once a year for both coffee and wine, and involves expert understanding of the feel of the fruit for ripeness. If you offer wine and coffee, why not showcase a specific region?
Lie Down and Rest Awhile
While the processes differ in getting each ready for roast or bottle, coffee and wine offer similarities with aging. Coffee has been aged since the 1500s when it was first imported into Europe. This happened out of necessity. Long journeys around the tip of Africa to Europe via Yemen caused the beans to be exposed and age. Naturally, the exposure to the elements changed the flavor composition.
Fun Fact: Europeans initially rejected the coffee coming through the Suez Canal because it was fresher and tasted different.
Aging eventually faded out, but has made a comeback in a robust way (see what I did there) with the exploration of aged whiskeys and wines. Consumers enjoy understanding the complexities of the flavors. Coffee can be aged six months to three years, while wine can take 5-7 years. Coffee is even aged in barrels in some cases, just like wine. However, just like wine, not all coffee is meant to be aged.
Aged coffee and wine will result in a softer taste. The wine must typically start with a high tannin and acidity to compensate for the ‘mellowing out’ where the coffee bean should typically be low in acidity. Note: Both have exceptions to the rule that have proven amazing. If there is not a good balance of the needed criteria, it can result in a stale bean where there will be little difference in the taste of aged versus non-aged wine –defeating the purpose. Age often comes at a higher price. Why not host a ‘VIP Taste’ event in your location offering aged coffees and wines for sample and sale?
Tasting, Pairing, Profiles
Ahhhh, the slurp… it’s universal. Tasting most craft beverages involve the same or similar steps. Discussions regarding weight or ‘mouth feel’;‘nose’ or aroma carry through each beverage seamlessly. The interesting thing is how (seemingly) very different beverages can actually have the same flavor profiles and complexities. Wine can be caramelly – who would have thought?
There has been a slow emergence of industry cross pollination. Until recently, wine enthusiasts were caught off guard that coffee roasters set recommendations for pairings with their brew. But why not? Coffee people understand what chocolate can do to bring out a cherry note in a blend just as much as wine people do. It makes perfect sense. Suddenly, a goblet is sitting next to a tumbler and they are sharing stories of their travels to the various regions. Maybe you can offer a ‘Taster’s Tuesday’ event to promote coffees and wines with similar profiles and recommended pairings.
Both beverages are rich in history and deep in culture. Bringing the early birds and night owls together can help deepen your base and help generate new connections, let alone amazing conversations. Happy sipping!