In this installment of TreeHugger Town & Country, we talk about our caffeine obsession of choice. Katherine shares her secret to the perfect latte, while Margaret wants to make teatime all the time.
Katherine: How to make the perfect homemade latte
Hot drinks are an integral part of my day. I start and finish with a cup of tea – always clear green tea first thing in the morning, when I wake up early to do my writing, and a cup of steaming peppermint in the evenings to keep me company as I read novels curled up on the sofa. After breakfast, however, is when I indulge in my real passion – a single, carefully made cup of coffee that’s so delicious that the very thought of it helps me get out of bed in the morning.
When it comes to my coffee routine, I am finicky about doing it just right. Here’s how I build the perfect cup of coffee on a daily basis:
I buy fair trade, shade-grown beans from my local coffee shop, filling a reusable glass one-quart jar every couple of weeks from their bulk bins of freshly roasted beans. When it comes time to prepare the coffee, I grind just enough beans for each pot of coffee.
I use a stovetop mocha pot, which makes the tastiest zero-waste coffee without investing in an expensive espresso maker. I say zero-waste because there are no disposable plastic pods or even biodegradable paper filters involved. The mocha pot has a metal filter that simply gets shaken out and rinsed after use.
First I boil water and pour it into the bottom of the mocha pot. I learned this technique from the Stumptown Roasters website, which says it’s crucial to use boiling water in order not to burn the coffee, resulting in a bitter aftertaste. I add the freshly ground beans to the filter, tapping lightly to fill, and screw on the top. Within a couple minutes, I hear the growling sound of the pot signaling it’s time to turn off the gas.
Next I heat some milk and froth it with a little handheld milk frother. The finished coffee goes into my mug, filled halfway, and then I add the hot milk with spoonfuls of foam, sometimes topped with a dash of cinnamon. Voilà – a homemade latte that costs a fraction of store-bought ones and tastes absolutely decadent! When paired with a slice of my artisanal slow-rise bread and strawberry jam, it's the perfect start to the day.
It’s mildly embarrassing to admit how picky I am about my coffee preferences. I even travel with my mocha pot at times, if access to ‘good’ coffee is at all sketchy. Best of all is taking the mocha pot camping and knowing that, no matter how far into the bush I may be, my coffee will always taste wonderful. While many of my dear friends are addicted to their watery double-doubles from Tim Hortons or Starbucks coffee-ish concoctions, those seem like coffee cop-outs to me.
You think I’m a coffee snob, don’t you? Well, yes, I suppose I am. But I like to think that I offset my coffee snobbery by maintaining high standards – i.e. always fair trade, shade grown, organic beans grown by female farmer cooperatives, prepared with zero waste methods – that support the better, more sustainable parts of the global coffee industry.
Margaret: Teatime, all the time
I love tea.
I don’t drink coffee, because it gives me acid reflux. That’s boring, let’s not talk about it.
But I love tea of all colors: green, black, white, red rooibos. I particularly love Masala chai—often simply called chai in the U.S.—an Indian preparation of black tea with spices, milk and sweetener.
My preferred sweetener is honey, and I take honey pretty seriously. I always buy organic, local, raw honey. Raw honey has healthy antioxidants, and while I think that any form of sugar in excess is unhealthy, if you want a touch of sweetness I think it’s the best option.
I drink at least a couple of cups of tea per day. I usually drink black tea in the morning or afternoon, and switch to green tea or rooibos, which is caffee-free, in the evening. If I want something right before bed, I’ll drink a cup of chamomile, which is best if you brew it from dried flowers rather than processed tea bags. If I feel under the weather, I’ll infuse green tea with ginger and add extra honey.
My favorite place to shop is David’s Tea, which has a couple of locations in the U.S. and many more in Canada. I’ve been re-filling the same tin with David’s loose-leaf tea for several years now. I like loose-leaf because it tends to be a bit more cost-effective, and of course there’s less packaging involved (although the majority of teabags can go in the compost). Not all of their teas are organic, but many of them are.
I have a little basket-like infuser that sits on the rim of a mug to brew one cup at a time. I’ve found the basket is easier to clean than a mesh tea ball or one of those spoon-like contraptions with a spring. And of course I compost the tea leaves. There’s a lot of tea in my compost.
Like many people, caffeine helps me through the work day. If I have an afternoon energy slump or a bit of writer’s block, taking a tea break is the perfect pick-me-up.
I love the ritual of tea also. If I have guests, I like using a fancy tea pot and tiny spoons. I love cupping the mug with both hands and warming my face with the steam—which has led to my friends calling me a “TeaHugger.” It’s an accurate description.