The Comfort of Coffee

There are some foods and drinks that go beyond just nourishment to define who you are—past, present and future. For me, this is, and ever shall be, coffee. I can remember coffee being a constant presence during my childhood and wondering what made the dark, hot liquid in Mom’s mug so delicious that she drank it every morning. As a teenager, I sipped it to be cool and mature; as a college student, I drank it to stay awake; and,  as a mother, I drink it to function. Not too long ago, my husband—a noncoffee drinker—made mention of the fact that wherever my family gathers, the coffee brews nonstop. And although I had never thought about it before, it’s true.
       Obviously I’m not the only person with a passion for this rich, aromatic treat—the majority of all caffeine consumed worldwide comes from coffee. Originating in Ethiopia in the ninth century, coffee soon traveled around the world, becoming popular in the Colonies during the Revolutionary War due to its demand as a replacement for British tea.1

In the kitchen
       Coffee mainly is consumed as a beverage and can be presented in a variety of ways. Drip-brewed, percolated or French-press style can all be served with or without the traditional additions of milk, cream and sugar. Many popular coffee drinks are based on espresso, which is made by forcing very hot, though not boiling, pressurized water through ground coffee, resulting in a stronger flavor and a higher caffeine content. Some variations of this include caffè latte, which combines espresso with steamed milk; cappuccino, which includes equal parts of espresso and milk froth; and caffè macchiato, which is espresso with a dollop of hot, foamed milk on top.1
       Coffee also is commonly used in desserts, benefitting from the delightful, nutty, bitter flavor that is perfectly balanced with sweet tastes such as chocolate and cream. At Stevenswood Spa Resort in Mendocino, California, a refreshing dessert featuring six flavors of homemade ice cream and sorbet that includes an espresso offering is served, and espresso also is the featured ingredient of the Chocolate Espresso Crème Brûlée from the Marsh Tavern at The Equinox Resort & Spa in Manchester Village, Vermont. At the Sebel Resort & Spa Hawkesbury Valley in Windsor, New South Wales, Australia, the Mocha Panna Cotta includes vincotto and fresh raspberries. And the Chicory Mocha Mousse with caramelized strudel crisps and hazelnut tartufo from The Millcroft Inn & Spa in Alton-Caledon, Ontario, Canada is the perfect finish to a meal, as is the Chocolate Espresso Cake by Chef Michael Pieton of The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Arizona.

In the spa
       Coffee and its main ingredient of caffeine have a variety of positive effects on the skin, including antioxidant properties, and tightening and firming qualities. It also is commonly used as an ingredient in products that help to reduce cellulite, and diminish puffiness and dark circles around the eyes.2
       The Mocha Java Body Wrap at The Spa Magnolia in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, reduces puffiness and softens the appearance of cellulite through the use of coffee extract and caffeine. The Green Coffee Cellulite Body Wrap slims, tones and stimulates the body’s ability to break down fat using micronized green coffee at the Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and, for an intoxicating Jamaican experience, enjoy the Ultimate Coffee Scrub and Jamaican Mocha Rum Wrap at Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, Jamaica. The Bathhouse Mocha Java Sculpting Wrap at the BATHhouse Spa at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas begins with the choice between a chocolate and cappuccino sugar scrub, and the Green Coffee Cocoon at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, acts as an anticellulite treatment.
       Coffee and its skin-friendly benefits also are included in a variety of home care products, such as Naturopathica’s Espresso Mud Body Scrub, which exfoliates dead skin, removes impurities and seals in moisture. Spa Specifics’ CoCo Mocha Mint Hand & Foot Collection uplifts, softens, conditions and exfoliates, while the Coffee Collection from Sensuous Solutions contains five aromatherapeutic essential oil blends to enhance manicure and pedicure treatments. And Pevonia Botanica’s Ligne Nymphea delivers slimming, detoxifying, firming and revitalizing benefits using ingredients such as green coffee extract.

Tempt and intrigue
       Although its health benefits may be widely disputed, there is no denying that coffee is here to stay. In fact, the berry that houses the coffee seed, or bean, is poised to become the next hot ingredient due to its high concentration of the beneficial antioxidant phenolic acid. It also recently has come to light from work done at the Laboratory for Cancer Research at the School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, that coffee coupled with regular exercise may help prevent skin cancers better than either factor individually.
       Always in the news—and in my cup—this ancient seed continues to tempt and intrigue the senses while adding delicious bitterness to desserts and firmness to skin. And for better or worse, coffee is here to stay in my household, where each morning, my son smells my steaming mug and tries to understand what makes coffee so delicious that Mom enjoys a cup each and every morning. 


Chocolate Espresso Cake
From Michael Pieton, Chef 
for The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Arizona

Makes 16 servings

Chocolate Espresso Cake:
4 1/2 ounces cocoa
2 tablespoons espresso powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups of sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups water

1.  In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Add espresso powder and cocoa. Stir to dissolve.
2.  In a separate bowl, mix all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda and sea salt.
3.  In another large bowl, add eggs while whipping, then slowly add hot chocolate mixture to eggs.
4.  Next, add flour mixture to the batter and mix until smooth. Batter will be loose, so don’t overmix.
5.  Pour batter into two lined 9-inch round pans and bake at 325 degrees F until firm—about 25 minutes. Let cool.

Chocolate Espresso Glaze:
13 ounces silken tofu
2 ounces Dutch-processed cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons espresso powder

6.  In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients for glaze. Mix well until smooth, then refrigerate.

4 candied oranges
1 ounce mixed berries
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 mint sprig

7.  Drizzle the chocolate glaze in a circular motion on the plate. Place the cake off center, and lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with mixed berries, candied orange and mint sprig.

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