Hopefully, you’re familiar with the popular new column we’re featuring in Barista Magazine called “New Adventures in Cold Brew.” You see, we think cold-brew coffee is so far past being just a trend, that we wanted to devote a year’s worth of columns ”that’s 6 in 6 issues ”to this new standard in our specialty-coffee community. Cold-brew coffee in all its incarnations is a whole new product category, and as such, we wanted to explore it from every angle.
“New Adventures in Cold Brew” has tackled such topics as nitro cold brew, signature drinks, and blended drinks thus far. For the blended drinks segment, we turned to none other than Levi Andersen, a longtime industry pro whose experience as a cafe owner, coffee educator, and his current work as a beverage specialist for Kerry Foodservice, gave him the wherewithal and the prowess to put together a damn fine cold-brew coffee-based blended drink that would make even the hardest core third-wavers sit up and take notice.
Levi told me he had a lot of fun putting together the drink, which he calls simply the Turkish Hazelnut Blended Coffee. He also created a Horacha drink while he was at it. We thought it would be fun to let Levi take us behind the scenes in his development of these custom drinks, with photos and some tales about how he does what he does ”create outstanding drinks ”so very well.
Sarah Allen: Did the idea for the drink come first, and then you found a cold brew coffee to go with it? Or did you find a cold brew you loved and then built a recipe around it?
Levi Andersen: [I] knew I wanted to do something cold and nutty together, so then I thought first about which nut flavor I wanted specifically. For me, I’m returning to my roots, or maybe a better way to say that is I’m returning to the basics. So for this drink I wanted to use one of the most popular flavors in syrup history: hazelnut. I feel that hazelnut has been a neglected flavor for some time. Personally I wasn’t into hazelnuts till I rediscovered them in a scone at Caffe Ladro in Seattle. That was the turning point for me. It’s amazing how high-quality, single-origin syrups can make a difference in the flavor of the finished drink. Flash-forward to just recently when you asked me to make a blended cold-brew drink: One of my first thoughts was to use a nutty finish.
Once I knew what the finish flavor was, I then started to think about the coffee itself: What would coffee provide as the base flavor? This last year I have been really into Stone Creek Coffee in Milwaukee. I have had amazing customer experiences there, and I’m very impressed by how they have two Q-Graders on staff. So I swung by their shop and started to explore the whole bean selections. When I found the Brazilian Fazenda Nova Suica, the flavor notes made sense in my head: Chocolate, cherry, caramel. Before that point I hadn’t decided what acidity balance I wanted in the cup, [but] when I saw cherry, I thought to myself œThat will be awesome.
So the long and short of it “ I had the main idea first.
SA: Both the Turkish Hazelnut Blended Coffee and the Horchata drink are pretty unusual — or are they? Are customers looking for more unusual blended drinks these days, in your opinion?
LA: Well, hazelnut continues to be a top-selling flavor nationwide, but not in blended drinks. So it’s definitely a familiar flavor, maybe too familiar to seem exciting in a blended drink, so people have been shying away from it. At least that had been my experience in the past.
I know that I’m always drawn to those odd menu items and I think other customers are, as well. I was working our trade show booth at the Natural Products Expo West in California this year and I wanted to show something very different. So I created an Iced Coconut Matcha Chai Tea Latte ”and it was different. It was thick, greenish, and had a deep matcha flavor that was balanced by spicy chai and sweet coconut. Were there a few people who didn’t want to try it because it was too ˜out there?’ You bet. But it was great to see the reactions of the people who did try it, and most of them said they really liked it and took a recipe card for later. Will these people who took a recipe card start drinking the matcha chai every day? I don’t think so. But it satisfied the need for a fun beverage adventure. And we’re all looking for a fun beverage adventure. If you’re saying to yourself œNo I’m not then can I ask you if you have stuck with the same coffee region or blend, roasted the same way, and brewed the same way every day for the past few years?
SA: I asked you to make sure the coffee really shined through in these drinks. How do these particular ingredients complement the Turkish characteristics, or the Horchata?
LA: Yeah, I remember that, I appreciate the clear direction you gave me. As you know, Kerry has beverage solutions that are as easy as adding hot water to our products and stirring. Given the products that I work with I had a lot of opportunity to head in any direction I wanted to, so selecting something that would accent the coffee itself and not mask it was my end goal. There is a special synergy when all the ingredients pull together into one drink. Knowing that I then went looking at what products would make the most sense. First, I needed a base coffee where everything was going to stem from. Secondly, there needed to be a gumming base to allow the blended ice and liquid to stand in the drink both looking amazing and providing the perfect mouth feel. Thirdly, I asked myself œDoes this beverage need a sweet finish, or is it complete on its own? For that piece, I circled back to the idea of hazelnut. Can I get someone to rediscover this classic flavor of hazelnut that I feel has been forgotten? Specifically for this recipe, I used DaVinci Gourmet Single Origin Turkish Hazelnut syrup. The flavor of this syrup is so clear. In a blended latte, it’s not overpowering and doesn’t fade or change to a chemical taste at the end, which made it perfect for this assignment.
As you know, when you mentioned that idea I immediately said œCold brewed Horchata! I had already done some experimenting with Horchata after I spent a week in Arizona, stopping in shops like Cartel Coffee Lab. Really enjoyed that shop, they even have a great location inside the Phoenix airport (Terminal 4) if you happen to be passing through. When I visited I tried nearly everything from the house Horchata (that was inspiring) to the house cold brew. From that experience I knew I was going to make a blended cold brew Horchata. After some experimenting this drink was amazing, but not heavy on the coffee flavor. Clear coffee flavor in the beverage, but no subtleties of origin to be distinguished. The coffee is more of a compliment with the creamy, rice and spice notes than a leading flavor. So that’s why I led with the hazelnut idea first, which was more of your direction.
SA: Did you have any comical trial and error experiences you could share?
LA: Well, I will say that I feel that my life is a comical case of trial and error! For these beverages there was such a clear inspiration that I don’t have a specific story about the cold brew. It does remind me of a moment at my drive-thru shop a few years ago. I had one customer at the drive-thru window and one standing inside my shop. They were both playing on their phones, pounding away at emails or something like that. I turned to the driver and asked a question about the latte I was making for them and both my customers responded, one from inside the shop and the other from the car. I thought for sure they could both hear each other, but because they were on their phones I thought maybe not so much. So what was I to do besides take this amazing opportunity to continue the conversation with both of them, responding to what they said in a way that was vague enough to address both of their thoughts. We, the three of us, continued to chat back and forth. They had no idea I was talking to two different people, and I had to hold back the laughter. This reminds me of the task at hand, how do I let the coffee have a leading role, what supporting ingredients are going to make the beverage shine, how do I take care of Sarah Allen, and how is this drink going to be compelling enough for someone to try it! It was a fun challenge, thanks for requesting my services.
SA: Anything else you’d like to add?
LA: Yeah, I’d like to mention three things if I may. First, I want to say thanks so much for thinking of me. Thanks so much for asking the questions that bring great stories out of your interviewees. I have read nearly every Barista Magazine since I first learned about you in 2009. After being a fan for so long it meant a lot when you reached out to me for my help. I would love to be able to help a group of people that have already helped me so much by teaching, inspiring, educating, entertaining, and accompanying me on many flights over the last 6 years.
Second, don’t overlook cold brew as an ingredient. You can use it to tenderize meat, or as a base in sauces. Another amazingly simple idea is using 4 ounces of cold brew in heavy whipping cream. Try this and thank me later!
And in closing, if anyone wants to talk more about these beverage ideas, I will be showing them at Coffee Fest Chicago, June 5 “7. Please come by the DaVinci Gourmet and Big Train booth 600, and try them with me. Otherwise we can connect over Twitter @Boyrista, or directly through email Levi.Andersen@Kerry.com.
In 1992, Levi Andersen emerged into the coffee industry in an unusual way, at career day, at age six. Since then he has spent 10 years as a barista in Seattle, two years owning a drive-thru stand, and one year as the Educational Programming Manager at Coffee Fest. Levi had attempted to leave the industry several times but always came back because of the underlying relationships (from origin to customer) that are the subtle background of each beverage experience. Levi serves as the Beverage Product Specialist at Kerry, known for brands such as DaVinci Gourmet, Big Train, and Oregon Chai. In this role, he creates recipes and answers beverage application questions for the global team and domestic business operators. One of his current hobbies is hosting a weekly podcast about running a coffeehouse called the Audio Café.