GTPulse: Traverse City Cafe Makes Unique Flavored Infused Coffee Beans
When people think of Traverse City they think about cherries, wine, beer, beaches and boating (say that five times fast) but what about coffee? Traverse City has a great selection of coffee shops that offer ambiance, workspace, great coffee and baked goods. Espresso Bay is among the great local coffee shops in town and owner Dan Guy is always coming up with creative ways to please and surprise his customers. His newest venture? Infused flavored coffee beans.
With pumpkin spice season in it’s fully evolved form, coffee shops nationwide are selling the seasonally inspired drink in every form imaginable; cold brew, lattes and iced among others. The cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and clove flavored drinks can be alluring, but what about the people who don’t want something fancier with milk, syrups or whipped cream added to it? I enjoy drinking my coffee black and wouldn’t mind having a plain, less sweet version of flavored coffee drinks. Typically flavored coffee beans are flavored with oils.
“After the beans are roasted you roll the beans in these flavored oils. It’s almost like an essential oil kind of, for different flavors.”
Because flavored oils are typically processed items, coffee beans can’t be considered completely natural after being flavored with oils. There’s no such thing as a pumpkin spice coffee tree.
“What if I could flavor coffee with real ingredients? That’s what led me to creating the infusions.”
The four infusion flavors are turmeric cardamom, lavender, bacon, and hops. The turmeric cardamom has been the most popular so far.
“I’ve been surprised. I think turmeric is a popular add on to coffee right now because of all the health benefits and the pairing with the cardamom gives it a sweeter taste. That flavor combination is really nice.”
Each flavored coffee is paired with a different type of bean and roast. The coffee is infused with real hops, lavender bacon and turmeric and cardamom. Dan roasts the coffee with the ingredients and each infusion is natural and organic. The hops infusion is paired with a colombian. The hops flavor is subtle and Dan wanted to use something with a lighter roast so some of the hops undertone could shine through. He experimented with several different roasts to pair with the different infusion flavors.
“So in there is real lavender buds, and coffee” Dan said as I deeply inhaled the lavender infused beans. “Everything still tastes like coffee, I didn’t want the flavors to overwhelm the coffee I wanted them to compliment it.”
The lavender flavor interested me most and barely had a smell of lavender when I smelled the beans. Dan suggests making the infused beans in a pour over or a french press. When he was experimenting with the flavors he tested the beans by making pour over coffee.
“When you do pour over the paper filter also absorbs some of the oil from the beans so you get a clean tasting cup of coffee.”
The lavender infusion was much more aromatic when it was made and the taste was noticeable and pleasant. I also tried the hops because I thought beer flavored coffee would be interesting. The hops infusion tastes nothing like beer, and it’s very good. It has a distinct and enjoyable bitter smooth aftertaste that an IPA would have.
Dan plans to continue making infused coffee beans and even has some ideas for holiday inspired infusions.
“I’m going to try a gingerbread, with actual gingerbread ground up in there, also a peppermint.”
The holidays are a magical time in all of downtown Traverse City, but especially for Dan and his wife Kara. The couple took over Espresso Bay almost six years ago from Kara’s father, and their second date was Dan coming to visit her on Christmas Eve while she was working behind the counter.
“I stopped in and she gave me a tour and showed me the bean room and everything. Back then we had no idea we’d be taking it over. It’s kind of funny to think back on that.”
Dan plans to roll out all of their holiday offerings the week of the tree lighting, but don’t wait to try the coffee infusions. For all of us plain coffee drinkers, having a natural and organic way to enjoy more flavor and dimension in coffee is a novel and welcome thing.