As you may have noticed I sometimes delve into the past for recipe inspirations. It never ceases to amaze me how innovative the cuisine was pre-modern technology considering the limited supplies and equipment (compared to today). Dishes and beverages usually involved a small handful of local ingredients and were prepared in a rustic manner yet they were incredibly delicious Mulsum. Now I do like all the fusion going on today with food. It’s fun. And it’s had my palate bouncing from one end of the world to another. But there’s a lot to be said for the purity and simplicity to be found in ancient recipes and what they can teach us. My love of the culinary past and Hubby’s love of French-pressed coffee were intertwined to create this trendy and super healthy drink inspired by an ancient recipe.
Initially it seemed absurd for me to even create a coffee drink. After all, I don’t really drink coffee. I started drinking it at 5 years of age and quit when I was 19. When I was growing up we poured coffee (with the milk already in it) instead of plain milk over our cereal. We usually had instant coffee usually and drank it quite often, sometimes three times a day. It seemed perfectly normal to us but certainly not to our friends and classmates! But with my health in jeopardy at the tender age of 19 and having to make new dietary choices, I took the plunge and sadly removed coffee from my life. And I’ve only had the occasional decaf since. Hubby on the other hand is an entirely different matter.
Hubby is a self-professed coffee addict and proponent, and enjoys his javas with great relish. Everyone has their pleasures…and he has his. I understand because he was born and raised in the Northwest where coffee is a culture. He is just too attached emotionally and (dare I say) even spiritually to coffee to give it up. Some people take their coffee very seriously, and he is definitely one of them. My lack of coffee knowledge and Hubby’s intense love of coffee, combined with our mutual love of health foods just had to produce something unique. And even though I wasn’t a die-hard java lover (yet), it appears Hubby is in very good company.
Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world. And one of the most controversial. There are miles of detractors and even more minions. But whether you’re for it or against it, coffee isn’t going away any time soon. Like chocolate, coffee has come full circle. It’s now gaining a wider audience that’s interested in healthier and more indigenous concoctions rather than any thoughts of abandoning it. Roasting houses are popping up everywhere and combining intriguing ingredients to make coffee more appealing to the consumer in every way imaginable. Let’s face it, coffee, like chocolate Dreams of Cacao, Almond Mocha has that undefinable addictive must have flavor that defies logic or reason. Combine that with the buzz or “lift” and it’s easy to see why people don’t walk away too readily. And let’s not even talk about the aroma…simply intoxicating.
So what’s my personal take on coffee consumption? Well for me it comes down to the quality of the coffee beans used, what’s in the coffee drink, how it’s prepared, and what else I’m having that day. I know this may seem like a LOT of variables but they really do make a difference in how I respond to it. And I’ll go even farther by saying that I don’t really notice that much difference between coffee and cacao. I’ve had plenty of each and can’t say one is better or worse than the other. Some studies suggest it’s the acids from a poor roasting process and not the caffeine itself that give coffee a abad name. I tend to agree with this theory. So much of our reactions to different foods depends on how we use it. Coffee is no exception.
When I took on the task of creating a healthier morning cafe for Hubby, I started with high quality organic coffee beans, the low acid variety, which is then ground them up fresh and “cold-pressed”. You may have heard of “cold-pressed” coffee which uses a filtering process and cold water. The method is a much gentler form of extraction, helps reduce the acidity, and removes some of the bitterness. Yet it takes time. The coffee has to steep at least 12 hours to achieve full flavor. It was my first choice since I wanted my coffee beverage to be as nutritious as possible. But there had to be a way to reduce the time involved and make it more practical for everyday use.
Being the little rule breaker that I am and always looking for shortcuts, I didn’t see why I couldn’t just use warm water instead of hot (hovering around warm to very warm to the touch) like I do for my Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte and Succumb to Licorice Shake to speed up the extraction process. That would both simplify things and considerably reduce the waiting time while make coffee a last minute reality. After several attempts of my new method I found that 10 – 15 minutes was sufficient steeping time after which my coffee was good to go. And the result? The coffee was less acidic and tasted slightly sweeter with no bitterness; in other words it proved to be the perfect base for my tonic.
Coffee is technically a fruit, a little red berry which has its own natural berry sweetness. Cold water-pressing doesn’t bring the complex flavors and natural sugars of the coffee bean to full bloom like warm water does. And hot water can “burn” the flavors and natural sugars right out of the beans. Warm water was the perfect compromise, gentle yet effective (my favorite duo in life). Using warm instead of hot water also meant I could preserve the enzymes and nutrients from the added fresh ingredients. Another plus is that I can easily use it in either hot or cold beverages. Don’t get me wrong, cold-pressing is a great method and the coffee tastes amazing. Okay so is using hot water and a French press. But for coffee on the quick and a more complete extraction, warm-processing yields superior results. I was really excited now about this little food adventure.
To formulate this coffee drink super healthy I drew on an ancient Aztec recipe using a fresh red chili, vanilla bean, and warm cinnamon. I then added a few other super foods like blackstrap molasses, coconut oil, and sea salt to round out the nutritional profile. I focused primarily on incorporating B vitamins, iron, and other nutrients which increase circulation, promote healthy digestion, and help buffer the side-effects of caffeine.
(Unsulphured) Blackstrap Molasses – high in iron, B vitamins, folate, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Thickest molasses syrup that’s from the third processing of refined sugar. It aids in controlling anemia, hair restoration, regulating bowel movement, weight loss, regulating nerve and muscle tone, and improves blood-clotting.
Cinnamon – a good source of calcium, manganese, and fiber. A warm spice that increases circulation, normalizes blood sugar levels, and boosts brain activity.
Virgin Coconut Oil – loaded with medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs), it’s a great alternative to butter. Pure virgin coconut oil can aid in weight loss, is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and stimulates your metabolism.
Hot Red Chili – one of the highest sources of vitamin C, also contains antioxidants, endorphins (the pleasure hormone), potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, vitamins B, and calcium. This ancient fruit aids in weight loss, increases circulation, and helps kill parasites.
Vanilla Beans – contains B vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Vanilla is the only fruit-bearing orchid and reputed to aid in weight loss, healing wounds, relieving anxiety, reducing inflammation, and combating sleep disorders.
Sea Salt – provides essential trace minerals. Natural unrefined sea salt strengthens the immune system, alkalizes your system, reduces inflammation, and can aid in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Because of all the strong (and bitter) flavors going on my drink would need a touch of extra sweetness to smooth it out. Stevia fit the bill for me although you can use any natural sweetener you want. Once my freshly made coffee was finally, Hubby was anxiously waiting to test it. He gave it a swirl and issued a very big thumbs up and then proceeded to closely gauge his reactions for the rest of the morning. He reported that it made him feel energetic, sustained him all morning, and made him feel very happy. A happy and energetic husband is a good thing!
Of course I had try it myself. Coffee drinks in the past have made me jittery and even kept me up all night. But I didn’t notice any of that with this new concoction. I felt a slight lift but not a pronounced jolt. And my “lift” seemed to strangely transition out into a nourished and mellow yet focused feeling. And no crash. Thank you.
So does this all this mean I’ll adopt this new coffee drink habit? Yes! It’s too enticing to ignore and it’s truly opened up my beverage world. While coffee itself may or may not be a health tonic it certainly makes a great base for a health tonic, smoothie or shake. And let’s not forget that one cup of coffee is just one calorie and contains zero sugar grams.And if you’re super sensitive to caffeine this versatile drink allows for any number of substitutes.
To the seemingly endless array of trendy coffee recipes and newly touted “performance” coffees, I’m adding my own vegan superfood version to the mix. Whether you’re looking for a high-performance coffee drink or just a great all around morning beverage, I hope you’ll give this potent and flavorful drink a try. It’s a step back in time with a little help from this very modern kitchen.
This recipe is dairy/nut/gluten-free, and serves 1 – 2 persons.
My Vegan Performance Café
Adding the lecithin is optional. It helps emulsify the mixture and keep it from separating as it sits.
I prefer using red chili pepper (seeds removed) since they contain the most nutrients but feel free to use any chili you want. You can substitute it with ground cayenne, paprika, chili powder, or dried chili flakes. Test with a smaller amount and increase to taste.
Try to use fresh organic roasted beans that have been responsibly sourced. I suggest that your coffee beans be free of mycotoxins (a very common contaminant in coffee and many other commodity crops). The purest coffee is harvested using a “washed” process or “wet process”. This means that the freshly picked coffee cherries are placed in water vats, then mechanically separated from the cherries, and dried in clean covered conditions. If you are lucky, you may have some specialty coffee houses in your area who do their own roasting. If not, I recommend using highly reputable sources and gauge your reactions to it. Your body is the best guide.
Freshness is important so I grind the coffee beans just before using. I recommend grinding to a coarse or medium coarse consistency. For best results the grinds should be fairly uniform in size.
If using pre-made fresh coffee, simply omit brewing instructions and skip to step 7 below.
Coffee substitutes include:
Coffee Alternative Mixes – packaged coffee-like drinks such as Roastaroma, Pero, Dandy Blend. etc. contain no caffeine (unless otherwise stated), are usually grain-based, and taste similar to but not exactly like coffee. Mix about 2 Tbsp with 2 cups very warm water and skip to step 7 below.
Roasted Chicory Root – Relative of the dandelion and often the main ingredient in coffee substitutes, this natural caffeine-free powder adds a subtle hint of coffee flavor. I use 1 Tbsp and often add 1/2 tsp maca to further round out the flavor. Mix with 2 cups very warm water and skip to step 7 below.
Tea – You can substitute the coffee altogether with rustic stronger tasting teas such as Pau d’Arco, fennel, ginger, chai, dandelion root, or other tea of choice. Prepare as you would for two cups of tea and skip to step 7 below.
Crio Brü – roasted cacao beans that contain virtually no caffeine and can be similar in taste to coffee depending on how strong you make it. Prepare as you would the coffee beans below.
Decaffeinated Coffee Beans – Contains extremely small amounts of caffeine and tastes closest to real coffee. Prepare as you would with caffeinated coffee beans. Look for Swiss water process which is the purist form. Prepare as you would the coffee beans below.
- 1/2 cup roasted coffee beans of choice
- 2 cups warm water (warm to the touch)
- 2 – 4 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
- small piece of a fresh red chili pepper
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated or ground cinnamon
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla-flavored stevia to taste
- 1 tsp blackstrap molasses (preferably unsulphured)
- 1/8 – 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp sunflower lecithin granules (optional)
- stevia or other natural sweetener to taste (highly recommended)
- cacao powder
- ground cayenne
- cacao nibs
- Grind coffee beans to medium to coarse grind. You’ll end up with about 4 Tbsp.
- Transfer ground coffee to a French press.
- Pour half of the warm water over the ground coffee making sure it’s completely covered. Your coffee should “bloom” (gases or bubbles forming) during this initial pouring. That’s a sign of freshness.
- Let your coffee sit for about a minute, then pour the rest of the warm water evenly over the coffee grounds.
- Place the plunger gently over the liquid making sure not to apply any pressure. Let stand for about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how strong you want it.
- When ready, press the grounds. That’s it. Your coffee is now ready to pour and use.
- Pour coffee (or use coffee substitute accordingly) into a blender with remaining ingredients.
- Blend until very smooth.
- Serve immediately with optional Garnish.
- Yields about 2 1/2 cups.
- Can be stored refrigerated up to 3 days. Makes a great iced coffee too. Simply stir to remix.