The Secret of Sugar

It’s funny to see that more and more I’m confronted with the fact that people (either friends, family or customers) seem to think I have a kind of teacher function and I may even hold them accountable for how they drink their coffee. Of course this is complete nonsense…

One of those things is: sugar. Some people drink coffee with sugar, some don’t. Personally I don’t but for instance my husband does like some sugar in his coffee and we even have friends that kind try to saturate their coffee with sugar. But when we’re on markets with our mobile espresso bar we get customers ordering an espresso and then look at me in an apologizing way saying that they really want to have some sugar in their coffee “although they realize that is not how coffee should be drunk”. Well….let me put it like this: you should drink it the way you like it most, independent of what others think is good. It makes little sense, in my opinion, to drink coffee the way others expect you to drink it and actually dislike it.

But I’m wandering off. Sugar is a taste enhancer that happens to taste sweet just like salt is a taste enhancer that happens to taste salty. That may sound all very obvious, but what I’m trying to say is that we can add sugar or salt to food in order to make it taste either sweet or salty, but we can also add them to food just to enhance the taste. For example, bread contains salt but bread doesn’t taste salty. However, leave the salt out and it really tastes horrible (well, I think it does). This counts for many food products that contain salt without tasting salty.
However, we can also do this with sugar, though that may be more rare. But let’s now take coffee: we can put in enough sugar so that our coffee tastes sweet just because we like sweet. But I would like to challenge you to have a coffee and actually put in very little sugar: typically something like 1/8 of a teaspoon for an espresso, maybe slightly more for a filter coffee. This is so little that the coffee won’t taste sweet at all, but you may discover a dramatic change of taste!
Sugar has the ability to really enhance the acidity of coffee. So a rather bitter coffee with the smallest amount of sugar may actually significantly improve in taste and become very nice and balanced. Of course we cannot do this for every coffee. A coffee that is very dark roasted and has almost no acidity left cannot be made into a balanced flavoured coffee: the sugar enhances the acidity, but if there is no acidity left there is simply nothing to enhance.

So to everyone, whether you drink your coffee with or without sugar, I would suggest to give it a try. Start with a coffee without sugar, have a sip, add a very small amount of sugar, have another sip, add some more sugar etc. You will notice the coffee change flavour until at some point the sweetness of the sugar becomes noticeable and the flavour of the coffee remains the same. It’s an interesting experiment, especially with strong coffee drinks like espresso or from a mocca.

Now next time someone tries to convince you that real coffee drinkers (whatever that may mean) drink their coffee without sugar you can tell them: a) sugar in small amounts actually enhances the flavour of coffee and b) you drink coffee the way you like it, and not the way other people think you should like it!



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