We Brits were once regarded as a nation of shopkeepers and tea-drinkers, but our growing love of coffee is changing all this, writes James Waller-Davies.
This week’s UK Coffee Week, 10-16 April, is a timely reminder that the coffee- shop is one of the mainstays of the High Street and we now sup twice as many coffees than teas when we go out for a cuppa.
Coffeehouses have a long tradition in the UK, dating back to the seventeenth century, where they were considered a more civilised space for discussing politics and business, free from the lewdness and drunken argy-bargy associated with the alehouses.
There’s something grown-up about coffee. It’s not a taste that children naturally go for and some adults never fully enjoy it, as testified by the coffee creams left languishing last at the bottom of the Christmas selection box.
Modern coffee shops know this and for every sharp shot of rich espresso, there are no end of syrupy sugar-enhanced flavoured coffees to satisfy those who still find a neat coffee a touch unpleasant.
The coffee in your cup comes in an almost infinite variations of blends, preparations and additions. It wakes us up in the morning, fuels our working day and ends our evening meal. There are few other foods that so define our modern life as coffee.
Coffee’s complex flavours, blends of aromatic acidic bitters and caramels, lend themselves perfectly to desserts, balancing and complementing a wide variety of sweet, fruit and alcohol.
This week’s recipe is a twist on the after dinner classic Irish coffee, whipped into a smooth dessert mousse with chocolate and eggs. You’ll need a good bitter chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids, but 90% is better.
You can swap the whiskey for any strong spirit if you prefer, just ensure you use the best coffee you have.
120g 70%+ dark chocolate; 60ml espresso/strong coffee; 90g unsalted butter; 4 medium eggs, separated; 50g caster sugar; 4 tablespoons whiskey.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over water. Add the coffee and mix well.
Cream the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk until smooth.
Add the whiskey and cream again. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk to a stiff peak.
Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, quickly but carefully until smooth, retaining as much air as possible.
Transfer to serving glasses and chill for 6-8 hours.
Serve with whipped cream and grated chocolate.