It was sometime around the year 2000 when my family purchased its first Nespresso machine. More than a decade and many capsules later, I find myself in Nespresso’s IFC branch last week, learning more about their unique coffee culture.
Nespresso, as its name suggests, is all about Espresso coffees. With the mission of providing easily brewed gourmet coffee to consumers, Nespresso offers a permanent collection of their signature capsules (known as the 16 Grand Crus) as well as seasonal varieties (3 limited edition series per year) which can be enjoyed using a Nespresso machine.
The Grand Crus, this term being borrowed from wine terminology, serve as the basis for subsequent limited edition series, thus forming the core of the Nespresso brand.
The black book pictured above is My Nespresso – Coffee Cuisine, a cookbook featuring recipes created exclusively for, and using Nespresso capsules by some of top Hong Kong’s top chefs.
The cookbook is noteworthy because it is the first of its kind worldwide for the brand but also because its availability illustrates another aspect of Nespresso’s culture. Coffee Cuisine can’t be bought; it is a limited edition book that Nespresso Club Members can request, free of charge, while stocks last. How to become a club member? You guessed it… by buying your very first Nespresso machine.
One of the chefs whose recipes were featured in Coffee Cuisine is Chef Esther Sham. In an email interview, I asked Esther (thanks, Esther! :)) about her personal coffee habits, as well as her creative process in the development of her four Nespresso recipes:
– Coffee French Toastie
– Frozen Coffee Granola Parfait
– Coffee Rice Burger
– Fortissio Lungo Osso Bucco
Bakker’s Bites (BBITES): What was your first reaction when Nespresso approached you for Coffee Cuisine?
Chef Esther Sham (C.E.S): I was extremely excited as I’m a huge coffee lover, but I hadn’t gotten to cook anything with coffee before. There are some savory and many sweet recipes existing already, but I was deteremined to create something original, therefore it was quite challenging and fun at the same time.
BBITES: Prior to this, what was your relationship with coffee in your cooking and on a daily basis?
C.E.S.: Coffee is a MUST for me everyday. In fact, the first thing I do in the morning is to turn on my coffee machine… brushing my teeth only comes second. As mentioned in the last question, I had never cooked anything with coffee, however, I have a habit of dipping my bread into my coffee, which led me to create the “Coffee French Toastie”.
BBITES: Has your relationship with coffee changed since your collaboration with Nespresso?
C.E.S.: I was a coffee drinker (an outsider) before. Now I feel like more like a coffee user (an insider).
BBITES: What qualities in the Fortissio Lungo inspired you to use it in the Osso Bucco recipe?
C.E.S.: Fortissio has a character of dark roasted coffee, which is robust and has a hint of bitterness. Osso Bucco itself is a very strong flavored and textured meat, therefore they make a perfect match as they can compliment each other instead of one overtaking the others’ flavor.
BBITES: Do you think coffee is better used in sweet or savory recipes? Why?
C.E.S.: It could be great in both, if handled and chosen correctly. What I have learnt from working with Nespresso this time is, there really is no one kind of coffee for all recipes as each coffee has its own distinctive character. When I was creating the recipes, first I had the big picture of the dish first, then the second thing was to find the perfect capsule for that particular dish. It took many trials before I was able to finalize the recipes.
BBITES: If it were your last coffee ever, what would you have?
C.E.S.: 100% Kona (long black)
While Coffee Cuisine makes use of the 16 Grand Crus, today – November 12th – marks the official release of Nespresso’s annual Christmas collection: Variations.
This year’s Variations are Macadamia Nut, Hazelnut and Coconut. It was a pleasure to try all three, but I went particularly nuts (pun intended) for the Coconut flavour.
All three are built on the Livanto – Grand Cru, chosen, as I was told, for its smoothness and caramel qualities to match the Macadamia, Hazelnut and Coconut flavours.
I really enjoyed trying all three Variations… from the fun capsule-to-coffee machine process; to watching the gradients of colour in the coffee glide as the espresso settles; to my delight at the nuts’ distinctive aromas wafting from the hot, freshly brewed cups.
Adding milk bumps up the smooth, caramel flavours of the 2012 Variations. If you get round to trying, I recommend drinking some of the espresso pure before adding milk (and sugar, if you have a sweet tooth) for a new experience half way through.
As I mentioned before, Coconut was my favourite, reminding me of Bounty Chocolate bars and coconut macaroons; there’s something exciting and satisfying about recognising a familiar flavour in an unorthodox format.
While my parents are happily using their Nespresso machine overseas (indulging in daily Ristrettos, their preferred Grand Cru), my flat remains Nespresso-less, for the time being.
But if you are, as I am, considering joining the Club in the near future – now is a good time as any: from November 10th to December 31st, buyers can enjoy HK$300 off any machine, including the new space-saving U Machine (pictured below).
So,are you tempted? I know I am…