Cafe Sessions with Steve: November 2022

Thanksgiving is here (literally, it’s tomorrow)! And with the holiday comes lots of food, fun, and … delicious alcoholic beverages! It also means the official start of the “Holiday Shopping Season”, and people buckling down to get ready for the ultimate day of gift giving and merriment that will occur in a months’ time. So of course, I wasn’t surprised when your question this month revolved around both gift giving and food. Despite my lack of astonishment, I am, as always, more than happy to share my thoughts and expertise on anything you may wish to ask me. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

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Beans! Coffee beans that is. This is what I personally give out for the holidays 99% of the time. In fact, I actually tell my friends, if they want anything besides coffee as a gift to let me know, because they know if they don’t, they will be receiving coffee beans from me annually, (which is usually the case with gift giving for anyone that works in coffee). Why? Apart from wanting to share the delectable, caffeinated, liquid we love, with those we love, we tend to get beans that are the freshest and usually at a discounted rate. Hence, making it the go-to gift for anyone that works in the coffee industry.

When looking for a gift to give someone who loves coffee (like us in the industry for example), chances are that they will already have plenty of their favorite brew options at their disposal. So no need to pick them up a new coffee maker. In fact, we are all creatures of habit and that definitely extends into our coffee drinks as well. Do you know how many times I hear "can I have my usual?" from guests? We all find a drink we like and stick to it, (just like when you go to a restaurant and can rattle off your order without taking so much as a peep at the menu). Whether they brew their coffee in a big pot or prefer preparing their coffee in a fancier method such as a French Press, Chemex, or Aeropress, they probably have their preferred brewing method down and aren’t looking to shake that up. However, no matter how they brew their cups of joe, one thing is certain – all brew methods require beans.

 Stop by your local coffee shop and take your pick (pro tip: tell the person you are gifting the beans to they are your favorite kind and they won't be disappointed). Make sure you do not ask for the beans to be ground. Whole beans preserve the freshness of the bean and help lock in the flavor (to learn more about keeping your coffee fresh, click HERE). It is typically best to grind beans right before brewing for maximum flavor, and depending on how they prepare their coffee, the grind type may vary with each type being very important to its correlating brew process. For instance, if you try using an espresso grind for a French press, the recipient of your gift will likely find themselves to be thoroughly disappointed in the end result. 


So you want to bring a side dish? Why not make a lasting impression and offer to cook the whole bird or pig? Just kidding, I wouldn’t recommend that – too much work & stress! I say leave that to the professionals. There are so many to choose from this time of year and it all depends how you want to present yourself to your party. You can show up with a dish from the grocery store and not put too much effort into it. Sure, this will be appreciated regardless, but if you really want to make an impression (without cooking the turkey), you can put some blood, sweat, and tears into some secret family casserole recipe. 

Personally, I always offer to make the mashed potatoes. While they may be time consuming, they only require some basic cooking skills so they are pretty hard to mess up, and even if you do, just add some more butter and no one will know!

That was actually the first dish I ever learned to make, celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain while my grandfather was stationed there. We had to treat ourselves to a good old fashioned American Thanksgiving and I was assigned to do the mashing. Since then, it's been all me each year, plus you get a good workout in mashing 20lbs of potatoes for a giant feast!

If you have a topic or question you’d like me to tackle next month, don’t hesitate to ask! Submit an anonymous question or problem here. No name or email required.