As I drove back along Highway 97 from Okanagan Falls to West Kelowna yesterday, I was enjoying not only the serene snow-covered hills over the beautiful blue lake, but also the mocha I had in my travel mug. It was an intrinsic part of this sublime experience, with rich chocolate-y goodness under the cinnamon-dusted whipped cream, heightened by the heady aroma of dark roast java. To top it all off, it was just the right temperature. And that is the theme of my post today.
When I was a little girl, I always thought that the Goldilocks story was a bit hokey. Don’t get me wrong – I love porridge, always did; and I think bears are cool too – it just didn’t seem like much of a lesson to learn that porridge, or anything else, should be not too hot or not too cold, but “just right”. Little did I know how much it really does matter.
Becoming a foodie was the start of my appreciation of temperature, I suppose. Cookies still warm out of the oven don’t taste the same as cooled ones. And if they are too hot, they don’t taste like anything – mostly because your tastebuds end up burnt! And ice cream tastes different when rock hard than it does when it’s just soft enough to squish on the roof of your mouth. But that is just the tip of the iceberg… I didn’t discover wine until I was older.
Wine temperature is of paramount importance. As I learned when studying wine, at different temperatures one wine can taste like something else all together – acids and tannins are sharper when wine is colder, and fruit flavours and other aromatics are more intense when it’s warmer (acids and tannins are less pronounced). That’s why the experts recommend you drink red wine at a warmer temperature. Please note, though, that “room temperature” is a reference from when rooms were cooler than today – even full bodied reds shouldn’t be served warmer than 15-18C/59-64F. Call me a geek if you like, but it’s true.
Hot beverages have ideal temperatures too. If you brew or drink your coffee at too hot a temperature, the essential oils from the beans will have evaporated, leaving little of the complex flavours behind. Optimum range is 70-80C or 155-175F. Green teas should be steeped at this same temperature; if you use almost boiling water like you would for black tea (100C/212F) you will scald the leaves.
Chocolate temperature is crucial as well. One of my favourite chocolatiers, Vosges Chocolates from Chicago (the folks who came up with bacon and chocolate!), has this great reference on tasting chocolate for the best experience. As if you needed an excuse to increase your enjoyment…
So, there is your bit of silly trivia for the day. Hopefully it helps you enjoy your favourite tastes even more. If you have other preferences, I would love to hear about them – please leave your comments.