anna brones

writer + artist

Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

Coffee Outside, Sitting in a Forest

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month on the new moon. Words mostly by Alastair, artwork by me, but all of it a collaborative process. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

We began all this with coffee. Taking your coffee outside to enjoy the morning. Then we took our coffee somewhere we had never been and discovered nearby newness. This episode is also about coffee time. Or rather, it is about coffee and time. It is an encouragement to explore the depths of a moment, the depths of solitude.

The challenge is to sit on a stump in a forest, drink your coffee and stay there for a whole hour. An hour with a coffee and a good book would be a treat. With your phone it would be easy. Or with a notepad and a pencil. But what about if you had nothing at all to distract you: how would you cope just sitting still for an hour? 

It is interesting to consider our relationship with time. The busier you are and the less time you have to spare, the more you should try this, if only just once. If you think that time is racing far too fast to waste an hour sitting on a tree stump, fear not: this hour will feel like an eternity for you!

Will you give it a go? Sit down with your mug of coffee and take a deep breath. Set an alarm for an hour, then put your phone and watch out of sight and out of reach. And then you just sit. You, your coffee and the stump. The book Under the Open Skies describes the stump as “a symbol of the idea that you sometimes have to leave your head and reach down into your heart.”

With pen and paper in hand we would be more than happy to sip coffee and sit on a stump all day. But with no way to record our thoughts or to sketch the world around us, we instead become aware of the maelstrom inside our heads. There is no escape! One hour sitting on a stump easily includes a dozen practical plans and a handful of emotional mood swings, whilst every minute involves noticing something new for the first time. There is so much going on inside our heads, always. And there is so much to notice and appreciate wherever we decide to sit. 

Perhaps you may carry your coffee to the woods with a friend. But we imagine that you’ll go there by yourself, as Mary Oliver prefers. “Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable… I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours… Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing… If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.”

Here you are then, alone. Just you, your coffee and your stump. The forest is a stage for solitude. While we often focus on the benefits of collaboration, this space of aloneness is also important for our creative practice. Are we distracted? Are we tempted to wish that someone was sitting next to us so we could pose a question and escape from our own thoughts? It might be uncomfortable, but we can all benefit from some quiet time. “Alone is a fact,” writes dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp. “Lonely is how you feel about that.”

Sitting on a stump for an hour is similar to the methods of mindful meditation. You are observing what is in your head, but not recording it. And as your thoughts whirl you can only notice them arrive and then allow them to leave. If you are fortunate, who knows, you might settle into a state described by the lovely Gaellic phrase of Ciúnas gan uaigneas, “quietness without loneliness.”

In The Runner, Markus Torgeby writes, “I must do something about my restlessness. One day I put on several layers of clothes, sit down on a tree stump and do nothing. I must get over this hurdle, I must learn how to do nothing.” That time, he concluded, “was a good investment. Life became greater after that. Food tasted better and the song of the birds in the woods was even lovelier.”

Sitting on a stump in a wood (or on a rock by the ocean, or a bench in a town) is an invitation and a challenge, like William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence, “to see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”

You may find an hour sprawls into a daunting expanse of time. You may hear a dozen bird calls and watch a bumblebee rustling in dead leaves. You may wonder what is for lunch. You might feel the sun on your neck, then close your eyes and allow yourself to really pay attention to that warmth. You will certainly think that your alarm clock has broken and that hours have passed. You will squirm. You will yearn for the end. But you may also, as we did, be surprised that your first sensation upon finally hearing the bell is not relief, but disappointment that it is over. And you might re-learn that each hour is a substantial, valuable treasure not to be wasted.

The biologist David Haskell watches nature closely, visiting a one-square-metre patch of forest over the course of a year. In The Forest Unseen he writes that he chose his location by “walking haphazardly through the forest and stopping when I found a suitable rock on which to sit.” As always, it does not matter where you go. It matters only that you go. Haskell asked himself, “can the whole forest be seen through a small contemplative window of leaves, rocks, and water?” His rules to himself are simple: visit often, watch a year circle past, be quiet.

One outcome of his watch was “to realise that we create wonderful places by giving them our attention, not by finding ‘pristine’ places that will bring wonder to us. Gardens, urban trees, the sky, fields, young forests, a flock of suburban sparrows… Watching them closely is as fruitful as watching an ancient woodland.”

The Forest Unseen concludes with some advice for us on our stump with our steaming coffee. “Leave behind expectations. Hoping for excitement, beauty, violence, enlightenment, or sacrament gets in the way of clear observation and will fog the mind with restlessness. Hope only for an enthusiastic openness of the senses.”

And that, after all, is what coffee is all about.

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

April 12, 2021 at 09:00

Coffee Outside, Somewhere New

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month on the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

In her book Wintering, Katherine May describes the struggles of the fallow season we are now coming to the end of. “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.” Now, at last, March’s new moon brings us to the beginning of Spring and a collective surfacing gasp for air after the longest of winters. 

Last month we nudged you to drink your coffee outside and be observant. This time we build on that with a call to take your coffee somewhere you have never been before. To become an explorer. An explorer of the world on your doorstep.

There are so many places that we would love to visit: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia and all the other colourful coffee countries. Yet none of us are roaming the globe right now, of course. This has been a unique season of curtailed plans, clipped wings, and feelings of being cooped up and confused.

But experience has shown us –and this is important– that exploring locally is not just a mediocre solution to the problem. Nothing we describe here feels like a compromised existence. For example, in recent months, we have run every street reaching out from our homes, like a spider web, finding paths and lanes that had previously escaped our notice. We have appreciated the daily colours of the saltwater swimming palette, a chosen cold, one that we step into, one that we can leave. We climb the same tree every month in order to better notice the shifting of our lives and seasons. And we have committed to exploring a single map, the one we live on, to help put nearby nature into our everyday lives. 

Nature is cyclical: tides ebb and flow, the moon waxes and wanes. We too “have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.” (From Wintering, again.) We have a tendency to think of ‘new’ in a static way. (“Ah, coffee in a new place you say? I must find somewhere different!”) But ‘new’ can also be a state of mind. We would do well to remember that even in a place we know well, this very moment is both new and unique, never to pass in quite this way again. To quote Pico Iyer sort of quoting Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.”

Pay attention to the newness of revisiting the same spot in different seasons, different weathers, and different times of day. Sip your coffee and take a moment to notice the sunrise on your face, the afternoon shade, or the tranquility of dusk.

Even after many years of local microadventures, we still find new gems every time we choose to search for them. Go find one for yourself. Delight in the new, expand your local horizons, and your curiosities will expand too. 

Remember also, as you turn left instead of right towards today’s coffee spot that your local patch of woodland (or park or bench on a quiet street) would seem deliciously beguiling to someone who lives far away from you. [Looking at all your photos of enjoying coffee outside last month gave us very itchy feet. We would be fascinated to join you in your new place.] So many fresh sounds and sights and smells to inhale. All those ideas percolating… 

Spring is coming once more, both literally and metaphorically. We have all trodden through dark times recently, together but often alone. These times have changed us all. How will we choose to re-enter the world? How are we growing into our own spring? 

Make no mistake, winter can be “a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” With today’s new moon and the arrival of spring, make an effort to open your eyes to all that you do not know, to all that is new if you look afresh. Embrace and celebrate the opportunities that lurk waiting for us to find them rather than getting bogged down by the bulky and bothersome constraints dropped upon us. Rethinking the definition of “new” is a call to action for our curiosity.

Just because a coffee sit-spot is within a mile or two of your front door and the lengthy To Do list of chores waiting for you at home should not demean its beauty, its appeal, or its power. Indeed it ought to do the very opposite. We can discover freshness even in the most well-worn of our routines. How lucky you are to have found this spot, here, now, right when we are all yearning to become explorers once again! 

(And a final thought to consider. We are only a week away from the spring equinox with its longer days and feeling of hope and renaissance. Why not make a note in your diary to return to the same coffee spot at the autumn equinox too, as well as the solstices of summer and winter?)

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

March 14, 2021 at 16:14

Coffee Outside

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Alastair Humphreys—king of the microadventure, author of many books, and lover of all kinds of curiosities big and small—and I wanted to collaborate on something. Art? Words? Where would we start? We went back and forth for a long time, thinking of what might be the right thing to take on together. And then we thought, why not just go back to the thing that’s at the root of it all, the thing that always helps us to begin: coffee. We are both avid coffee drinkers, coffee weaves its ways into our adventures and our creativity. It made sense to do a collaboration focused just on that. In the spirit of percolating new ideas and projects, we’re releasing this on the day of the new moon. In this one, Alastair took a stab at the words and I took a stab at the art. We’ll both be drinking some coffee outside today (probably tomorrow as well) and we hope you’ll join us in some coffee outside adventures, wherever you are. 

Momentous and wondrous things — adventure, a piece of art, a new project — begin with a seed of an idea, a cup of coffee, and then the decision to begin.

Whether it is ‘putting the kettle on’ in Britain when hatching plans, Sweden’s daily fika to savour life’s small joys, or ‘grabbing a coffee’ in North America to toss around exciting ideas, we believe that good stuff comes from coffee. 

We appreciate the familiarity of a favourite mug, the performance of the preparation or the ritual of going to a favourite cafe. We take pleasure in the caesura, the space created by pausing for coffee, and perhaps a faint glimpse of the Buddhist notion that you can experience the universe by drinking a bowl of tea. 

So coffee is where we are going to begin this new journey towards exploring the link between adventure, creativity, curiosity, and wellbeing. [By the way ‘tea’ can be used interchangeably with ‘coffee’ throughout. Perhaps not ‘Beer’ though, if you’re reading this early in the day!]

What if we try something different with our daily ritual? Nothing dramatic, nothing to worry about or procrastinate. Just a tiny step towards something different. Sometimes that can be all you need to leave your rut. Nudge the helm, trim the sail of a small boat leaving Java and you’ll shift your landfall from Kenya to Yemen. 

Today we nudge you to take your coffee outside and experience an extra sliver of the universe. A cup of coffee in the fresh air cracks open the space to allow ideas to percolate and brew. For adventure ideas. For a blackbird waiting for this moment to arise. For creative impulses and a breath of breeze. The time to observe, notice and appreciate the world outside your front door. 

The hardest part of any adventure is what Norwegians call the ‘dørstokkmila‘, the doorstep mile, cajoling yourself to leave the comfortable, familiar house, step out of a rut and into the world. The doorstep mile is the longest mile of any journey.

Before Russians begin a journey they sit down together and pause in silence to clear their heads and bring good fortune. The tradition is called ‘sidet na chemodanakh or ‘sitting on your suitcases’. Our bags are not yet packed, but we have now begun to dream.

Abraham Lincoln supposedly said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. Similarly, when we plan an adventure, a book, or a new work of art, we first of all pause for coffee. 

Who are you? Where are you? How will you take your coffee today? We want to hear from you, and where these outdoor moments take place. Perhaps you’ll sit amongst the pigeons on a park bench with your latte. Or with an espresso and a croissant at a terracotta-tiled cafe beside the emerald waters of the Adriatic. You may walk outside in the middle of winter barefoot, standing on your porch in bare feet, feeling the cold of the season, the hot mug in your hands. You could fill a thermos and set out on foot for the woods. Or you might prefer to brew your coffee outside. A gas stove and a sprinkle of instant. A jetboil and French press. Aeropress. Bialetti. Briki. A kelly kettle or a coffee bag. Java drip, filter, press pot or percolator. A Moka pot and wanderlust for al-Makha. Perhaps you’ll gather twigs and light a fire for cowboy coffee or forage, roast and grind a beech nut substitute coffee. Or maybe you’ll simply carry your cup from kitchen to sunlit garden and sit for a while, caging the minute within its nets of gold.

We are fascinated by the concept of adventure, something that often comes with a sense of uncertainty and unknown. This past year has presented us with ample amounts of uncertainty in our everyday, and our thoughts about –and approach to– ‘adventure’ has most certainly shifted. Our journeys now are closer to home. We are challenged to stay curious and find joy in our most trivial moments. It’s easy for things to become routine and mundane. This is why we should use something as small as a change in daily ritual to bring us a hint of what we have missed. It holds the possibility of surprise and serendipity, and offers an invitation to exploration and the simple activities that fill life with joy and inspiration.

Whilst we doubtlessly want adventure, we also crave ways to slow down and be present, to connect with the world around us, and generate the opportunity to pursue our creativity. Mark this cup of coffee as the beginning of that quest. To consciously look askew at the way we do things. An interlude to pay attention and be grateful. And a chance, with the final sip, to acknowledge how easy that was and to commit to try something similar again. 

This might merely be drinking a cup of coffee outside. But it may also be the birth of a new adventure. We do not yet know. But we have begun to find out.

Written by Anna Brones

February 11, 2021 at 09:00

How to Fika (A Zine You Can Print and Color at Home)

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Happy book birthday!

Five years ago, Johanna Kindvall and I released our book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. In honor of our 5th book birthday, we decided to put together a zine devoted to the basics of fika.

Maybe you have our book on your shelf, maybe you’re a fika aficionado, or maybe you’re entirely new to fika, the Swedish coffee break. Regardless of what your fika background is, we made this zine so that you can easily print it at home, color it in, and add your own drawings. There’s a recipe for chokladbollar, Swedish chocolate balls, too. We wouldn’t want you to go without a fika treat.

Why fika?

In this time when a lot of us are at home and socially distancing, fika seems like a good ritual to remind ourselves to take a little break from the onslaught of news, and find a little space to just be present.

Slow down.

Take a deep breath.

Recalibrate.

Why not plan a virtual fika?

Fika is often a social affair, but you can fika and still practice social distancing. Why not use this as an excuse to call a friend and have a virtual fika? Call a friend, plan a time to chat (maybe on video?), and then each of you brings your coffee and treats. It’s that simple.

Make “stay home and fika” your new mantra—click here to download and print the How to Fika zine.

This zine is designed to print on a 8.5×11″ piece of printer paper.

How to Make Your Zine

If you’ve never made a one-page zine before, it involves a little cutting and folding. See where the dotted lines are? That’s where you are going to fold. Then you’ll cut and refold into the zine.

Here’s a video that breaks down the process, and there’s a visual guide here.

Planning a virtual fika? Share it with us! We have been using the hashtags #virtualfika and #stayhomeandfika. You can find us @johannakindvall and @annabrones.

Illustrations by Johanna Kindvall

Interested in other books? Here are a few more that I have written

Written by Anna Brones

April 7, 2020 at 09:04

New Cups for Coffee Outside: Powers Provisions Collaboration

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I am so excited about the recent collaboration that I did with Powers Provisions for custom Miir coffee cups. These are ideal for coffee/tea/hot chocolate/hot toddies/anything else that you want to drink and keep warm (or even cool).

I wanted the custom papercut that I made for this piece to capture the essence of time spent outside. For me, that’s usually in my Pacific Northwest stomping grounds, and fortunately the landscapes that inspire me—islands, sea, evergreens—are very at home in Alaska, where Powers Provisions is based.

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Written by Anna Brones

July 17, 2019 at 10:20

Swedish Semlor

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Semlor, the treat you need for a Fat Tuesday fika.

Semloryeasted buns filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream, also called fastlagsbullar or fettisbullar—are a Swedish treat for Fat Tuesday.

The tradition dates back centuries, and the first documentation of this style of pastry dates back to 1250, when it was featured in a painting. In the early days, semla did not include whipped cream or almond paste, but was simply a bun served in a bowl of hot milk, called hetvägg. On the evening of Fat Tuesday in 1771, King Adolf Frederick enjoyed a banquet of lobster and Champagne, and rounded things off with 14 hetvägg. Things didn’t end well—he died that night of indigestion.

Obviously we can all consume a more lagom amount of the culinary indulgence, and they are perfect to pair with a cup of coffee or a mug of tea, so get a batch of these going today and enjoy the lovely cardamom smell that will fill the kitchen. Johanna Kindvall and I featured this recipe in our book Fika: the Art of the Swedish Coffee Break (signed copies here!) and I figured I would share it here today so that you could partake in this wonderful custom.

Semlor
recipe from Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break

makes: about 12 to 16 buns

buns
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 100 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (240 milliliters) milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces, 50 grams) sugar
3 1/2 cups (1 1/8 pounds, 495 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed

filling
2 cups (10 ounces, 285 grams) blanched almonds
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces, 50 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 to 1 cup (120 to 240 milliliters) milk

to finish
½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 milliliters) heavy whipped cream
powdered sugar

In a saucepan, melt the butter, then stir in the milk. Heat until warm to the touch (about 110ºF/43°C). In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the warm liquid. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form on top.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 of the eggs with the sugar. Pour in the remaining butter and milk mixture, along with the yeast. Stir until well blended.

Mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Work the dough until well combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured flat surface, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 3 to 5 minutes. The dough should feel a little wet but if it sticks to your fingers and the countertop, add a little flour. Place dough in a bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Grease a baking sheet or line with a silicone baking mat. On a flat surface, divide dough into 12 to 16 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place them with 2 inches (5 cm) between each bun. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes. (To test when they are ready to bake, poke your finger gently into one of the buns; the indent should slowly spring back, about 3 seconds).

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

When you are ready to bake, beat the last egg with a fork and brush the top of each bun. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove the buns from the oven and transfer to the counter. Cover with a tea towel and let cool completely.

To make the almond paste, in a food processor grind the almonds until finely ground. Add in the sugar and almond extract and pulse until mixture sticks together. (You can also buy almond paste if you can find it at a specialty store.)

Cut a circular “lid” off the top of each bun and set aside. Cut a circle along the inside of each bun, leaving about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) for a border, being careful not to cut all the way to the bottom. Scoop out the cut portion and place in a bowl along with the almond paste. Mix together together and add enough milk to make a filling that’s thick and smooth filling.

Fill each bun with the filling then top with whipped cream. Gently place the “lid” on top and dust with powdered sugar.

Brew some coffee and serve immediately.

Note: Semlor doesn’t store well, so if you are not planning to eat them all in one go, I suggest you only prepare as many as you need. Freeze the rest of the buns as soon they are cool.

Written by Anna Brones

March 5, 2019 at 08:17

Happy Birthday Fika!

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Three years ago today, Fika The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break came into the world. Over the last three years, it has been so much fun seeing all the places that this book ends up. I love hearing from readers when they bake a recipe or give the book as a gift to a friend. I think we could all use a little more fika in our lives, and I am happy to see so many of you doing exactly that.

In honor of Fika‘s third birthday, I am doing a special giveaway of signed copies of both Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break and my latest book, Live Lagom Balanced Living the Swedish Wayas well as an original fika-themed papercut (unframed).

This fika papercut was done as a sample for some new templates that I made for Paper Artist Collective (if you’re in the mood to try your hand at papercutting, you can snag them here) and I think it deserves a space on someone’s wall!

How to enter? All you have to do is subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll draw a random winner next Friday, April 13, 2018 so you have a week to get yourself signed up and entered.

Written by Anna Brones

April 7, 2018 at 04:00

Empowering Women Coffee Farmers

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“To rebuild the spirit of a woman is to rebuild the spirit of a country.” That’s part of the mission statement of Rebuild Women’s Hope, an organization based in Bukavu, on the edge of Lake Kivu in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was started by a local Congolese woman and the organization works to empower local women coffee farmers. It’s one of many initiatives around the world focused on empowering women coffee farmers.

I wrote an article all about the topic that was published this week on Sprudge. Here’s a short snippet:

As part of that agricultural web, coffee is an industry dependent on the work of women around the globe, making gender equity an essential part of the sustainable coffee supply chain. “Most of the obstacles faced by women coffee farmers are the same as those found across the agriculture sector,” says Nick Watson, a coffee-sector adviser with the International Trade Centre, who has an initiative focused on women in coffee. “Social norms often discriminate against women in rural areas leading to disproportionate land and asset ownership; household and income decision making; time and labour distribution; access to information and training; and participation and leadership in rural organisations or as registered suppliers to agribusinesses.”

Despite these obstacles, it’s often thanks to women that the coffee production happens in the first place. “Women are on the front lines when it comes to our beloved cup of coffee. They serve as the primary labor force on roles that most affect quality, from picking the ripe coffee cherries off the tree to sorting beans throughout processing. Despite their significant role, most earnings go to men who own the property and manage commercial deals,” says Phyllis Johnson, president of BD Imports.

You can read the full article here.

Image: Glenna Gordon courtesy ITC

Written by Anna Brones

March 17, 2017 at 09:41

Paris Coffee Revolution: Buy the Book

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Paris Coffee Revolution the Book photo by Jeff Hargrove

What makes an “artisan” an “artisan”? What does it look like when you try to do business not as usual? What happens when you challenge the status quo? What does a “passion job” look like?

These are some of the questions that we tried to answer in the book Paris Coffee Revolution, which was just released in October. It’s a book telling the story of the growth of the Paris specialty coffee scene through profiles of some of the city’s main “coffee revolutionaries” who helped to kickstart that growth.

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Written by Anna Brones

December 11, 2015 at 21:55

How to Pair Pumpkin Pie and Coffee

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, my latest column on The Kitchn is devoted to learning about pairing coffee and pumpkin pie. Coffee pairing essentials include: complimenting, contrasting and layering. So think about what flavors you love in pumpkin pie (the spices!) and what flavors in coffee you can either contrast, compliment or layer with those.

Because chances are, you’re going to make a damn fine pie, and you want a damn fine cup of coffee to go with it, don’t you?

Read the full column here

Written by Anna Brones

November 25, 2015 at 23:23

Posted in Coffee, Food + Recipes, Portfolio

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