Coffee is such a part of everyday life in Switzerland it’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a national event to celebrate it before. But that’s about to change on Friday, dubbed National Coffee Day, when more than 200 restaurants, roasters, bakeries, hotels, coffee bars and shops are paying tribute to the beverage with a range of activities. Organised by the Swiss chapter of the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, in partnership with six organizations, it is the first of what promises to be an annual event.
Free coffee will be served in participating cafés, such as Trini’z Bistro in Geneva and Starbucks’ outlets across Switzerland. Some eateries are concocting themed menus and pastries. In Fribourg, the chocolate manufacturer Villars is organising presentations of green and roasted coffees, while at La Semeuse in La Chaux-de-Fonds, professional coffee-makers – baristi – will be demonstrating their art.
Guided tours will be organised by Cafipro SA, a family-owned roaster based near the Geneva wine village of Satigny. The family, whose involvement in coffee processing and distribution dates from 1866, also owns Carasso coffee shops, which are inviting the public to discover the "coffee trail" and learn tips for making a better cup at home. Carasso is launching five new coffees on Friday, including Tibetan and Australian single estate specialities, which visitors can taste along with the existing range.
Switzerland counts around 50 roasteries, with 10 based in French-speaking cantons. They are involved in one of the final steps before the espressos, lattes and cappuccinos can be brewed up and poured in your cup. Coffee begins as fleshy red berries, grown in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, which are hand-picked, skinned and pulped. The seeds - green coffee beans - are dried and sorted. Traders sample the green coffee, to test its quality and distribute samples to roasters, through a process known as “cup-tasting.”
Green beans enter the traditional coffee-making process via a vast silo divided into compartments, each holding a different variety. They are weighed and funnelled to chamber where they undergo a slow drum-roasting process with temperatures and times adapted to the flavour profile of each speciality. After cooling, the coffee is stored in silos for a maximum of 72 hours then packaged to prevent oxidation.
When roasters create single origin specialities or blends, they aim to achieve a balanced, distinct flavour profile that can be consistently reproduced. Regular "cupping" or tasting ensures that this is the case.
Like wine-tasting, cupping has its rituals. Equipped with spittoons, water and spoons, tasters are presented with brewed coffee, which they sniff, take to the mouth in a spoon, slurp noisily so that it spreads to the back of the tongue, then spit out. They assess body, acidity and balance and try to detect the origin.
So what is a good coffee? “There is an element of subjectivity in coffee drinking, but the nose should have great aromatic complexity, which implies slight acidity in the mouth.” Philippe Carasso, director of Cafipro and Carasso-Bossert, told Swisster. “A good coffee must evoke references that are either animal or vegetal.” He gave examples of leathery and buttery aromas as being animal-like and vanilla, hazelnut, pear and chocolate as vegetal references. Something to savour the next time you have a cuppa.
National Coffee Day takes place on Friday, September 26. Some events require prior booking. For more information about the prgramme, check www.journee-du-cafe.ch