Written and photography by Cheryl Fallstead
As the chill of winter settles over the Mesilla Valley, you’ll soon want to cocoon in a blanket on the couch with a hot beverage. If you’re going to have a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even a toasty adult beverage, you might as well make it the way the experts do. We asked some local pros how to brew it right.
Milagro Coffee y Espresso
1733 E University Ave.
It all starts with the right water and high-quality beans prepared correctly. Brewing the perfect cup of Joe is more than running hot water over Folgers. Here are some tips from Bernie Digman, owner and coffee expert at Milagro, who has been in the bean biz for over 20 years.
Water: You don’t have to invest in a water system like Milagro’s to get it right, but Bernie does recommend mixing city water 50/50 with spring water (not distilled). Then heat it to the perfect temperature, which Bernie says is 200 degrees, just below a boil. He warns most coffee makers don’t get water to that optimal temperature.
Beans: Coffee beans come from a limited region around the equator in a rich variety of flavors. To bring out the best flavor, they need to be treated correctly. Bernie recommends buying beans in small batches because they should be used within 10 days of being roasted, then ground in a burr grinder just before brewing. He points out that a whirly-bird type grinder heats the beans just as brewing will and lets the flavor constituents waft into the atmosphere instead of into your cup of coffee. Burr grinders are more expensive, he says, but advises if you’re investing in good coffee, you should invest in a good grinder.
Brewing: Bernie says either a cone filter or a French press will give you optimal flavor while allowing you to bring your water to just the right temperature on the stove, before pouring it over the freshly-ground beans. Depending on how strong you like your coffee, use 2 to 3 tablespoons per cup. If using a French press, wait 2-and-a-half to 3-and-a-half minutes before depressing the plunger. Letting water contact the grounds longer will only make your drink bitter.
Holiday splurge: For a holiday treat, Bernie suggests their 100 percent Kona coffee from Smith Farms. If you want to add a special flavor, try a vanilla syrup.
901 W. Picacho Ave. • facebook.com/nessascafe
James Chavez Floyd, co-owner of Nessa’s Café, whips up a mean hot chocolate. He says you can use regular milk or make a plant-based version with almond or soy milk.
Froth it: If you don’t have an espresso machine to froth your milk, put 3 cups of milk and a half cup of half-and-half in a pan over medium high heat (or 3½ cups of plant-based milk). It’s all about frothing the milk, so whisk continuously as the milk heats, stacking the bubbles to make the milk frothier. Once it is warm enough and nicely frothed, add 4 ounces of Monin all-natural dark chocolate syrup and pour into mugs.
Top it: Why stop there? James suggests topping each mug with mini marshmallows, some whipped cream, and an artistic dab of chocolate syrup that will make your inspired cocoa Instagram-worthy.
The Sweater Inside
(aka Warm Apple Pumpkin Cider)
Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits southernglazers.com
You might want to indulge in a warm winter drink that can be made more…adult. This recipe comes from our resident mixologist Daniel Gonzales. When he’s not coming up with creative concoctions behind the bar, he’s a liquor distributor for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. Here is his take on the perfect hot drink to make ahead for a holiday party.
Cook it up: To create this aromatic delight, put the following in a slow cooker: 1 gallon of apple cider or juice, 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon of allspice, 1 teaspoon of cloves, a pinch of red chile powder, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 sliced red apple, 1 sliced green apple, 2 oranges sliced in half wheels, and 1 lemon sliced in wheels. Set to high and let simmer for up to three hours, then change setting to low, stirring occasionally to mix flavors.
Make it adult: You can serve this tasty drink as is for the kids, but adults may want something more. Add 1.5 ounces Captain Morgan Jack-O-Blast Pumpkin Spiced Rum to each mug, then ladle in apple cider with fruit and spices, and enjoy the feeling of having a sweater on the inside!
The heat of the water depends on the delicacy of the tea leaves. For white or green tea, heat your water to 185 degrees. For black tea, go for 190 to 200 degrees, just below the boil point.
Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company
2319 Calle de Santiago, Mesilla
This new tea and spice shop just off the plaza in Mesilla offers a huge range of teas from which to choose, along with everything you need to brew a delicious cup at home, including tea pots, infusers, mugs, and more. Tea, whether black, green, white, or pu-erh, are from Camellia sinensis leaves and buds, just processed differently to impart varied flavors and levels of caffeine.
Water: The heat of the water depends on the delicacy of the tea leaves. For white or green tea, heat your water to 185 degrees. For black tea, go for 190 to 200 degrees, just below the boil point.
Steep: You can use a wide range of tea infusers to get tea leaves in contact with hot water, from a manatee that hangs over the edge of your mug to a stainless-steel infuser that nestles into your tea pot or cup. Pour the hot water into the cup or pot and let the tea steep: 3-5 minutes for most white and black teas, 2-3 minutes for most green tea, and 5-10 minutes for most herbal blends. Remove the infuser and set aside for a second cup or pot (some folks like the batch for the second infusion even better).
Sweeten the Deal: Some teas cry out for a touch of sweetness and Old Barrel also offers eight different local honeys, which can all be sampled in the shop. For a special holiday pot of tea, they have delicious choices such as pumpkin chai, spiced apple rooibos, pecan pie pu-erh (a fermented tea, this one made with local pecans), lavender crème brûlée, or dark chocolate cherry.