Coffee – if its world might be close in some respects to the one of wine – notably champagne wine -, it is most certainly considered by connoisseurs as the worst possible wine pairing. It is even the tasters’ bête noire. Pretty often, what a disappointment when at the end of a meal, just after the coffee, you realize that there was one last bottle… So, it raises the question : would coffee finally be the impossible champagne pairing sought ? Lets review the difficulties of this harmony with an expert in the field : Véra Werding-Chamarande, who is preparing the next MOF competition.
“ Coffee : Black as the devil, Hot as hell, Pure as an angel, Sweet as love.”
Charles-maurice De Talleyrand-périgord
Véra Werding-Chamarande – Owner of Oma Coffee, speciality coffee expert
Bartender and bar owner, mixologist, jurist, international business consultant, barista… It’s somewhat as if Véra Werding-Chamarande had already lived several lifes and she is still going ; creating, innovating and pushing back the frontiers of knowledge about coffee. When you ask her where her passion comes from, she immediately and naturally evokes her childhood and her first stolen sip of coffee in her dad’s cup – a stolen instant she will never forget…
Since that first taste, life has been bringing her back to the world of cafeology, reflected in those coffee moments which formed the pattern of her personal journey.
Tell us more about your career and what led you to this passion for coffee ?
Rémoise by adoption, I am originally from Saint-Dizier. A french Father and a German mom, I cherish my dual culture which has influenced my vision and my philosophy of things all my life ; by the bye, during my childhood and my teenage years, I spend a fair amount of time in Germany with my grandmother – Oma – who was florist, herbalist and vine-proprietor.
From a very young age, I was imbued with the preparation of coffee and tea time : you have to understand that in Germany, coffee is an important moment. It is a very social moment, almost a ceremony. At my grandmother’s, the time for coffee and tea was a real instant of reunion, of manners and very special moments.
After a childhood and an adolescence between France and Germany, I first studied international law. After what, I left France in 2004 to live in the United States in San Francisco and New York ; first as a jurist, then as an international business consultant. I notably worked for investors who established luxury pastry manufacturing units around the world. After 10 years between three continents, I decided to settle down back France in order to be closer to her family. It was the beginning of a new adventure for me.
In 2015, I created Oma coffee, an authentic Coffee-Shop with a cozy atmosphere where people can enjoy high-quality coffees, as well as other gourmet beverages. I wanted a place to gather, to soothe where I could create an haven of peace where everyone finds themselves and feels good. Oma Coffee offered speciality coffees from Grand Cru, notably from South America, Africa, Jamaica, Vietnam ; speciality coffees, that I source according to strict criteria in terms of respect for the environment and the mastery of techniques – this is the qualitative and ethical approach of Oma Coffee. A sincere approach linked to fair trade where I managed all the traceability – from the planting of the coffee tree to the final cup. My purpose was to continually offer the famous “Perfect Coffee” and to unveil the mysteries of coffee to those who came in Oma.
Quickly, after the launch of the coffee shop I started to roast to later I pushed one more time even further my quality approach and my quest for the quintessence of coffee by crossing a new stage with the sourcing of the coffee by going directly in the producing country – starting by Colombia. A journey towards coffee and a return to nature essential for me to face the real emotions of the coffee world. An authentic pilgrimage to go to a place of meditation : the one in the countries producing “black gold”. By going out to meet the delicious souls behind exceptional coffees, my life project thus becomes the interface between nature, those who give coffee its purity and its emotions. As a responsible epicurean, I observes, smells, selects with passion, and rigor searching for the finest, the most delicious and the rarest varieties of coffee.
My passion has grown, multiplied ! Rich in history, know-how, culture … Coffee and my passion were calling me more and more…
I took a new turn and on a Monday morning I announced the end of Oma… It was the begining of Antoinette, Maison de qualités. A project to go even further in the cafeology with a premium boutique centering on coffee and its extended culture… Coffee, but also tea, herbalism, spices … A shop with premium products : a limited selection of products but of high quality. Through this selection, I have my heart set on highlighting the producer and the people working behind each coffee, each tea, each spice. Through Antoinette, I reopen a new page : the one on coffee and its wide cultural world…
What is the coffee culture for you ? What is it you are looking for ?
When I think about coffee, I remember all the memories of my father drinking his coffee and listening to the radio set or all the shared moments with Oma, my grandmother, centered on coffee or the morning coffee with my mom – instant I would never miss before leaving the house.
I am convinced Coffee has an indelible imprint ; an imprint on the life of men. It has this ability to stop time, to create rare moments of sharing. It helps us go back to the essence of things, establishing a link to time, to life, to others and to ourselves. That intrigues me and I want to understand, find the key to the secrets of coffee and reveal its mysteries. It is like an irreproachable desire to understand it : why are we so attached to this black gold ?! That’s the power of coffee.
OMA COFFEE – quality, respect of nature
Véra, what can you tell more about your universe and what makes a quality coffee ?
« When it comes to coffee, several things are important.
First, there is the origin. These are the crus, the terroirs, but also the type of culture, the know-how of the producers and their choices throughout the process. Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Panama, Vietnam, Kenya… Oma Coffee has chosen the quality and respect for nature.
A commitment that even led me to Colombia last year for a trip in search of committed fincas and exceptional coffees. This way, I was able to found producers who respect nature and Men. Like so, in our Coffee Shop, each of the selected fincas respects a strict charter and must be able to provide irrefutable proof that throughout the process no coffee cherry comes into contact with pesticides or products harmful to humans.
«OMA COFFEE CHOSED
THE QUALITY AND THE RESPECT OF NATURE. »
This is the commitment of Oma Coffee : offering the best of the coffee plant !
The other essential points for a quality coffee are of course the roasting – which must be uniform to allow the aromas of each bean to be revealed – and the know-how of the Barista.
Take the percolators of coffee machines for example, unfortunately, too often we see that they are not cleaned between two coffees. This is not normal. The know-how of baristas is important, as each parameter impacts the result, the taste, the aromas of the final cup : the size of the grind, the temperature, the extraction time, …
Finally, the choice of extraction method is important as well. The flavors, the bitterness, the power, will not be the same depending on which one is chosen. Pressure coffee, turkish coffee, Slow Coffee, Cold Brew, plunger… here, it’s all about pressure…
Therefore, there is not A coffee, but coffeeS ; and you should not rely on your preconceptions.
« Each coffee has an assigned score.
This is a protocol that only the SCAA – “Specialty Coffee Association of America” – is able to assign, the “Scores” defining a very strict precise protocol to evaluate specialty coffees. This rating allows “big name” coffee producers to have a common language. The evaluation criteria are the scent/the odor, the aroma, the aftertaste, the acidity, the body, the harmony and the purity. A coffee must reach at least the score of 80/100 to be considered as a specialty coffee: 80+, 85+, 88+. Details of the scores assigned to specialty coffee :
- Score 80+ : very good speciality coffee
- Score 85+ : exceptional coffee
- Score 88+ : Grand cru
- The scores of 90 and more are qualified of «Outstanding». »
Pairing coffee and champagne
How to harmonize champagne and coffee ?
Therefore, an harmony that seems at first glance very complicated. The idea for this pairing is to manage to “smooth over”, to reduce the bitterness of coffee without reducing the power that characterizes it ; each of the two products must impose itself, express itself without ousting the other. The quest for champagne-coffee harmony begins with a first tasting to assess the subtlety of the different crus. Smell, taste carefully and see the style of wine that could match the origin and the chosen method. Structure, aromas, power, color, … everything is evaluated, annotated which makes it possible to go in search of the right terroirs in Champagne for the pairings. Therefore, a selection of several bottles emerges, from various terroirs and grape varieties: blending, Blanc de Noirs, 100% Chardonnay on sandy soil, clay-limestone or flint … all of which leaves some room for surprises. Comes the moment of the encounter. Here, you have to test, but you also have to know how to make a mistake. The tasting begins with the observation of the colours, then goes nose to nose. The first harmonies or breaking-points are emerging. It is high time to bring things to the palate : first, the coffee – line the palate, imbue the taste buds with the aromas and subtleties by spinning the liquid. Gulp. Then after a second or two, take a sip of champagne. During such a tasting, it is important to take your time and let the aromas evolve as well in the glass to offer all its possible variations, shades and get a glimpse of the different possible harmonies.
Can you tell us more about the origins chosen for the pairings ?
For the pairings, I have precisely selected two origins, two coffee with completely different flavors and two gentle extraction methods which allow to avoid bitterness.
The first one, Volcan Azul Caturra natural, comes from the volcanic terroir of Costa Rica in the Central Valley and is cultivated at 1500 meters – 4921 feet – above sea level. With a score of 85+, it is one of the exceptional coffees. The producer, Alejo Castro, is the sixth generation of farmers in his family in charge of the plantation. The crop growing is done plot by plot and the farmer does hit utmost to respect the environment. For this coffee, Alejo uses the natural drying approach.
A powerful and fleshy Cru with a nose offering aromas of exotic fruits. The palate brings flavors of flower, pineapple as well as a sparkling acidity.
His identity card in the coffee scale :
- Aroma/Flavor → 4,5 /5
- Body → 5 /5
- Intensity / Fruit → 4 /5
- Sweetness → 4,5/5
- Balance → 4/5
- Purity → 3,5/5
The second is a specialty coffee coming directly Colombia, more commonly known as Bourbon Rose. The producer Fabian Bustos’ finca is located 1,800 meters – 5905 feet – above sea level in the Huila region. This Grand Cru coffee (score 88+) is a washed coffee, which means that during the fermentation the coffee cherries are immersed in water.
An harmonious coffee. The nose offers some elegant notes of rose. The palate unveils a fine body enhanced by aromas of bergamot and red fruits. His identity card on the coffee scale :
- Aroma → 4,5
- Body → 5
- Intensity → 5
- Sweetness → 5
- Balance → 5
- Purity → 5
Once the Crus have been selected, you have to choose the extraction method…
For the techniques : to avoid excessive bitterness, I recommend two methods:
- The Cold Brew :
Not be confused with the method of iced-coffee, this technique – also called cold water extraction or cold pressing – is the process of steeping coffee grounds brew for several hours – between 8 to 16 hours – in water at cool temperatures. The obtained coffee is a real aromatic explosion since no flavor is destroyed by the heat. The brew is perfectly balanced, sweet and without bitterness. For optimal tasting, the glass should be cooled with ice cubes before pouring the nectar on the ice.
- The Slow coffee :
20 gr of coffee, a water temperature of 190,4 °F – 88 ° C – a swan neck kettle, a Chemex cafetiere with manual filter … Slow Coffee is a matter of precision. This method is a gentle extraction process, a real ritual consisting in preserving and respecting all the subtleties and flavors of the coffee beans, without bringing the bitterness that espresso can have as there is no strong pressure.
It all starts with the grinding – 20 grams of ground coffee – which will fill the natural filter, which has been previously wet to avoid the taste of paper. Using the swan neck kettle to control the flow, water at 190,4 °F is precisely poured in circles with a steady stream. The water must be poured in two gos, leaving 35 seconds between the two dousing to give the coffee time to degas. The first fragrances are already released at this stage – it is called the blooming – small bubbles are formed and the first marbled drops fall delicately. Inspire… enjoy and let the coffee reveal its aromas. The result is soft, round, but above all, very aromatic. ”
Antoinette, Maison de qualités
44, rue Gambetta