I’m a fan of coffee. I can remember watching my grandmother doctor her coffee when I was a tyke — loads of sugar and cream added until it turned a nice shade of tan. Likewise, my father would float an ice cube in a spoon so he wouldn’t have to wait for his steaming cup to cool for drinking. Coffee runs in my blood.
A few years ago, I started favoring raw sugar over white refined sugar for my hot drinks. I don’t know that I could ever get raw sugar to dissolve in milk, but in coffee and tea, it’s a thing of wonderful bliss. Raw sugar adds a little hint of molasses to the brew, and incrementally improves my coffee experience just a bit.
About two weeks ago, Becky and I were playing hooky from work, and were wandering around in Maplewood. This area has really gone through a revival, and is now full of eclectic little shops and eateries. We wandered into one little shop, and I saw something I’d never heard of … bourbon smoked sugar.
Bourbon Barrel Foods in Louisville KY (whose catchphrase, Eat Your Bourbon, is awesome!) produces this magical sugar (along with many other bourbon-related items; more on that later). From what I gather, they take raw sugar, and smoke it with bourbon barrel staves, which produces a really complex set of flavors. When you open the container, you really smell the smoke, and I wondered if it was just gonna smoke up my coffee.
At that first sniff, I was reminded of a batch of chocolate chip cookies Darla made on the Big Green Egg once. She makes just about the best chocolate chip cookies around, and I thought doing them on the Egg would be a great enhancement. Yes, they were edible, but the smoke really overwhelmed the flavors. Would this happen to my coffee?
I dropped a small spoonful of this sugar in my cup, poured my Jamaican coffee overtop, stirred, and raised it to my lips…
It was poetry!
Something about the combination of the strong, almost harsh flavor of the Jamaican beans ground in my favorite Cuisinart coffee maker (six years old now!) and the smoky bourbon flavor of this sugar makes for a great combination. I’ve done this a few times, and have been able to repeat my results … no cream needed!
I decided to try it with my favorite tea — Bigelow Decaf Constant Comment — and didn’t have quite the same magical results. To me, the bourbon sugar wasn’t quite as sweet as regular ol’ Sugar in the Raw in my tea. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have the same magic that I found in my coffee.
I also tried this with K-cups in my Keurig. Again, the magic just wasn’t there. Now, I know there are loads of K-cups out there — even Jamaican coffee — so there could be some trial and error to get the right combination of flavors to make this work well. Straight up Jamaican coffee beans really seemed to pair well with this smoky pixie dust, and so far is the best thing I’ve found to go with it.
The only downside that I’ve found is that this stuff is pricey. A ten ounce tin ran me $15 locally (it’s $11/tin directly from Bourbon Barrel Foods), so I’m using it kinda sparingly to make it last. As a comparison, that’s about $18/pound direct from the source, while Sugar in the Raw is about $4 for a two pound box.
Bourbon Barrel Foods make other bourbon smoked products: sea salt, vanilla sugar, pepper, paprika… they even sport soy sauce that shares a bourbon-influenced lineage. These are really unique items, but none of ’em are cheap. I’m kinda hoping the prices drop on their product line, as I could really see getting into using them with some regularity were it not for the cost.
In short, two sugary, smoky thumbs up — this stuff is very tasty in my coffee!