Thursday, March 23, 2023

For those who love the flavor of coffee like I do, two kosher products have now made their way into the public consciousness, catapulting what once were two niche Jewish entrepreneurs into the mainstream artisan coffee marketplace. Misceo, which Nina Glick and I tasted at Kosherfest back in 2019, is a delicious coffee liquor that is truly decadent when served in White Russian or Black Russian-style drinks, and is next-level as an ingredient in cakes and whipped desserts. It’s made of specially sourced coffee, triple distilled 70-proof corn vodka, fresh cane sugar and Madagascar vanilla.

Founder Gitty Halberstam, who learned from her mother-in-law in 2016 that Kahlua had lost its kosher certification, started messing with ingredients in her own kitchen in Brooklyn and ended up developing a 36% alcohol-by-volume kosher liquor, which arguably is exponentially more delicious than the original. It has a deeper and more refined coffee taste, and less of the cloying syrupy sweetness that Kahlua was known for. When Misceo was included in a “Best of 2020” list by tastemaker Wine Spectator and then made it onto a holiday gift guide list in Forbes this past winter, Halberstam knew she had hit the mainstream. Misceo is sold wherever fine liquor is available, including as of this year in Total Wine stores, a 230-store chain in 27 states with many local outlets in New York and New Jersey. Just so you know, Halberstam took a risk by using corn liquor in the beverage; she eliminated all the potential sales from the Pesach season just because the flavor “married best” with the coffee, she told The Jewish Press.

Also, for those on the go this summer, buy yourself a box of coffee brew bags from microbrewery Gaia Coffee Roasters. This Brooklyn-based artisanal/micro coffee brand founded by Josh Genuth began by being mailed direct to consumers, but now has a wide and growing list of blue chip companies for which it brews, including Disney, Marriott/Starwood, Land Rover, Jaguar, Movado and even the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

My favorite Gaia brew bag, which makes a single serve cup of coffee and comes in a box of 10 sealed packets, is the Blue Velvet, which includes dark roasted beans from Indonesia and South America. Other beans include Colombian, Sumatra, Ethiopia and a French roast from South America. Each box comes with the origin listed and tasting notes for the coffee inside. A Santa Barbara blend comes from Colombian beans as well. Most of the coffees come in a tea-style bag so no equipment is needed other than hot water, and the grounds are guaranteed to be fresh in the packet for 12 months, though the beans are also available for purchase. For those who hold with a kli shlishi (a cup poured first into a vessel, and then into the cup one is using, so the water no longer ‘cooks’ the contents of the brew bag), it works as a fresh brew for Shabbat as well, and serious coffee drinkers no longer have to disappoint themselves with substandard instant brews.

A sampler box of the different blends are also available, and with some items a mason jar for cold brewing is included. Gaia sources their beans from around the world and roasts to order. For those who wait all year to buy the Trader Joe’s BBQ coffee rub in summer, Gaia makes one that is delicately sweet, warm and spicy; and it’s not seasonal! Check out all the options at https://gaiacoffee.com/

By Elizabeth Kratz

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