The addition of spices to coffee is a practice that goes as far back as the very beginnings of the drink itself. In the Arab nations where coffee-drinking first gained ground, cardamom is added to what is called al-qahwa, a thick, rich, bittersweet brew. Turkish coffee is prepared in a similar fashion, though it does eschew the spices most of the time. In other parts of the Middle East, cinnamon and/or cloves are sometimes substituted for the cardamom.
In Asia, where more tea is drunk than coffee, the principle of adding spices to one’s brew of choice has led to the creation of chai, that wildly and widely popular milky tea infused with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper. In Malaysia and Singapore, they have teh tarik halia or simply teh halia which features milk tea livened up with the zingy, restorative taste of root ginger.
And there is jahe susu, an Indonesian coffee beverage that is also livened up with ginger.
A colleague who recently came back from Indonesia brought back packets of Torabika instant jahe susu for the rest of us.
According to the English section of the manufacturer’s website, Torabika’s ginger brew features a mix of Robusta coffee, full-cream milk, and ginger powder to create a uniquely warming yet revivifying drink. The fiery taste of the ginger helps to tone down the harsh bitterness characteristic of Robusta coffee and the milk helps to round it all out. Not many people will appreciate the flavor combination, but if you love spice as much as I do, it’s worth a shot.
I should warn you, however, that it’s a rather strangely-textured drink. Once you’ve dissolved the mix in hot water, it goes down smoothly at first. And then, you run into the rather gritty lot of spicy-hot ginger shavings. It’s also off-putting that, despite all the stirring that you do, there will always be a dark, grainy sludge at the bottom of the cup – evidence that there was just too much ginger or that said ginger wasn’t ground as finely as it should have been.
Nevertheless, if you could just put the textural issues to one side, it’s actually a pleasant way to get your motor up and running.