I’m not an expert on pepper coffee. But I might be a little more experienced than I was a week ago. My roommate and I both love coffee, so we were excited to try this Senegalese twist on our favorite drink.
I found the package one day as I was browsing through the African shop down the street. Fascinated, I took the package to the cashier. “Fatima, what is this?”
Fatima explained that many Senegalese drink coffee with pepper in it.
Step #1: Buying the coffee
A couple of weeks later, my roommate and I traipsed into the shop, looking like vagabonds. We were on our way home from a long day, carrying an armload of empty jars and a container of leftover dessert.
When we set the coffee on the counter, a concerned customer interrupted the sale. “Do you know this coffee?” he asked.
“Yes, yes,” we assured him. “We want to try it!”
The man and the store owners tried to explain how to prepare their special drink. But they were still skeptical as we, our empty jars, our leftover dessert, and our pepper coffee pranced out the door.
Step #2: Research
I wasn’t sure how to prepare it, so I pulled up trusty Google.
I found some interesting websites, one even claiming that a nickname for pepper coffee is “kerosene.” Yikes.
It turns out that one can prepare the coffee pretty much any way they want to. That was a relief since we don’t own many fancy coffee-making devices.
Step #3: Making the coffee
We opened the pepper coffee package together and took long sniffs.
Roommate: “It smells like a gift store.”
Me: “It smells like dirt.”
Roommate: “I think I’m having a better experience than you.”
We dumped it in the coffee maker and my roommate dug around in her room until she unearthed a darling little cup and saucer set.
Step #4: Tasting the coffee
Traditionally the coffee is hot and sweet. I opted to add sugar right away to get the full experience. My roommate decided to taste it solo.
Roommate: (WITHOUT sugar and wincing)
Me: (WITH sugar and wincing) I think it’s probably better with sugar.
Roommate: It is. I’m positive!
So what is it like? The flavor is not quite like anything I’ve ever experienced. A marriage of spiced tea and coffee. A gift shop. It’s hard to explain.
The next time I try it, I will remove all notions of coffee and try to enjoy it for the unique blend of flavors that it is. But it’s going to take more than one cup.