Iced cof-FAY American style

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

It took awhile. You start with small steps. First I got Terri-at-the-Waffle House to give me a tall glass filled with ice, into which I poured my coffee. Then I got her to skip the cup and start pouring the coffee right over the ice.

“That looks awful,” she said, holding it at arm’s length as she brought it to me. “How can you drink this stuff?”

(This is what they teach these days at the Waffle House Academy? What happened to “The customer is always right”?)

The first time I tasted “this stuff,” I loved it. Mary and I were sitting at a little cobblestone café, perusing the menu. I think we were in Munich, just outside the main pedestrian gate to the old city, and the year was probably 1992.

My daughter reads German, of course, and she knows what foods I like, or hate. It’s easier to let her pick something for me.

“How about iced café?” she suggested. At the time, I was something of a neophyte about any kind of coffee, and tended to like it best hot, sweetened liberally and softened with creamer. But cold? Hmmm. Well, it was a warm afternoon; I was game.

It came in a tall glass on a pedestal base, milk still swirling in the dark liquid, and with a crown of whipped cream topped with chocolate shavings, a dark red powder and a cherry on top. I think the powder was nutmeg but it could have been cinnamon or ground hazelnut.

It was divine. I was hooked. But it was terribly expensive – probably $3 or $4, a fortune to me then – and I knew nothing German had ever heard of low fat.

When I got home, I experimented in reproducing it. Dave, my Guinea pig, was less than thrilled. “Coffee’s good the way God meant it to be: hot, black, with sugar. Why mess around with it?”

I put it aside, experimenting occasionally over time, until about five years ago I got it the way I wanted it. And Dave liked it too.

Now you can take some strong Joe and stir sugar and heavy cream into it and serve it iced, but I wouldn’t do that to my heart nor recommend you do it either. One of the best things about living in the 21st century is that we can improve almost anything over its first incarnation. Healthier food ranks right up there.

Healthier iced coffee: Since I’m of the “pinch-of-salt” school of culinary arts, the amount of the ingredients is up to you. Taste as you go.

Brew up some coffee – we use Fair Trade, but I suppose Kroger’s is just as good – and add fat-free creamer, French vanilla or hazelnut, whichever you prefer. I combine decaffeinated and caffeinated.

I sweeten it liberally with Splenda. The pink stuff would do, except a friend made me promise to quit using it. Says it’s toxic. (She hasn’t said that about Splenda yet, and I don’t plan to ask her. Gotta feed my sweet tooth something.)

Add milk to taste; I’m sure cream would taste better, but we use fat-free dry powdered milk, reconstituted. We’ve been using dry milk for years. It’s not a lot cheaper, but you can get a whole lot of calcium into your bones by doubling the ratio of powder-to-water; it’s always on hand, and it almost never goes bad.

OK, stir your concoction, either in the coffee carafe or in a tall glass, and taste again. Here’s where you have to decide, while it’s still lukewarm. If you think it’s going to be too weak once you pour it over ice, add some instant (decaffeinated) coffee to make it, really, too strong. The melting ice is going to weaken it, and this is where your judgment comes in. You may have to drink a lot of this stuff to get it right.

You don’t need the whipped cream topping, or, if you want it, low-fat is fine. The nutmeg-or-whatever is also dispensable. I doubt if there are a dozen calories in the glass, and you can stick with at least half decaffeinated coffee, you’ll have a pretty fair approximation of German iced coffee, only healthier, and it is costing you much less than it would to fly to Munich. (Besides, that ice coffee of my memory is probably at least $12 this year.)

“Eeewwww! This is awful!” Terri was standing there holding a small tumbler of light brown liquid, her face contorted into more wrinkles than I bet she’d like to know she has. She poured it down the drain after a single sip.

I offered to make some up for her but it was clear she was not going to touch iced coffee again.

“They sell this stuff in cans now, Terri,” I tried reasoning with her. “They call it latte or ‘au lait’ and it costs a whole lot more than this.”

“Well, this ain’t no lat-TAY,” she says, turning on her deep-Fayette accent. “It’s plain ol’ cof-FAY at Waffle House.”

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