Beyond Cream and Sugar: Coffee With Cheese, Eggs and Reindeer Bones | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Beyond Cream and Sugar: Coffee With Cheese, Eggs and Reindeer Bones

The New York Times restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, recently tweeted something about "kaffeost," a Finnish concoction in which hot coffee is poured over chunks of soft cheese. I have to admit, it looks decidedly unappealing to me in this YouTube video—but as food writer Meredith Modzelewski responded...

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Cheese in coffee, courtesy Flickr user daftgirly


The New York Times restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, recently tweeted something about "kaffeost," a Finnish concoction in which hot coffee is poured over chunks of soft cheese. I have to admit, it looks decidedly unappealing to me in this YouTube video—but as food writer Meredith Modzelewski responded, "traditions exist for a reason," so maybe it's worth a try!

It got me thinking about other unusual things I've heard of people putting in their coffee, both before and after brewing. Here are a few:

1. Reindeer bone My grandmother, who is mostly Norwegian and has been to Norway dozens of times, says she's seen at least one relative toss what looked like a smooth, whitish stone into the coffee grounds before brewing. He told her it was a piece of reindeer bone, to make the coffee taste less bitter. I can't find any Internet references to this tradition (other than Laplanders putting fresh reindeer milk in coffee), so it may be just a quirky family habit or even a joke. But it makes some sense to me on a basic level: bone contains calcium, which counteracts acid.

2. Salt This was a hot topic on the CHOW discussion board a few weeks ago, after one poster asked if anyone else put a pinch of salt in their brewed coffee. Apparently, it makes a certain ubiquitous chain's burned beans taste less bitter. Others recommend putting salt in the coffee grounds, rather than the final product, to improve the brew's flavor. Personally, I'd like to try the Taiwanese salted coffee recently featured in Time; I like the idea of combining several taste sensations at once (sweet, bitter, salty—and, perhaps, kokumi).

3. Ice cream Back to my grandma again: Her favorite way to drink hot coffee, last time I checked, is with a scoop of ice cream floating on top (preferably coffee-flavored, but vanilla will do). What a nice way to get your cream and sugar, right? When we traveled to Germany together, she felt right at home: Germans love Eiskaffee. It's a cold, blended drink there—coffee and ice cream, topped with whipped cream—and wildly addictive, in my experience.

4. Eggs Some people believe that adding crushed eggshells to coffee grounds improves the flavor, probably similar to the reindeer bone theory (eggshells are full of calcium, too.) And others crack an egg or egg whites into the coffee itself, making "egg coffee." This Scandinavian tradition is popular in the American midwest—or at least in Hendricks, Minnesota, where the town website features egg coffee recipes in "family" and "Lutheran Church" sizes. Even John Steinbeck is a fan of this method: In his road-trip narrative, Travels with Charley, he describes adding both an egg white and shell to his coffee pot before percolating, "for I know nothing that polishes coffee and makes it shine like that."

5. Okay, this is amazing. There is an entire blog called " Putting Weird Things in Coffee." Its author, a Canadian grad student, has already experimented with everything from smoked salmon cream cheese (dissolves into a curdled-cream texture, bad idea) to bacon in coffee ("time-saving and delicious," he claims). Why? Because, as he puts it, "I drink coffee every day, but get bored with the same old cream and sugar."

Your turn. What is the weirdest thing you've ever had in coffee?
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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