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Granitas and the caffe scene.

The beautiful coffee bean-- is rich, brown color, pleasing aroma, and tantalizing taste, gives it a universal appeal that is evidenced by increasing sales of gourmet coffee by the pound and cup. Both sales areas lend themselves to expressions of creativity and individuality, but retail cup sales and beverage trends effecting these sales are definitely higher profile. Gourmet coffee beverage trends seem to come in cycles. First traditional and then flavored gourmets; next and still continuing is a trend toward espresso and milk-based espresso drinks. While the trend toward espresso was still developing nationwide, consumers began to be interested in cold coffee and espresso drinks. Coffee coolers and iced lattes are becoming as common in some areas as cups of brewed coffee.

What is the next trend in coffee consumption that adds yet another facet of versatility to the humble coffee bean? A frozen beverage known as a Granita.

Granitas, with the exception of fruit granitas, have as a base, either espresso, coffee, or a concentrate. The consistency of a granita is somewhere between solid and liquid and it is prepared in a graruta machine. Generally, granitas are served in a tall cup with a straw and some shopowners serve fruit granitas as well as coffee granitas. At the recent SCAA show in Boston, many different manufacturers displayed graruta and espresso machines side-by-side and, although not yet widespread across the U.S., gramtas are a popular item in Seattle.

The company that some Seattle coffee shop owners credit with bringing grarutas to town is Torrefazione Italia, Inc. with locations in Pioneer Square and the retail district in Seattle and a new location in Portland, Oregon.

"We brought in granitas in the summer of 1987," said David Baron, director of marketing, "but we don't use syrups, or ice. Torrefazione Italia is a traditional Italian roast house that stresses quality. Since we are roasters, we want authentic products and Umberto Bizzarri, our roastmaster, did not want to put ice in coffee because it would effect the taste."

According to Baron, Torrefazione first prepared a cold espresso beverage called "Caffe Fredo" which is espresso poured into a bottle and chilled. Cold, it was served either as espresso or with milk as a latte but either way it did not have ice. But they found that Americans wanted an iced, not just cold beverage.

Umberto next started serving "Granita de Caffe" which was frozen espresso and sugar served with unsweetened whipped cream and was like a frozen espresso dessert. The granita started selling and Americans, after tasting the petite Italian espresso granita, wanted large 12 oz. cups of it. A serving that large represented multi shots of espresso and so the "Granita de Caffe" evolved into the "Granita de Caffe Latte" and thus became adapted to the American palate.

Torrefazione's granitas use true espresso as a base. Milk is added and the rninimum amount of sugar needed to get ice crystals is used. Baron feels that the integrity of the frozen product is protected because all of the ice crystals come from milk or coffee and does not dilute the taste. When the ice crystals melt, it is still coffee.

"Texture is everything in a granita. If the texture is poor, it has large ice crystals in it. When the crystals hit the tongue, they should melt; there should be no ice crystals in the mouth." Granitas make a good business sense for Torrefazione because by using hot espresso in the base, it provides an extension of the product line. But almost in the same breath as he is praising granitas, Baron urges caution to shop owners who are looking at granita machines for the first time, "Any machine with moving parts will break down. It is not really automatic and salesmen are not telling people the amount of work involved."

Let The Buyer Beware

"People want granita to be easier than it is," said Karen Ewing of Java City in Sacramento, California. She tried grarutas and customer response was great, "People loved the product and the weather didn't seem to matter." Although customers loved the product, they discontinued it because they had problems with consistency. "Consistency throughout the day is a problem. Without volume, it gets too full of air and doesn't taste good."

Bill Mohrweis of Veneto's Coffee in Kirkland, Washington, who told me about granitas when he began selling them three years ago, is a big believer in the product. "Grarutas are a quick transaction that is highly profitable." Bill's employees make the mix when it is slow and although they had problems with the granita mixture when they first offered it, they had no problems after getting it right. "Once you have a recipe, it has to be consistently followed." He also prefers the granita machines with the vertical augers rather than horizontal.

Things To Look For

David Baron encourages shop owners to really think before buying a granita machine. "Serving granitas take as much of a commitment as serving espresso. Finding the proper beverage mix to freeze and have the right consistency takes experimentation. The machinery takes maintenance and employees have to be trained on it."

Some general guidelines that he suggests are:

* Deal with a reputable company that understands coffee. Taste what they consider a good product.

* Make sure that the machine is set up properly in a ventilated area. They put off a tremendous amount of heat and can make the shop hot and the temperature of the shop will effect the granita.

* The machine should come with recipes to serve as a base, with guidelines such as how much sugar is needed to keep it from freezing without making it too sweet.

* Realize that the machine has to be cleaned properly and monitored regularly.

* You have to have some demand for it. At roughly 50 servings per day, you can keep the mixture consistent and make a reasonable profit.

* The key to success after completing all of the above is to sample the product.

Don't get discouraged by the amount of attention to detail that serving granitas require. The drink is delicious, profitable, and if it was easy, everybody would be serving it.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Grounds for Discussion; chilled form of espresso
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Keeping the tradition with Caffe D'arte.
Next Article:Swiss Water Decaf thrives in a healthy era.

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