Elixir Specialty Coffee

When I first heard about Elixir on the Cat & Cloud Coffee Podcast, I was immediately curious. It’s like cold brew, but not really, and since I’m big into cold coffee in all its various forms, I had to find out what these brightly colored bottles were all about.

So what is Elixir anyway?

“Looks like whiskey, feels like tea, made from coffee. . . and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before!”

The story of Elixir is fascinating (check out the 4-part series on Cat & Cloud from Oct-Nov 2015 for a full discussion), and it’s one of those wonderful accidental discoveries that nobody expected. From Elixir creator, Lee Safar:

I was the head barista at a high end bakery in Sydney. We wanted to expand the coffee program beyond just espresso but didn’t have room on the bench so I asked the bakers/owners if we could come up with a dessert to feature a single origin. They said yes…but it had to wow them. I didn’t’ want to just create a brownie and shove espresso in it. I wanted something sophisticated. My idea was to create a Ginger and Cardamon Cake with Vanilla Bean Butter cream in the centre and on top…with a coffee poached pear to top it all off.

The challenge was trying to get the nuances of the coffee (stonefruits and spice) rather than the “coffee flavour” into the pear without all those flavours competing with each other. Elixir was supposed to be the poaching fluid for the pear. I took one taste….and never poached a pear!

Because the original recipe was never intended as a stand-alone beverage, the results in the cup were nothing like traditional hot or cold brew methods. Lee had the courage to leave her ambitious cake plans in the dust in favor of something unknown, and the Elixir process became a carefully guarded secret. (It’s something to do with cymatics, unicorns and pixie dust, that’s all I know…)

At the time of the podcast, one could only taste Elixir in a handful of specialty shops in Sydney or at a couple places in California. It’s a unique beverage, brewed for up to 24 hours and marked with a number to represent the hour of each particular extraction. The most striking feature of Elixir is the golden hue, which runs from light to dark as brew time is extended (the “Elixir Rainbow”), and every hour brings a different flavor experience.

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Living far from California, I could never attend an Elixir Rainbow Tasting, a special experience which involves sipping all 24 individual hours of one coffee to fully grasp the evolution of flavor, nor could I grab a single hour by the jar just to see what the fuss is all about. Then last month Elixir announced their first subscription service, and I jumped at the chance to try it.

Now I get to enjoy beautiful Elixir at home! With a new baby in the house, having another ready-to-drink coffee beverage on hand and is a big plus, and over the past week Elixir has become part of my morning routine. In fact, it was a driving force in my desire to create a routine, along with the podcast you’re probably tired of hearing me talk about… (Check out recent Cat & Cloud episode about time management, serious knowledge and inspiration!)

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So far I’ve enjoyed 2 shipments of Elixir: 2 bottles each time, 4 different hours of Colombia, Isaac Bardos, Narino roasted by Cat and Cloud Coffee (more than just a podcast). My first week featured hours 9 and 15, and I found 15 to be my favorite. The mouthfeel was interesting, very silky and satisfying, heavier than you would expect from the bright color. Flavors are very nuanced, and my palate is too underdeveloped to attempt a proper description. But I can say that the hours are markedly different, and not just in a “one is stronger than the other” way.

I mentioned cymatics earlier, and that is indeed a part of the Elixir process. Subscribers get to recommend music selections for use as a cymatic reference during the brew process, and my second shipment included hours 7 and 14 using Radiohead’s Amnesiac, which happened to be my suggestion!

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Elixir is really something special. It can be a luxury beverage, sipped from fine glassware. It can be a blast of refreshment on a hot day, with more clarity than cold brew. It can be an energy boost, used to jump start a workout. I’ve only just begun to experience everything it has to offer, and as I get more tasting experience I look forward to sharing more specific notes in the future.

If you’re curious to try Elixir, follow any of the links in this post to sign up for their subscription box.

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