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Davis, California

Monday, June 10, 2024

Coffee and flowers: the emergent flavor phenomena

Floral flavors serve to be transformative in the coffee beverage industry


By MAYA KORNYEYEVA — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu


Coffee, as a beverage, is well-known for its versatile flavor profiles. One brew could contain notes of chocolate, spice and caramel, while the next could taste of honey, orange and plum. No single coffee bean is alike; each is shaped by the regional characteristics of the environment in which they are grown and harvested, such as soil composition, elevation, sun exposure and neighboring flora. 

With the right combination of elements, farmers can cultivate a unique coffee profile. One particular flavor note which recently experienced a surge in popularity is floral. A floral flavor gives coffee a delicate and aromatic taste, which, when cultivated as a natural tasting note in coffee, can range from lavender and rose to elderflower, peaberry and jasmine. On the other hand, a floral flavor can also be added to any type of coffee drink (like espressos, lattes, cold brews and iced coffees) through the use of flavored syrups, with some of the most common being rose and lavender. 

In fact, Peet’s Coffee recently launched its new line of lavender drinks in spring of 2023,  with Starbucks following suit in the spring of this year. While both rely on different methods of delivering that floral flavor — with Peet’s using a flavored syrup and Starbucks introducing a purple lavender powder — the drinks have garnered plenty of media attention and customer discourse. 

Why is floral coffee so popular? I believe the answer lies within the complex, unparalleled flavor, as well as its happy pairing with alternative milks such as soy, almond and oat, which have rapidly gained traction on the coffee scene in the last decade.

First and foremost, floral flavors are vastly different from what has typically been associated with coffee beverages: mainly vanilla, caramel and cocoa. Every coffee shop with an espresso machine serves some form of mocha (chocolate) beverage, along with your die-hard vanilla. However, flavors like lavender and rose typically reside in the realm of specialty coffee, where baristas experiment with anything and everything to deliver spectacular, never-before-seen flavor combinations. 

Naturally floral coffee notes also tend to appear in acidic, light to medium roasted coffees as opposed to the richer, dark roasted ones. Lighter coffees are typically less commonly produced, although the demand for this type of roast has increased quite dramatically in recent years. A reason for this shift can be credited to a lighter roast’s ability to retain smoother, less intense flavors that a lot of coffee drinkers prefer — especially if they are drinking their coffee black. Floral is one flavor attributed to light roast coffees that often appeals to tea drinkers, who find solace in the herbal flavors of the coffee.

Floral syrups are also easy to make and can be remarkably potent. The most common recipes include steeping food-safe dried petals or flower buds in equal parts hot water and sugar, and to let the flavors infuse slowly for up to several days. After draining the dried flowers, you are left with a syrup that packs a punch of sweet, perfumed flavor. 

Beyond floral flavors being a signifier of more gentle, fragrant and herbal brews, they are also delicious when coupled with alternative beverages, such as oat milk. This milk substitute in particular stands out above the rest, due to its creamy, nutty flavor profile which elevates and transforms soft flavors such as lavender. Both Peet’s and Starbucks recommend their lavender drinks paired with oat, and many other coffee shops in downtown Davis also suggest adding an alternative milk at the counter.

If you ever get a craving for a coffee that is subtly sweet and beautifully aromatic, a floral latte is sure to lift your spirits. With spring being in full swing, a floral cup of coffee is exactly the way to celebrate flavors that come straight from the colorful flowers we all know and adore. It is a unique and relatively novel trend that will soothe and tickle your tastebuds in the very best way possible. 


Written by: Maya Kornyeyeva — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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