You’ve probably never thought of it and honestly, it’s all new to us, too. But Oysters are a lot like coffee. Earlier this week, we took a trip over to our friends at Hama Hama Oyster Farm to do a little digging into the idea…
As coffee professionals we invest a lot of time and energy into our tastebuds. Eating a variety of foods, paying attention to flavor, and cupping coffees all develops our understanding of flavor. Oysters require the same kind of intentional tongue training. And, we may just argue, that tasting oysters will help you learn to better taste your coffee.
Oysters are judged on salinity, body, sweetness, and finish. The variables that play into its taste are seasonality, age, species, and growing environment. We learned from Lissa, at Hama Hama, that oyster farming, much like coffee farming, is an ever evolving process. New and exciting cultivation techniques have begun to develop over the last decade. They are continually discovering what works and how they can produce the best flavors. In the future, we may be able to control the variables to produce higher quality oysters, specifically for raw eating.
We know how much elevation impacts coffee. We talk about it and list it on retail bags. Elevation has a huge impact on the flavor and size of coffee cherries. The same coffee grown at 1,800 feet will taste different grown at 3,000 feet. The same is true for our little oyster friends. However, oysters are so small that mere inches are like mountains to them and those inches make a huge impact on its development and taste. Subtle tidal changes, more or less algae, rocky or sand, all influence the shape of shell and the size of the bivalve. Pop open the oyster that shape will directly impact the mouthfeel and flavor of the oyster.
Drinking a glass of coffee or wine with an oyster brings about a different set of challenges. Similar to coffee, oysters can leave a lingering taste in your mouth. The prominent flavor may appear after you have already swallowed and reached for your glass. This means that what you drink alongside your oysters, if chosen correctly, can enhance your experience.
While enjoying our oysters we chose a honey processed coffee with lemon peel up front to play off of the oysters. Those lovely lemon notes acted almost like squeezing the light citrus over the oyster. Balancing the brine and bringing a whole new layer of flavor. Brewing this coffee in a french press gave it a full body feel with a roundness the echoed the oysters.
Hearing those at Hama Hama talk about oysters gave us flashbacks to every emotionally driven coffee video we have ever watched. Oysters are wild, the human process can take way but also can create uniformity. When you eat an oyster, it gives you permission to geek out about geography. The flavor of the oyster tells you a lot about what is happening in that region of the sea. You’re biting in to something bigger than humanity, it’s a direct connection to the ocean.
Looking to try something new and further educate your tongue? Seriously, try oysters! we can learn a lot from them. Here are some tips on where to get started:
1. Find a local oyster bar or oyster farm (Like Hama Hama). Be sure to come equipped with lots of questions.
2. Order a variety of oysters based on location. Oysters like cold water so you’ll get the biggest variety in months that contain the letter “R”! (Your choices will be more limited June-August).
3. Take notes as you eat. At first you might only taste salt, similar to how you may only taste bitter when you first experience coffee. But after time you will be able to notice subtle differences and writing things down can help in the process.
4. Be sure to chew your oysters as you go! This will help you fully experience the flavor and mouthfeel.
5. Any lingering flavor? Like coffee, some oysters are gone as soon as you’ve swallowed while others hang around on your palate and develop in flavor after they’re gone.
6. Pair with something delicious, like coffee or wine. Drinking coffee or wine will change and enhance the flavor of those oysters with lingering aftertaste. Something citrusy that you are familiar with. Citrus pairs with oysters well to balance out the salt and gives you a break between tastes.
Stay Caffeinated and Keep learning!