Elixir – “Looks like whiskey, feels like tea, made from coffee” is the instagram blurb on this coffee-based drink that’s been on sale at cafes around Sydney for the past few months and has just been launched in California, where it’s caused a stir in coffee circles because it’s supposedly brewed using a secret method that involves sound waves.
The drink comes in apothecary-style jars labelled with the origin of the beans and how many hours – from 1 to 24 – it’s been extracted.
Leo Nora, head barista at The Wedge Espresso in Glebe, says, “Elixir tastes a bit lighter than cold drip, a bit like whiskey in texture, quite fruity: it reminds you more of tea in the intensity of its flavours.”
The Wedge has been serving Elixir for about four months – in whiskey glasses as requested by its creator, Sydney singer-songwriter Lee Safar.
Chris Karvelas from Harry’s in Bondi says, “The perception is that it is very light and floral – it’s almost perceived as a tea rather than coffee, although it definitely offers a true depiction of the origin of the beans – you get a very clean taste of the terroir. People walk away quite surprised by it.”
Elixir: less caffeine?
Reports say Elixir also appeals to people who can’t tolerate the caffeine in regular coffee. Chris Karvelas says, “It’s gentler. The caffeine is still there, but it’s not as intense; it’s a lot more delicate than an espresso or a pour-over.”
Matthew Kang of the Eater website, who tried Elixir at the first US outlet, Copa Vida in Pasadena, wrote, “I immediately thought of watered down cold brew coffee, though not so much with the taste of melted ice, but more of delicately brewed tea with distinct notes of coffee.”
Coffee blogger Amanda Collins of the US-based Brew & Brew website also tried Elixir at Copa Vida. “When I opened the twist cap, I was blown away by the smell. I could have sworn it was a vanilla caramel candle; it was so sweet, but not off-putting in any way. The flavour really packs a punch with a light, crisp, and refreshing beginning moving to a smooth and sweet aftertaste.”
“In a far, far land where unicorns are born”
Elixir’s entrepreneurial Sydney-based creator Lee Safar says, “It’s not really a cold brew, but there isn’t any other way to describe it. It’s genuinely a new flavour profile.”
She’s coy about the process: “What part of ‘It’s a secret’ don’t you understand? The ingredients are filtered water, the best coffee available in the local area (in Sydney that’s Mecca Espresso) and we use sound: cymatics.”
Cymatics is the science of visualising sound waves, as with the patterns formed in a layer of sand on a vibrating metal plate or the surface of a liquid in a vibrating vessel. With coffee, sound waves could be used to agitate the water during brewing, which might give a more even extraction from a smaller dose of coffee than other methods. That could produce the delicate flavour profile.
But Safar isn’t saying. “We’re geeks and we want to do something fun and cool.”
Even the location of her workshop is a secret: “You can say we brew it in a far, far magical land where unicorns are born.”
She says she came up with Elixir when she was working at a cafe in Bondi Junction and wanted to expand the coffee offer. One idea was a ginger and cardamom cake with a coffee-poached pear. “Elixir was supposed to be the poaching liquid for the pear, but when I tasted it I thought, This is going to be the next thing in coffee.”
It’s either very clever brewing, or very clever marketing. Without tasting Elixir, it’s impossible to say.
So when is it coming to Melbourne? “We are figuring out if and where,” she says. See Elixir on Instagram #