MONIN reveals its new flavour wheel

monin flavour wheel

MONIN reveals its new flavour wheel to help baristas match coffee profiles with natural flavours that can take a beverage menu to new heights and push the boundaries of taste exploration.

John Davidson, Head of Advocacy and Innovation at Stuart Alexander, an exclusive distributor of MONIN in Australia, says flavour pairing is “a skillset all three professions of bartenders, baristas and wine sommeliers can and should be learning from each other”. 

A certified sommelier and bartender himself, it wasn’t until John’s first visit to the Melbourne International Coffee Expo in 2019 that he witnessed the similarities between coffee cupping and wine tasting.

“I was enthralled by the coffee cupping. It’s not unlike the process used in 1000-year-old wine tasting competitions,” he says. “It was really inspiring to see people use the simple brewing of coffee with water and their taste experience and secondary aromas to determine the origin of the coffee, the altitude in which it was grown, the climate, air and soil quality. Immediately, the cocktail bartender in me thought, ‘I wonder how you could heighten and expand particular coffee flavours through using liqueurs, spirits, or a product like MONIN?’”

MONIN already used flavour wheels in wine, cocktail, and gin and tonic pairings. The opportunity arose to apply the same principles to coffee, dividing the MONIN product range into flavours of exotics and botanical, bright and subtle sweetness, sour and tart, and sweet and aromatic. 

“We’re not reinventing the wheel, so to speak, but what we’re providing cafés is a guide they can use as a jumping off point to connect MONIN flavours with coffee flavours and expand their beverage offering in a reliable way,” John says. “If you don’t want a sugar syrup but you do want to inject a flavour that creates a whole new experience for your guests, that’s where MONIN comes in, with consistency and true-to-form flavours.”

John compares dark roasted coffee to heavy red wines grown in lower altitudes with more sunlight and bigger tannic flavours. He considers pairing it with raw flavours, fruits or flowers that grow in similar climates, such as dark or stewed fruits, and types of green or roasted nuts. 

For lighter roasts, John recommends pairing coffee with citrus fruit flavours such as pink grapefruit, mandarin, and peaches.

Cherry is an intuitive flavour pairing given its connection to coffee as a fruit. John suggests a ‘cherry cold brew’ to spice up a menu with its touch of sourness or tartness adding another layer of complexity. Likewise, John says ‘cold brew with white peach’ or ‘mandarin nitro on tap’ can dress up a menu with MONIN being the “secret weapon” to inject an extra punch of flavour.

“We’re not trying to convince double espresso drinkers to change their order, or that baristas should be injecting violet syrup into a natural processed Geisha – I would never put popcorn syrup into a Grand Cru Champagne. But what I would suggest, is that where cafés are looking for something new or a point of difference to change the game or stand out on their Instagram feed, MONIN provides an artillery of authentic flavours. Coffee remains the hero, it’s just a way of creating something new and exciting.”

Ona Coffee Head Roaster and three-time MONIN Australian Coffee in Good Spirits Champion (CIGS) Danny Wilson has been experimenting with MONIN flavours for years, most recently using its passionfruit syrup with coffee, gin, Licor 43, and sparkling apple juice for his winning 2020 CIGS drink.

“What’s interesting about this combination is the intensity of flavours and consistency you get week to week when making it with accessible and readily available ingredients. That’s something baristas need to consider when they’re thinking about introducing a new drink to their menu,” Danny says. “When pairing flavours with coffee, there’s a fine line in terms of achieving balance, which tends to put baristas under a lot of pressure, but it’s even more reason why using pre-made flavour options such as MONIN is a simple and easy solution.” 

When working with espresso that is more berry-driven with strawberry flavour notes, Danny recommends enhancing that berry component for a more intense drink or using complementary flavours to enrich the texture and mouthfeel.

When incorporating MONIN flavours, Danny leans towards using slightly darker or espresso-roasted coffees to retain the intensity of the coffee profile, although he adds that concentrated filter brews and cold brews with decent coffee intensity provide great options.

“As long as you create a drink that showcases the quality of the coffee and gets as much flavour out of the coffee as possible, which comes down to finding the right balance and enhancing the experience, it does have a place on a coffee menu,” he says. 

“I see the use of flavours the same way we look at milk coffees at Ona Coffee. Milk adds its own sweetness in the cup, and it also helps bring out different flavour qualities in the coffee. That’s why at Ona, we acknowledge that milk is the part of the beverage. We cup our coffees with milk to ensure that the way the coffee is roasted and tastes in the cup is balanced or enhanced with the milk profile. Everything from the way the coffee is sourced, processed at origin, roasted and extracted from our baristas, are all factors that can impact the final cup profile, which includes the way we use MONIN flavours.”

A barista of 15 years, Danny says there’s still lots of room for education but more so experimentation when it comes to the use of ingredients in coffees.

“In the bartending world, there’s lots of freedom to experiment. It’s good to play around and get an understanding of how flavours can complement each other and come together. I tell baristas to go and mix their own cocktails – it makes them a better barista too,” he says.

John adds that with the support of Stuart Alexander’s dedicated team, cafés can revamp and elevate menus using cold brew, nitro coffees and iced lattes in the chilled coffee space, or post-midday drinks like sodas, tonics, spritzers, or even onto kitchen menus.

“There’s a lot of owners and managers out there who don’t have a lot of confidence when buying new products, so every cent counts. The good thing is that you only need around 20 millilitres of MONIN product on average. One bottle can make anywhere up to 700 serves, so the cost per serve is really valuable,” he says.

What’s also valuable is the safe bet of the MONIN range including more than 150 gourmet flavoured syrups and purees made with the natural ingredients and pure cane sugar. They are flash-pasteurised, halal certified and contain no GMOs, gluten, dairy, fat, proteins, or cholesterol.

“It’s a no-fear product to stock,” John says. “MONIN is a flavour first and a sweetener second. The perception of syrups used to be hazelnut, vanilla, or caramel lattes but we’ve come so much further than that. Creating fun beverages that are beyond the standard drinks you see everywhere, well, there’s real value in that as long as it’s done so consistently.”

While some venues can change their menu weekly, John says even making a quarterly change can be enough to keep customers interested.

“It’s all about having confidence,” he says. “Australians are experimental and we’re coming back to this idea that the guest experience comes first, and hospitality is king. With this in mind, there’s no reason why baristas can’t blur the lines between a premium coffee or alcoholic drink and overtake the sommelier world with their commitment to flavour.”

John says if people start to look at MONIN products like they do their alternative milks and understand that everything that goes around coffee is a good foundation to play with, then we can learn to enjoy the power behind flavour creation. 

“Perceptions constantly change, and I hope it continues to do so because MONIN really embraces challenges, and is driven by global trends, research and the success,” he says.

“After seeing how MONIN operates behind the scenes, I can say it’s a very inspiring company to work with, driven by a commitment to innovation and research. It’s a fourth-generation family-owned French business who cares about the planet and storytelling. It’s a pretty exciting world at MONIN, and a bright one when it comes to flavour.” 

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This article appears in the February 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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