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Cooking with Coffee

My grandpa “Pop” is responsible for my nearly lifelong love of coffee. When I was five, Pop first introduced me to coffee—diluted with copious amounts of milk and sugar—which I sipped from my own tiny porcelain cup and saucer. Old habits die hard. While I’ve had brief periods in my life when I give up coffee, I always return to my morning java. Unlike many coffee drinkers, it’s not about the caffeine. I’ll frequently drink decaffeinated coffee, as caffeine doesn’t have a huge effect on me. (The decaf must be top-notch, though, to account for the decaffeinating process that strips out some of the flavour). I simply love the taste of coffee and the ritual of coffee to start my day.

Yet coffee doesn’t have to be reserved for the morning or as a beverage. Even non-coffee drinkers will find it a wonderful addition to a wide variety of foods. I’ve long used coffee for desserts such as mocha brownies, coffee ice cream and tiramisu. Chocolate-covered espresso beans are a favourite pick-me-up during night passages.


My use of coffee was limited to beverages and sweets until a few years ago. While on a boat with my friend Bob, he prepared a delicious grilled pork tenderloin for dinner. I take pride in my ability to identify flavours, but I was struggling to detect the ingredients in the pork marinade. As we neared the end of the meal, I finally inquired about the mystery ingredient.

“Coffee,” said Bob.

“No thanks, I don’t drink coffee after dinner,” I replied.

Bob just laughed and said “coffee is the secret ingredient.”

In fact, coffee lends an incredible depth of flavour to foods, both on the sweet and savoury spectrum of flavour.


Coffee-marinated pork is an ideal onboard dinner because it’s versatile, equally delicious hot off the grill or thinly sliced on fresh bread for a fantastic sandwich the next day.  The ingredients for the marinade are always in my pantry, and the mixture comes together quickly—though the meat must marinate for at least 24 hours.

 I can even add a local element to the meal by using Caribbean coffee. The largest quantity of coffee comes from the Dominican Republic; Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is likely the best-known Caribbean coffee. Small quantities are also cultivated on islands such as Puerto Rico, Dominica and Trinidad & Tobago. Although coffee is not grown in the Virgin Islands, one can buy locally roasted and distributed coffee here. Caribbean Mountain Coffee, a favourite of Virgin Islands Property & Yacht staffers, is based in the BVI and sources its Arabica coffee beans from mountains high in the Dominican Republic. It’s equally good in a cup of strong coffee or as a secret savoury ingredient. 


Coffee-Marinated Grilled Pork
Use a meat thermometer to ensure the pork is cooked to the appropriate doneness.

•  ½ c finely ground coffee beans
•  ½ c vegetable oil
•  ¼ c molasses
•  ¼ c maple syrup
•  ¼ c soy sauce
•  2 cloves garlic, minced
•  2 Tbl fresh lime juice
•  1 Tbl minced fresh ginger
•  1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
•  1 ½ tsp kosher salt
•  1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
•  2 pork tenderloins (about 2 1/2 lbs total)

1. Puree all ingredients (except pork) in food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a zip top plastic bag. Add pork and chill 24 hours or longer.

2. Grill pork, turning often, until meat thermometer registers 145 degrees, about 25 minutes . Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine.

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