Does a bit of bling elevate your morning cup?

3 minute read

Picture this, you’re at work, a deadline is looming, you’re behind on paperwork and a client just called for an update. It’s 8.30am and you haven’t had a coffee, how do you feel?

Back in the day, a colleague complained of feeling unwell at work and imparted his diagnosis “I just figured it out, I forgot coffee on the way in”.

Love it or loathe it, we’re all coffee addicts now. Of course, that’s not new news to you. If you’re reading this in Britain you’ll likely consume around 2 cups today[i], in America it’ll be 3 cups[ii] and in Finland, it’ll be a whopping 8 cups (admittedly, of the lighter stuff)[iii].

Globally, we now drink around 2 billion cups a day[iv]. Coffee is likely to be as essential to you as soap or deodorant. Some may even describe it as a commodity and, when something becomes as mainstream as that, brands start to fight to grow wallet-share.

In the Covid-environment, that translates into ‘insperiences’ by supermarkets enabling consumers to recreate coffee shop favourites in the home and, at the premium-end, exclusive subscription services by niche small-batch roasters using hyper-specific beans[v].

Now that’s all well and good but, do we really need edible gold on our cappuccino? And, is this the pinnacle of coffee-gentrification or is it simply a marketing gimmick?

With an open mind (and the bill paid for by Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi) a while ago I tried it.

Yours truly, en-route to a heightened coffee experience. Lobby, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi.

As a recipe developer, I often consider the rationale for adding or subtracting an ingredient and typically it’s to substitute an unhealthy ingredient for a healthy one. But, there’s a whole raft of other variables: texture (or ‘mouthfeel’ as they say in the trade), taste, smell, aesthetics etc. I was curious to understand how this unusual ingredient affected my morning cup…

Tackling the thorny issue of health benefits first (the thing I most care about), there’s an excellent article by Food & Wine entitled “What Happens When You Eat Gold?”[vi]. It concluded that “It probably won’t harm you. The bad news? Until more studies are conducted, we’ll have to keep saying “probably.”” Hmmm, that’s not a very comforting read, is it? Further, nutritionist Cynthia Sass commented that “a gold adorned meal should be a “once in a lifetime” event”. So, by my read of it, the nutritional experts are at best lukewarm on this ingredient and, at worst, cautionary about ingesting it at all…

Moving on to my drinking experience… the flakes are so fine that they dissolve almost immediately on contact without any texture or mouthfeel (and a word of advice if you buy a cup, don’t dare to breathe near it else the flakes will fly everywhere…). The gold doesn’t smell or add any taste to speak of so, where does that leave us? Oh yeah, aesthetics, of course…and, it’s closely-related bed palls of bragging rights and exclusivity.

My 23k gold-flaked ‘Emirates Palace Cappuccino’ (yours for the princely sum of UAE75 Dirham or around £14.50/ US$20* a cup). Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

On this point, I can categorically say that a bit of bling elevates your morning cup. In 20-plus years of serious-cappuccino-drinking experience, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a prettier one. It’s like a work of art. It should be in The National Gallery, not in a cafe; it’s just too pretty to drink. So I sat and stared at it for a good five minutes. The obvious downside to this strategy was a lukewarm cappuccino. Naturally, I could have taken a quick snap for posterity (and for Instagram, because let’s face it, that’s why we’re here) and drink it straight away, but at around £14.50/ US$20* a cup, you kind of want to savour the experience.

So, after this rather arduous coffee-tasting experience, the burning question is ‘which is better, your everyday £3 / $4 a cup, or this one?’ The answer, and a rather boring one at that, is that it’s down to the individual (and their respective bank balance, and their desire to ingest edible gold). Both cups fulfill the basic requirement of a caffeine-fix and provide the associated health benefits of improved energy levels and brain function and support fat burn[vii]. It’s just that one cup is prettier than the other. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend adding anything to your cappuccino, unless it’s a few shavings of Fairtrade Ecuadorean 70% organic dark chocolate…

Emirates Palace Cappuccino,  Le Café,  Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

*exchange rates correct at 11/6/21

Terrace of the Palace Suite, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

[i] https://www.roastandpost.com/coffee-encyclopedia/trivia/consumption-facts/

[ii] https://www.e-importz.com/coffee-statistics.php

[iii] Rachel Hosie, “Finns consume more coffee than anywhere else in the world — I went to Finland to find out the surprising reason”, Insider, last modified Aug 19, 2020, 12:26 PM, https://www.insider.com/why-finns-consume-most-coffee-world-dark-days-need-caffeine-2020-8

[iv] https://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/coffee-in-the-uk/coffee-facts#:~:text=Coffee%20is%20the%20most%20popular,billion%20cups%20consumed%20every%20day.

[v] GlobalData Consumer, “COVID-19: “Four key coffee trends for 2020–2022””, Drinks Insight Network, last modified 14 August 2020, https://www.drinks-insight-network.com/comment/covid-19-coffee-trends/

[vi] Adam Campbell-Schmitt, “What Happens When You Eat Gold?”, Food & Wine, last modified May 24, 2017, https://www.foodandwine.com/news/is-gold-safe-to-eat

[vii] Kris Gunnars, BSc, “13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science”, healthline, last modified September 20, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee

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