Coffee: It's a Spice. Really.

When you think of coffee, chances are that you think of the beverage -- and probably Starbucks -- and stop there. But coffee has uses beyond being a deliciously addictive caffeine fix to be guzzled down at all hours of the day. Coffee is also a spice that can add a rich, deep, and earthy flavor to other foods, particularly red meats. It even shows up as a secret ingredient in some of the very best chocolate cakes and desserts. When used in a small amount, the coffee enhances the chocolate, and the final result has no detectable espresso taste.

You might be thinking there's no way that coffee belongs in the same category as more common spices like cumin, coriander, and mustard, or even less common spices like achiote (annatto), anise, and fenugreek. However, these are all seeds that are roasted, ground, and used to flavor other ingredients. And while coffee is referred to as "beans," those familiar brown (or green when unroasted) pods are actually tree seeds that are roasted, ground, and used for their unique flavor.

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Dominique Chatterjee