Sweet and spicy

This weather, in the present-day vernacular, is getting “ridiculous.” It’s May. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of the cold. So far this year, we’ve been teased with the occasional nice day, but our expectant hearts are then dashed to the ground by the next untimely cold front. It’s time for some heat.

Speaking of heat, that’s what I found today when I tried a “Toddy Diablo.”

The time: 3:00pm.

The place: First Cup, on Woodstock.

If you were to have a “throw down” between the coffee shops on Woodstock, First Cup would probably win. The shop is pretty small, so it gets a little cramped sometimes. It is a place for Reedies to hang out and there are often lots of students coming in and out. The atmosphere is welcoming, if you can find a seat. They serve Stumptown coffee, with Hair Bender available every day as one of the two brewed coffees and also as the espresso.

Since summer is supposedly approaching, cafés are pulling out their warm-weather drinks more these days, including cold-brewed coffee. Today, First Cup was advertising a “Toddy Diablo,” a “cold-pressed coffee with a house-made chile syrup” (toddy is the term for cold-brewed coffee that cool Portland cafés use—there’s no whisky in it). A couple months ago, I tried my first cold-brew coffee at Case Study. That was a memorable first time, and I have been a fan of the cold brew ever since.

I asked the barista what she thought of the Diablo. A sly grin came to her face when she told me, as if it were a secret between us, that the drink was really good. Devilishly good, perhaps?

She described it as spicy, not like habanero peppers, but more of a smoky, slow burn. Would I like to try it?

Yes, please.

The first sip of the drink was revealing—not quite like I expected. Instead of raw heat, the coffee had a hint of sweetness. Sweet and then hot. The barista later told me that the sugar gives the spice something to hold onto and is better than using only pepper in the syrup. As you swallow, the pepper warms your mouth, with the heat slowly moving to the back of your throat and downward, until you feel a slow simmering in your chest. The aftertaste is a touch smoky, like smoldering wood chips. It reminds you of drinking coffee prepared over a campfire.

Like my first iced coffee, the Diablo was another memorable first time. It’s not something you would drink every day, but for those days when you are looking for something different, when you need something to spice up your coffee palate and shake off the erratic Portland spring weather, try the Diablo at First Cup. If you dare.