Alquimie, a quaterly publication based in Australia, shares the culture and stories behind any type of beverage, from light tea to strong and rare spirits. We were lucky enough to ask the editors a few questions regarding the content of the highly anticipated third issue.
Lets start with a background on the publication, how did the idea to create a magazine about drinks come about?
Nic, our creative designer, hatched the idea. It stemmed from our leisurely conversations after our various work commitments. There wasn’t really a drinks publication that we felt appealed to our demographic. The brief, as it remains today, was to produce timeless publication with a sharper aesthetic. It should be more than just a monthly selection of booze bargains. We wanted a comprehensive, accessible and democratic exploration of drinks, for those whom seek relief in coffee, spirits, wine or whatever beverage that may be. There were many considerations involved but perhaps, one of the most important, was adapting a printed drinks publication to what it should be: a collectible reference piece. With the speed of technology and the strength of the web, we felt like printed publications need to adapt in every field of media, especially print.
Do you have a recipe for drinks that should never be mixed (for instance Champagne and vodka)? What would be the worst combination?
I’m a believer that the few, great cocktails are the classics. As such, I’d suggest that the horrible combinations are fairly easy to access. Personally I think Black Velvet (Champagne layered over Guinness) is a fairly strange and unrewarding way to ruin bubbly. Nevertheless, if is a competition to find the worst concoction of strange bedfellows, surely something involving a cream based liqueur and a sparkling red wine, would create an almightily messy looking experiment. It certainly alludes to terrifying visuals. Is there anyone who goes out of their way to try such a thing? University students?
Your publication encompasses the whole process of making a drink: from the soil/ seed to the glass. In that sense you are also address agricultural issues. Would you say that celebration of drinks is also a way to get to know better the planet and its resources?
Absolutely. I love this observation. So much of the current beverage media are focused on a score for what is in the glass as an overarching consumer guide. We are slowly turning into number monkeys. Do we really share a wine with friends because a person we don’t even know puts a gold badge on it? We feel that removes a lot of the backstory and context for our drinks. The story as to how those drinks get to our table is informed by such a richness, that to ignore the agricultural, emotional and even political elements of that story, would be amiss, in our opinion. In terms of sustainability and being more efficient with resources, no doubt, many of the producers that we write about share an ethical consciousness. The types of people that we like to write about, respect the earth and generally want to leave it in better condition for those that come after us.
What is the status of fair trade coffee? Is it really working?
Fair Trade Coffee is an active organization and to my very limited knowledge of that particular sphere, it is going well, commercially speaking. They have significant participants and a strong brand presence... Specialty coffee advocates have confided in me their reservations about their actual impact. It is clear that they are absolutely necessary as a first tier of protection for the owners of the coffee plantation. However, the extent to which those benefits flow through to workers is less clear. Fair trade set a minimum coffee price but by all reports, that price is significantly lower than price most specialty coffee purchasers pay. It is the difference between these two purchase prices that could very well represent the difference between a mere protection and assurance of a sustainable coffee industry.
How would you propose to educate the palate? Is there an age when it's too late? - - Do you think in some countries there is better education than in others?
‘The palate’ seems like such an elusive concept to many people but it is really quite straightforward. Our ability to taste is not in question here. Those of us with functioning taste buds can tell the difference between Vegemite and Nutella. The question of palate training is more a story of communication. How can we express what it is that we taste? To that end, there are two key elements:
- Taste widely with an open mind
- Pay attention to those flavours, textures and structures all the while accruing a memory bank of tastes.
Using this memory bank and practicing communication with those more experienced than us in particular beverages, we can begin to calibrate and sharpen out palate language. In terms of the various countries and how that assists with palate development, there are many variables. However, a broad and varied diet is certainly an advantage. To this extent a multi-cultural city would be advantageous over a mono-culture. I’m not sure you’d be able to easily locate a country or landmass best suited to palate training.