There was little doubt in my mind that when presented with the choice of coffee or tea with which to prepare a dish to submit to this edition of Meeta’s Monthly Mingle, coffee would win hands down. The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the house in the early morning hours is my alarm clock. It’s deep, rich aroma is unique among hot beverages. Coffee conjures up hearty, rich flavors whereas tea seems suited for more delicate flavors. Coffee beans are of two basic types, arabica and robusta. Arabica is the more superior of the two and is grown by more coffee growers than the robusta. We prize the arabica bean and depending upon what region of the world it is grown, the beans flavor varies widely. How the bean is roasted also affects the depth of flavor. From lightly roasted for a mild flavor to heavily roasted for espresso and other very strong coffees. For the espresso caramels, I used Ferrara instant espresso, a very hearty coffee that dissolves easily in a liquid. To further enhance the coffee flavor of the caramels, a tablespoon of Sabrosa, a Mexican liqueur was added to the final mixture.Espresso caramels are not difficult to make, but a candy thermometer is crucial in order to attain the proper temperature (240°-242°F). A candy making chart is helpful for making many different cooked confections. The mixture gets very hot, so take care in removing the pan from the heat. When the caramels have set up and are cut into squares or strips, wrap them in the proper size parchment papers immediately as the candy will begin to spread out if not wrapped. The caramels will keep for about 2 weeks in an airtight container which makes them an easy make ahead confection for the upcoming holidays.Espresso CaramelsAdapted from “Coffee, Scrumptious Drinks and Treats”, by Betty Rosbottom with lovely photographs by Lara Hata4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing foil-lined pan2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 tablespoon instant espresso powder1 tablespoon coffee liqueur, omit if you like1/2 cup heavy cream1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed1/2 cup granulated sugar1/2 cup light corn syruppinch saltLine an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides of about 2 inches. Generously butter the bottoms and sides of the foil. Set pan aside.You can use a smaller square pan if you want thicker caramels. In the 8-inch pan, they will be about 1/4 inch thick.Melt butter with vanilla in a small saucepan. When butter has melted, add the instant espresso and stir to combine thoroughly. Remove from heat. Add coffee liqueur, if desired. Combine heavy cream, brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup and pinch of salt in a heavy, deep saucepan. Set saucepan over medium-low heat and stir constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon until sugars have dissolved and the mixture begins to boil, about 4-5 minutes.Increase heat to medium-high and place a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Continue to stir until mixture reaches 240°-242°F, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in reserved butter, espresso, vanilla and liqueur mixture. Stir until well-combined. Pour mixture in prepared pan . Cool completely, about 2 hours. The caramel can stand overnight covered.Lift caramel out by the foil overhang and invert on a lightly oiled surface. Peel foil off the back. Oil the blade of a large, sharp knife and cut the caramel into strips about 1/2 to 1-inch wide, depending upon how big you want your caramel pieces to be. Re-oil knife and cut each strip into 1/2-1-inch wide pieces. Wrap caramels individually in parchment papers. 4×4-inch parchment squares work well with this size caramel. Adjust size of paper accordingly. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 64 caramelsA little extra-for a caramel maple syrup for pancakes, melt some of the caramels in a double boiler. Add enough pure maple syrup to make a pancake type syrup mixture. Serve with blueberry pancakes for a real treat. Also, the prepared caramel syrup can be used to make the caramel whipped cream in the Pumpkin Pots de Creme recipe here.