Distiller and sommelier Erik Liedholm of John Howie Restaurants. Photo by John &Joseph Photography.

Distiller and sommelier Erik Liedholm of John Howie Restaurants. Photo by John & Joseph Photography.

Sommelier and distiller Erik Liedholm of John Howie Restaurant Group can now add coffee sommelier to his long list of certifications, awards, and accomplishments. The new designation comes from an invitation-only program from Nespresso for professional wine sommeliers and chefs.

“I think coffee purists and hardcore coffee lovers might scoff at the accreditation, and guess I don’t blame them,” Liedholm said. But despite the potential for naysayers, he believes the knowledge he gained through the accreditation will help him and his staff offer better all around service in John Howie restaurants.

During the program, which took place in Switzerland at the Nespresso headquarters, Liedholm studied everything from the botany of coffee, to how it’s processed, and how it’s roasted. The group then learned how to evaluate it, and through instruction, participants were able to identify the particular attributes of each coffee based on where they’re from.

From there, the program went to pairing coffees with different spirits, making it with different waters, and pairing it with different foods, and therein lies the parallel to the function of a wine sommelier.

The biggest benefit of the certification for Liedholm is that he no longer sees coffee as a utilitarian beverage. Before, he would simply drink it for the caffeine jolt, but now that he’s learnt the processes and characteristics behind coffee, he can appreciate it more. “I was so ignorant all this time. I didn’t realize coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world. And it makes sense – more than 2.2 billion people drink coffee every day,” he said.

Liedholm isn’t quite sure what the accreditation will mean for John Howie’s restaurants in terms of new offerings or an upgrade the restaurants’ coffee programs. He said that once Seastar closes during July for an extensive remodel, he sees lots of opportunity to investigate how the restaurant does coffee.

As for drinking and pairing coffee at home, Liedholm says his same rules for wine consumption and pairing apply. “Drink the coffee you love with the food you love. Ultimately that’s something that should hold true with everyone. There’s really no right or wrong answer. Just eat what you love and drink what you love and it will be a great experience.”