Coffee and Mysteries, A Natural Pairing

Nov 19, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

With the weather cooling off it seemed a perfect time to enjoy some great mysteries along with some great coffee! At the end of this article is a chance to win a pound of coffee to go along with your favorite books. Also in this issue are reviews of Murder By Mocha by Cleo Coyle and Chocolate Castle Clue by JoAnna Carl. Along with their reviews are a chance to win copies of both books to add some mystery to go along with your coffee. So enter for a chance to win some coffee & mysteries for yourself, or as great Christmas gifts!

Mocha—the combination of coffee and chocolate.

Bliss—the combination of coffee, chocolate and books.

The rush of the holidays, pressure to find just the right gift, and get it all done on time can be overwhelming. When the whole thing gets to be too much, take a bit of time for yourself, relax with a cup of coffee, some good chocolate and a great book. Some of our favorite mystery characters enjoy a great cup of coffee—why not join them! What better way to work out some frustration than to read a cozy murder mystery?

Maggie Sefton’s main character, Kelly, has to have some of Pete’s coffee multiple times a day. It keeps her mind alert while she’s solving the most recent murder or working on client accounts. She says “Death to decaf!” Kelly’s also addicted to knitting—that’s handy since the coffee shop is located in the same building as the yarn store, just across the street from the house Kelly shares with her dog Carl.
While reading about Kelly’s Colorado adventures, sip a coffee like Sumatra Mandheling. Kelly’s independent streak appreciates the fact that in Sumatra, it’s mostly women who sell coffee at market. This dry, natural processed coffee has low acidity with a full body and earthliness. Its flavor is complex, with hints of vanilla or chocolate.

Caroline Hart’s Max and Annie Darling indulge their coffee urges while at Annie’s mystery bookstore, Death on Demand. Annie’s coffee corner is guarded by Agatha, her big black cat. While sipping coffee, Annie is able to study the month’s new paintings, all depicting mystery books. The person who can name the book title from clues given in the painting, gets a book and free coffee. Annie often tells customers about mystery books they (and the reader) might not know, which makes more opportunities to sip and read.

Annie is practical but likes to choose a fun mug for her coffee—Columbian perhaps? Colombian coffee can be as varied as the days of the year with good acidity, body and full flavor. It is excellent in blends, works in a variety of roasts and is used as the base for flavored coffees. Columbian coffees are either a bourbon or typical variety, which are often shade grown which means no clearing existing vegetation to plant coffee.

JoAnna Carl writes mysteries set in a fine chocolatier’s shop. Reading about handmade truffles, chocolate painted Santas, or a chocolate jewel box will make you crave the taste and aroma of chocolate so sip Simply Sinful. This unique coffee flavor combines caramelized deep dark chocolate with a full-bodied vanilla hazelnut. Love toffee? You can get that in a cup too—Toffee Crunch will give you the caramel flavor. For a milder flavored chocolate, try White Chocolate.

Here’s a recipe that will leave you wanting more—a breve’ is made with half-and-half.

Chocolate Raspberry Breve’ – 1/2 ounce raspberry syrup, 1/2 ounce chocolate syrup, one shot of espresso, foamed or steamed half and half, and top with whipped cream, shaved semisweet chocolate or mini chocolate chips. Candy in a cup!

Sandra Balzo’s Maggie runs Uncommon Grounds in Wisconsin. Fighting the competition, snow and the economy can really take it out of a girl. At home, Maggie drinks wine and cuddles with Frank, her son’s sheepdog, not always willingly. She’d rather be with her favorite Sheriff, Jake Pavlik, hopefully not while standing over the latest murder victim. At the shop, Maggie favors lattes.

Here’s how to make one:

Latte ingredients are espresso, flavored syrup, stretched milk (steamed and lightly foamed). To make it a mocha, add chocolate.
For an 8 ounce latte, use 1/2 ounce flavored syrup, 1 shot espresso, 6 ounces of steamed milk. For a 16 ounce latte, use 1 ounce flavored syrup, 1 or 2 shots of espresso, 14 ounces of steamed milk.
Put the flavor into the cup and swirl it around. Pour the espresso in and swirl some more. Add steamed milk. Top with foam or whipped cream. Vanilla, hazelnut, caramel and toasted marshmallow are some of the most popular flavored syrups.

How did Balzo decide on a coffee shop setting? “Where else can you find such a mix of people? Business people, soccer moms, senior citizens, construction workers, teens—all in the same place. Lots of conversations to overhear, everybody involved in everyone else’s business. Add caffeine, and it’s a place just begging for a murder. I actually wrote the first book, Uncommon Grounds, in a coffeehouse. It’s no longer there, but the owners are still good friends.”

Balzo likes caramel so sip Caramel Crème while reading about Maggie’s challenges in running a coffee shop, solving murders and trying to have a personal life.

Cleo Coyle’s newest book, Murder by Mocha, calls for Coco Mocha Nut, a delicate blend of rich chocolate, creamy coconut and a nutty crunch or the elegant French Silk, a combination of vanilla and chocolate, a drink worthy of the New York coffeehouse setting. If you aren’t in the mood for a hot drink, there’s always iced coffee.

Iced Latte/Mocha – espresso and flavor with chilled milk over ice. For a 16 ounce drink, 12 ounce, ice, 8-10 ounce cold milk, 1 ounce flavored syrup, 1 or 2 shots of espresso. Scoop in the ice, swirl the syrup and the espresso together and pour over the ice, add milk, stir.

Since the coffee shop in Coyle’s books is called The Village Blend, a popular coffee might be Viennese Roast, a slightly darker roast with a rich, full-bodied chocolate-like taste, pleasing without being too dark, a blend of two or more types of beans or degrees of roasts.

Take time to enjoy the holiday season. Relax, sip your favorite coffee, read new books. Plan ahead for after the holidays—put coffee, chocolate and books on your gift wish list!

To enter to win 1 pound of coffee from Classical Coffee Company, simply email KRL at with the subject line “coffee”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 26, 2011. U.S. residents only.

If you’re looking for some great coffee to buy for Christmas gifts or yourself, check out Classical Coffee Company online where you can find even more of Sandra’s recipes as well coffee store!

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble.


  1. Great article, Sandy. Clever. Makes me want to go pour the hot coffee over a lump of chocolate.

  2. Thanks Sandy Murphy.. now I am craving coffee and a good mystery book. I’m adding both to my Christmas wish list. Great article!

  3. I don’t think crimes would ever get solved if it weren’t for coffee. I know the purists would snub me but I am transported by flavors like Maple Bacon Morning and Boca Mocha Java. I haunted my local Starbucks this summer when the special was Coconut Mocha Frappachino and I’m revving up for Peppermint Mocha for the holidays. Ah, warm, life-giving brown liquid. Nectar of the sleuths. Great article!

  4. You’ve listed some of my favorite authors (who are also some of my favorite people!). Good idea to combine these great reads with coffee—it keeps the “little brain cells” alert whether solving crime or curled up with a favorite book.

  5. I never knew there were so many mystery/chocolate combinations in novels. Thanks for the book suggestions.

  6. The article was great, gonna have to try out some these recipes..Thanks a nice read this Sunday morning.

  7. An excellent article – I love a good murder mystery especially now it is so cold – nothing better than to curl up with a good book and a hot coffee!!

  8. Gee, Sandy, I’m thirsty just reading this. Cade likes to eat coffee beans, so if I win, make sure they’re wrapped up tight! I’ll have to try some of the books.

  9. Sandy, anything you write is always interesting and fun, including this piece. I love your articles, but you need to finish a book and get it out there. You know that, don’t you? 😉

    • I’m working on it Earl, got two started, you’ll have to keep me encouraged to finish!

  10. New murder mysteries to read this winter – they sound great! Very entertaining article.

  11. Sad to say I’ve never been able to enjoy coffee. A void in my life, for sure. Anyway, I still love mystery novels.

    • Bill, if you win, I’ll let you pick tea or hot cocoa mix or I’ll send you Dr Pepper. I know you and Sheriff Dan like that!

  12. I’ve read a few of these but now I have added more to my to read list.

    • Keep an eye out then because we’re planning more such pairings. You’ll have a towering To Be Read Stack! Thanks for letting me know you liked it.

  13. Whoa! This is the dream post I’ve been waiting for! Coffee and Coke are the drugs of my choice!! Love the recipes!! Thanks so much!!

    • Glad you liked it – we’ll be back with more!

  14. We have picked a winner! Thanks for entering & we hope you keep coming back for more mystery fun!
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher

  15. What a fun article, Sandy. Glad I finally got to read it. I, too, am having cravings, though, now. All your fault!

    • Margie, I am an Enabler. I find the good stuff and then spread the word – and the guilt! Think of it this way though – with flavored coffees, the taste is there, but not the calories. That’s a good thing!



  1. Murder By Mocha: A Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle/Giveaway | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] by Cleo Coyle, enter for a chance to win a copy of this book, and check out our special…

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