Friday, April 28, 2006

CC: Starbucks...

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Starbucks (aka Charbucks) Coffee
Location visited: Various

Free WiFi ? : NO
Rating: 1+ [see key]

Ok, I’m really going to try and be objective here. I’ll put aside my disdain for how they run small, viable coffee establishments out of business with nothing but a well-publicized yet rather blah product. I am not going to rant on how they often claim to support responsible and social action for their coffee purchasing and yet their actions seem to show otherwise 1 2 3. Oh, and I won’t even go into how they lead thousands of people astray, the masses thinking “oh, I know good coffee and it's Starbucks.” But I guess I should give you my evaluation of the chain.

First, I shall share my positive comments. I must say, their interiors are nice. And from what people tell me, their more sugary, milk-shaky drinks (mocha caramel frappuccinos) taste pretty good.
And on a side note, I loooooove people who say they love Starbucks coffee and they only drink things overladen with chocolate, caramel, and whipped cream.

Now a couple critiques. First of all, the coffee has always, no matter where I went, been a charred-black, disgusting brew. Before giving up on Starbucks, I can recall just throwing coffee away because my mouth couldn’t take the misery. As many of you know, this bitter, hellish taste comes from over-roasted coffee bean, a Starbucks signature. As a home roaster, I can tell you that oily black beans were never meant to be used for good coffee. e-v-e-r.

Secondly, there’s a difference between competition and crushing independent businesses with sheer juggernaut force. Ever notice in NYC that there are Starbucks across the street from each other? And as some would say, most people don’t know much at all about good coffee, hence why most people drink what looks popular.

Basically, I would render the same feelings as these
folks: “…there are only two kinds of people who say they like Starbucks coffee: those who like dark strong bitter coffee, and those who are trying be a part of the coffee craze.”

To wrap it up: Spend you’re money elsewhere

Saturday, April 22, 2006

An oldie but a goodie on coffee health

Browsing through an archive of articles by Ken Davids, I stumbled upon this article back from last May that made me appreciate coffee a little bit more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

CC: Joe Muggs

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Joe Muggs Coffee
Location visited: Wichita Falls, TX
Rating: 1+ [see key]

Despite my reservations of drinking coffee from the inside of a big-name bookstores (most coffee bars inside Barnes and Nobles and Borders usually = coffee that tastes like charcoal), I was on a trip with the family and hadn’t tasted a decent cup of coffee in nearly 36 hours and so, I decided to give it a whirl. The store: Books-a-million (I think) and the coffee bar: Joe Muggs Coffee.

Living in NJ all my life, I had never seen a Joe Muggs (never mind a Books-a-million) and so I felt my odds somewhat better. I stroll up to the counter and see a female barista with a NJ-themed shirt; a little more hope.

Now I have to choose a beverage. Since Texas has a lovely habit of rising to 100 F in April, I was in the mood for iced coffee. But upon inspection of the menu, the item did not exist. Puzzled, I asked the barista and she looks at me all cross and asks “You mean you want me to add ice to a regular cup of coffee?” All that I can think is “Oh no.” So I suggest adding two shots of espresso to the beverage to which she gives a “good idea” smile to and five minutes later, voila, my iced coffee. I don’t know if it was my dry taste buds, the Texas heat, or surprising quality but the iced coffee hit the spot.

Further inspection of the menu was typical coffee-chain items like the iced mocha latte, vanilla chai, etc. The equipment was basic, with two bland pump pots for the coffee and a simple espresso machine. Atmosphere was really basic (fluorescent lighting and gray walls) with tables and chairs neatly arranged all around.

Overall, for a chain I thought it good but nothing amazing. Though this experience was drastically limited (my folks are never patient when they're in the car), I think it rose above the stigma of
Big bookstore = Bad coffee. If you have a better coffee house to frequent, then please do so. But if Joe Muggs is the only coffe establishment or if it's a choice between that and charcoal, go with Joe.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Coffee Commentary Prelude

So what is a CC?
To start off, CC is short for Coffee Commentary. A CC-titled post is a calculated look into a coffeehouse’s quality and each CC results from a personal visit to its location. I try to take it broadly, taking into account foremost menu integrity (the quality of the coffee and espresso, barista ability, etc) and then atmosphere/location, social practices (organic, fair trade, direct trade etc) and customer service.

Rating Scale

While the 1-6 rating scale for coffeehouses has changed a tad over the years, it still rings true. A 1+ or 2+ establishment is one with poor/sub-par coffee all around and is not really worth the time. A 6+ establishment holds both great non-espresso coffee (drip, pourover, french press, etc) and espresso, as well as good-great customer service and decent-amazing ambiance. Here's the short version:

pretty bad marks
1+ = poor (avoid)
2+ = ok (not really worth your time)

fair to decent rating
3+ = average (worth a go)
4+ = good (a pleasant experience)

high accolades
5+ = really good (a fine specimen)
6+ = amazing (worth the trip)


For those who have stopped by these places and have something (useful) to share, I’d love to hear what you think (I appreciate a healthy dose of objectivity).

For those who own or work at the establishments I comment on, please don't take it personal. I want (practically) nothing more then for good coffee and espresso to be available everywhere, so look at any criticism as constructive feedback to consider.

On the flip side, I always welcome feedback as long as it's honest and polite (please no rude or abusive responses). If you would like to contact me personally, email me at .

Please note that I pay out of pocket for ALL coffee commentary posts.

Updated 1/28/13