Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mugged: PT's Coffee [Finca La Felicidad - Guatemalan Antigua]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: PT's Coffee
Coffee Mugged: Finca La Felicidad - Guatemalan Antigua
Rating: 5+ [see key]

ecently, a number of coffee roasters have made great strides in creating direct trade with coffee farmers (i.e. cut out the middle man), a move that develops long-term relationships with the farm and ends up benefiting both parties with a greater product and fair pricing across the board (quite often the farm benefits many times more then Fair Trade certified farms).

PT's Coffee would be an example of one such roaster working hard at it. When they recently sent me a bag of Finca La Felicidad - Guatemalan Antigua to try out, I was thrilled to find the coffee comes from such a Direct Trade relationship.

As mentioned on PT's website, the coffee beans did produce a lovely potent buttery aroma. I sampled the coffee via french press, vacuum press and drip. The french press produced a deep chocolate taste, medium smooth body and followed with flecks of spice and molasses. The vacuum press had similar flavors, with the spiciness a little more pronounced and a bit more of an earthy flavor that came out. The drip had a much smoother body and little more subdued expression of the flavors (especially the cocoa).

On the whole, this coffee rocked my socks off. If you're looking for a great South American coffee, try Finca La Felicidad for sure.

Friday, March 27, 2009

CC: Redcat (their lounge)

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Redcat's lounge
Location visited: LA, CA

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

oing to the theater has a very rushed and uncomfortable feeling to it, probably because I'm always late, I usually have to look swanky and the seats usually are made for a much shorter fella than I.

But when I last walked Los Angeles, I got word of a theater sounding somewhat the opposite. The Redcat in downtown LA had a reputation not only for good shows, but for their lounge renowned for serving up good coffee.

Needless to say I made my way over to investigate. After finding parking far away (which is absurdly priced to boot!), I walked into Redcat's beautiful spacious lobby and found the lounge about 200 ft from the entrance in an outcove on the left. The space is a beautiful wood-paneled space with a nice mix of natural light, art and seating.

The coffee they serve is from Espresso Vivace out of Seattle, a welcome addition to the coffee variety of LA. Unfortunately, my drinks hardly did justice to the bean's reputation. The espresso possessed hints of nougat and condensed milk but was also pulled really long and lacked the pizazz of a Espresso Vivace shot. The drip coffee was horrible; a stale brew with strong hints of exterior oil with but only hints of mild sweetness. The tea is Tazo and they also serve alcohol.

While I didn't see a show at the Redcat, the interior (lounge included) did make the theater seem a like a nice place to take in a show, with its chill atmosphere and open feel. But nonetheless, it's a shame to have such excellent coffee and not use it to its full potential (maybe I was there on an off day...).

So if you're in LA and looking for a show, try out Redcat and maybe try the coffee.

Monday, March 23, 2009

CC: Jones Coffee Roasters

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Jones Coffee Roasters
Location visited: Pasadena, CA

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Multi-tasking shines as a quality valued a little too much. Sure you might be able to type a letter while painting a self portrait and clapping cymbals between your knees in half time, but can you do it well? Few of us can.

Yet my recent trip to Jones Coffee Roasters revealed what seemed quite a feat of simultaneous operations. Located in lovely Pasadena (quite the gorgeous town), my wife and I stopped in toward the end of the night on our way back to our hotel. We walked up to the open garage door of the cafe, nestled in a pretty nondescript office building/strip mall, and found the cafe a little slow but still serving drinks on their island of a counter in the front of what apparently also doubles as their storage and roasting facility.

The great feat of multi-tasking manifested itself in that the barista not only worked the counter, but he also managed to monitor a batch of coffee on their large drum roaster in the back of the warehouse. Some may see this as an easy ball to keep suspended in the juggle, but from personal experience, it takes a lot of effort to keep a conscious watch on something so volatile in detail.

Looking to the coffee, I had the Gamble House Blend which proved to have a smooth and bright character, with touches of honey and a tea-like body. The espresso (which the barista did actually forget initially) displayed well in a pair of short shots that carried a nice lime tang and sweet hints of cocoa but sadly ended with a little bit of harsh char on the end. The tea is a free leaf of their own.

All together, Jones Coffee Company seemed to illustrate multi-tasking as something doable but by no means an easy task. Either way, it gave good closure to that particular warm evening with the decent coffee (espresso appeared that it could improve) and the intriguing juggling act. If you happen to be around the area, drop on by for some decent cup o joe and just maybe, a show.

Carrying your coffee with a finger...


As I'm always looking to make my life a bit easier amid my rushed existence, I found this product interesting. It's a coffee sleeve with string grips that allow you to carry your coffee like a bag. Granted the concept is nothing groundbreaking, but then again, most handy innovations are but something tweaked a step further.

If you happen to have used or experienced this, I'm curious as to its true potential.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CC: Blue Spoon

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Blue Spoon Coffee Co.
Location visited: Manhattan, NY

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I've always been curious what kind of coffee Wall Street traders would drink as they get ready for their crazy days. Fortunately for at least the NYC Financial District, there are a few coffee places relatively close by to grab a quality cup of joe.

One that seems outfitted for the working Manhattan-ite on the go is a place called the Blue Spoon Coffee Company, a small coffeehouse located right on Chambers Street open only during the traditional M-F work week. I had made a few attempts to stop by over the years but since I rarely went up to New York City during the week, stopping in proved difficult.

Finally, I had an excuse one day to stop by early during the rush hour commute of a Monday (which might I add, navigating the subway with that much chaos is no fun) and hence, I wandered over to their shop. The venue sits in a cute cafe with a metal exterior with decent windows and a quaint inside with a good deal of spacious seating for the space.

The coffee comes from Intelligentsia, and from what I understand Blue Spoon stands as one of the first in NYC to peddle the Chicago coffee. I had the Blue Spoon Blend, a coffee that purveyed a fiery spice on the front that ended subtly in rice pudding. The espresso, pulled short and by practiced hands, had sweet notes of strawberries and cream as well strong hints of cocoa. I didn't spot the tea.

As I had been waiting to go to Blue Spoon for a while, I was glad that it delivered on my hopes of it being worth the trip. If you happen to be south in Manhattan during the work week, make a detour to the Blue Spoon Coffee Co.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

CC: Urth Caffe

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Urth Caffe
Location visited: Santa Monica,CA

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

There exist but a few optimal ways of how I love to sip my coffee and by far, my favorite would be sitting on a covered outside patio in the midst of a warm sunny day. But in the world of coffeehouses, rarely do such spaces exist and when they do, such wonders are quickly filled by local and traveler alike.

Such seems to be the case of the Santa Monica location of Urth Cafe. The cafe sits in a hopping part of town and resides within one of the more unique buildings I've seen. Not only is the architecture kind of funky, but a good portion extends into a wall-less porch that takes in the California sun wonderfully. All together, the place really pleases the eyes and the amount of people packed into the place really spoke to its popularity.

As far as their coffee and tea, Urth serves only organic and roasts their own coffee. I had the coffee on tap, the Milano, which turned out to have a decent body but also a whole lot of bitterness common to an over-roasted coffee. The espresso didn't work out too well either, as it had decent acidity but also strong flavors of exterior oils. The teas are free leaf.

While sitting down in the lovely cafe would have made my Urth experience a little better (waiting for a table was not an option), I had to go and with only a mediocre coffee experience. Hopefully the day proved just an off experience behind the counter.

Therefore, if you're in Santa Monica and looking for fair coffee in a really nice cafe, stop by Urth Cafe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CC: Ridgewood Coffee Company

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Subject: Ridgewood Coffee Company
Location visited: Ridgewood, NJ

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

The land of NJ that lies to the northeast is a land fairly different than the rest of the state. The number of roads and highways obviously is much greater and the proximity to New York City makes the place a congested nightmare during the waking hours of most days.

With such a large amount of traffic, you would think there at least a few good coffee places, especially with New York City's ever-improving coffee scene. But alas, few good places have sprung up in northeast NJ.

Yet every now and then, a prospect pops up, the most recent being a place called the Ridgewood Coffee Company in the lovely town of Ridgewood. Rumor had it the place was doing great things with great coffee, so the first time I needed to go through the area via automobile, I made sure to make a stop.

I arrived in Ridgewood one brisk weekday morning, finding the coffeehouse sitting pretty on a corner along a main stretch of town. The outside had a collection of plastic porch chairs (some had blown away) and the building itself had but one large window. Inside, the seating forks on either side of the coffee counter in what was a fairly dark room with most of the light coming in from the window.

The coffee comes from three coffee greats: Ecco, Novo and Intelligentsia. With such an arsenal, the fact that Ridgewood can show them off on a Clover makes good sense. I had the Novo's Colombian via Clover which came out lovely with the sweet taste of pear and dough; an overall mellow and wonderful coffee. The espresso, which was pulled so-so (the barista was definitely half asleep), expressed a tart lime-ish tang in front followed by notes of cane sugar and (sadly) a strong amount of char on the back end. The tea is Stash and Tazo.

Sadly, the whole coffee experience was soured by the two baristas working that day. Not only did they both give me their coldest shoulders when I first came in (they were still slowly setting up) but despite a completely empty shop, I had to initiate every inch of my order (including payment!). Even after I sat down 5 ft away from the counter, they were loudly grumbling about how they needed more money as well as other woes in their life. Normally, I give a slip in customer service the benefit of the doubt, but this topped the charts as the worst I've ever suffered. Hopefully I just experienced a negative anomaly (so it seems, as others seem to have had good experiences).

Thus in the end, I drove away from Ridgewood let down with the overall experience but pleased that a coffeehouse with potential of blooming has taken root in the northeast of NJ. While I'm not up in that neck of the woods a lot, I do hope to make another stop in soon, with hopefully better results.

If you're nearby, give Ridgewood Coffee Company a try; I pray your encounter plays out better then mine.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

CC: Kean Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Kean Coffee
Location visited: Newport Beach,CA

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

While I am all about using coffeehouses as a rendezvous for friends, waiting at a crowded one with little promise for a table can be a bit trying.

Twas my luck when meeting up with friends at Kean Coffee in Newport Beach. The traffic proved nil for my wife and I as per our course, but our friends had worse fortunes and they ended up sitting on the 405 for some time. So to kill some time while the wife and I waited, we decided to get our coffee and wait inside.

Kean Coffee sits in a small shopping center with a few outside tables along its long windows. Inside, Kean has a moderately-sized cafe with nice wood furniture and tribal chandeliers. The apparent popularity of the place showed with the impossibility of getting an inside table but fortunately, there were a few seats outside.

Kean roasts their own coffee on a drum roaster in the back corner of their store (they were putting a couple batches through while we were there). I sampled their Ethiopian Sidamo, and to my delight it produced a very floral and bright cup, with noticeable berries throughout. The espresso came out decent, with strong tones of citrus and caramel but a fair amount of char on the back end. I didn't note the tea at the time, but according to the website they have their own line of free leaf teas.

By the time my wife and I finished our drinks (she had a delicious mocha), our friends arrived and we made our way to lunch (which ended up a bit more of a drive up to Culver City). In the end, I liked my experience with Kean and thus, if you're in the area looking for decent coffee, give it a try.

Monday, March 02, 2009

CC: Caffe Luxxe

What's does "CC" mean?

Caffe Luxxe
Location visited: Santa Monica, CA

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

As a lad I recall thinking of Californian beaches as odd places, especially since I held the NJ beach towns of Ocean City and Wildwood as a standard. I remember pondering the concept of having multiple parking lots near a beach as crazy and that it sounded mildly unpleasant to lift weights on a beach (the sand would surely chafe).

But now that I'm older, the uniqueness of the CA coast (both natural and cultural differences) holds great allure, especially in a town like Santa Monica. Granted I've only visited once, but the meld of boutique-lined streets and serene beaches is a beautiful and rare combination in the US.

One venue that caught my attention was Caffe Luxxe, a coffeehouse that aims to provide a European cafe experience, including quality coffee. The establishment sits in a row of shops with a black awning and a wooden bench. Within the doors, the cafe is set up in a monochromatic yet very swanky manner.

They roast their own coffee, providing only one offering. The drip provided a smooth coffee with a touch of raisins and a noticeable peppery zest. The espresso, pulled short and with what seemed to be trepidation (I think the barista was having a rough day), delivered a sweet tang with a velvety finish and a nice acidity, with only a subtle bit of char on the end. The tea is free leaf.

While my success with coffeehouses in other ocean-front cities exists, I would say Caffe Luxxe stood out as yet another unique facet of California beaches (or the towns that own them at the very least). If you happen to be in town, swagger your way over to Caffe Luxxe.