Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mugged: La Esmeralda [Apres Coffee]

What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: Apres Cafe
Coffee Mugged: Hacienda La Esmeralda Diamond Mountain
Rating: 4+ [see key]

side from Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain, coffees dubbed La Esmeralda have been all the rage ever since the Cup of Excellence auction a few years back when the Geisha bean made a rising success. Now, coffees coming from Hacienda La Esmeralda seem to ride the wave of that special bean but unless you've shelled out a good chunk of cash, it's probably not the famed bean of great worth.

Nonetheless, the farm still tends to put out good coffee even if you don't pay an excessive load. My most recent encounter with the La Esmeralda was with Apres Cafe's
Hacienda La Esmeralda Diamond Mountain, a coffee that arrived in a gorgeous sleek box. The coffee itself was roasted fairly dark (not dark enough to have oil but close), a new roast profile for me as most Esmeraldas I've had tend to be a lighter roast.

I tried out the coffee in french press, vacuum press and drip (aka filtered). The french press produced a deep, succulent coffee with strong chocolate and cherry flavors and a hang of bittersweet cocoa. The vacuum press gave out a lighter, more even-keeled coffee with more of a grape flavor and a smoother chocolaty taste. The drip displayed a bright brew as well with the same grape flavors as the vac press, though it produced a bit more of the bitterness on the back end.

In a nutshell, Apres' La Esmeralda made for a good cup of coffee. If you're looking for a good coffee from a well-known farm in Panama, give Apres'
Hacienda La Esmeralda Diamond Mountain a go.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

CC: Rao's Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Rao's Coffee
Location visited: Amherst, MA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

For a good part of my life, I've only really looked at the coast of Massachusets as a place worth visiting, such as Boston and Martha's Vineyard. Then recently, I've had the distinct pleasure of traveling through the other 90% of the state for various reasons and have found many groovy locales.

Though an obvious pick, Amherst still towers as one of my favorite spots mid-state (though a colleague of my contends Northampton as superior). Aside from nearby U Mass, the town boasts a pretty cool spread with decent parking and seemingly plenty to do.

One such happening destination proved to be the decade-old coffeehouse, Rao's Coffee. The place sits a little off the center streets which gives it a nice secluded ambiance with more than plenty of outside seating amidst a beautiful courtyard and patio. Once you walk inside, the place grabs a lot of natural light from its windows as well as their huge globe lights and has two rooms with more than enough seating.

Rao's roasts their coffee at a seperate location in nearby Hadley and had a good variety available at their cafe. That fine morning of my visist, I had the Tanzanian Peaberry, roasted a little dark for drip, which had a flare of char that added a little spice as well as nice grape presence (not endemic of the roast). The espresso was pulled in two medium shots, had decent crema, a little lime up front, a nice chocolate milk flavor and a tinge of pretzel on the caboose. The tea I noted but right now, I cannot read what I wrote.

Given the cool location and the fair coffee, I would say that Rao's adds a nice facet to the town. If nearby, give Rao's a try.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

CC: Legal Beans

What's does "CC" mean?

Legal Beans
Location visited: Hoboken, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

When looking for coffeehouses, I really do depend greatly on tips (the information kind though money is always appreciated). But like all things, most tips come heavily laden with circumstantial and subjective information. For example, a local Mexican place cannot be the bomb diggity simply for wonderful salsa and chips, nor can (should) a coffeehoue pride itself on its extensive selection of flavored coffees.

Hence, when my brother recommended a place called Legal Beans in Hoboken because they had good breakfast, I felt a little hesitant to try it as a morning coffee stop (not to mention, my hermano also doesn't drink coffee). But since we were walking together right by it, I figured I might as well stop and worst case scenario, I could get my morning brew elsewhere.

Legal Beans sits in a nice brick building with nice open windows reflecting on the bustling streets. The interior has a fairly small counter with a huge Manhattan-diner style seating where people were studying (and of course dining) at the many tables around the room.

According to the man working, they roast their own coffee. Intrigued and further interested, I ordered a cup of drip (aka filtered) coffee. Although I forgot at the time to note the origin/blend, it was probably for the best as the coffee was nearly cold and had little flavor aside from a very subtle orange tang in the middle. Served in a paper cup, the espresso was pulled only so-so and had notes of cardboard and slight tinges of vanilla. They serve tea (though I didn't retrieve the type) and true to my brother's recommendation, a full food menu.

To reiterate, in defense of my brother's recommendation, I did not try a single thing he praised. But afterward, I further lamented to him that it's no good for a place to serve decent breakfast food but boring coffee (albeit, thousands upon thousands of breakfast counters STILL serve mediocre coffee).

Therefore, if you're in Hoboken looking for decent breakfast food (according to my brother and some others out there), try Legal Beans.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

CC: Taste Coffee House

What's does "CC" mean?
Location visited: Newton, MA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Since I wanted to avoid some needless morning traffic in a recent stay in Boston, I made sure to make my hotel stay right outside the city. Knowing that I had to head west on 90, I found (what turned out to be) a Super 8 not too far from a reputable establishment called Taste Coffee House.

After checking out of the hotel, I made a quick five minute drive to Taste Coffee House, located on a nice open street accompanied by many other small businesses. Taste has a basic tan exterior with a black and yellow sign and a few tables below it. Inside, the shop proved long and cozy, possessing a fair amount of table and bar seating.

The coffee comes from Massachusetts' favorite coffee roaster (or at least what seems to be), Terroir Coffee. From Taste's assortment of pump pots I chose the Taste Coffee House Light blend, a drip that had the taste of sweet tea, bread dough, and hints of almond. The brew all together made for a nice light coffee, though the batch I sampled proved a bit stale (I guess more people picked the dark blend that morning). I also ordered a double espresso, also from Terroir that day (though they do switch up their espresso offerings from other places). The barista pulled two good shots that held delicious complexity; a tang of lemon, tinges of fig, a smooth body and an overall bright oral presence. As for other drinks, the tea is free leaf and they also serve beer and wine.

Quite pleased with my fortunes of both a good hotel and the nearby Taste, I left the coffee house in a most amiable mood. And to make the morning even better, I found a great whoopie pie at the nearby Bread and Chocolate Bakery (not breakfast food, but oh so delicious).

Whether you're driving on a commute out or into Boston, make a stop at Taste Coffee House.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

CC: Think Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Think Coffee
Location visited: Manhattan, NY
1 Bleeker St
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

What really ensures a student's success? Is it wise counsel? Do the academic courses really mean that much? Realistically, I feel that all of those have importance but on the other hand, a college student really needs good coffee and a nice place to study.

Yeah, I know that's probably not totally true (though I needed those two things). But nonetheless thousands of students sip gallons of mediocre joe and study in boring drab rooms, and many of them still fall short of amazing.

If only more amazing coffeehouses would come to the aid of the students! With that cry deep in my heart, I embarked to examine a coffeehouse known to supply NYU students with decent nectar and beautiful ambiance, a place called Think Coffee. Sure I had heard not as glamorous feedback as well, but the place had some merit for at least a look.

Think possesses quite the unusual look for a Manhattan business (at least in my experience) in that it had a large stoop with plants placed on either side and a snazzy awning to boot. Inside, I fell in love with their high ceilings (with tremendous lighting), various environments of space and their fantastic array of furniture.

Most of the coffee hails from Porto Rico Importing Company, a coffee company that's been around for some time in the area but has not made any significant waves recently. But to my delight, Think Coffee also brews two self-roasted Cup of Excellence coffees on drip. Not in a gambling mood, I went for the Nicaraguan COE via drip. The brew presented light floral notes, tastes of strawberries and an overall nice somberness to it that made for a nice afternoon cup (wouldn't really pack the punch necessary for a morning pot). The espresso, pulled short, smacked of bittersweet cocoa, some nutmeg and a very full taste; good overall shots. The tea is free leaf of various kinds and Think also serves wine and beer (on tap!).

Meandering off afterwards, I greatly envied the many students cuddled up with their Calculus and their Aristotle in the warm embrace of Think Coffee. Not only do they have many great coffeehouses around Manhattan to choose from, but they also have a great one on their doorsetp.

In my opinion, a stop below Washington Square Park deserves a stop at Think Coffee.