Friday, May 28, 2010

CC: Velouria Espresso

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What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Jamaica Plain, MA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating:
4+ [
see key]


If I were to have a second middle name, it would be Ambition (my current middle name is Persistence). Sometimes ambition is good but sometimes ambition leaks optimism where realism is needed (especially in bleak circumstance). Mostly, such times usually speak of me trying to get from point A to point B quicker then the law would allow (fortunately, enough speeding tickets as a teenager have whittled my ambition to functioning within the limits of Uncle Sam).

It was this last second ambition that twice drove me to Velouria Espresso, a cute cafe in the Jamaica Hill area of Boston, right as they closed (I hate that feeling of just missing something). So the third time I had the chance, I gave myself a little more time and lo and behold, my ambition and persisitence paid off.

The cafe externally does not hold much except big windows and a nice awning, but inside, the small space is utilized well to hold several pieces of seating and a welcoming tan and black ambiance. In my research of Velouria, I had noted the existence of a Clover but sadly, it was down the day I arrived; so I went with a cup of George Howell's Vasenda Colombian (their house coffee) and an espresso.

The Colombian, filtered, had flavors of minestrone, a nice earthiness, some sunflower, cherry and an overall smoothness. The coffee sampled well but it failed to blow me away (hard to say if it was the coffee or the brewer that lacked). The espresso, George Howell's Daterra Espresso blend according to the barista, was pulled medium/short and topped with blond crema. The flavors included a bit of cardboard, dark bitter chocolate, some lime, hints of cinnamon and a dark aftertaste. I would guess some of the negative aspects were due to barista style and in the end, it was a fair espresso. The tea is free leaf.

As I wrapped up my visit, I was already (ambitiously) thinking of making another trip as I don't feel I showed up on a good day. Velouria had a lot of the makings for a great experience but little things seemed to get in the way. Alas, such is the nature of first impressions.

If you happen to be in the area, I'd be curious your thoughts on Velouria Espresso.



Monday, May 24, 2010

CC: Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company

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What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Milwaukee, WI
(Kinnickinnic Ave location)

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

Having little experience with Wisconsin, I was somewhat surprised when I drove into Milwaukee and found nothing alluding to cheese or Pabst Blue Ribbon. What I did find was what seemed to be a pretty happening city right on gorgeous Lake Michigan.

Driving on a beautiful spring day, I had my sights first on some morning coffee and a little bit of work in a local establishment called Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company. Having heard rumor of their dedication to quality coffee, I blazed a hasty route to their South Kinnickinnic Avenue location which sits proudly on a street corner in what looked like a cute neighborhood.

Inside, the counter and roasting area sit as a peninsula in the center of the shop with seating on both sides, all very aesthetically complimented by local art and knickknacks. To bring it to the next level on this particular day, a pair of older gentlemen were jamming on an accordion and trumpet off to the side (an AMAZING addition to the atmosphere).

After sizing up a spot to work, I ordered myself a cup of Rwandan and an espresso. It could have been the blazing rays of exterior light streaming in, but the Rwandan hit me with a little sunshine (yeah, I know it's not a flavor) as well as bright pomegranate, butter, grass, sunflower seed and a tinge of habanero (a splendid light roast). The espresso, pulled short with marbled crema, held notes of lemon, cinnamon, chocolate, apricot and sugar with only a mild bitterness; a great beverage pulled by skilled hands. The tea is Rishi.

After a productive morning and some delicious coffee, I left with a much stronger appreciation of Milwaukee and of their coffee. When in the area, pop into Anodyne.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mugged: Classic [Superba Coffee]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Superba Coffee
Coffees Mugged:
Classic

Rating: 3+
[see key]




D
on't judge a book by its cover. Mom, grandmom, great grandmom and Thomas the Tank Engine all spouted that cliche in hopes of teaching me to not judge people by what they look like on the outside, but who they are inside. I would say their efforts plus years of humbling experiences panned out with my skill with people.

Yet I wonder if Thomas would let out a whistle of disappointment if he knew how I openly judge real books by their covers...and food...and drinks...and even coffee (I admit it!). Now before you regard me as shallow, allow me to elaborate. I still greatly value the content and product, it just blows my mind that someone can allow an ugly design to be placed on their product.

Thus in receiving Superba Coffee's Classic blend, I was very attracted to the snazzy box enclosing the pound of coffee. Despite my admiration of the exterior, I put it to the side and put their Classic blend to the classic tests of french press, siphon and drip.

The drip surfaced sweet cane sugar, a little bourbon, caramel, bits of cinnamon, chili powder and pretzel dough. A coffee with a lil bit of bite but all together good.

The french press presented sweet caramel and Coca Cola, bourbon, bits of cinnamon, lemon and graham cracker. This coffee had a little less bite and a lot more sweet notes.

The final brew a la siphon proved a tad tamer. It conveyed predominantly sweet cane sugar, caramel, lemon and Coca Cola; a fair brew.

In getting through the whole "book" I can say I was fairly pleased with the total package. If you enjoy a decent coffee with a nice package, try out Superba's Classic blend.


note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Mugged: Oren's Special Blend [Oren's]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Oren's Daily Roast
Coffees Mugged:
Oren's Special Blend

Rating: 3+
[see key]



H
ouse blends pique my interest. Most coffeehouses have one and it would seem that the sole reason house blends exist are to be the default drip coffee experience for an establishment. When I walk into most places, their house blend is at least one of the coffees on tap (if not the only one), which tells me that coffeehouses are putting a lot of stock into their house blends. In a world of choices and varied tastes, this boggles my noggin.

My most recent experience with Oren's Special Blend, the house blend for Oren's Daily Roast, brought many of these thoughts reeling in. The second coffee of two sent to try out, this coffee is blended in thirds, one third a french roast. Given the color and composition, I deduced that this coffee was probably produced to cater to a dark roast fan's desire for those bitter notes but not too bitter to drive off people who like their coffee a little brighter and/or smoother.

After these brief moments of conjecture, I began my sampling, brewing my first cup via drip. The dark notes did not fail to arrive noticeably, mostly in the form of really dark chocolate and lemon pepper, with some accompaniment of nutmeg and grape. A fair brew but not stellar.

The french press held the same dark chocolate as well as some grass, some mango, buttermilk biscuits and nutmeg. This cup fared a tinge lighter and did sample a notch better.

The siphon pulled out more of the sweetness, with mango and molasses headlining followed by the dark chocolate, buttermilk biscuit and grass. This cup was the smoothest and least bitter.

To answer my earlier hypothesis, this coffee did seem to straddle the dark and light coffee realm, though as someone who leans away from the darker coffees, I can't say I would go out of my way for it. I would venture that Oren's must attract a greater population of darker coffee drinkers, so if you happen to hanker for a semi-dark blend, give Oren's Special Blend a dial.


note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

CC: Brothers K Coffee

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What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Evanston, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes

Rating:
5+ [
see key]



Sometimes it feels good to get out of the routine and do something a little different. I had one such day in Chicago where I had a good chunk of time to kill before my first engagement so I made my way a little north of my usual travels to Evanston for a morning cup of coffee and a little down time.

For the coffee, I headed to a Metropolis-slinging place called Brothers K Coffee. The coffeehouse sits in a maroon-awning-ed, stone structure on the Main Street of this North Shore town. Amidst the high ceilings and old tile floor, the cafe was buzzing with a morning crowd. After wading through the line and ordering, I found myself a spot at the bar along the window and set my eyes to my bounty.

I ordered myself a cup of a medium roasted Sumatran as well as an espresso. The Sumatran held a bit of sauciness, hyacinth and lime with some bits of apple, molasses and whole grains (a pretty good cup). The espresso, pulled short and with a nice crema, had the flavor of Christmas (like a cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg combo), light cocoa, a little whiskey and overall, a nice brightness and bitterness balance. The tea is free leaf.

After some time at the bar next to a wee lad sipping a latte with his mum (this past year, I've seen a lot of kids getting lattes), it was time to begin my day and I have the Brothers K to thank for the good start. I can heartily sound that I enjoyed my experience and would recommend a visit for any who traverse north of the Loop.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mugged: 100% Colombian Supremo [Don Francisco]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Don Francisco's Coffee
Coffees Mugged:
100% Colombian Supremo
Rating:
5+ [see key]




M
any people seem to mix up Juan Valdez and Conchita (his faithful donkey) with a certain coffee giants. I can hardly blame people for the mistake as I myself fell prey to the confusion that some coffee commercials display when they have a Valdez-ian figure promote their product. But the truth exists that Juan is the symbol for Colombian-produced coffee and has no ties (I believe) to certain companies.

Accordingly, I was happy to see Juan and Conchita on a bag of 100% Colombian from Don Francisco. This particular bag was one of their whole bean coffees that like their Kona, seemed to have promise of potential.

I broke the beans into the usual three types of brews (drip, french press and siphon) and here follows the results.

The french press displayed a bright Fiji apple, minestrone, a bit of cocoa powder, nuttiness, a little wheat and some sweetness. The coffee really displayed a light body and a tremendously smooth cup.

The drip had a similar result with lots of initial brightness, some sweet wheat, undertones of cocoa powder, a little lemon and nuttiness. Still a great, light-bodied coffee.

Keeping it consistent, the siphon held the same apply brightness, some light grass, cocoa and nuttiness. The body here was a little more tea-like but still had the same kick and delicious qualities.

While I'm sure Juan and Conchita will have their faces slapped on many other Colombian coffees, I think that they both would be proud to be featured on this bag. If you happen to be looking for a good Colombian, give this coffee from Don Francisco a sip.


note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Mugged: French Roast [Don Francisco]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Don Francisco's Coffee
Coffees Mugged:
French Roast
Rating:
3+ [see key]



B
y and by, it seems that the hands that produce good coffee also can produce mediocre. I know that some people really prefer their coffee to be super bitter but how are we going to get away from this fad of over-roasted coffee if roasters of all types (I've seen it in most coffee roasters) continue to propitiate the habit?

One such recent situation I can point to would be Don Francisco's French Roast. In sampling their other whole bean coffees of Colombian and Kona, I felt both to be really tasty. Clearly they have no issue producing a decent quality coffee (one of the main reasons to darkly roast a coffee is to cover up defects) so my deduction came to that they're simply catering to a the niche of people that think themselves hardcore when they ask for the dark roast. Alas...

But all that aside, I still strove to evaluate this coffee objectively and so, I put it through the tests of french press, drip and siphon.

The french press produced a coffee with dark chocolate, pepper and some subdued cherry. The darkness of the coffee really cloaked a lot of the flavors here.

The drip delivered a more earthy cup with the subdued cherry still weighted beneath the dark, bitterness of the coffee.

The siphon came out with similar dark characteristics, more cherry, some broth and pepper. With this one you could see the potential of the coffee squirming against the roast level.

As you can deduce, the coffee gave what was predicted; a coffee with some possible potential buried beneath the bitter qualities of a dark roast. I will say that as far as dark roasts go, this one was by no means abhorrent as there were still other flavors present, so if you are looking for a darker coffee, try out Don Francisco's French Roast.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mugged: Nicaragua COE [Oren's Daily Roast]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Oren's Daily Roast
Coffees Mugged:
Nicaragua
Cup of Excellence Los Achiote
Rating: 4+
[see key]


G
iven the constant coverage of coffee in New York City these past years (such as $12 cups of coffee, Westerners bringing their roasting operations east, etc.), it's easy to forget about places that have been in the area for much longer then New York's late-coming obsession of quality coffee.

I got a shipment from Oren's Daily Roast, a coffee company that's been around since the 1980s and remains a place that I've managed to miss in my occasional rushings around the city (busyness tis a poor excuse). Of the brace of coffees sent, I spun the proverbial wheel of destiny (I spin it for such occasions) and began with Oren's Cup of Excellence from Nicaragua Los Achiotes.

I kicked it off with a filtered brew of the coffee. The result displayed a saucy, rock candy, IPA-ish coffee with bits of caramel, nougat and some wheat grass. A good cup with a bit of a bitter aspect.

The french press was darker, producing a whiskey-esque bitterness and sweetness, some dark chocolate, a little hops, a little grass (less then the drip) and a tiny bit of tea rose. More bitterness and a heavier body in this infusion.

The siphon birthed a more of a caramel, bran-like child with the sauciness of the drip as well as the flavors of wheat grass, nuts, hops and grapes. The least bitter and smoothest of the three methods.

Overall the coffee held to a good quality, though it didn't really strike me as Cup of Excellence level product (for me, the bitter and saucy facets weren't the most enjoyable). Nonetheless, if you're aiming to try one of Oren's Daily Roasts, take a crack at this COE from Nicaragua.


note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

CC: Crema Cafe

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What's does "CC" mean?

Subject:
Crema Cafe
Location visited: Boston, MA
Free WiFi ? : no

Rating:
6+ [
see key]



Regardless of all the hype, Cambridge is one happening scene. I've been to the area several times and each time I find something interesting.

This trip, it was specifically Harvard Square and a very conveniently-located coffeehouse called Crema Cafe. Positioned right off the T stop in a simple concrete building, this teaming cafe seemed to be quite the local hotspot (especially with the warm weather). Walking through the open front, the cafe opens into a skinny but tall space with the counter to much of the left, a loft in the back and despite an abundance of quality furniture, a pretty packed joint.

Crema serves up George Howell's various brews, of which I had a cup of the Costa Rican La Minata (drip) and their house espresso. The La Minata had characteristics of a bright, juicy apple and a little guava complimented by dark chocolate, roasted tomato and a light oregano. A smooth coffee with a beautiful combination of flavors. The espresso, pulled splendidly short with a nice head (aka crema) and velvety body, held deep chocolate, raspberry, sugar cookie, rum and a tinge of tobacco on the back. Both coffees really represented not only great coffee but good mastery of methods. The tea is free leaf.

Given the delightful experience at Crema, Cambridge remains a favorite haunt when I hit old Boston town, with Crema now on the list of reasons to return. Thus, if you happen to be in the area, give Crema a stir.

Mugged: Various [Don Francisco]

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What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject:
Don Francisco's Coffee
Coffees Mugged:
Sumatra, Breakfast Blend, Espresso and Decaf 100% Colombian
Rating:
Espresso is 1+, and 2+ for the rest [see key]

S
ometimes when people send coffee for a review, they include unexpected other coffees. Sometimes it's pleasantly welcomed and other times I scratch my head. This most recent shipment from Don Francisco's contained four bags I definitely wasn't expecting of pre-ground coffee that left me puzzled (why would you send pre-ground coffee for a review?). Were the coffees not completely bereft of freshness when they reached me, those coffees actually could have been tasty. Alas...

Thus, wanting to be transparent and a good steward of that which I agreed to do (review the coffee they sent), I made the task of reviewing the four coffees via drip and french press (as it was pre-ground to a finer setting than I would use with my siphon, I left these coffees out of the glass bulb) as fast as I could from the time I unsealed the packing...and here's the long and short of it.

The Sumatra, via french press, produced a dark cherried cup with a good bit of bitterness and a weak body. The drip produced less dark of a cherry, some walnut and less bitterness.

The Breakfast Blend drip held nutty notes, bits of apple, jasmine, a tinge of fig and lingering darkness. The french press held more of a darker taste, some cherry as well as the fig and jasmine.

The Espresso via drip was dark and bitter with but a little black currant showing some brightness. The french press was lighter, with less darkness and less currant. By far the least flavorful of these four coffees.

The 100% Colombian Decaf in drip form held some almond, bright apple and a smooth texture. The french press was a little darker, with the same apple and almond.

Overall, I would venture that for pre-ground coffee, three of the four weren't half bad (the Espresso was really lackluster) though I still don't understand why people still buy coffee chopped for them (it's like buying apples pre-sliced).

Thus, while I can't recommend these coffees, I would venture to try Don Francisco's whole bean offerings.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Mugged: Verona Blend [Kahve Koffee]

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What does "Mugged" mean?


Subject:
Kahve Koffee
Coffees Mugged:
Verona Blend
Rating:
3+ [see key]




A
s sad as it may seem, when I see a coffee with an Italian name, I become slightly trepidatious of its quality. That's not because I hate Italian coffee; it's simply that all of the Italian coffee I've crossed has been either massively over-roasted or extremely stale (too many poor roasters trying to cash in on the rich and reputable coffee history of Italy).

Thus, I freely admit that when I received a pound of Kahve Koffee's Verona Blend (I assumed named for the northern Italian city of old) I almost rolled my eyes. Opening the bag displayed a mixed coffee blend of medium to medium-dark roasts (the website spouts that it mixed light and medium roasts).

But my infusions of drip, french press and siphon disintegrated some of my concerns. The french press did produce a bit of a darkness but it held a lot of complexity. There was bits of granola, peanut butter, light cocoa, garlic pepper and an overall sweetness. The darkness seemed to favor the front, the nuttiness the middle and the sweetness on the end.

The drip produced a cup that had a combination of tastes more similar to Dr. Pepper. The coffee was a little less dark and held tinges of granola, cocoa and garlic pepper. The sweetness was a bit stronger here and overall, this brew was much smoother.

The siphon was akin to the drip, similar in its Dr. Pepper taste and its facets of cocoa and nuttiness. There was some vanilla here and though the darkness was still present, it seemed to move to the back and display more subtlety.

Kahve's Verona overall made a good impression but the bitterness plus a mediocre quality made this coffee only so-so. Thus, I wouldn't go as far as to say that Kahve has reconciled my skepticism of Italian-named coffee blends, but its helped me on the road of hope (note that I have nothing against good Italian coffee...just the bad stuff bringing down Italy).

If you are on the lookout for a decent Italian-dubbed coffee blend, sample Kahve Koffee's Verona Blend.


note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.