Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mugged: Brazil [Old Soul]


What does Mugged mean?

Subject: Old Soul Co. 
Coffee Mugged: Brazil Macaubas
Rating: 5+ [see key]

The final coffee of the three bags of Old Soul I received was their Brazil Macaubas. While much of Brazil usually blasts out a lot of low-grade coffee for your coffee giants, this coffee claimed to be a great, single estate coffee. As usual, I dove in using three different types of coffee infusion to test the coffee.

Using a standard coffee pourover (drip) method, the coffee brewed up notes of caramel, cashew, chocolate chip, potato skin, thyme and a little milkiness in a medium body. A good start.

The french press squeezed out an infusion with flavors more akin to pear, honey, wheat, sunflower seeds as well as a tinge of licorice and spinach. While I found this coffee slightly different then the drip, it had a lot of similarities in profile and was also delicious.

The siphon delivered similar to the french press with notes of clove, honey, peanut chaff and wheat amidst a heavy body. A solid cup.

In the end, I was pleased to conclude that this was indeed a fine coffee from Brazil. If you're looking for a good South American coffee with a delightful sweet and nutty profile, give this coffee a whirl.. 

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CC: Sea Bean


Subject: Sea Bean
Location: Seward, AK
Free WiFi ? :yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In preparing for a day trip to Seward, Alaska I did some quick research to determine what the expedition would hold. While I found some local pointers and sites online (such as to visit Exit Glacier near town), I found most of my good tips from the nice folks who ran the Hutch, a local B&B in Cooper Landing. They mentioned Ray's Waterfront for a scrumptious lunch and the quaint downtown area for some shopping.

But when it came to good coffee in Seward, both the internet and locals did not give much in terms of hope. And since hidden gems seem to rarely surface, I had resolved to keep an eye out but not to get my hopes up for decent coffee. Fast forward to our arrival in town, we decided to check out some of the local shops on 4th Street. I was walking and spotted a bright green awning that said "Espresso, Internet and Ice Cream." Initially, I reasoned that I had seen this kind of advertisement all over Alaska and before I could look further into the establishment, my gut judged it as a sub-par place. Walking past it again about 20 minutes later, a few members of my party pointed it out and questioned as to why I hadn't tried the place out yet. In verbalizing my earlier pompous, book cover judgement, my party quickly descended on my shallow outlook and urged me to at least walk in and check it out.

Thank God my companions challenged me. I walked into the demurely decorated coffeehouse with warm red walls, chic yet Alaskan furniture and a nice atmosphere, up to the counter where I noticed two things of great promise. The first was a lever espresso machine; a manual means of extracting espresso usually reserved for espresso geeks. The second was the Intelligentsia Coffee logo, beaming with the substantial rays of hope that this was indeed an overlooked pearl.

I engaged the barista in coffee chatter and the longer I stood there, the more positive my outlook grew. His skills in pulling my shots of Black Cat espresso seemed polished plus my cup of their house blend smelled delicious. And in a few sweet sips, it was confirmed that I cannot trust my gut to judge coffeehouses by their awnings. The house blend drip demonstrated notes of caramel, grass, wheat, a bit of cocoa and sage all amidst a smooth, light body; a delicious cup of what seemed like a South American-type coffee. The espresso held bright lemon, ginger, rosemary, milk chocolate, with a velvety texture amidst a brown healthy crema and a short/medium volume (a fine showing of Black Cat). The tea is Intelligentsia, Golden Moon and others. 

Needless to say, my compatriots did not let me live it down that I almost passed up such a wonderful specimen. If you're ever in the area of Seward, don't make the blunder I almost made. Go to the Sea Bean.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mugged: Toarco AA [Old Queens]


What does Mugged mean?

Subject: Old Queens Coffee
Coffee Mugged: Toarco AA, Indonesia
Rating: 5+ [see key]

I always thought New Brunswick, NJ would be a good home for a great coffeehouse. And while the folks at Old Queens Coffee don't have a retail location yet, they do the town proud by pumping out great coffee to local cafes and coffee drinkers from their local roastery.

Just recently, I had the pleasure of trying out their Toarco AA a wet-processed coffee from Sulawesi, Indonesia. As I've had OQ coffees in various coffeehouses, I was truly intrigued to try out this one in my home coffee apparatuses. I brewed the coffee via drip, siphon and french press.

The drip birthed a brew of milk chocolate, pear, almond, buttery cracker and a hint of clove. The body was surprisingly heavy though it went down smoothly and sweetly.

The french press had more of wheat and sugar as well as cocoa, pear, almond and minute ginger amidst a medium body.

The siphon more resembled the drip, with milk chocolate, pear, butter, a nice nuttiness and sugary black tea.

While I can't say for sure, these beans were possibly some of the best Indonesian coffee I've sunk my proverbial teeth into. If you're looking for a great coffee from Oceania, give OQ's Toarco AA a go.

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CC: Grape and Bean


Subject:  Grape and Bean
Location: Alexandria, VA
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Over the past few years, coffee has gained a lot of ground in coming from a ubiquitous morning beverage to a concoction revered for its numerous complexities and nuances, finally joining the likes of wine and beer in appreciation. To compliment this growing awareness, lots of establishments have begun to offer top-notch coffee along with quality beers (on tap if you're lucky) and high-scoring wines by the glass. 

While this melding of great coffee and spirits has only infiltrated certain states (mainly due to the high costs of licenses), they seem to thrive where they pop up. One such venue that recently found its way into my schedule is a place called the Grape and Bean. Sitting in Old Town Alexandria, this wine and coffee bar serves patrons some of the finest coffee (when I visited, it was Stumptown, Novo and Counter Culture) and a hand-picked selection of wines. 

Stopping in on one balmy afternoon, I was happy to rest my bones at their spacious bar. The interior is not overflowing with seating but the ambiance is spiffy and there are plenty of chairs out front. Locking onto their coffee menu, I noted that they don't offer espresso but proudly work their Clover operation. I ordered a cup of Novo's Ojo De Agua from Volcan, Panama via their Clover. The ensuing brew paraded out notes of honey nut cheerios, cream, multigrain bread and fuji apple amidst a smooth and light body. The tea is Devi Tea. 

Alexandria can boast a gem in the Grape and Bean. When you walk those historic lanes, make a detour for a good cup of coffee or fine glass of wine. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

CC: Vosges Haut-Chocolat

What does CC mean?

Subject: Vosges Haut-Chocolat
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 3+ [see key]

For many people, boutique chocolate consists of Whitman Samplers, Godiva and Ghirardelli, all of which can be easily picked up at your neighborhood pharmacy or department store. But if you really want to get quality exotic chocolates, the big name I know is Vosges, who not only focuses on great ingredients but also focuses on unconventional yet tasty combinations (like aged balsamic vinegar, hazelnuts and chocolate, not to mention a full line of bacon truffles).

When I was in Vegas, I made my way over one afternoon not for the chocolates but for the coffee. I had heard that their Las Vegas store served Intelligentsia coffee, a tip that upon arrival proved true. With little delay I plopped down at their bar and ordered a double espresso yet as the barista began, I became aware of an odd difference. I had initially noticed the absence of a typical commercial coffee grinder for the espresso but what followed next shocked me a bit. The barista pulled out a pre-made, pre-ground espresso pod with an Intelligentsia wrapper.

Taken back, as Intelligentsia rides a high horse of coffee quality and prepackaged espresso pods seemed like quite a fall from the saddle, I inquired to the barista as to why they didn't just get whole beans and grind them there. Not knowing much, she fetched her boss. The boss' reasoning was that their location in Caesars Palace amidst the Forum Shops did not pull in enough coffee traffic to warrant the investment. Yet, since quality coffee was still a part of their menu, they struck up a deal with Intelligentsia to send them the pre-ground pods close to roasting, with the understanding that Vosges would use the pods as quickly as possible (I believe she said within the week of receiving them). While I mentioned that I understood the reasoning, it still seemed like a lot of work for a lesser quality product.

Of course, I still imbibed the espresso I originally ordered. The shot was fairly long (voluminous), with blonde crema and it smacked of milk chocolate, nutmeg, a bit of milk and peanut. To put it simply, the shots contained far too much volume and hence were the least potent shots of Black Cat (the espresso blend) that I've had. But strangely enough, the ensuing beverage was still actually pretty tasty and I finished it quite easily.

While I was slightly depressed with finding that Vosges has a great coffee supplier but not the tools to adequately utilize it, it did help to put it into perspective that they never claimed to serve amazing coffee. Thus, if you're near Caesars Palace and you're in need of a half-decent coffee, it's still better than what surrounds it.