Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mugged: Keemun and Monkey Picked Oolong [Teavivre]

Subject: Teavivre
Mugged: Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea and Monkey Picked Ma Liu Mie Tie Guam Yin Oolong Tea
Rating [see key]: Both 4+

A person's fervent love of coffee often spills into other drinks, and given the history, it's very natural that most coffee fans would also sip the occasional cup of tea. Personally I love all sorts of tea, with my adoration clinging strongest to the traditional camellia sinensis varieties (i.e. non-herbal). And because traditional tea has so many manifestations, cultivation styles and variations, there's always the prospect of trying out a different kind of tea.

The two latest additions to my list of teas tried came from Chinese tea purveyor Teavivre who sent out several samples of a Keemun Black Tea and a Taiwan Monkey Picked Oolong. I steeped each according to the recommended directions through numerous infusions and enjoyed each.

Keemun Fragrant Black Tea is a common tea, though most folks don't know they consume it. Most often, it is found as a component of blended black teas like Earl Greys but it can certainly stand well on its own. My infusions of this Keemun produced a dark amber hew ripe with notes of cola, agave, pine, raisin and mineral water. The tea was deep at times and overall deliciously satisfying.

The Monkey Picked Ma Liu Mie Tie Guam Yin Oolong Tea (try chanting that thrice while skipping around the credenza) also proved delicious. Grown in the mountains of Taiwan, the tea had subtle notes of champagne, spinach, apple and wheat grass. A distinctly mellow and pleasant tea.

If you're in the market for a deep fruity black tea or a subtle-yet-sweet oolong, give either of these Teavivre teas a sip.

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

CC: Cuppa Joe

Subject: Cuppa Joe
Location: Breckenridge, CO
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In looking for a relaxing mountain respite, I had heard from distant family that in the mountains of Colorado exists a delightful little town called Breckenridge, home to gorgeous sunny trails and numerous winter slopes. Recently, I was able to make it into town for a few days and although I twisted my ankle hiking the nearby beautiful mountains, the rest of the experience was grand.

One of the great benefits of the town was that they had local, good coffee. One spot in particular became my favorite, a 2nd floor cafe called Cuppa Joe located a little off the main street but within easy walking distance of almost everything. The coffeehouse had a few seats outside on their porch but inside existed plenty of room, with a well-arranged assortment of furniture, local art and pleasant lighting.

As for the joe, they serve Novo Coffee out of Denver. After conversing with the barista, she recommended the Guatemala La Providencia via Chemex and I also ordered an espresso of Espresso Novo. The chemex-ed Guatemalan proved sweet, with notes of pound cake, vanilla icing and pear, as well as a bit of cashew and beef broth; an overall delicious coffee with a medium body. The espresso, pulled short-to-medium with light brown crema, delivered a nice citrus zing, some vanilla, basil, cola, dark cocoa and rye, rounding out to be a slightly bright and thoroughly ambrosial infusion.   

Cuppa Joe proved to be a great, frequent stop in town, whether I was staying to enjoy the cafe or taking the coffee to go. If you have the pleasure of visiting Breckenridge, stop by Cuppa Joe for a some great coffee.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mugged: Nicaragua [AgroEco]

Subject: AgroEco
Mugged: Nicaragua, Union of Cooperatives San Ramon
Rating [see key]: 3+

I'm always elated to hear of organizations looking out for the welfare of coffee farmers. Without a healthy network of agriculture, the (coffee) world would disintegrate and thus, groups that promote sustainable and realistic aid to the coffee farms of the world are a great commodity.

One approach some organizations take with their efforts is to bring the coffee directly to consumers through an in-house label. One such organization that does this is CAN (Community Agroecology Network), based out of California. Not only does CAN work with helping farmers implement environmentally-friendly and economical practices, but CAN also sells coffee under their AgroEco label. The coffee comes directly from the farmers that CAN works with, and a portion from each sale goes to help the farmers. Curious as to whether the taste was as good as its intentions, I took their Nicaragua San Ramon for a spin via pourover, french press and siphon.

The drip produced a cup brimming with clove, cocoa, ginger and prune, with subtle flecks of oregano. A heavy and sultry coffee, the cloves proved this coffee a lot deeper than I initially expected from a light roast.

The french press boded similar, with clove, Honey Nut Cheerios, cocoa, apple, pepper and oregano. A peppery, sweet coffee with brighter notes than the pourover.

The siphon spouted also with cloves, honey, nuts, cocoa, pepper and oregano, though with a much more buttery texture. A sweet, deep coffee with strong notes of dried flower buds.

In the end, I would definitely not dub this coffee a light roast, as it embodied much more of a medium-dark flavor profile. Thus, understood to be a darker coffee, I would say that this Nicaraguan wasn't half bad, though the pepper and clove-ish aspects did not find much favor in my court. Thus, if you're in the market for a deep and spicy coffee that does great things for distant farmers, give AgroEco's Nicaragua a go.

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

CC: Artifact Coffee

Subject: Artifact Coffee
Location: Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Some years ago, I had made my first hunt through Baltimore for a great coffeehouse and like magi looking for a newborn king in Herod's palace, I found little. While I did not find an actual great coffeehouse within the city limits, I did hear tales of a farm-to-table restaurant called Woodberry Kitchen doing amazing things with coffee. Sadly, I did not have a reservation (or time to stick around for what looked like a great dinner), so I had to leave Baltimore for greener coffee pasture.

Fortunately things in Baltimore have starkly improved in the past years. Not only have more coffee entities put down roots in the city proper (think Spro and La Mill) but Woodberry Kitchen has expanded to (re)animate a full service coffee house called Artifact Coffee. Located in an atypically beautiful stone structure with plenty of parking, the venue has received ample laud from the community (much of it spilling over from the great practices already occurring at Woodberry). Stepping inside, I found a beautiful space resembling a farmhouse outfitted with a lot of classy fixtures and beautiful rustic furniture.

Offering Counter Culture Coffee, I ordered a cup of Ethiopian Haru via pourover and an espresso of the Apollo espresso blend. The espresso, pulled short with a sturdy brown crema, sang notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, lemon, basil, granulated sugar and cake; a delightful pull of Apollo. The Haru additionally belted out a sumptuous melody of sweet cream, peaches, almond, cinnamon and a little grass all together producing a deliciously demure and lightly sweetened coffee.

Needless to say, all of the praise, quality joe and great food has made this a popular stop for folks, so if you come during mealtime, beware of crowds. But regardless of the wait, you should definitely drop by Artifact Coffee when you're in town.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Support Local Coffee & Tea

Keep your local establishments in business.

While it might sound like an obvious encouragement, it seems to be ever more falling on deaf ears. During the holiday craziness, folks increasingly turn to huge conglomerates and chains to get their gifts conveniently. And while there are things you can only grab off Amazon, some of what you buy for your loved ones could be easily bought down the street.

This holiday season, if you have a quality, local coffee or tea establishment worth your patronage, go out of your way to do make them a place where you get your gifts. Your dollars go far to keep your local barista and coffee roaster afloat.

In case you're looking for more on why keeping it local is best, check out this article from the ILSR.

A merry holiday to you and yours!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Mugged: Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company

Subject: Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company
Mugged: Lighthouse, Honduras and Eco-Reef
Rating [see key]: Lighthouse 4+, Honduras 3+, Eco-Reef 2+

A few years back, I heard about some coffee roasters turning from the widely-used paper/plastic bag to the age-old packaging of a coffee can. The reasoning was that the can was more sustainable and if outfitted with a CO2 valve, it kept the coffee just a fresh. Oddly, the trend never seemed to catch on (possibly because of the association coffee cans hold in the American psyche) and cans all but disappeared from microroasters.

But a few roasting operations went with the can and seem to be doing well with it. One such operation is Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company, a roaster based out of Maryland who recently sent three of their coffees to be reviewed. Their Honduras SO, Lighthouse and Eco-Reef I sampled via pourover, french press and siphon.

Starting off with the lightest roast, I took the Lighthouse for a spin. The pourover produced notes of milk chocolate, cream, slight ginger, apple skin and a little salty beef broth; a sweet chocolate cream with a touch of savory. The french press doled out chocolate milk, Life cereal, apple skin, anise and some malt with a medium body, proving sweet but a bit of rind. The siphon delivered notes of chocolate milk, pungent Life cereal, malty, oregano and apple skin; a medium-bodied brew with a nice cocoa and wheat quality. All in all, a coffee full of delicious notes of chocolate and sweet cereal with a few dark (occasionally akaline) undertones that were subtle enough to not offset the positives.

The Honduras, proving a touch darker, went next. Via pourover, the coffee emerged with a noticeable smokiness along with fig, slight vanilla and paper, eliciting a sweet, carbony brew. The french press proved less smoky, with notes of corn chip, vanilla, toffee and a little grape jelly, with but only a touch of smoke on the back end. The siphon was an average of the two prior, with notes of vanilla, tobacco, paper, toffee and a little corn, establishing this Honduran as pleasantly sweet coffee with a little too much smokiness.

The darkest of the three, the Eco-Reef finished off. The pourover trumpeted out pipe tobacco, apple, peanut, prune and a little cracker; a sweet and strongly smoky coffee with a medium body. The french press delivered a similar cup, with pipe smoke, apple, peanuts, cracker, oregano and touch of milk chocolate. The siphon proved the most intense in flavor, with strong notes of tobacco, caramel, cracker, cream and clove.  

While I enjoyed the Lighthouse a good bit, I liked the Honduras or Eco-Reef less, mostly due to their darker/smoky aspects (though if you're a fan of darker coffee, these might be the cans for you). Thus, depending on what you're looking for in a coffee, try out the Chesapeake Bay Coffee Roasting Company.

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

Thursday, December 06, 2012

CC: Caffe Driade

Subject: Caffe Driade
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When wandering the woods like an avid jogger or naturalist, it's not typical to find a coffee house on the side of a hill along the trail. While it sounds like something out of the script of Hoodwinked or a a Dr. Suess story, it's indeed a reality in Chapel Hill. Of all the coffeehouses I've visited, none of them have been hedged into the forest as nicely as Caffe Driade.

Of course, the first time visitor finds them (if they can spot it) off the side of a major roadway, not easily visible in the back of their shared gravel parking lot. But after finding a spot, you walk into the pleasant jungle of their large patio system that surrounds the cafe on multiple levels (the bottom level leading to the Bolin Creek Trail). The ambiance is somewhat swanky and somewhat treehouse, with lots of vegetation looming in on every side of nice patio furniture. Compared to the patios, the actual building itself is comparatively small, with only enough interior room to sit a handful of patrons. But they make due with the space they have, with the counter greeting you as you first arrive, serving a host of options including beer and wine.

As far as coffee they offer Carrboro Coffee Roasters, a local roaster picking up popularity around the triangle. I ordered a drip of their Brazil and an espresso of their espresso blend. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, held notes of cocoa, lime, shortbread, a bit of ginger ale and salt; a good pull and a great tasting extraction. The Brazil proved a bit on the darker side, with flavors of cloves, soft pretzel, pear, dandelion greens and blood orange within a heavy body. Though I'm not one who has much love for darker roasts, this brew actually grew on me and proved overall delicious.

Caffe Driade is definitely at the top of my list as far as unique cafes, pairing a woodsy escape with a good cup of coffee. If you're in the Chapel Hill area, definitely make a stop.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Mugged: Jamaica Blue Mt [C&C Specialty]

Subject: C&C Specialty Coffee
Mugged: Jamaica Blue Mountain
Rating: 3+ [see key]

While there are a lot of coffees that seem to come and go in the coffee market, Jamaica Blue Mountain is one of the constants. As I've said through the years, there's nothing intrinsically amazing about the region per say; I've had great coffee from Jamaica and I've had horrible. What separates the two are a lot of factors and sometimes it's risky to spend the money as a consumer to try and make the guess.

But if you're like me, taking an occasional gamble on a new coffee company elicits a slight thrill. The newest coffee purveyor of JBM to meet my acquaintance was from C&C Specialty Coffee. Intrigued as usual, I gave their coffee a whirl via drip, french press and siphon.

The drip produced notes of nuts, peanut chaff, caramel, croissant, fig and prune with a slight flavor of paper and aspartame. A medium bodied brew with a fair profile.

The french press demonstrated a similar nutty prominence (this time a little like pumpkin seeds) in a medium body with paper on the back end, but it also popped with some further flavor of corn chip, Life cereal and cola. 

The siphon followed suit with the nuttiness along with deep flavors of cola, wheat, a little nutmeg and a bit of paper on the back. An amply sweet and agreeable brew.

I found this Jamaica Blue Mountain a decent deep-flavored coffee with a lot of positive flavors perfect for a morning brew. The only detraction was the slight papery off-taste on the very back end of all the brews (possibly a stale batch, which happens to the best of roasters). Thus, if you're looking for a decent Jamaica Blue Mountain, give C&C Specialty Coffee a go.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

CC: Panadero Bakery

Subject: Panadero Bakery
Location: Burlington, VT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Every town should have a great bakery. While I'm sure many dieticians would disagree, in my opinion a local operation that makes quality baked goods is a must for any enclave. And of course you can't have a great cookie/muffin/croissant/bear claw without a great cup of coffee. It's that simple folks: great baked goods and great coffee.

Sadly, few towns have what I would call a great bakery. But when I do happen upon one in my travels, I get worked up like a little kid on Christmas morning. Such was the case as I giddily trekked from downtown Burlington to the off-the-beaten-path and well-reputed Panadero Bakery. The building is impossible to miss with it's mustard yellow exterior accented by a patriotic red and blue. Inside, the interior is much less loud, with a demure collection of woods, soft colors and a vast parade of available pastries.

Looking to their coffee, they offer Vermont Artisan Coffee and Tea Co. and that fine day I ordered an espresso (blend unspecified) and a Sumatra Gayo via drip. The espresso, with a medium pull and marbled crema, extolled lemon, apple, buttermilk biscuit, cocoa and a velvety texture with a tingle of salt mixed in with the sweetness. The drip delivered notes of honey, maple syrup, traditional Italian bread, Dr. Pepper and some malt, providing a sweet with a few deep notes.

Overall, both infusions proved utterly delectable and well worth the visit. And while the quality of a venue's baked goods really doesn't factor into my rating, the cherry on the proverbial cake was their pastries, which gave the final confirmation that Panadero is indeed a great bakery. If you happen to be in town, definitely stop by.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Slight Renovation

We're restructuring the blog. What you see now is phase 1 of several phases in the coming days.

I love hearing from ye, so if you have any feedback or questions, please email .

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mugged: Craft Coffee

Subject: Craft Coffee
- Ethiopia Teklu Dembel of Lone Pine Coffee Roasters

- Guatemala Xeucalvitz of Coava Coffee Roasters
- El Salvador Manzano Natural Process of Topeca Coffee
Rating: 5+ for all [see key]

One of the larger growing trends this past year has been the concept of the 3rd party coffee subscription. The concept of having sommeliers send out top coffees to your door each month appears alluring, but the questions that nagged me were queries of freshness, trust and value. 

Of course the only way to be satisfied in my curiosity was to try out some subscriptions and the folks over at Craft Coffee were splendid enough to kick it off by sending out their October disbursement a few weeks back ( October). Within the box were three coffees: Lone Pine Coffee Roasters' Ethiopia Teklu Dembel, Coava Coffee Roasters' Guatemala Xeucalvitz and Topeca Coffee's El Salvador Manzano Natural Process. Since each coffee comes in 4 oz. disbursements, I was only able to try each out via pourover and french press. 

The pourover of El Salvador from Topeca imprinted flavors of cocoa, pink lemonade, blueberry, maple, malt, muffin and a dash of oregano. The french press held similar bright flavors of blueberry, pink lemonade, maple, corn muffin, cocoa and oregano. A delicious coffee with bright, sweet notes.

The Ethiopian of Lone Pine also demonstrated a beautiful juicy succulence. The pourover blasted notes of blueberry, pancake, black tea, a little vanilla and gingerbread within a light body and smooth texture. The french press held very similar notes, with a slight nuance resembling soy sauce.

Coava's Guatemalan finished the series strong. The pourover blasted the flavors of sassafras, biscuit, corn, brazil nut and pear amidst a medium body. The french press proved similar, with more of a cashew quality that complimented the sassafras and corn well. A nutty and sweet brew.

With three fine coffees with little to dislike, I would have to say that Craft Coffee offers a great service for the money, especially if you're someone always on the hunt for a new coffee. Give Craft a go.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CC: Rival Bros

Subject: Rival Bros
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

As I've remarked many times before, I sure love a good coffee truck. There's nothing like a vehicle completely outfitted with top-level coffee equipment, quality beans and an able barista, able to go where the wind (and city permits) allow. 

Taking the usual coffee truck operation to the next level by roasting their own beans, Rival Bros came onto the Philadelphia scene recently with strong promise of stupendous, locally-roasted coffee straight out of a mobile joy machine.

Sadly, in all of their existence I've only been able to reach their encampment twice; once on First Friday (when I snapped the shot above) and the most recent, a week or so ago at 33rd and Arch on the Drexel University campus.

Pulling up to the intersection near the Buckley Green, there was plenty of meter parking for those looking to pull over for a nice respite (though I'm sure more of their patronage arrives on foot). I approached and ordered a pourover of the Ethiopia Aylele – YCFCU and an espresso of their Whistle and Cuss blend. The pourover of Ethiopian roused even the dead amongst my taste buds, with notes of Stella D'oro breakfast biscuits, succulent steak, fuji apple, honey and roasted red pepper, proving to be a beautifully savory and sweet coffee with a nice medium body. The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, greeted with an uppercut of lemon, cocoa, ginger soda, red bean paste roll, a touch of salt and a nice milkiness. Both drinks proved to be worthy of an exaggerated curtsey. 

While Rival Bros is definitely not a truck found on the same routine every week, they're easy enough to find via their twitter. Thus, when you're in Philadelphia, hunt down the likes of the Rival Bros. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mugged: Diner and Peru [Booskerdoo]

Subject: Booskerdoo Coffee
Mugged: Jersey Diner and FTO Peru SO
Rating: 4+ for Diner, 3+ for Peru [see key]

Until this past year, it seemed that NJ would never have a high concentration of decent coffee operations. For as long as I have sipped coffee, shops that were able to dole out fresh, not-disgusting beans were spaced out usually too far to go from one to the other without making it a small road trip.

But in traversing the central Jersey beach area, it seems more and more good coffee options are appearing. One such place is Booskerdoo Coffee of Monmouth Beach. Having never been, I was intrigued to receive two pounds of their coffee one recent day; their Jersey Diner-style Blend and FTO Peru. I sampled each via pourover, french press and siphon.

For the Jersey Diner-style, the drip produced notes of buttered toast, apple, Corn Pops, a little lemongrass and cola, capping off a medium-bodied coffee with sweet, wheaty notes. The french press held a similar body and notes of granny smith apples, toast, sweet corn and a little cola. The siphon had a more wheaty kick, with notes of graham cracker, toast, apple, cola and a little sweet corn within a medium body. 

The Peru drip delivered flavors of french toast, maple, cloves and unsweetened cocoa within a heavier body, that overall, while flavorful, was a little too dark. The french press produced a similar profile, with notes of cloves, unsweetened cocoa, maple syrup and a heavy body that seemed almost espresso-esque. The siphon proved a tad sweeter, with chococlate, maple syrup, cloves and oatmeal within a heavy body.

Overall, both coffees sampled decently. While I thought the Jersey Diner blend was better, as it embodied a flavorful brew that I would covet with a nice breakfast, I found the FTO Peru not bad for a darker coffee but little too bitter for a light roast.

If you're in the area or you're looking to try out one of Jersey's coffee roasters, give Booskerdoo a try. 

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

Sunday, November 04, 2012

CC: Happy Coffee

Subject: Happy Coffee
Location: Denver, CO
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

If I were to move away from the ocean, it would be to a place like Denver. Somehow, the balance of mountains and dozens of great coffee spots easily compensates for the distance from a true oceanic shoreline. 

One coffeehouse that would add to my enticement is Happy Coffee. A local establishment that sits pretty on a corner location on Broadway, they provide great coffee from various coffee roasters like Four Barrel and Heart. One sunny morning, my entourage (the family, an old friend and I) made our way over to the coffeehouse early enough to beat the crowds and have the place to ourselves. The windows gave a spacious feel amidst the minimalist yet warm interior, with the coffee bar smack in the middle giving an air of performance, with the array of seating surrounding as a chic gladiator arena.

As for my coffee, I ordered an espresso of Four Barrel's Friendo Blendo and a pourover of a Heart Guatemalan (a Palencia I believe). The espresso, pulled short with a brown swirled crema, spoke of lemon, sugar, salt, cream and dark cocoa, all harmoniously dancing together to form a delicious alliance. The pourover also rocked, giving notes of wheat, apple juice, cascara, curried broth and vanilla; a pleasantly juicy and complex cup great for AM sipping. 

At the risk of sounding cliche', Happy Coffee deftly lived up to its name. If you happen to be in Denver or close by, stroll down for a great coffee experience.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CC: Sola Coffee

Subject: Sola Coffee
Location: Raleigh, NC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

The more I hear about North Carolina, the more I am attracted to it. I've seen much of the state at one time or another in my brief existence, and from what I recall (some trips were long ago) I loved the parts I saw, especially Asheville and Charlotte. 

But oddly, all of my trips managed to miss the triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, that is until recently when I had to head down on official business. Blessedly, I found plenty of great coffee establishments to possibly patronize in my travels. 

My first morning in town, I let geography pick my coffeehouse and I made my way over to Sola Coffee in North Raleigh. A huge building all to itself, Sola is flanked with beautiful horitculture, ample outside seating and a lovely stone edifice. Inside, the place emanated a warm aura with a hip yet rustic decor, full of numerous tables and seating bathed in pleasant light. They had a large counter as well, with a separate pourover bar.

As for coffee, they serve up local Counter Culture. I ordered an espresso of Toscana and a drip of Farmhouse. My espresso, pulled short with brownish-tan crema, held notes of cocoa, vanilla, lime, season salt and coriander; a deliciously executed drink. The drip also proved delectable, with a rush of passion fruit, hibiscus, tomato, olive oil, oregano and nutmeg amidst a medium body.

After a getting a little bit of work done, I made my off into the morning traffic satisfied in the great experience Sola Coffee delivered. When you're in Raleigh, Sola is a grand option.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mugged: Hope Blend [Bonlife]

Subject: Bonlife Coffee
Mugged: Hope Blend
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Tennessee is a great southern state, home to superb bbq, gorgeous hiking and legal adoption for folks over 18. It's a state I can say I've traversed numerous times and each time, found something new. 

But having been away from the honky-tonk state for some years, I've been unable to sample the developing coffee scene that has been gaining steam in the years past. One such coffee entity to set down roots is Bonlife Coffee, an international company that opened its doors in Tennessee this past summer. They asked if they could send out some coffee for my opinion, and after some quick communication they sent me out a pound of their Hope Blend. I sampled the coffee via pourover, french press and siphon.

The drip produced vanilla followed by sweet cocoa, along with notes of butter, grass, caraway seed and some toasted almond, all within a mild body. A delicious brew with a nutty sweetness. 

The french press proved mellower, with vanilla, cocoa,wheat, caramel and toasted almond amidst a light, buttery body. A sweet and smooth cup.

The siphon came third in order and in favor. The cup held more of a bittersweet cocoa, along with fig, flemish sour ale and strong nut notes, coupled with some wheaty undertones. A little heavier but still a good cup. 

To sum it up, I would definitely order the Hope Blend again, as it proved to have a nice profile of nuts and sweet cocoa with some other varying positive characters. If you happen to be in Cleveland, TN or an internet purchase away, give Bonlife a whirl.    

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CC: New Wave Coffee

Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

While most folks prefer their coffee in the morning, I really think I enjoy my coffee more in the evening. Maybe it's beacuse my taste buds have awoken more fully by night; perhaps it's due to the fact that late-night studying largely birthed my love for coffee. Regardless of the reason, it's always a delight to grab a swell cup of coffee for what lies ahead when the sun goes down. 

Last I was in Chicago, I decided to pay a twilight visit to a cafe called New Wave Coffee, a cafe known to be serving Metropolis Coffee and doing fine things with it. Straddling Milwaukee Ave and Logan Blvd, the place has an entrance on each side with a creamy center containing a pink and blue tile floor, some interesting art pieces and a pleasing mix of random furniture.

For my coffee beverages, I ordered an espresso of the Redline Espresso and a drip of a Costa Rican. The espresso, pulled short with a dark brown marbled crema, held flavors of mellow chocolate, Seagrams, salt, sugar cookie and apples; a delicious showing of Redline. The Costa Rican extended out notes of raspberry, cherry, torte, pie crust, a little hot cocoa and a tad bit almond milk; an overall crowd-pleasing coffee. 

To put it plain, I thought my visit to New Wave proved delightful and fulfilling, especially on the part of the coffee. Surf over to New Wave for good stuff regardless of when you like to imbibe your coffee.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mugged: 2012 Reserve [Manana Madera]

Subject: Manana Madera Coffee Estate
Mugged: 2012 Reserve
Rating: 4+ [see key]

It’s not often that I get to try the same coffee from the same farm 2 years later, but fortunately there are botique operations out there like the Manana Madera Coffee Estate in Boquete, Panama that grow, harvest and roast their own beans (along with offering a pretty sweet coffee getaway). They had sent me their beans in 2010 for review, and with a pretty favorable rating I was very intrigued to see what this year’s crop would behold. 

One sunny day, I received the coffee in similar packaging as last time, straight from Panama. I tested out the coffee via pourover, french press and siphon, but since I had written my notes of the siphon on a medium I lost (i.e. I accidentally deleted it), only my actual notes on the drip and french press are below.

The pourover held strong notes apple, nutmeg, light smokiness, raspberry and biscuit. A medium/heavy bodied coffee with a pleasant array of flavors, overall ruled by a sweet tartness and hearty notes.

The french press produced varying flavors; a little smokiness, some apple, nutmeg, a little peanut, raspberry and bit of burlap. A light/medium body infusion with a twinge of a carbon on the end, this infusion proved sweet though a tad darker than I would want. 

The siphon I remember being closer to the pourover in flavors with a slightly heavier body, but alas it is only a memory. 

Thus, I would say that despite some smoky characteristics that gave it a tobacco-esque back end, I would say that this Panama proves quite delicious especially if you’re looking for a coffee with flavors of sweet fruits countered with a smoky character. I would not mind sipping this coffee on the patio their plantation villa getaway. If you’re ever on the hunt for a unique Panama coffee from a unique farm, give Manana Madera’s Reserve a try.

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

Sunday, October 07, 2012

CC: Espresso Bueno

Subject: Espresso Bueno
Location: Barre, VT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Part of the charm of Vermont is the prominence of small towns and cities that dot the landscape. Places like Barre, a small mining town that even in their industrial peak only held about 10 thousand folks, really beget a simple yet extraordinary existence. 

Like every town and city should have, Barre is home to a reputedly great coffeehouse called Espresso Bueno. Operating out of a brick store front on Main Street, the cafe provides a warm environment of orange and black, full of soothing woods and comfortable chairs. 

As for their beans, they sling coffee from Vermont Artisan Coffee out of Waterbury. The day of my visit I ordered an espresso of their espresso blend and a pourover of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The espresso, pulled short with dark brown crema, trumpeted notes of smooth chocolate, salty grapefruit and a little basil amidst an overall balanced flavor and pleasant mouthfeel. The pourover remitted accents of asian pear, pound cake, hot cocoa, a little oregano and a pinch of wheat; a delicious coffee within a medium body. 

To find that Espresso Bueno proved as scrumptious as their advocates had advocated was that extra bit of sunshine to make a day truly sparkle. If you happen to be in or around Barre, make sure to stop by.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mugged: Coffee Bean Direct

Subject: Coffee Bean Direct
Mugged: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and Nicaragua Organic Fair Trade SHG

Rating: 3+ for both [see key]

A lot of enamor is placed on hand-made products. The fascination with getting a product produced by actual human limbs provides that artisan touch that many consumers love. But from a business perspective, that extra labor only pays off when you can price your products at a higher rate. If you want to get a great product at a lower price, mechanization needs to get involved.

Which brings us to the folks at Coffee Bean Direct who have grown to a point where they chose to take steps to keep their production more efficient and their coffee still affordable. Thus, they have opted to use Kickstarter to help them get a "pouch monster," an $80,000 upgrade to their coffee production. 

To better help paint a more accurate picture of what they have to offer and why you the consumer should pitch in to help this company expand, the folks at Coffee Bean Direct decided to send me out two of their coffees to review: their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and their Nicaraguan Organic Fair Trade SHG. Both coffees I reviewed via drip, french press and siphon infusions.

The Ethiopian overall produced a coffee with notes of apple, corn, strong cigar, malt and grass, with small differences in each infusion. The drip held strong apple notes with a light lime zest amid a medium body, the french press more corn and caramel with similar body and the siphon was more overt in chocolate notes and with sweeps of vanilla. Overall, a decent coffee though the notes of cigar and akaline elements made this only a fair African coffee.

The Nicaraguan embodied a malty and salty brew across the board, with particular shades of pretzel, pecans and cola. As for minor differences, the drip was thickest with minor notes of spinach and caramel; the french press begot similar notes as the drip though with a lighter and broth-ish flavor; and the siphon held tinges of sassafras and nutmeg. Also a good coffee though it was a little too malty for my liking and the salty aspects didn't pair as well as I would have hoped. 

Thus, while I can't say that their coffee was the best ever, I can say it is substantially better than most coffees you would pay a similar price for at the market. Give Coffee Bean Direct a try and if you feel compelled, help them realize their Kickstarter goal. 

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

Sunday, September 23, 2012

CC: Caffe Streets

Subject: Caffe Streets
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In the world of coffeehouses, most shops look pretty much the same. What I mean is that right now most shops (especially in the same city) seem to use very similar layouts and themes. For all the shrinking the world is doing these days, it is still hard to find truly unique interiors. Of course certain staples like counters, tables and chairs tend to gravitate to a certain trendy uniformity, but it's surprising how many shops fail to set themselves apart with a rocking decor simply because they lack or leave out the creative process. 

But some places do their planning well and put together a memorable shop. When I was last in Chicago, I found such a cafe in Caffe Streets. While the exterior didn't scream anything different than a normal coffeehouse would, the interior drew the eye (and eventually the rest of the body) in with its layers of wood, well-placed plants and its one-of-kind counter that boasted not only fine equipment, but also several street lights that loomed becomingly over the baristas. 

As for the coffee, they served me Los Andes of El Salvador, a single origin espresso from Heart Roasters out of Portland, and a pourover of El Trapiche Colombia from Intelligentsia. The espresso, pulled medium-short with a brown crema, issued notes of lime, powdered sugar, a cigar-like sweetness, butter cracker and balsamic vinegar amidst seaweed salad; a delicious extraction that enamored me with its bright front. The pourover tasted of condensed milk, clover honey, bits of grass, some merlot, vanilla and a smidgen of dandelion, overall smacking of a mellow cup of caffeinated nectar. 

Of course no stylish cafe is complete without great coffee, and Caffe Streets held the full package. If you're in the lovely city of Chicago, swing by to the only shop that offers street light both inside and out. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Coffee Fest Seattle

While I usually don't get the opportunity to go to a lot of industry events due to my other non-coffee responsibilities, I'm honored to serve as a judge for the Coffeehouse Competition at Coffee Fest Seattle this coming weekend. 

I look forward to a fruitful weekend and if you happen to be going, I hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mugged: Ethiopian [Doma Coffee]

Subject:Doma Coffee Roasting Company
Mugged: Ethiopia Organic
Rating: 5+ [see key]

On the east coast, it's not often you hear about Idaho. And having traversed most of the state on several occasions, the hype certainly doesn't mirror the reality. For starters, Boise and Coeur d'Alene are nifty cities, plus you have tons of natural sites all over the place that make it a truly unique part of the west. 

As far as coffee roasters that call Idaho home, Doma is probably the one that has reached many ears across the globe. It might be because of the press received but I think good coffee, like cream, rises to the top. 

I had the delightful opportunity to recently sample Doma's Ethiopian Organic, a light-roasted coffee that from first waft had promise of being excellent. I sampled the coffee via drip, french press and siphon.

The drip delivered notes of blueberry, milk cocoa, little grass, apple strudel and a tinge of maple syrup and cinnamon. A light and bright coffee with lots of flavor.

The french press was consistent in taste, with resolute blueberry, milk chocolate, apple strudel, nutmeg, a little grass, a smidgen of maple syrup and caramel. Also light and fruity with a light body.

The siphon finished off the infusions with a cup heavier with milk chocolate and less blueberry, but with similar notes of grass, apple strudel and maple syrup. A chocolatey and juicy coffee. 

While Ethiopians tend to be delicious, not every roaster can capture a great coffee and roast it well. Give Doma a try whether you're looking for a good African coffee or something a little different.

note: coffee was not provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback. 

Sunday, September 09, 2012

CC: Pure Fare

Subject: Pure Fare
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Coffee has always seemed to have a love/hate relationships amongst nutritionists. Over the years, I've heard from the mouths of experts that coffee will eventually kill me and then out of other seasoned oral cavities of others, I hear that coffee is one of the best foods I could ingest. Since studies never seem to agree, I have taken the time-tested stance of keeping my intake moderate and my outlook positive. 

But it certainly helps the positive image of coffee when venues that emphasize healthy and sustainable habits also encourage regular consumption of quality coffee. One such outfit in the fair city of Philadelphia is Pure Fare, a cafe and market where folks can grab a fit lunch and cup of Blue Bottle coffee amidst their busy schedule. 

I made my way over to Pure Fare one day when I was in the neighborhood for an errand. I headed to their 21st St location which has a minimal sign and store presence, with nice open windows leading your gaze into the long cafe. Within, the venue has a large communal table in the middle, a cozy atmosphere that felt like a cross between Reading Terminal Market and a small cafe, complete with two counters on each end: one for coffee and the other for food. 

Not in the mood for food, I silently approached the coffee counter and ordered an espresso of Blue Bottle's Hayes Valley Espresso blend and a pourover of their Bella Donovan. The espresso held notes of cocoa, ginger, lemon zest, deep prune, a touch of vanilla and sage, all in a heavy body. Overall, I was pleased with the shots, having a sweet and voluptuous manner about it. The pourover sang of juniper berries, grapefruit, wheat, cornflakes, lettuce and subtle blueberry within a medium body. Also a delicious infusion well worth the wait for the careful pour. 

While their food also looked visually scrumptious, I can heartily vouch for a good showing of their coffee. If you happen to be in Philly and in need of a meal and some great coffee, make your way to one of Pure Fare's locations. 


Monday, September 03, 2012

CC: Outerlands

Subject: Outerlands
Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

There are few earthly delights that compare to a nice Sunday brunch with the sea air in your nostrils and a good cup of coffee in your hand. Years ago, this could prove to be a tall order purely based on the minimal use of good coffee at brunch spots but slowly, great eateries, both coastal and land-locked are coming round.

Out by San Francisco's western limits near the sea sits a couple of establishments by the shore, one of them aptly called Outerlands. Specializing in sustainable and organic local fare, their menu has received accolades and the crowds one Sunday afternoon reinforced said claim. There's a bustling counter amidst the inside and outside seating where folks can gaze at much of the menu, and if you can only stay for a spell, there's options for a quick bite as well. 

Sadly, I was not able to stay for brunch that day (they had stopped seating folks when I arrived) and since the only non-espresso coffee they offered was via large chemex for dine-in customers, I had to settle for (just) an espresso of Sightglass' Owl Howl. The shots were pulled short, held a brown crema and exuded flavors of 5 spice, lime, kalamata olive and thick black tea. The drink proved delicious and heavy, with a nice balance. The chemex coffee was also Sightglass.

Thus, the only reason Outerlands gets a 5+ is because of my circumstances in not being able to try the a chemex of their non-espresso coffee. Believe me that everything points to a 6+ and I feel a bit silly holding it back but, even though my observation of them brewing and serving it to a nearby table leads me to postulate that they certainly do a bang up job, I must leave them at a 5+ until I have tasted it with my own tongue. 

But please, by all means, give Outerlands a try as they seem to have the full-blown midas touch. If you get coffee, let me know how it is in the comments below. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

CC: Wormhole Coffee

Subject:  Wormhole Coffee
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Many years ago I read a book called Enter the Worship Circle, an interesting piece that explored the many ways a person worships God, one of them being personified through the story of a coffeehouse patron. At the time, I was more obsessed with coffee culture than the quality of the beverage, so the part that stuck with me from this book was the emphasis on seeing simple truths (specifically about worship) through unusual artistic presentations in a coffeehouse. 

Years later, even though most coffeehouses try to be more chic than eclectic, every time I hit an off-the-wall joint, my mind thinks back to the concept of simple truths in the less conventional. While in Chicago, I had heard of an establishment called Wormhole Coffee near Wicker Park. The part that had caught my ear was an attention to quality with their coffee but upon arrival one early evening, I caught sight of a full-size DeLorean sitting in the front window and I knew this was no typical shop. 

The shop carried a sci-fi theme overall, with a complex arrangement of figurines and art highlighting the various pieces of mismatched furniture. My coffee came from two sources, with my espresso using Metropolis' Red Line and my pourover Ipsento's natural Panama. The espresso, pulled short with a marbled crema, held the flavors of vanilla, bittersweet cocoa, Italian bread and sweet scallops, all of which blended together to form a great drink. The pourover demonstrated blueberry, cherry jolly rancher, wheat, 2% milk and a little cake doughnut; a coffee with a punch of sweetness followed by a subtle wheat. 

While I didn't stay long enough to analyze the intriguing decor, I found Wormhole to be just the tear in the fabric of time that I needed. If you're looking for a fun place to get some great coffee, set your coordinates to Wormhole Coffee.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

CC: Trouble Coffee

Subject: Trouble Coffee
Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

When you do a bit of research on coffeehouses, usually the first place you look is their website. Most have pictures of the establishment as well as the usual "About Us" and "Menu" pages, both with occasional useful information about what they really offer and what to expect. 

And a very small percentage of the time, you get a website that makes you curious as to the establishment purely by its odd nature. Take Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club, a small coffeehouse on the far west side of San Francisco that seems to defy convention, but at the same time seems to provide the necessary information if you're willing to seek it out. It did it's job on me, as I added it to my list of places to visit even though it was somewhat out of the way of my travels. 

Sporting an outside seating area complete with flower boxes and a large log, I knew I had found Trouble long before I stepped inside. The interior, while very cozy, maintained an intimate and welcoming feel amidst an array of stimuli. As for coffee, they brew Ecco Caffe, specifically blends called Elbow Grease and the Hammer, the former offered as drip coffee and the latter as espresso. The shots of the Hammer were short with brown crema, smacking of vanilla, peanut, ginger, caramel, cola and lemon; a tart yet balanced spro. The Elbow Grease drip proved (surprisingly at the time) dark, with notes of well-done steak, cigar, white bread, sugar cookies and spinach. I found out later that Elbow Grease is an attempt at a non-bitter French Roast, to which it certainly achieved a great taste compared to a typical French Roast, but I personally found it too dark to be very pleasant. 

In walking away, I can say that the only thing I would have changed would have been the Elbow Grease. Otherwise, Trouble Coffee seems like a great local hangout where folks come to commune over good coffee and toast. If you happen to be on the western edge of San Francisco, make your way over to Trouble Coffee.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

CC: Maglianero

Subject: Maglianero
Location: Burlington, VT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Of all of the close by places that have remained elusive all of my long years, Vermont has remained at the top of my list. No matter how many vacations, road trips, business ventures and detours I have attempted, nothing could get me close to its quaint borders. 

But finally a beacon of light blazed onto my schedule and my wife's fancies, as I was able to escape with my lovely bride to the Green Mountains and gorgeous landscape of Vermont for a long weekend. Of the many things we did there, one of them was hang out in Burlington and hit a few stops of note. One place in particular stood out quite boldly, a coffeehouse very much off the beaten path called Maglianero. 

Located south of the main stretch of town, I made my way over with the wife to find a very huge warehouse space that seemed to serve a host of needs. A home base of sorts for every breed of cyclist, their interior conveys a love for bikes along with a communal space that is not just for those riding cycles. 

Aside from various visually stimulating art pieces and eclectic furniture arrangements, Maglianero primarily caught my eye with their focus on quality coffee, serving up local Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea. For my visit, I ordered an espresso of their house espresso blend and a Clever Coffee Dripper of a Kenyan Coffee. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, smacked of apricot, caramel, a sniff of cigar, lime and cascara, all proving a beautiful and juicy symphony of flavor. The Kenyan tasted of pancakes, hot cocoa, sweet curry, kale, pulled pork and chamomile; a bright, brothy and sweet brew that made me wheelie.

Maglianero is yet another establishment that makes me wish I rode a bike more frequently. Make sure to grab the address before you adventure out, as you might miss this hidden gem if you're not careful. No matter the wheels you travel upon, give them a stop. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

CC: Angry Catfish

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key] 


Bicycling is a hobby I wish I liked. Because of my current work situation, it's not practical in terms of my ever-varying commute and in my spare time, I really find no joy in riding my wheels around town. Maybe one day it will work out, but for now the bikes get cooler each year and every sunny Saturday a new bicycling enthusiast is born. 

Probably the biggest common interest I seem to have with avid bikers is a love of great coffee. So often I find folks sitting at the table of a great coffeehouse in their racing leotards sipping away at an espresso. It's no surprise that some bike shops have opened an in-house coffee bar to cater to the many folks who would saunter through their doors. 

Far and away, the best coffeehouse + bike shop operation I've witnessed is the Angry Catfish in Minneapolis. A former hardware store, the shop has a substantial coffee bar off to the left that beautifully compliments the rest of the happenings of a classy bicycle store. Serving Intelligentsia, the Angry Catfish holds high standards of skill and quality that make their coffee formidable.

To mark my inaugural visit, I ordered an espresso of Black Cat and a pourover of the Panama El Machete. The Black Cat gave off flavors of dark cocoa, lemon, oregano, hefeweizen and sea salt amidst a short pull with brown crema, thus demonstrating a deliciously executed infusion. The pourover blasted notes of fuji apple, wheat and cashew as well as the subtle flavors of cumin, olive oil and honey amidst a light/medium body, all together providing a scrumptious coffee. 

Walking away, I knew that if I had an Angry Catfish around the corner, I probably would be arriving frequently on two wheels. If you're in the area, brake for Angry Catfish.