Thursday, June 28, 2012

CC: Peace Coffee

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

A lot of coffee establishments promote sustainability and social justice, but very few seem as entrenched as Peace Coffee of Minneapolis. Created initially by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to help coffee farmers find a consistent well-paying outlet for their coffee, Peace Coffee operates on what looks like a pretty large scale, always looking to offer coffee that will help the farmer and good ol' Earth. 

But unlike many crusading coffee entities bent on saving the world, Peace Coffee actually has earned a reputation for outputting a good cup of coffee as well, both in their whole beans as well as in their store. Wanting to try out the retail arm in a proverbial arm wrestle, I left a piece of my schedule wide open for a piece of peace, quiet and coffee at Peace Coffee. 

Prancing over to their Wonderland Park location, I found an unmissable blood red brick building with plenty of outside seating and large open windows. Within, the space is spacious, minimal and inviting, with bright colors, an array of places to sit and lots of cool accents (I like the disco ball).

For my beverages, I ordered a pourover of their Guatemalan and an espresso of their Espresso Blend. The Guatemalan proved delicious, with notes of prune, hay, light cocoa and hazlenet in a light/medium body. The espresso, pulled short with dark brown crema, held a peaceful balance of flavors, with blood orange and pepper balancing out with chicken broth, raisin and spearmint. 

I humbly submit that I thoroughly enjoyed my coffee and time at Peace Coffee. If you're in town and you're looking for some great coffee, give Peace a chance. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

CC: Toby's Estate

Subject: Toby's Estate 
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Back when I first became fanatical about coffee back in 2005, I noticed that Australia seemed to have a lot going on with specialty coffee. Ever since, I've kept a bit of a peripheral eye on happenings down under, hoping silently that one day I could save enough loot to make a full fledged trip to the wonderful land of Oz. 

Yet one need not traverse halfway around the globe to sample Australian coffee culture. When I went to London a year or so ago, I couldn't help but notice the indelible mark the Australians and Kiwis were leaving on the London scene. In a lesser sense, but all the while growing, NYC has been getting its fair share of the influence. Looking to one of the more notable of the Aussie coffee developments, in beginning of 2012, one of the finer coffee operations of Australia set up its North American flagship in none other then Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Toby's Estate is a coffee operation that seems nicely represented in their home continent, where many major cities seem to be brimming with locales where you can pick up a cup or bag of their coffee. Recently, the operation made landfall in lovely Brooklyn in a huge grey brick building with lots of space. While the outside boasts a clean look with large windows, the interior is a vaulted room of warmth, with large shelves boasting curios and merchandise as well as a large seating area with substantial furniture. 

Stepping up to the efficiently running coffee counter, I ordered an espresso of their Bedford Blend and a pourover of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, both of which were served with great cheer. The espresso, pulled short with a light marbled crema, smacked of sweet lemons, cocoa, nutmeg, pepper, cane sugar and sourdough; while not too acidic, it held a predominant brightness and sweetness. The pourover of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe delivered a resoundingly delicious brew that rang of milk, chocolate, fluffy biscuit, apple, citron and a bit of seaweed; a hardy coffee with a smooth, medium body.

Needless to say, I had a bonzer experience all around. While it's not exactly a trip to the land of wonder, it's the next best thing so if you happen to be in Williamsburg or nearby, offer Toby's Estate a visit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mugged: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe [Rockin' Coffee]

Subject: Rockin' Coffee
Mugged: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Rating: 3+ [see key]

The second coffee I slurped of from Rockin' Coffee was their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. A fair looking medium roast, I sampled it via drip, french press and siphon infusions.

The drip produced a cup noted with wheat, strong malt, roasted fennel, pear skin, chicken and a little cardboard. While a bit of a rough and alliaceous brew, the coffee did prove slightly sumptuous.

The french press fared best, with a bright quality that offered flecks of apple as well as notes of wheat, caramel, fennel and pear skin amidst a brothy undertone.

The siphon infusion proved more savory, with roasted fennel, wheat, pear, malt and broth. A fair brew with a medium body.

All in all, this Ethiopian held a noticed brightness and other positives to its flavor, but the savory and sometimes tough qualities made it a hard coffee to love. Give this Ethiopian a try if you're looking for such a brew.

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

CC: Rustica Bakery

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

Like many a small boy, my mom liked to take me shopping and one of our infrequent stops was at a little bakery close to home. An old Italian-style bakery brimming with jelly-filled cookies and old-fashioned pastel cakes, I distinctly remember not liking their treats at all. Why would I want an apricot jam sugar cookie when I could have a Tastykake butterscotch krimpet or a Hershey bar?

Thankfully, a little wiser with age, my narrow view of sweets has faded and I've grown to appreciate the many varieties of baked goods and baking styles. Also with age, I've also come to recognize that any troglodyte can bake a cake, but it takes a master baker to make great pastries. Couple that skill with a quality coffee operation and you have a rare gem found ever sparingly. 

While I was in Minneapolis I happened upon one such gem called Rustica Bakery, an artisan confectionery in Calhoun Village. I had heard their baking praises sung like sweet yodels in the Alps with a possible complimenting harmony that they also slung local Dogwood Coffee with skill of a fine accordion player. 

Making my way over with little challenge in finding parking (twas a busy day), I walked into their spacious cafe. The interior radiated an old world feel coupled with a modern layout, with plenty of sturdy, chic furniture of wood, as well as pleasing lighting and bountiful shelves of delicious creations.

Looking to their coffee, I ordered an espresso of Dogwood Espresso and a Clover brew of Brazil Serra Negra. The espresso, pulled short with even brown crema, held notes of vanilla, pepper, lime, merlot, poppy seed and sea salt; a flavorful and intriguing infusion that left me chipper. The clover brew of the Brazil delivered flavors of roasted lamb, cashew, green apple candy and seltzer amidst a light body, which easily spelled a hearty yet slightly tart brew. 

My coffee experience coupled with a few baked items tucked away for later (all of which proved wondrous) made for a bakery experience that will sit high in my register. Give Rustica a visit if you're in Minneapolis. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mugged: Rwanda [One Village]


Subject: One Village Coffee 
Mugged: Rwanda Gatare Station Bourbon
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Despite living and frequently traveling around the Philadelphia area, I've had surprisingly few dealings with One Village Coffee. Based out of Souderton north of the city, One Village has often served up decent beans in the times I've found them. Hence when an opportunity recently presented itself to sample their wares at home, I jumped at the chance. 

The first of the two coffees sent was their Rwanda Gatare Station Bourbon, a light roasted, wet-processed coffee that I sampled by pourover, siphon and french press infusions. 

The drip produced a brew that poured out a mild strawberry milkshake, Nesquick, some hay, corn chip, black tea and deep cherry on the back end. The resulting coffee was a flavorful yet mellow brew.

The french press demonstrated strawberry, wheat, a bit of cream and a nice tang of lemon. The brightest of the three cups, this infusion also held the least nuance.

The siphon rallied with more of a honey sweetness as well as heavy notes of cream, bran and twigs, along with flecks of sesame seed, well done steak and scotch amidst a medium body. A much more pungent concoction with a few odd notes, but overall still tasty.

To concisely put it, this Rwandan offered a good coffee that held my interest throughout. Give this Rwandan a go if you can get your mitts on it.  

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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

CC: McCafferty's

Subject: McCafferty's
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

When I go with others on trips, no one volunteers to wake up extra early with me and hit a coffeehouse first thing. Truth be told, most of my family and friends think it psychotic that I wake up with the sun just so I can try out a new coffeehouse, but then again, I guess not everyone gets the same child-like euphoria upon discovering a local coffee gem.

While I was in Fairbanks, I awoke with the dawn to visit a coffeehouse and roastery that I had read kind words of, a place dubbed McCafferty's. Located in the historic and uniquely charming Fairbanks downtown area, I found McCafferty's in an unassuming building with large glass windows. Inside the place had multiple levels with a mishmosh of furniture, decent lighting and lots of local art. 

In ordering, I got an espresso of their espresso blend and a drip of the Costa Rica Tarrazu. The espresso, pulled medium-long with a blonde-ish crema, presented the flavors of cherry, chocolate, pepper, english muffin and cabbage with a buttery aftertaste and a slight dark aura to it; a fair spro but their extraction proved not as optimally skilled as I would have hoped. The drip of the Costa Rican held wheat, baked apple, oak, brisket and wheat grass in a light/medium body, a pleasant cup of coffee though some of the flavors felt a little faded. 

While I've had better early morning coffee destinations, McCAfferty's proved a decent Alaskan gem to rise for in the AM. If you happen to be in downtown Fairbanks, give McCafferty's a go.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Ekobrew: Can It Redeem the K-Cup?

Subject: Ekobrew
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Over the past few years, the k-cup phenomenon has been sweeping the land. While these machines utilize non-recyclable pods full of pre-ground coffee that go for almost $1 a piece, people have been buying them up like beanie babies. The selling points seem to be that people find it fun/exciting to brew the pods and that the brewing of said pods is super quick and simple.

Now for these past few years, I have been completely opposed to this rising trend and still today, I 100% oppose the use of the single-use k-cups purely for environmental reasons (it really is needless waste), though the poor coffee aspect is also reason enough to embargo the pods as well. But since these pod coffee machines do not seem to be disappearing, I felt it was high time that I explored reusable k-cups to see if they could put forth a decent cuppa' joe.

Stopping by a coffeehouse in my travels (Crescent Moon Coffee of Sewell, NJ), I noticed a display for Ekobrew, a reusable k-cup that claims to facilitate the brewing of a quality cup of coffee in a k-cup machine using your own coffee. Curious to see if good coffee could be had by such means, I got my hands on an Ekobrew reusable k-cup and borrowed my parents' k-cup coffee machine to try it out.

Taking a look at the methodology of how a (reusable) k-cup works, there are two things that stood out: the necessity for an even grind and that the coffee granule size needed for optimal brewing was going to have a greater effect with the k-cup then in your regular drip or french press infusions. Given the short coffee and water interaction, the coffee grinds need to be even for duplicable and quality results (i.e. you need a burr grinder and not a blade) but also much like espresso, the granule size of the coffee grounds would need to be at the right size for the water utilized; otherwise the coffee will be too weak or two strong.

So using several different coffees, I did a side-by-side comparison between a regular pour-over/drip infusion and the Ekobrew, trying to use as similar ratios of coffee to water as possible. I also fiddled with granule size between coarse and fine, trying to see how it would affect the coffee in both cases.

Overall the results were positive. The Ekobrew produced a fairly decent cup of coffee that tended to have a french press-like body with some occasional fine silt. Compared to the drip/pourover, the Ekobrew produced a lighter coffee even with a fine grind, but a stronger coffee could be made by adding less water to k-cup process. It also seemed that more full-bodied coffees did better in the Ekobrew given the quick time of infusion.

Thus, I would have to say that if you're dead set on keeping your k-cup coffeemaker, at least get a reusable k-cup like the Ekobrew. Not only can you use it to kill less of the environment, you can also utilize fresh, well-roasted, whole bean coffee to make a pretty tasty cup of coffee. But nonetheless, I still hold that there are many better ways to make your coffee. 

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