Monday, February 25, 2013

CC: Black Cap Coffee

Subject: Black Cap Coffee
Location: Stowe, VT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Of all the coffeehouses in Vermont, one of the few coffeehouses roasting their own beans is a chic cafe called Black Cap Coffee Roasters in lovely Stowe, VT. Having spent a good day roaming around the town, picking up some great Maple syrup at Nebraska Knoll and visiting the Trapp Family Lodge, a stop at Black Cap was just what the doctor ordered.

Situated in the main part of town, the cafe sits in a gorgeous maroon, house-like structure, with huge windows flanking the front door, providing ample light inside. The interior itself proved warm in temperature and ambiance (a must for a ski town), with lots of tans and browns, local art and huge tables.

As for the coffee, I decided upon an espresso of their espresso blend and a cup of their Ethiopian Burundi via drip. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with blondish-brown crema, danced across my tongue to the notes of blood orange, black pepper, cocoa, sea salt and a slight woody character; a decent profile that only proved obtrusive due to a little excess heat (temperature) and bitter flavor. The drip of the Burundi held some pleasing qualities of tart grape, soda bread, cloves, raisin and milk chocolate though the brew itself had been siting a bit and as such, some flavors of staleness proved prominent.

Though both my espresso and drip had some negatives, I thought a lot of it a possible one-time glitch and myself maybe a victim of a badly timed visit. Overall though, I did enjoy my experience at Black Cap and hopefully the place holds much more than what I experienced. If you're in Stowe, give Black Cap a go.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mugged: Guatemala Antigua [Daily Grind]

Subject: Daily Grind
Mugged: Guatemalan Antigua
Rating [see key]: 3+

Having been through Albany a few times, I still have had practically zero instances where I was in town with free time for more than an hour. As such, it's hard at times to make effort to seek out the local coffee venues.

One such venue I've not yet reviewed here is Daily Grind, with locations in Troy and downtown Albany. Fortunately, as they're a roaster of their own coffee, they were kind enough to contact me and send out their Guatemalan Antigua for a review. I sampled it via pourover, french press and siphon.

The french press demonstrated notes of honey, caramel, almond milk, a little clove, some pear and a smidgen of cayenne pepper. A hearty yet sweet coffee with a bit of spice.

The pourover was a little less sweet, with notes of honey, bran, pine wood, cloves and sassafras within a medium body. A more acerbic brew but still sweet and hearty.

The siphon was a mixture of the two prior infusions, with notes of vanilla, bran, almond milk, cloves, a bit of pepper and some cayenne in a deeper body, proving sweet and spicy overall.

While I though the coffee to possess some great sweet qualities, I felt it had a bit too much of a pepper and spice quality to its profile (maybe better if roasted less?). All in all, if you're looking for a spicy yet sweet South American from Albany, give Daily Grind's Guatemalan Antigua a go.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CC: Crema Coffee Roaster

Subject: Crema Coffee Roaster
Location: Cary, NC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

One early AM, I found myself wandering amidst the area around Raleigh looking for a small coffee operation entitled Crema Coffee Roaster. They had made my list of places in the area to visit and one dreary morning, I found them situated in the Cornerstone Plaza in an elevated shop.

Walking through the door, the first thing I noticed were the many eyes of tribal masks staring at me from the wall. But after the initial feeling of being watched faded, I began to take in the pleasant ambiance of the tan walls, rich tile floors and the figurative warmth from the fireplace (I say figurative because I think fireplaces whether empty or full of fire give off a subconscious warmth). 

As for my coffee chosen, I settled on a drip of their Indonesian Sulawesi and an espresso of their Espresso Blend. The drip held notes of maple syrup, strawberry, black currant, whole wheat and mild caramel, proving overall deliciously smooth, sweet and tender. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, embodied notes of chocolate, black pepper, salt, mango (mostly on the end) and a noticeable sourness throughout the cup, though despite the flavors named, together the espresso proved tasty for the most part.

While I wasn't in love with my espresso, I found the overall Crema experience quite fitting. Thus if you happen to be in the vicinity, stop over at Crema Coffee Roaster.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

CC: Cubby Hole

Subject: The Cubby Hole
Location: Moorestown, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

In the eastern part of the US, it amazes me that whole swaths of counties and states exist without a single coffeehouse that can serve a decent mug of coffee. I could draw mammoth circles on maps of NJ alone that encompass still bereft lands that have yet to possess an establishment that offers beans worthy of brewing.

Take the lovely town of Moorestown in southern Jersey. Voted one of the best towns to live by Money Magazine in 2011, this cute town of Quaker roots still seems to have a main street only barely holding on. As someone who grew up close by, I've always seen this main street as an opportunity waiting to happen, but of course the right stimuli also need to happen. One thing needed in my humble opinion is a great coffeehouse, a flower that still has yet to blossom. Oddly, the closest thing the street has to great coffee is a little eatery called the Cubby Hole.

Situated in a small, bland store front with a pair of outside tables, I actually had never wandered into the Cubby Hole's doors until my father mentioned they had good coffee. Not necessarily trusting my father's palate but at the same time owing him the respect to try out his recommendation, I took a visit one day. The interior proved not much too look at (a very muted decor with a space that actually has some potential for pizazz), the first sighting of their coffee took me by surprise. Sitting by the door were a couple of pump pots of One Village Coffee out of (somewhat) close-by Souderton, PA. Holding onto the hope that the coffee was brewed correctly and was fresh, I grabbed a cup of their Ethiopian. To my express delight, the brew packed a fruity punch along with some vanilla cookie, sassafras, english muffin and rose petal amidst a smooth, medium body; a flavorful and tasty African coffee.

While there was not an espresso machine in sight and an examination of the menu spoke of a simple eatery, I was still impressed with their coffee. Oddly enough, were this little eatery to take it to the next level with at least their coffee (never mind the other menu options), I think they could do some killer business. But for the time being, stop by the Cubby Hole for a good cup of drip coffee.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mugged: Kenya Kagumoini [Klatch]

Subject: Klatch Coffee
Mugged: Kenya Kagumoini Mugaga Cooperative
Rating [see key]: 5+

As an ardent fan of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, I found it most excellent (years ago) to find out that San Dimas, CA was home to a highly reputed coffeehouse and roaster named Klatch Coffee. Over the years, while I could never seem to secure an actual visit to the city, I have had interactions with their coffee in other spots (such as Las Vegas, Seattle's 2012 Coffee Fest and at home), all of them quite scrumptious.

Of course, until I can get to the home of the Wyld Stallyns, I shall continue to check out Klatch's coffee from time to time from far away. Most recently, they were generous enough to send out two coffees for review, the first being their Kenya Kagumoini. A coffee coming from the Mugaga Cooperative, grown around 5,249 ft up, I tend to be a lover of East Africa coffees and took this coffee to town via my pourover, french press and siphon.

The pourover produced a cup brimming with rich cocoa, blackberry, wheat, some grapefruit and a little vanilla wafer. A vibrant and bright coffee with a beautiful complexity.

The french press took the brightness up a notch, with heavy smatterings of pineapple balanced with caramel cookie, nutmeg and chocolate milk, overall making it deeper and brighter.

The siphon was more akin to the drip, with notes of cocoa, blackberry, peach, vanilla wafer, Sprite and a little molasses. While the end note was a bit deeper, twas overall a bright and sweet coffee.

Needless to say, this Kenyan coffee was most triumphant in all it touched and would be a great coffee for any breakfast or late night study session at the Circle K. Give Klatch's Kenya Kagumoini a try if you seek a bright, sweet and fruity coffee.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback. note also that I do not apologize for the gratuitous Bill and Ted references, though I am sure such references cause Klatch occasionally to regret their location.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

CC: Cafe Helios

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

While I recognize the need for volume to make the difference in a business, there's something beautiful about a popular cafe momentarily uncrowded. Such was the case when I stopped by Raleigh's well-known Cafe Helios to sample their wares. It was a gloomy weekday morning and due to some fortune on my part I wandered into their bright and jubilant interior right after a good number had left. 

Wasting little time in my coffee order (as hordes come as swiftly as they leave), I ordered for myself an espresso of Counter Culture's Rustico and a drip infusion of their Ecuador El Gavilan. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, emanated deep cocoa, lemon, sea salt, au jus and a little minestrone, proving to be a hearty yet chocolatey brew with a nice balance. The Ecuador coffee sang of delicious milk chocolate, milk, a bit of portabello, buttered biscuit, wheaty ale and raisin within a medium body; a deep coffee with lots of bright and light highlights.

Thanfully, I had a nice chunk of solitary time in order to delight in the calm before the customers started to flow back in. But all things considered, with hand-crafted delicious coffee and a spiffy look, who really cares how many people you share a coffeehouse with? If you're in Raleigh, stop by Cafe Helios for great coffee.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

CC: Hudson Coffee Traders

Subject: Hudson Coffee Traders
Location: Kingston, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

In the grand scope of American history, I feel like we never really talked about pre-British colonies like New Netherland. We never really discuss that despite the failure of the Dutch to hold onto their colony long, two of their original settlements that they started ended up thriving through the centuries (NYC and Albany). And while the third original settlement really doesn't get much limelight any more, the city of Kingston, NY still has its points of interest.

Situated on the Hudson River, Kingston traces its roots back to the 1650s, has been the capital of New York and was burned down during the Revolutionary War. Along with its history and beautiful geography along the Hudson, the city has a few other draws, one of them for me was local coffee operation Hudson Coffee Traders.

Situated on Wall Street, Hudson Coffee Traders sits in a nice stone building with a majestic blue awning and large open windows that lead into a cozy (though a little cluttered) interior that has a back section that reminded me a lot of the Parthenon. As for coffee, they roast their own beans and after looking over the menu, I decided upon an espresso of their Espresso Blend and a drip of their House Blend. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with marbled crema, held notes of bittersweet cocoa, lemon, garlic toast and sweet ginger, proving to have a nice balance with a decent combination of flavors. As for the drip, the House purveyed flavors of almond croissant, light chocolate, nutmeg, dandelion and a little pork rind all present within a medium body.

While I did not fall head over heels in love with Hudson Coffee Traders, I found the fare pretty scrumptious (i.e. the espresso and drip were both good but still had room for growth). If you happen to be passing through or in town for some local history, stop by this local coffeehouse for a decent cup of coffee.