Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mugged: Garbanzo Nunez Estate and Los Vecinos [Thrive Farmers Coffee]

Subject: Thrive Farmers Coffee 
Coffees Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Garbanzo Nunez Estate, Tarrazu, Costa Rica 5+
- Los Vecinos, Genaro and Trinidad Double Estate, Intibuca, Honduras 4+

As many people know, Fair Trade coffee is sometimes not as fair as consumers would like. The concept conjures up farmers getting a great price for their coffee but many times, Fair Trade programs don't end up paying much to the individual farmer.

Hence, Direct Trade has become the gold standard for socially progressive coffee sourcing. Farmers maintain direct relationships with the end retailer so that their cut becomes much healthier. One operation pulling direct trade relationships within a co-op like system is Thrive Farmers Coffee, a business entity that sells different farmers both green (unroasted) and roasted beans, sending back healthy profits to its growers. Thrive recently sent me out two coffees to try out, their Garbanzo Nunez Estate, Tarrazu, Costa Rica and their Los Vecinos, Genaro and Trinidad Double Estate, Intibuca, Honduras. Both coffees I tried out via pourover, french press and siphon.

First up was the Costa Rican. Through a pourover infusion, the coffee produced a vibrant brew rich in dulce de leche, prune, Yoo Hoo, carrots, shredded wheat and a little oregano. The french press doled out a slightly smoother cup, with notes of vanilla caramel, sugar wafers, a little marinara, cream and shredded wheat in a medium body. The siphon finished off with also a great cup, full of caramel, yoo hoo, shredded wheat, cream and a little prune. All together, a really richly-flavored coffee full of sweet, creamy nuances and syrupy sweetness.

The Los Vecinos also proved appetizing. The pourover rang of root beer, lemon pepper, raspberry, blue corn chips and a little wheat grass amidst a slightly thick body. The french press had more flavors of cocoa along with notes of corn chips, lemon, pepper, wheat grass and malt. The siphon proved the smoothest of the three infusions, with notes of milk chocolate, graham cracker, raspberry, malt and corn. In the end, a malty, slightly bright coffee with a minor wheat flavor.

If ye seek great coffee that puts a lot of money into coffee farmers' pockets, check out the coffees of Thrive.

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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

CC: Porchlight Coffee

Subject: Porchlight Coffee and Records
Location: Seattle, WA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

If there is one hobby I wouldn't mind picking up, it's buying records. I love the sound quality (especially of older, original albums), the huge disc shape and the seemingly undying surge of record collectors. If anything, it's purely the abundance of other stuff in my life that keeps records at bay.

Yet despite my lack of record keeping, I still love record shops and I love it when the concept of a record store fuses with that of a quality coffeehouses to create a megazord like Porchlight Coffee and Records. Residing on 14th between Pine and Pike, the coffeehouse has a pleasant muted exterior that funnels into a simple cafe, with white walls, large open windows and two namesake porch lights dangling from the ceiling near a rare Seattle skylight that does a good job of pulling in the limited rays.

As for coffee, they sling local Herkimer Coffee. As I perused the records that fine morning, I grabbed an espresso of their Espresso Blend and a drip of their Drip Blend.  The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, smacked of a delicious blend of lemon, roast chicken, rosemary, cocoa, salty caramel and a little seltzer amidst a deep body. The drip proved a little too smoky for my liking (had a minor flavor of tobacco on the back end), but it still made for a tasty cup with notes of wheat, cashew, sage, spinach and some olive oil.

Except for the drip (which was still good and could have very well been a fluke that day), Porchlight made for a convenient quality coffee stop, whether you seek records or not. Make your way over when you're in town.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mugged: Colombia, Tanzanian and Costa Rica [Lowest Price Coffee]

Subject: Lowest Price Coffee
Coffees Mugged:
- 100% Colombian Coffee
- 100% Costa Rica Coffee
- 100% Tanzania Peaberry
Rating [see key]: All 4+

One of the most common objections people give me as to why they still drink cruddy coffee is that quality coffee holds too high a price tag. And while I would agree that the best coffee out there will always be $12+ per pound (and such great coffee is worth the money), there exists good coffee out there for less.

One such company blatantly striving to offer flavorful, fresh coffee at bad coffee coffee prices is Lowest Price Coffee. A new-to-my-ears roaster, they offer 12 oz. bags for a ridiculously low tag of $5.99. They recently funneled out to me their Costa Rica, Colombia and Tanzania Peaberry, each of which I sampled via drip, french press and siphon.

I started off with the Colombia, not sure exactly what to expect. The drip doled out notes of cocoa, curry, spring melon, cream, tangerine and a little wheat cake amidst a medium body. The french press gave off chocolate-covered pretzel, Flemish Red, thyme, pie crust, cream and a little cinnamon also within a medium body. The siphon was closer to the drip with cocoa, red curry, almond milk, tomato, nectarine and a little sage. All in all, a multi-faceted coffee with some great sweet and spicy notes.

The Costa Rica also proved intriguing. The drip smacked of Corn Pops, sesame bagel, Whoppers candy, fig and a touch of root beer in a thick, medium body. The french press tasted of a little different, with notes of Frosted Flakes, sesame seeds, caramel, Whoppers candy and a little cayenne pepper. The siphon was surprisingly similar to the french press, staying steady with the Frosted Flakes, sesame, and whoppers candy, though also adding cocoa and a little basil. Throughout this was a sweet, wheaty coffee with flecks of malt, dark fruit and zest.

The Tanzanian finished off the trio of coffees with a similar delicious performance. The drip held out flavors of honey, almond butter, carnitas, caramel pretzel, some grape leaves and blueberry cobbler amidst a medium/heavy body. The french press held honey, nuts, rye, blueberry Pop Tart and wheat cracker within a medium body. The siphon proved a bit on the wheaty side, with notes of croissant, sweet shredded wheat, almonds and flecks of blueberry, honey and maple syrup. In totality, a sweet coffee outfitted with sugary sweetness, a smooth nuttiness, touches of wheat and some interesting accents. 

For such low-priced beans, these coffees turned out pretty tasty. In fact, the beans were such a bargain that I can't imagine the folks at Lowest Price Coffee can afford to keep them this low for long (I mean they must have thin margins!). So if you find yourself settling for lesser coffee due to price, get your coffee at Lowest Price Coffee while you can.

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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mugged: Du Hamman and Des Moines [Le Palais des Thés]

Subject: Le Palais des Thés
Teas Mugged: The du Hammam and The Des Moines
Rating [see key]: 5+

When many folks think of French cafes, they think of small bistros where patrons sip espresso-based beverages and coffee. But the French like their tea too, and Le Palais des Thés with its numerous locations and bountiful online offerings seems to sate not only the tea lust of its countrymen, but also the appetites of other places like Israel and the US.

As a man always up for trying new things, I agreed to take for a dance two of their signature teas, The du Hammam and The Des Moines. I steeped each tea according to standard brew directives for the type of tea.

The The Des Moines is a black and green tea mixture with calendula petals and vanilla pods, making for an extremely aromatic tea. Brewed, the tea gives off expected notes of vanilla but also lavender, rose, ginger, lemon rind and a little spinach. Overall a vibrant tea with lots of sweet, floral notes.

The The du Hammam is a green tea mixed with assorted flower petals, the dry tea mixture gives off a pleasant aroma of fruit juice. Brewed the tea smacks of apricot, ginger and a little jasmine, proving refreshing and smooth.

In the end, these two teas proved to be a delicious change-up from my normal forays into different types of pure tea. If you're looking for floral, juicy tea blends, give Le Palais des Thés a browse.

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

CC: Dollop Coffee

Subject: Dollop Coffee Buena Park and Lakeview
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: Both 6+ [see key]

Rarely in my travels do I get to hit two (or more) different locations for the same shop on a single trip, but sometimes I stumble upon such luck. While walking through Chicago, I first came upon Dollop Coffee of Buena Park one sunny morning and then the next day, I found myself loitering by the Lakeview location. Both serving Metropolis Coffee, I was able to capitalize on the opportunity to try out two Dollops in one trip.

At their original Buena Park location, the run-of-the-mill brick exterior does a fair job cloaking the beautiful interior, with its swanky wood furniture and decor, gorgeous layout and warm lighting. For my libations, I ordered an espresso of the Red Line Espresso Blend and a drip of La Callandrina. The espresso, pulled short with a dark brown crema, delivered notes of bittersweet cocoa, cumin, blood orange, buttermilk and a little pepper. The drip proved equally delicious, with flavors of honey, wheat, pistachio, snickerdoodle and sesame seed amidst a medium body.

Heading south to the Lakeview location, a relatively recent shop acquisition from former Kickstand Espresso, it is a little smaller than Buena Park though it lacks none of the charm. In regards to the coffee that afternoon, I had the Red Line for the espresso and the Good Soldier blend for the drip. The espresso proved well-liked, with bits of dark chocolate, deep citrus, vanilla, cumin and malt, showing an overall dark but tasty infusion. The drip held out smatterings of challah, tomato, molasses, cucumber and nutmeg among a medium body, confirming a similarly toothsome 
filtered infusion.

With a highly-praised third spot in the Streeterville neighborhood (which I did not make it to), Dollop seems to be a great shop to visit, no matter the location. Give Dollop a dollop of your time next time you're in one the aforementioned Chicago neighborhoods.

Monday, August 05, 2013

CC: Kava Cafe [NYC]

Subject: Kava Cafe
Locations: Lower and Mid Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

UPDATE 3.13.14
Finding a NYC coffeehouse with a beautiful courtyard full of outside seating is a rare find. Sure, outside seating is only worth something half the year in the fair land of Manhattan, but every time I find such a cafe owning the novelty, I still find myself wanting to take full advantage of it (unless it's deluging, but otherwise I'm outside).

Stumbling upon once such coffee joint that not only sported a great courtyard but also slings Annapolis' Ceremony Coffee, I found some lower Manhattan gold in Kava Cafe. Located off Washington St, I trotted in from the bright morning sun inside to the mood-lit cafe that gave off a vibe of a swanky rendezvous fit for 007. The cafe doesn't have a ton of room for sitting inside (it's Manhattan) but as I mentioned, if the weather is with you there happens to be plenty of seating on their back patio.

As for my coffee that day, I had an espresso of Destroyer and a drip of a Brazil Daterra. The Destroyer, pulled short with a brown crema, sang of vanilla, lemon, whole milk, cola, a little soy sauce and a touch of kale encapsulating a well-balanced, scrumptious spro. The Brazil also proved spectacular, with notes of nuts, birch, pear, a little almond butter and a smidgen of beef stock in a medium body.

If you are in need of some great coffee and an airy respite in the Meatpacking District, head on over to Kava Cafe.

UPDATE 3.13.14

Made it out to the midtown cafe on 42nd Street recently. Same great coffee in a much more spacious and gorgeous spot, with the same vibe and a full bar.