Friday, January 31, 2014

CC: Harvest Coffee Roastery

Subject: Harvest Coffee Roastery
Location: Medford, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Route 70 runs like a meandering asphalt creek across the great state of New Jersey, connecting Cherry Hill in the west with Manasquan on the coast. Sadly, for such a long road there are few worthwhile coffee stops along its entire stretch, leaving the weary traveler often bereft of delicious options.

But improvement is on the rise; recently in the past year, Harvest Coffee Roastery opened its doors in the old town of Medford. A small batch father-and-son operation, they opened a small shop to  not only peddle their beans but also to give the area a local coffee watering hole. Stopping by one gorgeous afternoon, I found their Bank St shop with a quaint rustic shop, with lots of wood and a peppering of tables in the cozy space.

As for coffee, I got a drip of their Brazil Cerrado and an espresso of their Espresso Blend. The espresso, pulled to medium/long volume with light brown crema, smacked of unsweetened cocoa, milk, poppy seed, slight pound cake and a tinge of lemon towards the last few sips; a fair infusion, with a smattering of pleasant notes surrounded by a noticeable astringency. The Brazil proved a much better beverage, singing of honey, biscuits, cracked wheat, apple, caramel and dry red wine, opening up substantially as it cooled into a smooth, flavorful coffee. 

As a blossoming microroaster, Harvest Coffee Roasters definitely has some skill in the manipulation of coffee. With some growth in the espresso area, this coffeehouse could easily be the crown jewel of Route 70. If you're traversing through Medford, definitely make a pop in.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Aces and Ates Coffee Stout

When the average Homo Sapien thinks of the predominant flavor in coffee, most would say “bitter.” A mournful vestige of the commonality of dark roasts, it’s the single facet of coffee that most coffee geeks would gladly see forgotten. And while many battle the bitter stigma with the news of coffee’s great flavors, there still remains strongholds, especially in other culinary venues.

One particular arena with a strong love affair of coffee’s bitterness is the beer world, particularly in the coffee stout. Over the years, I’ve had many tasty coffee-flavored beers, but most breweries only seem to include coffee to add a bite to their dark ales. Thankfully, brewers are discovering the other qualities of coffee that can add metaphorical jazz hands to their beer.

Take Big Boss Brewing Company out of Raleigh, NC and their Aces and Ates Coffee Stout. Utilizing a specific cold brew concoction of Larry’s Beans, which became the Aces and Ates Blend, they strive to make a beer that couples the complexity of great coffee with the wondrous attributes of a stout.

Recently, Big Boss and Larry sent me out a few bottles of the coffee stout and a bag of the coffee to take around the block. Naturally I tried the coffee first, as it stands the beverage I feel most experienced in assessing. Through several brews, the coffee consistently doled out notes of deep cocoa, cola, oats, a bit of cherry, slight pepper and tobacco, fig and corn chip within a medium body; a sweet coffee with a deep and slightly peppery notes. 

Comparably, the stout was pretty similar. A black brew with minimal head, the beer resounded notes of chocolate, fig, roast beef and caramel with a slight bitter, hoppy back end. Thick and sweet, this was definitely a full-bodied beer with lots of flavor, greatly utilized as a stand alone beverage or as a dessert beer.

Thus, if you happen to be on the lookout for a coffee beer that offers more than a bitter kick, check out Big Boss Brewing Company and their Aces and Ates Coffee Stout.

Monday, January 20, 2014

CC: Cafe Moka

Subject: Cafe Moka
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Some years ago, I had planned a trip to Virginia Beach and began to seek out coffee, only to find little in the vicinity. For other logistical reasons, the trip didn't end up working out and I lost little sleep knowing I had not missed out on great coffee stops.

Then just recently, the trip resurfaced and this time, I had a little more fortune in finding a coffeehouse worth visiting. Of my suspects, one of the few that showed the greater potential was a place called Cafe Moka. Located in a strip mall of sorts with large reflective windows, Cafe Moka had a lot of tell-tale signs of quality. A quick visual scan upon first entering confirmed a lot of hunches, chief of them being a menu that offers various brew options including chemex, aeropress and siphon. To boot, the interior was well-designed, with an airy, tranquil decor of white, brown, orange and brick, all of which surrounded the long wooden floor that cradled the numerous patrons buzzing away at their tables.

Ready to put rubber and road together, I went to secure my coffee. Sadly, they don't publicize who roasts their coffee (poor guy/girl), stating it comes from a private roaster. After some banter on which method and which coffee they recommended, I decided upon an espresso of their espresso blend and a Chemex of their Kenya. The espresso, a medium-volume pull with brown crema served in a glass tumbler, gave off notes of wheat thin, dark cocoa, chianti, light cream and pepper, proving to be a dry concoction, with slight bitter notes and a mellow sweetness (aka pretty good). The Kenyan inversely proved a lot brighter and refreshing, with hefeweizen, fuji apple, caramel popcorn, sea salt and a touch of roast chicken amidst a light body, making for a delicious punch of fruit and wheat.

All together, Cafe Moka proved to be a great stop. Sure my espresso was a touch darker than I would have liked and I find secret roasters a pet peeve (I like to know who I am drinking), but both were negligible in the fact that the place boasted some skill, some quality brew and a really nice space to unwind or work. If you happen to be in Virginia Beach, definitely give Cafe Moka a stop.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mugged: Breakfast Blend, El Salvador Cafe La Reina, Mills 1860 Blend [Queen Bean]

Subject: The Queen Bean Coffee Emporium
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
  - Organic Breakfast Blend 4+
  - El Salvador Cafe La Reina 3+
  - Mills 1860 Blend  3+

Not many companies, never mind families, can claim a 1.5 century legacy of working with coffee. But the Mills family of the Mills Coffee Roasting Company and the Queen Bean Coffee Emporium (their online retail arm) can. Hailing originally from lovely Providence, they recently sent out three coffees to my home lab, each I took to task via pourover, french press or Impress, and siphon.

The first coffee up to bat was their Organic Breakfast Blend. Utilizing three different coffees from Central and South America, the blend is roasted to a Full City Roast. Via pourover, it conveyed malt balls, red bell pepper, vanilla, seltzer, spinach and saltines within a medium-deep body. The french press proved less heavy and slightly different in profile, with notes of corn chip, raspberry, asparagus, almond, light olive oil and biscuit. The siphon proved consistent with the french press, with notes of gala apple, corn chip, caramel, almond and cream, amidst a smooth and medium body. While the pourover seemed a bit out of line with the other two (a possible "mis-brew"), the coffee overall proved smooth, sumptuous and slightly complex in flavors.

The El Salvador Cafe La Reina, a coffee grown in the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range near the Guatemalan border, was the second one up to cup. The pourover poured out salty pretzel, honey, oats, basil, rye, slight lemon zest and a bit of apple in a medium body with a slight grassy aftertaste. The Impress similarly smacked of salty pretzel, oats, lemon zest, apple, dates and rye, all within a slightly deeper body. The siphon held steady with pretzel, apple, rum raisin, tomato, a bit of tobacco and malt, measuring smooth, deep and heavy. All in all, a coffee with a lot of positives with the sweet and bright aspects, but the strong salty quality up front and an off-note or two on the back end left me a little ambivalent.

The final coffee, their Mills 1860 Blend, was last in the order of ingestion. The pourover fiddled out notes of birch, Tootsie Roll, spinach, lemon zest and a touch of malt. The Impress similarly held Tootsie Roll, spinach, birch, tobacco and seltzer, having a slightly smoky and bitter manner to the usual bright and deep notes. The siphon concluded with Tootsie Roll, spinach, sourdough, apple, birch and sunflower oil in a medium body. In totality, a coffee that proved sweet and bright up front, yet leguminous and heavy thereafter.

Thus, the Breakfast Blend left a fond impression with the other two faring slightly behind in my favor. Needless to say, these are but three of the many coffees that Queen Bean offers, so check out their wares and choose accordingly; you'll be supporting a coffee legacy dating back to when Abraham Lincoln walked the Earth.

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

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mugged: Deep Red, Ethiopia and Guatemala [Booskerdoo]

Subject: Booskerdoo Fresh Roasted Coffee Co.
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
  - Deep Red Bells 5+
  - Guatemala Huehuetenango Rainforest Alliance Cert. 4+
  - Ethiopia Sidamo Peaberry (City Roast) 3+

For a state that borders two major metropolitan areas, NJ finally seems to be capitalizing on the large swaths of thirsty coffee drinkers meandering its roads and alleys. I've seen several new roasting faces pop up in the past year (some upcoming posts on some of them) but also current companies continuing to grow their reach.

Booskerdoo of Monmouth Beach is one roaster that seems to be evermore on my radar. Recently, I had the pleasure of trying out three NJ-roasted coffees from Booskerdoo Fresh Roasted Coffee Co in my home lab: their Deep Red Bells blend, Guatemala Huehuetenango and Ethiopian Sidamo Peaberry. Except for the Guatemala for which my vacuum pot malfunctioned and went down for over a week, I sampled each coffee via pourover, french press and siphon.

The Deep Red Bells blend is a seasonal coffee that consists of two different roasts of an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Worka Coop Unwashed Organic blended together, a method I usually don't see pulled off well, but Deep Red Bells proved the exception. Via drip, it displayed blueberry cobbler, nougat, rosemary and limeade bubblegum, proving bright and juicy with nice sultry notes of cocoa. The french press smacked of blueberry, semisweet chocolate chips, hibiscus, almond croissant, slight vanilla cookie, rosemary and a touch of sour cream in a light/medium body; a multifaceted and bejeweled coffee. The siphon serenaded me with blueberry, nougat, apple juice, rosemary and cream, making for a smooth and silky coffee full of juicy and succulent flavors.

Next up was the Guatemala, a Rainforest Alliance coffee marketed as nutty and rich coffee. The pourover tasted of molasses, pecan pie, ginger snap, pear, skim milk and pizza crust within a medium body. The french press leaned more towards plum, sarsaparilla, sweet potato, blue corn chips and dandelion greens in a malty, medium body with a cake-ish sweetness. While I found the coffee sweet and a touch nutty, their were a few heavier flavors that kind of weighed the coffee down. 

The Ethiopian, last up, made for a mildly intriguing cup. The pourover held white toast, merlot, a pinch of pepper and slight cocoa in a medium body. The french press drummed out blueberry, merlot, pepper, cloves, brisket, med body and smoother and bright with a nice complexity. The siphon detected notes of blueberry, rye, cloves, lemon pepper, brisket and red pepper within med body. For an Ethiopian coffee, the beans had some bright and pleasant facets, but all were a bit overshadowed by a spicy body and a flat, slightly astringent aftertaste

In a short synopsis, I would definitely order two out of the three coffees again (the Ethiopian Peaberry was not my favorite). If you seek some beans, take a gander over to the Booskerdoo, whether you live near Monmouth Beach or you just seek its local flavor.

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

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

CC: Bowery Coffee

Subject: Bowery Coffee
Location: Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Wandering the streets of Manhattan, I had a good, strong craving for some smoked fish and hence, I mapped out a straight line to get to the esteemed Russ and Daughters on Houston St. And sure enough, after waiting amongst the throng to get some various tid bits of high-end lox, I was able to feast like a Nordic fisherman. But soon after completing my meal, my appetite sought a bit of a palate cleanser (fish does not linger well) and then, some great coffee.

Fortunately not far away sits Bowery Coffee, a local coffee establishment that is among the few five borough shops to roast their own beans, operating under the roaster name American Bulldog Coffee Roasters. I arrived at their brick shop to find a cozy spot, with wood slatted walls and classy white tables, complete with chipper baristas. I ordered an espresso of their Yemen and a drip of their Burundi. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, rustled up some lemon, chocolate nibs, salt, cream, Chianti and granulated sugar, making a syrupy pull with a slight tart punch. The drip yodeled out caramel, buttered corn muffin, snap peas and light blackberry amidst a medium body, proving thick and succulent.

The only thing I could think of suggesting as an improvement would be adding smoked fish to the menu, but then again, maybe that would be too much of a good thing. Nonetheless, head over to Houston St for some great beans at Bowery Coffee.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Mugged: La Flor del Cafe [Rostov's]

Subject: Rostov's Coffee and Tea
Coffee Mugged: La Flor del Cafe
Rating [see key]: 4+

It's funny that the city of Richmond has stayed off my radar for so long, and yet the place keeps coming up as of late. The most recent interaction of note was that I received some coffee from an outfit I was unable to visit on my recent trip to Richmond, a seasoned coffee roaster (since '79) of the great state of Virginia called Rostov's Coffee and Tea. The coffee sent was their La Flor del Cafe, a sun-dried Guatemalan coffee from the Antigua area, a coffee I sampled via pourover, french press and siphon.

The pourover whispered out notes of chocolate, honey on toast, basil, vanilla cream and a touch of ham; within a medium body, the coffee proved sweet and full.

The french press held out chocolate, rye toast, milk, some nutmeg and a slight beef broth. Though less sweet than the pourover, still a solid infusion.

The siphon, last and sweet, demonstrated bits of chocolate, milk, nutmeg, toast and lemon pepper. A sweet and pleasant coffee with a minor pretzel flavor on the back end.

Thus next time I'm in Richmond, I shall have to drop by Rostov's for a run of their wares on home turf. In the interim, if ye seek a sweet coffee with a soft array of hearty and spicy notes, give the La Flor del Cafe of Rostov's a go.

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