Thursday, December 05, 2013
Subject: Tweed Coffee
Coffee Mugged: Guatemala Mirador Finca La Bolsa and Kenya Chania Estate
Rating [see key]: Guatemala 4+ and Kenya 5+
One of the great facets of the current coffee world is the many choices one has in coffee roasters. Gone are the days where you had a few choices as to where one obtained good beans; now, like wine and other beverages, quality variety has become extensive.
Many of the new faces in roasting have come from the expansion of coffeehouses into microroasters. It almost seems to be an inevitable progression, that if a shop excels at slinging spectacular coffee, eventually the siren call of roasting will be but too strong to resist. One of the more recent to take up the mantle of roasting is Tweed Coffee Roasters, the relatively new roasting operation calved from Houndstooth Coffee of Texas fame. I was fortunate enough to receive a package from them some weeks ago with two coffees to try out: their Kenya Chania Estate, a dry processed coffee from the area of Thika, and their Mirador Finca La Bolsa from Guatemala. Each I sampled via pourover, french press and siphon.
Starting with the Kenya pourover, the coffee demonstrated a medium-bodied brew of fuji apple, sea salt, unsweetened cocoa, rosemary, chicken broth and a bit of black tea. The french press proved less salty and richer in flavor, with strong notes of apple juice, pie crust, vanilla, white chocolate and snap peas. The siphon drew out salty caramel, fuji apple, white chocolate, snap peas and some malt. All together, a rich coffee with lots of sweet and sumptuous flavors, only proving just a tad salty.
The Guatemalan proved a touch heavier and heartier. The pourover doled out notes of berries, croissant, chorizo, apple cider, whole milk and cinnamon. The french press held croissant, apple cider, whole milk, wheat and a touch of cinnamon, all together proving lighter and sweeter but still a little spicy. The siphon proved the deepest, with notes of raisin, apple, cola, cream and nutmeg within a medium body. A sweet and deep coffee with some nice flavors and noticeable spice.
Thus Tweed arrives on the scene with some great beans and many years to further hone their craft. Check out their website to order a bag or if you happen to be in Texas, swing by one their Houndstooth affiliates.
note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Subject: OQ Coffee
Location: Highland Park, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]
In my younger days, I used to have some friends in New Brunswick attending school at Rutgers. During visits to their abodes, we would go out and feast at the grease trucks then walk about campus. Sadly, in that day, no coffee establishments worth frequenting existed, so coffee was never a source of excitement during my visits.
But now the New Brunswick area much like a lot of the central NJ area is starting to spurt out some decent establishments. One gem that has been a long time in the works is a local roaster that in the past year finally opened their own cafe, a fine establishment called OQ Coffee. Located across the river in Highland Park, OQ has a cozy shop and roastery off the main drag of Raritan Avenue/Route 27. In the area one dreary afternoon, I made a stop by their skylighted lofted space for a cup of coffee and espresso.
The espresso was their Espresso Archimedes and the coffee a pourover of an Ethiopian. The espresso, pulled short with marble brown crema, expressed raspberry, pink lemonade, some yogurt and a little basil; all around a bright and delicious spro. The Ethiopian sang of cocoa, blueberry, sweet corn, rye bread, roasted peanut and beef broth, a hearty and succulent brew.
Thus, especially compared to my former years in the area, OQ Coffee provides a beacon of gloriously great coffee in an area typically overrun with chains and sludge. Whether you're shopping nearby or you're attending classes at Rutgers, drop by OQ Coffee for some quality beverages.
Monday, November 25, 2013
It's hard to believe that the disposable coffee lid only traces its roots back to the 1970's. Granted that for many coffee drinkers (including myself), that's all we've known: the American culture where coffee is something you usually drink while traveling. And if you think the history of the disposable lid is probably boring, you are wrong; check out this fascinating Smithsonian blog article on the history of coffee lid patents.
The overarching theme of the lid evolution is that as time marches on, so do improvements to the lid's concept. Currently, the newest to challenge the current Solo Cup Lid (aka reigning lid king) is the Geo Lid, a plastic lid that takes a bit of a different approach to the to-go experience. Instead of a single nipple-like spout, it has little vents all around the perimeter of the cup, allowing for the consumer to drink from whatever side of the cup they so fancy. The additional holes also allow for a more natural drinking process as well as a simpler exchange of air in the drinking process, meaning less explosions when sipping and jostling.
Curious if the hype would hold up to a road test, the Geo Lid-ites sent out a prototype and I took it out and about with me. While I have honed my forearm muscles over the years to walk vigorously and keep a full uncovered mug of coffee full, I let the cup jostle freely and was pleased to find little spilled with the Geo Lid. Plus, with the vents going all around the cup, drinking is indeed more fluid and involves a lot less subtle investigative sucking (aka that initial sip where you're not sure that it's cool enough to drink, so you go real slow and despite your caution, it's lava hot and you're tongue tip is scorched useless). But on the flipside, for someone use to the spout, I found myself encountering a chin dribble occasionally.
To wrap it up simply, the Geo Lid allowed for safer transport and a more natural drinking experience (aka less like sucking a bottle and more like drinking from a big boy cup). I have no idea when the Geo Lid will hit the streets, but keep an eye out for it.
note: lid and cups were provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Making espresso at home is a topic of great depth and complexity for folks who take their espresso seriously. Aside from the need for a quality burr grinder with the ability to make finite adjustment to particle size, the question that plagues most at one point or another is what machine to buy. You can easily drop thousands of dollars on a machine, and many folks don't drink spro enough to warrant such a meaty purchase. Thus for the espresso-phile of yore, if you weren't willing to invest the coin into a quality set-up, than you were usually ok either relying on your local coffeehouse (if you're fortunate to be near one) or putting more faith into your pourover.
But the past couple of years saw the advent of manual espresso machines that used simple physics to create the necessary pressure to extract espresso. Everyone knows of the Aeropress, and for all of it's wonderful aspects, the effort needed to create 130 psi in pressing down the plunger is quite herculean and somewhat risky, given that you're pressing that pressure additionally onto a ceramic mug. The other manual, non-electric machine out there is the Rok (formerly Presso) Espresso Machine. It's dual-levered construction allows for the necessary 9 bars of pressure, though all of that depends on how you use it. This video below is from the designer of the Rok, and aside from the recommendation to get your coffee pre-ground (c'mon folks, just shell out for a good grinder), it gives a decent overview on how to utilize it:
Recently, the fine people of Whole Latte Love sent me out a Rok to take for a spin and here's what I found. Overall, since the machine depends greatly on coffee grind size, water temperature and user skill, it's a machine that will take some practice. Aside from the wisdom in the video above, some quality tips I found were to:
- Keep it hot. To keep the portafilter and the water chamber heated to aid in better extraction, I had the portafilter resting in a saucepan of simmering water (do at your own risk; the handle is plastic so if you forget it there, you may need a new one) and by running off-boil water through the system prior to the first infusion.
- Use fresh, quality coffee. This is obvious, but it needs to be said as some folks will tell you that you can get great shots from a giant barrel of preground darker-than-charcoal espresso blend. Buy good beans.
- Get the fine grind right. You will need to tinker with this, and hence this is one of many reasons why you should have a quality burr grinder (the folks at Baratza make very affordable ones but check out the CoffeeGeek reviews if you want to see a larger breadth). As any barista will tell you, the process of dialing in will take time and practice, especially if you're new to the game.
- Don't be afraid to press down. The machine is greatly dependent on technique and hence, you determine the pressure per square inch. And while accidents are always possible no matter how unlikely, the Rok's construction makes it pretty hard to hurt yourself.
- Buy a tamper. The machine comes with plastic scoop/tamper but you really would do well to purchase a tamper; it will tamp better and look a lot cooler.
Thus, I found the Rok to be a great tool for making espresso. It's got a 10 year warranty and with it's simple construction, it's easy to maintain. The folks at Whole Latte Love have a great deal going on that includes a tamper and free shipping, so for $199 it's one of the best deals in the world of home espresso.
note: Rok was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I usually stay away from blogging on baked goods, as they usually have no real relation to coffee or tea aside from being deliciously scrumptious (and oh how there are many to sing of). But recently I was pleased to make the acquaintance of Rip Van Wafels, a delectable little waffle that you put over top your coffee whilst it becomes cool enough to safely enjoy (a delicious Dutch tradition that also makes a good bit of sense). As the coffee cools the waffle becomes warm and gooey, a gorgeous example of symbiosis and a great testament to patience.
I had the chance to try a few out at a few of Rip's wafels recently and all glorious suspicions were confirmed. The waffle was delicious in flavor, like a warm, caramel pastry that slightly resembled an oatmeal cookie, and the warming process provided a fun little routine.
If you seek a great pastry to simultaneously enjoy with your hot beverages, try out Rip Van Wafels.
note: waffles were provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.