Monday, May 29, 2006

CC: Casona

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Casona
Location visited: Collingswood, NJ
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Last week, my parents gave me a call to meet them for lunch. We defaulted to Collingswood since it was halfway between me and home, my mom suggesting a Cuban place called Casona. Not being extremely picky with types of food (as long as it's good), I opted in.

Located on Haddon Ave (west side of Collings Ave) in a refurbished, what-looks-like-a-colonial blue house with a gorgeously structured porch, Casona was a perfect pick for the warm, spring day. To cut to the chase, the food was amazing (a little pricy). The portions ranged from hearty sandwhiches to smaller entrees. Most food was served with plantain chips, which were surprisingly good.

But the reason I'm writing about it was that they had a fully-functional espresso bar (and I'm not saying they served espresso, I'm saying they had a small coffee house within the restaurant). Always hesitant of such an arrangement (quite often such espresso bars get little priority in quality), I was surprised to find it not half bad. The brand of coffee was Lazza(?), a latin-american roaster that I've never heard of (or could find on google).

As far as how they brew the coffee, they had two industrial drip, hot-plate machines, kinda like WaWa, which meant burnt coffee (tear). I tried about 3 oz. and though I could taste the effects of the plate, it was pretty good. A very full but smooth coffee. Hopefully they'll get new coffee hardware.

The tea was Republic of Tea. I didn't have the hot tea but I had an iced pomegranate green tea, which was really good (though I swore it had some kind of artificial sweetner in it). Not a cheap drink but a tasty one for those of you avoiding sweets.

As far as espresso, I can't definitively say thumbs up or down b/c I had a latte (I wasn't in the mood for something strong). The latte itself was good though it seemed a little weak. From what I could tell, the espresso wasn't half bad but I'll have to try it again another day.

Though I didn't get a chance to try anything like the hot chocolate or chai, overall Casona's side coffee bar (which operates seemingly independent from the restaurant) was great. Overall, I'd recommend a trip to Casona for lunch or brunch to try out the food (the prosciutto in the Caesar salad was unbelievable) and a cup of java after.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Vigilante Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee Justice

As many people know, this past Tuesday was DD's "FREE Iced Coffee Day," a glorious day of the distribution of one of their finer products (as weird as it is, DD makes good coffee, a topic that will recieve future attention, I'm sure...).

So anyways, it was round 9 pm. I was out with the girlfriend making a late stop on FREE Iced Coffee Day. We walked in and were promptly greeted by "no iced coffee after 9!" and they pointed to the clock which read 9:12 pm. First of all, as the official signs (pasted everywhere) read the day exteneded all the way until 11:59 pm at all 24 hr DDs. So I persisted but after gaining no ground, withdrew to formulate my new attack.

Then an older couple walks in. I didn't really pay attention to what they were saying as I was trying to figure out how to persuade the lovely DD employees they were wrong. But just as I was about to try my rhetoric again, the lady in the couple, who had left seconds before, storms back in saying "the sign says until 11:59 pm! 11:59 not 9 o clock!" She proceeded to verbally wail the stubborn DD defense (with occasional "she's right" coming from my direction) until finally the DDers gave in.

Never in all my days has FREE coffee come at such a price, but in retrospect, I'm glad that lady was there or else I might not have got my evening brew :).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

CC: Cosi

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Cosi
Location visited: Philadelphia, PA (15th and Locust)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 1+ [see key]

Yet another example of a corporate giant (trying) to take over Philly. I've had several java experiences at Cosi (even before when they were XandOs) and every time, it's either uber weak or charcoaled-disgustingness. Recently, I stopped in around 10:30 pm with some friends (nothing else was really open) and I was really hoping for a good cup of evening java. Not wanting to chance getting charred coffee, I went for a latte. Served up in a soup bowl of a 20 oz. mug, it tasted like hot milk with some coffee residue. After inquiring our server, I find out that they only add two shots of espresso to a 20 oz latte! For you chocolate milk fans, that's the equivalent of tan-colored milk. Bleh.

The tea, well, according to their website, they don't even have tea. They do have chai, but I never tried it. Can't say I'd want to get a chai at a place that has no hot tea options (just doesn't feel right).

But Cosi's redeeming quality is that they have good sandwhiches and smores (though very pricy). Overall, I would only recommend the joint to someone looking for an overpriced sandwhich or someone with a craving for smores.

Definately not worth it for the coffee or espresso (and I'm guessing the same goes for chai). Especially in Philly, there are much better places to spend your $.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

CC: Treehouse Coffee Shop


What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Treehouse Coffee Shop
Location visited: Audubon, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Update 5/29/09

This coffee locale has been on my radar for some years now, as my first experience with it was over five years ago (it had different owners then). Back then I was less interested in coffee and more interested in entertainment; fun things to do on a Friday and Saturday night that didn't involve getting plastered. Treehouse was and still is today a good place for their open mics and live performances of different kinds. Over the years, I've seen a good share of interesting acts there, one that I oddly remember was a local artist named Sara O'Brien.

On to the coffee, I can't say that I'm excited or disappointed. The coffee is La Colombe, which is a local Philly-roaster, and I share in the sentiment that it's reeeeally overhyped. If you go over to Philly, every stinking coffee establishment with few exceptions brews it. I can't say that I've ever had an amazing cup. Back to Treehouse, they only offer 1 blend of regular coffee (they call it house blend) as well as several flavored choices. Overall, I'd say the coffee is decent.

Going to tea, I was a little stunned. They had Republic of Tea, an always welcome favorite, but they had every variety that I've ever seen. Good news for the tea-sipper.

The epresso was also La Colombe and wasn't too bad. I recently had an americano which was pretty good, so I give it a similar review to the coffee. On the other hand, I did have a latte there once that was truly poor but I give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it was just a bad day for them.

In conclusion, I definately recommend Treehouse, more for the stellar atmosphere and the entertainment but also for the coffee and tea. Plus, since it's located in up-and-coming Collingswood, there's a good deal of small boutiques and resturaunts to check out.

Update of 2/8/07

They switched their brand of coffee to Crescent Moon Coffee Roasters, as well as added several other positive upgrades.

Update of 12/31/07
The Treehouse is for sale!

Update of 8/13/08
The Treehouse has moved from Collingswood to Audubon. The information has changed above and on the map to reflect it. Next time I'm in the area, I hope to stop by to see what the new digs are like and if anything has changed menu-wise.

Update 5/29/09
In going back through my posts, I noticed I never commented on the updated menu. The coffee is still Crescent Moon and the drip often displays a tremendous cup. The espresso is pulled fairly short and as of my last visit, the shots had a good mouthfeel with nice tones of bittersweet chocolate.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More Charbucks-Initiated Misery

I don't really like paying one company a lot of attention (especially negative) but this article really packs a punch. A bit long, but sooooo worth the read.

Coke lattes?

Found this article in my late night web browsing. Coke's attempting to launch a Starbucks knock-off. I can't say I'm surprised but I just wish the day had not come so soon.
Those of you in Toronto, be wary.

Monday, May 15, 2006

CC: Corvoca Coffee

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Corvoca Coffee
Location visited: Deptford, NJ
Free Wifi: no
3+ [see key]

*Updated 5/29/09

Another exotic treat to the South Jersey area: a drive-thru coffee bar. This place I was introduced to by a friend, though I didn't believe him at first. I've heard of drive-thru espresso before but never in our region.

So my friend guides me there (it was a little off my beaten path), to Cooper St in Deptford, next to the Burger King and down the road from the Deptford mall. I had to admit that the grab-and-go aspect is nice, especially since this place is kind-of on the way to my parents as well as down the street from my girlfriend's.

Having spoken with the owner a bit, he seems to know his stuff. Though the drive-thru feature makes it hard to get to really know employees, they mostly seem to know what they're doing. The espresso beverage quality is decent, though I have an espresso-wise friend who doesn't really care for their espresso (you'll have to be the judge). Oddly, I've never had their coffee (a phenomenon I'm not sure I can explain) so I can't really comment on it and the tea is Tazo (a good choice).

Overall, I would recommend the place if you're ever near Deptford (though you might need to get directions from the website). It's quick, convenient (pretty broad hours though no late-nights), and the quality seems to be a priority. In an area oddly lacking decent coffee houses (one recently closed down near by), Corvoca is a welcome sight.

Updated 5/29/09

This update is part of my going back through and updating many of my earlier posts that have not the same criteria that I currently look for. Corvoca overall has a leaning towards a dark coffee that proves bitter more often than flavorful. The espresso has been in my experience long shots and over-pulled. I will probably update this again soon as I have not been in some time.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

CC: Crescent Moon Coffee & Tea

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Crescent Moon Coffee and Tea
Location visited: Mullica Hill
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Updated 11/14/17 (at bottom)

It's very rare to see a gem like Crescent Moon in the Philadelphia area. This coffee house I ran across about a year ago and ever since I've been in love.

One good sign of a promising coffee house is the vision behind it. Not only members of the SCAA and various coffee/espresso task groups, they eat, sleep, and breathe quality in coffee and tea. From what I've seen, the employees have been extensively trained in many aspects of coffee and tea, especially in coffee roasting and quality espresso preparation.

The owners encourage their employees to be the best of the best in the business and will do what it takes to get them there. As a result they have some of the most dedicated employees. Not only did one of their baristas win the Mid-Atlantic Barista Championships (with another placing in the top eight) but they also have employees specializing in roasting and making a life-long career out of it.

As far as the coffee goes, I dare say it's unmatched. The emphasis on quality, variety, and consistency amazes me.

The espresso also hits the spot superbly. The espresso blend holds such a full body, the baristas know how to pull a perfect shot, and the drinks are created well.

For cocoa fans, I highly reccomend the hot chocolate (made from blocks of imported Ecuadorian cocoa).

The tea is Republic of Tea, nothing too original or off-the-charts but usually proves to be a good cup.

A final area of commendation is the attention to socially responsible commerce (such as fair trade, relationship coffees, etc.) but not at the expense of quality. Most organics or fair trades I have tried have come out stale or bitter (of course it's rarely the farm's fault, more the roaster or the coffeehouse) but all the organics and fair trades I've had at CM taste no different then the others.

Overall, I can easily expound CM exceeds most coffeehouses. This kind of quality isn't found much in the Philadelphia area and as it can be seen in local media and coffee circles, this place is going places. If you haven't stopped by, make sure to do so.

Update 11/26/07
Over the past couple of years, Crescent Moon have seemingly undergone a lot of changes. It seems they've taken a step back from barista competition and has sought instead to go wholesale with their beans. Now you can get their coffee in most NJ and Philly Whole Foods locations.

As far as the coffeehouse goes, seems like everything is still pretty superb in quality.

Update 5/29/09

To further streamline all of my earlier posts to match my current criteria of a review, I would like to elaborate on my many experiences with Crescent Moon. The coffee has routinely knocked my socks off, as their consistent roasting excellence always impresses me. My current favorite is the Raccoon Creek (wonderfully bright and sweet) and the Guatemalan Chajul (nice spicy, chocolate flavors). The espresso has maintained a decent quality through the years, as the Breakneck proves to often have a rounded bittersweet taste with a nice hang on in the aftertaste.

Update 5/18/11
Added long overdue second location in Sewell to map and this review. Same great products in a little smaller of a store.

Update 11/14/17
A long overdue update. The Sewell location is out of the picture, but Mullica Hill is still going strong. Much of the coffee now swings to the darker roast level of medium, with no real light roasts to speak of anymore. Nonetheless, they do a fairly bang-up job of delivering good coffee to the masses. Still worth a stop!