Monday, September 29, 2008

CC: Mugs Coffee House

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Mugs Coffee House
Location visited: Swedesboro, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

ew Jersey definitely holds a lot of people, as it is the most densely populated state in the union. And yet, if someone were to blindfold you and haul you to certain remote places in NJ, you would swear someone kidnapped you and took you across state lines (on a side note, always obtain consent from a person before blindfolding and carting them anywhere).

But dense or not dense, one thing is consistent with my home state; the signage and locations of things can be downright absurd. For example, I was recently driving around looking for a small coffeehouse in a small town called Swedesboro, and not only did Google map plot the address way outside of town but I drove through the town of Swedesboro twice and did not see one single sign announcing its existence. And I'm a native (I can't imagine the stress for someone from afar...)!

Anyways, I did finally find the coffeehouse above, a little place called Mugs Coffee House. A recent sprout on the coffee scene, it resides in a converted house on the main stretch of town. The exterior boasts a sharp-looking front porch complete with several tables and chairs. Walking in, you enter a long foyer that leads to the counter in the back of the house. The dining area to the right holds a series of comfy-looking chairs (though the color scheme of purple, orange and green has never hit me as pretty) as well as traditional table seating.

The coffee comes from Jersey Shore Coffee Roasters, a distant North Jersey coffee roaster that I don't think I've had before. The coffee served twas a Costa Rican that left me indifferent; a nice sweet note in the front followed immediately by a burnt blandness that made my tongue despair. The espresso had a twinge of potential, as it had a nice fruity acidity, but the shot was overall empty and flat (I didn't see the shots pulled, but my guess was a bad pull and possibly a mediocre espresso blend). The tea was Harney and Sons and they serve a full menu.

While I would say that Mugs would benefit from better coffee practices and/or better coffee (can't say I was thrilled with Jersey Shore), overall it seems the place provides a good hangout for locals and decent fare for the hungry. Thus, if you happen to be going through the town, give the coffeehouse a whirl; hopefully, you'll have better luck with signs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CC: Funk N Waffles

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Funk N Waffles
Location visited: Syracuse, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

*Updated 9/27/09*

Some words you rarely see together but when they combine, they sound kinda good. Chocolate and sonata, anarchy and shutterbugs, or even fruit and fireworks (this last one I personally enjoy). Similarly, it wasn't until I ran across a small wafflerie near Syracuse University that I first heard the words 'funk' and 'waffles' in the same breath.

As the waffle and coffee trend seems to be on the rise, I was curious to see how the musical stylings of funk played into the equation of Funk N Waffles. The wafflerie stands in what appears to be a back alley called Campus Plaza between Marshall St. and Adams St. Walking in, you must first head down a treacherous set of steps in order to access the underground lair of Funk N Waffles. The shop opens up into an eclectic venue with various types of furniture and eyebrow-raising art along the walls, with the stage off to the back for when they have performances (which is frequently).

The coffee hails from Ancora Coffee Roasters, a Wisconsin coffee company new to my ears. The coffee brewed usually is the House Blend, which comes off with a slight bit of char and not too much flavor (seems to be a bean problem). The espresso is also not so hot despite baristas who seem to know what they're doing. The espresso usually tastes strongly of bitter oils, albeit slightly sweet with a nice hang (also a bean issue?). The tea is free leaf and from the looks of the menu, the waffles look amazing.

Granted the coffee aspects of Funk N Waffles seems like they could improve a bit (maybe change coffee roasters), but the business seems to be a thriving hangout and
music scene for student and local alike. Thus, if you happen to be in Syracuse and looking for either a place to groove to some local tune-age or a good place to grab a waffle and fair cup of coffee, head to Funk N Waffles.

*Update 11/22/08

Funk N Waffles recently swapped over to Equal Exchange. A depressing move in the wrong direction (can't say that Equal Exchange coffee has ever been anything but over-roasted). Maybe they'll change again soon?

*Update 9/27/09

They upgraded this past summer, this time to Gimme Coffee. The espresso has definitely improved a little bit due to the change in bean but it given use of good beans, the shots could still use some refinement. And while the drip is also Gimme, it seems to be very much the darker Gimme Coffees which I can't say I care for.

So, improvement with the coffee roaster but I assume that they're still adjusting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Comical Corporate Coffee Conspiracies

Got an email from the author of
National Darkroast Day, what seems to be a humorous novel about a giant coffee company bent on a sinister plot (so unrealistic :) ). The synopsis shows what could be an interesting read.

If you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

CC: High Point Cafe

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: High Point Cafe
Location visited: Philadelphia, PA
(602 Carpenter Ln)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

hiladelphia's Fairmount Park system is one that I feel gets a lot of bad rap. Sure some of the park areas don't seem too safe after the sun sinks below the horizon, but almost all parks have an element of danger after dark (especially when the park is the only open space in a large urban environment). But given a nice sunny day and agreeable companions, a trot through most parts of Fairmount Park can prove enjoyable.

One recent weekend, a couple of friends and I planned part of our fun day around Fairmount Park off Lincoln Drive. We had a nice picnic lunch and even a brisk walk through some woods (though some of my compatriots were not big on a sporadic hike due to the staunch heat). All in all, a pleasant time.

But after a bit of time outside amidst the natural, we decided to go seek out some coffee at a little known (at least to me) place called the High Point Cafe in the Mt. Airy region off Lincoln Drive. The coffeehouse sits amidst a cute little downtown complete with a co-op, bookstore, and environmental design shop. The tiny exterior of High Point stands welcoming with its red and green colors, decent outside seating, and overall clean design. Within the venue, the coffeehouse looks long with a fair amount of seating towards the front but mostly room for the line where the counter imposes. The animal art on the wall and the calm decor of orange and turquoise breathed a relaxing yet industrious environment.

The coffee comes mostly from True North, a coffee roaster out of Seattle, though they also serve a few Equal Exchange coffees (bleh). That day, I had a 3 bean robusta (True North) that tasted a bit dark but also had hints of caramel and a nice acidity; overall, a decent coffee. The espresso seemed to be a strength, as the barista definitely knew her coffee and definitely pulled a decent doubleshot, with nice crema and a bright chocolaty sweetness. The teas were free leaf and they also had a very alluring menu.

After sitting for a while, my friends and I headed out to play some chip and putt, but before we left one of my buddies mentioned that High Point was a good choice for the coffee stop. I have to say I agree (though I think if they tried a little harder, they could really reach their high point). If you're in the area, make sure to drop in.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

CC: Burlap and Bean Coffee


What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Burlap and Bean Coffee
Location visited:
Newton Square, PA

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

eriods of extensive work almost always go hand-in-hand with lots of good coffee but there are a few occasions (such as in this past month) where I have so much to do that getting out to get some good coffee becomes a challenge.

So after going about a week without a stellar cup of coffee, I made sure to make a couple stops that included a visit to a long-time favorite Crescent Moon Coffee as well as to a new place west of Philadelphia called Burlap and Bean Coffee.

Burlap and Bean has been a coffeehouse that I have heard bits and pieces of praise of over the past few months. Word was that they knew what they were doing with roasting and that they've caught the attention of some credible people, but overall I had nothing conclusive. So when I drove into their small strip mall after dinner one evening, the bustling droves of people outside of their big storefront windows proved a welcome sight. Walking in, the inside proved packed and beautifully decorated; gorgeous wood furniture, art mounted on burlap, and a nice color scheme all demonstrated an aesthetically pleasing location to sip some coffee.

The coffee is roasted in-house, varying in single origins and blends. I sampled their house blend, which surprisingly blew me away as usually house blends prove normal, but this one had a hopsy fruity mellow flavor that really made me smile. The espresso emanated a floral sweetness and a nice tang, and all in all definitely appeared to be pulled by trained hands. The tea was Republic of Tea.

In the end, Burlap and Bean left me a chipper man. Not only was I able to make stops at two good coffee establishments (Crescent Moon was pleasant as usual) but now when I'm in Upper Darby or along I-476 I have a good spot to stop at (probably sooner then later). If you are in the area, make sure to give Burlap and Bean Coffee a go.