Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mugged: PT's Coffee [Ethiopia Lima - Gomma]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: PT's Coffee
Coffee Mugged: Ethiopia Lima - Gomma
Rating: 5+ [see key]

trong credible publicity is all to hard to come by but when you get it, it really makes a difference. Take central US coffee roaster PT's Coffee; for a year or two now I've been dying to try their coffee and I can't say I really know why (some would say that good publicity has that exact effect).

Regardless, I was elated when newly launched Coffee Roasters Club sent me a pound of PT's Ethiopia Lima - Gomma (as well as 2 other coffeess - reviews to come!) to try.

Cracking open the bag (always a glorious experience), the coffee beans appeared lightly roasted, a nice light brown/dark caramel color. I was able to sample the coffee via french press, vacuum press, and drip. The french press twas my first undertaking and it produced a wonderful cup of coffee; a coffee that proved indeed very light but had a nice mellow brightness to it. Although there proved slight notes of chaff (common in lighter coffees), the occasional hints of fruity acidity really compensated. The vacuum press further brought out the sweet tastes of the coffee, taking the fruity accents a bit further (little hints of blueberry showed up in this mug). The drip also proved pleasant; though not nearly as vibrant as the other two brews, the drip still delivered a very sweet and bright coffee.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this light Ethiopian coffee from PT and the success of this batch makes me all the more interested in PT's other coffees. Thus, it goes to show that good product in itself can be the best kind of publicity.

What does "Mugged" mean?

"Mugged" posts deal with coffee or tea purely from a cupping perspective, but more actively tested in the everyday realm of my mug. When I "mug" a coffee , I use such methods as french press, vacuum press (siphon), and drip (paper-filtered, usually via a pour over). With tea, I simply steep it as recommended.

Rating Scale

As for how it is rated, the Mugged posts use the same 1-6 scale as CC posts (reviews of coffeehouses). But of course, in terms of rating a single coffee or tea, I realize that the 1-6 holds a different connotation than when I assess a business. Thus, in order to create some ease in understanding what 3+ or 5+ mean, I created a rough comparison to Kenneth David's "Overall Rating" scale over at Coffee Review since the system has such prevalent recognition in the industry (though this likening is not meant to be an exact match of course, more of a ballpark, and like any system, it has its weaknesses).

1+ = poor (below a 60)
2+ = ok (60-70)
3+ = decent (70-80)
4+ = good (81-87)
5+ = very good (88-93)
6+ = stellar (94-100)

Want to send something? 
If you are an entity that wishes to send me something to review, know that I will review it honestly (without bias, as if I paid for it) and will disclose the sending party in the review. This is in order to keep with current FTC standards*.


*Note that some posts prior to 10/11/09 may have been supplied to me without charge but I assure you that my reviews stand as purely objective; I firmly believe that the ethical and trustworthy nature of a blog is one of the few core pillars that makes a blog like this worth reading. So in order to maintain a greater transparency in the future, all posts after 10/11/09 labeled "Mugged" will have full disclosure of how I obtained the product within the post.

*Updated 01/28/13

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CC: Espressit

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Espressit
Location visited: Haddon Twp, NJ
(18 Haddon Ave)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

*Update 5/18/09 at end...

Ever walk down a street and think to yourself "For the love of Peter Pumpkin Eater, why is there not a coffeehouse here?!" ? I sure have. Heck, I've screamed it into space more than once (well, maybe not verbatim but you get the idea).

Haddon Avenue in South Jersey at many points is one of those streets. In Collingswood and Haddonfield, a coffeehouse or two occupy the street but in much of the space in between, there sat nothing until recently with the opening of a new place called Espressit.

Espressit sits beautifully nestled in a strip of shops, the coffeehouse itself having a beautiful black exterior complete with a gorgeous sign, nice patio furniture, and nice assortment of potted plants. Inside, the place was arrayed in beautifully lavish furniture and a very calming decor.

The coffee is La Colombe, an ok coffee roaster out of Philly. The coffee proved typical La Colombe; not horrible but nothing distinct. The espresso, pulled long, tasted fairly decent with some decent sweetness, though still a bit of char in the cup. I failed to note the tea.

While Espressit definitely has the coffeehouse look well nailed down, I would venture that the coffee experience could stand to escalate. Nonetheless, if you're looking for an eye-pleasing coffeehouse with acceptable coffee, take a stroll over to Espressit.

*Update 5/18/09
Went back recently and had another shot at the espresso (no pun intended) and it really took the benefit of the doubt off the table. The espresso was fair with a nice mocha flavor but the back end produced an oily, harsh aftertaste (somewhat to the credit of La Colombe and the rest to the barista performance). Hopefully they switch up their roaster or something soon...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Design Your Own Blend?


The genius of some ideas stems simply from the obvious nature of them.

I got an email from the folks at The Roasterie
to inform me of their new program called my Blend, a process that allows you to create your own coffee blend. The way it works is that you answer a series of specific questions that helps you identify your favorite flavors in a cup of coffee, to which they can create a blend to match.

Granted you have to buy a minimum of 48 oz. of said blend, but when you think about it, they're roasting a whole batch to your specifications.

Honestly, I'm curious to see how well this works. If you've made your own blend, please either comment below or shoot me an email.

Friday, October 17, 2008

CC: Bulldog Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Bulldog Coffee
Location visited: Toronto, ON
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

or one reason or another, I have never noticed how much people love to eat outside until a couple years ago. Maybe it was because growing up, my family never really had AC and a trip to a restaurant with AC meant we were sitting inside, no questions asked.

Despite the past, I now greatly enjoy the prospect of sitting outside, especially on secluded patios full of beautiful plants. Oddly enough, some of the nicer patios I've found have been in winter-heavy Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal (seems they really know how to enjoy the nice weather when they have it), even extending to normally non-patio establishments such as coffeehouses.

One patio in particular that came as a surprise was at a place called Bulldog Coffee, a small cafe on a side street in Toronto. The place proved a little difficult to get to (weird one way streets) but after a little tenacity and a convenient parking spot, we found it. Upon first sight, I thought the place charming and well-placed as it sat handsomely on what seemed to be a residential street, complete with a nice patio area. Strolling through the doors, the coffeehouse is constructed wide; tables and chairs along the large front windows and the large counter along the back monochromatic wall.

Bulldog Coffee only serves espresso-based beverages, espresso that comes from a local roaster that roasts only for Bulldog and has no name. The shots were well-pulled, had a sweet fruity flavor, and provided a nice hang. My americano was ok; a little bland but my guess is that adding the water before the shots was the issue. The tea per their website comes in five varieties.

After finishing up my espresso on their vibrant patio, I meandered away with my americano content with my Bulldog experience. If you're in Toronto and up for a small hunt for a decent coffeehouse with a nice patio for a fair weather day, set your course for Bulldog Coffee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CC: Cool Beans Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Cool Beans Coffee
Location visited: Haddon Heights, NJ
(615 Station Ave)

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 1+ [see key]

ulti-faceted businesses have an odd attraction of getting the best of multiple experiences at once. Take for example a combination barbershop and bar, MR of San Francisco. It seems like a great idea to grab a shave and a beer while watching a game with friends as it takes the social barbershop experience to a new level (even though alcohol and a blade seems like a bad combination).

But not all combinations work out for the best. Take a local coffeehouse in NJ called Cool Beans. I'd driven past it multiple times over the years, noticing the striped white and red awning as well as the simple attractive sign in the window. A recent lunch out with my wife and female in-laws (mother and sister) provided an opportunity to finally stop by. As I approached, I noticed they had videos on the wall and instantly thought "Hmmmm, video rentals and coffee...not a bad idea" and then, I walked in and noticed things seemed a bit out of sorts. Besides the video-lined wall not looking like it had been updated in some time, the shop was set up a tad unorthodox (i.e. dim lights, couches congregating around a central television, and only two tables at the front near the windows).

Still intrigued as to the workings of this shop, I stepped up to the back counter and placed my order. The coffee turned out to be La Colombe, and although my drip was fresh (I waited while they brewed it), the coffee predictably turned out a bit bitter and none too wonderful (most likely a bean problem). The espresso proved even worse, with a pair of really strong bitter shots that made me wince. The tea consisted of assorted bags.

As I was saying up top, not all combo businesses work out. In a brief conversation with the barista, it turns out Cool Beans is in the process of getting out of the video business (guess it's hard to compete with the big boys these days) and focusing on the cafe. And while the convenience of grabbing a latte and a flick has a fair ring to it, it's definitely best to recognize when the combo isn't working. Hopefully in the days to come, the cafe has a bright future of massive improvements (better coffee and better interior) in the single-facet coffeehouse business.

If you're in town, give it a gamble.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

CC: Manic Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Manic Coffee
Location visited: Toronto, ON
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

or the past few weeks I have been going crazy, feeling crushed by an unrelenting sluggishness. Though my routine has been no more difficult, for some odd reason I just feel lethargic. Some would say it's the onset of a cold; others would say that it is the changing of the seasons. And while it could have something to do with the first two (I did have the sniffles recently), I have deduced that it has something more to do with being in a slight directionless spot in my life (i.e. I feel like I'm not hearing/seeing God's directions). Sure it happens, but what confounds me is that despite knowing that I still need to press in/on, I am not making the effort.

Recently though, I caught the winds of some positive change on a trip to Toronto. The weather proved tremendous and the trip allowed for some quiet spiritual discussion as well as some great bonding with the wife. And while it would've seemed wise to avoid anything with a hint of association with mania this trip, I had in my sights anxiously set on a promising coffeehouse called Manic Coffee.

The coffeehouse sits nondescript amidst several other establishments on a main avenue of the city. The exterior is minimalist with a single sharp-looking bench in front of large windows. The interior is long and inviting, with a host of tables and very mellow green walls.

The coffee comes from Intelligentsia and 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, both well-known, excellent roasters. That day I had the Ethiopian Sidamo via drip, a delightfully lucent and fruity brew. I also observed as I was sipping my drip that they had a "free" Clover, a most welcome sight these days (most of the others are enslaved now to Starbucks...). The barista expertly pulled a doubleshot using 49th's Epic Espresso, a decent espresso that produced flavors ranging from hints of a dry red wine to bittersweet cocoa; overall nice but a tad too dark for my tongue. The tea was free leaf and assorted.

Looking back, I actually left Manic Coffee with a little less mania. All goes to show the power of good coffee. Make sure that if you're in Toronto that you give Manic Coffee a visit.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Mugged: Escazu Coffee


What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: Escazu Coffee
Coffee Mugged: Costa Rican
Rating: 4+ [see key]

nly a handful of coffee roasters would I call "bewitching", mainly because if I have realized anything, it is that roasting coffee is not easy. But I would now have to say that I have found a coffee befitting of the label "bewitching" purely for namesake purposes.

Recently I was introduced to Escazu Coffee, a coffee roaster out of Long Beach that roasts coffee only from Costa Rica. The company name comes from a spot in Costa Rica apparently renowned for its witches (as escazu means witch) and since the owners have ties of sorts to the locale, they adopted a witch as their name and logo.

Their coffee comes from Naranjo, Costa Rica and consequently they only sell a single kind of coffee (a unique approach, as most roasters have at least three types). Compliments of Escazu, I was able to try out the coffee recently in the space of my own domicile. The beans were a tad oily but not so much that it looked defective. I sampled the coffee through drip, french press, and vacuum press. French pressed, the coffee tasted nutty with a nice caramely sweetness though a tad charred on the back end. Vacuum press provided a similar experience; caramely with some hints of earthiness. The drip on the other hand produced a slightly more noticeable char in the cup but still, a pretty decent experience.

Escazu's coffee proved sumptuous though not completely entrancing. What I can say is that of all the Costa Rican coffees I've sampled, Escazu takes the cake. Thus, if you're looking for a decent Costa Rican coffee to take home, give Escazu a try.