Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CC: Hotwire Online Coffeehouse

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: West Seattle, WA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Roaming the streets of West Seattle on a beautiful sunny day really allows for some beautiful views that many towns cannot compete with. The mountains amidst the various waterways really make for a nice walk. The only thing necessary to make the day a little bit better was a good lunch and a good cup of coffee.

I managed to find a really good Mexican lunch at Puerto Vallarta, with a nice burrito and chips. Afterward, I marched down the street to grab some coffee at Hotwire Coffee, a local place I had intended on hitting at a former location a few days prior. Their sole location sits in a small brick building with a fenced courtyard with several outside tables. Inside, the cafe displays a quaint space, with a few inside seats amidst brick walls and a row of desktop computers.

Hotwire roasts their own coffee, producing mostly single origins (the only blend is for their espresso). I sampled their Mexican; a saucy coffee that had prominent notes of chocolate but the brew I consumed proved overall flat due to what seemed staleness. The espresso, pulled fairly well, had a smidge of toasted almond in the front, an overall caramel-ish chocolate taste and but a small bit of charred darkness on back (not enough to ruin it). The tea is free leaf.

In the end, the stop at Hotwire made my day fairly splendid (minus the stale drip of course). The next time I'm in town I hope to make another visit on hopefully a similarly beautiful day.

If in West Seattle, give Hotwire Coffee a whirl.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

CC: JJ Bean

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Subject: JJ Bean
Location visited: Vancouver, BC
(Main St location)
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Having a favorite coffee spot with a whole bunch of locations is something I don't experience a lot. Much like the masses patronize chains because of their convenience, many amazing coffee establishments don't possess a large number of venues usually for problems of cost and fears of oversaturation/overextension.

But when I recently hit Vancouver, I found yet another reason to envy the locals as not only do they have a variety of great coffee establishments, but a few of the establishments have numerous locations all over the city, like JJ Bean.

A coffeehouse that first started out on Grainville Island, the coffee business now has seven locations, all with very appealing architecture and solid reputations. In my limited travels, I managed to make it to the Main Street location with its glossy, wood-planked exterior and nice spacious windows. The inside has high ceilings, a central fireplace and a nice variety of seating.

JJ Bean roasts a vast array of coffee, with the Eastside Blend the coffee that found its way to my cup that morning, producing a smooth drip with a buttery hang and a hint of cherry. The espresso, which the barista pulled wonderfully short, possessed flavors of cocoa, lime and a subtle smoky flavor. I did not see the tea though I'm sure it is offered.

I wish I could have tried a few more of the JJ Beans, but alas, I had little time in Vancouver. Next time, I plan to definitely make a stop back as the experience was grand.

If you're in Vancouver, give one of JJ Bean's venues a whirl.

Monday, May 18, 2009

CC: Abraco Espresso

What's does "CC" mean?

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

Getting back to the basics really makes me appreciate the simple flavors of life. Sure there are times when I want an ice cream sundae with 17 toppings rolled on a cold marble slab, but more often than not I really just want a cone of good vanilla custard.

Fortunately, there many establishments have gone the route of the bare bones basics, including a few coffee bars with the philosophy that it is better to do a few things spectacularly than produce a menu of mediocrity.

One such place is Abraco Espresso in lower Manhattan. Located in a building with enough standing room for about 5 people (apparently Abraco means "hug") and some intriguing outside furniture, the building definitely gives a minimalist look to complement their "no nonsense" menu.

I ordered an individually dripped coffee called A41 from Counter Culture (Abraco's coffee supplier), which displayed smooth and tangy like fruit punch and produced nice nuances of almond. The espresso also blessed my tongue with a pair of short, velvety shots with a bright acidity and a sumptuous sweetness of a lemon bar. There is no tea but there exists an enticing selection of local and in-house fare.

Needless to say, Abraco really gave a great showing with their drinks and seems to have a lot of wonderful potential. If you're anywhere in the area, definitely make a stop by Abraco for a simple yet amazing cup of drip or espresso.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

CC: Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Olympia, WA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Winter storms certainly have charm, but not when you're driving on a formerly sunny day and especially not in the beginnings of Spring. When I decided to visit Olympia recently, I got stuck in such a situation where all of a sudden, snow came down quite swiftly. The permeating chill and soft flakes of snow really made me thirst for a good cup of coffee.

Fortunately, I had plans to stop at Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. and with little delay beside what the snow afforded me, I found the coffeehouse on what looked like a side street. The location sits in a large tan building, with a nice mural on the side and a very chic design to the storefront. The inside is broken into two sections; the large section in the back is the roasting facility and the front fifth is their cafe, with a handful of seats and a really boss front counter.

Olympia has a nice variety of coffee and brews it on a Clover. I had a Mexican Chiapas on the Clover; the coffee produced a medium-bodied brew with flavors of hot chocolate and toasted nutmeg. The espresso, pulled short, tasted like a lemon drop followed with honey roasted peanuts. I did not note any tea.

Walking back out into the storm, I slowly sipped my Mexican coffee as I walked to my car, savoring the gentle snow in its beauty before I got back on the road and dealt with it purely as a safety hazard. Needless to say, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. took the edge off the drive and left my taste buds in serenity.

If you're ever in Olympia, stop by the Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

CC: Top Pot Doughnuts

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Seattle, WA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Breakfast pastries never really ever entice me at breakfast. Maybe it's my mind that has convinced my digestive tract that such food bodes as just quick-burning fuel and that what I want is lots of protein. But whatever the reason, there are few times I'll pick up something like a doughnut in my morning travels.

Then there are the few times where it sounds like a great idea, such as when your hotel is really close to a really fine doughnut place. During my stay in Seattle, I had such a morning when a colleague of mine, originally from Washington, had a monstrous craving for a maple bar and we decided to hit local doughnut hotspot, Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts. The place looked sleek enough, with its two-story glass front with some of the cutest bushes in a neat line along the bottom. The interior was arrayed somewhat like a loft with a huge staircase interjecting between two walls of giant bookshelves, with plenty of seating all over.

As a tremendous complement to their pastry selection, Top Pot of course serves up coffee. Admirably, they roast their own coffee in the back on a large drum roaster where they forge their doughnuts. The coffee (I believe it was their Diplomat blend) was bright and at a good roast level (no char); an overall fair coffee with potential but nothing tremendously distinct. The espresso, pulled short to medium, had the flavor of raisins up front along with a little sourness, and sadly had a good deal of char on the end. The tea is free leaf and the doughnuts lived up to the massive hype (my plain cake doughnut was great and my colleague's maple bar apparently was amazing).

While I did crave breakfast meat a little closer to lunch, Top Pot really made an amazing stop for a light breakfast. And while some of the coffee aspects could maybe grow a bit (the doughnuts need no change), I definitely will be hitting Top Pot next time I'm in the Emerald City.

So if you're up for a good doughnut and cup of coffee in downtown Seattle, give Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts a try.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Diesel Coffee

While I will never mix automobile emissions with my coffee, this new VW campaign that landed in my inbox for Volkswagen's new TDI clean diesel caught my eye.

...and yet, for all their green efforts, they still use a Styrofoam cup for their coffee.

Monday, May 04, 2009

CC: Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Co.

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Seattle, WA
(Capitol Hill location)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

I never thought I'd be introduced to a great Seattle coffee company in Montana, but in my visits to Rockford Coffee of Bozeman, I became enamored with their roaster at the time, Caffe Vita (note: Rockford now seems to roast their own). Every time I got a drink at Rockford (especially their americanos), I really wanted to make a road trip to Seattle to taste the coffee direct at the source.

It took a while, but finally I was able to make a trip to the source. On a brisk weekday morning, I meandered over to Caffe Vita to meet a colleague for a cup of coffee. The shop is clearly visible from afar, as their mammoth sign broadcasts the location clearly. Upon moving closer, a few pieces of well-placed furniture underneath their ample awning drew me right through their front doors into the line. The inside itself has two floors, both with abundant furniture and rich woods, but the downstairs has a much more cozy and dim aura while the upstairs has a brighter and soothing feel.

Caffe Vita roasts their own coffee, having a nice selection of single origins and blends. Prior to this visit, most of my experience with their brewed coffee came from but one or two single origins, so I decided to try their Bistro Blend. It produced a zesty and buttery cup that had merit, but overall tasted a little too dark and a bit lackluster. The espresso came out better, as it was pulled short and demonstrated tinges of bittersweet chocolate and condensed milk, albeit small hints of bitterness on the back end. As for their teas, they have their own line of free leaf teas.

Given my past experiences, I would say this encounter with Caffe Vita really rounded out my perceptions of the operation. While I didn't end up falling as head over heels as I thought I might, I would say that I'm even more intrigued by the company than before. Definitely will warrant another try.

Thus, if you're in town, make a bee line for Caffe Vita to give them a shot yourselves.