Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mugged: Hartmann Honey [Novo Coffee]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Novo Coffee
Coffees Mugged: Hartmann Honey
5+ [see key]

ome time ago, when I was heading through Colorado on a bit of a cross country road trip, I stopped south of Denver to stay with a friend in Littleton. Prior to my arrival, I asked him if there were any things to do in Denver, as I had a few hours to kill, to which he assured me there was no reason to set foot into Denver, and Boulder would be a better use of my time.

Looking back now, I am glad I got to see Boulder but in skipping Denver, I bypassed going to Novo Coffee (instead I picked another spot on my list that sadly ended up closing soon after).

Thus I will visit Novo's cafe one day but for now, I'll settle for distant encounters with their coffee east of the Mississippi. One such occasion was on a recent partially compensated GoCoffeeGo order (this is the 2nd of the 3 coffees to be reviewed), whence I received 3/4 lb of Hartmann Honey, a coffee from Volcan, Panama that looked very enticing.

I received the coffee fairly quickly (3-4 days) and dove right in, subjecting it to three different styles of infusion: french press, drip and siphon. I pressed it first, finding to my astonishment that the coffee actually had a strong taste of honey (most coffees only offer hints of such flavor), more akin to a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (it even had whole grain sweetness!), as well as little fig and a light body.

The drip turned out much lighter, this time with less honey, more nut (like peanuts) and with a stronger, wheaty/grassy sweetness coupled with a bit of dark cocoa.

The vacuum pot produced a little more nuttiness in the front of the cup, still the noticeable honey similar to the drip (i.e. still had the honey nut cheerio taste) and minor facets of wheat grass. A little heavier body was produced.

While I know that this coffee is no longer offered by Novo or GoCoffeeGo (sometimes GoCoffeeGo has different coffees than the roaster offers), Novo does have a coffee from Volcan (as of today, at least) that seems similar to this. If said coffee produces such a quality brew as Hartmann Honey, I would strongly recommend a purchase.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

CC: Spro Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Spro Coffee
Location visited: Towson and Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes

6+ [
see key]

*Updated 3.25.11

I never thought that I would pass by an alleged amazing coffee stop three times before I finally stopped at it. But sure enough, several trips brought me past Jay Caragay's Spro Coffee in Towson, Maryland with either circumstances that demanded I push on with no rest or with promises that we'll hit it on the way back (which we didn't).

Finally, on the way home from a great trip in Baltimore (great, except for my coffee fortunes that is) I got to stop into the Towson Library where Spro's initial flagship store resides (there's another one opening in Baltimore soon). Parking proved interesting but on a slow side street my steed came to a rest and my wife and I walked over.

The Towson Library is a gargantuan public biblioteca in a very oddly-shaped building. Spro itself sits on a bridge off to the left when you first enter the main portion. Spro's set up is definitely minimal and a little bland (but there's little that can be feasibly done in such a space). Spro is basically a long counter and a group of tables off to the side in a spot where one couldn't ask for a better visibility.

Spro Coffee definitely seems to have a nice rotating selection of various coffee roasters (just check out the list for their new Baltimore location under the 12/12/09 post on Jay's blog) but they seem to stick pretty close to
Origins Organic Coffee. Despite the option of vacuum pot, I ordered a filtered cup of Java Kali Bendo from Origins, a smooth coffee that demonstrated milk chocolate, a bit of blood orange and a tinge of nougat; a good coffee to pair with a dessert as I really had a hankering for sweets while I ingested the brew. The espresso, pulled short and expertly, had flavors of sugar cane, a bit of a lemon, cocoa and a nice flavor of cloves. As for tea, they use Rishi.

While I could see the downsides of operating in a public venue such as a library, I can't help but think how much more reading I would do if there was such a splendid coffeehouse in my library. If you're in Towson, especially if you are looking for a great place to have some coffee while you read, make sure to bookmark Spro.

*Update 3.25.11

I made out to the Baltimore location and I must say I was further impressed. There were many options for coffee infusion (I believe there were 6) and the coffee and espresso were delightful. The cafe is also cozy and a nice addition to the Spro name.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

small pause

Just wanted to explain the lack of a post this week: I am running around like a mad man to prepare for this hectic yet festive weekend!

For some reading, you can check out this MSN article that Pure Coffee was so graciously featured in!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mugged: El Salvador Las Mercedes [Klatch Coffee]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: Klatch Coffee
Coffees Mugged: El Salvador Las Mercedes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

When I was in LA some months ago, there was a coffee operation in San Dimas called Klatch Coffee (or Coffee Klatch; your call as the website states both) that I had really wanted to stop at but given distance and lack of time, I unfortunately missed out (most heinous).

Yet the opportunity to sample their wares ended up landing on my doorstep with a partially comped order from quality coffee purveyor GoCoffeeGo. To put in my two cents about GoCoffeeGo, they definitely have a great selection, great service and good delivery as the coffee arrived quickly and also directly from the roaster (in this case, Klatch Coffee). Thus, all was swell and the only thing that tore my opinion was that it came straight from the roaster; a great thing for freshness, but a bad thing for shipping/carbon foot print when you order three coffees from different roasters like I ended up doing (usually, the allure of such companies is the one bulk price for all one locale).

Anyway, I ended up picking Klatch's El Salvador Las Mercedes Pepinal 1 Micro Lot, a nice direct trade, lightly roasted coffee that has been Cup of Excellence worthy in past years.

I brewed the coffee in the typical gamut of methods: french press, drip and siphon. The french press produced a sweet coffee with the flavors of
wheat grass, sweet nougat, a little tinge of pomegranate and a bit of lager. The drip provided an also sweet cup with a little more earthiness and more of a wheat taste as well as more of a sweet cherry sauce and a bit more of an oolong-like body. The vacuum press, brewed a little later in the time of my possession (like 4 days out), made a much more of a nougat-ey coffee with only subtle hints of wheat grass and the pomegranate, plus a tinge of sweet wine and noticeable spice cake; a pleasant development.

To encapsulate, the coffee was a grand addition to my daily ingestion and I feel slightly less sad about not getting to visit the cafe of Klatch Coffee when I was in LA (especially since they apparently have the World's Best Espresso Blend).

If you're looking for a grand El Salvador coffee, take the Las Mercedes of Klatch Coffee for a spin.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CC: Spoons Coffee Cafe

What's does "CC" mean?

Spoons Coffee Cafe
Location visited:
Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Baltimore is a lovely city but it strikes me silly that I cannot find a single recommendation for decent coffee in the city limits with the exception of an upscale restaurant called the Woodberry Kitchen. Thus in an effort to increase my pool for a recent trip, I decided to try out some places that were off the radar but looked promising.

And that's how I landed at Spoons Coffee Cafe in the Federal Hill area on a bustling Sunday afternoon before a Ravens Game. The cafe seemed to have some promise, as they roast their own coffee as well as some decent latte art on the website. And since I found nothing better around the harbor, my beautiful wife and I bounded for the door of Spoons amidst the masses of Raven fans.

Given the game, Spoons was plenty full that day. The interior is a warm, multi-level structure that accomodates quite the dine-in crowd. Looking only for the usual, I made my way to the front counter. The drip was their East Timer blend, a bright coffee with the flavors of grape, chocolate milk and a subtle hint of sweet grass; a fair coffee. Not so much fortune did I find with the espresso, as it was a decent pull that had decent crema but I was hit with a really bitter, dark taste with flecks of pepper. The tea is Rishi Tea.

Even though I can't say I'm surprised I didn't find a hidden gem in Baltimore (coffee geeks mine them out well), Spoons Coffee Cafe wasn't a half bad spot. If you're in Baltimore, try Spoons out for yourself.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

CC: Hub Bub Coffee


Subject: Hub Bub Coffee
Locations visited: Philadelphia, PA, various
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Updated 12.30.13 (see below)

Philly's newest coffee development has finally brought the city a true mobile coffee venue. Hub Bub Coffee, a coffee truck that just drove onto the scene in October, serves up the all-too-popular coffee of Stumptown and even before the initial opening, the operation had accrued quite a bit of publicity.

Since the truck often parks on 38th and Spruce on the weekdays, I tried making a stop on a recent Friday but unfortunately, my plan failed. So I tried a Saturday, tracking Hub Bub's location via twitter since the truck wanders to different spots on the weekends. And after walking a few blocks on a windy day of shopping and merriment, I caught sight of the big red coffee machine.

The truck is beautifully simple enough; menu and order window on the passenger side with a shiny metal interior full of all the necessary coffee tools (fastened to the counter I believe).

I requested a cup of the day's drip, Stumptown's Guatemala Finca El Injerto. The coffee had a pleasant earthiness with notes of bourbon (fitting, given it's a Bourbon Varietal), sugar cane and a little sweet cigar and black tea. The espresso, unavoidably served in a paper cup (the mobile coffee truck that can solve this dilemma should get an award!), was pulled well and had a good showing to boot; good crema, dark body with pleasant chocolate and lime flavors ending with a sweet whiskey-esque bite. The tea is Republic of Tea.

On the whole, I thoroughly dug my trip to Hub Bub. If you happen to be near U Penn on the weekdays or you're looking for a weekend treasure hunt, go to Hub Bub.

*Update 12.30.13*

In the recent past, I've made it to their Logan Square and Spruce St locations. Both bring the Hub Bub quality to the gorgeous brick and mortar structures the city so richly loves.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CC: Java Mamma's Coffee Shop

What's does "CC" mean?

Java Mamma's Coffee Shop
Location visited: Reisterstown, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

xtra time can occasionally be a blessing, such as when you show up to an engagement 45 minutes early and in efforts to kill time, you find what could be a good coffeehouse.

This happened to happen in a recent trip to Reisterstown, Maryland when I stumbled on a place called Java Mamma's. The coffee shop sits in a converted brick house with a huge gated patio and plenty of metal furniture. Inside, the cafe becomes two distinct rooms, with a cute seating area in the front and the counter in the back.

The coffee comes from Orinoco Coffee & Tea, a Baltimore/DC area coffee roaster new to me. I had a cup of the house blend that turned out to be fairly good; notes of juicy caramel apple, butter and an overall nice brightness. The espresso, pulled medium-to-long in volume, proved OK but despite a nice sweetness and decent crema, the espresso had a strong bite of char and bitterness. The tea was from the Eastern Shore Tea Company.

At the end of my time killed, I felt the side trip to Java Mamma's fair; sure there could be some improvements but for a random stab, it was better than I had hoped.

If you're in Reisterstown, give Java Mamma's a sampling.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

CC: Cafe Fixe

What's does "CC" mean?

Cafe Fixe
Location visited: Brookline, MA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

*Update 12/20/09

ou know you have a pretty good boss when she lets you make an off-the-route stop for a much needed good cup of coffee.

On the way home from some business in New England, we had about 5 hours ahead of us and I was hurting for a decent cup of coffee to fuel the remaining drive. Fortunately, my fellow travelers (boss included), allowed me to make a bee line for Brookline to make a drop into Cafe Fixe.

Cafe Fixe hangs out on Beacon St in a beautiful tan brick building with a pair of matching tables guarding the front door. The interior folds out into a cozy shop with lots of light woods, a back counter and a fair amount of seating.

Fixe purveys Stumptown, a new sight for the Boston area these days. I ordered the Honduras, a nice light, floral coffee with subtle berries, pomegranate and cocoa; a really great cup of drip all in all. The espresso, a coffee called Bar Gold (never heard of it nor can I find it online), was pulled splendidly, had a nice crema and possessed flavors of chocolate, bell pepper and a tinge of bitterness on the end. The tea is free leaf.

This lovely stop at Fixe truly made out to be the stop I needed. If you're in or around Boston, drop by Cafe Fixe.

Update 12/20/09
HA! I figured out why I had never heard of Bar Gold coffee before; it's simply because I foolishly decided to use short hand instead of writing out the word Barrington. Thus, to correct my above ridiculous error, they served Barrington Gold as their espresso blend (a delicious coffee from Barrington Coffee Roasters) upon my visit.

Also, note that the coffee may not always be Stumptown, as several people have commented below that Barrington Coffee Roasters are a frequent flier and have other roasters as guests on occasion.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mugged: Newhall Coffee


What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: Newhall Coffee Micro Roasting Company
Coffees Mugged: California, Patriot and Decaf
Rating: 1+ for all [see key]

ne thing that really causes me to twist my face in confusion about the coffee industry is the variation in assigning roast levels. What I mean is that one roaster's light roast is another roaster's medium roast and one coffeehouse might call something a full city roast with another designating the same shade of coffee the title of medium roast. Why can't we all just agree on a simple means of describing a coffee's roast level?

One example of two different views was when I was sent three coffees to try out from a California company called Newhall Coffee Micro Roasting Company. They sent me a medium roast (Patriot Blend), something called a specialty roast (California Blend) and the token dark roast (French Roast). But when I opened them up for sampling, despite minimal differences in shade, all three coffees were basically really dark (i.e. very prominent surface oils) and did little to resemble the differences between a medium and dark roast that I'm used to.

In trying these three coffees out, I did my usual battery of brewings: drip, french press and siphon. And predictably enough, as with most darkly roasted coffees, the results were all pretty similar.

The California Blend I broke into first. The siphon proved best, with a dark brew with bits of pear. Both the drip and french press held little else besides the darkness of the coffee, with only the drip displaying a bit of nutmeg.

The Patriot Blend came next. As a medium roast, I expected this to be the least reminiscent of a dark roast but alas, it was dark through and through. The only other detectable notes were that the french press and drip had a slight sweetness and the siphon had a tinge of cayenne pepper.

The French Roast, as the darkest, came last. Much like the other two blends, the French Roast definitely pumped out lots of bitterness and taste of surface oils. As for positives, the siphon held some spice and sugar on the end.

Alas, the coffees from Newhall did not really impress at all and if not for the compulsory nature of reviewing a free product, I probably would hold off on posting such critical opinions (I really don't like making people feel bad). At the least, I hope such feedback is helpful.

If you have had a differing experience with Newhall, I'd be curious to hear it.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.