Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mugged: Colombia [Superba]

Subject: Superba Coffee 
Mugged: Colombia San Agustin
Rating: 4+ [see key]

While intriguing origins don't usually really affect the taste of the coffee, it sure makes drinking the coffee more of an experience. Take San Agustin in Colombia, a municipality that has a lot of pre-1492 archeology such as stone sculptures and artifacts.

Knowing that the coffee I sip grew in the same soil makes it seem that much more exotic. Of course, when I recently reviewed Superba's Colombia San Agustin, I reviewed it as I would any other coffee, sampling it objectively via drip, siphon and french press.

The drip produced notes of milk chocolate, strawberry, a bit of corn pops and imperial stout, wheat and irony romaine amidst a potent, medium body.

The french press shot out milk chocolate, corn pops, strawberry, grass and a bit of clove in a medium body.

The siphon held much firmer notes of honey and corn pops, followed with milk chocolate, apple, grass and salt amidst a light/medium body.

To sum up, I liked this coffee a bunch (sweet and robust) but some of the aftertastes (romaine and clove) did not fly my flag as strongly. Thus, when you're eying up a good Colombian coffee from an ancient land, give Supera's San Agustin a go.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CC: Black Sheep

Location: South St. Paul, MN
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Of all the mammals to be used in a coffeehouse name, goats seem to be the most popular (due to the legend of coffee's origin by a goat herder) but right on the goat's heels, I would hypothesize is it's fellow Bovidae-ite, the sheep (note that these are guesses; I have no hard data). Of course names mean nothing to me as far as attraction (I'd patronize a place called 'The Fly and Vomit' if it served good coffee), yet the love of herded farm animals in names still intrigues me.

Lo, on a trip out to the Twin Cities, I found a non-sheepish coffee operation called the Black Sheep. Named for a couple of interesting reasons, the Black Sheep Coffee Cafe drew me into their pasture with lots of glowing accolades from the prior visits of coffee lovers and hence, it was one of my first stops in the Twin Cities.. 

Located in a large facility complete with parking, their interior boasts a warm environment with a fireplace, lounge chairs and plenty of table seating in a well-lit space. They roast their own coffee, and after a bit of deliberation and guidance from the jovial barista, I ordered a cup of their Colombian Cup of Excellence via a Clover brewer and an espresso of the Summer Espresso Blend. 

The Clovered Colombian doled out frosted wheat, prune, light chocolate, clover honey and wheat grass; an splendidly sweet and mellow coffee amidst a light/medium body. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, also proved sumptuous, with the flavors of deep cocoa, scone, plain yogurt, raspberry jam and a little saltiness. The tea is free leaf.

Thus, if you happen to be seeking out a stellar coffeehouse that stands out from the typical coffee herd, give Black Sheep Coffee Cafe a bleeting chance. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mugged: Ethiopian [Brewklyn Grind]


Mugged: Ethiopia Queen City Harrar
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Though I'm a big fan of superb coffee all over the country, I find an extra sprinkling of joy when I find a quality coffee operation in the Northeast. Aside from the proximity and buying relatively local, it does my heart good to see more and more exposure to good beans for the average person out here(such as what VisitPhilly did with this fairly spot-on Foodspotting coffee map).

Going a little further north to Brooklyn, I had gotten word of a coffee roaster called Brewklyn Grind Coffee and Tea. A small-batch coffee roaster in Brooklyn that is not originally-from-the-west-coast is neat enough, but their story really resonated with me. Basically the company grew from a couple of local fellas (brothers I think) who started out with a household coffee passion that grew into a roasting outfit to not only celebrate fine coffee but also Brooklyn.

So to give me a taste of their passion, they sent me out two coffees, the first being the Ethiopia Queen City Harrar. I brewed this medium roast via drip/filter, siphon and french press.

The drip dropped off a cup with notes of raisins, peanuts with the red chaff, subtle Dr. Pepper and a little bran amidst a milky texture and medium body.

The french press was also milky but had much more brightness more akin to blueberry and still had flavors of Dr. Pepper, cocoa and nuts.

The siphon was similar to the french press, with notes of blueberry, Dr. Pepper and cocoa amidst a milky, medium body and a small accent of black pepper.

While I didn't find the drip as spectacular as the french press and siphon, I felt all three were very tasty infusions and exemplified a stellar Ethiopian coffee. If you're in the mood for a good African coffee, give Brewklyn's Harrar a try.  

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mugged: Costa Rica [Superba]

What does Mugged mean?

Subject: Superba Coffee
Mugged: Costa Rica Santa Laura
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Costa Rica has always held my intrigue as a mystical place, though (sadly?) it all traces back to a fictitious route, when I read Jurassic Park as a teen. Since then, I have come to know folks and learn a great deal about this lovely isthmus of a country.

Of course, one of my chief loves of Costa Rica is its coffee. I've had several coffees from the region that have knocked my socks off (as well as a few that have kept them on) and while roasters truly hold the glamorous role in bringing forward the final product, we all know the true heroes are the farmers.

Relatively recently, I received some coffee from Superba Coffee out of California, with one of the coffees being their Costa Rica Santa Laura. Having had a decent experience with Superba before, I ripped into this bag and sampled it via drip, french press and siphon.

The siphon produced a delicious brew with notes of merlot, chocolate, honey, powdered sugar and hazelnut with a milky texture and a medium body.

The drip held more powdered sugar as well as shredded wheat, a little cinnamon and cake donut within a milky, light/medium body.

The french press rolled out a lot like the drip, with prominent powdered sugar and cake donut, shredded wheat and a little cinnamon amidst a milk-like, light/medium body.

All three infusions, though a bit different in scope, had a beautiful arrangement of multifaceted sweet flavors as well as a nice acidity. If you're looking for a good Costa Rican coffee, give Santa Laura a swig.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mugged: Singletrack [Rocky Mountain Roastery]

Mugged: Singletrack
Rating: 3+ [see key

Whether it's all of the Coors Light ads that aired during my childhood or just my love for mountains, I always wanted to live somewhere like Colorado. Sure, I did live in beautiful Bozeman, Montana for almost a year, but my short stint there only made said desire more prominent. I believe it's the laid back atmosphere, the crisp air and the mountains that hold their sway over me.

Thus, when I receive a product from a place in the western mountains, my oregon trail desires rear up and I picture myself sitting on a rustic porch made of fresh timber, breathing in the mountain air and enjoying the nice weather. This is especially true of good coffee, as there's nothing like a delicious cup of coffee amidst mountainous views.

But in receiving a pound of coffee from Rocky Mountain Roastery to objectively review, I wasn't sure what to expect as I had not really heard too much of them. Located in beautiful Fraser/Winter Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain Roastery seems to have a wide variety of coffees on their website, ranging from light to really dark. I got to sample their Singletrack Blend, a "full bodied" coffee (I found the coffee fairly dark in roast), via drip (filter), french press and siphon infusions and here is what I got.

The drip produced deep notes of peanut, molasses, bitter herbs, tobacco and a little vanilla within a medium body.

My cup of the french press held similar notes of peanut, pepper, molasses, tobacco and vanilla in a similar body.

The siphon held much stronger notes of tobacco, peanut and pepper but had a super sweet honey flavor as well as hints of vanilla and orange amidst a light/medium body.

Overall, I found the coffee had a little too much bitter flavors (tobacco & pepper) but there were some nice sweet flavors as well as a tinge of nuttiness. I might really like this coffee it were roasted a little lighter.

Thus, while I can't say I would pick this particular coffee over others for a nice, relaxing mountain retreat, I wouldn't turn it down either. Give Rocky Mountain Roastery's Singeltrack a try if you're looking for a sweet dark coffee.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CC: SteamDot

Subject: SteamDot
Location: Anchorage, AK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

While ambiance is not everything, it's always welcome, especially when not expected.

One of my earlier stops in Alaska was a place in the southern portion of Anchorage called SteamDot. A coffee roaster that popped up in some of my initial searches, SteamDot appeared to be a good stop. My arrival at their sharply decorated store, a cafe full of large windows, bright colors and snazzy furniture, seemed to re-convey confidence that this coffeehouse was no dud (albeit purely based on the notion that if you have a stellar design, you must have amazing coffee to pay for it).

Moving onto the coffee, I ordered an espresso of their Single Origin Brazil and a pourover of the Nicaragua. Watching the process of concocting my drinks, they really seemed to know their away around their classy-looking pourovers and the espresso machine, another sign that usually the coffee has promise.

But in tasting my drinks, I found both coffees to be a little too dark to be truly pleasant. The espresso, pulled short with a blond crema, tasted of vanilla, ginger and a little nut, yet all amidst a noticeable bitterness like overly steeped black tea as well as a noticeable burnt flavor. The pourover of the Nicaraguan held notes of a darker coffee, with tobacco and bitter cocoa being prominent over the other flavors of cherry, walnut, sugar and grass. The tea is free leaf.

Thus, it seems that either SteamDot believes in a darker roast spectrum or I hit their shop on an off day. Yet despite my darker-then-expected drinks, don't write off SteamDot; the cafe is gorgeous and it has the tools to be a superb place. Give it a try if you're in town.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Mugged: El Salvador [Target]

Subject: Target
Mugged: El Salvador Buena Vista
Rating: 4+ [see key

The concept of well-roasted coffee obtained through socially responsible methods is something that is not new to the coffee world. Yet this concept was all but unreachable to retail giants until recently, when Target became one of the first to take the dive into the small niche market of quality, direct trade coffee. Archer Farms, Target’s food brand, recently began offering Direct Trade coffee of varying roast levels. Shortly after they began offering said coffees, they sent me out two varieties to try and here’s what I thought of the first.

Contrary to my fears, Target’s El Salvador did not arrive stale but actually pretty close to the date of roasting. Getting straight to the punch line, I brewed up the coffee in the usual three methods of french press, drip and siphon.

The drip delivered notes of wheat grass, maple bacon, elderflower, a little ginger and oats within a subtle, medium body.

The french press held similar flavors, with the wheat grass and elderflower dominating the ginger and oats. And while there was also a smacking of maple syrup, bacon did not show up here in this medium bodied pressed brew.

The siphon brought back the maple bacon, along with elderflower, wheat grass and oats in a medium body.

I was about to proclaim this a fairly superb coffee when an opportunity arose for me to obtain a bag of this coffee from my local Target. Alas, it was too good to be true, as I was let down with the coffees freshness in this purchased bag. Sure some of the flavors glided through, but the bean age really obscured a lot of the good flavors.

Thus, it seems the problems of mass production still keep quality, fresh coffee from stores like Target. BUT, if you are a person that only buys their coffee at massive stores, definitely try out Archer Farm’s Direct Trade coffee (whole bean only). Amidst the lesser options on the adjoining racks, at least there’s a good chance you’ll get some good coffee.

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