Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mugged: Sumatra Kopi Luwak [Sea Island]

What does Mugged mean?

Subject: Sea Island Coffee 
Mugged: Sumatra Kopi Musang
Rating: 4+ [see key]

While I normally strongly push for buying locally, every once in a while it's interesting to get a product from afar. Similarly, I normally review coffees within the continent but to spice up my pace, I was afforded the chance recently to review some coffee from Sea Island Coffee out of London. Sea Island focuses on rare and well-processed coffees, offering such high-priced beans as Kopi Luwak and Jamaican Blue.

Of the two coffees I received, first up was their Sumatra Kopi Musang, a Kopi Luwak coffee that (refreshingly) lacked all the fancy stickers promising authenticity. More concerned about its overall taste and less about whether it all came from a civet, I plowed into the bag infusing the coffee via drip, siphon and french press.

The drip brought out notes of bourbon, wheat, cranberry, Total (the cereal) and maple syrup amidst a medium body. A good brew that proved sweet and mellow.

The french press held similar flavors, with notes of cherry, maple syrup, biscuits, a bit of bourbon, some bacon and a light/medium body. Also sweet and a little richer than the drip.

The siphon held out cherry, wheat, biscuits, bran and a little milk within a medium body. This sampling had much more of a single dimension to it, though still tasty.

Amongst the Kopi Luwaks I've had, this one ranks at the top (sadly I've sampled only a few and some weren't good at all). Amidst coffees, the coffee had a pleasant sweetness along with some hardy notes, but the coffee didn't have the depth of flavor that I would have liked. Still, if you're looking for an affordable and decent Kopi Luwak, give Sea Island's Sumatra Kopi Musang a swirl.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

CC: Dogwood Coffee

What does CC mean?

Subject: Dogwood Coffee
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

A rainy, early morning can really slow down the energy levels. Its on such mornings that a promise of a good coffee stop effectively gets a kick in my jig and roar in my belly. One such morning in the Twin Cities, I made plans to make my first stop at a local coffee establishment called Dogwood Coffee. A Minnesota coffee roaster and purveyor with a lot of reputed clout, their uptown location beckoned to me like a benevolent siren through the torrents of rain.

Landing at the large brick building that houses Dogwood, I sauntered inside to find the operation off to the left, occupying an open space where the border between the cafe and building lobby was at best ambiguous. Dogwood's back wall was effectively used for storage and they sported several counters, making the feel more akin to a barista competition, and topped it all with a pleasant peninsula of seating towards the front of the building. 

As I arrived close to opening, I had the barista to myself and took my time in deciding. I ended up a with a doubshot of their espresso blend and a clover of their Burundi. The espresso, pulled short with a light brown crema, had a nice lemony brightness, some coriander, filet mignon, merlot and a bit of salt, all in all a tasty pair of shots with some nice character. The Burundian coffee delivered a vibrant, delicious brew, holding notes of peach, spinach, beef broth, carrot, jasmine tea and hints of sassafras and cocoa, all within a medium, french-press-like body. The tea is free leaf.

Finishing up my coffee in the AM tranquility, I relished my Dogwood experience and heartily look forward to revisit one day. Make your way to Dogwood in Minneapolis if you happen to be in the area. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mugged: Kona [Brewklyn Grind]

What does Mugged mean?
Mugged: Brewklyn Kona
Rating: 5+ [see key]

While Hawaii and Brooklyn are two of the farthest apart points in the US (check a map), you can get a dose of each in Brewklyn's Kona. The second of the two coffees I had the pleasure of reviewing from Brewklyn Grind (here's the first), I made quick work of this coffee amidst the usual three means of infusion (drip, french press and siphon).

The drip delivered notes of caramel, half & half, graham cracker, sage and walnuts amidst a smooth, medium body.

The french press differed in some odd-but-good ways, offering flavors of sassafras, graham cracker, bran, filet mignon and cinnamon amidst a heavier body.

The siphon was a compromise between the prior two infusions, holding graham cracker, butter, bran, sage and a little cherry amidst a medium body.

Overall, I liked this coffee a great deal, as it offered some pleasant, sweet flavors along with some differing notes of spices and a pleasant acidity. Not the hands-down-best Kona I've ever had, but a high contender. Give Brewklyn Kona a try if you're looking for a quality American coffee.

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

Sunday, November 06, 2011

CC: Sightglass Coffee

Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Finally I was able to make it back to San Francisco, a feat that has taken me since the spring of 2007 to duplicate. And in this time, the city has exploded with numerous quality coffee prospects, some more on tongue tips than others. One that I had heard great volumes of was of Sightglass Coffee, a small, seasonal-focused coffee roaster run by the Morrison siblings.  

Wasting little time, I got my traveling companions out of bed promptly on our first day and made a bee line to meet a local friend at Sightglass' spacious coffeehouse. The building is slightly nondescript from the outside, but within the space blossoms into an open atrium of wood, with the coffee bar in the middle, lots of space upstairs (it was roped off when I came) and a nice seating area along the front window. 

Ordering, I chose an espresso of Owl's Howl (their e. blend) and a pourover of their Ethiopian (I don't recall whether it was the Yirgacheffe or the Guji Shakiso). The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, held notes of smoked pork, bright tangerine, peanuts, fresh broccoli and a little cocoa, producing an all together scrumptious espresso. The pourover of the Ethiopian lent flavors of mango, some fig, black tea, olives, a tad of caramel and buttered rye bread within a light/medium body. The pourover proved splendid as well. 

I would now say that all of the hype was well-deserved, as Sightglass delivered superior coffee infusions and did it smoothly. The only area of improvement could be in terms of adding a little more warmth to the overall decor (twas a bit bland) but this was a critique brought up mostly by my companions. If you're hankering for a quality cup of coffee, set your sights on Sightglass Coffee.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mugged: Peru [Target]

Subject: Target
Mugged: Peru San Ignacio
Rating: 4+ [see key]

In my second whirl of Target's Direct Trade coffee, I took their Peru San Ignacio for a spin. As I mentioned in the first review, these direct trade coffees from Target are certainly a step in the right direction as far as fair trade is concerned. Yet being a big chain, the question of freshness arises and as it seems, is still a challenge (i.e. I bought a bag at Target and it was a bit stale).

But overall questions of freshness and sustainability aside, I tested this bag of coffee on its own merits via the usual three infusions of drip, siphon and french press.

The drip produced a noticeable flavors of wheat grass, maple bacon, elderflower, a bit of ginger and oats. The body was subtle and of a medium heaviness.

The french press delivered similar notes of wheat grass, elderflower and oats but bacon was absent, though a little maple showed up like a surprise co-host. The body was also medium.

The siphon came back in force with the maple bacon as well as elderflower, wheat grass and oats with a similar medium body.

In summation, this bag of coffee was fresh and had some pleasant flavors, but the coffee didn't really knock my socks off. If you're in the bind for a decent, sweet Peruvian, give Target's a try, but be warned that it might not be within the 2 week peak freshness.

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