Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kaldi's Coffee

Subject: Kaldi's Coffee
Location: Columbia, MO
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

One of the highest hurdles in a business is the ability to adapt with current trends and industry developments. Much like a brakeless car traveling uphill, a business either moves forward or slides back; there is no stalling. In coffee, moving forward often translates into staying abreast on rising trends, growing professionally (especially with skills), new discoveries/rediscoveries and keeping your business looking fresh.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mugged: Sumatra, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia [Royal Mile]

Subject: Royal Mile Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Sumatra Toba Batak Peaberry 5+
- Rwanda Coffee Villages SWP Decaf 5+
- Tanzania Peaberry 5+
- Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Cheffe Dumerso 6+

It's always a welcome surprise when an area with few great coffee options gets another one with some promise. Such is the case with New Jersey, the land I call home. For its population density, there are precious few coffee operations that roast or brew quality coffee.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Win a Baratza Coffee Grinder!

Do you bleed for your local espresso shop?

Do you spend all of your free time patronizing a particular coffeehouse?

We want to hear about it!

In the spirit of good will to all humans, we have teamed up with the fine people of When I Work to host a contest for one fortunate soul to win a Baratza Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder (check it out here on Prima's website)! All that you need to do to enter is the name of your favorite coffeehouse!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Baked and Wired

Subject: Baked and Wired
Location: Washington DC
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In my many trips to DC, I nearly always park in the outskirts and pipe in via the Metro. For the most part, I depend on the train solely to get around (unless otherwise necessary) and thus, I have definitely left out a few spots in DC from my explorations. The most notable in my mind was the Georgetown area, since the Metro has no stop in the area, and as such I have literally passed over the area in my excursions to DC, choosing convenience over checking out this fabled neighborhood.

Bean Box

A lot of coffee subscription services serve up a different coffee from all over the nation, but few target one specific area or city. Yet that's exactly what Bean Box does, serving up 4 coffees roasted only in Seattle to their constituents. Using 2 oz bags, I received the following coffee in my shipment: Kuma Coffee's Guatemala La Esperanza, Herkimer Coffee's Drip Blend, Long Shoreman's Daughter Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (FTO) and Lighthouse Roasters Roaster's Choice. Each of these coffees I sampled via pourover and since the sample size was so small, I really could not issue a definitive rating on the coffees, and hence the below are simply the tasting notes.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Coffee Ethic

Subject: The Coffee Ethic
Location: Springfield, MO
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I am a great fan of open town squares, especially when they sit amidst local merchants. In walking through hundreds of urban open spaces, ranging from Central Park to Golden Gate Park, it seems that the proper dosage of local commerce (though I do not know the ratio) makes for the greatest level of enjoyment for said open spaces.

Mugged: Cinnamon and Lavender [Le Palais des Thés]

Subject: Le Palais des Thés
Teas Mugged and Rating [see key]:
Lavender Oolong 4+
Cinnamon Black 3+

As the holidays flare up again, the many flavors of spice come roaring into the realm of lauded drink options. Most people think of lattes flavored with gingerbread or peppermint, but there's also quite a few teas that get a little more play in kitchens and coffee bars at this time of year.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Half and Half

Subject: Half and Half
Location: St. Louis, MO
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

It is no secret that everyone loves brunch. There's just something magical about the wondrous combinations and concoctions that become available on weekend late mornings. Sadly, not every brunch place is worth your dollar, and for my money, if I am plopping down to enjoy a hearty meal with a close kinship to breakfast, I want a place with great coffee.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mugged: Konga Natural Ethiopia [PTs Coffee]

Subject: PT's Coffee (via My Coffee Pub)
Coffee Mugged: Konga Natural Ethiopia
Rating [see key]: 6+

To state the obvious, not all coffee subscription services are created equal. Some legitmately send out great coffee, month to month, pouring forth delicious specimens with few exceptions. Some, sadly not so much (some services just seem to pick some really blah stuff). There's also the differentiation of quantity and variety, with some going with a dozen micro-pouches, each with only a few beans per coffee, while others send up to multiple pounds per month. Fortunately, it's easy to try most of them prior to long-term committment, so you can avoid a year of wasted beans and find your right niche.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dose Coffee and Tea

Subject: Dose Coffee and Tea
Location: Nashville, TN
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

For all of Nashville's sprawl, the area offers a healthy array of things to do across the city. One site I recently was able to visit was Nashville's Parthenon by Vanderbilt. Sadly time was not on my side and this Greek replica only got a fraction of its deserved time, as there was not enough minutes in the day to accommodate a full helping of classical architecture and still have ample time for a coffee stop.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mugged: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Aricha [Artis]

Subject: Artis Coffee
Coffee Mugged: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Aricha
Rating [see key]: 4+

People like having choices and options. We like choosing where we'll have lunch, what program we'll watch that evening or whether we take the long or short way home. With coffee, most folks like to switch up the way they brew, the microlot they're ordering next or the roaster from which they will purchase it. But with the exception of home roasters or people with connections, rarely do people have the option to switch the roast profile of the coffee they got last week. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Quills Coffee

Subject: Quills Coffee
Location: Louisville, KY
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

While I've been writing about my coffeehouse adventures since 2006, few places have sat on my list of "must visit" as long as Quills Coffee. Way back in the beginnings of my blog, they shot me a quick note and mentioned to stop by the next time I was in Louisville. And year after year they remained on that list solely because I could not get Louisville onto any of my itineraries. But when I was finally able to solidify recent plans to the Ville, I made a definitive plan to visit Quills.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mugged: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Chele'lektu and Aricha [Beanfruit Coffee]

Subject: BeanFruit Coffee Co.
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Aricha Natural Process 5+
- Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Chele'lektu 5+

Mississippi remains in my mind as a state unfurled. What I speak of is simply that like many other states in our fair union, the fine state of Mississippi, while full of many other wonderful institutions (such as the rebels of Ole Miss), there exist few coffee establishments of great worth. In the times I have forayed into its lands, not once have I successfully found one. But thanks to grace from above and toil from below, the state of Mississippi has begun sprouting some great coffee companies, with one of the more prominent to my ears being Jackson, Mississippi's Bean Fruit Coffee Co.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sump Coffee

Subject: Sump Coffee
Location: St. Louis, MO
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In this glorious day and age, there exist numerous coffee operations doing a fantastic job with their product, truly showing great dedication and extreme zeal for well-crafted coffee. Yet few shops wear their hardcore nature as well as St. Louis' Sump Coffee, known far and wide by their bearded skull logo sitting atop a portafilter/coffee branch cross bones (rendered into animation, said skull even chuckles with deep laughter amidst the guitar pluckings of heavy metal).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Survival Coffee: Kyocera Grinder

The more Hollywood generates post-apocalyptic glimpses to the unfortunate lifestyle of a world battling zombies or simply recovering from a nuclear winter, the more easily spooked people seem to get about encountering such cataclysmic events. To this swirly pool of somewhat-justified paranoia I would like to add the question: how will you make a good cup of coffee when disaster strikes?

Monday, October 06, 2014

Bloom Coffee and Tea

Subject: Bloom Coffee and Tea
Location: Northfield, NJ
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

*Update 2.27.19*
This place has long since closed and the area still has not found a suitable replacement :(.

The wonder of summer often conjures up glorious images of sandy beaches, cerulean skies and refreshing ocean water. I know the mental slideshow well, as I have spent many a summer visiting the gorgeous towns of the southern NJ coast. Yet for all the summer magic that the coast brings, it still largely lacks great coffee.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mugged: Ethiopia, Kenya and Guatemala [Black Oak]

Subject: Black Oak Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Kenya Kabatha AB 5+
- Ethiopia Konga 5+
- Guatemala San Diego Buena Vista 6+

California wine country is renowned for its many great vineyards, but up until recently, the sea of grapes harbored little else of such high quality. Fortunately the area is growing even more appealing, with quality specialty coffee slowly gaining a stronger foothold in the land of vino. Take Black Oak Coffee Roasters in the town of Ukiah right off the 101; what more could you ask for than a coffee roaster that takes as much care and love in their beans as the best vineyards surrounding put into making their wine?  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shortwave Coffee

Subject: Shortwave Coffee
Location: Columbia, MO
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

If you were to tell most people that greatness lies in a basement down a Missourian alley, you may be met with a skeptical eyebrow. But as true as the road is full of autumn construction, some alley basements sport some pretty spectacular haunts.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mugged: Brasil, Colombia and Ethiopia [PHCR]

Subject: Passion House Coffee Roasters 
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Brasil Sertaozinho 5+
- Colombia Matambo AAA 6+
- Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere 5+

I always love getting revisits from great roasters, especially ones from Chicago, as the windy city seems to be home to some of the warmest coffee folks in the industry. Some months ago I got my first real interaction with Passion House Coffee Roasters (a tremendously pleasant one) and as a recent follow-up, I got a full taste of their Ambient-Mainstream-Experimental spectrum with three coffees each championing a genre: their Brasil Sertaozinho representing Ambient, Colombia Matambo volunteering as tribute for Mainstream and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere standing up for Experimental. I brewed each coffee via pourover, french press and siphon.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Sunergos Coffee

Subject: Sunergos Coffee
Location: Louisville, KY
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Louisville is a city I have been longing to go back to since I last left. I had rolled into town one New Years holiday weekend back in 2004 and found the town almost completely shut down. I distinctly remember using all of my the power at my disposal to locate some decent coffee, but no matter where I looked or where I begged, I could not locate an open coffeehouse. It was a weekend of despair and anguish only eclipsed by the company of good friends and a great conference. And ever since I left town on a cold morning in early January, my ears have only filled to the brim with the great wonders of Louisville. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mugged: Brazil, Colombia and Kenya [Bold Bean]

Subject: Bold Bean Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Canaan Estate, Carmo de Minas, Minas Gerais, Brazil 5+
- Finca Buenavista, Cundinamarca, Colombia 5+ 
- Kwamangu Estate, Kiambu, Kenya 6+

Florida is a state I tend to forget about during the warmer summer months, so it's always nice to hear of good things going on in the area's coffee realm. One of the state's more substantial coffee operations runs out of Jacksonville and goes by the name of Bold Bean Coffee Roasters. Opened in 2007, this coffee roaster caught my eye at a Coffee Fest ABC Coffeehouse Competition back in 2013 with good coffee and a solid presence.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kingdom Coffee and Cycles

Subject: Kingdom Coffee and Cycles
Location: Springfield, MO
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

The more I am around people who ride bicycles, the more I want to be a regular bicyclist. It's not because I want an excuse to regularly wear bib shorts, or because I relish the idea of sharing the road with easily distracted motorists, but simply because for all the driving I do in my regular commute, I don't get much worthwhile exercise from it (aka you can only do so many curls at a red light). With the busyness of life these days, to knock off exercise and commuting to work with the same action would be glorious. Yet such simplicity cannot be, as I often have to traverse great distances at a moments notice. For now, the bicycle and I cannot be commuting buddies. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mugged: Ethiopia [Driven]

Subject: Driven Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged: Ethiopia Sidamo
Rating [see key]: 4+

It's hard to get a definitive pulse on a roaster by only trying one of their coffees, so when opportunity arises to try a different coffee from a new-to-me roaster, I tend to jump on it. Recently, I jumped at an opportunity to take a second crack at Driven Coffee Roasters out of Minneapolis. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Shop Cafe

Subject: The Shop Cafe
Location: Ithaca, NY
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Back when central New York was a regular stomping ground, Ithaca was one of my favorite haunts. Its lovely small town shops, independent culture and its array of good coffeehouses always made for a nice little day trip.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Mugged: Mexico and Costa Rica [Perc Coffee]

Subject: Perc Coffee Roasters
Coffees Mugged and Rating [see key]:
Mexico Finca Kassandra 5+
Montanas Del Diamante, Costa Rica 5+

Who does not want to visit Savannah? As a fan of old American cities and southern charm, this Georgian belle has often allured me from afar with its rich history and intriguing attractions. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Barista Parlor

Subject: Barista Parlor
Location: Nashville, TN
WiFi?: Yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

It's been some time since I have been able to get on down to Nashville, and since my last visit, several great coffee establishments have sprung high into the atmosphere. Possibly the most recognizable, due to the giant orange garage doors, mammoth footprint and wondrous array of coffee is Barista Parlor. Frequently ranked as a must visit amongst locals and tourists alike, Barista Parlor possesses a giant garage on the side of a building (aka don't look for it's blue and orange frontage on the road) in East Nashville. 

Fill in the Coffee Map!

Over the past 8 years of its life, the Pure Coffee Blog has existed to mine out and celebrate great coffee establishments all over the globe. In the beginning, much of my content was local, basically the Philadelphia area. Then I moved out west, and from there I used every opportunity no matter where I roamed to go out of my way and find as many great coffeehouses as possible. Today, I can claim to have visited tons of superb coffeehouses (check out the map), performing all of these expeditions as the efforts of fanatical passion and zeal, to not only experience it myself, but also to give some media attention, no matter how small, to coffee places doing things right.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mugged: Kona Fancy [Kona Coffee Purveyors]

Subject: Kona Coffee Purveyors
Coffees Mugged: Kona Fancy
Rating [see key]: 4+

Like most people who love travel and tropical paradises, I verily yearn to visit the lovely islands of Hawaii. Especially when my house freezes and plummeted temperatures induce depressions, I pine for the crystal waters and volcanic sand of the Pacific. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

CC: Hi-Collar

Subject: Hi-Collar
Location: Manhattan, NY
No WiFi
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When most people think of stopping by a coffee establishment for their morning fix, the majority think of a large, spacious room where they can sink into isolated bliss with their laptop. In most parts of the country, this model knows no rival (so fear not freelancers and budding authors!). But slowly over the past few years, a handful of spots have dared to spice it up, encouraging different experiences for patrons.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Mugged: Colombian Antioquia [Serda's]

Coffees Mugged: Colombian Antioquia Finca Majagual Estate Micro Lot
Rating [see key]: 6+

When most folks think of towns made famous for their coffee scene, one does not usually pick Mobile, Alabama. Located right on the Gulf, a short drive from New Orleans, the area is home to a handful of local coffee establishments making their way in the balmy southern borders of America. Until recently I could not name you one, but the folks at Serda's reached out recently to change that. 

Mugged: Guatemala [Unicorn]

Subject: Unicorn Coffee Company
Coffees Mugged: Guatemala
Rating [see key]: 4+

It's not often you get to try out coffee before it hits the shelves. But these days with more and more folks starting up production well before they open their doors, every now and then such an opportunity to do so arises. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

CC: Greenstreet Coffee Roasters

Subject: Greenstreet Coffee Roasters
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

As long as I can remeber, the space on the corner of Spruce and 11th has always been a coffeehouse. Back in my youth, it was a place serving mediocre swill; nothing to telegraph the foreign fleets about. The next tenants conversely were some of the first quality baristas in town, a place called Spruce Street Espresso. Sadly after many years of exemplary service, they moved out of the cozy storefront, and for some time the space sat empty. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mugged: Ethiopia Sidamo and Cat's Pajamas [Compelling and Rich]

Subject: Compelling and Rich Specialty Coffee
Coffees Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Cat's Pajamas Blend 5+
- Ethiopia Sidamo Bokasso Coop 5+

It's refreshing to see folks with drive, passion AND delicious results. Some people throw around some great rhetoric, but unless it's paired with stellar outcomes (or at least some hardy efforts at those outcomes), it's hard to take a company seriously. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CC: Box Kite NYC

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

The fight to offer a better coffeehouse experience is a daunting challenge. So many great establishments have set the bar so high that it can be difficult to postulate how one can make a better mousetrap. But truly, I'm surprised every year with a shop or two that's taken the concept to a different level.

Brim Coffee Station (SW20)

In the past decade, we saw an explosion in the variety of coffee brewing devices available to the average consumer. No longer did Mr. Coffee reign supreme over the kitchen counter; finally a rebirth of domicile coffee experimentation began. Now in this present day of June, you can find not only the different methods like (filter-based, immersion, etc.) but tons of different takes on each, such as the many different approaches to pourover.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

CC: Pitango Gelato

Subject: Pitango Gelato 
Location visited: Reston, VA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

The concept of gelato + espresso seems to be a concept so familiar yet still so rarely done well together. Back in 2008, the concept of gelato was building steam and for many shop owners, adding espresso seemed to be a further nod to the Italian tradition. Today, it still seems a decent amount of such shops offer both coffee and gelato but sadly, the coffee side of said businesses are usually an afterthought, a facet that was given some financial and cranial investment, but usually much less than the vastly stronger gelato arm of the enterprise. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Mugged: Peru San Ignacio [Driven]

Subject: Driven Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged: Peru San Ignacio
Rating [see key]: 3+

Everyone loves to hear that a business wants to give back to the community. Yet rarely do you see the apparent proof in the pudding. Call me cynical, but it seems that many outfits claim they want to give back, but only do the minimal token effort to get some PR, and rarely is the commitment long-standing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CC: Nolita Mart

Subject: Nolita Mart and Espresso Bar
Location: Manhattan, NYC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Sadly when many people think of a "convenience store" the concept only conjures up images of a Kwik-E-Mart, complete with the beef jerky, sub-par coffee and various unhealthy munchables to sate the general needs of the average consumer. By no means do I detest the existence of this variety of one-stop shops, as they absolutely serve their purpose (where else will you get a wrinkly hot dog and a gallon of milk at 3 AM?), but I more detest that by and large, there are few small-scale markets that take it to another level.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Overnighted Coffee

I am a humongous fan of outside-of-the-box PR. And of course, that's no avante garde statement; everyone loves a creative approach. Yet for all of the love for ingenuity, it always seems that people stick to the tried and true. Is it a fear of failure, a fear that the cost will outweigh the worth or just a failure to pony up when it's your turn to ride the proverbial mechanical bull?

Mugged: Whittard Teas

Subject: Whittard Teas
Teas Mugged and Rating [see key]:
Whittard Original 4+
Russian Caravan 4+
Darjeeling 5+

As a red-blooded American, when someone ask me what words I associate with the UK, one of them has always been tea. Having visited London I know their is a great love for coffee and espresso, evident by great coffee roasters and coffeehouses alike, but their is something unshakably British about tea. Thus, it was my pleasure to objectively sample three teas from Whittard of Chelsea, a tea purveyor since the late 19th century that is still going strong. They sent out to me three of their staples: Whittard Original, Russian Caravan and Darjeeling, each of which I sampled according to the steeping directions upon the box.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CC: Steap and Grind

Subject: Steap and Grind
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

I am greatly refreshed in watching the Fishtown area of Frankford Avenue grow and improve. Where few great establishments have existed in the past, many now flourish. Where there wasn't a decent cup of coffee for blocks, there is now a fount.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Mugged: Bali Kintamani [Convive]

Subject: Convive Coffee Roastery
Coffee Mugged: Bali Kintamani
Rating [see key]: 4+

I like surprises once in a while, especially ones that blossom into a joyous outcome from a vine of gloomy expectation. Even though they come infrequently, much like dark winters create a love for the harvest, periods of normalcy make (pleasant) surprises that are much more gratifying.

Recently, the fine personnel of Convive Coffee Roastery sent me out a coffee from Indonesia, specifically from the region of Kintamani in Bali. While many coffees from this part of the Pacific, especially Sumatra, have a reputation for being overtly deep and earthy, this one seemed to be the Napoleon Dynamite of its peers, with reputed notes of fruit and flowers. Not sure what to expect, I went to the lab and tried out the beans via pourover, french press or siphon. 

And just like that, I was happy to find the rumor true. The pourover doled out some powerful notes of sweet berry along with accents of toasted sesame seed, carrot, peppercorn, cream and minor wheat. A solidly bright cup up front with a deep and peppery follow-through. 

The french press proved a bit heavier, but still full of berry, cane sugar, pound cake, romaine lettuce and peppercorns.

The siphon conversely was the lightest brew, with practically no bite, full of raspberry, blueberry, dandelion greens, pound cake and slight pepper, making for the best of the three infusions.

In the end, I found this coffee a stupendous example of the complexity and quality an Indonesian coffee can embody. I would be curious to see how this coffee fared at a lighter roast profile, as the darker qualities only pulled this coffee down in my opinion. But if you like a coffee that delivers a fruity punch followed by an uppercut of peppercorn, check out this Bali Kintamani from Convive.

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CC: Charmington's

Subject: Charmington's
Location: Baltimore, MD
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When guiding a large entourage of people through the country, most people are content to frequent the many interstate truck stops for some vending machine coffee and a little rest. And while it's very fitting for time efficiency, a rest area nestled right off of America's asphalt arteries smacks of a dull, hollow excuse for refueling and leg stretching. If the opportunity allows me to take my large entourage briefly off the beaten path to break at a quality, local establishment, than so be it.

This is how I and two twelve-passenger vans found ourselves at Charmington's. Needing a break in the vicinity of Baltimore, I noticed in my preplanning that the physical location of Charmington's was but 15 minutes off the path we were traveling. And with what looked like a spacious interior, this spiffy-looking coffeehouse seemed like a perfect spot for my enormous gang to take a quick coffee break. 

Located in a large, brick building, Charmington's boasts a substantial venue with gigantic windows, two long rows of tables and a warm atmosphere that definitely gets some glow from the friendly staff. As for their menu, they serve Counter Culture Coffee and a full offering of food ranging from sandwiches to sweets. Starting off the ordering for my two vans, I got an espresso of Toscano and a drip of the Buziraguhindwa Burundi. The espresso, pulled medium with a light brown crema, dished out notes of lemon, chocolate cake, can sugar, sage and sugar cookie, proving well-extracted and flavorful. The Buziraguhindwa trumpeted out delicious bing cherry, wheat cracker, pound cake, a bit of spinach and thorough milkiness within a medium body, making for a great cup of African coffee. On a side note, I was impressed with the calm demeanor and consistent quality in which they handled the entirety of my group.

When the time came for us to bid adieu, I felt a touch of remorse that Charmington's could only be a brief respite. Hence, if you are ever in Baltimore north of the harbor and seek a great cup of coffee within a great location, check out Charmington's of the corner of W 26th and Howard. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mugged: Guatemala Huehuetenango [Passion House]

Subject: Passion House Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged: Guatemala Huehuetenango
Rating [see key]: 6+

Every time I turn on my internet surfer, it seems the number of coffee roasters has swelled even larger. Like a growing wave, the expanding number of coffee roasters makes my heart leap with joy that more and more people are coming to patronize worthy roasters, but conversely I know that any growth, while healthy, does mean an increased competition for constituents.

But one thing is for sure: with a constantly growing variety of coffee roasters, you will need curators to highlight the glorious. One such coffee entity is Coffee Kind, armed with a litany of great roasters as well as coffee equipment and brewing wisdom. Recently they extended to me a coupon so I could test out their services, and without wasting much timeI took the opportunity to order a delightful-looking Guatemalan from Passion House Coffee Roasters.

Passion House is a pretty new-to-the-scene roaster, based out of Chicago infused with what seems like vats of zeal and coffee skills. Of their many offerings, I ordered from their Ambient Genre the Guatemala Huehuetenango, a blend of various beans produced from the Huehuetenango Highland Coffee Presidium esteemed for their high quality and traceability.

After the coffee's prompt arrival, I sampled the coffee via pourover, french press and siphon. The pourover slung notes of honey, ice wine, cracked wheat, nougat, cashew and a touch of roast fowl, making for a delectable nectar with a cocoa-esque followthrough. The french press also pressed in sweetly, with nougat, cracked wheat, cashew and sweet tea dominating amidst a light body. The siphon rounded out the three with buttered cracker, nougat, cashew, cream, a bit of roast chicken and a basil hint, making for a sweet and dessert-packed coffee.

Few coffees have been as easy to decimate as this fine Guatemalan from Passion House. Coffee Kind proved a valuable presence in the coffee choosing process and with numerous great roasters and gear, they'll be more than happy to help you narrow down your decision.

Next time you seek beans, check out Coffee Kind and Passion House Coffee Roasters.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

CC: Budin

Subject: Budin
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Access to coffee roasters across the ocean has been something of a head scratcher in the past. Very few shipping and parcel services could economically get you coffee from one continent to the other well within the window of peak freshness. But recently, things have changed in the equation so that certain roasters are able to get their coffee over the pond from Europe to the States for, by comparison, what seems like a song. 

These new shipping realities, as well as the genius of bulk purchasing, have allowed for new swaths of frontier in US coffeehousing. One of the more interesting and recent openings of the past year is Budin, a coffee bar in Brooklyn serving only Scandinavia's finest coffee. Having received publicity from the local press for their unique coffee roasters, their slightly higher-than-domestic-coffee prices and their stylish nordic merchandise, I could not resist a trip to the shop.

I arrived one overcast afternoon to the unassuming, brown-framed shop with a large glass window that peered out into the calm, city street. Inside, the shop is quite voluminous; a long layout easy on the eyes that accommodates a long bar and plenty of tables, complete with the many Scandinavian wares and a patio in the back. For my coffee, I decided upon an espresso of Colombia Tampana from Norway's Tim Wendelboe, and a pourover of Brazil Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza from Sweden's Koppi. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, relayed orange, grapefruit, wheaty beer, hazlenut, cocoa and little barley broth, making for a deliciously bright and sweet extraction. The pourover also bedazzled my tongue, with potent flavors of cherry, Cabernet Franc, dark chocolate, honey, elderflower and rye amidst a mellow, light body. 

Delighted with my coffee and the extremely friendly staff, I left Budin satisfied that I had received my money's worth. If you're looking to try out some great coffee from abroad, make your way to Brooklyn's Budin. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

CC: Cafe Stella

Subject: Cafe Stella
Location: Norfolk, VA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Making my way through lovely Norfolk, I was impressed to find more options for feasting than I had heard prior. Since I was only in town for a smidgen of time, I was forced to take my choices and whittle them down to pick two. The first was a grand sanctuary of southern flavor called Handsome Biscuit, which despite its quaint size was bubbling over with eager customers and made for a grandiose course of chicken and biscuits. 

The second was my coffee stop for the morning, a place that suited my companions in its geography and tentatively suited my qualifications with its foretold reputation. This coffee entity was none other than a brightly arrayed venue dubbed Cafe Stella. Situated on Colonial Avenue with a nice outside patio flanking the central door, I walked in to find a vaulted space full of eclectic furniture and vintage flare, occasionally dotted with intriguing art and populated by what seemed like a never-ceasing bustle of patrons. 

Looking to sip some of their self-roasted coffee, I tried out their espresso blend (the barista gave it no name) and a pourover of their Kenyan. The espresso, pulled short/medium with a brownish crema, ricocheted notes of milk, black pepper, butter cracker, lemon zest and spinach making for a fairly tasty infusion with only minor areas left for improvement. The Kenya held out a vibrant bouquet of Frosted Flakes, blueberry, sweet cream, tomato gravy and lemongrass, making for a syrupy sweet brew with a light body. 

After spending a little time at a wide circular table, my company and I bussed our dishes and walked out satisfied. If you happen to be in Norfolk, stop by Cafe Stella for a cup of coffee. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Mugged: Black Medicine

Coffee Mugged: Black Medicine
Rating [see key]: 5+

The prepackaged iced coffee craze seems to be at full tilt. More than ever a thirsty iced coffee seeker can find a bottle, growler or keg of iced coffee at a local coffee purveyor so to grab their favorite chilled java for consumption at a much later date.

Yet despite the growing trend amongst great roasters, I have not had a lot of great bottled iced coffee. Many times the bottled brews are something that demands the aid of ice, and sometimes even ice does little to disperse a repugnant aftertaste. Thus when I heard about a bottled iced coffee from California called Black Medicine, I can't say I had high hopes for great flavor when they offered to send some out for review. But of course, I put my thoughts aside and put on my objective lenses to give each of the three bottles a thorough assessment.

It turns out that this blend of three different light-to-medium roasted origins (currently two Ethiopians and one Guatemalan) brewed hot-then-cooled made for an ice coffee that is hard to beat. The Black Medicine actually tasted great, with flavors of oatmeal stout, lemon, orange peel, roasted peanut and a touch of banana, making for a smooth and bright coffee with no funky aftertaste. To be fair, the coffee does have "added Vitamin C" so it's not really a truly pure coffee and so it's hard to say how much of the brightness comes from the additive. Nonetheless, the coffee goes down sweet whether one prefers to sip it over ice or drink straight from the bottle.

While there's tons of prepackaged iced coffee out there, take confidence that there are a good chunk of great options like Black Medicine. Grab a bottle at your participating retailer (especially if you're out in their neck of California) or online.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CC: The Warehouse Cafe

Subject: The Warehouse Cafe
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Jersey City used to confuse me. When I was a wee lad, talk of JC came up between two adult relatives and as they bantered, Jersey City was conveyed to my spying ears as the NJ version of New York City (I don't recall what caused this dot connecting; it just happened). My young mind thought that it was amazing that there were two huge metropolises right across from one another. But then again, at that time I was also convinced that there was a live dinosaur buried in the backyard of my friend's house. 

Years later, my perspective on Jersey City has changed for the better and my love of this Jersey haven has grown. Not only is it a city full of history but it's got a lot of little nooks worth a visit. One particular operation to catch my eye as of late was the Warehouse Cafe, a coffeehouse located on the lower level of a historic warehouse that now contains some swanky lofts. The space is actually above street level, providing a nice patio, and with the aid of their large windows, it all seems to blend beautifully inside to the cozy, well-outfitted interior. 

The coffee comes from Intelligentsia, consisting primarily of a custom house blend and Black Cat. With my decision predetermined for lack of choice (sometimes a good thing), I had a cup of the house via drip and an espresso of Black Cat. The drip served notes of tomato, shortbread, lime juice, nougat, cider and a bit of bay leaf, making a for a medium-bodied, well-balanced coffee. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with brownish-tan crema, held notes ginger, coriander, cocoa and a little spring mix salad; all together a good infusion of Black Cat. 

As for places I will probably refrequent, I can add the Warehouse Cafe to the short list of NJ establishments serving coffee worth drinking.  Next time you happen to be in lovely Jersey City, take a stroll over to the Warehouse.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

CC: ReAnimator Coffee Roasters

Subject: Reanimator Coffee Roasters
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

First impressions are a bit of a red herring. I often tell one of my favorite friends that when I first met her during a job interview, I had written her off as a snotty and demanding person by the end of 45 minutes in the same room. Of course, I turned out wrong and years later, her tribe and mine both are fond cohorts.

The misleading nature of first impressions goes for businesses as well. For example, the first time I made the acquaintance of ReAnimator Coffee Roasters was in a cozy Thai restaurant in South Philadelphia outfitted with sub-par coffee equipment. Another friend and I were enjoying a leisurely and delicious lunch when I glanced to their drink area and made out what I later learned to be a bag of ReAnimator Coffee. Not liking coffee with Thai food, I passed on the coffee but I recall my brain making an unconscious frowny face on the brand.

But like most ill-conceived notions, that frowny face quickly turned into a gaping smile with my first real interaction with ReAnimator. Then after my second and third positive run-in with ReAnimator, I became convinced that this then new-to-the-scene Philly coffee roaster was destined for greatness. Thus, when the first ReAnimator brick-and-mortar shop opened this past autumn, I was all too excited to try out their wares in their own house.

Located at one of the five points of the intersection along with Loco Pez and Cedar Point Bar and Kitchen, ReAnimator Coffee adds a much-needed caffeine haven to the area. Walking through the front door at the building vertex, I sauntered through the minimalistic interior past various tables and chairs until I reached the gorgeous, custom concrete counter at the back. After some brief barista banter, I ordered an espresso and a pourover of their Ethiopia Kochere. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, smacked of blood orange, chocolate nibs, some lime zest, sage and a touch of Wheat Thins, making for a bright and delicious infusion. The pourover version of the coffee proved sweeter and more mellow, with notes of honey, peaches, candy caramel, wheat cracker, birch and kale within a medium body.

Needless to say, I had a field day at ReAnimator. Make ye your way to Fishtown for some great coffee. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

CC: Dub Pies

Subject: Dub Pies
Location Visited: Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : I think not
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Pie has to be one of the single best mediums for conveying flavor. I can think of few items that tempt me and often allude me more than sumptuous pie delights like salty honey walnut, peach ginger and fresh, no-syrup-filler apple pie. And of course, I stand with the masses whose love for pie is seemingly only eclipsed by the inability (due to finances, geography or both) to get great piece all the time.

Yet for all the wonders of pie, America has not the fervent love for meat pies that our Aussie and Middle Earth (aka New Zealand) counterparts kindle. Sure we have chicken pot pie and shepherds pie, but how many of us have had a steak mince pie or a thai chicken curry pie? Not nearly enough of us. And to battle this pie-lessness, Dub Pies of NYC beats the war drums of their pie march upon the urban landscape around them. 

One evening, I was able to make it out to their Greenwich Village shop for a savory pie before heading on my way home. To my surprise while ordering, not only do they bear great pies but also a love for great coffee. Sporting Counter Culture Coffee, I decided to order an espresso of the Espresso La Forza (a more traditional, southern Italian-style espresso) and a drip of Kenyan (I failed to note the specific origin). The espresso, pulled a short-to-medium with a light brown crema, unfolded notes of vanilla, lemon, sugar, bittersweet chocolate and a touch of pepper; definitely full of traditional flavor though it seemed it was pulled a bit hot. The Kenyan metered out a great infusion of apricot, chocolate cake, sweet Hawaiian rolls, berries and light sage, making for a smooth and bright cup. 

Thus, not only did I sate my ravenous pie lust but I also had a great coffee experience. Delay not a dub-ious second; round up your kin and make a trip to a Dub Pies location next time you're in town (be on the lookout for the trucks!) or if ye reside local, get it delivered.