Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts

Sunday, June 10, 2012

CC: McCafferty's

Subject: McCafferty's
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

When I go with others on trips, no one volunteers to wake up extra early with me and hit a coffeehouse first thing. Truth be told, most of my family and friends think it psychotic that I wake up with the sun just so I can try out a new coffeehouse, but then again, I guess not everyone gets the same child-like euphoria upon discovering a local coffee gem.

While I was in Fairbanks, I awoke with the dawn to visit a coffeehouse and roastery that I had read kind words of, a place dubbed McCafferty's. Located in the historic and uniquely charming Fairbanks downtown area, I found McCafferty's in an unassuming building with large glass windows. Inside the place had multiple levels with a mishmosh of furniture, decent lighting and lots of local art. 

In ordering, I got an espresso of their espresso blend and a drip of the Costa Rica Tarrazu. The espresso, pulled medium-long with a blonde-ish crema, presented the flavors of cherry, chocolate, pepper, english muffin and cabbage with a buttery aftertaste and a slight dark aura to it; a fair spro but their extraction proved not as optimally skilled as I would have hoped. The drip of the Costa Rican held wheat, baked apple, oak, brisket and wheat grass in a light/medium body, a pleasant cup of coffee though some of the flavors felt a little faded. 

While I've had better early morning coffee destinations, McCAfferty's proved a decent Alaskan gem to rise for in the AM. If you happen to be in downtown Fairbanks, give McCafferty's a go.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

CC: Kaladi Brothers

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

If any coffee spot commands attention with the citizens of Anchorage, it seems Kaladi Brothers is king. With ten locations in Anchorage (as well as 4 outside the city limits), I am impressed with the amount of loyalty they have accrued to keep that many coffee locations working. 

Suffice it to say that my trip to Anchorage would remain incomplete without a stop at by one of their shops. While I had a coffee in passing at the New Sagaya coffee stand and a fair espresso at Cafe Ristretto (a cafe that utilizes Kaladi Bros beans), I made for the downtown location for a full evaluative experience. The outside happens to be bit stark (it's a round brick office building), but the inside was quite well decorated and laid out, with an assortment of colors, crystal chandeliers and all kinds of seating amidst the unique interior layout.

From the research I had done, Kaladi as a coffee roaster seems to stick to the older ways ("2nd wave"), aiming for darker roasts, not to mention has a curious method of storing their whole bean coffee in a fridge (at least downtown they do). For my beverages, I ordered an espresso (I did not catch the blend's name) and a drip of their Rwandan. The espresso, pulled medium with brown crema, displayed notes of tobacco, bitter cocoa, cabbage, oak, a little sugar and a wee bit of rhubarb; alas, it was a noticeably burnt and bitter with a heavy potency, but still fairly good. The Rwandan, labeled as a lighter roast, tasted more like a medium-dark roast with flavors of sweet oats, blackberry jam, vanilla, pear and slight almond in a medium-to-heavy body. As for a medium/dark roast, it was also fairly tasty. 

Given the roast level of both the espresso and the coffee, Kaladi did deliver a decent coffee experience (i.e. neither tasted that poorly despite the darkness). If you're into darker roasts or you just want to see what all the Anchorage-ians are drinking, give Kaladi Brothers a visit.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

CC: Alaska Coffee Roasting Co.

Location: Fairbanks, AK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key] 

When the sun does not shine for a good part of the winter, I would imagine that your morning cup of coffee would hold an even greater significance. Hence, it would make sense that Alaskans would be terribly picky about the quality of their brews, not wanting to settle for a coffee that can only offer sparkles of taste instead of an inferno of flavor. 
Thus I had heard that in the Golden Heart City of Fairbanks there lay a coffee roaster that made a quality cup of coffee. This roaster was aptly titled the Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. I pulled into the strip mall housing the cafe and roastery one dreary morning, happy to walk in and find a cafe with warm wood and Alaskan-esque art creating a warm ambiance around a sea of wood seating. 
I ordered for myself a drip of their Ethiopian Harrar and an espresso of their Milan San Reno. The drip resounded with notes of fuji apple, buttered bisquit, walnut and a palatable sweetness; a hearty and pleasantly-piquant coffee. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with a dark marbled crema, held notes of jalapeno, bittersweet cocoa, nutmeg, parsley and a little cream. The shots were tasty, though slightly unbalanced (a little too much spicy and bitter notes). The tea is free leaf. 
To put it mildly, I thought the ACRC did a pretty good job in delivering a splendid coffee experience. If you happen to be in Fairbanks, stop in at the Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

CC: Flying Squirrel

Location: Talkeetna, AK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key] 

I find great joy in finding and exploring new places, especially if that new place holds some serious character. Places like the Bay Area (San Fran) and Bozeman, MT with their unique magic set my heart ablaze and my mind into hyperdrive.

But of all of the places I've been in the States, one the most interesting has to be Talkeetna, Alaska. Built as a railroad hub (the town only in the past decade got a paved road leading to it from the highway), the town has served as a place for fishermen and mountain climbers to set up a base of operations since the early 1900s. Much of the beautifully quaint town is historic and also offers grand places to eat such as the Talkeetna Roadhouse (there I had the most amazing breakfast) and the West Rib Cafe and Pub.

To complete any gem of a town, one needs a good coffeehouse. Sadly, there was no place trumpeted by locals or coffee geeks, but upon some further research, it seemed that the Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe right outside town was my best bet for a good cup. Serving K-Bay Coffee from Homer, a coffee I had yet to sample, I had my fingers crossed that it would be worth my time. I made my way over, pulling off the the access road into their unpaved parking lot and beheld the log cabin that is the cafe. Inside, there's a massive kitchen as well as a healthy seating area full of random tables, a vaulted ceiling, paper lanterns and warm colors. 

I ordered an espresso of their espresso blend (I failed to get a name) and a drip infusion of a blend mixed of a K-Bay coffee and a Silverhook coffee (also no specific name that I found). The drip produced a cup with a heavy body, dotted with notes of minestrone, romaine, tea biscuit, clove and vanilla. The brew was a bit too dark and a tad stale, but overall it was tasty. 

The espresso, pulled short/medium with a brownish crema, held flavors of bitter cocoa, fig bar, ginger, basil and a bit of lemon on the back end. Also a fairly palatable extraction, but not too stellar. It should also be noted that they sell alcohol and have a gorgeous ever-changing menu.

While the town of Talkeetna blew me away with its character, I found the Flying Squirrel to be less impressive in regards to their coffee and espresso (the food I had was top notch). All that seems needed for stellar would be just a little more attention to detail with the espresso and maybe a different coffee (on the lighter side) for the drip. Nonetheless, still glide into Flying Squirrel if you're passing through for a decent cup.

Monday, February 13, 2012

CC: Cafe Del Mundo

Location: Anchorage, AK
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

When I had first heard of Anchorage coffee a decade ago, the two cafes that were mentioned to me were Cafe Del Mundo and the Kaladi Brothers. Then a little under a year ago, Kaladi purchased Cafe Del Mundo, though the pledge was to keep the two separate, aiming to keep Cafe Del Mundo the same as it has always been.

With this in mind, I strode through the doors of Anchorage's oldest coffee roaster-and-retail shop, not caring so much as to whether the coffee was still true to the del Mundo ways as I hoped for a solid coffee experience. The cafe itself stood arrayed in a calm,1980s-wood-and-soft-lights manner, with a counter stretching the length of the store and plenty of hearty wooden chairs for patrons to utilize. 

Before I found a seat near two European posters, I ordered myself a drip of their Papua New Guinea and an espresso of their Espresso Blend. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with blonde crema, held notes of milk chocolate, cream soda, cookie dough as well as some cayenne, notes of basil and a slight burnt character. The shots weren't the best but still offered a respectably balanced and tasty spro. 

Moving on to the Papua New Guinea, the coffee relayed qualities of nuts, grass, honey, slight minestrone with celery, a pinch of sage and raw sugar. A refreshingly delicious brew that proved smooth and easy to savor.

Having later tried Kaladi Brothers (that review will come soon), I can vouch that Cafe Del Mundo is still noticeably different then it's new owner. While I felt the skill in preparation of my coffee was slightly lacking (mainly, the espresso could have been better pulled), I can say that I enjoyed my experience. Give Cafe Del Mundo a visit when you're in town. 

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CC: Sea Bean


Subject: Sea Bean
Location: Seward, AK
Free WiFi ? :yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In preparing for a day trip to Seward, Alaska I did some quick research to determine what the expedition would hold. While I found some local pointers and sites online (such as to visit Exit Glacier near town), I found most of my good tips from the nice folks who ran the Hutch, a local B&B in Cooper Landing. They mentioned Ray's Waterfront for a scrumptious lunch and the quaint downtown area for some shopping.

But when it came to good coffee in Seward, both the internet and locals did not give much in terms of hope. And since hidden gems seem to rarely surface, I had resolved to keep an eye out but not to get my hopes up for decent coffee. Fast forward to our arrival in town, we decided to check out some of the local shops on 4th Street. I was walking and spotted a bright green awning that said "Espresso, Internet and Ice Cream." Initially, I reasoned that I had seen this kind of advertisement all over Alaska and before I could look further into the establishment, my gut judged it as a sub-par place. Walking past it again about 20 minutes later, a few members of my party pointed it out and questioned as to why I hadn't tried the place out yet. In verbalizing my earlier pompous, book cover judgement, my party quickly descended on my shallow outlook and urged me to at least walk in and check it out.

Thank God my companions challenged me. I walked into the demurely decorated coffeehouse with warm red walls, chic yet Alaskan furniture and a nice atmosphere, up to the counter where I noticed two things of great promise. The first was a lever espresso machine; a manual means of extracting espresso usually reserved for espresso geeks. The second was the Intelligentsia Coffee logo, beaming with the substantial rays of hope that this was indeed an overlooked pearl.

I engaged the barista in coffee chatter and the longer I stood there, the more positive my outlook grew. His skills in pulling my shots of Black Cat espresso seemed polished plus my cup of their house blend smelled delicious. And in a few sweet sips, it was confirmed that I cannot trust my gut to judge coffeehouses by their awnings. The house blend drip demonstrated notes of caramel, grass, wheat, a bit of cocoa and sage all amidst a smooth, light body; a delicious cup of what seemed like a South American-type coffee. The espresso held bright lemon, ginger, rosemary, milk chocolate, with a velvety texture amidst a brown healthy crema and a short/medium volume (a fine showing of Black Cat). The tea is Intelligentsia, Golden Moon and others. 

Needless to say, my compatriots did not let me live it down that I almost passed up such a wonderful specimen. If you're ever in the area of Seward, don't make the blunder I almost made. Go to the Sea Bean.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

CC: Terra Bella

What does CC mean?

Subject: Terra Bella
Location: Anchorage, AK

Free WiFi ? : yes

Rating: 5+ [
see key]

Before making my trip to Anchorage, I had received little encouragement that I would find any good coffee in town. A friend of mine who lives in the area said she had given up on finding a decent coffeehouse. Those who had preceded me seemed to also offer little hope, saying that mediocre is all that I would find.

Yet hope prevailed. While I can’t say I found anything that one would set as an industry standard (as some would term, “third wave”), I did find a few places in town that came dangerously close.

The best spot in my opinion was an organic coffeehouse called Terra Bella. Having its prime location in South Anchorage and a drive-thru kiosk in Midtown, Terra Bella had received some acclaim from some locals as serving up good coffee and espresso. I made my way to the southern location one overcast afternoon to find a warmly arrayed coffeehouse with palate of orange and earthy colors surrounding a spacious venue with plenty of seats and lots of art.

Choosing from their many self-roasted coffees (might I jovially add they had not one over-roasted bean in sight; an AK rarity), I ordered an espresso and a drip of their Nicaragua Segovia. The espresso, pulled of a short/medium volume with a medium brown crema, sent notes of sugar, chocolate, lemon tonic and salt lick; a potently varied yet good espresso. The drip held flavors of spiced rum, a little wheat, rock candy, sassafras, cocoa and arugula (an odd, yet delicious combination with a smooth body). The tea is free leaf.

If I had to move to Anchorage, I would surely be back to Terra Bella for a regular cup of coffee. If you happen to be in town or passing through, give Terra Bella a whirl.