Showing posts with label south jersey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label south jersey. Show all posts

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mugged: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe [Lacas Coffee]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Lacas Coffee
(warning: website plays a constant tune; mute if you wish to not hear it)
Coffees Mugged:
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
3+ [see key]

Much like coffee is nothing new, the American coffee industry has been bustling for some time now. Little did I know that I grew up fairly close to a coffee importer and roaster that is about to turn a century old.

Lacas Coffee (located in Pennsauken, NJ) is a familiar coffee name if you happen to glance at diner coffee stations, local restaurants or the occasional area coffeehouse. I have sampled their brews occasionally and have never been too impressed with the lackluster, out-of-a-hot-plate carafe sludge (though they do get points for not grossing me out).

But since my Lacas experiences have all been with coffee in the hands of others, I was intrigued by the offer to try out a pound via Coffee For Less, a coffee distributor seeming to focus on your typical "popular" consumer coffees.

I received the coffee fairly quickly, opened the colorful packaging and dove in. I sampled the medium/dark coffee via drip first, then siphon and ended with french press.

The drip produced a juicy coffee, mostly reminiscent of apricot or pear, followed with a deep cocoa, a tingle of lemon pepper and a noticeable bitterness. A smooth coffee in the front with a rough kick on the back.

My experience with the siphon proved to be brighter (as in acidity). The brew had a lemony character paired with the apricot, still showing some chocolate but also drawing out a little cashew and sage. Again, a bit bitter on the back.

Finishing off with the french press, this cup was more similar to the drip. It held a similar apricot and deep cocoa beginning as well as the noticeable bitterness towards the end, but this batch put forth a little bit of cinnamon amidst the bitterness.

To put it simply, this particular coffee from Lacas appeased me but it did not wow me. While Lacas is an old business that seems to (try to) march with the times, I think they could do better.

As for Coffee For Less, they had good turn around and the coffee seemed fresh. If you are in the market for coffees they offer (such as Lacas), I would recommend giving them a run around the block.

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

Monday, February 08, 2010

CC: Casciano Coffee Bar & Sweetery

What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Hammonton, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes

3+ [
see key]

When you get in between Philadelphia and the Jersey shore, you roll into an odd region of the state known for its sandy soil and weird pines (the pine barrens). Around this habitat, you find a lot of cranberry and blueberry farms and accordingly, such towns as Hammonton (the self-proclaimed blueberry capital of the world!).

While passing through town, I decided to try out a local coffee operation called Casciano Coffee Bar & Sweetery. Granted I never had heard of it before, but since I don't frequent the area a lot, I figured to give it a go.

Casciano sits on the main avenue of Hammonton in a charming brown store front with a few outside tables, complimented with free parking and a second entrance in the back. The interior displayed a long shop split in half by the kitchen and bathrooms; the counter and some tables in the front and much more seating in the back. The overall ambiance seemed to focus more on average American decor and though not compelling, proved very comfortable.

The coffee hails from Mountain Peak Coffee Roasters, based out of Forked River, NJ. I sampled a cup of their Colombian via drip; the brew proved bright with hints of lime, flavors of olive oil, oregano and Earl Grey all encapsulated in a medium-bodied coffee that wasn't half bad. The espresso, pulled short/medium, had a grapefruit sourness followed by a strong milky taste and ending with cardboard and a deep, charred flavor (i.e. the espresso could stand to improve). The tea is Republic of Tea.

While Casciano shows a lot of promise, I can see some areas that, if developed, could send them further towards the top. In the meantime, if you are in town, give Casciano a try for yourself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CC: The Sweet Life Bakery

What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Vineland, NJ
Free WiFi ? : no

4+ [
see key]

Albeit coffee and sweets are natural friends, I have not seen many bakeries that serve good coffee, never mind good espresso. Usually, it's just an aging pot of coffee sitting next to heavily-iced cakes.

Yet things seem to be swinging around at some confectioneries, places where the coffee quality has begun to take an appropriate spotlight.

One such example would be the Sweet Life Bakery in Vineland, NJ. The bakery has received some decent acclaim for their baking exploits (apparently they have the best muffins in South Jersey) but it was a trusted friend endorsing their coffee prowess that made me stop by on a recent trip through the deep south of NJ.

The Sweet Life sits on a side street off East Landis Ave (despite having the address of said street) in a small yellow building next to a very convenient public parking lot. The inside of the bakery is cozy and simple; a few tables right near the front counter where all of the baking and making happens.

The coffee comes from nearby Kaffe Magnum Opus, a decent local South Jersey roaster. I ordered their featured drip, the Havana Nights blend, a coffee that offered a fairly bright and balanced cup, featuring hints of pear, a slap of bitterness and a trailing sauciness (overall, not bad). The espresso, a quality short/medium pull from a one group Nuova Simonelli, displayed a buttery, bitter flavor with flecks of cocoa and a nice milky aftertaste; an overall pretty good espresso. The tea I did not catch.

While I definitely could see this little bakery ascending to great heights, I can say that they at least stand ahead of many bakeries due to their coffee aspirations. If you are looking for a good cup of coffee in Vineland, stop by the Sweet Life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mugged: Los Milagros [Crescent Moon]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Subject: Crescent Moon Coffee & Tea
Coffee Mugged:
El Salvador Los Milagros

Rating: 5+ [see key]

ood coffee produced from a quality farm always hits jolly on the spot. Many times, the desire to do right for the coffee producers and harvesters falls under the tires of horrific roasting (so many coffee companies dedicated to social justice never seem to roast well) and hence, so often the hunt for quality taste overwhelms the quest for coffee traded fairly.

But coffees such as Crescent Moon Coffee & Tea's El Salvador Los Milagros restore my hope that just coffee can be roasted just right. The coffee comes from a woman-owned cooperative that is also USDA organic and bird friendly. I first took notice of it on an Independent Coffee Cooperative flier and made a point to try it out.

Fortunately, I landed a pound and excitedly made my way home to try it out. I had it via french press, vacuum press and drip, each one a bit different but all of them similarly wonderful. The french press proved the most luminous, with a strong taste of honey and hints of flowering grass and apple with a subtle earthiness. The vacuum press and drip also produced similar results, both equally refreshing and lovely.

Overall, I savored every cup of Los Milagros and am glad to see such a tremendous coffee offered all over Philadelphia. If you're looking for a good sustainable Central American coffee, give Crescent Moon's Los Milagros a try.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CC: The Ground House

What's does "CC" mean?

The Ground House
Location visited: Pitman, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]


Often when I wander the streets of large cities, I relish the fact that by simple probability, a good coffeehouse could be nearby. Granted, my luck has not led to many random finds but the numbers still tell me that hope still exists.

Yet when I'm in small towns where I've already pegged two or three coffeehouses, I'm not really on the lookout for another (the probability does not exactly thrive). And on those exact moments where you look not for something, you often find it (such as in love and in suffering). So was the case in my most recent trip to Pitman, a small town in NJ that already sports two coffeehouses (one decent, one fair) where I was pointed to a third coffeehouse called The Ground House.

Naturally, I ventured over. The exterior is but a tan and maroon flat face with a window having the appearance of what I would deem a jazz club. The interior is a two room venue that reflected quite the dichotomy; the main room (the one with the food) holds a reddish decor with nice mood lighting while the adjoining room with their substantial stage is bright white and green with rather bleh fluorescent lighting.

As per the barista's heavy discretion, the coffee comes from "Millville," which from my basic powers of deduction means either they get their coffee from Kaffe Magnum Opus or a secret roaster untold (Millville isn't that big either). Either way, their house coffee (an Ethiopian) was concocted on a hot plate brewer and had some bright notes with some smoothness, but overall it proved boring and not too savory. The espresso lent similar effects, as it held some enjoyable elements of acidity though overall it lent more heavy char and made for only a fair cup. The tea comes from David Rio.

To say the least, I was happy to find the place even though some of the facets of their coffee seem to warrant small improvement. No matter, give the Ground House a try if you happen to wander the streets of Pitman looking for coffee.

Monday, June 01, 2009

CC: South Jersey Java

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Voorhees, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Not too long ago, when looking to kill some time while my wife attended a bridal shower, I made a mad dash to find any place to sit and read while I waited for the event to be over. Not expecting to find much new (I feel all too familiar with South Jersey), I was surprised in my research to find a new-to-me coffeehouse in Voorhees called South Jersey Java.

In looking for the location, I passed it four times before I finally saw it, as using my peepers to spot an address on a road that changes names three times in less than a mile proved ineffective. South Jersey Java sits in a small shopping plaza with a fair amount of parking. Walking through the front doors I first noticed the place had a unique arrangement, with an array of sharp furniture, a fire place and quality collection of local art. The second thing I noticed was the TV that blared all too distractingly in the front corner...

The coffee is roasted in-house on a countertop roaster in the back of the shop. The coffee available that morning was the Lighthouse Blend, a coffee that displayed low acidity but also some cardboard and overall held nothing distinct. The automatic espresso machine was actually down that day, but since 99% of all automatic espresso machines can't pull good shots (there might be one out there), I don't feel like I missed out. The tea is Stash.

After about an hour of sipping my coffee and reading my book (The Great Upheaval, which made for a good read ultimately, but I would have preferred a more coffee-related book like Driven to Espresso), I had to be on my way. While I think South Jersey Java possesses a few areas of improvement much like many coffeehouses, it seems to be a good place to hangout with some fair coffee and catch some local music.

Thus, if you're in Voorhees for such reasons, stop on in.

Monday, December 08, 2008

CC: Bus Stop Music Cafe

What's does "CC" mean?

Bus Stop Music Cafe
Location visited: Pitman, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 2+ [see key]

Though music venues, vintage music, and cafes are popular places for various people, I've never seen all three rolled into one spot.

That is not, until I stumbled upon the Bus Stop Music Cafe (henceforth referred to as the BSMC) in Pitman, NJ. I had heard from a friend that a new coffee location had arisen in Pitman and after a drive around, I deduced it to be the BSMC. On the outside, the venue looks fairly plain with a few outside tables. The interior is rather large, with records and CDs around the walls of the store, the cafe to the back right, and a large amount of seating in the front 3/5 of the store. Overall, a nice physical set-up for the three facets except for a fairly low ceiling for a music venue.

My admiration fell short at the coffee. The coffee comes from a decent roaster in Deptford, NJ called Talk N' Coffee, specifically their Black Cat as it's the only coffee BSMC serves. Served up off a hot plate coffee brewer, the drip proved a tad stale though also noticeably sweet and smooth. To be frank, the espresso scared me. Even though the barista informed me that he was new to this, he then filled the portafilter with pre-ground Black Cat out of an old Maxwell House can, left it untamped, and then pulled. The espresso consequently smacked of cardboard and bitterness. I do not recall the tea.

Granted BSMC is new to the cafe scene but it seems they have a lot of work to do with their coffee skills. Nonetheless, if you're looking for a local music scene, used music store and some fair coffee, then give the BSMC a try.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

CC: Progressive Coffee House


What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Progressive Coffee House
Location visited: Glassboro, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

*CLOSED as of 7.29.10*

Alma maters, no matter how aggressive their alumni office is for money, will always carry a spot in an alumnus' heart. The same I would say would go for the location of the school (with a few exceptions I'm sure).

Recently, I had the pleasure to visit Glassboro, NJ where I spent much of my young adult life at college. While I was there, the town sadly had not a single coffeehouse of worth (though there were a few tries) but now that the town is trying to revive the downtown, a new coffeehouse named the Progressive Coffee House decided to open their doors in the place of an old bakery on High Street.

When I first heard of it, I kind of had my doubts as to their motivation, mainly I wondered what did "progressive" mean (was it politically tied, environmentally entrenched, or just a coffeehouse that plans to move forward?) but upon further investigation, I saw no evidence of any of my guesses except that they liked their name (soooo much merchandise).

The exterior preserves the original look of the place, using an old marquee-looking projection to display their sign and they kept the windows simple and big. The interior was quite different from the old bakery, as it was awash with bright reds, oranges and yellows surrounding a spacious counter and a sea of red leather couches (they had tables too).

The coffee comes from Kaffe Magnum Opus, a coffee roaster out of South Jersey that I've had mixed experiences with (I also become suspicious of roasters that sell more flavored coffee than not). But putting all past experience aside, I gave Progressive's House Blend a try and found it, to my delight, to be a bright, smooth and earthy coffee. The espresso proved a fair pull, with char sadly overshadowing a citrusy-cocoa flavor (drinkable). Their tea is Mighty Leaf.

Given the future plans for the town of Glassboro, I am happy that the town finally has a coffeehouse of decency. I think with a little work, Progressive could progress very well but for now I think their challenge will be getting Rowan University students to walk off-campus (in my day, it didn't really happen). If you're in the area, I would recommend a stop.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CC: Espressit

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Espressit
Location visited: Haddon Twp, NJ
(18 Haddon Ave)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

*Update 5/18/09 at end...

Ever walk down a street and think to yourself "For the love of Peter Pumpkin Eater, why is there not a coffeehouse here?!" ? I sure have. Heck, I've screamed it into space more than once (well, maybe not verbatim but you get the idea).

Haddon Avenue in South Jersey at many points is one of those streets. In Collingswood and Haddonfield, a coffeehouse or two occupy the street but in much of the space in between, there sat nothing until recently with the opening of a new place called Espressit.

Espressit sits beautifully nestled in a strip of shops, the coffeehouse itself having a beautiful black exterior complete with a gorgeous sign, nice patio furniture, and nice assortment of potted plants. Inside, the place was arrayed in beautifully lavish furniture and a very calming decor.

The coffee is La Colombe, an ok coffee roaster out of Philly. The coffee proved typical La Colombe; not horrible but nothing distinct. The espresso, pulled long, tasted fairly decent with some decent sweetness, though still a bit of char in the cup. I failed to note the tea.

While Espressit definitely has the coffeehouse look well nailed down, I would venture that the coffee experience could stand to escalate. Nonetheless, if you're looking for an eye-pleasing coffeehouse with acceptable coffee, take a stroll over to Espressit.

*Update 5/18/09
Went back recently and had another shot at the espresso (no pun intended) and it really took the benefit of the doubt off the table. The espresso was fair with a nice mocha flavor but the back end produced an oily, harsh aftertaste (somewhat to the credit of La Colombe and the rest to the barista performance). Hopefully they switch up their roaster or something soon...

Monday, September 29, 2008

CC: Mugs Coffee House

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Mugs Coffee House
Location visited: Swedesboro, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

ew Jersey definitely holds a lot of people, as it is the most densely populated state in the union. And yet, if someone were to blindfold you and haul you to certain remote places in NJ, you would swear someone kidnapped you and took you across state lines (on a side note, always obtain consent from a person before blindfolding and carting them anywhere).

But dense or not dense, one thing is consistent with my home state; the signage and locations of things can be downright absurd. For example, I was recently driving around looking for a small coffeehouse in a small town called Swedesboro, and not only did Google map plot the address way outside of town but I drove through the town of Swedesboro twice and did not see one single sign announcing its existence. And I'm a native (I can't imagine the stress for someone from afar...)!

Anyways, I did finally find the coffeehouse above, a little place called Mugs Coffee House. A recent sprout on the coffee scene, it resides in a converted house on the main stretch of town. The exterior boasts a sharp-looking front porch complete with several tables and chairs. Walking in, you enter a long foyer that leads to the counter in the back of the house. The dining area to the right holds a series of comfy-looking chairs (though the color scheme of purple, orange and green has never hit me as pretty) as well as traditional table seating.

The coffee comes from Jersey Shore Coffee Roasters, a distant North Jersey coffee roaster that I don't think I've had before. The coffee served twas a Costa Rican that left me indifferent; a nice sweet note in the front followed immediately by a burnt blandness that made my tongue despair. The espresso had a twinge of potential, as it had a nice fruity acidity, but the shot was overall empty and flat (I didn't see the shots pulled, but my guess was a bad pull and possibly a mediocre espresso blend). The tea was Harney and Sons and they serve a full menu.

While I would say that Mugs would benefit from better coffee practices and/or better coffee (can't say I was thrilled with Jersey Shore), overall it seems the place provides a good hangout for locals and decent fare for the hungry. Thus, if you happen to be going through the town, give the coffeehouse a whirl; hopefully, you'll have better luck with signs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

CC: Moore Perks Cafe

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Moore Perks Cafe
Location visited: Wenonah, NJ

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Updated 6/20/09: Moore Perks Cafe is CLOSED for good :(

Decent coffeehouses sprout up about as often as they photograph live giant squid, so it was to my great delight when I heard of one opening up last fall in lovely downtown Wenonah. Unfortunately, due to being away most of the fall, I was unable to finally visit until recently.

The location stands out nicely, right on the main strip of Wenonah where the train tracks intersect (very convenient parking, unlike most Main St operations). Opposite of the typical cream exterior, the inside exudes more life and a cafe-ish look complete with decent seating and what appeared to be a couch/lounge area in a side nook.

The coffee is from Crescent Moon, a local up-and-coming roasting outfit who produces some of the best java in the Philadelphia region. More Perks served the coffee well (I don't recall if they used pump pots or not) as the drip tasted very fresh.

The espresso was another situation. Given that the owners of this outfit had no prior barista knowledge before they made the decision to open More Perks (I think Crescent Moon trained them), my first two experiences were a little unsettling. When I ordered my first americano, the barista seemed a little unconfident (the guy asked waaaaay too many questions of what I wanted) and two days later my latte was quite tepid (they didn't steam it enough). But giving them the benefit of a bad week, I came back a week later (my fiance' lives nearby, so it twas an easy side-stop) and I was satisfied with the subsequent espresso drinks from then on.

On a side note, More Perks also has a full menu deli besides the usual coffeehouse items (I wonder what generates more business). Yipee? (I still don't know where I stand with this issue. Sure such food generates more revenue, but will it take focus off the coffee quality? You decide...).

To summarize, even though the cafe was a little rough at first, I think the place has a good future (though I don't know what kind of promising revenue Wenonah holds...), as long as they stick to aspirations of quality and being willing to learn. If you're in the area, I'd give it a try.

Monday, January 08, 2007

CC: The Daily Grind

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: The Daily Grind
Location visited: Mt. Holly, NJ

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Heading back from an early morning breakfast rendezvous with a good friend of mine, we decided to stop and get coffee at a venue in Mt. Holly that I've heard a bit about but have never managed to find. With a bit of a heading from the eloquent cashier at the local diner, I set off on a hunt. Whether it be the directions or just a day where the sign was better illuminated, I found it (turns out it stood right next to a tavern I had been to for an open mic two years ago).

Stuck right on the strip of High Street with not too much to set the shop apart to passing motorists, it made sense why it had eluded me before. Fortunately, the interior held a little more effect in visual aesthetics then the outside, yet nothing stunning. Though my friend and I agreed the place came off quite barren, I personally enjoyed the small mom-&-pop feel of the place.

The coffee itself came from Barrie House Coffee & Tea, a seemingly large vendor of coffee, tea, and related products out of New York. Though their website seems to toot the "horn of excellence", I can't help but feel it's playing a tune it can't hold (i.e. they're more talk then they are walk. Call me fanatical, but what respectable coffee company sells their coffee like this?).

Accordingly, the coffee at Daily Grind was decent but not too impressive. The espresso also tasted ok but carried a harsh and empty tang. Whether it was the espresso blend or the mediocre barista skillty (were they new or just improperly trained?), I couldn't really tell.

The tea and chai I didn't recollect at all (my bad).

To sum it up, The Daily Grind seems to hold a bit of potential but they have some progress to make before they get there. Granted, they are holding strong in a barren land so for the area's sake I'm hoping they get their feet on the right path. To end on a positive note, if you're in the area of downtown Mt. Holly, stop in to keep the place going, plus you won't find anything better nearby.

Monday, August 21, 2006

CC: Beans Coffee Shop

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Beans Coffee Shop

Location visited: Woodstown, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

CLOSED as of 8.24.11

Woodstown belongs to the part of South Jersey that most people don't accidentally run through. A pretty town yes, but until I knew people there (my church pastor and his family), I had no reason to travel there.

Anyways, I ran across Beans before it opened. I was driving through on the way to a church picnic and saw that Woodstown was getting a coffeehouse right on its Main St. I'm always happy to see another coffeehouse spring up (though I pray that it won't go the route of "corporate charcoal" or "all music and horrible coffee") so I made a point to stop back in a few months to inspect.

Sure enough, I stopped back a few weeks after it opened. The decor is comfortable, though seemingly lacking a theme (I'm no interior decorator but it seemed off to me). A thing that did stand out was that
they actually had an "adult seating area", a rarity in coffeehouses (though I'm not sure it's a need in many). The baristas seem to consist of mostly high school students; fortunately it looks like they know what they're doing (i.e. had some training).

They serve Kaffe Magnum Opus, a coffee roaster out of Millville. The coffee tasted decent, though I don't think amazing. Last cup I had was a little stale, but that is more the brewing method then the actual coffee. The espresso was good, with just the right zing, but once again, no shockwaves. The tea and chai I cannot recollect.

Overall, if you're in Woodstown, it's a nice spot to sit and have {your favorite beverage here}, but coming from Glassboro it's definitely not a realistic trek (unless you're going to visit your pastor).

Monday, July 17, 2006

CC: Coffee Works

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Coffee Works
Location visited: Voorhees, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

A sad fact about southern NJ is that between Collingswood and Trenton, few decent coffee & tea establishments exist. In fact, in my hometown area of Cinnaminson, I can't think of a single place around me that I would flock to get a good cup of coffee. I call this area the "land of desolation."

Now Voorhees isn't tremendously close to my house nor is it north of Collingswood (it's more east) but it's home to one of the few decent coffee establishments remotely near the "land of desolation". Coffee Works is situated in the Ritz 16 plaza, a very strategic spot I'm sure they sing about when they close up shop.

They roast their own coffee (always a plus) and usually do a good job, though sometimes the coffee goes south. A friend of mine commented that a couple times he went in, the big glass bins of coffee were looking a little stale and oily, and I can remember a couple times trying the coffee and it tasting a little decrepit. Also, roasting your own beans comes with the burden of roasting them to the right darkness, and it was here that I first had under-roasted coffee. But I think it's safe to say theses were probably isolated incidents (but always keep an eye out...)

The espresso is pretty good (a blend of their own as well) and they seem to employ well-trained baristas, which I think is what keeps people coming back (along with the fact that it encroaches on the "land of desolation"). The tea was an odd name that I can't remember, but it looked good (?) and the chai I did not see.

So if you're in the area or in the "land of desolation" towards the south, you should stop by.

*Update 5/30/2007
I would like to alter my earlier comment from "well-trained baristas" to "decently-trained baristas." I either have had the unfortunate luck of stopping in when new baristas are working or they just have bad days when I'm there, for decently-pulled espresso seems more a rarity then a usual occurence...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

CC: Emjay's Cafe

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Emjay's Cafe
Location visited: Mullica Hill, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

*Update 9/27/07
It appears Emjay's is closed.

I usually don't blog twice in a day but today's an exception. About a week ago, I was prompted to visit a local coffeehouse that I had somewhat overlooked in my travels. Since Mullica Hill is home to my favorite coffeehouse as well to one of my least favorite coffeehouses (which still ranks above corporate charcoal), I figured the town couldn't possibly hold another viable coffee operation. Annnnd I was wrong.

A "subterranean" coffeehouse (because it's in a huge basement space), Emjay's is by far one of the nicest, most bohemian set-ups I have ever seen. The coffeehouse use to be several independent shops but now is one cohesive interesting space.

I forgot the name of the coffee roaster, but I do remember that the roaster is out of Yonkers and focuses on single origin coffees (i.e. doesn't focus on blends). Both the coffee and espresso were quite tasty, the espresso not too bitter and the coffee (a medium Costa Rican) was very full-bodied.

The tea is out of Oregon, a company called Stash. I only had an Earl Grey Iced (tasted pretty good) and the other tea also looks promising. The chai I didn't catch, but it's probably powdered (no one seems to do it old school anymore).

Overall, I find it amazing that a town like Mullica Hill would have two good coffee joints. While I still prefer Crescent Moon, Emjay comes in a very close second.

*Update 9/27/07
As could be predicted, Mullica Hill cannot support three coffee establishments. Emjay's had a brief change to Cafe Aroun before it was closed down. RIP.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

CC: Avalon Coffee Company

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Avalon Coffee Company
Location visited: Avalon and Cape May Courthouse
Free WiFi ? : not at the one in Avalon

Rating: 3+ [see key]

*Updated 1/23/11*

sually I run across coffee and tea places, but this one came from a trusted recommendation. I was actually visiting my family down in Ocean City that day, and I figured this would be the closest to Avalon I would get the rest of this summer, so I went a half hour south to check out one of Avalon's locations (this one, in Avalon).

So I get there in the nick of time (cuz they're open til 10 pm!) and after a little confusion on location (they have a huge sign for the neighboring diner right outside their door...), I waltz in. The decor is a definite grab-and-go set up. The menu is extensive, with gelati, breakfast sandwiches, and so forth.

But on to the coffee. I was intrigued that they had hot-plate brewers as well as satellite brewers
, but they informed me that it was a wise two-step process; they brew on the hot-plate and then the second it's done, they put it into the satellite brewers to keep it hot and fresh. As the coffee is "fresh-roasted at each location", the two-step process married with the aspect of super fresh coffee makes for a stellar combo.

The espresso on the other hand I wasn't as impressed with. My americano was kinda weak and had a little funny of a taste to it, but I think it had more to do with shore water then the beans. The tea was Tetley, an old school, not-as-fresh choice but seemed ok. I didn't try the chai (again) but I've noticed that chai is rarely fresh tea and more often a powdered mix, so it really comes down to barista skills (which this place seems to have, but I'm not sure).

Overall, I was fairly impressed for a shore operation but I don't recommend driving half hour for it.

*Updated 1/23/11

As this was one of my early posts, it was long overdue for an update/correction. This time I visited the Cape May Courthouse location and I would venture the experience held to what I initially penned. I ordered a cup of Kenya AA which produced flavors of beef broth, carrot, caramel, a little ginger and a wee apple; a decent coffee but no fireworks. The espresso was as I (luckily) deduced before; poorly prepared (pulled long with poor crema) and held notes of bourbon, heavy cream and a little cherry all enveloped in a heavy burnt characteristic.

Not as impressed as I was in my youth.

Friday, June 30, 2006

CC: Ocean City Coffee Company

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Ocean City Coffee Company
Location visited: Ocean City, NJ (Boardwalk)
Free WiFi ? : don't think so
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Long ago (like 2-3 years ago), I came across OCCC. Being in the beginnings of the serious development of my coffee palate, I was fascinated by the fact that this place had a huge roaster in the front of the store. But sadly, on that day long ago, the coffee tasted horrible and I put it in the "needn't return to" category.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I was down OC with the fam and the girlfriend. A long day it had been thus far, full of beach fun, cold ocean, and a partly cloudy sky. A cup of coffee or espresso always sits well after such days. So in the absence of many choices, I decided to try OCCC again. The place was hopping with shoobes (beach tourists) and locals alike along with a flurry of movement behind the counter. The environment of the place was very grab-and-go, probably very appropriate for the bustle of the boardwalk.

Anyways, I tried the coffee and to my surprise (*gasp*) it tasted pretty dang good. Reeling, I tried another blend to find it also tasty (they have about 8 different brews that you can have, around 5 of them flavored (*gag*)). The coffee is roasted in-house and I has surprisingly improved in the past 2-3 years.

The espresso wasn't half bad either. I had an americano, which flowed very smoothly through my weary veins. The espresso was also roasted there. Regrettably, I didn't get to try any of the tea or chai.

It seems that there only downfall was their baristas. Some knew what they were doings. Others, well, not so much (one almost filled up my americano with hot tap water!!). About half of them looked a little green and could use a little more time in the roaster (haha, roasting puns).

Anyways, be encouraged vacationers and beach-dwellers; there is now a good place to get coffee on the boards of OC.

*Update 6/12/07
Added a pic from a recent visit. A year later from the original post, they're still good but still need some improvement...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

CC: Barrington Coffee House

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject:Barrington Coffee House
Location visited: Barrington, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes

Rating: 3+ [see key]

*Updated 3/21/2010

It's not often I stumble upon a coffeehouse in a Google search but I was looking for a place to meet a friend near Blackwood and had not an idea where to go. Anyways, I stumble across this article from South Jersey Magazine which spouts beautiful reviews of a couple places I've always considered mediocre. Giving the author the benefit of the doubt, I inwardly hoped that the Barrington Coffee House was as good as they said it was.

Well, I can't say I was impressed. Heck, I can't say I was even convinced this place was a full-time operation. I mean the baristas were pulling shots from a leaky espresso machine (or so it seemed) into a small metal milk pitcher. As feared when observing this incident, my americano and my friends latte suffered.

As far as the coffee, they serve Kaffe' Magnum Opus AND Calde(?). Why they have two, I don't know but whichever one I had, it wasn't bad (still nothing to wake the kids up for). The tea varied from free leaf to traditional bagged and was of good quality as far as I can tell. I didn't try the chai.

But to its credit, Barrington Coffee House apparently hosts a hopping music scene. I can't vouch to whether it's good or not, but the place is only big enough for 15-20 people without breaking fire code.

In the end, it was a good meeting with my friend and a mediocre coffee experience.

Updated 3/21/10
This is one of the many places I first reviewed and recently, I have made a point to return to in order to give the place a more accurate appraisal.

The coffee these days is a "trade secret" though I would guess they still use Kaffe Magnum Opus. The coffee I had was their Barrington Sunrise Blend, which proved to have a nutty, pear and cherry sweetness plus a smooth flow; not bad but nothing stellar. The espresso, pulled long and with little to no crema, was pretty much bitter, dark coffee.

Thus, I would say the place still could improve but the fact that they're still open four years later means they must be doing something right.

Monday, June 26, 2006

CC: Stir It Up Coffeehouse

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Stir It Up Coffeehouse
Location visited: Mullica Hill, NJ
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 1+ [see key]

*CLOSED as of 7.29.10*

bout a summer or two ago, I ran into this small joint on the main street of Mullica Hill. With the word COFFEEHOUSE emblazoned across the front, it looked promising. My impression was only half right.

The atmosphere was (and still is) amazingly decorated. A tasteful bohemian environment, Stir It Up offers a house's full bottom floor for the coffee bar and seating, ranging from large round tables to comfy living room couches. Local art (for sale) adorns the walls and they even have a beautiful back patio.

But their beverages are their downfall. When I first came I had struck up a conversation with the owners, who were open beginners to the concept. They seemed eager to learn the business but it seems they've fallen behind on their studies. I've visited numerous times over the past year or two and each time it's the same sad drink. And it's not complicated stuff either; things like stale, luke-warm coffee, spoiled milk in a latte, and ignorance of their own products (if your baristas don't even know what an americano is, never mind how to make it, then they need a couple more days of supervision before working solo).

For the sake of noting it, I think the brand of coffee is Kaffe Magnum Opus, the espresso I'm not sure (probably just a dark roast of the coffee), the tea is random, and I've never personally had the chai (though friends have and didn't care for it at all).

They also have what seems to be a flourishing music scene, albeit a high school and below crowd (who also seem to largely make up the staff), but very consistent nonetheless.

Overall, if you like cozy atmosphere and a poor cup of coffee, this place is for you. Otherwise, there are better places near by.

*Update 9/27/07
Stopped in the other day. Doesn't seem like much has changed. Sigh...

Monday, May 29, 2006

CC: Casona

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Casona
Location visited: Collingswood, NJ
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Last week, my parents gave me a call to meet them for lunch. We defaulted to Collingswood since it was halfway between me and home, my mom suggesting a Cuban place called Casona. Not being extremely picky with types of food (as long as it's good), I opted in.

Located on Haddon Ave (west side of Collings Ave) in a refurbished, what-looks-like-a-colonial blue house with a gorgeously structured porch, Casona was a perfect pick for the warm, spring day. To cut to the chase, the food was amazing (a little pricy). The portions ranged from hearty sandwhiches to smaller entrees. Most food was served with plantain chips, which were surprisingly good.

But the reason I'm writing about it was that they had a fully-functional espresso bar (and I'm not saying they served espresso, I'm saying they had a small coffee house within the restaurant). Always hesitant of such an arrangement (quite often such espresso bars get little priority in quality), I was surprised to find it not half bad. The brand of coffee was Lazza(?), a latin-american roaster that I've never heard of (or could find on google).

As far as how they brew the coffee, they had two industrial drip, hot-plate machines, kinda like WaWa, which meant burnt coffee (tear). I tried about 3 oz. and though I could taste the effects of the plate, it was pretty good. A very full but smooth coffee. Hopefully they'll get new coffee hardware.

The tea was Republic of Tea. I didn't have the hot tea but I had an iced pomegranate green tea, which was really good (though I swore it had some kind of artificial sweetner in it). Not a cheap drink but a tasty one for those of you avoiding sweets.

As far as espresso, I can't definitively say thumbs up or down b/c I had a latte (I wasn't in the mood for something strong). The latte itself was good though it seemed a little weak. From what I could tell, the espresso wasn't half bad but I'll have to try it again another day.

Though I didn't get a chance to try anything like the hot chocolate or chai, overall Casona's side coffee bar (which operates seemingly independent from the restaurant) was great. Overall, I'd recommend a trip to Casona for lunch or brunch to try out the food (the prosciutto in the Caesar salad was unbelievable) and a cup of java after.