Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CC: JP's Java

What's a Coffee Commentary?

JP's Java
Location visited: Austin, TX
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I might have missed something, but I really found Austin to not be all that great. I had looked at the University of Texas for graduate school and I had heard from many people that Austin was where it was at, but after making a visit to 6th St and the arboretum I was out of things to do.

But what made the whole trip not so bad was a stop by JP's Java, a coffee establishment nestled in what appears to be an old auto garage with a cute (very small but aesthetically pleasing) parking lot. The exterior is accented by their big owlish logo (derived apparently from a Mayan calendar symbol) and amplified by the beautiful outside patio juxtaposed against a pair of beautifully converted garage doors. Walking inside there are multiple seating areas ranging from a small outcove to a large open room with lots of table space.

JP's serves Zoka Coffee all the way out of Seattle (which it seems they deliver twice a week just around the third day after roasting to ensure quality). They boast a brace of Clovers which was definitely a welcome and pleasant sign. I sampled a Rwandan coffee which was a sweet and earthy brew seemingly devoid of bitterness. The espresso also impressed, as it had a velvety texture that led to a chocolaty sweetness and bright tang, not to mention that it was pulled very well. The tea looked to be free leaf and of a decent variety.

I really enjoyed my visit to JP's and wish I could have hung out a little longer, as I really don't expect to be back in Austin anytime soon. But if you happen to be in town for business or pleasure (good luck on the latter), make sure to make a swing by JP's for the coffee.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Index Map!

View Larger Map

n order to make looking up a location on the blog a bit easier/more convenient, I put together an interactive map of all the coffee locations reviewed. You'll find the map on the Index page (the link is always on the top left of the Pure Coffee Blog, under "Find by Location").

Friday, March 14, 2008

CC: Inversion Coffee House

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Inversion Coffee House
Location visited: Houston, TX
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

A visit to Texas in the winter was just what I needed. The warm temperatures, direct sunlight, and spicy food really took the winter blues clear out of my veins.

And what trip would be complete without a sample of the local coffee? Though eager to do so, I really wasn't sure where to start as I had never really heard of GREAT Texan coffee. But after doing a little research, I turned up a few places to try out.

One of them was in the lovely town of Houston called Inversion Coffee House. At first when I glanced at their website, I saw "March 5 Grand Opening" on a scrolling marquee and thought that I was going to be one of the first few visitors to walk through their doors only to find out later that they just haven't updated their website in a year (i.e. I almost made it for the first anniversary).

Inversion sits on a mild thoroughfare in a large warehouse-ish building, complete with ample parking, a small garden, and lots of outside seating. The inside is decorated with art of all sorts; some of it really nice and other parts of it just really seemed a bit overwhelming (mainly the pictures peering down from above the register). There's plenty of seating, though much of it was taken when I came in.

The coffee comes from Katz Coffee, a local roaster that seems to produce a decent product. The brew on tap at Inversion leaned a little dark and tasted spicy with a sweet aftertaste. The espresso was fair; a dark essence with slight char yet sweet, with a nice acidity. The tea is Revolution.

While I really enjoyed my visit to Inversion, they definitely seem like they could take up the quality to the next level. With such a wonderful space and a seemingly great location, Inversion could be a shining star amidst Houston.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CC: Beauty Shop Cafe

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Beauty Shop Cafe
Location visited: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Don't you love it when you stumble across something you wanted to do, but had forgotten all about it until the second you tripped over it?

Recently my bride and I were trying to piddle away a bit of weekend free time before meeting up at the Franklin Institute with my family. The day was sunny and as we headed up 20th St, my wife caught sight of a cafe. Naturally, we pulled over and went down to sniff it out. Turns out it was a shop that I had caught wind of months ago, the Beauty Shop Cafe.

On the outside, the shop is red brick with clear windows peeking inside. Walking in, the place is fairly small with a few tables, a bar along one of the windows, and some vintage (not in use) salon effects. The entire space was alive with people reading, working, and ticking away on their laptops.

The coffee was the reason I had heard of Beauty Shop, as they were "announced" to be the first Center City place that served Chestnut Hill Coffee. Having only had the coffee at the source, I was curious how it would fare off the premises. Beauty Shop served up their own house blend, which embodied a bit of a dark bite yet sampled mostly smooth. The espresso really impressed me, as the barista not only had the decency to re-pull my shots (the first one twas a dud) but the espresso tasted like sunshine (bright and sweet) complete with a decent hang. The tea came from House of Tea, a local Philly company that looks promising.

Aside from the somewhat off-the-beaten-path location, Beauty Shop offers a fairly refreshing change in quality to many other city shops. The major things are to make sure to give yourself time for parking (unless you want to be on Parking Wars) and time in case the limited seating is full.

Monday, March 03, 2008

CC: Bonte

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Location visited: Philadelphia, PA
[visited 922 and 1315 Walnut]

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

When waffles hit my eye (not literally), I usually think breakfast. Sure there's the occasional late night craving for chocolate chip waffles covered with whipped cream, but I can count on one hand the times I've yielded to such gastro-hankerings. So aside from a trip to Brussels, where else would you go to get a Belgian waffle around dinnertime? Well, if you live in Philadelphia or other select PA or NJ towns, you can head to Bonte.

Bonte is primarily a wafflerie but what caught my eye is that they also professed to serve quality and locally roasted coffee. So over the years, I've stopped in a couple times to try out the chain. The place displays a very optically sensual experience with some really beautiful color coordination and nice interior design (they like blue and brown).

One of the odd things is that they espouse to use "locally roasted" coffee and yet they serve Counter Culture coffee which to my knowledge is roasted deep in North Carolina (maybe they consider East Coast local?).

Regardless, I was a bit excited to get my coffee as Counter Culture has a pretty good reputation. And yet, I was somewhat disappointed. The coffee in my experience is decent yet most recently, the brew was definitely stale (too long in the pot). The espresso is generally mediocre; my shot of late was pulled fairly well and had a nice sweet acidity, but conversely possessed a noticeable hint of cardboard.

Being that their real passion is waffles, I decided in my most recent visit to give one a whirl. I had a blueberry waffle to go (wrapped up like a pretzel) that proved to be a tremendously tasty treat. How close it comes to a true Belgian waffle, I couldn't tell you.

As an overall chain, it seems that Bonte could use a little refinement with their espresso and coffee practices across the board. With a little bit more hard work and a freak movement of American waffle infatuation, the place could really take off.