Thursday, April 30, 2009

CC: Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Company

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Seattle, WA
(University Zoka location)

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

As a rule, every college campus should always have a good coffehouse close by. Sure almost all campuses have coffeehouses near, but it is a rare sight to walk off the University property and in a few short steps, find yourself in a coffee establishment that knows how to pull espresso and serve quality coffee (it's even rarer to find such good coffee on the campus, but that's another rant).

Yet this dilemma does not exist at the University of Washington where Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Company has a location right near campus beneath what seemed to be student housing (fortunate souls). The cafe itself is bohemoth, stretching longer than a tour bus and as wide as six team of oxen. The exterior holds basic but inside, the cafe has a nice wood and white theme complete with fireplace in the back, not to mention enough seats to sit the population of Oz (most of the seats were full when I stopped in).

Zoka of course roasts their own coffee, having a famed reputation as one of Seattle's finest. The brew I ingested this particular visit was their Costa Rican, a nice light coffee with hints of bran, cocoa and molasses. The espresso came out wonderfully (due to skilled hands I'm sure), with a pair of short velvety shots that relayed a nice zest and notes of chocolate cake and a touch of honey. The tea is free leaf of their own.

As I sat and finished my espresso, I really felt envious for the many students working so diligently. Not only did they have a mammoth, stylish place to do work and meet with people, but more importantly they can get a real decent cup of coffee without a small road trip. How I wish I had such fortunes when I was a school boy.

Whether you're at the University Zoka location or one of the others, make sure to give Zoka a stop if you're in town.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

CC: The Black Cow Coffee Company

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

While I hardly visit the Hudson river and its many beautiful landscapes, I really do enjoy traversing the breathless vistas. It really makes you understand the lament that many Hudson River Schoolers had about the development that really overtook the area (I'm sure it was a billion times more gorgeous pre-development).

But after a nice dose of nature, my tongue began cramping for a spot of coffee. Fortunately, I had a spot nearby slotted for a visit called the Black Cow Coffee Company. The BCCC sits in a strip mall with not too much outside save their big sign and a one way parking lot. Within, the shop has a very agrarian look with all kinds of rustic furniture and other interesting rural pieces.

The Black Cow roasts its own coffee, with a bunch of different single origins and blends. I had their Mud blend via drip, which manifested a bright cup with samples of tobacco and apple; a good cup but a little bland as well. The espresso was presented as a short/medium pull with flavors of dark chocolate in front and hints of pineapple following, but there was also a noticeable amount of bitter char on the end. The tea is Republic of Tea.

Having quenched my appetite for a decent coffee, I made my way off to the cliffs overlooking the Hudson river (pictures of course). If you happen to be in the area either admiring the sights or just passing through, give the Black Cow a visit.

Colgate Wisps

Since I'm not a big fan of mints or gum, and carrying the ol' toothbrush around doesn't work either, I really get excited when other options present themselves.

Recently, I had an opportunity to try out the Colgate Wisps (disposable little toothbrushes with the toothpaste infused) and while they were nothing compared to real brushing, it did help cleanse my mouth of its many microbial trespassers.

Thus if you're not all that into sugary solutions, the Wisp might be your answer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CC: 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Vancouver, BC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In my travels, Vancouver has thus far been my favorite Canadian city. The beautiful mountains shadowing the large metropolis really brings the best of the city to the prisitine wonder of the wild. From also what I understand, the weather also rarely gets too unbearable (it was relatively beautiful when I visited) and the culture has all sorts of facets to it.

But for me, the best part of Vancouver was the coffee (shocker!). As Seattle's Canadian neighbor, the city has in many ways distinguished itself quite noticeably in the coffee and espresso scene. Of the many places I wished to visit, the one at the top of my list was 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters' showcase cafe on W 4th Avenue. I had the fortune of imbibing their coffee in a couple other locations, all of which proved lovely, so to visit the mother ship gave me something to really look forward to.

Walking down the street on a lovely early spring day, I first beheld the cafe after I had nearly stumbled over it (the shops were close and much of the neighboring signage was quite loud). Stepping past their nice metal outside seating and retractable awning, I walked into their beautifully decorated shop with its vaulted ceilings plus their trademark blue and brown color scheme. I also want to note that this was probably the first cafe that I've seen more than a few employees working at the same time (I remember it numbering over 6!).

Getting straight to the coffee, I ordered 49th's Costa Rica via their Clover. The brew turned out wonderful, with an even-balanced, bright cup with hints of currants. The espresso also came out blissfully well, with a nice balance of sweetness and even a touch of saltiness, overshadowed with a wave of chocolate. The tea is free leaf of their own.

Given my lofty impressions of 49th Parallel Coffee and of Vancouver, I definitely left with an utter satisfaction of a good experience. If you're ever in town, definitely pop by 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

CC: Swork Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Subject: Swork Coffee
Location visited: LA, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Tourism purely for gastronomic reasons has become more and more popular. Sure people have always gone to places "for the food" but now the food has even eclipsed traditional tourist spots. Why bother with the Eiffel Tower when you can do a Parisian culinary crawl?

While I am not at the level of gastro-tourism to cut out my inedible touristy stops, I do like to make sure to see local spots that garner much praise. In my trip to LA, I made quite a few (including a stop at the famous Pink's Hot Dogs and an authentic buritto joint, El Tepeyac Cafe) but my last one to a cash-only Italian eatery in the area of Eagle Rock didn't work out so well and hence, I was left scrambling for a good meal off the cuff.

I drove all over Eagle Rock and didn't see anything appealing (I know I overlooked something good) and so I decided to just put my dinner on hold and for the time being, just grab some coffee at local coffeehouse, Swork Coffee.

Located on a corner in what seemed to be close to the center of town, Swork Coffee has a very intriguing look to it, with it's question mark logo and what looked like a Scandanavian influence in decor. The outside has a nice mix of outside seating with big red umbrellas, while the inside is a nice mix of foxy furniture and even a kid-friendly room.

Swork roasts their own coffee, some with pretty interesting names. I had the Clubhouse, their house blend, which tasted nutty, earthy and bright though also a little stale. The espresso was pulled to a medium volume and had a nice graham crackery taste and tinges of cocoa, yet also had a little bit of a dark bite on the end. The tea is loose leaf.

The stop at Swork ended up decent but it would have been a stop better suited for post-dinner. Looking back, I wish I had just tried a local place as I just ended up settling for a Cheesecake Factory appetizer much later that evening that proved filling, but nothing tremendous.

Anywho, if you're in Eagle Rock looking for a decent coffee, give Swork Coffee a stop.