Saturday, July 18, 2009

CC: Legal Beans

What's does "CC" mean?

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

When looking for coffeehouses, I really do depend greatly on tips (the information kind though money is always appreciated). But like all things, most tips come heavily laden with circumstantial and subjective information. For example, a local Mexican place cannot be the bomb diggity simply for wonderful salsa and chips, nor can (should) a coffeehoue pride itself on its extensive selection of flavored coffees.

Hence, when my brother recommended a place called Legal Beans in Hoboken because they had good breakfast, I felt a little hesitant to try it as a morning coffee stop (not to mention, my hermano also doesn't drink coffee). But since we were walking together right by it, I figured I might as well stop and worst case scenario, I could get my morning brew elsewhere.

Legal Beans sits in a nice brick building with nice open windows reflecting on the bustling streets. The interior has a fairly small counter with a huge Manhattan-diner style seating where people were studying (and of course dining) at the many tables around the room.

According to the man working, they roast their own coffee. Intrigued and further interested, I ordered a cup of drip (aka filtered) coffee. Although I forgot at the time to note the origin/blend, it was probably for the best as the coffee was nearly cold and had little flavor aside from a very subtle orange tang in the middle. Served in a paper cup, the espresso was pulled only so-so and had notes of cardboard and slight tinges of vanilla. They serve tea (though I didn't retrieve the type) and true to my brother's recommendation, a full food menu.

To reiterate, in defense of my brother's recommendation, I did not try a single thing he praised. But afterward, I further lamented to him that it's no good for a place to serve decent breakfast food but boring coffee (albeit, thousands upon thousands of breakfast counters STILL serve mediocre coffee).

Therefore, if you're in Hoboken looking for decent breakfast food (according to my brother and some others out there), try Legal Beans.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

CC: Taste Coffee House

What's does "CC" mean?
Location visited: Newton, MA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Since I wanted to avoid some needless morning traffic in a recent stay in Boston, I made sure to make my hotel stay right outside the city. Knowing that I had to head west on 90, I found (what turned out to be) a Super 8 not too far from a reputable establishment called Taste Coffee House.

After checking out of the hotel, I made a quick five minute drive to Taste Coffee House, located on a nice open street accompanied by many other small businesses. Taste has a basic tan exterior with a black and yellow sign and a few tables below it. Inside, the shop proved long and cozy, possessing a fair amount of table and bar seating.

The coffee comes from Massachusetts' favorite coffee roaster (or at least what seems to be), Terroir Coffee. From Taste's assortment of pump pots I chose the Taste Coffee House Light blend, a drip that had the taste of sweet tea, bread dough, and hints of almond. The brew all together made for a nice light coffee, though the batch I sampled proved a bit stale (I guess more people picked the dark blend that morning). I also ordered a double espresso, also from Terroir that day (though they do switch up their espresso offerings from other places). The barista pulled two good shots that held delicious complexity; a tang of lemon, tinges of fig, a smooth body and an overall bright oral presence. As for other drinks, the tea is free leaf and they also serve beer and wine.

Quite pleased with my fortunes of both a good hotel and the nearby Taste, I left the coffee house in a most amiable mood. And to make the morning even better, I found a great whoopie pie at the nearby Bread and Chocolate Bakery (not breakfast food, but oh so delicious).

Whether you're driving on a commute out or into Boston, make a stop at Taste Coffee House.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

CC: Think Coffee

What's does "CC" mean?

Think Coffee
Location visited: Manhattan, NY
1 Bleeker St
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

What really ensures a student's success? Is it wise counsel? Do the academic courses really mean that much? Realistically, I feel that all of those have importance but on the other hand, a college student really needs good coffee and a nice place to study.

Yeah, I know that's probably not totally true (though I needed those two things). But nonetheless thousands of students sip gallons of mediocre joe and study in boring drab rooms, and many of them still fall short of amazing.

If only more amazing coffeehouses would come to the aid of the students! With that cry deep in my heart, I embarked to examine a coffeehouse known to supply NYU students with decent nectar and beautiful ambiance, a place called Think Coffee. Sure I had heard not as glamorous feedback as well, but the place had some merit for at least a look.

Think possesses quite the unusual look for a Manhattan business (at least in my experience) in that it had a large stoop with plants placed on either side and a snazzy awning to boot. Inside, I fell in love with their high ceilings (with tremendous lighting), various environments of space and their fantastic array of furniture.

Most of the coffee hails from Porto Rico Importing Company, a coffee company that's been around for some time in the area but has not made any significant waves recently. But to my delight, Think Coffee also brews two self-roasted Cup of Excellence coffees on drip. Not in a gambling mood, I went for the Nicaraguan COE via drip. The brew presented light floral notes, tastes of strawberries and an overall nice somberness to it that made for a nice afternoon cup (wouldn't really pack the punch necessary for a morning pot). The espresso, pulled short, smacked of bittersweet cocoa, some nutmeg and a very full taste; good overall shots. The tea is free leaf of various kinds and Think also serves wine and beer (on tap!).

Meandering off afterwards, I greatly envied the many students cuddled up with their Calculus and their Aristotle in the warm embrace of Think Coffee. Not only do they have many great coffeehouses around Manhattan to choose from, but they also have a great one on their doorsetp.

In my opinion, a stop below Washington Square Park deserves a stop at Think Coffee.

Monday, June 29, 2009

From the Ground Up

Recently had the chance to check out the documentary From the Ground Up, a coffee documentary that does exactly what the title says; takes the viewer on a journey from cherry to peddled beverage.

As coffee documentaries go, it was decent. It had great footage of coffee picking, the wet process, drying, sorting, bagging, exporting and importing. If you've never seen it done, I imagine it would be somewhat confusing as much of the film had no narration and thus, one unfamiliar with what was going down could get lost. But even if you didn't know the lingo, the film made it all pretty easy to follow. Also, the film really makes one aware of the hard work the farmers go through for so little and thus indirectly pushes better conditions (the film is also directly dedicated for more than fair trade).

The only stabbing annoyance in the film stemmed from the soundtrack, which consisted of a singular old-timey song called the Java Jive (here it is performed by the Manhattan Transfer) played in spurts throughout the whole film. If you're one easily annoyed by such a song beaten to death, I would recommend putting the film on mute unless you see someone talking.

Overall, grab From the Ground Up if you're curious to how coffee gets to your local purveyor or you really wish to raise your awareness on what people go through so you can enjoy your morning cup.

Friday, June 26, 2009

CC: Simon's Coffee Shop

What's does "CC" mean?
Location visited: Cambridge, MA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

As much as I love Boston, I've never been good at navigating it. On my first trip there as "captain," I led my party of ten travelers quickly astray and ended up parking a good 20 minute walk away from our destination. Subsequent trips have proven better as I've gotten the layout down a bit more but ever still, I rely on my internal compass and divine intervention.

On my most recent trip, I had plans to make it up to Cambridge to give a hot coffee spot called Simon's Coffee Shop a try. But due to a little lack of reconnaissance on my part, I only gave myself 30 minutes to get from Brookline to Simon's before they closed, amidst a bustling Friday night with not a parking spot in sight. Fortunately, I made it (thank God, as my natural direction did not work as well as I'd hope) and I practically stampeded through their front doors with 20 minutes to spare.

The shop holds nice red walls, worn wood floors and a great deal of furniture (a few pieces outside and many pieces in). Simon's gets their coffee from Terroir Coffee, a company powered by the famed George Howell, as well as from Barismo. For drip I tried Terroir's Matalapa, a coffee that displayed the sweet flavors reminiscent of an apple and the subtle spiciness of tobacco, along with a smooth brightness that made for a grand cup. For the espresso, I had Barismo's Soma. The shots were pulled short with the a Sweet Tart-ish cherry up front and subsequent notes of unsweetened cocoa and black tea. The tea itself is free leaf.

With 1 minute left to closing, I hurried out the door happy for the fortune of making it in time. I would recommend stopping in, but for those not familiar with the construct of Boston, make sure to give yourself some extra time to navigate without pressure.

All in all, a nice gem to the area of Cambridge.