Friday, September 03, 2010

Mugged: 2010 Reserve [MaƱana Madera]

What does "Mugged" mean?

Manana Madera Coffee Estate
Coffees Mugged:
2010 Reserve

Rating: 5+
[see key]

good cup of coffee always starts from outside the continental US (of course, Hawaii represents as our lone coffee grower state) but usually I am not too familiar with trying out coffee roasted on-farm. I guess the idea makes a lot of sense and the only real headache is shipping.

I had the delightful opportunity of late to sample the 2010 Reserve crop of Manana Madera Coffee Estate out of Panama. The coffee seems to be their singular offering for a small farm that also seems to offer coffee tourism opportunities (only $80 a night!).

The coffee was sampled in the infusions of drip/filtered, french press and siphon. The drip displayed a nutty, strawberry flavor with hints of wheat grass, milk, honey graham cracker and a smidge of cocoa. A very even and sweet coffee.

The french press delivered a nutty cup, with more noticeable wheat grass, honey and cocoa notes, as well as hints of triscuit and cream amidst a full body. This cup actually smacked more of honey as it cooled and overall, proved terrific.

The siphon was the least distinct, still holding nuttiness, triscuit, honey and graham cracker but it had more of a bourbon kick and much less sweetness. Still good coffee though.

Though the price tag (shipping) makes it a pricey cup, the 2010 Reserve is a coffee I would not shy from (i.e. I liked it). If you are looking for a coffee truly all from Panama, then try out Manana Madera's 2010 Reserve.

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

CC: Skaneateles Bakery

What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: Skaneateles, NY
Free WiFi ? : no
4+ [
see key]

Finger lakes hold some wondrous scenery if you hit them at the right times. The cold winters usually deter much merriment and the summer can get sweltering, yet a nice day amidst the nature and culture of the region stands as a lasting euphoria.

Personally, my favorite lake is Lake Skaneateles due to its crystal clear waters and the quaint town of the same name at the top. Granted the town can be pricey but aside from the surrounding nature, the town has a few great deals. One of them is the Skaneateles Bakery, located on the main stretch of town. This bakery serves up sweet small town treats with a modern flair and has been raved of by many a friend.

What drew me to the bakery one lovely day was less baked goods and more of good coffee rumors. Upon arriving on their doorstep, I spotted the Gimme Coffee sign in the window, which given the possibilities,
it was a step in the right direction (Gimme has many great coffees but many times the local shops only buy the cheap stuff). Inside, the counter holds plenty of baked items and to the side and back is a blue-and-brown space with a healthy amount of seating.

They did indeed serve Gimme, and thus I ordered a cup of their Asobargi via drip and an espresso. The drip coffee produced flavors of spicy mango salsa, tart cherry, a whiskey kick, a little earthiness and a heavy body touched with a tinge of bitterness on the end. The espresso, pulled short and with fading tan crema, held notes of bitter chocolate, graham cracker, sesame seed and a tinge of brightness. The tea is Harney and Sons.

Given the coffee source being Gimme, I'm positive that this bakery could do better but if nothing were to change, they do a pretty decent job with their coffee (oh, their chocolate chip cookies were amazing too). When in town, stop by the bakery.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CC: Taylor Street Baristas

What's does "CC" mean? Location visited: London, UK
[New St location]
Free WiFi ? : yes
5+ [
see key]

London is one crazy town during weekday rush hour. Granted New York City is just as crazy but somehow, I half expected the crazy rush of rush hour to be a little more relaxed on the other side of the Atlantic.

Amidst the wanderings of the morning rush hour in the realm of London's financial district sits a very well-placed coffee venue called Taylor St Baristas. One of five locations, this Aussie-founded operation was created to give Londoners a good cup of coffee in their everyday comings and goings. The New St location I visited couldn't have been better located, as the masses literally spilled off of Bishopgate right past Taylor St's front door.

As for doors, the cafe has an efficient entrance and exit worked out, with the line filling the majority of the interior. From their multi-barista machine they churn Union Hand-Roasted coffees in both filtered and espresso forms. I ordered a cup of Ethiopian Sidamo via a pump pot of drip, a light coffee with a little caramel, grass, bit of pear, some oregano, pepper and a slight taste of cardboard and staleness (I guess drip was not popular that day). I also got myself an espresso that was pulled short, had decent crema and tasted of lemon, milk chocolate, sugar and nutmeg (a good showing). The tea is East India Tea House.

Sadly, a sailor in rough waters has not time to enjoy the scenery (it was too busy to enjoy it fully) but though I didn't have time to linger, I would add that the bustle did not seem to phase the cheer of their employees (always good to have a smile with my coffee). Aside from a little stale drip, the entire experience was delightful.

Stop into a Taylor St Baristas location when you're in London.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Coffee in Italy


Italy. One country that is venerated to a true place of honor in coffee contributions. Espresso, though only one manner of coffee infusion, pretty much began from popular Italian culture and the art of Italian espresso has helped sculpt the modern quality coffee world.

But despite the inspiration, the current coffee culture of Italy seems to differ from that of the many other countries it could claim to have inspired. I had heard it from many firsthand sources, such as from The Shot's wisdom and from World Barista Champion
Giorgio Milos per a coffee class I covered (which also featured the knowledge of Illy man Moreno Faina) as well as from his diagnosis on American coffee (which is an article made into a great discussion by the comments). All in all it seems that some would say the non-Italian culture is inferior (this seems to be mostly Italians) and others would say it's just different.

So I decided to check out Italy myself. I recently had an opportunity to travel through Rome and Tuscany, so I had decided from the beginning to make some cafe stops and write up some reviews on the coffee. I scored some great recommendations (many from The Shot as well as some from internet research) and planned to make several cafes a must on the tours of the day (I even marked up my maps!).

Yet after going through a couple cafes, the differences in their product really seemed pronounced. My research told me that there were many cafes doing decent espresso but few serving great. This might sound blasphemous to some but of all the espresso I had in Italy, not one shot really stood out as amazing. I deduce that this seems to come down to the fact that espresso in Italy (traditionally) requires either sugar (straight espresso) or milk (cappuccinos) and I was drinking straight "cafe." As for taste, the espresso I had, at best turned out balanced (little bitter or sour notes) with flecks of citrus, tobacco and cocoa, or at worst bitter and lacking in other flavors.

And believe me when I say I sought out numerous cafes. I hit a bunch of big-name cafes, such as Sant'Eustachio (with the added sugar part of the initial espresso preparation) and Tazza D'Oro (with some really dark and oily beans prepared extremely poorly) in Rome as well as some in Florence, like Caffeteria Piansa, Pasticceria Robiglio and Caffe Giacosa Roberta Cavalli. All of these supposedly excellent cafes (according to the Bar d'Italia) but all of them produced only decent espresso. And also true to the earlier statement, the random other cafes I patronized had fairly decent espresso as well.

Thus, after several experiences, I decided not to write up reviews of the cafes I attended.

Why you may inquire? Well, the first reason was that I saw little point. One of my goals is to identify good coffeehouses so people don't have to drink bad coffee, but that proves difficult given that most coffee in Italy hovers around average-to-decent and the cafes exist everywhere (literally, you can't go 500 feet without seeing one in the cities).

The other reason has to do with different standards. An Italian espresso is meant to be consumed with sugar or milk (according to many, including Giorgio) and thus, it would be of little value to measure Italian espresso according to my non-Italian tastes (and my tastes look for an espresso that can bust a move all on its own).

Some would argue that Italy clings to tradition with their espresso and that as a result, many other countries' cafes have made greater strides with it. While I can't claim to know what country is best with espresso, I can say that I have had better espresso in America and the UK than in Italy. Blasphemy? Only if you hate constructive criticism.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

CC: Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea

Subject: Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea Company
Location visited: Beaver Falls, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

The drive between Pittsburgh and Erie is not one populated with many well-known pit stops, unless you like stopping to experience nature (fortunately, I do!). Sadly, this is usually the case with many stretches in the middle of the country.

But fortune shines every once in awhile, and in this case fortune lighted my attention on the town of Beaver Falls and a coffeehouse called Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea Company. The tales told of well-roasted coffee and espresso slung out in a most satisfactory nature. Such news made the coffeehouse a natural pit stop on my route.

BFC&TC sits on a main stretch of road in a converted house. While I've seen my share of converted houses-to-cafes, this one seems to have little conversion on the outside (no additional structures added for seating or ambiance) or on the inside aside from the addition of the coffee bar in what would have been the living room. Nonetheless, the interior is very warm and has the nifty feel of home with the wondrous convenience of a barista five feet away.

I ordered a cup of their Malowi Light via pourover, which held notes of nuts, grass, honey, carrot, sauce, a tinge of hops, agave and a little caramel. I found it a light coffee that held a delicious array of flavors. I also ordered an espresso, a blend composed of African and Brazilian coffees, that was pulled short/medium, had nice crema and paraded the tastes of lime, sugar cookie, mint, cilantro, a little dark cocoa and some almond on the end (good espresso). The tea was free leaf.

All together, their coffee operation seemed of good quality. The operation definitely seems to be one that is still growing in skill but given their good results, I think that further improvements will truly endow Beaver Falls with a nice cafe. If in town or passing by, stop by Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea Company.