Sunday, July 08, 2012

CC: Spyhouse Coffee

Subject: Spyhouse Coffee & Espresso
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When a good friend of mine went out to Minneapolis back in 2010, he came back with a frustrated lament of not being able to find many good coffee spots in the city. Having since scoured the City of Lakes coffee scene in my own adventures, I found his complaint emptier by the coffee stop. 

One of the glorious and slightly accidental finds was Spyhouse Coffee & Espresso on Nicollet Avenue. I had done my research prior to my arrival in the city but I did not find contentment in my final list, so on the fly I did a quick internet search for coffee nearby and BAM, I spotted Spyhouse. The qualifications spoken on their website closed the sale and I soon found myself standing outside their rather spacious corner shop, complete with an outdoor seating area that could charm most to forsake the AC. Moving inside, the digs proved visually enticing as well, with jazzy furniture, great lighting and lots of interesting art pieces. 

The coffee comes from three excellent roasters: Ritual, Verve and Coava. I had Verve's Street Level via espresso and Ritual's Monte Copey Costa Rica via Cafe Solo. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, trumpeted delicious notes of dark cocoa, lemon, ginger, coriander and flecks of spinach and rare steak. The Costa Rican delivered cranberry, vanilla wafer, romaine, peanuts and a little caramel, all combined in a mellow yet vibrant brew. Both drinks proved well-crafted and delicious.
I count my blessings that I was able to experience some great coffee in one of their outfits. Unlike my friend, make it a point to spy out a Spyhouse location when you're in Minneapolis.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

CC: Four Barrel

Subject: Four Barrel Coffee 
Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

The first time I toured San Francisco in '07, the coffee scene appeared strong, touting such giants as Ritual and Blue Bottle. Yet looking back, it was not nearly as rampant as it is today so during my most recent expedition, I came with a small book full of places to hit. Close to the top of the list was Four Barrel, an establishment that had garnered much praise for their skill in roasting and attention to detail behind the coffee bar.

I made my way to their Valencia St location one afternoon. Doing an initial drive past to make sure I had the right spot, I was surprised to find the parking spaces out front outfitted with an iron-framed seating area, consisting of a wooden bar that faces the cars whizzing by (a style of outside seating that you would rarely see on the East Coast). After parking, I backpedaled to a very popular Four Barrel. The interior appeared voluminous despite the masses, with wood everywhere (rafters, bar, tables, etc) and plenty of artistic elements (like stuffed boar heads) to tie it together. 

When it came time to order, I ordered an espresso and a french press of a Kenyan. Not remembering to ask when I ordered and being deterred by a heavy volume of orders, I did not get the espresso's name, but the mystery did not detract from its pleasant flavors. The espresso was pulled short, displaying a nice brown crema and held out notes of sea salt, bourbon, balsamic vinegar, fig, au jus and croissant. The Kenyan spoke of Cream of Wheat, hazelnut, a bit of raspberry and iced tea amidst a smooth body; a refreshing coffee through and through.

At the risk of sounding obvious, Four Barrel proved well worth the stop. If you live in or pass by the city of San Francisco, make sure to make landfall at 375 Valencia St.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

CC: Peace Coffee

Subject: Peace Coffee
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

A lot of coffee establishments promote sustainability and social justice, but very few seem as entrenched as Peace Coffee of Minneapolis. Created initially by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to help coffee farmers find a consistent well-paying outlet for their coffee, Peace Coffee operates on what looks like a pretty large scale, always looking to offer coffee that will help the farmer and good ol' Earth. 

But unlike many crusading coffee entities bent on saving the world, Peace Coffee actually has earned a reputation for outputting a good cup of coffee as well, both in their whole beans as well as in their store. Wanting to try out the retail arm in a proverbial arm wrestle, I left a piece of my schedule wide open for a piece of peace, quiet and coffee at Peace Coffee. 

Prancing over to their Wonderland Park location, I found an unmissable blood red brick building with plenty of outside seating and large open windows. Within, the space is spacious, minimal and inviting, with bright colors, an array of places to sit and lots of cool accents (I like the disco ball).

For my beverages, I ordered a pourover of their Guatemalan and an espresso of their Espresso Blend. The Guatemalan proved delicious, with notes of prune, hay, light cocoa and hazlenet in a light/medium body. The espresso, pulled short with dark brown crema, held a peaceful balance of flavors, with blood orange and pepper balancing out with chicken broth, raisin and spearmint. 

I humbly submit that I thoroughly enjoyed my coffee and time at Peace Coffee. If you're in town and you're looking for some great coffee, give Peace a chance. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

CC: Toby's Estate

Subject: Toby's Estate 
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Back when I first became fanatical about coffee back in 2005, I noticed that Australia seemed to have a lot going on with specialty coffee. Ever since, I've kept a bit of a peripheral eye on happenings down under, hoping silently that one day I could save enough loot to make a full fledged trip to the wonderful land of Oz. 

Yet one need not traverse halfway around the globe to sample Australian coffee culture. When I went to London a year or so ago, I couldn't help but notice the indelible mark the Australians and Kiwis were leaving on the London scene. In a lesser sense, but all the while growing, NYC has been getting its fair share of the influence. Looking to one of the more notable of the Aussie coffee developments, in beginning of 2012, one of the finer coffee operations of Australia set up its North American flagship in none other then Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Toby's Estate is a coffee operation that seems nicely represented in their home continent, where many major cities seem to be brimming with locales where you can pick up a cup or bag of their coffee. Recently, the operation made landfall in lovely Brooklyn in a huge grey brick building with lots of space. While the outside boasts a clean look with large windows, the interior is a vaulted room of warmth, with large shelves boasting curios and merchandise as well as a large seating area with substantial furniture. 

Stepping up to the efficiently running coffee counter, I ordered an espresso of their Bedford Blend and a pourover of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, both of which were served with great cheer. The espresso, pulled short with a light marbled crema, smacked of sweet lemons, cocoa, nutmeg, pepper, cane sugar and sourdough; while not too acidic, it held a predominant brightness and sweetness. The pourover of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe delivered a resoundingly delicious brew that rang of milk, chocolate, fluffy biscuit, apple, citron and a bit of seaweed; a hardy coffee with a smooth, medium body.

Needless to say, I had a bonzer experience all around. While it's not exactly a trip to the land of wonder, it's the next best thing so if you happen to be in Williamsburg or nearby, offer Toby's Estate a visit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mugged: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe [Rockin' Coffee]

Subject: Rockin' Coffee
Mugged: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Rating: 3+ [see key]

The second coffee I slurped of from Rockin' Coffee was their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. A fair looking medium roast, I sampled it via drip, french press and siphon infusions.

The drip produced a cup noted with wheat, strong malt, roasted fennel, pear skin, chicken and a little cardboard. While a bit of a rough and alliaceous brew, the coffee did prove slightly sumptuous.

The french press fared best, with a bright quality that offered flecks of apple as well as notes of wheat, caramel, fennel and pear skin amidst a brothy undertone.

The siphon infusion proved more savory, with roasted fennel, wheat, pear, malt and broth. A fair brew with a medium body.

All in all, this Ethiopian held a noticed brightness and other positives to its flavor, but the savory and sometimes tough qualities made it a hard coffee to love. Give this Ethiopian a try if you're looking for such a brew.

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