Sunday, August 05, 2012

CC: Ports

Location: Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key] 

New York City has always been a city setting the stride on city parks. Sure other cities may have more or bigger parks, but few can contend with the beauty and design of Gotham's. My new favorite is the High Line, a former elevated train track converted into a beautiful elevated pedestrian parkway. Even on a recent visit to the city where rain pelted off and on all day, I found a rejuvenating walk upon the High Line after a nice brunch with family just what the doctor ordered. 

But after a while, promises of a new (to me) coffeehouse wooed me away from the aged freight tracks. I walked myself but a few blocks over to Ports Coffee & Tea Co on W 23rd St, a Stumptown slinging shop with a reputation.

The outside, while typical NYC tan brick with green awning, still held charm with its nautical influences and noticeable presence. Within, the cafe has an efficient ambiance accented with large globe lights, a chalkboard wall and a steady stream of patrons.  

For my order, I had an espresso of Ethiopian Mordecofe and a drip of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Adado. The espresso, pulled short with a brown marbled crema, breathed subtle lime, slight cigar and italian ciabatta as well as some wisps of berry, cayenne pepper and cocoa; a delicious pull that proved balanced and interesting. The Yirgacheffe held notes of sweet corn, honey, carne asada, buttered toast, apple, sweet balsamic dressing and cocoa in a light medium body, doling out a tasty and complex cup of coffee.

While there's no shortage of great coffee in NYC, make Ports a definitive stop if you're in the neighborhood.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

CC: Urban Bean Coffee

Subject: Urban Bean Coffee
Location: Minneapolis, MN (Bryant Ave location)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

It's always nice to have a coffeehouse to yourself during the first hours of morning light. Few things couple together better than the beams of the sun, the rustling of the barista prepping for the day ahead and the taste of a delicious coffee greeting eager legions of tastebuds.

Such was my fortune one morning at Urban Bean Coffee, a lovely coffee establishment that sits as a splendid corner shop in a nice neighborhood of Minneapolis. I had awoken early to enjoy my morning cup of Dogwood prior to a days work in their beautifully designed cafe (the counter was particularly gorgeous). I had the honor of being the solo patron for about 15 minutes prior to the onslaught of regulars poured through the doors.

For my beverages, I settled on a cup of Dogwood espresso and a drip of Raccoon Blend. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, held notes of punchy lime, watermelon, basil, bran and a pleasant mouth-feel amidst stellar sweetness. The drip dripped with honey, raisin, wheat thin, a little peanut, sassafras and oregano, all riding upon a medium body. Both infusions proved fantastic. 

If you happen to fall upon either location of Urban Bean Coffee, have a grand ol' time and drink deep.

Monday, July 23, 2012

CC: Ipsento Coffee House and Roaster

Subject: Ipsento Coffee House and Roaster
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When people associate coffee as just a means to an end, it really deflates what a true coffee break can be. Instead of a glorious delight to kick off the day or a wondrous beverage to disrupt the laborious monotony, it becomes just a simple piece to the day's puzzle. I think the time you take out for your coffee should be something that brings a twinkle to your eye and a few high kicks to your mid-morning jig. 
One bright and sunny day in Chicago, I was able to treat myself to some coffee at Ipsento Coffee House and Roaster in Bucktown. Beating the morning rush by about 15 minutes, I took my time in absorbing their cozy shop with strategic seating and lots of energy from the chipper baristas. 
As for my coffee, I settled on an espresso of their Wild Fire Blend and a drip of their Brazil. The espresso, pulled short with a brown-swirled crema, held notes of grapefruit, whiskey sour, cilantro, rye and Kashi twigs, proving to be a deliciously juicy and refreshing extraction. The Brazil wove a weave of vanilla, bran muffin, almond, paprika, and a bit of hay and honey amidst a light/medium body; a mellow and delicious coffee. 

My Ipsento coffee experience set my spirit aflame with satisfaction and glee. If you happen to be in Chicago and you're in need of great coffee, taste the wares of Ipsento.

Mugged: Indivisible Blend [Starbucks]

Subject: Starbucks
Mugged: Indivisible Blend
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Starbucks has historically been a mermaid bent on dark roasts. Instead of showcasing the nuances of coffees in light and medium roasts, the green machine put all of her chips in the cloaking flavors of dark roast oils, which tend to make most coffee taste similarly ashy and bitter. Sure some people love their darkness and many others don't even notice aside from the pungent notes of sugar and cream, but for someone who likes black coffee, I turned my back years ago and never really looked back.

But it seems the years have led Starbucks to the conclusion that some folks like light and medium roasts and hence a few months ago, they began to change their strategy with the advent of their Blonde Roast. Their lightest roast ever, free of all exterior oil, I wondered as to how these beans would fare against similar beans at chains like Dunkin Donuts. My opportunity came with their newest Blonde Roast, the Indivisible Blend, which showed up at my door a few weeks ago. Not only did it have a patriotic flare just in time for the summer holidays, but it also pledged a portion of each sale to the Create Jobs for USA fund.

With my curiosity piqued, I cracked open the bag and sampled it via drip, french press and siphon.

The drip held out notes of cookie and caramel (like a Twix), hard pretzel with extra salt, spinach and tootsie roll amidst a heavy body. Twas good but a little too salty and a bit heavy for me.

The french press proved better than the drip, holding a lighter medium body with notes of caramel and cookie, spinach, a bit of apple and a pinch of salt.

The siphon offered the best of show, with heavy flavors of caramel and cookie, almost syrupy in potency but light in body. Some salt and tootsie roll also made appearance on the end.

Though the coffee proved a tad stale in each infusion (sadly normal for large roasters), it seems Starbucks has found its non-dark roast stride amongst other giants like Archer Farms and Dunkin Donuts. If you're a fan of non-dark roasts and you frequent Big Green, sample some of their the Indivisible Blend. 

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mugged: Java Bean Plus

Subject: Java Bean Plus 
Mugged: Various
Rating: 4+ for Mexico and Guatemala
3+ for Costa Rica [see key]

Most coffee that you get at a coffeehouse you can also get direct from the roaster on the internet. But what if coffee roasters sourced only through their wholesale accounts, empowering each coffeehouse to be a more exclusive source for their patron's coffee? No matter your view on middle men and proprietary blends, the concept is certainly intriguing and not very common in the coffee world.

Coffee provider Java Bean Plus is one of the few coffee roasters I know of that sells their coffee exclusively through their wholesale accounts. Since I've never had a drop of their coffee before, I was curious to give three of their light roast coffees a whirl. They sent out their Mexico High Grown, Guatemala Antigua & Costa Rica Tarrazu; all of which I sampled via drip, french press and siphon (except the Costa Rica via siphon, as my siphon decided to break prior to its occurrence).

The Mexico High Grown drip produced notes of whiskey, honey, wheat cracker, a little fresh peanut and malt within a medium body; a deep but sweet coffee. The french press demonstrated wheat cracker, corn flakes, molasses, parsley, fig and some prune on the end with a lighter body; a deep wheat and sweet brew. The siphon relayed a slight whiskey, honey, cracker, heavy malt and a medium body, painting a deep, smooth and slightly sugary cup. Overall, a sweet coffee with nice notes of wheat and deep fruits.

The Guatemala Antigua drip smacked of life cereal, bran, a little cream, celery and a pinch of salt and plantain, all together making a smooth and sweet coffee with a bran shadow. The french press held glazed doughnut, prunes, spinach, salt and life cereal which was similar to the siphon that gave sweet wheat notes, life cereal, spinach and a bit of salt. In the end, a decent full coffee to sip with cereal.

The Costa Rica Tarrazu was the darkest of the three, with a noticeable but slight presence of oil on the beans. Its drip sang of malt, heavy root beer, mint, sirloin lemon pepper and sweet cream on end; a heavy bodied infusion that held a good deal of pepper and savory qualities. The french press, proving much smoother than drip, parried with root beer, cream, lemon with less pepper and some fig. As I didn't get to try out the siphon on this one, I had to go off the drip and french press in that this coffee held more savory and peppery notes then I would have liked.

While I found the Mexico and the Guatemala palatable coffees with nice flavors, I wasn't as big of a fan of the Costa Rica given it's darker qualities. Thus, if you're a coffee business looking for a decent coffee roaster who will never sell alongside you, give Java Bean Plus a go.

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