Monday, July 15, 2013

CC: Bow Truss Coffee Company

Subject: Bow Truss Coffee Company
Location: Chicago, IL (Broadway Roastery)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I've found nice morning walks very cathartic when I visit Chicago. Maybe it's the soothing hum of the trains amidst the wind gusts, or maybe its delayed gratification of making a bit of a targeted trek to a great coffee spot for my gloriously anticipated first cup of morning coffee.

No matter the reason, my most recent Chicago morning stroll led me to the doors of Bow Truss Coffee Company's Broadway roastery. Arriving earlier then many of the other patrons, I was greeted with a calm quiet cafe that resembled a bit of an old rustic factory and farmhouse, with rich wood furniture up front and the coffee roasting operation in the back (note: there are sadly no bathrooms).

For my coffee, I ordered an espresso of a Guatemalan (La Sofia I believe) and a V60 of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The espresso, pulled short with a brownish crema, delivered orange juice, cocoa, licorice, lime zest and nutmeg, proving very bright yet deep, all tying together quite nicely. The yirg trumpeted out giant notes of fruit punch, with bits of vanilla, croissant, cocoa and rose petals; an all around juicy coffee with some nice rich sweet elements on the back end.

To say the least, I was greatly pleased with my inaugural AM visit to Bow Truss. If you happen to be in need of a coffee destination, or just a pit stop on your morning walk, make one of Bow Truss Coffee Company's locations a pin on your Chicago map. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

CC: Buzz: Killer Espresso

Subject: Buzz: Killer Espresso
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

How a barista handles customers coming in during the last half hour of business says a lot about a place in my mind. Within that final half hour, a lot of shops begin to shut down and clean their equipment, because like most people, the employees want to go home sooner rather than later. If things are slow and people aren't really ordering much, than usually no one notices the gradual wind down. But have a sudden up-spike in business with a small bus tour of eager customers walking in 5 minutes before closing, that's when you will see the difference in establishments.

I had a great experience at Chicago's Buzz: Killer Espresso one fine evening a little under a half hour before their 8 PM close. Usually I try not to show up to a coffeehouse that close to the buzzer (pun intended) but especially when I'm traveling and my adventures keep me from being as punctual as I would like, I will give it the old college try. I walked up their stoop and inside to their gorgeously designed cafe (clean, polished and lots of seating) and asked if they were still serving espresso and pourovers. To my delight, the barista did not give me a furrowed brow and the monotone "we're closing soon so I can only make you ___ drinks" spiel, but instead heartily smiled and began a chipper exchange with me as she took my order.

Buzz has a roasting arm called Buzz: Artisanal Coffee Roaster, of which that evening I ordered an espresso the Hornet Espresso Blend and a pourover of a Kenya. The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, smacked of silky chocolate, cherries, a touch of cayenne pepper, some whole milk and a good squeeze of lime; deliciously extracted with all the potency of the hornet's sting but nothing but euphoria. The Kenya also delivered a sumptuous beverage, with notes of milk chocolate, strawberry, vanilla wafer, a little dill and a touch of wheat grass, making for a sweet and juicy coffee.

Fortunately, Chicago is a great city of great coffee people and Buzz kept to that high standard. If you're in the area of Wicker Park, definitely stop by Buzz.

Mugged: Various Pacifics [Java Dancer]

Subject: Java Dancer Coffee 
Coffees Mugged and the rating of each [see key]:
- Java Arabica 2+
- Sulawesi Toraja Kalossi 2+
- Sumatra Gayo Highland 3+
- Wamena Arabica - Papua 3+

One of the more encouraging trends I see in coffee-producing countries these days is the rise in coffee roasters and cafes within their own borders. Most often in the past (and even still overwhelmingly today), coffee usually leaves the land of its upbringing only to be fully realized in its most beautiful form upon foreign soil by the hands of an alien roaster. But now more then ever, there are coffee entities popping up between the tropics, taking the very produce of their homeland and bringing the bean to its finale just down the road from where it grew.

One such entity new to my radar is Java Dancer Coffee of East Java, in Indonesia. Not only do they have a cafe presence but they roast their own coffee too. Recently they sent me out 4 different coffees to try (they sent one coffee twice, hence the image of 5 bags above (gotta be transparent)). Sadly having come from so far away, I was not guaranteed peak freshness (within the first 2 weeks of roasting), so it was disclosed in the beginning that the coffees came to my table at a slight disadvantage. Nonetheless, I brewed each via drip and french press (no siphon this time because of the excessive number of coffees sent, I only had so much time).

The Java Arabica brewed via pourover held out notes of tootsie roll, malt, oregano and cigar, with a deep body and heavy aftertaste. The french press boded similar with tobacco, tootsie roll, peppercorn and a slight bit of apple; lighter but still pretty heavy and bitter.

The drip of the Sulawesi Toraja Kalossi rang of clove, bran, cayenne pepper, unsweetened cocoa, apple and pepper, showing dark yet sweet notes. The french press also had cloves, spinach, cayenne and cocoa, with a deep and meaty profile that tasted less sweet than the drip.

The Sumatra Gayo Highland proved better than the first two coffees, with more notes of whole milk, cocoa, nutmeg and cinnamon toast, though the qualities of smoke and dark bitter tones still haunted it. The french press, while a bit smokier and of more pepper, still held encouraging notes of sweet milk, cocoa, nutmeg and basil. All in all, this coffee might be amazing if roasted lighter (and of course served fresher).

The last coffee up, the Wamena Arabica - Papua, proved also fairly decent in quality. The pourover dished out notes of Dr. Pepper, lemon pepper steak, dates, blue corn chips, raisin and buttermilk all amidst a heavy body. The french press held more lemon pepper and date, with the additional tastes of Tabasco and corn chip, all together having a milky texture and heavy body. 

While these coffees all started at a dual disadvantage of not being there freshest and also being roasted a little dark, the Sumatra Gayo and Wamena Arabica at least showed some good promise for being decent coffees if prepared differently (I was not a fan of the Java or Sulawesi). Thus, if you seek somewhat dark, Indonesian-roasted Indonesian coffee, give Java Dancer Coffee a whirl.

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

CC: Sit and Wonder

Subject: Sit and Wonder
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

A lot of my trips to NYC involve a lot of spirited walking to and fro, running to the many coffee spots I wish to check out. Since I love seeking out the city's constantly evolving coffee scene, my visits are harried and rarely relaxing.

Thus, I found it like a strange omen out of a Dickens novel when one of my coffee stops was Brooklyn's Sit and Wonder. A quaint shop situated on Washington St, this cafe peddles Stumptown Coffee and offers a copious amount of inside tables as well as a spacious, eclectic courtyard in the back.

During my visit, I ordered an espresso of Hairbender and an Indonesian coffee via drip. The espresso, pulled short with a light brown crema, wove a delightful profile of cocoa, basil, lemon, brisket and vanilla ice cream within a smooth body. The drip of Indonesian in turn also proved tantalizing, with notes of fruit punch, hibiscus, biscuit, rosemary and a little nougat amidst a medium body.

Given some free time, I actually had time to tarry a little longer than usual so as to fully enjoy my experience and then some. If you seek a great cafe with great coffee, hunt down Sit and Wonder.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CC: Joe Bean Coffee Roasters

Subject: Joe Bean Coffee Roasters
Location: Rochester, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Of the towns I've frequented in Upstate NY, Rochester is by far one of my favorites. The city holds a lot of nifty sites, good memories and despite the exodus of some large companies like Kodak, the city still seems to grow in its appeal with every visit I make.

One relatively new development (at least to me) was Joe Bean Coffee Roasters. Located down the street from the George Eastman House, Joe Bean is on the bottom floor of a medium-sized office building. The cafe opens up into an extremely warm shop, with a huge island counter allowing for many points of barista-customer interaction plus lots of small tables orbiting on the perimeter.

As an accomplished roaster, they offer a nice variety of beans, and on this visit I sampled a Nicaraguan via pourover and an espresso of their espresso blend (Dolce Vita I believe). The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, held notes of lemon, dark cocoa, nutmeg, ginger, white wine, a pinch of salt and a little balsamic vinegar; a tart yet smooth espresso. The pourover (via Hario) doled out red grape juice, snickerdoodle, vanilla cola, a twang of mango and a dry sauvignon blanc, which in the end made for a vivaciously juicy and sweet coffee.

To frankly summarize, Joe Bean proved one of the better coffee establishments I've been to in NY state. If you're in Rochester, give Joe Bean a shot.