Monday, December 8, 2008

Starbucks (Factoria / Bellevue)

Since my wife was disappointed by her mocha at Caffe Vita, she demanded that I get her a peppermint mocha from Starbucks this morning. With my ragging on Starbucks, I figured that this was a good opportunity to order a latte and see if Starbucks could compete with the small shops from Seattle.

The answer is a resounding no. To put in terms that even the least knowledgeable coffee drinker can relate to, the Starbucks latte is coffee flavored hot milk whereas the small shop's lattes are espresso with a touch of steamed milk. Hey, if you like coffee flavored milk, by all means go to Starbucks. I know that it appears that I have some sore of vendetta against Starbucks. I simply call it as I see it. The latte here just isn't in the same category as the other lattes I've reviewed. Even the fact that it was served in paper does not factor in.

This trip made me realize where Starbucks is successful, though. They are really good at making drinks for people that like the idea of coffee, but actually want to drink some sweet coffee flavored concoction. Take my wife for example. She prefers a sweet mocha to a latte. Starbucks makes a really sweet mocha. The emphasis of the drink is the sweetness, not the coffee.

I tried her mocha at Caffe Vita on Saturday to see why she disliked it. The mocha over there was very intensely coffee flavored with a hint of chocolate. Even though I'm not a mocha drinker, this was how I would want a mocha. She, on the other hand, prefers the Starbuck's sweet mocha.

If you like a sweet mocha, stick with Starbucks.

I'll revisit another Starbucks again soon to sample some Clover coffee. They do have a machine at one of their Bellevue locations.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Caffe Vita (Capitol Hill)

With my in-laws in town for Thanksgiving, it had been too damn long since I've been to a coffee shop, so yesterday we loaded up the zoo and headed over to Caffe Vita in Capitol Hill. This was the shop that got it all started for me. This was the first place where I had top end coffee. It was an eye opening experience. So, I decided it was time to get back over there and give it a proper review. They are located at 1005 E. Pike St in Seattle's Capitol Hill area.

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Caffe Vita is also a coffee roaster, which is apparent as soon as you walk in the door. Behind a glass wall lies a massive coffee roaster. They supply roasted coffee beans to quite a few of the local coffee houses, such as Firehouse in Ballard.

Walking into Caffe Vita gives me the sense of what Seattle was like during the height of the grunge music scene. The barista as well as 2 other men had dreadlocks and they were all white. The clientele here is definitely not your soccer mom eastside sanitized coffee shop. That being said, it didn't feel weird to have my wife and 2 kids along with me. For some reason, in Seattle, I've never got a weird vibe from the people here that are much different than I am.
In the end, does it matter if the Barista is a cute UW student or some dreadlocked dude? Nope. For me, its all about the coffee. I ordered the latte as usual. This was a seriously full flavored latte. The espresso flavor is nice & intense, but not bitter. The only minor complaint I had about this coffee is that something was slightly off with the steamed milk. I'm not sure if the milk was too hot or cold, but the thin layer of foamed espresso and milk that sits on top didn't have that thick creaminess that I've come to expect. Regardless of this nitpicking, this was still a really good latte. One of these days, I'll need to come back, go moo-free and have an espresso here.
Based on the taste of the latte, I'd wager that the espresso is top notch.

If you are in town, and happen to be 40ish like me, and want to reminisce over coffee about the grunge days, check out Caffe Vita.

Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Company on Urbanspoon