Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tougo (Capitol Hill)

I am tired. I am really tired. I am that kind of tired that is described so well by the narrator in Fight Club. Have you ever felt so out of it that you feel like you are awake, but the portion of your brain that controls the thought process is off? You are in a daze, your eyes are open, but your level of consciousness in your brain only controls physical movement. That is me today. I'm not sure if it is because my body thinks I'm still on central time. I'm not sure if it is because I'm about 36 hours into my normal eating pattern of no processed foods or sugar after a week of gluttony in the Midwest. One thing is certain. I am tired.

Deep down I know that the way to get back on track is to hunker down and plow through it, but I'm just not strong enough for it. I know I sound like a typical whiny bitch, but frankly, today I just don't care. I am in need of caffeine.

Last night, a friend gave me a coffee house recommendation. Like a crack ho who just couldn't say no, I was eager to oblige. This morning I went to Tougo Coffee. The first thing I thought was "WTF kind of name is that?". I wondered if my Asian restaurant name rule could be applicable to coffee as well. For those of you who don't know the rule, the quality of an Asian restaurant is inversely related to the sound of the restaurant's name. For example, a restaurant called Triple Happiness Seafood will be a great place. House of Hunan will suck.

Tougo is located at 1410 18th Ave in Seattle (Capitol Hill).

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They are quite clear about which side of the political spectrum that they support. On a normal day, I might get all pissy about it, but right now I could care less.

It is a nice little casual coffee house in a residential neighborhood across the street from an elementary school. How quaint?

As usual, I ordered a small latte. The first thing I noticed was that the barista has a case of OCD. I watched him make several drinks before he got to mine. As someone who has an on again off again case of OCD, it is easy to spot in others. When tamping the coffee into the naked portafilter, it was obvious that this guy was much more exacting than the average barista. My gut was right on this place. This was a fine cup of coffee. It was big and bold. It had the intensity of a brand new California Cabernet that is full of oak. When you take a sip, it smacks you. I was very happy with this latte. While I have grown very fond of Stumptown's nicely subtle flavors, sometimes you want something more assertive.

Man oh man, I was brain dead today. Normally, I take a picture of the coffee before I start to drink it, but today isn't normal as you might have noticed.

If I was able to converse today, I would have asked the barista if the beans come from Cafe Vita. I'll have to assume that they do, since the cup was from Cafe Vita. This latte did taste similar to Cafe Vita, so I'll just go with it. Honestly, I prefer Tougo to Cafe Vita. The OCD barista at Tougo did a better job at tapping the steamed milk to dissipate the large air bubbles and the Tougo coffee was smoother.

One thing I forgot to mention is that Tougo has a fairly large room in back for children. After spending 10 days in France where children aren't supposed to be in public, this is very welcoming. Sometimes you have the children along and just don't want to deal with snotty people.

If you happen to be in Capitol Hill, this is a really decent place.

Tougo Coffee Co. on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Antonia Cafe, Nice France

Ok, so you are probably thinking why I'm writing about coffee in France since this is a Seattle Coffee blog. If it were not for Howard Schultz's visit to Europe and his idea of recreating Italian coffee here in the US, the popularity of espresso based drinks and therefore all of the small high end coffee shops wouldn't be what they are today. I wanted to compare the coffee that I've been having recently to what is made in Europe.

My wife and I needed to get away from the mist and cold of Seattle, so we headed to Nice, France for a few days of a 10 day trip to France. Since on the first morning my wife and kids were sound asleep, I snuck out to get my daily dose of caffeine. About 100 feet from the apartment that we rented was a small outdoor cafe: Antonia Cafe. For those of you who are movie buffs, Place Rossetti was where a scene in Ronin [Blu-ray]was filmed. Shortly after the group stole the case and Gregor escaped, DeNiro left the apartment and was in a small square watching a group sing outside a church.

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Back to coffee. The first thing that you notice when you look at a coffee menu in France is that the terms don't exactly match what we have in the US. An espresso is usually called an expresso, and everything else is a cappucino, even though they are called different things. The main difference is how much milk that they add. A cafe au lait is like a small cappucino, a cappucino is a medium cappucino, and a cafe creme is a large cappucino. In the US, the major distinction between a latte and a cappucino is that the latte has no foam and the cappucino does. Everything over there has foam.

That aside, the coffee over there is just blah. It isn't good at all. Since I didn't have much luck with the milk based drinks, I switched to espresso. It didn't help. It's just crap coffee. Honestly, I don't know if it was old beans, bad beans, horrible attention to detail, bad milk or a combination of the above, but I wasn't impressed. If you are used to drinking coffee from a reputable place in Seattle, the average cafe in France will pale in comparison. I was hoping to go to the Illy location in Paris, but it was too far away to make sense.

One thing that I give to the French is how they drink their coffee. When they are going out to drink coffee, they plant their ass in a chair and take their time. They drink out of a real cup. My biggest pet peeve about coffee in the US is the use of disposable cups to such a high degree. These soccer moms have an Obama bumper sticker on their Prius, but have to carry around a big 'ole disposable paper cup with the plastic lid. For God's sake, they will even drink their coffee in a disposable cup when they are drinking at the damn coffee shop. The coffee in France might be crap, but at least they can spare an extra 10 minutes out of their day to just sit and contemplate life for a while instead of living life at such a frenetic pace.

Ok, so what do they do over there if they need to drink something quickly and they truly can't spare 10 or 15 minutes? Let me clue you in to a little secret: think about the word espresso. Doesn't it sound similar to express? as in quick? Espresso was specifically designed to be made quickly and consumed quickly. The typical European business person will walk into a cafe, order an espresso, plop a euro or 2 down on the counter, throw some sugar in there and shoot it down in less than 2 minutes. Guess what? They didn't have to walk around parading with their precious paper cup for all to see.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How to tell if your coffee is fresh

Late last week, I was running low on beans and just happened to be in Seattle, so I dropped by Stumptown Roasters to pick up a bag. Even though my fist review of them put them slightly behind some of the other local shops, they are a much better shop than 4.0 on a 5.0 scale. When I need beans or just want some coffee to drink, I just seem to go there instead of some other places. A day or so before I went to REI in downtown Seattle to get a water sterilizer for my wife's upcoming trip to India. Espresso Vivace is right accross the street, so if I'm that close I'm going to get some coffee there. I got an espresso since I didn't have a bunch of time to sit around (isn't that what espresso is all about?). Since I went to Stumptown a day later, I ordered an espresso there for comparison purposes. Honestly, I assumed that the Espresso Vivace would be slightly better, but I was wrong. They tasted similar, but the Stumptown Espresso had a caramely sweet finish. Damn, it was good.

Enough rambling, on to he reason for the post: freshly roasted coffee. The primary way to tell if coffee is fresh without even tasting it is to watch it when it is brewing. Take a look at this video:

This is some Honduras Finca El Puente that was 4 days old when I brewed it. As roasted coffee ages, it continues to off-gas to a point when it becomes stale. When you brew freshly roasted coffee, you can watch the coffee bubble as the gas is released. Midway through the video, you can clearly see the coffee bubble. That is the signal of good things to come. Most of the stuff that you buy in a grocery store is going to be stale by the time that you brew it. I've heard that some of the larger coffee roasters use a technique to help keep the coffee fresh. They package the coffee quickly after it is roasted in a sealed bag. The off-gassing that occurs naturally keeps everything sealed away from oxygen which helps to preserve the coffee.

If you enjoy drinking fresh coffee, try to seek out a local roaster. If you don't have a roaster nearby, most of the coffee shops that I've reviewed will ship their coffee. It is well worth it. I used to add half & half to my coffee. I just realized why. The answer is very simple: I made crappy coffee and the half & half just covered the bad taste. When you make good, fresh coffee adding dairy just kills the subtle nuances of the coffee. Go out and get some good coffee. Life is too short to drink crappy coffee.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee

This was an unexpected early morning for me since my younger daughter woke up hungry at 3:45am and was yelling "cracker, cracker, cracker". I blew through my 2 monster mugs of French Press coffee, but I was still walking around like a zombie. Last week my wife came home with a few samples of the new Starbucks VIA instant coffee, so I figured it would give me some additional caffeine.

VIA instant coffee is a result of years of R&D to come up with a way of grinding their beans in a way to supposedly preserve the oils and flavor of their coffee. In a nutshell, it is their coffee beans ground to a superfine powder that dissolves to make a cup of coffee.

To be fair, I made the VIA in exactly the same manner as I use to make French press coffee to now skew the results. First I boil the water for the coffee and once the electric kettle shuts off, I let it rest for 50 seconds to allow the water to cool enough to avoid scalding the coffee, but hot enough to get the full taste.

I made a cup using the Italian Roast coffee packet. The taste is very similar to what you'd get from the Starbucks store. It tastes burnt just like the real thing. Why can't they roast their beans in a way so that they won't get burnt? I don't know if they buy crappy beans and have to roast the crap out of them to cover up the bad beans, but all I taste is burnt coffee. They do make a Columbia medium roast as well, so I'll report back after I have a chance to try that.

The interesting thing is that the instant coffee tastes so similar to the store made coffee. The grinding process for the instant coffee seems to be a success, but they are still using an inferior coffee. To use the old computer nerd analogy: garbage in / garbage out. If they were able to produce good coffee beans, I bet that the instant version would be decent.

The only use that I'd consider purchasing this for would be backpacking. In that context, I have a few requirements: a jolt of caffeine, light weight, easy clean up, and minimal waste. This coffee meets all of the requirements. I made a trip last summer to the Goat Rocks area of the Cascade Mountain range and brought tea bags along. While the tea is a decent option, I still have to package it to bring it along and then have to pack out a soggy tea bag. The nice thing about the Starbucks instant is that it is in a self contained package that could get wet and not compromise the contents as well as having very minimal garbage to pack out. I'm not interested in pursuing a world class cup of joe when I'm out backpacking. The trip itself is enough to satisfy me and I'm not about to add extra weight to my pack to get a good cup of coffee.

If you are a backpacker, this will probably suit your needs assuming that you can live with the store made Starbucks coffee.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bodum Chambord French Press

Until I bought my Freiling French Press, the Bodum Chambord was the French Press that I used for years. There isn't going to be any glaring differences in the quality of the coffee you will make using different French Presses. As long as the mesh screen is held tightly against the wall, it's going to make good coffee.

Unless you need a durable coffee pot like the stainless steel Freiling, it comes down to aesthetic appeal. Ok, I guess I should take a step back: don't get a plastic walled French Press. The plastic will give off a taste that will affect the coffee's final taste. With all of the scare about baby bottles being bad news, do you really want Bisphenol A leaching into you coffee? I don't know about you, but that kind of ruins it for me. I notice a taste difference when I pour my coffee into a travel mug, which is a supposedly more chemical resistant plastic than polycarbonate, so I know I'm not messing around with the plastic French Presses. Sorry for the rant.

The Bodum is a nice French Press. It looks attractive on the counter and disassembles easily for cleaning. You can also buy replacement glass in case you happen to break yours.
Here's my Bodum:If your plan on only using the French press at home, I wouldn't hesitate to pick one of these up.

Freiling Stainless Steel French Press

My standard coffee at home is made in a French Press. They just make good coffee. It's that simple. They will blow away any of the standard drip coffee machines. I've tried Krups, Mr Coffee, Braun, etc. They all suck. If you want something easy and convenient, by all means, get a drip machine. If you buy your coffee already ground, get a drip machine.

But if coffee means more to you than getting your caffeine fix, get a French Press. They are cheap, readily available, and make damn good coffee. I discuss how to make good coffee in this post.

My current French Press is a Freiling double walled, stainless steel version. A while back, I was getting ready for a camping trip and I wanted something better than tea made from a tea bag, so I thought of bringing my glass walled French Press along for the ride. My camping trips involve loading all of my stuff in my Land Rover and bouncing down the trails. Glass? Something just didn't seem right about stuffing a thin glass French Press in a box with a bunch of metal stuff. Murhpy's law hasn't treated me well in the past, so I started searching out some alternatives.

After spending some time on Amazon, I found the Freiling:

This is a nice heavy chunk of stainless steel. It has some heft to it. One really nice feature about it for traveling like I do is that it is double walled. I think the designer of the press probably wanted to design an insulated French Press. The whole concept of an insulated French Press is a flawed concept. The French Press is for making coffee, not storing it. You should make your coffee, and get it out of the press right after you press the grounds down to the bottom. If you leave the coffee, it will continue to steep in the grounds and will get nasty. In my application, the double wall would allow for dings and dents on the outside of the press and the inner wall would remain unscathed. The inner wall needs to be perfect, or the coffee grounds will pass by the plunger since the seal against the wall will be compromised.

If you want a good French Press that will double as a camping coffee pot, this is the one for you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Victor's Coffee (Redmond)

I was surfing the net the other day and stumbled across a coffee roaster in Redmond. Yes, you read that right: a coffee roaster on the Eastside. I hadn't heard of it, so I had to go check this place out to see it for myself.

Victor's is located in the downtown shopping area of Redmond at 7993 Gilman Street:

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As I walked up to the place, something seemed out of sorts. It didn't look like a standard coffee house. If anything, it resembled an Irish pub. Walking in the front door, it even felt like an Irish pub. It really looks like they took a bar and added an espresso machine and a pastry container and plopped it on a bar. It definitely had that comfy, welcoming atmosphere that you'd expect an Irish pub to have. The only real difference is that the black stuff that they were pouring was coffee not Guinness.

I was pretty caffeinated already, so I ordered a small latte. This is what they served me:

It's kind of hard to tell from the picture since there isn't anything to reference in terms of size, but this was the biggest "small" latte I've ever seen. I looked around the room and it seems that the specialty of Victor's is to serve the largest cups of coffee in the Seattle area, let alone the Eastside.

That was my only real complaint of the latte. The flavor was really smooth, but it just tasted diluted. It was more of a coffee flavored milk drink than the other way around. If you are the type of person that doesn't want to throw back a quick shot of espresso and would rather take your time and drink a large volume of liquid this is the place for you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Starbucks (Downtown Bellevue)

This morning I was desperate to get caffeine in my veins. I had a doctor's appointment and had to fast last night and this morning. As a result, I skipped my morning coffee. You know when you are an addict when you could give a rat's ass about the food and only think of missing out on the coffee. As I was sitting in the doctor's office getting jammed with needles, I remembered that Starbucks has a Clover machine in their downtown Bellevue.

As soon as the sadists with the needles were done with me, I navigated my way through the side streets of Bellevue so I could avoid the parking lot known as the 405. I waited my turn in line at the store and got the standard welcoming smiles from all of the cheerleaders, oh I mean baristas. As I had neither coffee nor food in my belly, I didn't smile back. I'm a grumpy ass before my coffee. Since I really felt grumpy this morning, when the barista asked what size I'd like, I responded "large" knowing full well that they love to say grande.

Their Clover coffee of the day was an Ethopian Sidamo. I bought some Ethopian Sidamo beans from Zoka a while back, so I figured it would be a perfect coffee to try out. The beans were sitting out on the counter and were marked 1/10/09. The beans were only a few days old, so at least the beans should be fresh. The other thing I noted about the beans was that they didn't appear oily on the surface, like most of their beans. They obviously didn't roast the piss of them. Things are looking up.

Of course, the coffee was served in a paper cup. It's kind of a bummer, but the store was filled with a bunch of mochafrappacappucino types anyways, so there wasn't an open seat in the place. The coffee had a nice aroma and if I didn't have a wicked sinus infection I probably could have detected some characteristics of the aroma, but the only thing I could tell was that it wasn't the typical charred aroma of their standard coffee. The Clover coffee was good. As much as I hate to admit it, I must be honest. It was a really good cup of coffee. The main difference that I've noticed about the Clover coffee is that it is really smooth and doesn't have the thick mouthfeel of French press coffee. It wasn't too strong and was extracted properly. It wasn't quite as good as the Ethopian made at Intelligentsia, but it was pretty close. The big difference in taste compared to the coffee I made from the Zoka Sidamo beans was that the Starbucks beans were more deeply roasted. Zoka's roast was very light. As a result, the coffee had a blueberry aroma to it and tasted more raw. If there is one thing that I'd recommend to Starbucks is to roast their beans for the Clover a little more lightly to get some of the inherent qualities of the beans to come out.

For a massive company like Starbucks to be able to have 4 day old beans in selected stores must be quite a logistical feat for this large company. If you've ever worked for a large company, you'd appreciate the effort in doing something radically different from standard operating procedure.

At this point, Starbucks has Clover locations in Seattle (of course), Portland, San Francisco, and Boston. I was a little shocked that Chicago and especially NYC got dissed, but who knows what the future will hold? If you live in one of those cities, you should give Starbucks Clover Coffee a try. IMHO, its the only worthwhile thing that they offer.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Espresso Vivace Vita Coffee Beans

Yesterday, when I went to Espresso Vivace, I picked up a 1/2lb. bag of beans for using in my French Press. Check out this picture:Take a look at what's written next to "VITA": 1/5. Take a guess what that number is. That is the roasting date for those coffee beans. I bought them yesterday which was 1/8. The beans were only roasted three days ago. Once the beans are roasted, the clock is ticking on how long they will remain fresh. There are various schools of thought, but when roasted coffee gets older than a few weeks, it surely doesn't taste the same as a few days after roasting.

Having the date on there isn't interesting on its own, it's just that most coffee that you buy in the grocery store or elsewhere has no date on it whatsoever. The simple fact is that most people that are brewing coffee at home are making stale coffee. If it's ground coffee, it's undoubtedly stale. Even most whole bean coffee that is sold is probably already stale.

There's one simple way to know the freshness of the beans without having a date on the package. When you brew the coffee in a French Press, as the hot water comes into contact with the grounds, fresh coffee will give off gas. It bubbles like Alka-seltzer, except with more force. The first time I saw it do that I was amazed. I was wondering what the hell was going on. The gas being given off is clear in this picture:If a picture speaks a thousand words, how about video? I plan on grabbing my wife's flip video camera and taking a video so that I can upload it to Youtube and then embed it here just so you can see how forceful the gas bubbling really is. The stuff looks alive.

The barista recommended this to be used in a French Press. It is a really good cup of coffee. The thing about a blend is that it ends up being a good all around cup of coffee. This coffee was full bodied, but like their espresso it's really smooth. It wasn't quite as good as the Ethopian coffee that was prepared in the Clover at Intelligentsia, but it was darn good. This isn't indicative of any problems with Espresso Vivace, just that the blend is probably better for making espresso than in a French Press.

If you haven't had fresh coffee, you owe it to youself to order some beans from a local roaster. For you out-of-towners, they do ship the coffee as well. Even with the shipping time factored in, it will still be fresher than anything coming out of a grocery store.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Espresso Vivace (Capitol Hill)

As I was grinding my coffee beans this morning, before the grinding was finished, I heard the grinder speed up a bit. Oops! I ran out of beans. Well, that gave me a perfect excuse to delay my bathroom remodeling project a while and head out to buy some beans. Oh well, why not have a latte also?

It's been several months since I visited Espresso Vivace (across the street from REI's flagship store), so I went to the website and found out that they had opened their Capitol Hill location on Broadway. The parking is much better in Capitol Hill than near the REI store, so I decided on that location. They are right in the heart of Capitol Hill's main drag on Broadway:

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As usual, I ordered a latte. They didn't have small, medium, & large, only 8oz. and 12oz. sizes, so I opted for the 12oz. They had 2 baristas working the machine: one pulling espresso shots, and the other steaming & pouring the milk. As the barista was swirling and tapping the steamed milk on the counter, I felt like I was a drooling dog anxiously waiting for my food to be served. From the first sip to the last, I was in caffiene heaven. While some of the other coffee houses served up some really good lattes, this one took the prize. It was just so smooth and yet intense at the same time. I think I drank the coffee in about 1 minute.

Espresso Vivace is an espresso house. They don't even serve standard coffee, only espresso drinks. This place reminds me of the coffee shops in Italy. As far as I can tell, in Italy standard coffee isn't even made. When you order coffee there, it's pretty much limited to drinking an espresso or cappuccino. I remember quite vividly being at a coffee shop in Rome. There was a really long stand-up counter where you would be served your shot of espresso. It was a pretty interesting experience watching a businessman walk up to the counter, order, dump a boatload of sugar into the espresso, give it a quick swirl with the spoon, and down it in 2 swigs. I think the whole process took under a minute. Espresso Vivace has a nice long counter where you are encouraged to slurp down your espresso. This is as close to the Italian espresso shop as you will find in the US.

This reminded me of the history of Starbuck's entry into espresso drinks. The story is something along these lines: Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) took a business trip to Milan and visited their espresso shops. Seeing the popularity of these establishments, he figured that it would be a good idea in Seattle. I think most of us know the rest of the story. It was wildly successful and Starbucks spread like a wildfire in Southern California. I remember those early days quite well. I went to my first Starbucks in the early 90's when I lived in Chicago's Oldtown neighborhood. They had a location one block north of where I lived on Wells St. The Starbucks locations back then resembled the good coffee houses in Seattle today. Their baristas were well trained and actually had old school espresso machines and separate grinders. Somewhere along the way they got so focused at expanding, they must have been forced to go to the all-in-one, simple to operate, espresso machines instead of having well trained baristas that could be trusted to make espresso. There's something wrong when there are five milk steaming pitchers next to the machine that have been sitting there for God knows how long and the barista uses it to top off your drink.

Companies can get so focused on expansion and profits that they lose sight of what made them successful in the first place. Making good espresso isn't rocket science: design a good blend of beans, properly roast them, and then make while the beans are still fresh. I know this will sound pompous coming from a guy who writes a coffee blog, but if I were running the place, I'd go back to the basics.

Back to Espresso Vivace. This is the place to get the best possible espresso drinks in Seattle. They aren't a diverse shop like Zoka where you can get whatever you want. This is about espresso. They don't offer a bunch of styles of coffee beans. They have two blends, which are optimized for espresso. That's it. I'll be heading back soon to get espresso instead of a latte. I'm guessing that it will be perfect.

Espresso Vivace on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 2, 2009

Intelligentsia Coffee - Chicago / Lakeview

You know you are getting old when you are more excited about drinking coffee than about going out and drinking on New Year's Eve. I was in Chicago to visit my family for the last few days. Since I've been sampling the local Seattle coffee shops, naturally I wondered if Chicago had any coffee shops that were worthy. After my conversation with the barista at Zoka who told me that they had sold their Clover machines to Intelligentsia in Chicago, I naturally assumed that they would be a coffee house that's about coffee, not the typical flavored crappucino type house.

So, yesterday was a perfect day to make the journey from the burbs into Chicago's Boytown neighborhood. Boytown, as you probably guessed, is a neighborhood where there happens to be a high concentration of gay men. I know this is a stereotypical comment, but when there is a high concentration of gay men, there also happens to be a decent amount of high quality restaurants and other foodie establishments. Intelligentsia's Broadway location is at 3123 North Broadway, a block south of Belmont and Broadway (the epicenter of Boytown).

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As my brother and I walked into Intelligentsia, the two Clover machines were the first things that we saw as we opened the door. I knew I'd finally get my chance to drink some Clover coffee. I surely didn't want my first Clover experience to be at Starbucks. I asked the barista what coffee that they were making in the Clover and he responded that Ethopian Yirgacheffe was the coffee of the day. Perfect! I've been sampling a bunch of different Ethopian beans from the local roasters in Seattle, so I figured that I should have a good basis on which to compare.

I was really impressed with the cup of coffee. Normally, I prefer drinking coffee with half & half since it does a good job at covering up a less than perfect cup of coffee's flaws. When I took the first sip of the coffee, it was one of the few times that I enjoyed drinking coffee without half & half. It had absolutely no harshness whatsoever and was silky smooth. In a nutshell, it was what coffee should taste like. The big difference with Clover coffee and French Press coffee is that the Clover has less mouthfeel. It does a better job of removing the grounds from the coffee resulting in a more refined cup of coffee. Although the flavor in French press coffee can probably compete with the Clover if everything in the brewing process is spot on it still won't be able to give as refined of a texture. Thumbs up to the Clover Machine. Right between the people in the picture below are the two Clover machines.

My brother obviously must have been impressed with my pictures on the blog and as a result, he ordered a medium latte. I really didn't expect to see any latte art outside of Seattle, but their latte was decorated nicely. This latte reminded me of Caffe Vita. It was bold and intense, but the latte had a weird bubbled look, not the really smooth texture like Stumptown or Herkimer. I know I'm nitpicking, but honestly the latte would definitely hold its own to the Seattle shops. I have had better lattes than this one, but I bet on average that Intelligentsia can make espresso drinks on par with most Seattle shops.

I did have a quick chat with the barista that made the Clover coffee. He had the same conclusion that I did. His thoughts were that Starbucks simply wanted to pull the Clover machines off of the market. Starbucks can't possibly change its image by having these machines. They aren't known for having the finest coffee. Starbucks is a place to hang out and drink sweetened coffee drinks. The Clover just doesn't fit with their business model, so I can only assume that this was a move to hurt the high-end coffee houses, not to improve Starbucks.

As I was sipping my coffee, a woman passed by with the recognizable Starbucks paper cup. It still amazes me that people will be within walking distance of a superior coffee house and yet they still choose to get the Starbucks. Thoughts go through my head as to why they will walk by a shop like this and choose Starbucks instead:
  • Are they intimidated by a place like Intelligentsia? Some coffee shops don't have clear menus like Starbucks and Intelligentsia didn't have a menu at all that was posted.
  • Are they simply Walmart shoppers that like to buy disposable crap?
  • Do they have inferiority complexes and need to go to a Starbucks where the baristas are more known for having cheery personalities than making good coffee? I'm amazed when I read online reviews of coffee shops. It seems that some people are so timid that they need validation from their barista.
Anyways, big thumbs up to Intelligentsia. They are an oasis in a desert of mediocrity. If you happen to live in Chicago or are visiting, give them a try. It is well worth the trip.

Oh, I almost forgot. Thanks go out to my brother for taking the pictures. I didn't feel like lugging my camera on the flight to the midwest.