Sunday, September 25, 2005

Orchard Valley Coffee

Location: 329 E. Campbell Ave., Cambell

Reviewed: September 25, 2005

Espresso: My espresso shot was served in a paper cup even though I specifically specified "for here". The crema was light hazelnut in color and, as it was thin, dissipated rapidly. The primary taste sensation was some understated nutty notes.

Atmosphere: Orchard Valley is a large shop, with windows on two sides of the building. A high ceiling adds to the open, airy nature of the place. There are a couple of black leather couches near a brick fireplace, which is a nice touch. Sunday mornings are extremely crowded with the Campbell Farmer's Market happening just outside. Free wifi.

Verdict: It's a nice place, but the espresso is uninspiring.

Mission Coffee

Location: 151 Washington Blvd., Fremont

Reviewed: September 24, 2005

Espresso: A nearly full cup with very pale crema was served as a "single". The shot was extremely hot and had virtually no taste whatsoever. The only real sensation in the mouth was a somewhat rubbery body. The shot was extremely unpleasant.

Atmosphere: It was hard to get a realistic feel for the place, as I was there for a concert (Vienna Teng was playing with proceeds going to Hurricane Katrina victims); I imagine that there is not typically a grand piano against the back wall, nor are there rows and rows of chairs.

Verdict: If Vienna plays there again, I'll show up, but I won't order the espresso.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bay Street Coffee

Location: 754 The Alameda, San Jose.

Reviewed: Sept. 12, 2005

Espresso: Other than some fruity notes, the espresso served me at Bay Street was wholly uninspiring. The crema was thin, white, and wispy. It was handed to me suspiciously quickly, causing me to wonder if I had been served 1/2 of the previous order.

Atmosphere: Bay Street is a small shop located in a mixed-development (thus there are apartments above) near downtown SJ. The interior of the place is slightly odd, as the corner location causes the shop to be layed-out in a narrow "L"-shape. The floor is in a tile pattern, although it appeared to be of a concrete-like material. The walls are painted in a seafoam green color, which looks much better than it sounds. Free wireless didn't seem to be working.

Verdict: The walls are cool, and the barista was cute; there is otherwise little to recommend this place, except as an alternative to evil corporate coffee a few blocks away.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Barefoot Coffee Roasters

Location: 5237 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara.

Reviewed: September 9, 2005.

Espresso: Barefoot, as their name implies, roasts their own blends in-house. They rotate through several different blends that have different characteristics. This particular day they were serving a blend called Sweetness. Sweetness is, as the name implies, on the sweeter side, and has an initial upfront essence of berry that flows across the tongue. There is little aftertaste. The crema is medium-brown to burgundy, and tends to be on the thick side.

Atmosphere: Barefoot is a smallish shop, although the outdoor seating helps in this regard. The outdoor seating is, however, frequently filled by a regular cast of persons who smoke. Inside, there are a couple of comfy couches and the standard cafe tables. The chairs are a matter of some comment. Every single one has been turned into a separate piece of art (under the direction of one of the baristas). There is also one large circular table dating from ~1910. Local art adorns the walls, and the shows rotate monthly. Live music and the occasional coffee cupping dominate the weekend happenings.

Verdict: Great coffee, cool place. Quickly becoming the destination hub for those in the South Bay who know and love coffee.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Coffee Society

Reviewed: Sept. 7, 2005

Location: 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. There is another location (not reviewed) in the Pruneyard, 1875 S. Bascom Rd., Campbell.

Espresso: The espresso served at Coffee Society is disappointing at best. The crema on my shot was pale and thin. The shot tasted mostly smoky and bitter, although it displayed a nice mouthfeel despite the thin crema.

Atmosphere: Coffee Society is located across the street from DeAnza College, which makes it popular and frequently crowded. The shop takes essentially the form of two rooms: the one that contains the espresso bar itself is narrow and L-shaped with the standard small cafe tables; the other room, off to one side, is squareish in format and contains comfy couches and armchairs. They have free wireless access, and local art is on display.

Verdict: Nice place but bad coffee.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Global Blends

Location: 650 Castro St., Mountain View

Reviewed: September 1, 2005

Espresso: Global Blends serves a variety of espressos from specialty roasters along the west coast. On this particular morning, they were serving Tigerwalk from Equator Coffee. The shot was a ristretto pull and had a nice balance. It was mild and medium-bodied with hints of orange and caramel. The crema was dark, although thin.

Atmosphere: Global is a very small location; as such, it can get very noisy when there are only a few people there. Despite the size, however, it doesn't feel particularly cramped unless crowded. There are a couple of large, cushy armchairs near the window up front. The rest of the cafe has fairly standard tables; the chairs have cushions, which is a nice touch. A large map of the world on the back wall adds a touch of conformity with the name.

Verdict: The small size of the shop makes this more of a get in and get your buzz sort of place than really a location to hang out. This is a shame, really, as they are located in arguably the coolest neighborhood in Silicon Valley.