Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery

Location: 185 Berry St., San Francisco

There are multiple other locations also in SF.

Reviewed: November 22, 2005

Espresso: Specialty's has recently started using the Black Cat espresso blend from the justly famed Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters in Chicago. They have also been given initial training in the proper methods of making espresso. As such, I had high hopes for my shot. The disappointment started when I saw the superauto machine (the other locations do not have superautos). The shot was poured too long, had a paler-than-it-should-have-been crema, and some bitter notes covered up what was obviously a very good espresso blend. It was spicy and full-bodied.

Atmosphere: The Berry Street location is located in the courtyard of an office building, which makes for a somewhat awkward (to say nothing of difficult to find) spot. It was of moderate size and had the "bonus" of counter seating (so that you can watch that superauto in action?). Fairly loud but fairly boring jazz was being played when I was there early in the morning.

Verdict: Stick with one of the other locations, and you'll probably do better. Nonetheless, they provide better than average espresso.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Coffee Lovers

Location: 1855 Aborn Rd., San Jose

Reviewed: November 13, 2005

Espresso: When I ordered an espresso, I was asked if I wanted American or French style. I was confused because I'd never heard this before. As it turns out, their American style espresso is the americano and their French style espresso is normal espresso (considering that espresso originated in Italy, well...). I chose French. The shot was given to me in a 12oz. paper cup (I did not specify for here, although neither was I asked), which was probably one-quarter to one-third full. The crema was fairly thick, but it dissipated rapidly. The coffee was extremely hot and had little discernable taste.

As a side note, I saw some latte art on a cappuccino that evidently had not been picked up.

Atmosphere: Coffee Lovers is a large location with a very high ceiling that slants from one side of the room to the other. It feels rather like a living room. The large bank of television screens along the wall opposite the counter add to the effect. Oddly, the screens were showing several different things; I was trying to watch the anime but the football was on three or four screens (including the large one) and on audio, so paying much attention to anything else was difficult.

Verdict: It's hard to place a verdict on this place. The thick crema and the latte art indicate that they may have potential, but the taste and temperature of the shot are dissappointing and point in the other direction.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dolce Espresso

Location: 2078 Tully Rd., San Jose

There is another location (not reviewed) at 2326 Senter, San Jose.

Reviewed: November 9, 2005

Espresso: The crema on my shot was thin and pale in color (it was actually hard to tell the exact color, it may have been more of a brownish-yellow, or it may have been white -- it was very dark inside: see below for details). The overwhelming taste sensation was smoky and bitter (almost bittersweet). This may have been due to the fact that people were smoking indoors (and I thought that was illegal in this state).

Atmosphere: Dolce was quite a different experience from most places that I've been. First of all, it was very dark inside. Secondly, there was table service (table service is, of course, a bad thing for espresso, as the crema will largely dissipate by the time it gets to you). The table service is by persons (young females, it should be noted) dressed approximately like cocktail waitresses. It has already been noted that people were smoking inside. There were also some consoles that I initially thought were for internet access, but upon closer inspection turned out to be some kind of electronic gaming machines.

Verdict: Definitely... different.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Coffee Factory

Location: 3787 Steven's Creek Blvd., Santa Clara

Reviewed: October 20, 2005

Espresso: The espresso at CF was entirely uninspiring and unmemorable. It had a pale thin crema and not much flavor.

Atmosphere: CF is a fairly typical shop: large, bright, free wifi.

Verdict: Why bother, when there's great coffee just down the street.