Friday, July 28, 2006

Spica Coffee & Tea

Location: 650 Castro St., Mountain View

Reviewed: July 27, 2006

Espresso: My double was a little long in volume (~2.5oz.) but not quite to the point of being a lungo; it was mellow and, although there were some unpleasant smoky tastes. Notably, it was not bitter. The crema was very thin and on the paler side. The shot was not ground to order, although the barista tamped.

Atmosphere: This location used to be Global Blends (previously reviewed), and not much has changed inside. Of note, the large map on the rear wall has been replaced by a painting of Ella Fitzgerald.

Verdict: A significant downhill slide from the previous owner.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cafe Bello

Location: 2885 Diamond St., San Francisco

Reviewed: July 24, 2006.

Espresso: My double was served lungo-style, reaching approximately 3oz. in total volume. Despite this, the crema was thick and medium-dark. It tasted mostly of chocolate, raisin, and a little cinnamon. It was well-balanced and full-bodied (unusual for a lungo) However, it was slightly sour.

Atmosphere: Cafe Bello is a small shop; it is a little dark inside and painted in warm colors (yellows, reds). There are framed pictures of latte art on the walls.

Verdict: They should have pulled it shorter but not bad.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Location: 1026 Valencia St., San Francisco

Reviewed: July 24, 2006

Espresso: My double was served in a properly-sized ceramic cup. The crema was mostly dark, but it had a paler stripe running through the center of the cup. This didn't seem to affect the taste much, however; it was well-balanced, medium-bodied, and had quite a bit of brightness. There were caramelly tastes mixed with a hint of walnut. The barista ground individually and tamped properly. It was about 2oz. total volume.

Atmosphere: Ritual is located in the Mission District and the atmosphere caters to the "urban hipster" types so typical in this area. The interior, although large and open and light, consists of a number of well-worn couches and contains slightly rectangular tables that are much larger than the more typical round style in most coffeeshops. It is very crowded.

Verdict: In a reverse of normal from what I frequently find, the coffee is very good, but the location is not really to my liking.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cafe hopping in Palo Alto

Today's review of Coupa took place during a quick jaunt through downtown Palo Alto; I stopped at three places, in order: Coupa, Satura Cakes (I have previously reviewed their Los Altos location; they have a new location here), and Caffe del Doge (also previously reviewed).

Of note, when I stopped at del Doge, I requested and received the Doge Rosso blend; it's definitely on the sweet side, but it was served way too hot with a pale crema.

My shot at Satura was not bad at all; the crema was a little on the pale side, but the shot tasted fine.

So downtown Palo Alto has now been compared head to head to head and rank ordered:

#1: Satura Cakes

#2: Caffe del Doge

#3: Coupa Cafe

Coupa Cafe

Location: 538 Ramona St., Palo Alto

Reviewed: July 13, 2006

Espresso: Coupa serves Venezuelan coffee exclusively, and hence all their espresso is a single-origin. My single was a little on the long side (~1.5oz) and was served in a wide-brimmed cup (albeit one of proper sizing) that didn't help the thin crema. The crema was pale-to-medium brown and even in tone. The shot was medium-bodied, well-balanced, and had primarily tones of caramel and milk chocolate. It was slightly too hot, but cooled quickly.

Atmosphere: Coupa is a large shop just off the major street in downtown Palo Alto. It is frequently quite crowded, and the free wifi probably doesn't help in that regard. The place is primarily dark-toned throughout with lots of wood, but it still feels light and open. Nicely different.

Verdict: Ok coffee, and a decent place to hang out if you can find seating.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Caffe del Sole

Location: 4342 California St., San Francisco

Reviewed: July 4, 2006

Espresso: My shot was served in a proper ceramic cup with grinds that were not specifically ground to order. The barista did tamp, using a small plastic tamper to do so. The cup was ~2oz. in volume and had a medium-to-pale, even, thin crema. The shot was extremely hot (possibly due, in some part, to the spent puck from the previous pour being left in the portafilter until I ordered). In the cup, the primary taste was a spicy chocolate.

Atmosphere: Caffe del Sole is a small shop in an outer neighbourhood of San Francisco. It is decorated with opera posters (including, oddly enough in this very Italian-themed location, operas by Massenet and Richard Strauss). On this particular day (when Italy was playing Germany in the World Cup semifinals), the place was packed to the gills with rambunctious soccer fans.

Verdict: Italy 2; Germany 0. They're probably still partying up there: go join in.