Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One year running

I started this blog one year ago. In that time, I've reviewed 47 shops. I'm not going to attempt any kind of rank-ordering of them, but I am listing what I consider the top tier. These are the five (there simply happen to be five) best places I've visited, and they are all worth a visit, maybe even a pilgrimage.

Listed in Alphabetical order:

Barefoot Coffee Roasters, 5237 Steven's Creek Blvd., Santa Clara

Coffee Creek, 2601 Oakdale Rd., Modesto

Pacific Bay Coffee Co., 1495 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek

Ritual Coffee Roasters, 1026 Valencia St., San Francisco

Temple Fine Coffee & Tea, 1014 10th St., Sacramento

There is also one place that I want to list as honorable mention:

Eon Cafe, 24970 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward

Eon gets an HM because although they are capable of pulling a very good shot and have their technique down right (as evidenced by my original review), they seem to have certain consistency issues (and my sour-ish shot was served to me by their best barista).

So a total of 6 shops of the 47 I've reviewed appear to actually know good espresso. That's nearly 13%, a much higher percentage than I originally expected. Of course this is not a statistically random sample, and certain other caveats also apply, etc.

I should also mention that there are two other places to which I gave positive reviews that I'm not listing here at all. One of these, Global Blends, has been defunct for some time. The other, Plantation Coffee Co., has lost their best barista (who served me the day I reviewed), and I'm no longer certain that they are capable of producing top-notch espresso.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pacific Bay Coffee Co.

Location: 1495 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek

Reviewed: August 11, 2006

Espresso: My double was served just barely on the longish side at perhaps 2.25oz. The crema was medium-dark and even in tone; it was thick and silky, although it dissipated somewhat rapidly. The shot was on the sweet side: it had a buttery mouth feel and tasted of caramel and honey. The barista did everything proper: flushed the grouphead, ground to order, tamped hard.

Atmosphere: Pacific Bay is a very small shop, and even with outdoor seating, it can feel cramped. Of note is that the roaster is directly on the shop floor and is surrounded by a counter so that one can watch the roasting process; this can provide some entertainment. Free wifi.

Verdict: Had I gotten a ristretto pour, I might have actually attempted to kiss the barista.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Caffe e Via

Reviewed: August 6, 2006

Location: 850 W. Pacheco Blvd., Los Banos

There are multiple other locations throughout the Fresno area.

Espresso: My double was served in a 12oz. paper cup. It reached nearly 4oz. in volume and was extremely hot. The crema was almost uniformly pale and thin; there was a small darker strip present, and the thinness of the crema was certainly not helped by the wide-brimmed cup. The heat seemed to blanch out all the flavour that might have otherwise been present. There was a bit of nuttiness and bitterness.

Atmosphere: All Caffe e Via locations are drive-throughs, so I'm going to spare my readers a description of the interior of my car. This status possibly excuses the use of a paper cup, but it still should have been properly sized.

Verdict: If you're driving through Los Banos and need caffeine...