Thursday, November 19, 2009

Subrosa Coffee

Location: 419 40th Street, Oakland

Reviewed: November 9, 2009

Espresso: Subrosa serves coffee from Four Barrel. The shot is ground and tamped properly and poured directly into a properly-sized cup. The short shot was fairly bright but not overpoweringly so. It tasted of spiced-orange with a nuttiness to acidity and a floral aroma.

Atmosphere: Subrosa is tiny and contains no seating whatsoever; nor does it have signage. You really do have to look for it twice. The friendly barista told me that there was a courtyard to the side of the building, but as there was no direct doorway, I didn't take a look.

Verdict: Probably the best Four Barrel shot I've had anywhere.

Friday, July 31, 2009

LAMILL Coffee Boutique

Location: 1636 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles

Reviewed: June 14, 2009

Espresso: I didn't get to watch the barista for reasons that will be made clear shortly. The shot had a thick moderate-to-dark crema and nuanced berry notes.

Atmosphere: LAMILL is literally a coffee-restaurant. You walk in and are greeted by a waitress who takes you to a table and hands you two menus: the smaller one is for food; the larger one is for coffee.

Verdict: Amazing concept and good coffee: just go.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea

Location: 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

Reviewed: June 13, 2009

Espresso: Intelligentsia serves their famous Black Cat in addition to a seasonally-rotating succession of single origins. Shots are ground-to-order, and poured on Synessos. Temperature is adjusted periodically along with grind. My shot (I selected Black Cat), was poured to about 1.75oz. in a white ceramic demi. It had a thick dark brown crema, along with a chocolate-milk-like sweetness.

Atmosphere: The concept of the Venice location of Intelligentsia is a rather unusal departure for a coffeebar. It features a few benches along the walls, giving limited seating, and no tables whatsoever. There are no fewer than five separate barista workstations at which customers may be served. When a customer is not being served, they are held at the front desk. Apparently the point is to better facilitate barista-customer interaction, but I don't know how well it will work for anyone other than the afficionados, who probably manage to have a high level of interaction with their barista anyway.

Verdict: Strange concept, but excellent espresso.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Barista Brew Cafe

Location: 431 G Street, Davis

Reviewed: June 11, 2009

Espresso: My single was served on the tall end for volume, at perhaps 1.5oz. It was ground to order and tamped. The medium-to-light brown crema was of moderate thickness but dissipated rapidly. The shot contained notes of caramel and a hint of lemony-acidity, with a nutty aftertaste. It was, however, slightly sour.

Atmosphere: Barista Brew is a small shop near the edge of downtown Davis. It has limited seating due to the size but also has a couple of tables on the sidewalk. Other than being on the small side, there isn't much of note to comment on.

Verdict: Solid but not outstanding.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cafe Lumiere

Location: 365 Calle Principal, Monterey

Reviewed: May 25, 2009

Espresso: Although the barista seemed knowledgeable and nominally did everything right, somehow my shot seemed lacking. I'm not sure why: maybe the high pour volume (~2.25oz.) or the somewhat pale (yet persistent) crema. In any case, the shot wasn't unpleasant at all; it was well-balanced and full-bodied and mild. It was probably too mild and too balanced. It made relatively little impression on me.

Atmosphere: Like its predecessor, Lumiere is located in the lobby of the Osio Cinema. My recollection of the layout is that it hasn't changed much. They use different coffee now and have a different machine, etc. Most notably, this time I did not smell the popcorn. Perhaps that is a welcome side-effect of arriving early in the morning.

Verdict: It really isn't bad. I'd stop in when I go to Monterey.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cafe Sportivo

Location: 965 Brewster Ave., Redwood City

Reviewed: April 22, 2009

Espresso: Sportivo serves the Northern Italian Espresso from Ecco Caffe. They grind to order, pour directly into the cup, and tamp properly, yet somehow the result is off, quite probably due to either the rather large pour volume (~2.5oz.) or perhaps too low a temperature (but I speculate on this). In any case, the end result is a completely full espresso cup with a nice-looking mottled medium-brown crema that dissipates rapidly. The shot is mostly sharp and sour, but it does have some interesting notes of nutmeg.

Atmosphere: Sportivo is a moderately sized shop with rather nice couches and glass-topped tables. It could almost be called elegant. Large picture windows cover the two sides of the building that look out to either street. Free wifi.

Verdict: Potential, unrealized.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Old Soul Co.

Location: 1716 L Street, Sacramento

Reviewed: April 5, 2009

Espresso: My shot was ground-to-order but that didn't seem to help matters much. The crema was pale, although not particularly thin, and the shot had primarily a sour lemon flavour and not much body. It was probably about 2.25 oz. and served in a properly-sized demitasse with matching saucer.

Atmosphere: The entrance to Old Soul is located in an alleyway in the back of their building. It's not particularly easy to find. Once you do get inside, the shop is large and open with a high wooden ceiling with exposed rafters. Both roasting and baking operations take place here, to the extent that the retail aspect seems an add-on. I saw no evidence of any climate control systems (which they must have in Sacramento or they'd melt in the summer).

Verdict: You can do better in Sacramento.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cafe Capriccio

Location: 2200 Mason Street, San Francisco

Reviewed: March 29, 2009

Espresso: Capriccio uses coffee from Ecco Caffe. They grind to order, pour directly into the cup, and generally do things right. The results show this. My shot had a thick layer of nicely-flecked medium-to-dark crema that persisted through the cup. It was full-bodied and contained hints of chocolate and citrus-orange in the finish.

Atmosphere: This is a nicer place than the typical hipster-overrun places elsewhere in SF. It's small inside but elegant and well-lit with a high ceiling. Several tables with built-in seating along the wall in addition to the chairs. The location is somewhat off the beaten path, so it almost feels like a neighborhood secret.

Verdict: Quite nice.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Abbey Coffee Lounge

Location: 350 Mission Street, Santa Cruz

Reviewed: January 4, 2009

Espresso: The Abbey uses the Sermon blend from Verve. They have obviously been trained well. They grind/tamp each shot and use a naked portafilter. The only oddity is that they have a grinder with neither a doser nor a fork. Nonetheless, they produce short shots with a thick crema of an even medium-dark brown color. The resulting cup is full-bodied, with lots of chocolate and some almond notes, along with an aroma of citrus-orange.

Atmosphere: The Abbey is located inside a church (making the blend appropriate); it's not the easiest place to find if you don't know this, but they do have signage located on the sidewalk. The interior is large, disorganized and cluttered. There's a lot of seating and free wifi. Friendly staff, weekly concerts and other events.

Verdict: Coffee as religion.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Wandering Goat Coffee

Location: 268 Madison Street, Eugene, Oregon

Reviewed: December 28, 2008

Espresso: Wandering Goat roasts their own coffee and produces an espresso called Espresso Chupacabra. My shot was ground-to-order, and, as I was the first customer of the day, it was apparent that the barista had spent some time dialing in before the shop opened. In the cup, it was light-bodied with a strong floral aroma and notes of caramel and citrus. The crema was dark, thick, and persistent.

Atmosphere: Wandering Goat is oddly located in an industrial section of town. This is likely due to their roasting operations and possible land use restrictions on such. In any case, it's a large shop, albeit somewhat dark because of a lack of much fenestration in the building. They have the requisite couches and wifi.

Verdict: Good. Stop by if you drive through Eugene.