Tag Archives: barista

Cafe Hounding: Crema Cafe – Cambridge, MA

27 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA
www.cremacambridge.com

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According to a friend of Cafe Hounds who is currently a graduate student at Harvard, Crema Cafe is one of the best coffee houses in Harvard Square. In fact, Crema Cafe just won Best Coffeehouse in Boston by Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston 2009. I met with my friend on morning during a weekday. The cafe was packed with customers although they seemed to have plenty seating area– upstair, bars, outdoor, and long tables. The location is convenient, right in Harvard Square by the Red Line station.

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As usual, I ordered my latte. Crema Cafe always uses Colombian beans for their espresso drinks. According to their baristas, sometimes they use single origin from Colombia while other times they use blends with beans from Colombia. Their beans are from George Howell’s Terroir Coffee Company in Acton outside Boston. My latte had good aroma and it was not too dark– something you would expect from Colombian beans. They also have selection of pastries, some food, and soft drinks available.

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Overall, I see myself going to Crema again. The hard part for me is that when I am around Harvard Square, I tend to go to Burdick, which is one of the best chocolate cafes I have visited. But Crema Cafe is definitely a fine place that I will go if I want to get a coffee in Harvard Square area.

Cafe Hounding: Koffi – Palm Springs, CA

515 North Palm Canyon Drive at Alejo
Palm Spring, CA
www.kofficoffee.com

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Koffi is located in downtown area of Palm Springs. The place is very relaxing and clean with sleek and modern design. It also has an outdoor corridor in the back, which is definitely a perfect place to enjoy your drink when the weather is not too hot. Inside, there are two seating areas. The area near the espresso counter seems to be occupied by customers who focus on their food and drink. The area in the other side of the cafe attracts people with laptops and books who usually stay longer at the cafe.

Following great reviews on yelp, I decided to visit Koffi one day during the past Labor Day weekend. The temperature in Palm Springs was 104 degree in the afternoon that day so I ordered ice latte and found an indoor table to have my drink. For espresso drinks, Koffi offers two options for you: dark Seattle-style American espresso blend or light Milano-style European espresso blend. My ice latte was prepared from dark espresso and it tasted and smelt very good. (I asked for more information about the beans and the baristas were very secretive, saying that it was business confidential, although later on I found the information about their blends on their website.)

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Koffi also provides good selection of desserts. Their apple pie got a rating of A- from my friend who proclaimed himself as a dessert expert from Los Angeles. The staff was attentive to the dessert, heating the pie and whipped the cream freshly.

Overall, I had good experience with my coffee. It was great in fact. But I didn’t get the friendly and engaging conversation about coffee I usually get from other coffee houses from Koffi’s staff that day.

Cafe Hounding: The Bean Espresso Bar – Nottingham, UK

1 Stoney Street
Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 2LA, UK
www.coffee-beans.co.uk

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Located in Beeston, The Bean is one of the independent coffee house in Nottingham area. It was also voted one of the best in UK. I visited this espresso bar after I read the review by Tom at CosyCoffeeShops and learned that he even made a detour trip just to visit this cafe in Beeston.

The place is nice. It has downstair indoor seating with tables and high bars. It has outdoor seating area in a plaza by Sainsbury’s. And it has upstair that makes you feel like being in a living room of your home.

The Bean uses coffee roasted by Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in London. My latte was quite good both times I visited the cafe. The real problem I have with this place is from one of the baristas who seems to be very arrogant and not so friendly. (When I asked him about coffee, his answer was that he didn’t drink coffee and ended the conversation there.) Other staff were friendly, however. I also learned from one of them that the owner of the cafe is being changed and the new owner would be in charge by Christmas.

Cafe Hounding: Blue Bottle Coffee – Mint Plaza, San Francisco

Blue Bottle Coffee Co. – Mint Plaza, San Francisco
66 Mint St. (corner of Jessie), San Francisco, CA, 94103
bluebottlecoffee.net

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Blue Bottle Coffee is a household name for coffee geeks living or visiting San Francisco.  San Francisco Chronicle featured an interview with James Freeman about a month ago. I have been frequented this cafe, both getting a latte at the cafe or buying their beans to bring back to my home in San Diego. The flagship Blue Bottle is at the Mint Plaza, not too far from Civic Center and Union Square. However, it is not located on the main streets so this place is ideal if you want a quick escape from the hectic people traffic on Market and Powell.

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The cafe is easy to spot if you know exactly where it is. Otherwise, try to locate a cute “blue bottle” logo on the wall of the building behind the Mint Building. Once you enter the cafe, you will find yourself in a craftsman-decorated 17ft-ceiling room with modern, industrial redecoration. Looking around, you will see glassware of Blue Bottle’s Kyoto-style coffee maker and other coffee-related appliances on cafe’s long countertop. It really makes you feel like being in a chemistry lab rather than a cafe, which is very cool.

I usually visit Blue Bottle in the afternoon of weekdays, and always find the cafe packed with customers. Sometimes, the line even goes beyond the entrance. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to answer your questions (including those related to the chemical reactions that might be happening in one of those glass beakers!). Since the cafe was very busy during the last time of my visit, I did not have a chance to talk to the barista although my latte was very good as expected. (Last month, my cappuccino was prepared by Sally, who had worked with Blue Bottle for 8 months. The drink was great, too.) Blue Bottle uses their 17ft Ceiling Blend for their espresso drinks. It mimics the Italian espresso blend but substituted robusta with high-quality organic arabica, resulting in a very smooth coffee with nice aroma. Blue Bottle also uses organic milk for their latte and cappuccino. If you are an ice-coffee guy, try Blue Bottle’s Kyoto or New Orleans ice coffee. (The Kyoto-style coffee takes over a day to prepare, slowly brewing drop by drop at room temperature.)

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In terms of its ambience, the cafe is good for those who want a short break with a cup of coffee. The high ceiling makes the cafe airy, open, and relax. People also meet here for some quick informal business discussions. Although the cafe seems to be crowded and people have to wait for their drinks at times, I never have problem finding a seat in this cafe. There might be just around 20-30 seats in total, all with communal high bars rather than individual tables. Customers tend not to sit for a long time. One of the reason is that this cafe is not laptop-friendly (no electrical plugs and no wireless internet). However, I concur that this is a good policy after all, given the size of the cafe and the number of customers it serves. This is the place that you can come to enjoy your drink, relax, and leave your work behind– at least for a short moment.

–Kris Hound

Cafe Hounding: Lion Coffee – San Diego

Lion Coffee – San Diego

101 Market Street (Corner of 1st and Market)
San Diego, CA 92101
619.299.5466
www.lionmainland.com

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Following up the news about Lion Coffee in downtown San Diego that I posted here two weeks ago, I finally visited this cafe today. It has been opened just for about a week. The business seems to be going well so far. As I mentioned in the earlier post, this is the only Lion Coffee cafe in the mainland USA.

The location of this cafe is great. It is near Horton Plaza, Convention Center, and Seaport Village. The floor-to-ceiling windows with garden and trees outside make this store unique and differentiate itself from other coffee places in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego. Larry Wilkens, the owner, keeps the layout of the cafe the same as Starbucks cafe that previously occupied this premise, but he redecorated the store with bamboo shelfs, rattan sofa, Hawaiian paintings, and vintage tropical ceiling fans– basically bringing bits of Hawaiian feeling to the mainland USA. (There are a lot of lion dolls and statues here and there all over the cafe, too.)

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Seating was ample when I visited, which was in an afternoon of a weekday. Many of the customers seem to purchase coffee to-go. There is also an outdoor seating area if you prefer. I do not expect the cafe to be too crowded. This should be a nice place if you want to spend time relaxing over a cup of coffee, and don’t want to feel that you have to rush because other people are waiting for the table. There is more than enough natural light during the day if you want to read books or newspapers while sipping your coffee. Free wireless internet was detected when I was there, although I was not sure whether it was provided by Lion or some residents in the nearby apartments were generous enough to provide this public goods.

I ordered a latte. It was prepared by a super friendly barista “Lenny” who has worked with Larry and Lion for over a year, since when Lion was still at the previous location in Mission Valley. My latte was made from Lion’s Diamond Head Blend, which has 10% Hawaiian beans plus Arabica from other parts of the world. It was medium Italian roasted. My latte was quite good and served in colorful Lion cup. (I still have yet to try espresso drinks made from Lion’s 100% Kona beans.)

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For non-espresso coffee, Lion provides a wide variety of non-flavored and flavored coffee drinks, including 100% Kona coffee. The cafe is also a retail store for Lion Coffee and Royal Kona Coffee beans, which were roasted in Hawaii and shipped here regularly. According to the reviews on yelp and my conversation with Lenny, Toasted Coconut flavor seems to be the best selling blend at this store. There are other Hawaiian goodies such as teas, chips, and macadamia chocolate available for purchase. They also serve light breakfast and fresh pastries, in case you look for something to enjoy with your coffee.

Overall, I had a good experience with the visit. Unlike the ultra-fancy restaurants that occupy the dining scene of Gaslamp Quarter, Lion Coffee is a friendly neighborhood cafe in the middle of downtown that you can just relax and get good coffee prepared by a surfer-dude barista and friendly staff– a cherry on the top of your enjoyment in the beautiful San Diego.

–Kris Hound