10117 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA
My long-time friend and her husband who had lived in Los Angeles in the past few years had suggested to me several times about The Conservatory in Culver City. Finally I had a chance to visit this coffee house on Halloween Day. Upon arrival in this coffee house, you will be greeted with piles of green beans from all over the world. Then you will see the roaster right there next to the seating area, which I thought it was very cool. Although I expected slow customer traffic as it was a weekend plus Halloween, there were quite a lot of people coming during more than an hour that I was there. There were plenty of tables inside and outside the cafe so seating didn’t seem to be a problem.
I ordered a large latte and it was prepared for me by Ingrid, who turned out to be a daughter of the owner. My latte was prepared from the house espresso blend, which consisted of Brazilian and Sumatra beans. Surprisingly, it had strong body but not too muddy as what I would expect from Sumatra. This was great as I am personally not a big fan of strong, dark roasted coffee. The latte art was also beautiful.
Ingrid was very friendly and told me about this place while preparing my latte. The Conservatory is a family business and has been operating for over 15 years. At least one of the family members is always at the cafe when it is open. They also have quite a large selection of tea leaves. If you are hungry, some pastries are available as well.
The location of the cafe is great. It is in downtown Culver City on Washington Blvd, just a couple of blocks from a bunch of the city’s trendy restaurants and theaters. From my past experience visiting Culver City, street parking in this area is not a big problem as well (although I was very lucky to get a spot right in front of the cafe this time).
Overall, The Conservatory is a great place to have coffee drinks or to purchase coffee beans. If you look for a “neighborhood” cafe around West LA that you can relax and escape a bit from the notoriously pretentious LA environment, you may find this lovely coffee house a place you want to revisit again.
Posted in Beans, Los Angeles, Shops
Tagged barista, Cafe, Coffee, Conservatory, Culver City, espresso, gourmet, latte, Los Angeles, review, roaster, specialty coffee, wholebean
27 Brattle Street
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.
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.
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.
Posted in Boston, Shops, Uncategorized
Tagged barista, Boston, Cafe, Cambridge, Crema Cafe, George Howell, gourmet, latte, review, specialty coffee, Terroir
1 Stoney Street
Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 2LA, UK
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.
Posted in Reviews, Shops
Tagged barista, Beeston, Cafe, Coffee, Cosy Coffee Shops, espresso, gourmet, latte, Nottingham, review, specialty coffee, The Bean, UK, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee
27 Monmouth Street
London WC2H 9EU, UK
I visited Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden during my business trip to London, UK, in September. The cafe has good reviews on the internet and is one of the places featured on CosyCoffeeShops.co.uk, a website run by Tom, a new friend of Cafe Hounds. It is located in Covent Garden area within a walking distance from the Tube stations.
When I arrived at the cafe, the first thing I noticed was a long line of customers waiting to purchase their coffee beans, which testified its reputation for good coffee. Although their roasting facility is in a separate location on Maltby Street and they also sell roasted beans over there, the huge amount of of beans behind the counter for their retail sales at the Covent Garden cafe was very impressive.
I ordered a white flat, which is a latte with less milk and therefore a bit stronger than the usual latte. The drink was made from their house espresso blend. The cafe itself is very small. It has very limited seating area. I was not lucky enough to get a seat. In fact, it was quite tough to even find a space to stand in the cafe with a big crowd of people waiting to purchase the beans. The cafe also offers some pastries.
With its small size, Monmouth Coffee is not a cosy place that you can relax and enjoy your drink, but it is definitely a good place to get good espresso drinks if you do not want to go to the usual Starbucks or Costa.
For more information on Monmouth Coffee, please also visit Tom’s review here.
Posted in London, Reviews, Shops
Tagged Cafe, Coffee, Cosy Coffee Shops, Covent Garden, gourmet, gourmet coffee, latte, London, Monmouth, review, roaster, specialty coffee, UK, white flat
Blue Bottle Coffee Co. – Mint Plaza, San Francisco
66 Mint St. (corner of Jessie), San Francisco, CA, 94103
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.
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.)
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.
Posted in Baristas, Beans, Reviews, San Francisco, Shops, Uncategorized
Tagged barista, Beans, Blue Bottle, Cafe, Coffee, espresso, gourmet, James Freeman, latte, review, roasters, San Francisco, Shops, specialty coffee