Tag Archives: roast

Cafe Hounding: Local 123 – Berkeley, CA

2049 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA


Local 123 is a new cafe in Berkeley, CA. Even though it has been open for just five months, this coffee house has attracted great reviews. I visited Local 123 during the day on Saturday. The location is a bit far from the campus so either you have to walk quite far or you can take a bus to University and San Pablo.

Picture 1

Local 123 uses coffee beans from Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg (near Santa Rosa), CA. The beans are generally medium mild roasted. For espresso drinks, the default beans are Flying Goat’s espresso blend No. 9, but they are also available with single origins upon request. When I visited the cafe, the featured single origin was Costa Rica Puente Tarrazu. For drip coffee, Local 123 offers several single origin beans for you to choose. Then they freshly grind your beans and make your drip coffee cup-by-cup. I find this attention to quality as a big plus. I ordered latte as usual. My drink was prepared by Frieda, who was also a co-owner of Local 123 along with her sister-in-law. The latte was beautiful. It was mild and taste great. Frieda was friendly and attentive to the coffee she brewed.

Picture 2

Local 123 has minimal decoration with some artworks on the wall. The cafe is clean. It seems to be famous for people who come with their laptops or books and spend time working while enjoying their drinks. The cafe offers free wifi throughout but also has the “wifi-free” area that encourages conversations among customers. There is also outdoor seating area in the back. They also have selected homemade pastry, sandwiches, and salad available. And they make jams from locally-grown fruits. The only problem that some customers may have is that this cafe takes cash only and do not accept credit cards. There is an ATM machine nearby however.


Overall, Local 123 is also a lovely neighborhood cafe that not only provides good coffee but also pays a lot of attention to sustainability and local community. (Big kudos on that!) As some of the reviews on the internet proclaim, if you are in Berkeley and don’t want to travel to San Francisco to get Blue Bottle coffee, Local 123 is the place that you will unlikely to get disappointed. So far, I do agree with them.


Cafe Hounding: Simon’s Coffee Shop – Cambridge, MA

1736 Massachusette Ave
Cambridge, MA


I visited Simon’s Coffee in Cambridge, MA, after reading great reviews about this place on coffeegeek.com and yelp. Finally I decided to check this place out on my last day during my Boston trip. Visiting the cafe was easy as it was just about two blocks from Porter Square Red Line station.


Simon’s Coffee has been operated for 7 years. It now uses beans from George Howell’s Terroir and Barismo. Both were local roasters with great reputation. I ordered a latte, which was prepared from Barismo’s Sonata blend. The blend consisted of Brazil moreninha formosa, Ethiopia koke, Guatemala nimac kapeh, and Costa Rica helsar de zarcero. The blend was very good. It was medium mild, which was my favorite, and the aroma was great.


Although the day I visited the cafe was the same day as the White Chrome barista competition in Boston and, according to Simon-the-owner, his top baristas were at the competition, the latte I got was still very good and I was not disappointed. The staff were also very friendly. Keith and Christine (the barista) greeted me with smiles and we had lively conversation while I was waiting for my latte. Simon was not at the cafe when I was there but I ran into him later that day at the White Chrome competition. He was a very friendly guy and that explained a lot why his staff were friendly with no attitude. I also learned from Simon that the owner of Barismo had worked together with him for years before starting the roasting business.

The cafe was very crowded during my visit, which testified the quality and reputation of the place. Most of the customers seemed to be local and ranged from students to young professionals. It is indeed a nice place to get great coffee in Boston area. I will definitely visit Simon’s again. See you soon, Simon… I am looking forward to the even better shot of espresso you promised me next time I visit Boston!

Cafe Hounding: The Espresso Bar at the British Library – London, UK

96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
London, UK

Picture 1

I came across the Espresso Bar @ the British Library by accident while I walked from the library to King’s Cross Station. It is located on Euston Road on the library complex and it was open just a week earlier. What intrigued me at first was what they put on the window: “We only serve our own unique coffee blends, roasted and freshly ground on premises.” So I gave it a try. Result: Great coffee. The staff was also friendly and offered me freshly made churros. It was definitely a good discovery for a coffee lover.

Finca Review: Alto del Naranjo – Manizales, Colombia


And so was — the Alto de Naranjo coffee farm located just outside of Manizales, Colombia in the Caldas Department of the coffee growing region also known in Spanish as the “Eje Cafetero”.  I was wrapping up my 3-month stay in Nicaragua and arranged for a 10-day stop in Colombia before heading back to study in San Diego.


The trip to Colombia involved many mini-trips including taking a flight on Avianca from Bogota to Manizales where a friend picked me up and – the next day – took me to a farm southwest of Manizales in the municipal division of Alto del Naranjo bordering the Rio Rioclaro.

Specific Location of Alto del Naranjo

Specific Location of Alto del Naranjo

The trip to Horacio Montoya’s wonderful farm was an impulsive decision made the morning after a night out enjoying vallenato and Caldas’ very own Cristal licor.

The REAL Juan Valdez

The REAL Juan Valdez

The drive up to this series of farms that sit high upon the Colombian mountainside is always an adventure made more pleasant by stopping for some fresh cooked chicharrones, patacones (fried green plantains that are squashed and fried – best served with a bit of salt and perhaps salsa on them), beans, rice, and flank steak. Add a maracuya en agua (passion fruit diluted in water) and save your thirst for some freshly roasted/ground/brewed coffee on the actual farm.

Homemade Roasting Device for Stove

Homemade Roasting Device for Stove

Upon my arrival to the farm I realized that I wasn’t the only foreigner ‘aprovechando’ (taking advantage of) the owner Don Horacio Montoya’s charming hospitality and effervescent personality.  There was a delegation of about 15 Japanese tourists there from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce who were exploring the coffee plants, riding his horses, and enjoying the fruit of his labor – fresh coffee.  Rather than interfere with their visit, my colleague and I interviewed him shortly and then explored the fields ourselves.
It quickly became clear to me that Horacio Montoya is no stranger to … strangers.  He has foreigners, especially from Japan, visiting his farm all the time.  His son Diego is about 17 and a Facebook addict like the rest of the  world.  Montoya has been able to take profits and reinvest them in providing his wife with more sophisticated roasting machinery, improving the prospects of hosting families on his property (eco-tourism), installing high-speed internet for watching the Grade C coffee market prices and for self-marketing his product on top of what the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia does.
Although the quality of the coffee that is roasted and packaged on the farm is nothing to write home about, it is a novelty rarely seen in the coffee industry.  The farmer realizes that the maximum value added chain of the process flow is roasting and retail and so he attempts to capture that profit for himself by ‘vertically integrating’ in a way.  Considering he sells each package for 7.000 Colombian pesos, at the August 1, 2009 exchange rate this would equal roughly $3.42/pound.
He surely sells a better final product by selling it straight in green bean form in the traditional 70kg sacks that Colombian lights are so well known for. Visiting this region of Colombia is simply a necessity.  It’s safe, it’s beautiful, it’s continuously developing at a rate much faster than more frequented Central American locations and the Colombian hospitality will forever leave an impression.  Not to mention, this smooth and acidic coffee shares certain flavor properties with its neighbors but, there are some undiscovered gems in this region of Colombia.  So long as the weather keeps up, I expect some of the single-origins of Colombia to possibly migrate to this region as they have in Popayan, Cauca & parts of Nariño, Huila, etc…
Stay tuned because Santa Marta in the north has some interesting beans coming out of it that will require another on site visit and their own write up in the coming months.  Until then, I’ll leave you with a few pictures and details about the enchanting Alto del Naranjo farm in Manizales, Colombia.
Altitude: ~1,700 meters
Varietals: Caturra, Typica
Land: 4.8 hectares
# of plants: 25,000
Annual Production: Unknown
Harvest 1: Sept-November
Harvest 2 (mitaca): Late Jan-March
Proportion domestically sold: n/a
Proportion exported: n/a
Main avenue of getting coffee to market: Federcafe – National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia
70kg Sack for Sale to Exporters in Colombia

70kg Sack for Sale to Exporters in Colombia

Main aspiration of owner/farmer: Fetch a higher premium for his family’s hard work.  Send his children to the university and see his son Diego become fluent in English (we’re working on this part already).  A big part of this goal is for him to attract eco-tourism to this zone so that all of the farmers that form part of his cooperative can begin to economically benefit from increased spending and attention to this largely untapped area of natural beauty in Colombia.
Don Horacio Montoya Ponders the Future of his Industry

Don Horacio Montoya Ponders the Future of his Industry

Contact @ maher@cafehound.com
– Maher Hound
Horacio Montoya is somewhat of a celebrity
Articles in Spanish: El Espectador, El Pais, La Republica
Brazilian article: Nossa Cara
Japanese videos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

Cafe Hounding: Peregrine Espresso – DC

Peregrine Espresso – Eastern Market

660 Pennsylvania Ave SE (between S. 6th St & S. 7th St)
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 629-4381


The illustrious Peregrine Espresso was my first real impressive specialty coffee experience in the Washington, D.C. area. It was quite a weekend for Cafe Hounding.  Upon my first visit to this Eastern Market located shop I was admittedly distracted by catching up with an old friend currently working at Commerce but I was quickly brought back into focus when I entered this fine establishment and saw the fresh roasted bags of coffee sitting at the entrance.

The ambiance is a pretty straight forward hipster look with chopped up doors hung on the wall for decor.  The lighting is good and it was packed with people taking up all of the available seating with their laptops (and there is a pretty decent amount of seating too!).  Granted, this was a Saturday at Eastern Market in the summer so this is probably about as crowded as it gets.

Peregrine Menu

The menu selection was very limited — a positive for me meaning that they do COFFEE here.

Latte Art at Peregrine Espresso

Latte Art at Peregrine Espresso

Let me emphasize the quality of the coffee here.  I entered and was able to choose between my very own personally drip brewed coffee from either Papa New Guinea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya or Honduras.  All of these were roasted within the previous few days by Counter Culture down in NC and shipped same day up to DC.  I can attest that the quality control in that process seemed superb to me. One, because the Kenya AA that I drank in the store went down pretty good although not as delicious as the Kenya AA that Caribou carries (sorry guys :-/).  I’ll make a separate post on my experience with Kenya AA’s since it is probably one of my favorite single origins so I’ve tasted a lot over the years.

I also sampled an espresso to get my palate around their custom blend of espresso.  I must say, both the preparation of the espresso and the blend were sort of underwhelming on this visit.  I have heard so much good about Peregrine Espresso AND I was very happy that the baristas were both very knowledgeable of the entire industry and of competitive barismo  AND unpretentious.

They have free wifi and a decent amount of indoor and outdoor seating.  This is a great area of DC and thus, I’m sure they’ll do well for quite some time.  It’s a must check out if you’re passing through The District.  Thanks to David Flynn for his time and conversation while I picked his brain about specialty coffee.  Flynn came in 3rd this past Feb 2009 in the Mid-Atlantic Barista Competition along with other local area talent.  Peregine just opened in late 2008 and looks to have a lot of room to grow and prosper in the region.

Overall Rating: 3.4

Coffee Quality: 4.3, Cafe Ambiance: 3.6, Food: 1.8

–Maher Hound