Tag Archives: wholebean

Kris/Maher “Ano Novo” Blend. A stylish way to say “Happy New Year.”

New custom blend coming just in time for the New Year!!! Novo Coffee in Denver is supplying samples within the next week. We will be blending and cupping four different variations before making a final decision on the “Ano Novo” blend. All net proceeds will go to charity. Be very excited and tell your friends!

–The Hounds

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Cafe Hounding: Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery – San Francisco

270 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA
sightglasscoffee.com

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Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery has already garnered a lot of attention even though they just opened the kiosk three months ago and the “real” coffee bar and roastery are still under construction. It is located in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood on 7th Street at Falsom– a short walk from BART Civic Center station.

I visited Sightglass in the morning of a weekday. At first, I was a bit disappointed that the cafe seemed to be closed and there was construction inside the building. A second later, I smelt strong coffee aroma coming from inside so I kept walking down to what was once a driveway to a warehouse. Finally, I spotted the coffee kiosk inside the garage gate.

Sightglass is owned and run by the two brothers who are also the roasters, and apparently the contractors and constructors, of this coffee bar. They were originally from the Pacific Northwest so coffee is in their blood. They helped start Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission, and before that worked at Blue Bottle (which we reviewed here). People from Blue Bottle also help the brothers set up their new cafe. Jared also worked together with Eileen Hassi, the owner of Ritual Coffee, back while they both were in Seattle. All of these confirmed what Eileen told me during an interview with her that the gourmet coffee industry in San Francisco had a healthy “friendly competition.”

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I enjoyed my latte while watching Justin and Jared working and supervising the construction of their new coffee bar. Right now they use coffee beans from Verve Coffee Roaster in Santa Cruz, CA, but plan to roast their own beans in a month. (I already spotted a Probat roaster there.) With their past roasting experience at Blue Bottle  among other places, the quality of the beans they will offer is likely guaranteed.

I had a conversation with Justin who shared with me their vision. According to him, the building was a paint warehouse so it has gigantic size as compared to the usual neighborhood coffee houses. The ceiling is high and the place is very airy. They will have a mezzanine that people can sit and enjoy their drink. The coffee bar will be in the back while the roasting area will be in the front. They plan to have seating area around the roaster as well. They hope that the construction should be done in a few months. And I am looking forward to going check out the place and tasting their own roasted coffee soon.

Cafe Hounding: Local 123 – Berkeley, CA

2049 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA
www.local123cafe.com

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: The Conservatory for Coffee, Tea & Cocoa – Culver City, CA

10117 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA
www.conservatorycoffeeandtea.com

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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.

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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.

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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.

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: 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

Cafe Hounding: Intelligentsia Coffee – Venice

Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea – Venice Coffeebar

1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
310.399.1233
http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com

Entrance on Abbot Kinney

Entrance on Abbot Kinney

Last month West LA welcomed a new coffeebar as the famous Intelligentsia Coffee opened its second cafe in LA area in Venice. Since learning this news, I have been looking forward to checking this newbie out and finally had a chance today. As mentioned in another post that I first got into gourmet coffee thanks to Intelligentsia, it is natural that my first cafe hounding is indeed on this newest Intelligentsia baby.

Entrance hallway with seating on the side

Entrance hallway with seating on the side

Although all of intelligentsia coffee bars maintain the same high standard on their coffee drinks, each is quite unique. The Venice cafe speaks out loud the LA-style of living. The decoration is very hip, modern, and industrial. The service is very personal. Upon arrival at the cafe on Abbot Kinney, you will walk pass a metal gate and enter the hallway to the main atrium. You are greeted by a staff who then accompanies you to one of the four coffee stations located in the middle of the atrium. You order your drink, pay, watch your beverage prepared while enjoying a conversation with the barista. Finally, you can take your drink to seating areas around the atrium or back at the entrance hallway. They also have a limited selection of pastries provided.

From hallway to atrium

From hallway to atrium

I visited the cafe in an early evening on Wednesday and was taken care by Laura. I ordered a small latte ($3.75). Like baristas at other Intelligentsia coffeebars, Laura  did a great job on my latte. She used their signature Black Cat Blend for my latte, which tasted and smelt quite strong. The latte art was beautiful. I got what I expected. No complain about the drink. Laura was also very friendly and obviously knew about coffee and how to make it good.

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I chose the seat in the hallway. Seating was ample when I was there although I doubted if it could accommodate customers during busy hours. The place, however, is not ideal if you would like to work with your laptop. The seating in the hallway is built in steps like those in sport stadium, with few small tables. It is fine for socializing, but less than ideal for studying. The atrium has enough light for readling, however. It also has limited space with desks and access to electrical outlets. I did not bring my laptop with me, but free wifi seemed to work on my iPhone (unless I stole the signal from the neighbor!).

Atrium

Atrium with coffee stations

The big problem that might make me think twice before revisiting this location is parking. I was very lucky to get a spot right in front of the cafe. But from my past experience frequenting Abbot Kinney’s restaurant row, the probability of being that fortunate could be less than one percent. Well, at least it will remind me of similar experience I had back in Chicago when I visited the Broadway store. How could I complain!?!

— Kris Hound