August 19, 2008

A couple of Coffee Houses in England, Europe!

The Art of Tea, Manchester

This is the kind of place you want to hole up for a few days and write your novel. Manchester is the heart of the old Industrial north, familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) among others. So if your novel has been taking a while to come out, don’t worry, you’ll have just as fruitful a time watching native Mancunians go by and admiring the stolid red brick buildings amid the bustle of a metropolitan city. Luckily, the caffeine produce on offer is conducive to thought. Chain venues like Starbucks and co. may know how to make easy reliable coffee for people who have left their imagination at home, but when you visit the Art of Tea, you’ll remember what a true cappucino is all about. Nice drink, friendly people, and a seat you’ll want to make your own.

Market Diner, Brighton

Does what it says on the tin. Of Walmart baked beans. Brighton, hedonist-central on the South coast an hour out of London, is crammed with the weird and wonderful, and this is where you’ll see them at their dogged, up all-night-raving worst, scraping the drug and booze haze out of their ears via a lard-based intravenous injection of heartstopping proportions. The coffee here is not exactly legendary, but the point is to know what a good old fashioned English Café is all about – i.e. more than just following the snootier "Brighton Café Reviews". Get all the best greasy breakfast fry-up ingredients, pile them on a single plate till they’re dripping onto the formica tabletop à la Michael Phelps, and know that you’ll soon be in bed, sleeping off the fattest head of your life.

(Note: this is a sponsored post.)

November 7, 2007

Baked and Wired now open weekends

Baked and Wired, the coffee shop in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood where I used to work as a barista trainer, has finally completed its remodeling and is now open on weekends. The business day hours it used to have made it hard for people who don't work in the area to visit, so this is a great improvement for the shop. The redesign is much more welcoming, too, with leather couches, natural wood benches, art on the walls, and expanded lounge space.

It's open during the day Saturdays and Sundays, so if you're in the area it's worth stopping in for a cup of coffee and the best cupcakes in DC.


November 5, 2007

Connoisseur Coffee Company of Redwood City, CA

I visited Connoisseur Coffee Company this morning in Redwood City. They have been roasting since 1984 - one of the oldest roasters on the Peninsula.

A visit to this shop is an educational experience and the shop is a treasure. In the back they have more than 20 varieties of beans, roasted and in burlap sacks waiting to be roasted. (You can buy empty original burlap bags for $1.)

They roast by hand, daily.

This is a bean shop (wholesale and retail), but they do have three or four drip coffees available, and they make a great latte. I had a Panama Bambito, from a very high elevation. It was great.

Stop in and talk to Shawn, and learn a lot about coffee. You can order online at

October 13, 2007

Peet's Watering Down Coffee?

I have more frequently been having disappointing experiences at Peet's lately. Coffee has on occasion seemed watered down. This morning in Redwood City it was very thin.

In the past there was an occasional problem where they would forget to turn a switch on a machine, and the decaf coffee could be made half-strength. This is because at a certain time of day they start using half as much coffee, because they sell fewer cups. So they put half as much ground coffee in the machine and change a switch that causes half as much water to be used. But if they forget to throw that switch the result is the same amount of water used on half as much coffee! The result is of course half-strength coffee. Sort of like a brown water -- or a Starbucks.

But this is not what has been happening lately. I have good reason to believe that - at least at Redwood City - the manager has started using more water and less coffee ON PURPOSE! So is the corporate management starting to reduce the quality of Peet's coffee, or is this just a local phenomenon in one store?

If the coffee is going to be weak I can go to Starbucks - and at least get wireless.

July 9, 2007

Big Bear Opens in Bloomingdale

Last weekend I went to check out the DC coffee shop, Bloomingdale's Big Bear Cafe (no relation to the mysterious Berlin bear!). Furthering Counter Culture Coffee's domination of the Atlantic seaboard, the Bear serves up the popular roaster's coffee and 'spro. Not that I'm complaining -- DC still has need for many more good cafes, and CCC offers the best combination of quality, service, and training of anyone in the area.

Big Bear is a bit of a trek from Arlington, requiring a Metro line switch and a ten minute walk from the station to get there. There aren't many other businesses around, but the owners of the shop have organized a Sunday farmers market to build the community. Though small, the combination of fresh raspberries, live music, and good coffee makes it a worthwhile trip.

The shop has only been open a month and is still getting its legs. They were clearly a little stressed by the long line last weekend, but my cappuccino still came out nice and creamy and reasonably quickly. This will be a place to watch and a welcome addition to the DC coffee scene.

Pros: Good coffee, cool atmosphere, nice people, farmers market on Sundays.

Cons: Not much else around it yet, can be hard to get to, seems like it could be really hot in the DC summer if the breeze isn't blowing.

Location: 1700 1st St. NW.

More on Big Bear:
DC North
The Big Bear blog

[Cross-posted at Eternal Recurrence.]

May 4, 2007

3 Cups gets slower

And that's a good thing! If only more shops were this dedicated to quality.

3 Cups -- Doing more with less

March 14, 2007

Baked and Wired tops cupcake contest

Baked and Wired, the coffee shop and bakery where I work as resident coffee expert, was mentioned in the Washington Post today in an article about local cupcakes. Four food writers took part in a tasting and chose B/W as their favorite:

As for what worked and didn't for our four tasters, well, they all knew which desserts had come from ShoeBox Oven. Our tasters thought the exaggerated presentation, the slightly crushed spun sugar topping and a "prepared" flavor gave ShoeBox Oven away. The group sampled cupcakes -- something everyone carried, which made comparing easier -- from Baked & Wired, CakeLove and ShoeBox and thought Baked & Wired was tops for its moist cakes and cream cheese frosting.

I'm biased, of course, but I agree with the critics. After more than half a year working here, the cupcakes are the one treat I can't get enough of. I've even been known to the have the occasional cupcake for breakfast. The butter cream icing is just too hard to resist.

CakeLove is more famous in DC, though I've never been as excited about their product. Part of the problem is the chill. Supposedly they've opened a fresh, room temperature cupcake bar there now, so I owe them another shot.

Buzz, which was mentioned in the article but wasn't in the taste test, has cupcakes that are pretty good, but also pretty basic. I haven't tried anything from ShoeBox Oven yet.

My cupcake knowledge pales in comparison to Yelp blogger and B/W customer Julie, so for more cupcake reviews from DC and elsewhere, her page is the place to go.

[Cross-posted at EatFoo.]

February 19, 2007

Intelly comes to L.A.

Good news for coffee lovers in L.A. -- Intelligentsia is coming! From a Chicagoist interview with CEO Doug Zell:

Chicagoist: Of all the places to open another café, why Los Angeles?

Doug Zell: I think that the food scene is really picking up there. It sort of reminds me of how it was here, five or six years ago. Local chefs there are looking for inspiration and developing new offerings. The culinary community there is in the right place, and I think that having a store where you’re able to buy artisan coffee would be a good complement. We’re opening in a neighborhood called Silverlake, which is, sort of, I guess you can say it was once the Wicker Park of Chicago; there’s a burgeoning food scene in Silverlake, with a gelato shop, a cheese store, a wine shop nearby. All these things are coming together, and we’re really lucky to have found the location that we did.

Full interview here.

[Thanks to Chad Wilcox for the tip.]

February 15, 2007

Chad ranks the DC coffee scene

My friend Chad Wilcox has, surprisingly enough, visited more coffee shops in DC than I have. Today he posted rankings and reviews of many of the local indie shops, based on drink quality, atmosphere, and location. Read the whole thing here.

Chad's also nice enough to credit me with getting him interested in coffee in the first place, leading to many hours spent with a laptop and a good latte. In return, he turned me on to quality beers. Given the relative impacts on productivity our mutual beverage influences have had on the other and the price of beer compared to coffee, I figure he owes me a significant round of drinks by now.

[Cross-posted at Eternal Recurrence.]

February 5, 2007

3 Cups -- Doing more with less

Last week I was in Chapel Hill, NC for a family event. Ever since the lamented closing of Fowler's in Durham a few months ago, I haven't had a favorite coffee hangout in the area. Now I'm glad to say I do again.

I tried to visit 3 Cups for the first time a couple months ago, but the place turns out to be closed on Sundays. This time around I made a point to drop in when it's open. My family and I stopped in on a busy Saturday afternoon to find the shop near UNC buzzing with people.

I already knew 3 Cups serves Counter Culture Coffee, as does my current employer, so I was looking forward to trying their espresso. I was in for a surprise: no espresso machine! The only coffee on 3 Cups' menu is drip and French press, with an emphasis on the press. Cafes au lait are available for people who really want a milk drink, but otherwise it's all about the coffee.

This is a cool approach to running a coffee shop. I'm sure the many other shops in the area surrounding UNC all sell espresso. By choosing not to, 3 Cups offers less than its competitors. Yet by offering less, it offers more.

Continue reading "3 Cups -- Doing more with less" »

December 7, 2006

LuLu Carpenter's in Santa Cruz

caffeinated rantings: Lulu Carpenter's takes a look at one of my very favorite coffee houses. The old saying: don't believe everything you read. Many a blog post has been using their wireless, while sipping a decaf soy latte or decaf soy chai.

And read the comments as Manthi - the owner - gets into it with blogger Timmy.

(It's from May - I just came across it.)

November 22, 2006

First taste: Buzz

Monday was the grand opening of Buzz, the new coffee shop in Alexandria from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, and I dropped in with a few friends to check the place out. They were still putting the finishing touches on the bright decor and waiting for the local bureaucracy to send them their liquor license, but otherwise the place was set up and running very smoothly for a first night.

Continue reading "First taste: Buzz" »

October 1, 2006

What to do in Seattle?

Taking a break between jobs, I'll be traveling to Seattle this week for a coffee tour (Wednesday - Monday). I've been once before, but then I knew nothing about the coffee world and spent most of my time working at a public policy seminar. Now I know the obvious places to go -- Vivace, Victrola, and the newly Cloverfied Zoka -- but where else should I visit? And what about non-coffee stuff?

Sidetrips to Portland and possibly Vancouver are also likely. Stumptown, the Horse Brass Pub, and Caffe Artigiano would be on my list to of places to see, but what else should be there?

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

Got a new job

I'm switching coffee shops and taking a new job. Baked and Wired, a coffee shop and bakery in DC's Georgetown neighborhood, has hired me to lead their revamped coffee program. Details on my personal blog. And if you're in the neighborhood, drop in for an espresso sometime.

September 14, 2006

The Times takes notice of espresso

A good article appeared yesterday in the NY Times dining section taking note of some of the excellent coffee shops that are finally popping up in the city. The article does a good job capturing the things that are important to the baristas who are really putting themselves into their craft. With any luck, this high-profile publicity will get more New Yorkers paying a visit to the shops they mention. It's also great to see espresso recognized in the dining section as a drink worthy of serious foodie consideration.

Update: Damn you, New York Times! It's corrected now, but the original version of this article said Ninth Street Espresso was using Common Grounds coffee. This seemed wrong to me, because I was pretty sure they were featuring Counter Culture. And who the heck is Common Grounds? Sure enough, I spoke with a friend at Counter Culture, and it was a mistake that robbed them of some well-deserved publicity in the print edition.

June 12, 2006

Open City latte

I brought my camera into work today and decided to take a few pictures behind the bar. This is my favorite drink to make, a latte in our cappuccino mug:


No matter how many times I pour it, I never get tired of watching a rosetta emerge in the milk foam. It's a great moment to experience over and over again throughout the day.

If you're ever in DC, stop by Woodley Park for an Open City latte.

May 17, 2006

Murky and me in NoVa Magazine

I'm quoted a couple of times in an article by Christine O'Connor about good coffee and free wi-fi in the May issue of Northern Virginia Magazine. The first time is about why people hang out in coffee shops:

"The coffee house fulfills our need to not be alone," says former Murky Coffee barista and aspiring coffee shop owner Jacob Grier of Arlington. "Even if we never say a word to anyone, we feel connected to our community."

The second is about why guys like me continue to work as baristas:

"To be a barista in a quality local shop is to create countless moments of evanescent beauty," says Grier. "The ideally extracted espresso, the well-poured latte, the repetitive rhythm in making a rush of drinks. All that makes the job wonderfully satisfying."

So I went a little over the top (OK, a lot over the top), but what can I say? I really like my job. No matter how many times I do it, I never get tired of watching those first drops of espresso coalesce at the bottom of a cup or making a nice rosetta magically flow to the surface of a drink. And the word "evanescent" doesn't see print nearly enough.

Other Murky regulars pop into the text and photos; note Ryan's Michael Jordanesque tongue appearance as he concentrates on his latte art.

The article is not available online. Locally the magazine can be found in Barnes & Noble and Borders and has a cover story on forty NoVa places to go for a "frugal feast."

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

April 10, 2006

SCAA wrap-up

After spending the weekend in Charlotte, NC at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 2006 conference, I'm catching up with the blogging world at Fowler's Food and Wine in Durham. With it's warm warehouse atmosphere, broad selection of gourmet goods, and free wi-fi, Fowler's is one of my favorite places to stop for coffee when I'm in the area. Today I enjoyed a chocolatey, nutty double shot of Intelligentsia's Black Cat espresso followed by a bright, slightly fruity French press of their Ethiopian harrar. Great stuff!

Of course, there was no shortage of excellent coffee available for the tasting at the conference. I was there volunteering at the Barista Guild of America booth, pulling shots of our sponsors' coffee and encouraging baristi to join us. The BGA is a young trade group of the SCAA, formed to foster communication among baristi throughout the country and encourage the best industry practices. Take a look at the BGA's open forum here and, if you're a barista, do consider signing up.

When I wasn't working in the booth, I was out on the exhibition floor or watching performances at the United States Barista Competition. The latter was dominated by the aforementioned Intelligentsia, with three of the six finalist spots going to the company's competitors. Though I had to depart before the finals, word is that Intelly's Matt Riddle took first. I'll link to more complete information when it's posted.

The exhibition floor was huge, but the one thing people couldn't wait to see was the new model of the Clover. As mentioned here previously, the Clover is a remarkably precise, single-cup coffee brewer. In person it is both larger and faster than it appeared online. The entire brew and clean-up process takes less than a minute and in most of that time the operator's hands are completely free (perhaps to complete a transaction with a customer). I was especially impressed with how easily the controls can be worked via two knobs and a digital display -- if Apple designed a user interface for coffee machines, this would be it. The coffee it produced had a very nice clarity and cleanness in the cup. After seeing it in operation, I find it easier to picture in a retail environment.

The real fun with this machine would come from tasting numerous coffees side by side with it, or tweaking it to get the very best extraction from a particular coffee. There was no time for that on the show floor, however, leaving me with me one more enticement to own one.

April 3, 2006

The new Vivace

Seattle-based espresso expert David Schomer recently opened a new location for his famous coffee company, Espresso Vivace. Pictures of the place are up on Tonx's weblog. Described by Schomer as an "espresso palace," the place is beautiful (though perhaps a bit lacking in coziness -- hard to tell just from the photos). My favorite parts are the latte art mosaics tiled into the floor, lovely representations of a rosetta and heart. Very cool.

Larger shots of the mosaics are available on Tonx's Flickr account here and here.

March 15, 2006

DC's food entrepreneurs

The Washington Post ran a story today featuring seven local food entrepreneurs. Three coffee shops make the list, including my former employer Nick Cho of Murky Coffee:

Cho, 32, is one of the Washington area's new young food entrepreneurs. A tireless promoter, he hosts a popular coffee podcast and is known as a champion of "specialty roast coffee" -- the industry term for high-quality beans grown on small estates, roasted in small lots and brewed with care. Cho will help anyone -- including potential competitors -- interested in roasting, brewing or selling, in his words, coffee "that's better than customers ever imagined it could be."

Curry, chocolate, and gelatto are among the tasty offerings produced by the other new businesses. Read about them here.

March 5, 2006

USA Today's Top 10 Coffee Spots

USA Today's March 2nd "10 Great" feature "10 great places to get jazzed about great java." Coffee reviewer Kenneth Davids made the recommendations, so it's no surprise to find some winners on there.

Intelligentsia is one of the first high-end roasters I came across when I started exploring coffee seriously. I've had a few occassions to try their famous Black Cat espresso blend and enjoyed visiting one of their Chicago stores last spring. Portland's Stumptown and Seattle's Zoka are two I've tried in tastings but not visited personally, though I tried quite a bit of the latter a few weekends ago at Washington, DC's Coffee Fest trade show. (If you're in San Francisco, you can get Stumptown coffee and espresso at the wildly successful Ritual Roasters on Valencia.) Also in San Francisco, Caffe Trieste is worth visiting for the history and authentic Italian feel.

Other than a single shot of Terroir espresso and one visit to a Peet's in Chicago, I don't have experience with the rest. Anyone here who has?

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

February 18, 2006

Ugly Mug

I was in Santa Cruz for a little while today. Soquel, actually. On the way we stopped to pick up a chai. The thing about Santa Cruz is, almost anywhere you stop is going to be a great place with great chai.

First we stopped at Dharma's but the line was too long and we were in a hurry. (Story about Dharms follows). (Yes I know Dharmas is in Capitola.)

Then we stopped at The Ugly Mug in Soquel. I hadn't been there before. What a great place! Full of people chatting, reading, computing... And one of the best, peppery chais I've had. Here's their website: Corporate Coffee Still Sucks. I recommend a visit.

Continue reading "Ugly Mug" »

January 26, 2006


One of my very favorite local coffee shops is Coffeetopia in Santa Cruz.

Free wireless.
Chess sets. Chai.

Who's here from Santa Cruz? Raise your hand.

Denver Coffee

I came across the Mile High Buzz | Denver Coffee House Blog, writing about the coffee shops in Denver. All of them, apparently. Hence the name, I guess.

So I'm hearing about Common Grounds, and in the comments as well. Are they national? Is it a common name for local shops? Here's one in Idaho. (Warning, music.) I can't seem to find a national website... (Not this Christian blog with the same name.)

Who's here from Denver? Raise your hand.

January 19, 2006

Stumptown in Portland

Someone mentioned Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, saying,

In Portland, we have a relatively new brand that's storming the market, and all the cool baristas go for it: Stumptown. Since Torrefazione died, it's the best in town.
I worked in Portland for a while, near Powell's Books. I used to fly up from San Francisco or San Jose (depending on ticket price that week) on Tuesday mornings... In Porland there's a Thai restaurant named E-San that is the best Thai food I have ever had.

Note, when you mention a coffee shop in the comments, try to leave a URL if they have a website (as Jeff A. did), so people can look them up.

Update: - John left this comment in another post:

Jeff A: My brother's shop in Portland serves Stumptown coffee, and homemade pies too. Kids and Democratic and Green politicos are welcome:

Bipartisan Cafe
(503) 253-1051
7901 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97215

Bipartisan Cafe Reviewed


Receive Smelling the Coffee headlines via e-mail!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Add Smelling the Coffee headlines to your blog reading service:
Add to Google

Add to My AOL
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Subscribe in Rojo

Add Smelling the Coffee to Newsburst from CNET

Subscribe to this blog's feed
[What is this?]
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.34

Assistance from RWC Computer Services