Yemen Mocca Sanani

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Today we're drinking... Yemen Mocca Sanani.

It's a very fruity coffee. More funky in taste than a lot we've been drinking. A spiciness that was unexpected, even while being a smooth coffee. Many people think it's akin to an Ethiopian coffee, but better (or so I can find in other reviews). I enjoy the finish of this coffee quite a bit - even more than the first taste.

I found it a little overpowering at first. It could be due to the fact that it was roasted only yesterday, which can affect the flavour profile.

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Coffee Review: Wired Monk

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We made it! This time we came in toting cash, and laptops ;)

So, I am comfortably seated in front of the fireplace at Wired Monk drinking my Americano. I was pleasantly surprised by the coffee, I do need to admit. Quite surprised. I'm even drinking it without milk or sugar. Quite surprised indeed. It has perhaps a bit too much water, but it had good crema, a strong but not bitter taste, and a nice smooth feel to it. The aftertaste is slightly more tart, but still nice.

Ok, so I had my preconceptions of this "franchise", as we all do around the idea of a franchise. It gets the standardized McDonald's label, which usually means "consistent, good, but nothing extraordinary". So, let's drop the stereotypes and say there are those franchises that can surprise.

The coffee roasted is from Fratello Coffee, a roaster I'm not overly familiar with. Timothy (the owner) tells me Fratello is run by three brothers who used to roast from Commercial Drive but now roast out of roast out of Calgary. Today's espresso blend is the GodFather Espresso, "slight" acidity with "full" body. 

Timothy and Leah are the proud operators of this Wired Monk. Both pleasant and energetic, and I love that they operate as a couple. The decor here is very nice - lots of comfortable chairs, as well as some stiffer ones. Lots of little nooks, as well as a bar area seated around the barista. Tons of open floor space and windows all over the place really makes you feel open and at ease. I am particularly fond of the artwork around the fireplace - a plaster relief of the Monk and the logo, embellished with paint. Even if this is a standardized look across all Wired Monks, it's new to me so I like it ;)

Tuesday, Friday, Saturday they have Open Mic - sometime 6 to 8 will start up. There is a ton of space in here, so I can see us coming back to hangout.

So, it's no Elysian room that makes you go "wow", but it's a big step above Starbucks and many other coffee joints, and I can see us coming in regularly for the coffee and the great atmosphere.

Maybe our next time around we can sit down with Timothy and Leah to see how they're liking their new cafe :)

Location: 4th and Trafalgar

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Today we are drinking...

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A coffee roasted 5 days ago by Hines from Nicaragua.

Subtle flavour profile. Smooth. Nice. One of my favourite regions. It is a good everyday coffee for me - not too bold or tangy.

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Coffee Review: Soma Coffee House

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On Sunday we popped over to Soma, a coffee joint on Main (2528 to be exact). It's lovingly called a "hipster haunt" by the Straight, which I can totally see.

There was a great vibe in there. Relaxed, artsy, comfortable. The chairs could use an upgrade, but otherwise a nice feeling.

So, it's a great place to hang out...

... but it's not a great place for coffee. Ianiv & I both drank our regular fare: the Americano. It's a good test coffee. Not too complicated. Well... it was not the best roast to start with. It tasted burned, like a Starbucks brew up a little more sharp. Way too dark as well.

Ianiv found his so bad he actually put in milk and sugar. Big thing for him. Mine was drinkable, but I'd even put it a notch below "diner coffee" (the best of which is from Sophie's, btw).

So, Soma is a great hangout, but not a great coffee joint.

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New coffee shop: Wired Monk

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Ianiv & I are headed off to the new coffee joint in Kits, the Wired Monk. It's a franchise, so we're a little worried about the coffee we're soon to consume. But, hey, it's their second day so we decided to stop over and see how it goes...

Will keep you posted.

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Coffe at Microsoft

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Robert Scoble points to a new Microsoft employee talking about his experience of his first six weeks working there. What may interest you is what he says about the coffee that Microsoft provides for his employees:

First, something negative that I hadn’t expected: the coffee. It sucks, all over the Redmond campus. I would never have thought that a company managed like Microsoft would be incapable of providing decent coffee to its employees. But it’s true. This stuff is gut-wrenching bad. Coffee-addict-repulsing bad.

Read the rest at Doug's World.

Coffee in Disneyland

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Yep, I held true to the reviewing thing. I actually tried coffee from Disneyland. *shudder*

Oh, it was not fun, let me tell you. We went to what looked like the most "main" in terms of coffee at Disneyland, the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Mainstreet.


Now, the first clue here is that the cafe is sponsored by, and served by, Nestle. Oy. I was in for it there. Well, I decided to get an Americano, and Ianiv a plain old drip coffee. Can you tell which is which?


Well, the one on the left was the Americano. And you can see me trying below. What you don't see is the grimace on my face. Oh my. I have to say it was as bad as any coffee from a random gas station that was brewed 4 hours ago kind of thing. And it was watery. So watery. Skimping on pennies for sure. Ianiv's was a tad more horrible, and perhaps even more watery. Lovely.


Carmen Estate coffee

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We tried another Panama coffee, this time from the Carmen Estate and also from the Best of Panama auction lot. Our beans were roasted by Hines, and thankfully provided by Elysian Room.

Carmen Estate is located in the Paso Ancho region, above the Finca La Florentina. From Sweet Maria's:

Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi (Carmen was his grandmother) ... and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independant mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees usign new techniques. This farm uses the de-muscilage process where the muscilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation...

This coffee won the #3 spot in the Best of Panama competition in 2003, 2004 and #2 in 2005. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1450, an altitude many farms don't even reach, meters and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy the coffee each year from the 1700+ meter altitudes, a very small amount of coffee. We sold out of that lot rapidly this year, but the entire crop is so good (a testament to Carlos' innovations) we set aside this Estate lot from his later shipment to the US, based on sample approval once it got here.

I preferred the brightness of this coffee over the more floral taste of the other Panama we tried. That's just a personal taste, as each has really bold flavours, but in different ways. I want to say this one was more sweet, although I know that was not the right word.

It was really a treat to drink it and to compare the differences, which were obvious right of the bat and in the finish, between the two Panama coffees.

Best of Panama Coffee

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As I noted before, we had a great offer to try some new and expensive coffees when we last visited the Elysian Room.

I am first going to talk about the one we tried in the cafe - it's from the Best of Panama crop from the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm. It was roasted by Hines. The coffee set a record at action, fetching $21 per pound with a score of 95.6 out of 100 at the Best of Panama competition - also placing first in the Rainforest Alliance "Cupping for Quality" in 2004. So, it was great to try this coffee that retails for $9 per cup and $50-$80 per pound!

Here is some information about the estate from their website:

Seven years ago we bought an additional coffee farm in Boquete, in the area known as Jaramillo. We had known for some time that the farm had good altitude (1450 to 1700 meters) and a nice slightly orange cup. It was an old farm with an interesting collection of coffee varieties planted by various owners over the years. We increased the plantings to about 60 hectares (part had been converted to a dairy) and basically ‘overhauled’ the farm. Much of the newer plantings did not come into production until the 03/04 harvest.

During this past year it occurred to my son, Daniel, that perhaps the cup of this farm was not due to an overall goodness, but rather perhaps there was one area that was producing an exceptional cup and, when mixed together with the rest of the production, a generally ‘good’ cup resulted. He tested this notion by cupping coffees from all over the farm. Sure enough, there was one small valley at the high end of the farm which produced the extraordinary cup now known as ‘Esmeralda Special’ - and which was the coffee that sold at the extraordinary price. The coffee on the remainder of the farm remains quite good, but not the really knock-your-socks-off cup of the Esmeralda Special.

We are not really sure yet whether this cup is the result of the micro-climate in the small valley, the rather unusual variety of coffee planted there, or a combination of both. We will be looking into this in the coming harvest. It is also a very low yielding area - again due to both the cool climate and very long internode variety. Thus it only produced about 50 bags this year and, hopefully, 75 to 100 in the coming harvest.

We do know that this coffee is NOT the result of intense selection - a common requirement for great coffees. We actually export a higher percentage of cherry picked in this coffee than in the rest of the farm. Likewise, it is not just coffee from the peak of the harvest - the quality seems to hold up from beginning to end. It is also not a ‘curiosity’ coffee - i.e. one that has passed through the digestive tract of an odd animal or originated in a isolated island in the middle of the sea. We suspect and hope that it will be a coffee that can be multiplied in Boquete to a point where reasonable volumes can be obtained.

So, what do I think of the coffee?

Well, at first I thought I didn't like it. But then I realized that my chapstick had melted on the cup and I was tasting the wax. So, after wiping it off, I tried it again and really quite liked it.

It had a more flowery aroma - less chocolatey than some others. More tart to the taste, but the final taste is amazing. It was so long lasting and filling in my mouth. I really liked it.

So, that was a great treat for us and we got to learn a bit about coffee auctions in the process!

Next review - a coffee from the Carmen Estate!

Trying an Intelligentsia coffee

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As mentioned in my last post, Ianiv & I are trying out a coffee from Intelligentsia. Although it did smell more sharp, it was actually quite different in taste than I expected - and in a good way.

I usually express my ideas of smell/taste in very similar words, and I think this is because both senses are very strong for me. You'll often find me saying that something smells buttery or tangy, which are not words anyone usually uses to express smell. Anyway, this time my nose was far off my taste, and that was interesting.

The coffee we are trying is from Honduras - La Tortuga

“Action-packed” only begins to describe the Tortuga experience. This is truly one of the most intriguing Central American coffees out there, dense with flavor notes that range from dark chocolate and fudge to fig, tamarind, and spiced pear cider. The body is plush and velvety, and the finish resolves itself confidently with some residual chocolate and a touch of cedar. There is a sense of intrigue with this coffee, as if one could continue peeling back layers of flavor without ever knowing the whole story. A tremendously satisfying taste experience!

I do find the coffee less full bodied than the previous one from Hines. This one sits in the mouth differently - more of a jolt than a smooth ride, if you can understand that weird description. I like it, though - it has an almost fruity taste to it. Still, when it's out, I'll be more preferential to coffees in the smooth, creamy flavour that I love.

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Ode to Hines

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Well, not an ode, but more a positive rant.

I love Hines Coffee. Really. One of the best. Recently they had to vacate their premises so some condos could be put up, but they will be back. And yet, they are still roasting! The batch we just bought yesterday was roasted at Stumptown. We got it from the Elysian Room. They get a lot of our coffee buying business.

Anywho, we tried a new Hines yesterday. Oh my. Heaven in a cup. No kidding. We've had other blends before and considered them our faves, and were really partial to Ethiopian coffees from various roasters, but this new one we have is a Nicaraguan. Unspeakably good. Smooth. Strong but not in your face flavour. Something complex in the flavour. Settles nicely in your mouth. Needs hardly any milk (yes, I put milk and sugar in most coffees - unless it's a really well done Americano). Makes my mouth tingle, I love it so much. I'll have to try more from Nicaragua to compare.

So, I am very happy Hines is still roasting. Though we still continue to try other blends and other roasters so we can fully understand coffee in all its different options, we are always coming back to Hines.

Yesterday we also bought another coffee from Intelligentsia - will try it tomorrow. From my initial smell and chew of a bean (a habit I got into, probably not a good one), it seems more acidic. Anyway, won't venture too far out there, but will comment tomorrow.

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Coffee Review: Calhoun's

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Calhoun's is a cafe on Broadway oft frequented by UBC students, and with a very laid back style. Rustic is maybe a good term. It's a large cafe, opened up by a set of barn doors and with great old wood tables scattered all over the place. I have always enjoyed the decor. I've never been to Calhoun's for live music, but they do have a good series of music some nights.

I had my first coffee at Calhoun's last week. I've been to the cafe many times, but I think it was always at night and I stayed to tea or steamed milk or hot chocolate. Of of these late night beverages were pretty good.

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However, coffee was not good. The machine was not so great, and the barista didn't ask how many shots of coffee I wanted before measuring coffee - thus just running the water extra long. It really does not have much in the way of good points. It was worse than anything I could make on a bad day at home, so that was not fun.

So, go to Calhoun's to hang out, have some good tea and a nice dessert. But don't go for coffee.

Coffee: 40%
Service: 78%
Atmosphere: 82%

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Long-term coffee storage--where's best?

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BuzzriteSince I gave up drinking dreck coffee May Long weekend—I did have to make one pot because my kids were sleeping one early morn and I didn't want to wake them with the grinder—my coffee consumption has gone way down, and not really because of the economics of it—though that is a factor—but I'm just more satisfied with 1 liter of really good coffee than the similar amount of dreck.  Regardless, I do try to wait for the sales at the store to get my favourite coffees.  Salt Spring Coffee Co. coffee was on sale a couple weeks ago—not this week though.  This week my second favourite coffee is on sale, and at a pretty good price too—of course I had just bought a bag of it on Sunday and the sale started today, sigh.  So, I'm going to buy at least another 400g bag.  My question is, where is the best place to keep it?  Especially if I buy two bags, which I might, it might be a month or more before I get to the second bag I buy now—since I just started one Sunday night.  I've heard the fridge is bad because it isn't cold enough and the oils go rancid.  I'm thinking two months in a cupboard couldn't be good either.  What about the freezer?  Could I keep the two bags in the freezer until I need one, then take it out and keep it out?  I know that the oils on the cold beans don't brew up as nicely—this is from personal experience—kinda like chocolate, frozen or even fridge-cold chocolate just doesn't as good as room temperature chocolate to me.
So coffee experts out there, where should I keep this coffee that I'm not going to get to for a month?
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Coffee Review: Prado Cafe

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This is a review long time in coming. It was actually from a week after my first visit to Prado Cafe - the visit when I got a good cup of coffee but had a little milk overflow that kind of distorted my coffee. Anyway, second visit went well. Went in and got what is an amazingly smooth and tastefully mild Americano - so flavourfully mild that I could drink it black. Amazing for me. It is not a coffee I would drink everyday, as I do like something a bit more full-bodied, but I would put it in the top 5 coffees in Vancouver.

So, why the heck didn't I say all this right after? Well, we actually did more than just have a cup of coffee. We interviewed one of the head baristas and took some pictures - and that's the clincher. We were not allowed to use the photos in any way before asking permission of the owner, who was not there. After a couple of attempts to phone her, I gave up and forgot about it for a while. But today I tried again - I left a message. If, tomorrow, no response comes I am just going to post 'em anyway. Not like CoffeeGeek hasn't done it already. And, seriously, it's free press!

But, yes, this has been a weird experience. Both Roland and myself had picture issues when trying to give them free press. Here is Roland's Prado experience:

Had an *interesting* experience with the folks from Prado (northeast corner of 4th and Commercial, website forthcoming) yesterday. I took some pictures and one of the staff ran out and told me to delete them. No sweat off my back, so I deleted the photos! But isn't all publicity, good publicity, especially VanEats 1000+ visitors per day :-) ? I can honestly say that in 4.5 years of doing VanEats, no other restaurant or cafe in the city has previously objected to me taking pictures of the outside of their establishment.

There's also some discussion flying around about the flavour of the coffee that I noted. That it is smooth but rather unobtrusive. On e-Gullet mooshmouse went so far as to ask if we've been "indoctrinated" into dark roasts. That we have dark so so much that we forget how to appreciate other varieties and flavours of other coffee roasts. I think there is something to this. Like having an amazingly rich dark chocolate and never really enjoying milk chocolate in the same way again. That aside, I think I was able to appreciate it for what it was and will be visiting there when I'm on the Drive (although I will alternate with JJ - hard decision!)

CoffeeGeek tells us the story of Prado's beginnings:

[Amy] York is the former manager of the JJ Bean on Commercial Drive and 6th Avenue in Vancouver, and was one of the main movers and shakers responsible for making that cafe a roaring success in the JJ Bean micro-chain of cafes in Vancouver. And she did this all before her 23rd birthday. She's an ambitious person too - after working within the JJ structure, she had it in her mind to open her own cafe, and started making plans in the summer of 2004. She left her job, worked on financing and finding a location, and after many months of toil, Prado Cafe was opened in January, 2005.

From my interview I also know that all baristas have at least 2 years experience and are quite passionate about what they do.

The decor is Scandinavian minimalism. The coffee is from Intelligentsia - not the usual Black Cat you see everywhere else. They use the organic espresso blend. Hence the mildness. All 100% fair trade and/or organic. WiFi access. Yummy baked goods made on-site.

The baristas all seem very talented - some are a little bit too proud of their new jobs, but are pleasant enough. During my interview with Matt, one of the baristas, there was some evident mix of both characteristics. He was not overly willing to share information about what he thinks makes a good pull of espresso. His comments were coffee standards and proper extraction.

It's clear that Prado has created a stir on many fronts. My personal conclusion - amazing coffee. Weird policies. Not so comfy but attractive in its design ethic.

Coffee: 95%
Service: 86%
Atmosphere: 89% (done well to its taste)

Location: 4th & Commercial

Coffee Review: Caffee Artigiano

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artigianoUpdate: We've been in to speak with Vince and had three different and all good cups of drip coffee. They were strong but full bodied. Even the strongest did not have bitterness. Now, I know the quality control is good so it may have been a fluke experience my first time in.

Ok, now for a hard review. It's been one I've really been putting off. And, yes, up front I'll let you know that I have not yet contacted Artigiano to talk about their coffee but it is on my To Do list. (Photo by Roland)

Ok, So Caffe Artigiano is a Vancouver hotspot for coffee. In the morning, you can see people lining up for their cup outside the door and into the street. Heck, even the co-owner Sammy Piccolo is ranked in the top 3 baristas worldwide. So, you'd think this would be an easy review? Not so.

Well, first time I went to Artigiano, before I started Vancouver Coffee and had tried as many good coffees as I now have, I thought it was just plain awful. I had the drip. The most bitter, acrid coffee. Right down there with my dislike of coffee from Tim Hortons.

Well, after that first experience I was not so hot on going back. But just about every coffee lover in Vancouver keeps telling me to go back there. So, I tried, two more times. The first time I was again really unhappy - not as bad as the first time, but still not making me think this cafe was so hot as everyone says. Granted, there could be some taste differences going on. But it was Intelligentsia, which I like, so I didn't get it. Ianiv had an espresso there once and was ok with it - didn't love it, but didn't hate it. It is very much like having a Starbucks beverage, to tell you the truth. Just a little overdone.

Well, I argued myself into a third go of it. It was actually not bad this third time. No idea why. Was the barista better? The coffee fresher? A different roast? No idea. It was bold but soothing. None of the acrid taste I'd experienced before. I do hear from others that the drip is just plain horrible, so that is a confirmation. But, aside from that, it was still a 50/50 shot of getting a good Americano.

So, I will say that when the coffee is quite good, I can see why people like it. But that 66% chance, it would seem, of getting something awful is not worth it to me. I will put it at about my #6 choice of Vancouver cafes. Not in my top five. It has some nice branding going on, but I do find that it is too busy for my taste. There is nothing wrong with sitting in a busy cafe, but the layout and table/chair thing they have going on just doesn't make me comfortable when it's busy.

Yes, I do plan on talking with Artigiano about what could have gone wrong. Yes, I will be diligent on this one. I'll report back. But, after many tries, my evaluation has to stick. And here it is:

Coffee - 80% (on average here)
Service - 83%
Atmosphere - 81%