March 12, 2010 Leave a comment
Coffee aficionados have been asking the question over and over again: Is Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Ore. — the most conspicuous exponent of coffee’s “third wave” — the new Starbucks?
Ansia, Eterna, Crudel! …Spes… My life in Words, Pictures and Scriptures…
March 12, 2010 Leave a comment
Coffee aficionados have been asking the question over and over again: Is Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Ore. — the most conspicuous exponent of coffee’s “third wave” — the new Starbucks?
October 10, 2009 Leave a comment
Ok, before I start, I must get this out…. Vios Cafe and Marketplace serves really great Greek food and they have awesome deserts that would certainly go really well with an excellent espresso. This place is probably my second or third most favorite Greek restaurant/café/whatever.
What I also like about Vios Cafe is that it has a small marketplace very similar to that of Volunteer Park Café and Marketplace where you can by various Greek foodstuffs and ingredients you can take home to prepare your own meal.
What I also find interesting about my dining experiences with Vios though is that all these years (well there not that many but enough anyway) that I have been going there with family and friends for dinner, it was only the last couple of times I was there, maybe three or four months back that I actually did start ordering lattes… I don’t normally order lattes will dinner because I find them already filling, but I had to order at Vios because I was interested in seeing just to see how they stacked up to the coffeehouses in the area.
Vios has two locations, one in the Capital Hill area and the other in the Ravenna neighborhood. The one in Capital hill is a proper stand along cafe while the one in Ravenna is connected to Third Place Books, making it a fun place to visit as you can get your coffee and hang out in the bookstore if you are not interested in sitting in the dining area.
But I think the most interesting thing about Vios is the fact thatthey, i.e. both locations, serve illy coffee. Now just in case you don’t know illy, they are an Italian coffee roaster. Bein that Viso is a Greek restaurant, and a really great one at that, I would have thought that they would be serving the finest in Greek (or Greeek style) coffees… but they don’t.
Regardless, I think their coffee is actually decent. I have ordered it on quite a few occasions when having lunch or dinner there. And I have been relatively happy with the coffee that I got. It was nice and strong, good foam and well made. And being that this is Cafe Vita and Stumptown territory, it is nice to have outlets that serve something different. Illy is one of those coffees that I don’t get to try often, and this is simply because there are not too many places in the Seattle area, that I know of, that do serve that particular brand of coffee.
The main problem I have though is that Vios, at least the one on Capital hill, are not open in the morning, which is the time that I usually have my initial coffee cravings. As I have mentioned before, I tend not to like drinking lattes and such with dinner so whenever I go to Viso for dinner, lattes are usually the last thing on my mind. The other issue is Fuel. The original Fuel Coffee location is just a couple of blocks away from the Vios location and when I happen to be in the area looking for coffee, I find myself going to Fuel pretty much more often than I would go to Vios…. and so it pretty hard for me to go to Vios strictly for the coffee.
But I would certainly encourage you to give the place a try… and maybe ask for Greek style coffee and see what they say
August 9, 2009 Leave a comment
For a while now, I had been hearing rumors about Fonté Coffee Roasters opening their own retail location somewhere in downtown Seattle. Other than the fact that they would be having a retail location, I didn’t know anything about where this location would be, or even when they would actually be open. I guess I could have been a little more proactive and done some investigating but whatever…
Be that as it may, yesterday evening, I just happened to stumble upon the Fonté flagship retail coffee shop downtown, right on 1st avenue. They are located directly across the street from the Seattle Art Museum, next to a pretty famous Seattle landmark which I prefer not to mention. Since I was looking of a place to get dinner and not coffee, I decided that I was going to have to come back another day and check out the place.
But I was pretty excited to have found this location. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first being that Seattle’s downtown coffee scene is certainly becoming nicely represented with great coffee options. Long, long gone are the days when we mainly had Starbucks all over the place. It now seems that more and more new small and/or independent coffee shops are opening up especially in 1st avenue in and around the area close to Pike Place Market. And now when you consider that in the space of less than two blocks south of Fonté, we have Stella Coffee and Cherry Street Coffeehouse. And to the north, also in the space of less than two blocks, we have Seattle Coffee Works and DeLaurenti. These a great options right there. In actuality, there are more coffee shops when you go 4 blocks north or south of Fonté but I think you get my gist.
The second reason I am excited about this is because I would like to see more coffeehouses and coffee shops that serve beans from roasters other than the Seattle default i.e. Caffé Vita and Stumptown coffees. I personally think that there are not enough places here in Seattle that serves coffee from other roasters.
Now in the case of Fonté, I know for sure at least two, maybe three places that use their coffee. These places include Joe Bar which is located at the Harvard Exit which is on the north end of Broadway up on Capital Hill. Then there is Chez Dominique which is funny enough about four blocks south of this Fonté coffee shop.
Anyway, later that Saturday night, I was in need of Wi-Fi access and where I was straying the internet connection was abysmal so I decided that I would go to a coffee shop and use the Wi-Fi there instead… and if I was going to a coffee shop, why not check out Fonté then?
I must say that I really liked the interior décor. Theirs is a more modern style and look and feel which I think perfectly suits the location at the new Pan Pacific hotel. And like a lot of the other coffee shops in Seattle, they also offer wine in addition to coffee. The baristas I met there were really friendly and helpful. They seem to certainly care about their customers.
I didn’t ask too many questions about their coffee about I can bet the farm that they use Fonté Coffee Roasters beans. I do enjoy Fonté coffee and my latte was good. I enjoyed it. I did spend a fair amount of time chatting with one of the baristas and so by the time I actually started to drink my latte it was a little cold. Next time I need to drink and chat, and not chat, chat, chat… then finally drink.
The other thing that I thought is great is that Fonté coffee is open till 10 at night, at least on Saturdays. So for those of you who want a more or less quiet place to enjoy a good late night espresso Fonté is certainly for you.
So here now is my dilemma. When I am downtown in the area around 1st avenue at Pike Place Market, should I go to Fonté, should I go to Stella, should I go to DeLaurenti or should I go to Seattle Coffee Works? I think these are good dilemmas to have to face once in a while.
April 27, 2009 Leave a comment
I discovered Caffé Artigiano a few years ago on one of my first trips to Vancouver BC. At that time I really didn’t know much about the coffee they served other than the fact that I thought the coffee was good. I also really liked the decor of the particular retail location I visited and the reason I went there was simply as matter of convenience due to its close proximity to the hotel where I was staying. Of course if the place even hinted mediocre coffee, I certainly would not have stepped in the door.
However, since that timer, though I have been to Vancouver again on numerous occasions, I haven’t been back. Not because I didn’t like the coffee or anything like that, but simply because I wanted to take the opportunity to try other coffee shops during my limited stays. So one cafe that I discovered, just a couple of blocks away from the Caffé Artigiano location that I frequented before, was Scuié, the Italian style cafe and espresso place.
The other interesting thing that I noticed on my subsequent visits was that Artigiano had multiple locations in the city and that put me off a little, especially since some of the locations did not look as great as the one that I first visited. But what was interesting I found that as I was doing my various write-ups of coffee shops in Vancouver and Victoria BC, more than once, readers suggested that I should go check-out Artigiano for some of the best coffee in Vancouver.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks back, this is when I took my second trip to Victoria BC. Due to the fact that to my plan of action was to visit coffee shops that I had not tried the last time, and that these would be coffee shops that were within walking distance from my hotel. I expected that I would include Murchies Tea & Coffee, even though I had been to the place the previous time, but then I found out that a couple of doors down, in the bottom location of the Bedford Regency Hotel on Government Street, there was a small Caffé Artigiano, the same kind of set up as Stumptown at the bottom of the Ace Hotel in Portland.
I decided that here was my opportunity to try it out again so that I can this time around do a write-up on the place. I am really glad I tried the coffee there for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is simply because the coffee I was served was actually pretty good. I really enjoyed my double short (8 oz) latte. The coffee was nice and strong with great flavor. It was interesting to that they actually do serve short (i.e. 8 oz) lattes because a lot of the coffee shops in Victoria only offer 12 and 16 oz cups. There is one other place in Victoria that I can tell you for sure, Habit Coffee also offers the option of an 8 oz cup as part of its standard coffee menu.
The second reason I am glad I went there is because I discovered that Artigiano serves 49th Parallel coffee beans. So what? Well, there is only one coffee shop in Seattle that uses 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters‘ beans and that is Trabant Coffee & Chai down on 2nd Avenue. I’ve been there a few times and the baristas there swear by 49th Parallel as the best coffee beans in the Pacific Northwest which is a pretty bold statement to make in Seattle. Especially considering that 49th Parallel is actually a Canadian based roasting company from Burnaby (Vancouver) BC. What is even more interesting is that the founders and owners of Artigiano are also the founders and owners of 49th Parallel.
This brings me to the third reason why I am glad I checked out Artigiano. This past weekend, the World Barista Championship 2009 competition just concluded in Atlanta, GA. The first place winner was Gwilym Davis of London England, but in an extremely close second finish was Sammy Piccolo the founder and owner of 49th Parallel and Artigiano. He holds the distinction of being the only barista to have come in the top 3 spot over the past four competitions, including this year’s competition. He is also considered to be one of, if not the best barista in Canada. So it was great to be able to check out a coffee shop owned by and enjoy the beans roasted by the second place finisher in the WBC 2009.
I think the fact that Piccolo is pretty much involved in his coffee business kind of shows in the attitudes of the baristas at the place. I thought the baristas, who took my order, made my drink and chatted about their coffee were great, and very gracious. They gave me a bit of info about the company and the beans, including the blend that they use for espresso, i.e. the Private Reserve Espresso blend. I think it would be interesting if Piccolo decided to open up a shop in Seattle, it would be interesting to see how they would do. I mean, if Kaladi Brothers can do it, then why not?
April 14, 2009 8 Comments
I was somewhat surprised but not really when I went to Volunteer Park Café some months ago and found out that they no longer carried the Café Vita coffee beans but instead had switched to Stumptown coffee beans. I thought that was really interesting and at that time, the barista on duty could not tell me why they had done the switch. Though I have been there a few times since, I finally chatted with one of baristas who knew and told me the story.
It turns out that the reason they switched was not because Café Vita coffee beans was bad or anything like that. The reason was pretty simple actually. On the one hand, and in their own words, Stumptown has excellent customer service and are a great supplier to work with and they have great coffee so switching for those reasons alone was not a problem. But the even bigger deal was the fact that the owner of VPC&M just so happens to be one of the co-owners of ‘Oddfellows’ up on Capital hill. Now Oddfellows was already serving Stumptown coffee and so for the owner, it actually made sense for her to switch and deal with just one supplier for both premises rather than have to deal with two different suppliers. Of course if they actually thought that Stumptown coffee was not that great, then I doubt that VPC&M would have switched.
Now for those of you not from the Pacific Northwest region, Stumptown Coffee is actually pretty famous in the Seattle and Portland area and even up in Vancouver and Victoria. I remember at least two summers ago when rumor had it that they were going to be opening up their first shop in Seattle up on Capital Hill (now they have two) everyone was excited that this Portland based Coffee roaster was expanding to Seattle. At that time, the summer of 07, I went to the Stumptown located at the Ace (boutique) hotel and licked their coffee… and there super cool espresso machine even better. And so it seems, I meet a lot of espressonatos who think that Stumptown Coffee is just something really awesome. But I’ve also met a few who are not too impressed with Stumptown and think there are other, much better options, available for those who love their espresso.
So was the switch worth it? Does it make sense to switch because you get great customer service and it’s also more convenient? Yes, I think so, but only if the coffee is at least comparable if not better than what you are currently serving. I certainly think that it does make sense from the ‘dealing with only one supplier’ perspective since having to work with multiple suppliers across multiple locations simply adds overhead and complexity.
Now you don’t very often get a chance to actually compare how well one particular coffee house does if they have serve coffee beans from different roasters. In this case, it would have been interesting to try and reflect back on the Café Vita that VPC&M used to serve and the Stumptown they now do. But alas, it was quite a while back since I drank Café Vita at VPC&M and to be honest, I don’t remember too well how it was compared to the Stumptown they serve now.
However, for some reason I am really leaning towards saying that in my dim memory, the Café Vita might actually have been better than the Stumptown. And I can tell you for sure, I recently ordered a double 8 oz latte at VPC&M and I didn’t think the double shot in an 8 oz cup was a good as it should have been. I do know that I have had a few good double 12 oz Stumptown lattes at VPC&M though and so this makes me wonder if in general I should simply stick to 12 oz cups when I’m ordering Stumptown lattes.
April 10, 2009 1 Comment
Coming back from the dentist and on the way to work, I wanted to get a latte for the road but I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to get it from. The drive from my dentist’s office to the freeway would take me through a part of Capital Hill where there were at least four awesome coffeehouses.
These four coffee shops are Bauhaus Books + Coffee, Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Victrola Coffee and Stumptown. Kaladi and Victrola are both on Pike Street while Bauhaus and Stumptown are on Pine Street. Within a space of about 10 minutes, you can circle past all three coffee shops on foot, so the folks who live in that part of lower Capital Hill and love espresso are totally spoilt for choice.
Now right off the bat I didn’t want to go to Kaladi today because the last time I was there, I had a great chat with one of the barista and I promised that the next time I showed up, the following Friday, I would have my portfolio of espresso related photographs to share with them. Since I was not able to make it that Friday, I don’t want to go there until I have my photos printed and organized in a portfolio book. So for this morning, Kaladi Brothers coffee was out of the question.
Next in line for consideration was Stumptown. Now Stumptown is an interesting dilemma because a number of the places that I am been visited recently on Capital Hill do serve Stumptown coffee and I felt that I have been drinking quite a bit of the stuff in the recent past. The one thing I don’t like about Stumptown is that whatever coffee shop you go to that serves Stumptown, you are just about guaranteed to get the Hairbender blend. It would be nice if they actually did roast other espresso blends so we could fully enjoy a wider range of espresso blend flavors. Hence for this reason, I crossed Stumptown of the list.
This then left me with two choices, Victrola and Bauhaus. Now this was a rather tough decision for me. I started leaning towards going to Victrola but as I was driving right by the place and looking at an empty parking space right outside the store, something in me told me to drive to the corner of the block, make a right and go to Bauhaus instead. What happened?? I think there were two things that helped me make that quick, snap judgment and go with Bauhaus rather than Victrola. The first was that I tend to like the older, darker feel that Bauhaus has with the wall to ceiling bookshelves and books that sort of down-to-earth feel about the place. This is very similar to places like the original Top Pot, the original Fuel and even the original Victrola coffee. The Victrola on pike has a much more modern interior décor. But the other and probably the factor that swung me towards Bauhaus’s favor was that I hadn’t been to Bauhaus in a while and I had been to the Victrola on 15th at least three times in the recent past… so the decision was to go to Bauhaus and get my breakfast latte there.
March 2, 2009 Leave a comment
After reading this article in yesterday’s Seattle Times titled, “Owners of small coffee shops take plunge during recession” I was intrigued by pieces on Soho Coffee and MezzaLuna Bakery & Bistro and made a mental note to check them out.
It turns out that I ended up going to MezzaLuna for brunch early that afternoon, mainly with the aim of getting something for lunch and… of course to try out their coffee. It was a relatively easy place to find, located in the Judkins Park area of Seattle. The three owners, Andre, Kim and Larine were there taking orders, cooking and serving customers. When we sat down to order, the waitress told us that they had been really busy that day, mainly due to the above mentioned newspaper article. Since this is a coffee blog, and I don’t feel like, I will not dwell on the food.. but just in case you are a little concerned, I can tell you that for sure I will be going back to try out a couple more menu items.
So what about the coffee anyway? Well, they do serve the Hairbender medium roast blend done by Stumptown Coffee. They actually did a decent job of my latte and I did enjoy the coffee. I would have liked the latte to have been a little stronger, but then I do drink a lot of coffee so I like mine strong, even if it is a medium roast.
Apparently the three started the place on a shoestring budget and bought/leased this old space that used also used to be a cafe. The inside is a little sparse with the seating spread out so that it give the place a feel of open spacing. There are two rooms for seating, the main and a side room. The side room also has toys and furniture for little kids so that tells me the place is family friendly. This I think makes total sense since they are in a neighbourhood. I think the owners are great, really friendly and are out to make a good impresson.
Oh and I should mention, there was a family of four that were eating there too, and after they had finished, the two young girls, probably early teens, went and order each a hot chocolate to go. Coming back to the table with their order, I heard one of them exclaim really loudly, “this is really good!” I looked up and on checking out her drink, it looked pretty good, with a nice big dollop of whipped cream and some sort of drizzle on top.
I for sure have to make sure that I also try out the hot chocolate also…
Oh and even though I didn’t order them, the pancakes looked really, really good…
March 1, 2009 Leave a comment
Looks like the Seattle Times finally realized that Seattle does have coffee shop other than Starbucks. Its about time. I was on twitter this morning and someone posted a link to this the small business article titled, “Owners of small coffee shops take plunge during recession” that I thought was an interesting read. There were three coffee shops mentioned that actually peaked my interest. The first, Tougo Coffee which opened a second shop in the Westlake area… I have been to their shop in the Central District which I like. The second and third were MezzaLuna Bakery & Bistro in the Judkins Park and Soho Coffee which is in the Central District area of Seattle.
After reading this article, I decided that I wanted to checkout MezzaLuna and Soho and see what they really were all about. Early that afternoon we actually stopped by MezzaLuna for brunch. It was interesting to talk to our waitress who told us that they had been really busy because a lot of the folks who came in today had actually read the Seattle times article. I will be posting my thoughts on MezzaLuna shortly.
The other interesting thing I noticed while on the Seattle Times websire was that the times now has a blog called Coffee City that focuses on what else, the ‘coffee scene’ in Seattle… I am not quite sure their exact focus, but it is obviously related to coffee in Seattle.
There are nit that many articles yet, but I foudn a couple to be interesting… for example, their posting on B&O Espresso, and their location issues was rather interesting to read. What also hit me was the post Tougo Coffee which recently burgled especially since they are a small business owner and the place is popular and family friendly.
Anyway I plan in keeping up with the blog… and maybe I should ask Melissa Allison to blog for ‘Grounds…”
January 1, 2009 Leave a comment
Neptune Coffee is the last coffee shop I visited in 2008… I discovered Neptune Coffee for the first time actually just a couple of days ago. Even though this coffee shop has been around for about a year or so in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle but I only discovered it by chance… I was actually on my way to Diva Espresso when I drove by this shop and decided to stop there instead. And I’m glad I did.
The barista who I spoke to was really nice and friendly. We talked about about the place and the owners, Dan and his wife, and also of Stumptown coffee which they serve. And you guessed it, they use the Hairbender blend for their espresso drinks. But what I really liked about the barista was that she had no problem with me taking pictures in the place. Sometimes you’ll get the uptight or freaked out barista who will not appreciate you taking pictures because “the owner might be upset” or “you might be trying to get ideas for your own coffee shop”. This is something I have never understood why some are so uptight about taking pictures, but I suppose to each their own…
All in all, even though I was in a hurry and I couldn’t really hangout, I thought the place was decent and the atmosphere was friendly. My latte was decent though it could have been a tad stronger…. but that is also what you get when you have been making your own really strong espresso drinks at home… I think that in addition to good coffee, the friendly baristas will always make for a good experience… and any slight flaws in the service. Neptune coffee was certainly a nice way for me to round out 2008, and now I look forward to going back there sometime when I happen to be in the area… oh and after checking out Espresso Diva which is just two blocks south on the same street.
December 17, 2008 Leave a comment
Voxx Coffee on Eastlake is another coffeehouse that until relatively recently, I had driven by too many times to count but never actually stopped there to get a latte.
The two main reasons I think I hadn’t stopped there in the past were;
It was only after I started this blog, in addition to collecting paper coffee cups did I actually determine to stop there and get a latte… and a cup for my collection. So I pass by once with my wife.., though I sat in the car while she got for me the latte. I liked my latte. I thought they did a decent job… They actually use Stumptown Coffee beans… and as I found out later, they use the hair bender blend. I have noticed that a number of other coffeehouses that they serve Stumptown coffee will use the hair bender blend. But other than that I didn’t know too much about the history of the place. Since I wanted to check out the place and talk to the baristas, I knew I was going to have to come back another time…
I have been back a couple of times. The last time I was there was about about two weeks ago. I wanted to ask the barista a little more about the owner of the place since the barista I spoke to the last time I was there had told me that the owner used to own The Sitting Room which is up on Queen Ann.
So this last time as I popped in, I started asking the barista a little more about the owner… and it just so happened that the owner was right there. She was pretty cool and told me a bit about herself and Voxx Coffee.
The owner, Miriam, is originally from Lyon, France and still has the French accent. She told me that after 10 years in the restaurant business, i.e. The Sitting Room, she decided that it was time for a change and hence she started Voxx Coffee. And with the current downturn in the economy, restaurants tend to take quite a hit. At the same time, running a restaurant is a lot more hard work and stress than running a coffeehouse… so she’s pretty happy.
I also asked her about the name, Voxx. The told me that voxx is latin meaning voice and her coffee shop was sort of a play on that… but even more was that Voxx was easy to work with in terms of design and logo work. I thought she was really nice and friendly… and the baristas have all been pretty nice too…
I would certainly go back there. I would like to hang out there and enjoy the atmosphere since the past three times I’ve been there, I have been in a hurry and on my way to appointments or running errands…
Check out what others are saying on Yelp.com about Voxx…