This famous Napa coffee roaster has locations in downtown Napa and in St. Helena, and it routinely receives “best coffeehouse” awards in Napa town. They not only roast their own coffee in 20-lb batches, but they also offer regular coffee cuppings. And although their location gives them every excuse to abuse misplaced wine tasting analogies in the Napa Valley, they instead emphasize how cupping is a process designed to determine the potential of — and defects within — a lot of green beans. (It’s all business here.)
Entering inside the café, you encounter tall ceilings, Victorian architecture, a worn wooden floor with a harlequin paint job, track lighting, and the odds of hearing Modest Mouse on the stereo system. There are a few small tables, an upstairs, an espresso bar right as you enter, and a coffee bean sales counter further behind it.
For an espresso machine, they interestingly use a two-group Diadema — produced by B.F.C. of Italy. Diadema machines are more widely available in Australia, but they do appear in the States as very high end home machines — such as the Junior Plus and the Unico Splendor. (Never mind how much the B.F.C. logo looks like it was lifted from SBC, now AT&T, née Pacific Bell.)
Yet despite this interesting pedigree, the resulting espresso shots here are very disappointing. There is virtually no crema — just a whisp of something more than black filter coffee. It’s the right pour size and serving temperature, but yet the flavor is more smoke and some ash. Not ashy in an entirely unpleasant way, but it tastes of an extensively dark roast and leaves a powdery coat on the tongue.
According to ScienceDaily, researchers in Illinois have devised a method for detecting adulterated coffee supplies: ScienceDaily: Fingerprinting Fake Coffee. Along the coffee supply chain, unscrupulous profiteers regularly short-change customers by cutting the coffee with cereal grains (particularly corn), coffee twigs, and even brown sugar.
Roasted corn has particularly high concentrations of vitamin E, and the researchers have made this the basis for their fingerprinting technique. Brazilian coffee supplies have been particularly targeted by this form of fraud, and in lab tests they found one brand of Brazilian coffee contained almost 9 percent corn.
Until only recently, naming New York City’s best espresso bars was a bit like naming Pauly Shore‘s best movie acting roles. For those few espresso bars that now stand out among Gotham’s dysfunctional coffee scene, Gridskipper turned their boundless enamor with the Google Maps API towards a top 8 list: New York Espresso Bars – Gridskipper, the Urban Travel Guide.
Elliot Roper wrote a bit of local criticism today about the local coffee shop scene in Washington, D.C.: DC Translates to DeCaf (INeedCoffee.com). By and large, he is rather unimpressed with the neighborhood offerings. His criteria not only include the quality of the coffee, but also the accessibility of the shop (is a car required to get there?) and the degree of commercialization and frippery in the place.
He presents his candidates for the best coffeeshops in the D.C. area in tiers, much like the political pundits grade presidential candidates. And given his criteria, this means even notable espresso destinations such as Murky Coffee don’t grade above Joe Biden.
Reportedly, Murky owes some $427,395 in unpaid sales tax dating back to November 2004. The D.C. tax collector shut down their Eastern Market location late last month, with the possibility that other assets in the chain may be seized. Despite what you think of Nick and his business practices, this would still be a coffee lover’s loss even greater than the 2006 demise of SF’s Café Organica.
This week, CoffeeGeek featured an article on the coffee scene in Poland today, with an emphasis on a few of its cafés in Warsaw and Krakow: CoffeeGeek – Coming Home to Coffee in Poland. The article is written by a Polish expatriate who came into the coffee business in her adopted Vancouver, BC home.
Coffee is still a relative newcomer to Poland. But like many places in the world, today everyone drinks the stuff and awareness of good coffee is clearly on the rise. While Warsaw’s standards leave a lot to be desired, apparently the picture is much better in Krakow — at places such as Café Szara.