September 2007

Monthly Archive

Trip Report: Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company @ Napa

Posted by on 05 Sep 2007 | Filed under: Local Brew, Roasting

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.)

Entrance to the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co. on Main & First Sts. The Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co.'s espresso bar

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.)

The Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co. espresso bar serviced by their Diadema Ordering roasted beans at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co.

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.

Read the review of the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company in Napa.

The Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co. espresso

Fingerprinting Fake Coffee

Posted by on 04 Sep 2007 | Filed under: Beans, Quality Issues

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.

New York Espresso Bars

Posted by on 04 Sep 2007 | Filed under: Foreign Brew

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.

DC Translates to DeCaf

Posted by on 01 Sep 2007 | Filed under: Foreign Brew

Elliot Roper wrote a bit of local criticism today about the local coffee shop scene in Washington, D.C.: DC Translates to DeCaf ( 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.

UPDATE: March 17, 2008
Apparently, even Murky Coffee is no longer available to D.C. residents. Or at least for those near its former Capitol Hill location. As the Washington City Paper followed up on today, Murky Coffee and its owner Nick Cho (the Portafilter.Net staple and himself no stranger to posting here) have run into hot water with the Washington, D.C. sales tax collector: Washington City Paper: News & Features: Blogs: Even More on Murky Coffee.

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.

UPDATE: March 21, 2008
More about the demise and downfall of Murky Coffee and Nick Cho from the Washington Post: On Capitol Hill, Back Taxes Lead to Caffeine Deprivation – Meanwhile, here’s Nick’s official response: murkycoffee: murky coffee capitol hill.

Coming Home to Coffee in Poland

Posted by on 01 Sep 2007 | Filed under: Foreign Brew

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.

Inside the elegant Café Szara

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