Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
When Trish Rothgeb (née Skeie) first coined the term “Third Wave,” it was supposed to be about enjoying coffee for its own sake. But reading some of the articles posted about coffee in the popular presses lately, we wonder if any Third Wave is really more about purging heretics and enforcing an orthodoxy over a mythical “one, true way” to make and appreciate coffee.
There’s the Wall Street Journal heralding the abolition of any coffee roasted darker than a City roast. We’ve got coffee lovers freaking out over whether their French press tastes are all wrong and that they must be exclusively replaced with pour-over methods. And we have former baristas evangelizing that anyone who likes milk or sugar in their coffee are simply doing it wrong (or, as the article implies, they’re drinking bad coffee). We haven’t seen this many rules and regulations being imposed upon the public enjoyment of consumables since the invention of the Jewish kashrut dietary laws.
We may have defended the coffee Nazi in their time of need. But we have to draw the line when a purveyor’s personal quirks are declared as rules that extend to all coffee.
And here’s the real absurdity in all that. Coffee has thousands of flavor and aromatic components. It comes in a diverse array of varietals with unique terroir and flavor profiles reflecting its thousands of points of origin around the world. There are an untold number of ways to process it, roast it, and brew it. Yet we have pundits and experts promoting the idea that coffee is somehow this singular, monolithic commodity — like CocaCola out of a spigot — that can only be properly roasted only one way, brewed only one way, and appreciated as a consumer only one way. Getting the most out of your coffee is not the same as Obsessive-compulsive Disorder.
Coffee professionals who tell us that coffee can only be properly roasted this side of a City roast are just as narrow-minded in their thinking as the people who told us for years that dark roasts were the ideal. Some coffees shine under lighter roasting conditions, while others taste grassy and have none of the body that their pedigree would otherwise offer. Those who tell us that coffee should never be adulterated with milk not only throw our enjoyment of cappuccinos and flat whites under the bus, but they limit our appreciation to only those forms of coffee that taste good without milk.
Given all of its glorious variety, coffee is best optimized with different roasts, different brewing methods, and even different condiments (or the lack thereof) to uniquely suit its unique character — and not just its unique consumer. Celebrate its diversity, and call us heretics.
Yesterday morning, KQED radio aired an hour-long Forum segment featuring a small round-table of SF coffee “luminaries”: SF’s Coffee Innovators: Forum | KQED Public Media for Northern CA. The panel included James Freeman, of Blue Bottle Coffee, Eileen Hassi, of Ritual Coffee Roasters, and an unusually quiet Jeremy Tooker, of Four Barrel Coffee.
Much like the title of its associated Web page, the radio program played out like your typical coffee innovator/”third wave“/bleeding-edge routine that we’ve become accustomed to over the past decade. While a bit heavy on the Coffee 101 — particularly when callers asked common FAQ-type questions that have been answered on the Internet 20,000 times over already — KQED produced a good program overall.
Some of the more interesting comments included Eileen Hassi stating that “San Francisco has better coffee than any other city in the world” — with the only potential exception being Oslo, Norway. We’d like to think so, and there’s a bit of evidence to back that up.
James Freeman noted Italy’s “industrialized system of near-universal adequacy,” which is a different but accurate way of summing up our long-held beliefs that outstanding coffee in Italy is almost as hard to find as unacceptable coffee. Other covered topics included coffeehouses eliminating WiFi, Berkeley’s Caffe Mediterraneum inventing the latte, the Gibraltar, and even James Freeman designating home roasting as coffee’s “geeky lunatic fringe.”
While it’s worth noting that Mr. Freeman started as a home roaster, recent media coverage of home roasting has been a bit bizarre. To read it in the press these days, you’d think home roasting were at its apex rather than continuing its gradual decline towards its nadir. This despite numerous media stories covering it over five years ago as some hot new trend.
At the 2006 WRBC, we were perplexed by the complete lack of home roaster representation among the event’s attendees. (Namely, any home roaster worth his weight in greens would have been giddy over the reappearance of the Maui Moka bean. Nobody there even noticed.) And yet by 2009 we noted a real decline in online home roasting community activity, and we wrote about some of the underlying reasons for it.
Curiously enough, the first caller to the radio program (at 12’12″ in) mentions a recent trip to South India and his interest in South Indian coffee. I’m posting this from South India — Bengaluru (née Bangalore), to be precise. And I have to say, I’ve become quite fond of both South Indian coffee and the South Indian coffee culture.
Sure, they prefer it sweetened and with hot milk (that often has a skin still on it). The coffee is often cut with cheaper chicory and is brewed with a two-chambered cylindrical metal drip brewer — not unlike a Vietnamese brewer or an upside-down version of a Neapolitan flip coffee pot. But damn, if this stuff isn’t good. Even better, there’s a culture of regular coffee breaks that would be familiar to many Mediterraneans.
We’ve reported from India before, but only from the North — which isn’t known for a strong coffee culture beyond young people frequenting chains that emulate the West. Bengaluru is home to the Coffee Board of India, and this weekend I hope to head out across its state of Karnataka to visit origin at the Kodagu district. Also known as Coorg, this district grows a good amount of India’s good coffee. (Yes, they even grow really good robusta there. Just ask Tom Owens of Sweet Maria.) Details certainly to follow…
In the eight years since we started CoffeeRatings.com, we’ve been patiently waiting for something better. After all, we built CoffeeRatings.com out of frustration over a lack of useful quality information about area coffeehouses in a semi-structured, objective-criteria-driven format. So you’d think we’d be encouraged by the acute rise in venture-capital-funded code monkeys who promise to solve our existential crisis of determining “the best” at anything. In reality, this flurry of new Web sites and mobile apps only seems to be making the problem worse.
Besides being a First World Problem, finding the best at anything is a sisyphean effort. As Howard Moskowitz demonstrated decades ago, there is no “best” — only many bests, depending on personal tastes. But that didn’t prevent the likes of Yelp from feigning an effort. That effort is based on a completely open system where any schmuck with a keyboard can praise or bash an institution without any instruction, guidelines, nor selection criteria to speak of. Furthermore, Yelp games reviews as more of a form of social currency than any objective opinion.
As ridiculous as you might think the old school Zagat guides are by comparison, at least they offer three objective criteria to score on. Even so, Zagat recently whored themselves out to rating food trucks. Someone please explain to us again how any food truck could legitimately earn more than a zero score out of three for “ambience”.
On the mobile side of things, we have examples such as the San Francisco’s Best Coffee iPhone app. There the fatal flaw is that most mobile app developers treat location as of primary concern over quality — likely just because you can (with a phone’s geolocation services). Hence why we never appreciated coffee maps as anything more than eye candy.
The editors for the app are based in London, and they use whether a cafe is “independent” or not as a major reason for inclusion. (Are we supposed to ignore that Blue Bottle Coffee is technically a chain?) Furthermore, any Top 25 ratings are handled Yelp-style, resulting in very dubious cafes like Tartine Bakery getting rated in the Top 7.
Their top choice of a Rancilio Silvia is definitely a positive move — one that keeps you out of the future landfill that primarily decks the aisles of a Williams-Sonoma. But is it truly the best? Or is it more like the least you can spend on a respectable home machine? Even so, when it is immediately followed up by two Mr. Coffee models that each cost under $35 — followed by the Rancilio Silvia again — what are we supposed to think?
If you don’t know who Kevin Rose is, we envy you. He’s the founder of SF’s Digg.com and the closest thing to Justin Bieber for the dot-com set. Not long after the collapse of Enron, both Digg and its founder quickly became everyone’s “Web 2.0″ darling for several years — years we spent scratching and shaking our heads asking, “How is this going to make any money?”
During those years, cheerleading crowds simply put fingers in their ears, yelling “La-la-la! Can’t hear you!” as they made a cybercelebrity out of Mr. Rose — right on down to featuring him on downtown advertising kiosks. Today, Digg circles a financial drain that’s becoming ever-shallower. Everyone has pretty much since looked away, shielding their eyes from the inevitable.
Fast forward to 2011. For a guy who grew up in Redding, you’d think he’d know just enough local history to realize that calling your SF-based company “Milk” carries a lot of baggage. But whether or not that makes you think the guy is living in the closet, here’s a look at what Oink’s #coffee hashtag currently scores for “best coffee”:
What the hell are we supposed to make of this list? Other than it is wholly unstructured and that someone has an obsessive Blue Bottle fetish, how is this list in any way useful to us? We’ve got restaurant cocktails, roasted bean duplicates, drip coffee duplicates, platitudes about coffee, and the random business name all jumbled together to make a Top 10 list.
Mr. Rose says his inspiration for Oink came from his obsessive love of fine tea. But with an app like this, any Top 10 likely includes references to the Tea Party, teabagging, and Rose’s favorite oolong repackaged seven different ways. Milk’s employees better put snorkels and fins on their Amazon wish lists this Christmas, as another whirling drain doesn’t seem far off the horizon. (UPDATE: Oink went fins-up in the tank in just four months.)
Lastly, we turn to Amen, where we learn:
Welcome to Amen, the place for battling it out over the best and the worst in life.
Amen is for all those times you think to yourself, “This is the BEST! (or WORST!)”
Of course they have an iPhone app, because apparently you cannot function in society without a 3.5-inch screen telling you how. And playing with the app, we still don’t get the point. It’s raison d’être seems centered around submitting a rousing evangelical “amen” to someone else’s proclamation of greatness. Such as “the best coffee shop ever,” which is currently listed as a toss up between Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Starbucks, and “My Ass”.
This latest round of technical and social innovations doesn’t seem to make us any smarter. In fact, it just makes us collectively a whole lot dumber with the added social commiseration of “failing with friends.”
In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for Shawn Johnson’s word for it when she says, “My tacos? The best!” in an old TV commercial just this side of child pornography…
Ever eat a hamburger at a 1950s-themed American diner? In Hong Kong? Maybe their waffles didn’t taste like fish sauce, but it’s not uncommon to discover something lost in translation. (E.g., “Why does my hamburger bun taste like rice vinegar?”) On the spectrum of authenticity, this is the culinary equivalent to finding luxury handbags in the Hong Kong night markets with designer labels like “Guchi” and “Koach”.
Which brings us to Paris Baguette. Downtown Palo Alto recently added the latest installment of a growing Korean-owned chain of French-themed bakeries. However, use of the word “chain” here is an understatement. Although there are some 15 U.S. locations scattered throughout New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and California (including Santa Clara), there are 50 locations in China and some 2,900 locations in South Korea alone.
To put this in perspective, Starbucks operates 6,727 stores in the entire U.S. This means that, on a per capita basis, Paris Baguette locations saturate Korea some 2.75 times as much as Starbucks saturates America. Viewed purely in terms of locations per square mile, Paris Baguette locations carpet bomb Korea 41.6 times as much as Starbucks locations do the U.S. If you remember those jokes about there being another Starbucks inside a Starbucks’ bathroom, just imagine 41 of them in there.
Fortunately, Paris Baguette is not too freakishly Paris by way of Seoul — even if it glows like a gaudy Vegas casino from the outside. There’s some sidewalk café seating in front. On the inside (casino mirrors aside), it consists of stacks and stacks of self-service baked goods to be pinched by passersby armed with wax paper and tongs. There strangely isn’t much else to speak of for lunch options. And beneath the tall glass windows, there are clumsy, long, almost school-cafeteria-like tables — save for being topped with faux marble.
And yet this location proves that being lost in translation isn’t always a bad thing. Whereas most of the coffee in Paris is wretched, they make an honest attempt at sourcing and producing good coffee — at which they are mostly successful. Despite its gaudy flaws and cultural mistranslations, the coffee service here manages to be some of the best in Palo Alto.
They sport heavy Ritual Coffee Roasters branding and a shiny, three-group La Marzocco GB/5 at the service counter. They even offer Hario V60 pour-overs. They pull shots with an even, medium brown crema in black ACF cups. It has a basic warming flavor of spice and some herbs, and the coffee has the potential to be much better than it is — but it is still quite decent. They also offer healthy milk-frothing and latte art for milk-based drinks.
Read the review of Paris Baguette in Palo Alto.
Media profiles of Illycaffè‘s Andrea Illy are commonplace. But this one from today’s The Guardian (UK) is better than most: Andrea Illy: family businessman who’s raising the bar for premium coffee | Business | The Guardian.
For one, Mr. Illy talks about the importance of pricing and brand positioning. Regardless of what you think of Illy coffee, offering discount promotions and specials is incongruous with establishing it as a luxury item. You don’t lure customers with a come-on for a cheap fix; you lure them because they want to treat themselves. Discounts cheapen that image and position you for the coffee misery market.
He also notes how Illycaffè ensures that resellers of its coffee have the right equipment and are making it properly, retraining staff if necessary. While this is critical for the perceived quality of any roaster whose coffee beans are served in third-party establishments, our data suggests that Illycaffè has fallen far short of living up to these ideals — at least in the U.S.
Back in 2009 we made a comparison of our espresso scores among cafés with common machines, common roasters, or common chain brands, and we used the standard deviation of these scores as a measure of inconsistency. Illy coffee rated much more inconsistently than different Starbucks chain stores — which are notorious themselves for their very poor consistency.
Consistent with an interview four years ago, Mr. Illy finishes the article with a couple of good contrarian, somewhat incendiary quotes about Fair Trade. For one: “[Fairtrade] is about paying a higher price for the same goods. That is against the laws of supply and demand.” Another: “consumers pay more for Fairtrade because they want to feel good. It’s about solidarity not quality. Why not give to the Red Cross?”
All of which echoes many of our thoughts about the rather trendy role of “Corporate Social Responsibility” in business today, where consumers seem to prefer to outsource their charitable giving to third-party businesses rather than donate directly themselves. As we always ask: don’t tell us you’re going to donate 10% of the sales proceeds to charity. Give us that 10% off, and let us take responsibility and decide who and how much to donate with the extra savings. You’re my coffee roaster, not my Foundation.
We used to write more regularly about the steady stream of meaningless, unscientific coffee polls that frequently fill the pages of magazines, newspapers, and Web sites. We got tired of writing incessant rants about how the polls were poorly constructed and lacked any stated criteria nor methodology, and most assuredly you all certainly tired of reading them. What’s different this time — with Travel + Leisure magazine’s recent “America’s Favorite Cities” poll — is that they’ve provided just enough data for us to reexamine and draw some different conclusions.
You may recall Travel + Leisure‘s America’s Best Coffee Cities poll earlier this year. The magazine also conducts an annual reader poll to appeal to the insatiable human appetite for what is essentially a city-by-city dick measuring contest. Coffee is one of their polls’ rated subjects, and Seattle couldn’t wait three hours yesterday before bragging about their measurements.
However, that’s not the interesting part of this story. Although it may be just another popularity contest, Travel + Leisure not only compiled numeric polling scores for each city, but they also segmented the scoring between “residents” and “visitors“. Our idea was to simply compare a city’s score between the two audiences and rank cities along those lines. We call it, “Which U.S. cities are the most delusional about the quality of their local coffee?”
The winner of this dubious honor, by a significant margin, was Anchorage, Alaska. There visitors ranked the town’s coffee nearly two-thirds of a point lower, on a five-point scale, than what residents rated it. At the other end of the spectrum, Miami clearly ranked tops in the “locals just don’t appreciate you enough” category. Perhaps all those Cuban expats still believe that the coffee tastes that much better in their former homeland, and yet the tourists wonder why they are complaining.
San Francisco ranked in the middle of the pack at 17th out of 35 cities for most overrated by the locals. However, the most telling figure was that 28 of 35 cities were rated lower by tourists than by the locals. Just look at all the red in the right-most column in the table below.
Of course, local residents should know best where to get the good coffee. Meanwhile, tourists often either have no clue, play it safe by frequenting only the bland-but-recognizable coffee chains, or never venture into the good coffee neighborhoods. For example: when is the last time any of our SF resident readers actually visited Fisherman’s Wharf? And do you realize how bad the coffee is there?
Another major pattern in the data is — with the exception of Anchorage and Portland, ME at the very bottom — much of the American South got General-Sherman-style ravaged by their tourist scores, suggesting that tourists think the locals are a bit full of themselves. In any case, here are the numbers…from the most underrated by the locals to the most overrated:
|Rank||City||Visitor Rank||Visitor Score||Resident Rank||Resident Score||Vis – Res Rank||Vis – Res Score|
|8.||New York City||5||4.34||11||4.37||-6||-0.03|
|16.||San Juan, P.R.||14||4.05||17||4.19||-3||-0.14|
|31.||Salt Lake City||30||3.54||23||3.93||+7||-0.39|
|32.||Santa Fe, NM||22||3.85||15||4.26||+7||-0.41|
For this installment of comic relief Friday, we bring you the coffee critic wheel. You’re probably well aware of the coffee flavor wheel, which borrowed heavily from the wine aroma wheel in the wine tasting world. However, you might not be aware of wine vintner Janet Trefethen’s (of Trefethen Family Vineyards) Standardized System of Wine Critic Terminology, which became a somewhat infamous joke among winemakers a decade ago: Wine critics’ rating system gets mixed reviews – SFGate.
This wheel divides reviewers into two camps: those who “gave us good review” and those who “gave us bad review.” Because the act of critically evaluating wine is so subjective, from there the wheel gets into descriptors such as the celebrated “Gifted Palate / Brilliant” to the less flattering “Acerbic / Half-Witty” to the absurd “Wordy / Sesquipedalian”. The great thing about this wheel is that you can merely replace the word “wine” with “coffee,” and the wheel stills suits any of us foolish enough to judge the merits of a given coffee.
We were recently reminded of this wheel by one of our favorite California winemakers, Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe Vineyards. A former school teacher, Wes takes a highly academic approach to his very low profile, small-estate wine growing operations in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County. (He gives a killer vineyard tour if you’re ever in the area.)
Wes also appreciates a flavor profile in his wine similar to what we appreciate in coffee: less of an overbearing emphasis on bold fruit and sharp tannin flavors (think Sightglass, Stumptown‘s Hairbender, etc.), and a greater appreciation for subtlety and more secondary characteristics that lurk beneath the surface (think maybe 49th Parallel). Given his appreciation for the poetic, Wes likens this philosophy to what makes a beautiful woman. Some are of the supermodel variety: absolutely stunning on the surface, but vapid on the inside (and given few social reasons to develop otherwise). Whereas a perhaps less outrageously stunning woman with charm, wit, culture, and heart can ultimately outshine the supermodel lot.
Although not entirely accurate, the world’s most famous wine critic, Robert Parker, is sometimes characterized as something of a connoisseur of “supermodels.” His palate is so influential that his scores have been known to make or break wineries. So much so that many winemakers and wine lovers have often complained about the Parkerification of wines — i.e., the monotonous tailoring of wines specifically to Robert Parker’s palate in the hopes of earning a higher score from him.
Because Mr. Hagen emphasizes more secondary characteristics in his estate wines, it had been several years since he submitted a vintage for review to Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate newsletter — namely because Mr. Parker’s palate just didn’t “get” what his wines were about. But with a new, highly respected reviewer at The Wine Advocate who might appreciate his wines (Antonio Galloni), Wes submitted his most recent vintage and scored exceptionally well. This inspired his recirculation of the wine critic terminology wheel.
The lesson here is that no palate is right or wrong; it’s about calibrating your own tastes to the known preferences of others. For example, we have some readers of CoffeeRatings.com who will scout out coffeeshops we haven’t yet reviewed and they often guess what we would later rate it — typically coming within 0.2 rating points of accuracy from what we would later rate it. That kind of consistency is perhaps the best we can hope to achieve here.
Several months after we declared that coffee’s golden age is over, famed Illy barista-in-chief, Giorgio Milos, posted this in The Atlantic today: America’s Golden Age of Coffee: Remarkably Like Italy’s Past – Giorgio Milos – Life – The Atlantic.
You might recall Mr. Milos ruffling a few New World coffee feathers last year in The Atlantic, when he roughly suggested that “the Italian way” is the only way to appreciate espresso. Among other things he called out the brightness bomb, where many Western baristas have fallen in love with espresso shots that taste like a mouthful of Sour Patch Kids.
In his latest piece, Mr. Milos has made something of a curious about-face. Has all his time around Western espresso started to change his palate? More specifically, he rightfully called out the enthusiasm and passion for coffee quality in the American barista community — something that has been stagnant in Italy for decades. He also drew a number of parallels between “coffee innovation” in America today and in Italy a century ago.
(We’ll try to restrain our gag reflex whenever we hear a term like “coffee innovation”. This is another area where — to quote Mr. Milos — the “oft-cited parallels between specialty coffee and wine break down” in that no one has talked about “wine innovation” with a straight face for many generations.)
Mr. Milos also raised a red flag for the American barista’s “tendency to keep consumers out of the R&D process” — something we similarly called out earlier this year. And he also spoke our language when he wrote, “Italy, where it’s easy to find a very good cup of coffee and tough to find something undrinkable — and about equally tough to find something outstanding.”
It’s that time of year again for Consumer Reports to come to our collective rescue and save us from wasting our hard-earned money on bad coffee: Colombian coffee champ is unseated in our new Ratings. Except we’ve come to the conclusion that Consumer Reports does more harm than good in the name of good coffee.
Of course, We’re no strangers to mocking Consumer Reports‘ odd foray into the world of consumables. Their Web site literally keeps us in stitches whenever we read things like, “If you’re looking for information about coffee, Consumer Reports is your best resource” alongside teasers hawking their reviews of clothes dryers, dishwashers, microwave ovens, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners.
It feels a lot like asking your muffler shop to recommend a gastroenterologist. Their coffee reviews even fall into the “Home & Garden” section of their Web site, where bold type tells us to get ratings for “flooring, windows, lightbubs & more” — the things we clearly worry most about when seeking good coffee. Just throw in lawn mower reviews and we’ll know we’re in the right place.
Setting aside for a moment the dissimilarities between a kitchen appliance and something you eat, despite Consumer Reports‘ consumer advocacy and the socialist causes of its organizational parent, Consumers Union, their editorial approach towards coffee ironically encourages a great deal of consumer, social, and environmental regression. By focusing exclusively on what we call the “ghetto” market of mass-produced, minimal-profit-margin coffees, Consumer Reports is effectively dismissing higher quality coffees — coffees that stand to not only raise the bar for consumer taste buds, but also to improve the social, economic, and environmental conditions for where these coffees might be sustainably grown. Their reviews don’t encourage aspirational coffees at value-oriented prices; rather, they keep their readers constrained to lowest-common-denominator office coffee. I mean… K-Cups? Really?
Now it’s certainly not in Consumer Reports‘ agenda to promote expensive luxury coffees. But when it comes to automobiles, for example, they don’t exclusively review Hyundais while overlooking BMWs, Jaguars, and Volvos. Given how they treat coffee, it’s as if consumers get a public dialog about the best brand of canned green beans — all the while denying the existence of the better quality, and better environmental practices, behind the fresh produce variety. Or, as another analogy, it makes us believe that if Consumer Reports were to review wines, the only wines they’d promote would come in boxes.
California’s Santa Barbara County is a lot like the rest of America when it comes to coffee: it should face a tribunal for atrocities committed against the human taste bud. What makes these many crimes particularly heinous are the various local media outlets in these communities that celebrate certain local coffeehouses as some of the region’s “best” — and yet these examples turn out to be foul enough to give any self-respecting Italian or Australasian coffee fan the dry heaves. Baseline standards are completely lacking, and the local populace is kept deaf, dumb, blind, and tasteless from realizing things could be any better for them.
Not to devalue the many efforts of great coffeeshops to make their brews with exquisite care and precision. But in this day and age of quality coffee awareness, information, and access, there simply is no excuse for any community within a civilized First World nation to have local coffee standards so pathetic as to hold up a cup of mass-produced, push-button Starbucks as the gold standard. Sometimes we honestly don’t understand why entire counties simply do not rise up and riot in the streets over the horrible coffee to which they are routinely subjected.
With Starbucks listed as a runner-up finalist on SantaBarbara.com’s “Best of” list, Santa Barbara barely salvaged some of its culinary dignity with its recognition of The French Press. Because The French Press makes some great coffee that’s otherwise unheard of in this part of the country. And because naming Taco Bell as the finalist for Santa Barbara’s “Best Mexican” would be no less ridiculous.
Opening in 2009, this Upper State coffeehouse puts most others in Santa Barbara County to shame. A sort of hang-out for the biking set, you can recognize this café by the gathering of young people on the sidewalk in front. They offer a few outdoor café tables and chairs under the entryway, but much of the seating is inside — zinc-topped café tables located along and past a long hallway of artwork that runs along the service area. The service area itself is decorated with painted art skateboards.
Using a shiny two-group La Marzocco GB/5 and Mazzer grinders, they pull shots of Verve (Sermon and other blends) into black ACF cups with red saucers. It comes with a lightly mottled medium brown crema with lighter heat spots.
The espresso here has the tease of a brightness bomb, but without the full-swing delivery. This results in an acidic cup with some balance coming from the chocolate and pungent spice end. They’re also notable at milk-frothing: it’s deliberate and not overly abundant. Their caffè macchiato has a great chocolate flavor with substantial milk density. And of course, they also serve their namesake French press coffee.
All towns should aspire to have at least one coffee place this good. It’s criminal that this is still the exception rather than the rule in this country.
Read the review of The French Press in Santa Barbara, CA.