What Makes A Good Cafe

man_laptop_coffee1.jpgMost people will tell you that a good cafe must have great coffee. That is true. How can you call yourself a cafe and not serve a good cup of joe?

A good cafe will have a great variety of brews. Remember that nursery rhyme: “peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold”? That’s what a good cafe would be like. It will have coffee that is hot and coffee that is cold. Espresso, cappuccino, machiatto should be on the menu. They’ll most likely have a special house recipe that is uniquely their own and a crowd favorite.

A great cafe will also have a variety of beans and blends. You’ll have a choice of drinking the familiar Arabica or Robusta. You can also choose beans you’ve never tried: Brazilian, Columbian, maybe even the rare Jamaican Blue Mountain.

A good cafe isn’t just about the coffee though. It’s also about the ambiance. A good cafe has a relaxed feel to it. It feels homey and is a great place to sit and chat. The aroma of coffee subtly, deliciously scents the air, giving everyone a chance to unwind.

A good cafe is busy but not noisy. There is a fluid flow of customers yet people aren’t deafened by the sound of everyone coming and going. People can have a decent conversation, a heart to heart or a casual chat as they feel like it.

In this day and age, a really good cafe isn’t just a place to have a cup of coffee. It is also a great place to work as a second office. This usually means having a wifi connection since most people will need to be able to keep in touch with their offices and clients no matter where they are. Wifi zone cafe’s are truly a blessing. You can have a space to work that serves great coffee and have meetings in a relaxed atmosphere at the same time.

Have you found a good cafe in your area yet?


espresso.jpgMost people are familiar with coffee. If you ask them to describe it, they’ll probably describe their cup of coffee as putting a teaspoonful or sachet of coffee powder and sugar in their favorite mug and mixing it with water and milk. Others may describe their coffee as freshly brewed referring to coffee made by drip using their coffee makers. This is the most familiar way most people make their brew.

Many have heard the term espresso. They may have seen it on the boards or menus but not knowing what it was, have never tried it. Little do they realize that they may already have had some with their favorite cappuccino or other mix they bought in the coffeeshop. You are not a true coffee lover it is said unless you have tried espresso.

Espresso was first made in Italy. It is formally called Caffe Espresso. Unlike in any other part in the world, espresso is not just a beverage. In fact in Italy they make time to drink their espresso. This is one brew that is an experience, not just a drink.

Espresso is drunk in shots and is usually served in glasses. It is a rich tasting brew that has a great aroma. Hard to explain its taste but it is rather like dark chocolate though definitely not the same.

Espresso is made with hot (not boiling) water being pressured through ground coffee beans. It has a distinctive reddish-brown color and a delicious aroma. It should also have crema – the tan colored foam found on top of every good shot of espresso. If it has no crema, it is a bad shot. Have it replaced immediately.

Seattle’s Best Gets New Logo

Seattle is known to be a coffee city, and yet we cannot deny that their carrier coffee shop, Seattle’s Best Coffee, does not have the brand recognition that it ought to around the world. For example, did you even know that Starbucks bought the company in the early part of this decade? While Starbucks – the name, the coffee, and the logo – is quite recognizable to most anyone, Seattle’s Best seems to have a long way to go.

The company is not going to sit back and let status quo prevail, though. Yesterday, Seattle’s Best Coffee launched a massive campaign that aims to make the brand as well known – or even better known – than Starbucks. It all started with a stunt, which MarketWatch describes as:

To celebrate the unveiling, red-capped “invaders” scaled Starbucks’ headquarters and stealthily replaced the famous “siren” atop the clock tower with the new Seattle’s Best Coffee logo. The intent? To put Seattle’s Best on the map as the universal symbol for great coffee.

It is an interesting stunt, I have to say. The siren superseded (albeit temporarily) by a modern looking red and white logo – never thought I’d see the day! Take a closer look at the logo.

Isn’t it just…blah? I don’t get it. I may have my complaints about Starbucks, but the logo is perfect. It is not boring. It’s a good conversation piece. It has recall. It is pretty to look at. But, this red and white thing? What are they thinking? Or maybe I don’t know anything about branding at all.

What do you have to say about the logo?

India’s Cafés Mix Interesting Brews

alcoholHere is something that I would love to see take off where I am at. In India, some of the biggest cafes are starting a new trend: coffee mixes with (more than a little) kick to them. From vodka to beer to rum to whiskey – these spirits are used to bring coffee drinking to a whole new level.

Take Café Coffee Day for example. They have a very interesting menu called High Spirits. Even more interesting is the fact that some of their drinks are NON-alcoholic, although they taste just like their alcoholic counterparts. India Times published a write up last month:

Its coffee beer has the same colour, froth, texture, fizz and taste of regular beer. The only difference is that the beverage is non-alcoholic and leaves a coffee aftertaste in your mouth. Cafe Coffee Day is also developing a slew of other coffee-based spirits, and is planning new product offerings around these non-alcoholic products.

Their menu is currently not available though – eager customers have to wait till they finish research and development. I am thinking it should not take forever. That article was written early in December. Who knows, they might be ready to launch the menu in a month or so? There are other cafes who have similar offerings, so the Indian coffee market is probably quite content right now.

As for me, I am wondering if a similar trend will be picked up by other countries. If I had the money, I would start my own coffee shop and have my own version of “High Spirits!” In the meantime, if any of you ever find yourself in India, why not look for a coffee shop or two with this kind of menu?

Would You Pay $12 For A Cup Of Coffee?

336583-salvatore-malatesta-brews-a-coffeeRight now, definitely not. I am so broke that I will not even buy a cup at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I am currently going through a Krispy Kreme smooth coffee phase anyway. Ask me again in a couple of months and maybe – just maybe – I would be willing to shell out $12 for a cup of coffee.

If you are located in Melbourne, though, and you have some extra money that you want to burn, try visiting the Sensory Lab at the David Jones city store. This coffee shop is the newest café in town, and has already made a name for itself in the world of fine coffees.

By no means does the Sensory Lab consider itself a part of the “ordinary” cafes that one can find on almost every corner. Their coffee menu is so selective that it is being likened to posh wine places where – in terms of “classiness,” that is. Their most expensive cup, as you probably already guessed, costs $12!!!

Nope, it’s not made of gold (though it might as well be), but the beans come from Costa Rica, and they’re hand roasted. It’s also brewed in a special manner, which you can observe yourself when you buy a cup. I say I better get all the perks if I were going to pay that much for a cup! Oh, and don’t ever make the mistake of asking for sugar and cream if you decide to visit this shop. Chances are you’ll see people looking at you derisively!

NYC Coffee Shops: No More Laptops Please

laptop-banLet me ask you first, aside from the coffee, what do you look for in a coffee shop? Tea? Bagels? Eggs Benedict? Free internet?

I would have to say yes to all of them! Free Internet, in particular, comes in quite handy especially when the Internet at home goes bonkers on me. I am quite happy that I am not in New York City at this moment, though. According to the bits and pieces of rumors that coffee shop lovers have been spreading around, several coffee shops in the city have already “banned” the use of laptops in their premises. Naturally, this includes the stopping of free Internet as a perk.

So what is the reason behind this infuriating action by the coffee shops concerned? They say that people who bring their laptops to coffee shops and access the Internet there tend to linger and not spend much on drinks and food. On the other hand, there are other higher paying customers who might not have the chance to sit down and do their thing because of the laptop lugging crowd, who tend to “clog up” the cafes.

While not ALL cafes in the city have followed suit, there are several which have completely banned laptops. A few others have restricted the ban during peak hours, in order to maximize the flow of customers.

Can you imagine not being allowed to hang out at the coffee shop if you take your precious little netbook out of its case and play with it? I think it’s silly.

Starbucks To Start Serving Alcohol?

H1QmgnaQAOMhUv4Wlp8QKjag4-smallIt gets “curiouser and curiouser,” this thing they call “coffee wars.” In the past year, we’ve been witnesses to all sorts of advertising campaigns from some of the major players in the coffee scene. Who could forget the slew of McDonald’s commercials blasting the supposedly uppity Starbucks? How about the blind taste tests that showed that Starbucks isn’t the first choice of many people?

Anyhow, Starbucks seems to be moving in a different, and somewhat surprising, direction. They are looking to serve alcohol in their shops!

If you think that it is quite strange, here’s another piece of info – the first outlet that will be serving alcohol is also changing its name. From a mere word, Starbucks, the store will be called 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea, inspired by Starbucks. I don’t know, but it reminds me of a beauty salon or a clothing line.

Experts say that this is actually a smart move on the part of the coffee chain, which is struggling with its revenues. In fact, they say that the move is targeted towards increasing sales at the later part of the day. Come to think of it, more people might go to Starbucks at night if they had the chance to drink something of the alcoholic kind.

What bothers me is the price. Starbucks coffee is not known for being cheap. Why would their alcoholic drinks be any different? If so, why should I go to Starbucks for a beer or a mixed drink if I could go to another bar with cheaper stuff on the menu?

What do you think of this development?

The Coffee Bean And Tea Leaf: Anti-Gay?

coffee-bean-and-tea-leaf-9070The noise over Prop 8 has not really abated all that much and now, there is something going on again. I just heard of the news the other day when I read some blogs detailing how the well known coffee shop chain, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, is blocking gay sites on their network.

We all know how people frequent coffee shops not only to have a cup of joe, but also to connect to their Wi-Fi. As a matter of fact, I am at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf right now (albeit outside of the US). So what’s the dish?

Neal Broverman wrote in the Advocate:

Phillip Minton of Unite the Fight — a group trying to overturn California’s Proposition 8 — had booted up his laptop on Thursday at a Coffee Bean location in the Beverly Center area of Los Angeles and was informed he couldn’t access sites like Pam’s House Blend and Towleroad due to “sexuality.” According to commenters at Unite the Fight’s website, ex-gay sites for groups like Exodus and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays are accessible on Coffee Bean’s Wi-Fi service.

In his post, Minton wrote, “Naturally, I wrote a rather angry e-mail [to Coffee Bean's Wi-Fi provider] telling them they need to do a better job determining what is porn or ‘adult’ from what is a news or editorial blog. If I typed in “heterosexual,” would the sites pulled up be blocked? I doubt it.”

The Wi-Fi provider, OpenDNS, responded to Minton with the following e-mail: “We only provide network admins with the tools to block content on their networks, we as a company do not block anyone for any reason. If this user (i.e.business) chooses to block a particular type of content on their network, we cannot interfere. You however, as a consumer, have every right to boycott their business for the way they choose to block content on their networks.”

It looks to me like a case of passing the buck. I don’t know if it’s just that specific branch. I just tried accessing Pam’s House Blend – one of the main web sites in question – and I didn’t have any problems. Is there a Coffee Bean near you? Are they censoring your Internet access as well?

Topless Coffee Shop Burned Down

arttoplesscoffee02wcshRemember that piece I wrote about the topless coffee shop in Maine? Well it was given permits, the council approved its operations; so it has been up and running for a while now. The thing is, it was recently burned down.

Last week, someone deliberately set the Grandview Topless Coffee Shop on fire. Apparently, having topless waitresses and waiters proved to be too hot to handle for someone. CNN carried the story:

The blaze consumed the risque, small-town business shortly after midnight, said Vassalboro Fire Chief Eric Rowe. He described the flames as “severe” and said the building was a “total loss.”

“I really liked it here,” waitress Krista Macentyre said after learning the cause of the fire. “We weren’t hurting anyone. I don’t know why someone would do something like this.”

The shop’s proprietor, Donald Crabtree, said he is determined to rebuild. “This is home” to a lot of people, he said.

For Crabtree the coffee shop literally was home. He and his two daughters, their two boyfriends, and his two infant grandchildren lived in quarters attached to the Grand View. The fire forced them to relocate to a motel.

While I was never really sold on the idea of a coffee shop with topless service workers, I do not think that anyone could really wish this on the owners of the shop. After all, just because someone’s offending your sensibilities does not mean you have to strike this way. More so, some people actually enjoyed having their morning (or afternoon) coffee in this shop. Our best wishes to them…

On A Starbucks Quest

dscn17913And I thought I was addicted to coffee! Have you heard of this guy from California who is on a quest to visit every Starbucks store in the world? Rafael Antonio Lozano Jr., who now goes by the name Winter, started his quest way back in 1997. I was actually a bit surprised to hear that because it is only now that I came across his story.

Anyway, to date, Winter has visited around 9,100 Starbucks store in various countries. He is currently in the United Kingdom, where he is hell bent on visiting 400 locations spread all over England, Scotland, and Wales. His activities have even created a new word:

Starbuck also Starbucking; to purposely visit Starbucks branches.

After his Great Britain “tour,” Winter is set to go Starbucking in other parts of Europe – Spain, Germany, and Portugal. So what does this coffee addict (or maybe Starbucks addict?) do when he visits a Starbucks? He says that in each branch that he visits, he orders a cup of regular brewed coffee, takes a picture, and then of course, documents it. He has a web site, aptly named Starbucks Everywhere, where he posts his pictures and writes about his endeavors.

I paid it a visit and I think that he could use some help in web site design, seriously. You can’t complain about the content, though. I love his entry on the Stone House Square (photo shown above), which, according to Winter, is the prettiest store in all of Maryland.

Anyhow, if you want to follow his adventures, visit his web site and join in the fun!

« Previous PageNext Page »