Things you see on coffee trips v

May 14, 2009 – 11:58 am

In the vast, high-unemployment north of mich, it’s pre-spring, and we hunt local roast


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Things you see on coffee trips iv

May 13, 2009 – 1:11 pm

Sign says, ‘stinking creek road.’ blogson equates it to a river of starbucks.


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coffee + donut, home junkie-ized

May 11, 2009 – 1:03 am

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hey, kids! come get your hoffmann donut porridge!

why should this blog explain to you the formative concepts behind this beverage — the infamous coffee and a donut — when its inventor pulls back the curtain so much more … dashedly!

it’s an off-duty reporter’s dream, really: loll on the free bar at the world barista championship, drinking james hoffmann‘s liquid genius and jotting down juicy, irresistible quotes as he slings beverages for a small gaggle. he’d used this drink, of course, to help win the u.k.’s 2007 barista championship, and it had long bewitched us for its sheer madcap-ness: morning coffee + fresh baked krispy kremes, in entirely liquid form. hoffmann still says it ranks as his favorite signature beverage evar.

he also said a few other things!

* “Signature drinks need a sense of humor.”
if you don’t have Sense of Humor, substitute seven feet of british barista.

* “Everyone likes it really, because it’s stupid.”
if that were true, everyone would have LOVED that wasabi mocha from the 2005 southeast regionals.

* The barista competition “is a game. It’s not about being a line barista.”
this blog’s line barista has certainly never liquified a donut on our behalf.

* “This signature drink is always something I really enjoyed, even though it is a very wrong thing to do to coffee.”
turning hot krispy kremes into vomitous porridge, one could argue, is also a very wrong thing to do to a donut.

* “The fat in here is really ruining the foam.”
also, our languishing fatty pancreas.

stunningly enough, james also shared the recipe — foolishly opening the door for this blog to home junkie-ize the inspired madness. lacking a centrifuge, which we understand is the donut liquification Tool of Choice, we were reduced to mashing a dozen of the yeasty air-jetted tubulars with milk, then mashing and separating, chilling and straining, straining and chilling, for nearly three days.

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breakfast grows less, and less, and less, appetizing.

the resulting milky liquid — or as we like to call it, “jus de bon-bon” — was somewhat greasier than the stuff james served us in atlanta, but still mostly devoid of the largest deep-fried globules of sin. chilled it, steamed some, poured it into a single-origin shot of rwanda gkongoro nyarusiza espresso, and …

meh. the initial eye-popping taste of perfect donut essence quickly melted into disappointment with how it paired with our coffee. tasted sort of muddy, like a burnt coffee frappe someone had tried to rescue with donut syrup. ration adjustments helped, but the beverage didn’t sing until we tried it with shots of toscano, pulled fairly short (25 seconds) on the gb5 at coffee and crema.

the donut actually hits you first and last. you think, “whoa, oven baked.” then spicy chocolate espresso in the middle and a loooong, lingering lipidic pastry aftertaste, doubtless from the fat. there’s something deeply disconcerting about the method it took to properly steam the stuff — loud and slurpy and nukey. there was also some reflex within this blog to add as little donut juice as possible, when in fact it was a larger portion that settled in and felt balanced. something like two parts jus to three parts spro. something tasted almost wintergreen up top, and something else tasted almost like baked peaches down low.

but perhaps we’re splitting hairs. the customers guffawed and slurped mightily. the home-bar visitors sat and marveled and asked for another. and this blog’s sacred container of liquid bakery is well nigh spent.

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monument to james.

the swan also kills innocent trees

May 8, 2009 – 2:14 am

and they say newspapers are dying.

today’s package of tree pulp brought immortality to the much-discussed underdog swan pour and added significant value to last week’s latte art hoedown — a feature written by a true outsider with a talent for processing the insanity she witnessed. if the live twittering was your fix, and after-blogging your chaser, then lillia’s piece is your hearty course meal.

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web version of the story here. more photos, we hear, are floating around the ether. related review of shannon’s new forest park shop here.

UPDATE: key quote, from octane’s helfen:

“Respect the swan, dude,” Helfen says still shaking his head. “You gotta respect the swan.”

we’ll need two holsters

May 6, 2009 – 10:21 pm

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um. musket-loaded espresso?!

the way this blog’s mypressi twist comments are unspooling, we might just call for a lowbrow pocket spro-off between the new injection-molded marvel du jour and that supposedly pre-existing handpresso device, which appears to be made of, you know, metal parts. also, it’s french!

which is like saying the turkish grinder wins because it’s made of shiny brass.

oddest of all, perhaps, is that the makers of handpresso appear to have begun a photo contest featuring the handheld device in exotic locales. if only the folks at mypressi had tried such a stunt, this blog might have submitted a few

p.s. wait, comments from attentive french people and academics? what is this blog, respectable?

swan flu

May 5, 2009 – 11:12 am

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hoedown stunner. (all images by jake, of j4 studios.)

suspiciouser and suspiciouser is how you might describe these burgeoning southeast latte art competitions in which, no matter how many credentialed latte artists are in the house, the host barista seems to always win! so convenient!

there was jason dominy winning his own grand prize in charlotte, octane’s danielle outpouring some of the world’s best in her own atlanta bar last month and now, most staggeringly, coffee and crema’s alex beating jason AND danielle AND former millrock champion ben helfen in his own bar’s grand opening hoedown.

“throwdowns,” we suppose, are SO last year. latte art HOEdowns, though, have all the throbbing aura of a southern corn-pone pig pickin’.

“rigged?” the word was shouted in humor a few times in what was definitely the weirdest, funniest, most wildly unpredictable latte art bash this blog has ever attended. sundry live twitterers were sure to agree. if you get philosophical enough about it, though, you can actually come up with a pretty good explanation for the alex medina stunner that gives him credit for being gutsy, bringing down the house, pouring a rare latte swan at a crucial turn and grabbing that new grand-prize vario grinder all for himself. shucks, if you’re philosophical enough, you can explain anything!

the wrenching tick-tock hath already been posted here. this blog will boil down the plot twists into handy, over-reaching bulleted observations!

1. consumer judges. two of the three, at least, seemed to be gloriously unconcerned with the subtle difficulties of pouring a sharp, complex tulip. when confronted with a surprise swimming pond animal, however, the impression was profound. in other words, it was an expectations game — a consumer’s expectations. instructive! and, when you think about it, a possibly rad way to judge a latte art competition.

2. homecourt advantage. there’s nothing like the aural explosion that follows an unexpected twist from the local underdog. you might imagine the impact such a crowd reaction would have had on the judges themselves, whose own camera phones whipped out and whose ears were full of badgering opinions when it came down to a decision. alex played the field perfectly.

3. the swan itself. this blog, having sort-of demonstrated the idea a week earlier, didn’t even THINK about trying it in the heat of competition. everyone’s nerves were oddly on edge for such a collegial smackdown, and alex must have been especially nervous. to try the swan, then, after a mere week of practice, and to plop it down against a barista with tattoos of his winning latte arts, was unthinkably gutsy. also, it looked shockingly like a real pond swimmer!

respect the swan. guffaws and head-shaking followed the performance into the night. twitter still hasn’t ceased to carry the swan flu. t-shirts are being made. and alex has a deserved bit of liquid notoriety.

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camera phones out. in greenville, swans and tulips are no small thing.

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a surprise wreath, shannon’s tulip and helfen’s version in two stages.

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octane’s danielle, liquid highway’s dustin.

today in c-n-c: a sense of place

April 29, 2009 – 7:43 pm

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there are now a few dents in the butcher-block counter and some shop regulars who join bar conversations like they’ve been kicking around for years. the low-tech pastry display — glass-domed saucers — seems a stroke of budgetary genius for the juicy baked goods therein. they attract quite the longing gazes. patrons are beginning to nod at one another, and the smell of concrete veneer is gone. the new forest park installation of coffee and crema, in other words, is starting to really feel like a place.

you wanted to suck in your breath and cross your fingers when shannon took the dive and wrapped his life into a freestanding shop. the mall kiosk had put him on the map; the full-blown retail shop might well wipe him off of it — or become the first real espresso gathering spot in greenville, the best thing in coffee for 150 miles. quite the gamble, it felt like. not that this blog is privy to the books. just the sweat and tears.

we were, initially, skeptical of the commercial, non-pedestrian space. but then most of the cozy cafes in the heavily walked corridors of town have all gone spectacularly bust numerous times over, and without so much as a wistful hiss of a decent spro finishing its pull. it’s greenville, after all. folks like their consumption in large, dedicated spaces with ample signage. shannon is negotiating the difference, and seems like he could pull it off. there are streams of steady business — nearby tech-school students have no other options, it turns out, nor do conventioneers a half-mile in the other direction. great. get ‘em in. bring your friends. join a cupping.

the gleaming gb/5 is a rightful rock star in these coffee hinterlands. the gaggle of nascent baristas are learning a craft from scratch, and wide-eyed. we hear there’s a van — a van — of better-known coffee persons cruising up the interstate for this week’s inaugural event. media coverage, too. and this blog, if it hopes to avoid more limp latte art embarrassment, had better start acquainting itself with an explosive commercial steam wand it has never had reason to use.

latte art throwdowns are so last year. hoedowns, though…

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M’lissed it

April 29, 2009 – 1:20 pm

that breathy l.a. times piece on the new hydraulic-laden intelligentsia coffee shop: which is worse, a hyper-focus on gadgets or the miS-cApitaliZation of M’lissa Owens’ first name?!

the mypressi twist ‘inflames’ your grill

April 28, 2009 – 10:18 am

for those of you who think this blog might be overhyping the new mypressi twist a bit, we humbly note that the scaa’s new product of the year also makes an efficacious flame-throwing device. please keep away from children. also, vexatious tom.

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lights your fire! if you know what we’re sayin’ …

the mypressi twist offers pillow service

April 28, 2009 – 9:42 am

that mypressi twist, it meets you in your groggiest morning need. that tsking tom is probably still asleep.

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spro from your pillow!

the mypressi twist is the water AND the coffee

April 28, 2009 – 7:47 am

turns out that when you have a mypressi twist, you no longer need mere water in your espresso tank. we hope this doesn’t further enrage tut-tut tom.

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the beginning AND the end!

the mypressi twist deodorizes your laundry

April 28, 2009 – 12:43 am

staggering though it is to contemplate, this blog has discovered that the mypressi twist even cleanses your linens in a spectacular fashion. no one tell groucho tom.

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cleanses AND twists!

the mypressi twist fertilizes your garden

April 27, 2009 – 11:20 pm

still more foolish antagonism of that belligerently spectacular “sweet maria’s tom,” featuring these awesomely unlimited uses of the new mypressi twist!

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it suckles the flars!

the mypressi twist fuels your vintage scooter

April 27, 2009 – 10:11 pm

turns out this blog isn’t the only one struggling with drool control over the new mypressi twist. thus emboldened, we’ve decided to further contradict the frothing mad “sweet maria’s tom” by noting some totally fabulous applications of the new twisty espresso wonder!

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pocket scooter fuel!

UPDATE: “… my favorite thing at the SCAA Expo!” – noted guru Peter Giuliano.

mypressi a sulawesi

April 27, 2009 – 12:15 am

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injection-molded spro.

then there was the mypressi twist, revolutionary espresso device of simplicity and ease. or so they said.

without question, the idea of brewing espresso with the punch of a nitrogen cartridge in a hand-held portafilter amounts to heretical folly of the most rankling sort. what will all those la marzocco factory workers do when we replace them with the injection-molded pocket BICs of espresso making?

and so, this blog can’t really blame that curmudgeonly tom — who definitely didn’t put the “sweet” in “sweet maria’s” — for lathering himself up with a bit of belligerent zeal soap. “best new product” inDEED.

and yet: the espresso, we insist, tasted non-horrible.

first we heard of the device in atlanta last week, helfen was waving a flyer and talking about how nine bars of espresso brewing pressure was somehow coming from the handle of this thing. turns out your basic whipped cream nitrogen cartridge supplies the oomph. you grind and pack a regular portafilter basket, fill the chamber just above with boiling water, and pull the trigger.

and then spro happens.

it’s tempting to imagine an application in which, just after hitting the snooze button, this blog could roll over, pull a shot INTO ITS BED MOUTH, and be quasi-juvenated from the comfort of our sheets. alas, the craftsmanship and theater of espresso is part of what pulled us in. also, there would almost certainly be some splashing. we don’t mind brown-flecked pillows so much, but the blogwife might.

the shots of hairbender we had from the mypressi convention booth were actually passable, if somewhat sour. this is likely because the boiling water had obviously been poured in far too long before “brewing.” also, it seemed kind of insane to demonstrate such a product with an espresso as demanding as hairbender.

we ended up thinking that, if we could figure out a way to duct-tape it to our mazzer for safe travel, it wouldn’t make a bad camping brewer — for lazy louts. caffeine addicts, in other words. sold on the virtues of industrialized user ease. with a gamer’s weakness for pressurized gas and triggers. yeah, them.

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target demographic = perfectly clear.

things you see on coffee trips ii

April 26, 2009 – 1:44 am

sumatra: it’s an island, a coffee country and now a truck-stop gas-pump advertising symbol with some mysterious “east asian” pull.

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Things you see on coffee trips

April 25, 2009 – 11:32 pm

Headed back from charleston, on a part-coffee mission. Sign: ‘Prosperity, 11 miles.’


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illustrated tales of the wbc

April 20, 2009 – 11:34 pm

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* chicago’s mike phillips, who seemed to be the one american with an actual probability of winning the world barista championship, ended up third by the skin of his teeth but still managed to capture all sorts of adoring hyperbole from the attendant insiders. did you know, for example, that the sun occasionally emanates from his forehead? or that he brews espresso into his bare hands, causes competition judges to lapse into doe-eyed daydreams and looks equally good lolling about with white ear flowers and cutie barista females? you get the idea. for all the raving this blog heard, though, it was often more about mike’s technical wizardry (stunning, ’tis true) than things people had tasted. we had some shots of mike’s rwandan spro, from another barista at the intelly booth. it was … balanced. red fruits and earthen walnuts. we did not, it should be noted, gaze in wonderment like the judge above.

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* now-former world champion stephen morrissey walked out of the pounding, chockablock “wedding” “reception” for those globetrotting newlywed barista zombies and cursed cheerfully in this blog’s face about the teeming nature of the crowd. then he spotted the blogdaughter, clinging shyly to our left hamstring. he covered his mouth, widened his eyes, and apologized profusely. but really. it was no problem. when we got in the car later that night, this blog simply told its progeny, “don’t listen that that Bad Man. he’s from SCOTLAND.”

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* ben helfen is a t-shirt junkie like you love your grandma. came helfen, trotting across the vast slab of intermediate convention space all a-grin about all kinds of t-shirt meta-humor. see, the current ireland barista champ, apparently, disagrees with the now-former ireland barista champ, whose snobby comment about espresso spawned its own ironic, ben helfen-promoted t-shirt. thus the referential, inside-joke spin-off uber-tee! and if that sort of random linky irony isn’t obscure enough for you, there was also the slayer espresso machine tee. graffiti paint over vintage batman logo. so random! so cool!

which, we suppose, puts helfen in the decidedly pro-slayer camp when it comes to this new machine. other seasoned barista competitor persons from norway = decidedly unimpressed.

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* korean finalist lee jong hoon, having captured the quailing hearts of c-n-c‘s shannon and his korean wife youngwha, was clearly feeling the weight of expected glory shortly before his final routine, pacing back and forth as he did before the gaping restroom depot. the distraction of his fans, however, conveniently allowed this blog to become youngwha for convention floor-pass purposes while the korean flag-wavers did their effervescent best stageside.

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* swedish cowboy barista fan club. it does, apparently, exist.

bleary, slapdash update

April 19, 2009 – 9:02 pm

gwilym: the guy somehow more self-effacing than even the last two aw-shucks champions, and still firmly in possession of the trophy.

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April 19, 2009 – 6:22 pm

Spring’s green is lickable and glows like a stage-lit grasshopper when you’re coffee-fed on the interstate from the wbc


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Gwilym wins

April 19, 2009 – 4:49 pm

The professorial pub owner takes it. Now a dynasty in britain. A humble dynasty.


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Blig

April 19, 2009 – 3:33 pm

Blogbody in shock. Massive dough/curd spro from alterra caps our expo binge. Blood like syrup, mind like tapioca.


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the wbc forces us to speak in bullets

April 19, 2009 – 2:38 am

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meme of the world barista championship so far: vitamins. we hear they help with the over-caffeinated jabbers, the undernourished headaches, the shouting-at-the-party voicelessness AND the convention-trade-floor knee pain.

* what strikes you about the much-ballyhooed u.k. barista champion gwilym (rhymes with “swill ‘im”) davies is that he doesn’t act much like a barista — not the english-speaking versions anyway. more like a cheery pub owner who reads kant in his spare time. a tweedy professor, but with more street smarts. a street-wise bloke, but with more twinkly humor. this seems non-incidental. the presentation, at the highest levels of barista competition, seem to reflect more and more the character of the coffee being tasted. so gwilym plays along, describing buttered toast and jelly in his espresso (ha! ha! like breakfast in shropshire!) and then doles out the envelopes: judges’ choice signature drink flavors. and then you think, “wait. that seems hard.” none of the hipster condescension, all of the humble artisan.

* what turned our head about the finalists: (a) no scandinavians, (b) two obscure coffee countries (korea and hungary) and (c) very nearly a producing country in the mix (guatemala rumored to be a close seventh). all firsts?

* what stunned about the other most drooled-upon competitor — chicago’s mike phillips — was the compact, hyper-controlled mastery of technical skills and the easy, man-on-the-street way he could talk about a scintillating coffee. almost like a home espresso junkie on steroids. oh wait! there was the rwandan espresso, chosen a mere two weeks ago and pulled with a 17-gram dose for his spro and cappuccino drinks. then an unprecedented grinder adjustment (!) and a 19-gram updose for longer espresso shots separated halfway through into two separate vessels. the front half: served cold, with augmenting ingredients of its own. then the deep dive, the warmer half with its own complementary substances. we’re pretty sure some judges were gobsmacked: several seemed openly awed when he made the finals.

* what stuck about the massively overpacked counter culture coffee party was the peanut shells that kept tumbling down people’s sweaty shirt collars as they talked and spat. also, the danish creative troubador linus torsater, of coffee collective, who talked as warmly of the residential coffee-buyers on his block in copenhagen as a baker speaks of his baguette patrons.

* what popped about the exhibition-floor coffee from burundi was the sparkling currant front end and the softly tapioca back end. burundi?!

* and so, there was the congealed mass of people in the counter culture training loft, the chummy gaggle of roasters in a downtown sports bar (?!) … and a pensive group of three in a booth at a far-flung pub where craftsman cheese and single-malt options ruled supreme. guess which venue suckered this blog into a bleary early-morning denouement?

World Barista Championship Finalists

April 18, 2009 – 5:36 pm

Usa, uk, ireland, canada, and the underdogs: korea, hungary – this blog’s last name’s country of origin!


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Sadness, donut

April 18, 2009 – 2:59 pm

This blog cruelly shut out of expo hall. Thus forced to drink hoffmann’s infamous coffee/donut bevg.


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ATL or bust

April 17, 2009 – 2:42 pm

and let’s be very frank here: there’s a strong chance it’ll be bust.

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either-or

April 17, 2009 – 10:42 am

the strange thing about the world barista championship landing in your back yard is that it forces you to decide: how nuts am i, exactly? definitely not nuts enough to pay $1,000 for entry at the newfangled coffee “symposium,” where industry luminaries (but apparently not the working stiffs at both ends of the coffee chain) wrestle with Questions of Grave Import. it could just be this blog, but didn’t the people on the margins — the innovators — hold their high-level think-fest last fall, and for a non-punitive price?

also just barely not nuts enough to attend what was sure to have been the flowing latte art Canaan of the Year So Far. to be clear, this blog would normally be plenty nuts enough to loll on such a bar and gawk and jaw and swill all the artyness for a half-night. but that would have required ditching our own thursday night crowd, 20-deep, lined up at the home bar, drinking shots and washing cups and passing them back over people’s heads. hm. crash the bash or pour home art for thinkers and chums? it was a close call!

funny. by our watch, both of these maximal atlanta events are pretty much over by now. and yet there’s very little on these interconnected global webs to tell us how maximal they really were.

but definitely nuts enough to haul the blogfamily down for three days, gaze till we’re slack-jawed at the costumed barista practitioners from far-flung hinterlands like singapore and ukraine, pay our respects at the marriage feast of those ascendent barista zombies and maybe sniff about for exhibition floor passes. looking for where coffee and people mix well.

UPDATE FROM ATL: startlingly, the people who actually attended the aforementioned symposium seem to be uniformly raving. we’ll work on deciphering the particular things that they’re raving about.

snorfle

April 10, 2009 – 5:38 pm

there comes a time in a man’s life when he is asked to serve as barista, for a crowd of 250, with a wobbly home espresso machine capable of producing roughly one beverage every 90 seconds.

he can either wet his pants, or he can start pulling shots. this blog will let you know what how this crushing moral dilemma plays itself out.

UPDATE: he can either curl up in the fetal position with a fresca, or he can pull shots.

VITAL UPDATE: he can either pet a furby while sobbing softly, or he can pull shots.

STILL MORE PERSPECTIVE: also, he can pop in an old enya cassette. or, he can pull shots.

OR: he can hula hoop. with his sister. or else he can start pulling shots!

FINAL UPDATE: after much internal nausea and even some faux wretching, this blog toted its wobbly machine to the aforementioned gig and proceeded to pull shots. rows and rows of shots, toscano plopping happily into porcelain, the dusty-fine grounds mixing with the feverish oils on our bloghands and settling into a sort of all-night cologne. the machine groaning, the din drilling tin wires into our inner ear, the drain tube trickling, the ankles pulsating, the dry ice burning, the spirits rising as the crowd begins to thin and then falling because, “oh no, they’re gone.”

which is when a seersucker unicorn leapt through the room, lapped some espresso from some lady’s hand, and then we turned and gave our furby a little pet. sob.

paris: spro happens

April 6, 2009 – 11:37 pm

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consider how much more effectually those frenchies do espresso advertising and how much worse the coffee actually tastes … and you end up with quite the cognitive gap.

also, a market opportunity of staggering opportunity. think about paris: a jam-packed capital city of people perpetually on the move, of ever-present gaggles of jet-lagged tourists, of natives long accustomed to throwing down shots and snobbily defending the finest of foods — and nothing but lungo-lungo espresso gushers at every brasserie in town. a well-placed espresso bar of superior product would have to be one of the most logical things imaginable.

the right-bank soluna, “cafeotheque de paris,” is making an admirable stab. it’s like your grandma’s kitchen, if your grandma was an effervescent bohemian with a weakness for studly brazilian men and a la marzocco fb80 on the counter.

“this is my school of coffeeology,” she crowed, then dosed her single-estate brazilian espresso into the portafilter and traipsed around the shop waving it under our noses and demanding that we inhale. “see? see?!” she urged. “the best coffee in the world.” there was little tamping to speak of, and … well, what do you know. lungo gushers spurting out of the spouts. we braced for tangy weirdness, but didn’t have to. it was just watery coffee. not bad tasting at all, but also not what we would call spro. merely a pleasantly aromatic, watery shot of peanuty, tea-like coffee.

emilio rodriguez, the “guest barista” from brazil (yes, the producing country) lumbered out of the side room wearing — seriously — a tropical shirt and a juan valdez fedora, ceasing for the moment his pursuit of youtube barista videos. he gamely poured some squiggly latte art. “ooohs” and “aaahs” all around. “see?” she said. “see?!”

gloria, as she identified herself, is essentially pulling espresso the way parisians have always pulled espresso — long and fast — but with vastly better coffee. we have no idea who imports it for her … we tried to inquire a bit, but she bustled off to tutor a distinguished couple on a settee in the corner in the art of discerning “l’essence du cafe,” or sniffing the smelling oils.

most bizarre, perhaps, was the wall of drawers, each labeled with a different coffee-producing country including many to which your high-stepping snobbery may not have been introduced: sudan. ivory coast. the comoran islands. she claimed to have coffee on hand from 72 separate countries. not all for sale or for drinking, mind you, but for the pursuit of “cafeologie.” even with the aid of these globally connected woven webs, this blog is having a hard time finding half that many coffee producing countries.

leave it to a marais cafe, just a couple doors down from the now-trendy chez julien, to introduce paris to specialty coffee — but not at all in the way that the rest of the world conceives of it. the hinged window clacked, notre dame clanged across the seine and a customer forgot to pay, as gloria rambled on about “le nez du cafe.” one of those dreamy-eyed 20-something american girls you see wandering around paris in long flowered skirts stumbled in, inhaled and tried a practiced sentence of french or two at the bar.

“c’est mon universite’ de cafeologie,” gloria chirped. “voyez, voyez!”

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hoffmann tipped us off, informed apparently by his parents. after years of swilling the acrid french espresso, we’re grateful for the reprieve.

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wall-o-coffee.

d-izzy

March 23, 2009 – 12:25 am

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the thing about the free condom giveaway at izzy’s coffee den is that it’s all day, every day. set in grungy asheville, n.c., with troubadors and pandhandlers just out the door, it hardly seems abnormal, those condoms in the condiment dispenser. it is of the place. it is not a stunt.

this blog would not be surprised if some of the chipping, fog-colored concrete cafe floor paint occasionally ended up in a strange and food-grade place — every once in awhile. you can order a beer and espresso in the same glass. a thick-grained bagel. a coarse and aerated cappuccino. this cappuccino, even, is a study in asheville contrasts. on the one hand, it’s made with counter culture coffee. on the other hand, you might have to explain to the barista what a “traditional” should look like.

the exposed conduits and copper piping are of a piece with the artwork, and the mallarme you were just reading, and, come to think of it, the rocky cappuccino itself — all rough and vivid, also somewhat mystical.

izzy’s will make you sit at the dented bar and write this riff in your notebook, and maybe nod off a little, and then leave in a slightly wobbly fashion.