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Legit Coffee

The quest for enlightenment through coffee.

Tag Archives: cafe

mattbI think it’s important to start this article by mentioning a little about myself. I am one of those guys who enjoys walking into a shop and ordering “the usual.” I find what works, and I get it: Vic’s = Chicken Pad Thai (Mild) with an Extra Large Boba, Parks = 4 Chicken Tacos and a XX Amber, Work = 3 aspirin and a whole lot of interns shutting up. Every time I walk into a business I haven’t been to before, Cheer’s-like delusions fill my head.

So it’s no surprise to readers of this blog that my go-to drink is just coffee. Black. Adding cream or sugar is not an option, and flavored creamers turn my stomach in a way generally reserved for thoughts of catching one’s parents mid-coitus.

However, yesterday I finally made my way into Tiago off Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea. My friend Scott has been trying to get me to stop in there for nearly a year now, and I finally found myself on foot in the area (parking can be atrocious) so I was able to stop in. I walked to the bar and out of my mouth came the words, “Iced Coffee.”

I felt a shudder run through my body. Why had I said that? What was I hoping to accomplish? In my history (with very few exceptions) Iced Coffee means Cold Coffee, and that is a horrible thing tasting of rust and oil. Even worse, lots of places in Los Angeles can get away with it as the coffee culture here is only recently starting to bloom. It’s hot, and people want to cool down.

I handed over a couple bucks for a medium and made my way outside, and was halfway down the block before I even ventured a sip. I often make odd, spur-of-the-moment decisions, but I was afraid this would end up being one of my least favorable.

But I was wrong. Tiago’s iced coffee was good. I will even venture to say it’s the best iced coffee I’ve ever had. I will get it again. I will probably go out of my way to get it today.

It was obviously cold-brewed, smooth and packing a full mouth feel. Caramel tones formed a strong front to each sip, giving way to a mocha-like finish. It was so good that when I finished the cup, I called the store. They revealed to me that they use an 18 hour cold-brew process, which really helps bring out the flavors while taming the acidity that generally plagues cold coffee.

With their goods validated, let me elaborate on their store. Tiago offers plentiful seating (both indoors and outdoors) for people to sit and read or work on laptops. Back in the day, I recall an internet cafe in their location, which probably accounts for their plentiful electrical outlets (another rarity in coffee shops recently). Inside they offer an extensive menu of drinks and food, even carrying some coffee accessories such as Chemex’s and Hario kettles. The staff that I spoke with were friendly and knowledgeable, and warmly asked me right away when I inquired about their roasts if I was a “coffee nerd” (they currently carry both Handsome and Intelligentsia).

I highly recommend stopping into this location whenever you are in the area, you’ll see me there, typing away sipping on “my usual.”

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NathanIn my previous post, I commented that I might visit Blue Bottle and might also return to Four Barrel to see what was going on. I did both, so here are the results.

Blue Bottle I may have mentioned that one of the worst espressos I ever had was at Blue Bottle, but that, in fairness, I had been warned it was a weird one. Rather syrupy, as in cough-syrupy. No biggie; it was an experiment. This time I had their house espresso roast in a macchiato and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Four Barrel Here’s the real story. Thinking I really should investigate, I went back shortly after writing about the awfulness I experienced here.

The weirdness, if not awfulness, continued. I watched the barista this time and learned a few things. One issue may have been that he seemed to be leaving grinds out for a while, including taking the excess from his portafilter and putting it back in with fresher grinds from the grinder. It did not seem to me that the turnover rate was so high that this was a good idea.

Odder was that the barista did not seem to tamp with much force at all, which may explain what appeared to be a fast-pouring shot, an odd crema, and the strongest espresso I can recall. The stuff really punched me. It tasted kind of over extracted — less sour than last time, but hard to discern any flavors other than ka-pow.

It may be that you go there and find this a pleasant experience. Perhaps it would be for me as well in a latte. The funny thing is, I like strong espresso, but while not exactly bitter or sour, I couldn’t really taste any pleasant flavors at all.

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I love coffeeJaKe and have since I was a wee lad. “Yeah, so?” I can hear you thinking. But I have a terrible confession to make: I did not order a proper coffee drink until my 28th year of existence.

Despite my fervent desire for good coffee, it had always been a complete mystery to me. As a child I survived on the dregs of mass produced church coffee and the occasional cup of Folgers home brew. (What sort of asteroid do they have to mine to find flavor crystals anyway?!) But every once in a while I would stumble upon a cup that would truly tantalize my mind with the coffee possibilities.

After setting off to see the world outside of the small town where I had grown up and learned my adoration for coffee, I found myself in the coffee capital of the world, Seattle. Not wishing to appear to be an ignorant fool or, even worse, a poser, I shied away from the delights of any coffee based drink and really who could blame me? This was something far too important. The ordering of even the most basic of coffee drinks was a thing of reverence spoken in the Not-Quite-Italian Not-Quite-French language of the almighty Barista. For years I toiled in that city watching the coffee priests work their arcane coffee magicks. I watched as legions of my friends fell to the sway of the coffee bean. Some legitimately found coffee knowledge. Far too many others dabbled and became addicted to the source, craving it without the power to really understand why it was such a delicious wonderful thing.

How is one supposed to navigate these treacherous waters when it seems like everyone else has sailed so far ahead?

The best thing to do is to keep in mind that you are not the only person out there who is trying to figure it all out. I have just recently begun working my way through the twisting ins and outs of the coffee world and there are countless others. The goal is to keep things simple and build from the grounds up. For as with all journeys it is the first step that is the most important. Luckily for us, it is also probably the easiest.

Go into a cafe where the wait staff is personable. This attitude is almost always linked with someone who is willing to help you grow in your coffee knowledge. Ask what they have on ‘drip’ (this is a fancy way of saying basic brewed coffee).  If they have multiple choices ask the staff which they would prefer. Asking questions is the basis for gaining knowledge and critical thinking is the basis for gaining wisdom. Order a ‘small’ cup of the coffee they suggest. They might look at you oddly when you call it a ‘small’ but they will almost always follow the look up by telling you what they call the small size. With your newly acquired information in hand, respond confidently with “Yes, one of those, please.” Next, make a note of the name of the coffee and find a space with few distractions. (Caution: If you have followed the delineated steps, you have ordered a hot cup of coffee. It will, unless by some terrible disaster, be hot). Take a small sniff of the steam coming off the cup, then follow this up by inhaling a small bit of steam into your mouth. You can get a good idea of the flavor of the coffee with this tiny little breath. For now let the questions of where the beans are from, what kind of roast it is, or whether you can taste all the underlying tones escape from your mind. Lastly, take a small sip and merely decide whether you like or dislike the flavors. If you don’t enjoy the flavor of this first cup you are not required to finish it. After all, good coffee is about nothing more than enjoyment.

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