Category Archives: LavAzza

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House Review

Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee HouseWhen it comes to the oldest teahouses, the historical Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House probably has most other locations in the greater Seattle area beat. Built in 1910, the Panama Hotel is over 100 years old. However, the Panama Hotel wasn’t always a tea and coffee house, that particular feature was only added on in the past 15 years, around 1999. As the building’s name states, it was originally a hotel.

According to the historical information found on the website for the Panama Hotel, it was originally built by Sabro Ozasa, a Japanese Architect and graduate of the University of Washington. The hotel was built as a “workingman’s” hotel and has served as a home for generations of Japanese immigrants, fisherman and international travelers. One of the most notable features of the Panama Hotel is the bathhouse found in the basement that was a huge part of the Japanese community before World War II. In fact, it was this bathhouse that attracted many of the hotel’s visitors in the early 1990s, as it was a place to relax after work with their friends. Interestingly, the bathhouse is now the only remaining Japanese bathhouse left intact in the United States, which you can arrange to tour when you visit the Panama Hotel or Tea and Coffee House.

The Panama Hotel itself is still in existence, and unlike the bathhouse, the hotel rooms are still serviceable, so you can stay in one the next time you visit. However, while the Panama Hotel has interesting background, part of the building’s history is bittersweet. Just 31 years into the hotel’s lifespan, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, sending thousands of people of Japanese decent to internment camps in 1942. These families were only allowed to bring what they could carry with them to these camps, so a lot was left behind. However, many people also turned to friends they knew that had a lot of space, and asked if they could store their belongings with them. This is how the former owner of the Panama Hotel, Takashi Hori and his family, came to have the possessions from a number of Japanese families stored in his basement. Sadly, many of the belongings were never claimed after the war ended in 1945.

Peach teaAs a result, many of these belongings now decorate the Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House, providing a look back at the first couple of decades in the 1900s. In keeping with the historical feel of the hotel, the cafe has an old and unique design. There is a lot of exposed wood and brick, black and white pictures of Japantown prior to WWII cover the walls and there is even a window in the floor that allows you to look into the basement where the possessions were stored.

Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to talk to the current owner of the Panama Hotel, Jan Johnson, to find out how she came to own the hotel or what inspired her to add a tea house to the building. However, I did take advantage of the opportunity to sample their tea. I stuck with my usual white tea for this review, and tried one called Peach Blossom. My tea arrived in a glass mug with a net-like infuser full of nearly whole tea leaves. I immediately fell in love with the smell wafting from the cup; it smelled very sweet, like peach nectar or juice – perfect for spring! After the tea had steeped for about three to four minutes, I decided to go ahead and try it out. The flavor was very light, I tasted mostly peach (much like the smell) but the tea had a few floral notes as well. This tea is definitely one of the best ones I have tasted by far, and will definitely have to return for another cup in the future.

I couldn’t let my tea go unaccompanied, so I sampled the Panini Panama. This Panini is made with cheese, tomatoes, artichokes, roasted red peppers, olive tapenade and seasoned with basil and other spices. Just the smell alone made my mouth start to water all over again. Of course, it was excellent, and tasted like a veggie pizza but in sandwich form. Besides tea and Paninis, the shop serves pastries and traditional Japanese desserts like mochi and manju. If you come between 6-8 pm you can also get a tea based cocktail. While the focus of the café is primarily on tea, the café also serves Lavazza coffee and espresso based drinks for all you coffee lovers out there.

SandwichPerhaps it is the old-timey feel of this café, but time simply seems to slow down at the Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House. The slower pace and laid back atmosphere makes this a great place to relax and soak in some Seattle history. The latter of which makes this café a nice spot to take visitors, since it is one of the few places in the area where you can get a history lesson along with your cup of tea.

Coffee Tasting: Lavazza Home Line

Lavazza CoffeeWe recently transitioned our Lavazza product offering to focus on their Home line — a series of blends formulated with home espresso lovers in mind. In addition to large, 2.2lb bag versions of the whole bean Qualita Rossa and Qualita Oro, we now have three new blends for you to try: Gran Crema, Gran Aroma Bar and Crema e Aroma.

Watch as the team tastes these new coffees, then gives us their feedback on their different flavors and how they compare.

Cooking with Kaylie: Mocha Brownie in a Mug

Mocha Brownie in a MugYou’ve probably all heard of the ‘cake in a mug’ trend going around. And, if you haven’t, you should really get in on this action.

Naturally, when I saw a brownie in a mug recipe, my brain replaced the word ‘water’ with ‘espresso’ and I was instantly in love! So, without further ado, I bring to you a gooey, chocolatey, espresso brownie in a mug!

Ingredients

Directions

  • Stir the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt into the mug.
  • Add the oil and water to the dry ingredients.
  • Mix thoroughly, being sure to eliminate any lumps of dry ingredients.
  • Microwave for 1-1.5 minutes, until the brownie is only slightly moist in the center.
  • Let sit for a few minutes before eating, as it will be very hot.

That’s right, my friends. You just made a mocha brownie and only dirtied one dish (unless you count a spoon as a dish but, let’s be honest, spoons are so small that they shouldn’t count!). You’re welcome!

Tasting: E.S.E. Pods

In the search for a clean, caffeinated world, Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pods make a tight little case for themselves. Individually wrapped and ready to rock, they make shot extraction a breeze — and clean up even breezier! But how do they taste?

Since you know we love nothing more than a grudge match, we pit a few brands against each other in this side by side tasting. Using the Saeco Via Venezia, Gail brews up shots with Caffe Umbria’s Gusto Crema, Lavazza’s Gran Crema and illy’s Medium & Dark Roast variations. Watch to learn which, if any, we prefer.

Nitrogen-Flushed Coffee

We offer a couple of different coffee varieties that are treated with a nitrogen flush during their packaging (specifically, Lavazza and illy employ this practice), and we often have folks ask about what this is and why it’s done.

Once a food is processed, it begins to deteriorate immediately with exposure to oxygen. Foods that are high in fat or oil content are especially susceptible to this degradation, as their oils will begin to break down and become rancid in relatively short order. Flushing the package with nitrogen forces out the majority of oxygen and, unlike vacuum-sealing, also provides a bit of packaging protection as well. Nitrogen-flushing is often used with more delicate foods (like potato chips!), but is also very popular in preserving coffee beans.

According to a few different roasters over on coffeed.com, coffee preservation experiments revealed that while packaging the coffee directly after roast did result in the out-gassed CO2 expelling oxygen through the one-way valve, their nitrogen-flushed counterparts lasted longer. In fact, one roaster reported that the shots pulled with a bag roasted 24 days previously still held up well! A major drawback, however, is that the nitrogen flushing process is not considered to be an organic-friendly practice, so roasters that are certified organic cannot employ this technique.

Whether or not you’re cool with this preservation process is sort of personal preference, but it’s something that a lot of large scale roasters practice — even some of the renowned third wave roasters, like Europe’s Coffee Collective. And while the coffee will stay fresher using this method, once the bag is opened, it will age just as rapidly as any other variety … so use it or lose it.

Compare: Double Boiler Espresso Shots – Izzo, La Spaziale & Breville

For folks that dig precision, a dual boiler espresso machine with PID temperature control of the brew boiler is hard to beat. While we tend to shoot from the hip in general around here, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a shot pulled from one of these beauties!

We asked Gail to pull shots from the Izzo Alex Duetto II, La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi and Breville Dual Boiler so that we could see how they compare. No science at work here, friends (hey, old habits die hard!), but we did use the same grinder for each machine (the Nuova Simonelli MCI), coffee (Lavazza Super Crema) and brew temp (199F) to try to nail down a few of the variables.

Watch as we taste and discuss the shots from each of these machines, then rank them in terms of our favorites, flavor-wise.

Cupping: Decaf Coffees

Sometimes you just don’t want too much extra skip in your step, but you’re not willing to give up the flavor of a great cup of coffee. We asked the crew to blind taste the four different decaf coffees we carry — Lavazza, illy, Caffe Mauro and Velton’s — to determine which ones they thought tasted like a good, solid cup of coffee.

If you’re interested in learning about the different methods used to decaffeinate coffee, you can check out this article we wrote a couple of years ago.

Which Brew Temperature is Best for Lavazza Super Crema?

We took one of our most popular coffees, Lavazza Super Crema, and brewed it using different temperatures on theLa Spaziale Mini Vivaldi. While the 204F degree espresso extraction temperature is a general rule of thumb, a lot of single origin/estate beans and even some blends are particularly sensitive to heat and will perform better at a different temperature.

Watch as Gail brews several shots at different temperatures, tasting each to determine the ideal brew temp for Super Crema.