Time for our second round of tastings! In this episode, Gail and Allison taste shots from Atomic Cafe’s selection of espresso-oriented blends and beans.
Watch to find out their thoughts on these new coffee offerings.
Putting our noses to the grindstone and getting our hands dirty like the intrepid reporters that we are, Kaylie and I hit the streets with one question on our mind: What’s all the hullabaloo with bikini barista stands?
As far as we can tell (through very informal polling of other crew mates who hail from different states in the union), this type of business is something unique to the Pacific Northwest of the US — scantily clad ladies serving up java in drive through stands. But is it just a marketing ploy to attract the male population or do they actually serve up tasty coffee?
While these stands are hardly an anomaly in our neck of the woods, it was pretty clear that two high class ladies such as ourselves rolling up to the drive through window at the three different stands we visited definitely was. Since this was our first foray into semi-nude java, we were prepared for awkwardness on our side of the car window, but were surprised to find that the bodacious baristas felt the same way!
Read on to find out how we rated our visits — drink making skills, efficiency, service, hospitality and the overall experience.
“Some Like It Hot”
“Come get your sexy coffee BUZZ on at the Beehive Espresso!”
“Sexy. Classy. Gourmet.”
||Allison’s Rating: Scalding hot to the point where we let it sit for almost 45 minutes before we could put the cup to our lips. We know this changes the flavor but we figured the safety of our mouths was a little more important than getting second degree burns over a cup o’ joe.Kaylie’s Rating: Overly hot and a little burnt.||Allison’s Rating: A bit watery but reached the average drinking temperature right when she served it since she had the decency to ask if we’d like ice in it.Kaylie’s Rating: Closer to the correct temperature and she asked if we wanted ice in it, which was nice.||Allison’s Rating: By far was the strongest and at the right temp cup of coffee. She not only asked if we wanted ice but also offered to make them doubles.Kaylie’s Rating: Best of them all and she offered ice — score! Could drink immediately without saying goodbye to taste buds.|
||Allison’s Rating: Was it curdled steam milk with a tablespoon of espresso or was it just a weak shot of espresso in some milk? All I could taste was a milky concoction with maybe a hint of espresso flavoring.Kaylie’s Rating: I’m not even sure there was actual espresso in there…it just tasted like steamed milk! It also took almost an hour before I could take a sip — way too hot!||Allison’s Rating: A better temperature but still a little weak on the espresso, this drink was passable but not exceptional.Kaylie’s Rating: Once again, closer to the correct temperature and could actually tell there was espresso in this one…we’re getting closer!||Allison’s Rating: Looks can be deceiving because you’d think a girl with star-shaped pasties would give you a mediocre latte, but surprisingly out of all three she had the best — strong flavor and great temperature that would rival any standard cafe.Kaylie’s Rating: Once again, we have the winner here! Right temperature and could taste the espresso with my milk. Plus? Foam!|
|Service Rating||Allison’s Rating:A bit peppy and nervous when she saw us, I’ll give the barista credit when she said she’s only been working at the stand for a month, but I think her talking and rambling got in the way of the quality of our drinks.Kaylie’s Rating: She was talkative and friendly, but she was also nervous and I think her talking led to the long wait time.||Allison’s Rating: Still a bit hesitant but friendly, knowledgeable and more business-like, the barista had more experience and said she’s worked at previous bikini barista stands (i.e. Chicka Latte). She was able to make small talk while efficiently making our drinks.Kaylie’s Rating: She was definitely nervous and made friendly conversation without as much compromise to wait time.||Allison’s Rating: There to get the job done, there was no hesitation about asking what we’d like and how we’d like it but with a courteous smile and small conversation. We got out of there with quality drinks in an efficient timeframe.Kaylie’s Rating: She was very nice. Made polite conversation while she made drinks and didn’t seem too nervous.|
|Timing||3 minutes and 50 seconds||2 minutes and 50 seconds||2 minutes and 30 seconds|
|Comfort Rating||Allison’s Rating: As nervous as the barista was, since this was our first stop we didn’t know what to expect. But once the drinks were ordered, and barista started rambling from nervousness we realized she was just as uncomfortable about serving ladies as we were being there.Kaylie’s Rating: I don’t know if it was because it was the first bikini barista stand we hit or if it was because she had her leg out the window as we drove up, but this stand made me super uncomfortable.||Allison’s Rating: A little more comfortable since we got the first one out of the way, it wasn’t until I saw the Penthouse Posters plastered inside of the espresso stand where I once again wasn’t sure what to expect from my drinks. However, after chatting with the barista she was a little more confident than the last and acted more like how a barista should treat their customers, even with a bit of nervousness in her voice.Kaylie’s Rating: Was less uncomfortable on approach than Java Juggs, but the Penthouse posters on the wall didn’t do my uncomfortableness any favors.||Allison’s Rating: What do we find but a barista with star-shaped pasties and those same yellow hot pants. Let’s say uncomfortable much? Once you start chatting up the barista with your drink order and she responds back with drink-specific questions, you forget about the pasties and are just impressed by the quality of her drinks and how efficiently she got them to us.Kaylie’s Rating: I really wasn’t that uncomfortable going to this one. Which is surprising, considering she was the only one wearing pasties while the others wore full bikini or bra tops.|
|Final Thoughts||Allison: What I expected was basically what I saw: A girl dressed in lingerie (mind you not a bikini), with no real training except for what she was given when she was hired along with telling us that as long as you apply, be naughty and make customers drinks, you’ll get pretty good tips. Definitely quantity vs. quality of their product.Kaylie: She said this wasn’t their busiest stand, but she still makes $100 per 5-hour day in tips. When she works at the busier ones, in Everett, she gets $300-$400 a day in tips. She told us that she’d never been a barista before and they train you if you get hired, which has the only requirement of being ‘pretty’. Also, she said that when you are hired they instruct you to ‘be naughty.’||Allison: This time we actually rolled up to a barista who I believe was actually in a bikini. I couldn’t help but ask if she had been a barista before, she responded by saying she had previously at a Chicka Latte. With a little more knowledge in making drinks, it made me give the business a little more credit for hiring people with experience.Kaylie: This barista made mention of being in school and said she previously worked for Chicka Latte. She seemed generally sweeter and more ‘put together’ than the barista at Java Juggs.||Allison: Once again, the pasties were deceiving but I found that this business used the sex-appeal to their advantage, while still hiring baristas that can slang an ideal Americano and Latte. With themed days, such as Tini-Bikini Tuesday or Fantasy Friday, you can either find this pure entertainment or just wrong. I’ll let you decide.Kaylie: This was by far the best in terms of actual quality and the barista was like a normal girl (pretty but not stick thin). Plus they get extra points for themed days!|
Whether you call it Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee, the java produced through the ‘natural processing’ system (AKA the digestive tract) of this cat-like marsupial from Indonesia has been given high marks (and prices!) in terms of cup quality around the world.
But what many have considered an exotic yet expensive luxury bean is not just costly to the privileged coffee drinker, it recently has become costly to the lives of the producers — the civets themselves.
For those new to ‘cat poop coffee,’ Kopi Luwak ‘is the product in which coffee cherries, the complete fruit of the coffee plant, are eaten by the palm civet cats of the far East, typically in Indonesia. The cats digest the cherries but excrete the inner beans, which are then roasted and brewed as any other coffee bean,’ describes Boughton’s Coffee House.
Historically, these beans were harvested in a natural way — foragers would search the forest floor for civet feces to find these beans. Since finding them was a lot of work and there was an arguably very small supply, it resulted in a high price — a small cup could run between $30 – $50 and a pound of the stuff could cost upwards of $600.
With those kinds of prices and a rise in popularity, however, this novelty bean has been transformed from a happy accident, as it were, into a factory-like production model designed to increase financial gain and meet the worldwide demand. Instead of foraging for the beans in the civets’ natural habitat, they are now caging them and feeding them cherries in order to increase available output.
‘With the sudden rise in popularity, the far majority of legitimate Kopi Luwak coffee sold today comes from grizzly civet cat farms where rows and rows of the enslaved creatures bred specifically for coffee production are kept in small cages and force-fed coffee cherries — ripe or otherwise — until they die,’ states coffeestrategies.com.
This ethically questionable method of harvesting Kopi Luwak has only come to light in the past few years, and there are reports that the average small farmer keeps around 102 civets and collects 550 pounds of processed coffee per month.
Is their flavor worth their high price — in terms of both monetary and ethical concerns? If you’re a fan of Kopi Luwak, it’s something only you can decide … but we think it’s well worth at least a few moments of healthy consideration.
As you walk into your local cafe and notice a 3-year-old sitting in the corner with his mother sipping on what looks like a foamy, velvety cappuccino, don’t doubt your vision: That’s exactly what it is. And because its a fad it’s gotta have a cutesy amalgam of a name, right? Yup — it’s called the Babyccino.
Beginning in Australia about a decade ago, the Babyccino craze recently headed to Great Britain and then leapt across the pond to the eastern US. According to The Brooklyn Paper, the term Babyccino is used to ‘describe a macchiato-like beverage featuring a shot of decaf espresso topped with steamed milk and froth, while others use it to describe steamed milk with foam on top and a touch of cinnamon.’
Surprisingly we haven’t seen this oh so popular trend pop up in every cafe in the west coast quite yet, but many east coast cafes have jumped on the bandwagon and put their own twist to these trendy miniature sized drinks. Running at about $2 for a cup, the price may seem a little steep until you consider the peace of mind provided to mothers everywhere, who can finally furnish their toddler with a drink just like mommy’s.
However, even though they’re cute in size and are said to be kid friendly, not everyone is a big fan of them. ‘There is no reason on earth to have these drinks and introduce caffeine to a younger population,’ said TODAY chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
While some may look at the health factors caffeine could cause in children, baristas themselves are affected by the new trend also. Many explain how the increase of children will affect the coffee shop community negatively. ‘Some baristas do not want to cater that much to kids,’ states a blog on roaste.com. ‘On the one hand, kids are good from some businesses, but if the noise becomes a factor, the home workers and students might take their laptops elsewhere.’
But other New York cafes, such as Sit and Wonder, cater to their Babyccino fans by outfitting their joints with changing stations in the bathroom and a backyard with toys for kids to play. Others, like the Tea Lounge, even offer stroller parking and designated areas for mothers to breastfeed their babies.
We say to each their own; who are we to say what’s right or wrong for a child we’re not rearing? And who’s to say that Babyccinos are only for kids? Bring out the inner child in you and enjoy a few sprinkles with your drink! Also, do you really want to deprive Ruby of her sprinkles on her Babyccino?!
Before the days — or should I say the long nights — of cramming for tests, writing papers and preparing presentations, I’d never even thought of caffeine as an essential element of balancing my life. But in my first years of college, I wanted to have fun! And a daily dose of coffee helped me get all my schoolwork done without impacting my ability to hit the dance floor.
From the beatnik vibe of the Solstice Cafe to the hustle and bustle of the University Village Starbucks (one of their busiest shops, even today), my devotion to java ensured I wouldn’t be running on empty before I hit my next lecture.
It’s not that I was before my time or anything, but since I’ve moved from over-caffeinated college student to … er, over-caffeinated working professional, I thought I’d take a look at what the kids are doing these days. Enter this blog from BestCollegesOnline.com, in which they rate the top 25 college coffee shops in the country that keep our future’s creative juices flowing.
Have you been to one of the coffee shops listed? If so, is it worth the press? What was your favorite java joint when you were in college? Please share in the comments below!
In the world of coffee bean storage, do either of these devices do a better job of keeping your beans fresher, longer? We asked Gail to throw a bag of Velton’s Bonsai Blend into an Airscape and a Coffee Bean Vac, then we pulled shots a week later and two weeks later to see how they held up. Aside from when we opened them for testing, they were securely sealed.
Watch to find out how they stack up!
When it comes to coffee, many may wonder, ‘What’s the difference between coffee and espresso beans?’ Some people think they are a specific strain of bean, while others think that it’s a particular roast. Ultimately, it’s a blend (or a single origin bean) that stands up well under the high pressure preparation that is the hallmark of espresso extraction.
According to the aficionados at Home-Barista.com, ‘Espresso is almost always a blend of beans…The most basic rule of espresso blending is that espresso must have subdued acidity, be heavy bodied, and be sweet enough to balance the bitter and acidic flavors in the blend.’
To better illustrate how different beans might have different flavors (after all, coffee beans are coffee beans, right?), we’ll discuss some general information on basic coffee plants, tastes by region, post-harvest processing and, finally, roasting.
There are two varieties of plants, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica originated in Ethiopia, is typically grown in higher altitudes and accounts for 75-80% of the world’s production. Robusta, on the other hand, is a lowland coffee species that originated in West Africa. It features greater pest resistance and a generally heartier plant, which results in higher overall yields — but its high caffeine content gives it a intensely bitter and inferior taste. Some very carefully grown and processed Robustas can be found in premium espresso blends, however, as they can improve the crema and body. Additionally, human-initiated cross-breeding of Arabica and Robusta, which attempt to blend the low caffeine content and smoother taste of C. arabica with the heartiness and disease resistance of C. canephora, have resulted in new varietals which are highly adaptable, hearty and commonly used in commercial coffee plantations.
Depending on where they originate, the weather, temperature, altitude and soil contribute to different flavors; you can get a general idea of different tastes by region here.
Another element is how the coffee is processed post-harvest. Processes include natural or dry process, wet process and pulped natural.
Dry processing usually takes place in areas with limited rainfall and lots of sun light. This process allows the coffee cherry to air dry on patios before their skin and the fruit itself is removed from the coffee bean. The bean outcome is usually heavy-bodied, sweet and smooth with subdued acidity. It also can develop more crema during espresso extraction.
The wet process requires the cherries to be sorted in high pressure water tanks which then removes the skin but the fruit stays on the bean while it dries. These beans usually taste cleaner, brighter and fruitier.
Pulped natural uses a combination of the wet and dry processes. Beans grown in areas with low humidity allow them to dry faster without fermentation. The end result is a full bodied bean like those of the dry process, but with the acidity of a bean that has been wet processed. The bean usually is sweeter.
Once the coffee is grown, picked and processed, it’s time for the roast! Roasters create different blends with a specific flavor profile in mind. And, since coffee is an agricultural product that changes every season, they play a little mad science by swapping out different beans in the blend in order to maintain a consistent flavor over time.
Roasting occurs in a Four Stage Process: endothermic, first crack, pyrolysis and second crack. For more information on how different roasts inform the end coffee flavor, check out this handy chart, sourced from Kenneth Davids.
Hopefully, this primer provided you with some insight as you’re selecting a blend for espresso preparation. Got questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll answer away!
While we have over 100 different espresso machines at our jittery little fingertips each day, our crew sometimes opts to brew a batch o’ java using a different method. We asked Gail, Bunny, Allie, Brandi and Rade to share which non-espresso coffee preparations they dig the most, then filmed how they do it.
We shot this series over a few weeks and didn’t realize until the slice-n-dice that one very common theme throughout is that all of us lack the precision some folks adore, but we’re pretty sure you know that about us by now!
Watch as each of our trusty compatriots talk about why they like the prep they’ve chosen and make us a cup so we can taste their handiwork. This video is a true homage to shooting from the hip if there ever was one.
Who would’ve thought that the fountain of youth could be found right in your very own kitchen — and right under your nose? Your morning cup of coffee provides more than just a kick in the pants to get going in the morning, it also has positive affects on your noodle!
Studies have shown that drinking at least three to five cups of coffee a day in midlife can cut Alzheimer’s risk 65 percent in late life.
A July 2011 study by researchers at the University of Florida found that ‘coffee seems to have an unidentified ingredient that combines with caffeine to reduce brain levels of beta-amyloid — the abnormal protein that is thought to cause the disease,’ published the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In early studies, USF researchers believed that caffeine was probably the ingredient that provides protection because it decreases brain production of beta-amyloid. However, the same study also claims that it may not be the caffeine itself but a combination of the caffeine and coffee’s compounds that, when combined, increases blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor). Alzheimer patients are known to have low levels of GCSF.
In their studies, long term treatment with coffee enhanced levels of GCSF and memory in mice with Alzheimer’s. Three key benefits researchers found were:
- GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease
- GSCF creates new connections between brain cells
- GCSF increases the birth of new neurons in the brain
While this has only been tested and verified on mice, it does demonstrate that coffee can have a strong impact on the progression of Alzheimer’s, to the extent that it’s worth more study. Dr. Chuanhai Cao, one of the study’s lead authors, said, ‘Together these actions appear to give coffee an amazing potential to protect against Alzheimer’s — but only if you drink moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee.’
But who’s to say adding those extra cups of coffee won’t give you a memory like an elephant when you’re in your 90s? Better safe than sorry.