I shared my first Klatch Coffee experience with Hugo, the man who introduced me to this wonderful place. Klatch is defined as a social gathering, especially for coffee and conversation, and it was defined by Hugo as something along the lines of a social experience, which I think aligns perfectly. Klatch, as the most famous coffee shop in San Dimas, is into everything fair trade. Something that you would not expect is that Klatch Coffee Inc. is the largest wholesale coffee company, a specialty coffee roaster who specializes in single-origin coffees and world best espresso blends.
Although I’m not even the biggest dessert person, once I saw the s’mores kit option I was too intrigued to pass it up. Hands down, this was the most unique and creative dessert idea I’ve ever seen at a coffee shop. The s’mores kit came on a round wooden board with two wooden skewers, each with four marshmallows. The entire assortment of supplies was enough to make four extra-gooey s’mores sandwiches, with eight gram crackers and four squares of Hershey chocolate. I wish you were able to chose which type of chocolate you received because I would have preferred a bit of dark chocolate to balance the flavor out with a tad of bitterness, but I know that milk chocolate is much more traditional and preferred by the majority of sweets-lovers. It even came with a mini campfire for you to roast the marshmallows! The black pot had some type of flammable pinkish-purple keratin gel that one of the baristas lit for us, producing an entirely blue flame. This crackling flame licks the marshmallow to a perfect toasted level right at your table!
On to the drinks. First, we ordered our classic: a hot soy chai with a shot of espresso. The tea is pre-spiced and on the sweeter side of the chai scale, steeped with brown sugar and vanilla. The chai smells like velvet (how is that possible?) and spice. Maybe it’s the smooth velvet appearance of the light-tan foam? The drink itself is very smooth. In fact, it goes down so smoothly that it feels light, as if drinking a chai flavored cloud. This sweetened chai tea has a lot of strong flavors, all while maintaining a calm, balanced, mild flavor.
The second drink we ordered on a whim because of a San Dimas Newsletter we saw posted near the register, which listed The Naked Verbena on the seasonal menu. The picture sold me before I even read the description, which stated “This 2003 USBC Winner is a Klatch favorite! The combination of lemon verbena, lemon zest and simple syrup make for the perfect summer pick me up.” They make The Naked Verbena by pulling two espresso shots and throwing it in a shaker with lemon rind. They infuse with leaves and shake everything with ice before they run it over simple syrup to create a layered look (note: make sure to stir before drinking). The Naked Verbena is an espresso dominant beverage, and the sweetness comes from the simple syrup. Good to know: it has no milk, and therefore I did not have to compromise any flavors by switching out for soy or almond milk. The Naked Verbena was innovative and very different from anything I’ve ever experienced, being the first time I’ve ever tasted refreshing hints of lemon in coffee. Very fresh and sweet, while the espresso overpowers the simple syrup in a perfect balance that dances on your tongue and confuses your taste buds to a point where they are frantically running around with excitement and end up crashing into each other. It tastes like it could be a tea, but you know it’s actually espresso. A perfect refreshing iced drink for summer.
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If so, you’ll be delighted to know that The Caffeine Addict is now on Twitter! If you’d like to, please follow @CaffeineFoodie for short versions of what’s posted here, mostly just witty taglines about wherever I happen to be drinking coffee, tea, and chai.
BONUS: If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll get to know which coffee shop/cafe I am going to be writing about BEFORE it even ends up on WordPress! And you’ll get to see if these locations also have Twitter accounts that you can follow, since I’ll be tagging each location on Twitter as well.
Let’s see how this goes! The hardest part? Character. Limit.
The chai at Samovar Tea Lounge, like many other chai teas, is a black tea and spice blend. In the chai, they put a mixture of cloves, cardamom, black tea/English breakfast tea, cinnamon, and ginger. One of their special features is the taste freshness and strong flavors that come from brewing consistently throughout the day in large copper pots.
Samovar has both traditional and vegan versions, with almond and coconut milk for the vegan, and the vegan is visibly darker than the original. They came up with the recipe themselves and are the new shop on the block, having been open for just a few weeks. There are three other locations, but those are more restaurant style.
The ceramic cups were designed by a company in Oakland specifically for Samovar, smooth on the inside and texture on exterior. Interestingly enough, they designed the cups before the space. The design is clean, organized, and simple. The colors are white, khaki, tan, and beige, with lots of limestones. You sit on very smooth and well-finished white finished concrete blocks anchored against a white wall for seating.
We could smell the chai as we walked by, which is how we ended up walking inside. We found out they only served chai and tea, choosing to be specialized and serve a niche market. They specialize in full-body caffeine through tea, rather than the caffeine effects of espresso and coffee.
I ended up at the Epicenter Cafe on Harrison Street in San Francisco for a few different reasons. First, I was alone in an area of the city I’ve never ventured, and thus immediately defaulted to finding a coffee shop. Second, this was the closest cafe to where I ended up. Third, they had four stars with 365 reviews on Yelp, which lead me to believe they must be good. Fourth, when I got here they had a hand-decorated sandwich board outside that said free-wifi, which was more than just a plus; it was a necessity due to the fact I have no idea how long it will be until Hugo picks me up. Fifth, I had never heard of it and ideally want to try every boutique coffee shop in San Francisco.
For starters, the first thing I noticed on their menu was that all espresso drinks come with a double ristretto shot (this is how I knew I was in the right place). All of their espresso is an Italian Rosetta/Italian Ristretto style, so when it pours it has a nice crema and is deliciously strong. All of their coffee and espresso is medium roast, which worked well. For espresso Epicenter Cafe pours Chromatic Coffee Company’s Gamut, which is their chocolate creamy butterscotch espresso. The description sold me instantly.
The barista recommended the Cubano, which is a cappuccino with a sugar base. They take a shot of espresso, add brown sugar on top, and press them together to get ready to pull. This heats the sugar on top as the water goes through, giving it the toasted sugary taste. The brown sugar melts on top as the espresso seeps through. I ordered it with soy, which is one of their two non-dairy alternatives. I was about to get it with almond milk, but I was told that the soy looks better for pictures, and so I was swayed.
I was able to taste the brown sugar/caramel flavor immediately on the first sip. There was a short, decadent layer of foam on top with a Rosetta (the leaf/floral looking) design. The barista is able to obtain this Rosetta design only if the milk is perfect, which is when the design basically draws itself as the milk is poured in. You need to have the milk perfectly textured to accomplish a beautiful design. The micro-foam was smooth with a velvety texture. In case you were curious about what I meant by micro-foam, you should know that it was described to me today as when you steaming the milk you let air into it a tiny bit, so that you get the same texture all the way out, which is opposite of Starbucks’ method of scooping the foam out unevenly.