Why haven’t I gone here before?

I didn’t know what to expect, which was likely why I’d never stopped to try out the new coffee shop on the block.  Why had no one in my coffee-loving circle suggested this before?  It’s mentioned on Thrillist’s Things to Do in Manhattan Beach and South Bay, but the change in name somehow felt discouraging (it was previously The Fika Company, as noted in Eater’s article from around this time last year, The South Bay’s Newest Coffee Roaster Looks to Make Waves in Redondo).

The Location & Atmosphere:
After a countless number of times driving by, with curiosity arising every passing, when my childhood friend, Jessica, asked if I wanted to grab a coffee at The Boy & The Bear while waiting for our table across the street at Eat At Joe’s, I jumped at the opportunity.  The three of us ordered the pour-over coffee, as this seems to be what they’re known for, if for nothing more than it’s presentation combining art and science: from copper gooseneck kettles to glass beakers.  I asked if the copper from the kettle and filters was selected for any specific reason, such as an effect on the taste, etc., and she noted that they use all copper to be consistent for branding purposes, as the logo of a boy riding a bear is also the same metallic copper.

My respect for The Boy & The Bear only increased when I saw they have their own roaster within the shop, as it really lets you know that they understand the importance of small batch coffee.  The large space felt inviting; there were large groups of people coming for their daily coffee, both for here & to go, yet it never felt loud or too crowded to be uncomfortable.  It’s both a great place to sit with a good book and meet up with friends for casual conversation.  We sat on the wooden benches outside, and because of my luck it started to drizzle.  The large umbrella protected us enough for a while, until it started to pour and we opt’d to go inside; luckily this gave me the opportunity to geek out and further explain the pour-over process to Jess and her beau.

The Coffee:
Jessica and I both chose the Luz Gonzalez specialty Colombian coffee, supporting the female coffee grower of shade-grown coffee plants 1,730 meters above sea level.  They had four different specialty coffees to choose from, and I was attracted to Luz from the tasting note of “Peach like sweetness” from the display board. Although it was a boutique, I felt the coffee was disappointing, weak, and lacking the flavor I was hoping for.  Even though Jessica and I ordered the same coffee, it was made by different baristas, and mine was significantly more bitter and bland.  It was supposed to have a creamy medium body, but it felt and tasted closer to a light roast, possibly due to the lack of attention to the water quantities and temperature.  Unfortunately it didn’t have any of the exciting stone-fruit tasting notes, which I was expecting from seeing “Peach” in the “Notes in Cup” description.  I did enjoy the sugar cane after taste, and it was a pleasant drinking experience, but I would opt for a different variety on my next visit.

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The Process:
The friendly barista preparing my coffee was new and wasn’t sure of the exact water temperature (she said it was somewhere between 180-200 degrees for all pour-over coffees) but she did check the grind size when I asked; it was a 8 on the scale of 1-11.  They use a 1:15 ratio for coffee to water, while the gram quantity of beans differs based on which coffee they’re using.

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Before pouring your coffee in the cup, they first pour water in the ceramic for heating purposes.

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Then they pour your coffee into both the glass beaker and cup for your leisurely enjoyment!

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The Area:
The South Bay of Los Angeles (aka the “Beach Cities”) really need additional coffee shops, as Two Guns Espresso and The Boy & The Bear Specialty Coffee Roastery are not enough to service the coffee-loving community out here!

Réveille Coffee

Saturday mornings should always start out like this.

Robyne and I ventured to North Beach in San Francisco to get brunch at Park Tavern (which was epic and I highly recommend, especially for the avocado toast). Afterwords we looked on Thrillist’s guide to SF Coffee Shops (Source: https://www.thrillist.com/drink/san-francisco/best-sf-coffee-shops-neighborhood-guide) and saw that Réveille was recommended for North Beach. Since it was pretty close to Park Tavern, we decided to continue our adventure and walk over.

At Réveille Coffee Co., the approach is simple: They offer unparalleled coffee, food, hospitality and service. The staff was extremely friendly and knowledgable, the space was modern, clean and very open, the beverages were high quality, and there was a perfect patio outside with ample seating.

Robyne chose to try their cold brew while I ordered the iced almond milk latte, mostly because I really wanted to try their espresso-based beverages (I also had a shot of straight espresso to really experience the full flavor profiles, without the dilution and distraction from the almond milk). 

While waiting for our beverages we got to talking with the chatty barista Michael who informed us that Réveille only started roasting their coffee a month ago (this is only the 4th time they’ve roasted the Paradise Espresso). They started with a truck, and now have 3 brick & mortar stores and are roasting their beans in the Mission. Prior to roasting their own beans, they were one of Four Barrel’s largest wholesale accounts. Apparently they thought it was going to be a hard switch, but the transition has been going really well for the internal teams. They admit they still have a lot to learn, but their roaster Aaron has put a lot of love into his work and the entire team is embracing it.

The espresso blend was comprised of beans from Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil, and they’re really excited to hone in the technique of getting the espresso exactly where they want it, which goes back to how coffee is really a perfect blend of art and science. The espresso was full of dark chocolate and traditional espresso on the nose, with tasting notes of vanilla, dark chocolate, and orange peel, with the bitterness of cherry. There was a crisp bite to the espresso, which reminded me of the Monkey Bite espresso from Bird Rock Coffee Roaster in San Diego. They use the Califia Barista Blend of Almond Milk, which really smoothed out the intense flavor of the espresso for a perfect almond milk latte.

Fun Fact: The Réveille website offers step-by-step brewing techniques for your at-home coffee indulgence. My personal favorite is for Chemex: http://www.reveillecoffee.com/chemex  

Website: http://www.reveillecoffee.com/

Address: 200 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
   
   

#throwbackthursday

Considering October 21, 2015 is now a day in the past, I felt it appropriate that I #throwbackthursday to my first experience visiting a coffee roasting facility back in 2013. (In case you didn’t see the posts on social media serving as a reminder, yesterday was the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown went to the future to save Marty’s kids in the 1989 film Back to the Future II.) 

Gary, the co-founder of Caffe Luxxe, provided a wonderful tour of their roasting facilities and training area.  While he ground the beans for my latte’s espresso, he walked me through some of the basics, explaining their methodology, history, product line, and barista program. This extremely positive experience has stayed with me and provided the foundation for my interest in quality coffee, in addition to a easy decision when I see menus that say “Serving Caffe Luxxe.”

   
    
   

Simply Presenting Beautiful Coffee

Bar Nine is tucked away on a side street in Culver City with a nondescript facade, with only the number 9 on a gate making it known you’re in the right place. You enter to see a bar and roasting facilities, and despite being a hipster warehouse, the industrial setting is comfortable and inviting.

The coffee of the day at Bar Nine is Kayu Peaberry from Murang’a, Kenya, with intense bursts of boysenberry and passion fruit, and nuanced sweetness. Seeing as how peaberry is my weakness, being my preferred choice for black coffee, I was thrilled to find it also makes a wonderfully smooth cold brew. When mixed with their hazelnut milk, made in house daily, the cold brew picks up a strong caramel color. The hazelnut milk provides the perfect balancing act, with a hint of nuttiness playing off the sweet fruit flavors of the peaberry.  

Bar Nine’s coffee program is unique in that it only has one coffee available per day, which can be served any way you can think of, ranging from espresso to drip coffee. They have three coffees in rotation on the menu, with each week owning one of these varieties. They roast all of their beans in house (if you don’t believe them simply based off the large area of beans in burlap bags, I can vouch for them; I was there during a roasting session). Post-roasting, they like to let their beans sit/rest for a day and a half before having them hop over to the bar. And as if all of that wasn’t enough reason to make this a must-stop coffee shop, they even let you keep the glass jar!   

  
   

Ladurée – go for the macaroons

Although the Ladurée at Harrods in London is adorable, I did not love their caffe latte quite as much since it tasted more of soya than espresso, which was so faint you almost couldn’t taste it. It also was too hot for a latte. The macaroons were so delicious that we ordered seconds, which is unusual for me since I hardly ever eat sweets. I strongly recommend their coconut macaroon, which dare I say it was better than the macaroons at Botegga Louie in downtown Los Angeles. The decor of this cafe is similar to that of Bottega, with the white marble floors, high ceilings, glass cases, and macaroon tree displays. The cups are also quite quaint and match with the overall feel of Ladurée, while reminding me of the teacups ride in Fantasy Land at Disneyland. They even had silver jugs for the milk, with small napkins made for the handle to keep you from burning your hands, which was both thoughtful and visual appealing.
   
   

The one and only time I ordered decaf.

Normally I’m #deathbeforedecaf, but when you’re at the airport, see Klatch Coffee, and remember you need to sleep during the flight.. Exceptions can be made. 
Trust me, it was a semi-difficult decision. I never drink decaf. Never. I usually consider it a waste of money to pay for a coffee or latte without enjoying the benefits of the caffeine. And, as you may be able to gather by my blog’s URL, a large part of why I love coffee is the caffeine. I love Klatch, but I’ve only been able to go once since it’s pretty out of the way (I’ve only been to their location in San Dimas).  
Although my decaf iced soy latte tasted great, it really was not the same experience. However, Klatch was still a much better idea than any of the other food & beverage options in Terminal 7 at LAX. 

 

The Hype: Caffe Vita

Saturday morning I ventured out and tried a coffee shop in Los Feliz, an area I’d only been to for shows at the Greek Theater, star gazing at the observatory, and hiking in Griffith Park. Now I finally understand the hype around Caffe Vita, the Pacific Northwest chain from Seattle serving house-roasted coffee.

I knew from the moment I walked in the door that this was a good idea; the smell hit me right away, the atmosphere was hipster and relaxed, and their espresso was delicious and worth going to Los Feliz for.  

Note, coffee in the morning is always a good idea, but this place felt especially magical; a coffee lover’s paradise. I ordered a large iced almond milk latte to-go, made with their signature espresso – Caffe Del Sol. This blend is rich and complex, with aromas of dark chocolate, butterscotch and praline, and nut-forward tasting notes complimented by a sweet caramel finish. They first filled the plastic cup with ice, then approximately three quarters of the way with almond milk, topped with the deep, silky amber espresso.
Although their almond milk was from a box, rather than made in house, I still enjoyed the latte. Next time I really want to try their cold brew, which appeared to be the most popular item that morning. They also have a growler program, which is something a cold brew lover (such as myself) needs in her life.