On those days you need more them your regular morning dose of caffeine I think it’s perfectly acceptable to go out and treat yourself to a second cup. Especially when these days fall on a Monday, and especially when these Mondays fall after great weekends that include visiting any sort of festival (in my case First Friday Oakland Art Walk and the Hardly Strictly Music Festival).
I decided to go for a relaxing walk to The Creamery, which I had happened to walk past last week and couldn’t get off my mind. The triangular outside looked inviting and I couldn’t help but be intrigued (you would too if you saw what I meant). When I walked in through the patio and up to the counter I saw the large-and-in-charge espresso machine to my right and instantly knew I’d made the right decision.
I ordered an iced soy dirty chai latte. They make the chai in house and they serve Ritual Coffee, which is a local roaster. Their chai is much more mellow than what you’d get at a Starbucks, and it’s much more of a tea drink than anything else. It had a thick layer (far more than just a sprinkle) of ground cinnamon on top, which slightly dissolved into the drink over the course of my lunch. Kind of. Not really, but it moved around. There wasn’t much soy, meaning it was a lot less thick and creamy and a lot more about the chai. What was different about this chai was the use of ginger and cinnamon, which gave it a subtly kick. Next time I think I’ll try one of their espresso centered beverages.
Since I was starving, on my lunch break, and feeling like pampering myself on today’s outing, I splurged. I also ordered the Strawberry Banana Nutella sweet crepe with a thick fresh vanilla bean whipped cream dollop on top. These two thick crepes with fresh fruit and a Nutella drizzle were definitely worth it.
Hello La Boulange Cafe & Bakery in Walnut Creek! Per our craving of fruit tarts and need for caffeine, we hastily decided this was a good, convenient, and reliable option. And once I found out Hugo had never been to La Boulange I knew I had no choice but to expose him to something that was so well known for their pastries (and capabilities of doing them on a large scale) that Starbucks bought them up.
We ordered an iced soy latte and an iced chai latte for here. We got the chai unsweetened and more on the spicier side because I figured we would have enough sweetness with the two pastries and good company. Hugo picked out the passion fruit tart and I got the more savory, but also delicious, pear and goat cheese tart. The passion fruit tart had the same consistency as a lemon tart but with the very obvious passion fruit flavor. They topped it with whipped cream and a raspberry, but I think it would have been more properly named if it actually had a slice of passion fruit (or any tropical fruit) on top instead of the berry. The goat cheese had a purple pear atop; neither of us know what it was that color but it was aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.
The latte has dark chocolate and earthy tasting notes. I was a bit disappointed by the fact the drink I had (very specifically) ordered for here came in a plastic cup, but the deliciousness of the drink that was contained inside made it worth it.
Today I favored the latte because I forgot to enhance my chai with a shot of espresso. I prefer both the taste and caffeine kick of chai’s when they are dirty, but this chai was able to stand on it’s own as a delicious and refreshing spiced ice beverage. The chai was still sweet but with a clear cinnamon-spice kick.
Two drinks (and two pastries) later I feel ready to get started with my day on the right note. That is the caffeinated-and-satisfied note.
Today I took my mother on her first Top Dog experience, as well as taking myself out to Morro Bay again for the first time as a college graduate. Although I know I love Top Dog’s SiD, the Iced Soy Mango Chai just sounded too good to resist. On their menu the mango chai is simply described as “Yum!” Sweet with obvious mango flavor, but not too sweet that you feel like you’re drinking a sugary drink. They give it the mango flavor in the iced drinks by pouring a little Mango Torani Syrup on top, then they mix it in with the rest, while for the hot they steam in the mango syrup with the milk. The double brewed chai by My Chai in Oregon is made with organic spices and is still one of my favorite chias to date. The chai is the perfect compliment, with all the spices making it sugar and spice and everything nice. Together these flavor combinations of mango and chai are surprisingly irresistable after the first sip. You get hooked so fast that, before you know it, you’ve finished and all that’s left is ice! It goes down incredibly smoothly, with the small granular bits of spice dancing on your tongue.
In the spirit of checking things off my SLO Bucket List, Rebecca and I ventured to the last San Luis Obispo coffee shop I had to visit before I graduated: West End Espresso & Tea at the end of Higuera. With the large windows making up half of the walls, this particular SLOcal coffee shop has a different vibe than the rest. I like it.
As the first coffee house in downtown San Luis Obispo, they have welcomed coffee and tea lovers such as myself for over 30 years with the sounds and smells of tantalizing brews.
Good (but also not that surprising) news: they have two different non-dairy alternatives, soy and almond milk!
Espresso Nuovoq is a rich blend of Central, South American, and Indonesian beans roasted to a deep dark brown. These oily beans have lots of oil in them (interesting?), which makes the espresso amazingly strong. In addition to strong flavor, these beans produce a complex full-bodied brew with a thick rich crema. Apparently West End Espresso is known for having really strong espresso. If interested, you can even buy any of their whole beans to take home for yourself.
I went with my favorite; dirty chai with soy. Matt the barista recommended it the hot; how could I resist? They use Big Chai, which is a liquid concentrate sweet chai with vanilla flavoring. One of my favorite chais I’ve tried thus far: full of flavor.
They start by adding it the chai, then they cut it with milk instead of water (which is what Starbucks does, but they aren’t about that). The proportion was about half milk & half with the chai. If I wanted to have even MORE caffeine, they also have a dirty hippy, which is iced coffee, chai, and espresso. They called my drink out as a “Soy Chai Charger” which was new. It felt very light with a generous helping of the foam, which I was excited about simply because of the uniqueness of the frothy goodness on top. The foam actually tasted with chai and is a dark tan color. The dirty chai itself was incredibly smooth, with both the espresso and chai overpowering the soy in a delightful tongue-tickling way.
These six letters written on my clear, perspiring plastic cup are almost as meaningful as the eight letters in I love you. Their iced soy shot in the dark, comprised of chai and espresso, also known as a dirty soy chai, is quite literally morning-changing.
The goods: This is the best dirty soy chai I’ve ever had in my entire life. Simply put. There is a perfect balance between the Kirkland Organic Soy, ice, chai tea, and espresso. The chai is actually a brewed chai tea (not a syrup or powder!) that is shipped over from Oregon, where they make this chai goodness in batches based off a recipe from India. These chai people in Oregon know what they’re doing. Additionally, the way Top Dog pours the espresso is even special, using their house blend 3-2-1, pulling the espresso in three different sections to create the perfect combination.
The downside: This SiD was so refreshing that, and before I knew it, the entire drink was down to just the ice cubes! Initially I accused Hugo of stealing the entire thing when I wasn’t looking, but I am pretty sure that wasn’t actually the case.
I’m intrigued by the Mango Chai, along with multiple other Chai options, listed on their Chai menu. Top Dog Coffee Bar, at 857 Main Street in Morro Bay, California, has an entire section of their posted hand-written menu dedicated to their ten different chai options. Everything about this place is wonderful, ranging from the local art hung on the walls to the friendly and helpful staff to the garden patio to the burlap decor to the large windows to the wooden chairs with coffee cups carved into their backings. Definitely trying Top Dog’s Mango Chai next.