Coffee: Coava Coffee Portland

Admittedly, I am an overzealous coffee drinker. I drink between 6 and 9 shots of espresso per shift at work and I can’t stop blogging/tumbling/tweeting about the delicious coffee I get to drink.

I have no intention of stopping.

So I am in Portland and the one and only thing I really wanted to do while I was here was go to Coava Coffee. I went last time I was here (but never got around to blogging it- oops!) and loved it. Friends of friends run the place and I was recently informed that one of their baristas, Sam Purvis, won the Northwest Regional Barista Competition. Having witnessed a day of the Southwest competition I know that is a big deal. Fingers crossed he would be working! I was just dying for a cappuccino at the SW competition last weekend and here was my chance to get a campion cappuccino!

What luck! He was working! And to be honest, I felt a little starstruck! This guy won the competition in (what I imagine is) the toughest region in the country. Best Barista in the Northwest! Amazing! I decided to go for the gold and get two drinks like I did at Intelligentsia last week. A cappuccino for here and a latte to go. I got their Costa Rican espresso in the cappuccino and the Honduran in the latte. A good choice, I think.

Everything about my cappuccino was just right. It was perfect and creamy, the espresso was rich and smooth and not too vegetal… and, as always, didn’t last nearly long enough. The latte was sweeter and the espresso even mellower- in a good way. It just tasted like perfection. The milk was steamed right to the sweet spot and the proportion of milk to espresso was spot on.

I was so into my coffee I hardly noticed my surroundings. Although, I do wish Coava had more seating. It’s a pretty big, open space but it feels awkward when there is nowhere to sit. Trevor and I ended up standing and drinking our cappuccinos near the bar- it was fine, but I think it would have been weird of I had been alone. I rank quality of the coffee far above the feel of a space, so if I lived in Portland I would make Coava a regular hang out, but it’s not hard to see why some people wouldn’t.

In conclusion: I hope we go back tomorrow! (And also, this is not the last time you will hear about this cappuccino.)

This last photo is from my visit in January- I really love this image and couldn’t bear to leave it out!

Coffee: Intelligentsia Pasadena

Little in this world brings me more pleasure and joy than a delicious, well crafted cappuccino.

A perfectly crafted cappuccino is what I always expect and what consistently delights me at Intelligentisa.

Everyone knows Intelligentsia is my favorite. It’s everyone’s favorite. I lived around the corner from the shop in Silverlake (but was too poor to go as often as I’d have liked) and I make a point of stopping at the Venice Beach shop any time I am within a 50 mile radius. The Pasadena store is the newest one- I’ve heard from a few different people that it’s the best one… I don’t know that I would argue that point.

Each store has a distinct personality. The tile floor of the Silverlake shop is the coolest thing in the world, but the baristas are decidedly unfriendly. There are often celebrities hanging about and always a surplus of bearded hipsters.

The crowd at the Venice store is just as hip, though a little more laid back. The decor is radically different and I’ve had much friendlier service there. I’m a little partial to the Venice store because that’s where the instructional videos are filmed.

But enough about the other stores. This is a blog about my experience at the Pasadena shop.

(First, I need to confess. I am totally uncool. I bought a t-shirt.)

The only parking spot I could find was a 15 minute spot around the corner. I had to force myself to be cool and not stress about the time. It really only takes four or five minutes (if that) to really savor a cappuccino. Much more than that and the last sip will be cold.

The line was a little slow (good things take time) and the shop was packed (4:30pm on a Sunday). I ordered a cappiccino for here and an iced latte to go (for the road. I’m a glutton. Don’t judge, it was a long drive).  A handsome man made me delicious beverages and I found a seat to sit and enjoy my perfectly crafted cappuccino.

The first sip kicked me in the mouth a little. I considered adding some sweetener- then chastised myself for ever dreaming of doing such a thing. The second sip was sweeter and more delicious. By the third sip I was really in the zone. I decided that I would marry any man who took me on a date to get perfect cappuccinos. (Hey, we all make bad plans when we’re under the influence!)

I knew not to expect anything less than perfection from Intelligentsia and they didn’t let me down! (My latte was the bomb, too.)

The crowd at the Pasadena store is decidedly more “normal”- people on dates (presumably), people studying, people taking a break from shopping. This store is less intimidating than the other two- there is no one staring at you as you walk in judging you by your tattoos (or lack thereof).

In conclusion: Go there.

The saddest part.

Coffee: Caffé Vita Seattle

I am coming to terms with the fact that I may not blog all of the shops I went to on my Northwestern tour… I should have kept up with it while I was there. Oh well. Hindsight.

Ok, now for the shop at hand: Caffé Vita. For several hours, this was my favorite shop in Seattle. The barista was friendly, but not over the top. The shop was cool- well decorated and comfortable, but not too much. (I think we have a Goldilocks thing happening here…)

But the espresso. Oh, the espresso. It. was. good.

I didn’t get a photo, but they use naked portafilters– my favorite. The espresso was smooth and rich but packed a punch. In my notes I wrote, “perfect latte” so, well, that sums it up. Go there. It’s in Fremont.

Coffee: Lighthouse Roasters Seattle

Lighthouse Roasters was, well, not that great. The presentation of the latte was nice, and I liked the gibraltar-like cup… but that was about it. The space wasn’t very comfortable, the staff wasn’t very friendly, and the espresso kind of sucked.

It wasn’t awful. It’s better than what we have in Livermore, but for Seattle it was terrible.

Coffee: Joe Bar Seattle

Joe Bar was the last stop on our Capital Hill coffee tour (everyone was getting jittery and hungry…)

Joe Bar is a favorite among my sisters friends, though I am not totally sure why. I am not totally sure who’s beans they serve because it was a roaster I’ve never heard of. Their small latte (8oz) only comes with one shot (I hate that. Espresso shots pull two at a time. They’re wasting one!). It was a bit too milky. It was good… but unremarkable.

The space really didn’t do anything for me. It was hot and stuffy and smelled like food. Side note: I’ve decided I don’t like coffee shops that serve food. Do one thing and do it right. Adding a kitchen is too distracting.

So Joe Bar. It’s alright I guess.

Coffee 3/5

Atmosphere 1/5

Service 2/5

Coffee: Roy Street (aka The Fake Starbucks) Seattle

I don’t believe Starbucks is inherently evil (I was a happy employee for nearly two years) but I do think they’re awful. (That, however, is another post.)

Apparently, Starbucks wants to get on the Third Wave coffee train. I think this is great because, frankly, it shocks me every time I see someone in the Northwest with a Starbucks cup. (Let’s be real. They’re crazy… or have no taste buds.)

Roy Street is one such shop (to my knowledge there are two shops in Seattle). I wanted to go as a lark. See what it’s like discuss the pros and cons. Hate on the coffee… Much to my chagrin I loved this place!

Imagine opening a coffee shop and having no budget- nothing holding you back… it would be amazing, right? Well, Roy Street is kind of amazing. It’s an absolutely beautiful space. Perfectly decorated, cozy, comfortable, quiet. Just right to meet a friend or to get some work done. They have all kinds of fun Clover machines to play with and don’t mind showing them off.

The Baristas were friendly and helpful. Happy to geek out about coffee with us and talk about their employer and their strange new venture. My latte was nothing to write home about, but I enjoyed it. They get their beans straight from the distributor so they’re much fresher than any Starbucks and they get the pick of the crops… though their coffee doesn’t begin to compare to Stumptown or Intelligentsia. (Big surprise, right?)

We asked about the “worlds only Clover pour through machine” they had on the counter and they gave us a demonstration and a free cup. I loved that. We chatted all about Clover machines while they were brewing.

I liked Roy Street. I would go there to hang out… and honestly, I don’t have qualms about supporting a corporate giant. I worked for Starbucks and they took care of me. In fact, if I lived in Seattle this is where I would want to work. It’s the best of both worlds: you get the benefit of working for a corporate giant (benefits, good vacation time, etc.) but the perks of being in a cool shop (decent coffee, a nice espresso bar, latte art).

Coffee 2/5

Ambiance 5/5

Service 5/5

The worlds only Clover pour through machine