So last week I checked in on BaristaOnDutY’s Authentic Vietnamese 16 Med/Dark Roasted Coffee. It’s a great coffee that has a wide range of opportunity while appealing to many people’s preferences . In the dry aroma, I got syrupy, tussin and hazelnut scents. I was both anxious and curious to get a swirl in my mouth. I broke the crust to experience the deep scents this coffee has to offer – which is basically getting your face really close to the cup, puncturing the wet, ground crust with a spoon, and dragging it to the back of the cup – all while you deeply inhale the aroma. The wet aroma released scents of licorice as well as a big jolt of dark berries – plum and raspberries – FREGGIN AMAZING!
Tasting! A smoky cup that has a graceful softness to it. The mouthfeel is very velvety and smooth. Very balanced with medium acidity. *Side Note – what is acidity? Not to be confused with an unpleasant sourness, acidity in coffee is a positive brightness experienced in the cup – the dryness, pleasant snap or tartness with a soft sweetness it leaves at the back of your palate after each sip.*
Ok, back to the task at hand – judging by the aroma of this coffee, you would expect a cup with much darker notes; however, you’re approached with a very balanced cup with a mix of smoke and honey. This coffee can definitely be enjoyed each and every day. I even enjoyed it with a handful of cranberries today – Yummy for my tummy *AND my tongue!*
Suggested Preparation & Grind: Pourover (slightly coarse to fine grind), French Press (coarse grind), Vietnamese Phin Filter (fine grind) The grind featured here was a bit finer and was prepared in a pourover.
Now for the really fun part!!! Food Pairings? I think it would pair very well with a honey-glazed crispy crab wonton. Enjoy it iced. Perhaps a caramel dessert. Show it off to your friends. And FINALLY – ever had chicken & waffles?? GOD, get some with this coffee, but make sure the chicken is CRISPY as hell and glazed with honey. Café Dufrain in Tampa, FL is a place by the water on Harbour Island. Their chicken & waffles would be succulent with this coffee!
One of my biggest mottos is “Great Coffee Moments Start at Home,” so I wanted to share this little recipe for you coffee junkies who are always on the go, but never really have time for breakfast (and for you guys & gals who feel you deserve a midday treat ).
Chocolate Coffee Mug Cake:
I found this recipe a while back, but of course mine is modified a bit to enjoy with coffee. I like to add coffee that fits the “chocolate” profile, but add whatever your fave coffee is. If you are the most basic home chef, you should have all of the ingredients right in your pantry.
- 50g dark chocolate
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 4 tablespoons prepared coffee
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
- Add flour, ground cinnamon and sugar to a small mixing bowl, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and mix well. Add the melted chocolate, and prepared coffee and mix again.
- Pour the mixture into a large microwavable coffee mug. Microwave for 2 minutes on medium, 1 minute on high. It should be cooked (skewer test comes out with moist crumbs), but still a lil moist. Remember, it will continue to cook while standing.
- Allow to cool a little, eat up, and enjoy with your favorite brew!
If you want, you can even heat up a little extra chocolate to drizzle over the top of the cake. I’ve even enjoyed mine with a nice cigar from time to time. You literally transition between these two in five minutes! YUM!
This is a follow up to the last blog post “Making Coffee Tasting Fun!”
Some coffee aficionados might ring my neck for this, but…you don’t have to be a master at coffee to recognize its intricacies. If you’ve got taste buds and your nose works, you can properly describe the taste qualities of coffee as well as experiencing its simple pleasure.
- Start with a bag of whole bean fresh roasted coffee. If you don’t have fresh roasted, purchase a bag of whole beans from your local grocery store or from your fave coffee shop.
- Using a course grind setting, grind the proper amount of beans for your brew.
- Brew the coffee using your preferred brewing method (French press is my fave!) Make sure to use fresh, cold water.
- Pour into your fave coffee mug.
The Taste Test:
Once I prepare my coffee, I usually take it black, and if I am tasting it for the first time, I most definitely take it black. All coffee producing countries have certain taste characteristics and identifiable qualities, but sometimes you have to approach tasting without any expectations but with an open mind. Many coffee connoisseurs can identify what region a coffee is from just by smell alone. But we’re going to approach it a little differently. Soooo, Let’s Start! Today we are tasting a coffee from Peru.
- Dive head first into the mug and SMEELLLLL the coffee’s aroma. Do any memories come to mind? The aroma of your coffee is going to trigger certain scents that you’ve smelt before. This coffee from Peru smells like raisins, pear, and a little bit of a soft cream.
- Slowly taste the coffee, first letting it touch the tip of your tongue, of course letting it cool to a temperature that is acceptable enough to drink.
- As the coffee begins to wet your palate, let it roll from the tip of your tongue to the base of your tongue, again inviting personal memories of combinations of smell and taste. A lot of aficionados are very cultured and well travelled, and sometimes they tend to apply “high-end” terminology to describe a coffee’s taste. But on a personal level, use the tastes that you’re used to and that you identify with the most to describe your coffee. My coffee tastes like pear, a bit of cocoa – very balanced.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “taste is 80% smell and 20% taste” – it’s true. When we combine the wonderful aroma of the coffee with what our taste buds are telling us about the coffee, we get the awesome opportunity to experience the world of coffee on a much deeper level. And that is the simple pleasure you can have each morning in your cup!
Some coffee aficianados use high-end terms and their world travels to describe the many taste characteristics of coffee. I’m going to share how you can apply your most personal and local memories to the coffee in your mug.
I promised to blog about Charleston’s Coffee Culture and the beauty of the City, so here I go. I will be in Charleston, South Carolina for the next three weeks, and sometimes you don’t realize a good thing until it’s gone (I currently live in Tampa, FL). If you’re looking for a city in the south with a definite cultural flair, incredible food, cute little knick-knacks, and a booming social life, you’ve found it. Destination: Charleston will be an open-ended blog, and as I get reaquainted with the city in which I grew up, I will let you know where the best places are:
#3 - California Dreaming: Downtown Charleston, on the Bay. One of the most exquisite restaurants in Charleston rests on the bay and features elegant views of the City of Charleston. Inside the restaurant, the floors are reminiscent of the paved Charleston streets, and the lighting is a replica of the traditional Charleston street lamp. The ambiance is perfect for a night out with that special someone or perhaps just a night on the town with friends. The most incredible dishes are served out of their glass-front kitchen. I started off with a sparkling wine from Kenwood: Yulupa, Cuvée Brut, a dryer wine with a light sweetness to it. This was the perfect pairing for the Classic California Dreaming House Salad which was doused with boiled eggs, tomatoes, and bacon (classic Charleston Culture!) accentuated by their honeyed croissant (get a basket for only $4.99). My entree selection: Shrimp San Francisco, which is a medley of sauteed shrimp, garlic, white wine, butter, and more garlic served over angel hair pasta and romano cheese. I altered my selection a bit, and opted to have mine served over garlic mashed potatoes lightly dusted with romano cheese. Let’s just say I am still salivating at just the thought of it. One of my other favorites on their menu is the Marinated Sirloin, which is marinated for 48 hours in fruit juices, garlic, soy sauce, and spices. California Dreaming’s Prices are moderate to expensive (my whole meal with wine and tip was just under $30). If your style is a combination of ecclectic and traditional, California Dreaming is your spot!
Overall Rating: 5 of 5 Coffee Beans
#2 – Muddy Waters Coffee Bar: James Island. The coziest coffee shop can be found just across the bridge that links West Ashley to James Island. Seldom do you find a coffee shop that doesn’t over-roast their beans or over-extract their brew. Muddy Waters features coffee exclusively from Counter Culture, a quaint social sitting area, eye-catching artwork, and handmade coffee mugs (my favorite!). I had some of their Holiday Blend, a traditional Vienna Mélange with honey-like characteristics and a cinnamon aroma. What I tasted was peach, fruit, bittersweet chocolate, and toasted notes. I was thrilled with Muddy Waters’ atmosphere and the lively, informative Barista, Amanda. With two locations, one on James Island and the other located West of the Ashley River, accessing this neat place is exceptionally easy. Oh – and the West Ashley location serves Paninis!
Overall Rating: 5 of 5 Coffee Beans
#1 – Wholly Cow: Ice Cream and Coffee, Citadel Mall. I have seen this little coffee shop emerge over the last few years from a small-town favorite to a local shop with true coffee style. They now provide fresh roasted coffee via Island Coffee, owned by the same people (Rob and Laurie Kramer), which roasts exclusively for Wholly Cow. Using a select group of farmers who are passionate about coffee, practice sustainability, and who only pick fully ripened coffee cherries, they launched the Cielo Rojo Project. Although this Wholly Cow is located in a busy mall, they have managed to keep a little history and flair by featuring photos of coffee shops from all over the world. My personal preference is to always taste my coffee black, so I ordered a small coffee of the day, which turned out to be Cielo Rojo, which means “Red Heaven.” Cielo Rojo, cupped at a score of 93.5 has an amazingly floral taste. Sweet scents of jasmine tickled my nose as I tasted it. I definitely recommend this shop – stop by and have a little “Heaven In Your Cup.”
Overall Rating: 3.5 of 5 Coffee Beans
I’m on my way to downtown Charleston – who knows what I’ll find next!
FACT 1: Discovery
The Kaffa Region in Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia – see map below) is the birthplace of coffee (genus caffea). Legend has it that an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi discovered his goats dancing joyously after eating berries from a green shrub. He tested the cherries himself, then ran to the local monastery to share them with Monks who at first despised it. In its earliest existence (circa 6th century), it was used by Monks to stay awake during prayers, was used as a medicinal herb, and eventually made its way around the world to become the basis for the early coffee houses where stimulating intellectual conversations took place amongst incredible entertainment. Thousands of feet high into the tropical regions, the drink can be traced back to a coffee tree which produces red or purple cherries/berries (in some cases yellow or orange). The cherries usually produce two seeds (beans). A special type of seed/bean called a Peaberry occurs when the seed does not split, and only one bean per cherry is produced. Smaller and more round in comparison to the “normal” coffee bean, this bean has intense explosion of flavor and is highly sought after.
FACT 2: Species and Use
There are several species of coffea; the two most well known species are caffea arabica (arabica) and caffea canephora (robusta). Here are a few quick facts:
- Trees usually produce cherries for as long as 60 years (in some cases up to 100!)
- Require substantial amounts of water
- Cultivated at 1300 to 1500 m altitude (susceptible to cold/freezing temperatures)
- Nine months to ripen (Takes roughly 7 years to completely mature)
- More desirable taste characteristices (about 1/2 the caffeine content as robusta)
Arabica Producing Countries: Ethiopia, Yemen, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Martinique, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Paraguay.
Caffea Canephora (robusta)
- Trees usually mature within three years
- Can withstand and tolerate environmental conditions better than arabica
- Used in espresso blends to achieve both crema (see pic) and the desired heightened pungency on the palate
- Vast amount of caffeine content, less desired taste (much cheaper than arabica), generally used to make instant coffee
Robusta Producing Countries: Rwanda, Madagascar, Ivory coast, Uganda, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Borneo, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Angola, Vietnam, Timor.
Countries that Produce Both Arabica and Robusta: Brazil and India
Next Week’s Blog: The Top Five Things You Must Know About Coffee: Part Two
Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World – Mark Pendergrast
Coffee – A Guide to Buying, Brewing, AND Enjoying, 5th Edition - Kenneth Davids
…Or are they just a repeat of history?
Mainstream coffee has never truly been about experiencing the quality in a good cup of coffee. What mainstream knows is a series of brand names, a few terms, and coffee socials over a lifeless black cup loaded with cream and sugar. Once coffee leaves the farms to the mills to exporters to the commercial coffee roasters and coffee shops, with the exception of a few specialty roaster-retailers, coffee aficionados and enthusiasts, and specialty coffee shops who care about the incredible characteristics of coffee – the beauty of “crop to cup” - coffee becomes a huge marketing ploy to maximize profits without the educational value attached.
We’ve all heard the news about SBUX closing stores, revamping themselves to become recognizable as a “local” coffee shop (15th Avenue Coffee & Tea), raising prices, lowering prices, adding breakfast, and so on. The problem I’m having with them raising prices for “specialty drinks” is that it further hazes the truth about what good coffee really is. What I find incredibly confusing is that they’ve lowered the price on brewed coffee and lattes - two of the most traditional drinks that may offer consumers the most visible taste characteristics. We’ve allowed coffee shops to offer less premier coffee, stuff a collage of mess in our drinks, and call it “specialty coffee” while jacking up the price. But of course we’re getting the classic ambiance and atmosphere. As quoted in the New York Times: “Connie Williams, 57, a saleswoman in Los Angeles…said the price changes would not affect her daily habit of buying a 12-ounce nonfat cappuccino ‘with a little shake of chocolate’ at Starbucks. ‘I’m hooked,’ she said. ‘It’s like asking a cocaine addict, If I raise my prices, are you going to buy less?’.” I think she’s been forced into a perception of what good coffee is. My RAGING question is what happened to SBUX?? Forty years ago when they were the start of what modern American coffee is, they would have pulled coffee off the shelves if it was more than a week old. And while they’ve done a decent job with their management structure, their team-friendly environment, and their accomplishments in social responsibility and fair trade, somewhere along the line they went for straight commercialization and forgot to hold true to their traditional values of fresh roasted coffee (even though they still roast their own) and what it means to truly be local (I guess that happened when their “globalization” commenced without carrying on the original passion of what SBUX once was). They became caught up in flaunting coffees in elegant packages from various regions versus translating them to the palates of the customer. Instead, coffee became and orgy of syrups, whipped cream and misperceptions rather than creating an experience based on the coffee region. Gee, thanks Howie.
I am not solely picking on SBUX; I am picking on the guilty parties responsible for the overall commercialization and exploitation of coffee. Unfortunately, this exploitation has continued over centuries and has even been a victim of the coffee-producing regions themselves.
The BIGGEST question I have is: Do consumers even know what they are buying?? The coffee industry seems incredibly complex with its collection of coffee-producing regions, terminology, cuppings, taste profiles, etc; however, it is relatively simple to understand the truth behind the illustrious bean. There is nothing wrong with blending; there is nothing wrong with roasting in large quantities. The main beef I have is when we market something of less value, allow our customers to buy in, and fail to educate them properly – because if they all really knew exactly what they were buying, they may not buy it after all.
As a consumer, I am guilty – we all are guilty – of assisting in the exploitation of coffee and begging for it in an adulturated form. Remember: The simplest things can provide the ultimate pleasure. Drink unadulturated coffee.
Reference: The New York Times
Next Week’s Blog: The Top 5 Things You MUST Know About Coffee
Soooo, where do I begin? I guess I can say my infatuation with coffee (funny, I almost wrote a hashtag in front of #coffee) started some time in late high school/early college – right about the time of the commercialized birth of Starbucks accompanied by raging hormones of the influential college atmosphere…
Growing up, my mother had always been the coffee fanatic; my father, less convinced that there was “much ado” about it. I was more like my father and was not halfway concerned about lapping up that brown drink. I recall my sister coming home with a Starbucks frappuccino that was loaded with chunks of brownie. I was crazy about sweets, so I jumped on the bandwagon. Thus began the basis for my addiction. As Starbucks sprung up on just about every unclaimed piece of land, I was given several options: one in my neighborhood, one in the core of my college campus, one on the way to work – oh and of course, on my way home from work, hit the one in my ‘hood again. I schooled myself on the newest “terminology” from tall to venti and skinny to whipped, and was drinking everything from warm apple cider to triple shots of espresso (Ma’am, do you know this comes with a shot? Yes*DUH*, please add another…)
A few years into my “Starbucks Habit,” I had applied about three times (all rejected); all of the Baristas at each shop knew my name, preferred drink, and my fave treat (Oreo Dream Pie); and just about every gift I received and gave was coffee-related, most of which were gifts from Starbucks. I began to influence people around me with my coffee habit, turning non-coffee drinkers into avid coffee drinkers who eventually turned their mugs down to “office coffee” and who began to help fuel my habit. As all addicts do, I denied that I had a problem, hid my Starbucks purchases from my parents, and became a walking, talking billboard for Starbucks.
After going through a bag of old receipts and discovering that I was spending almost $400 a month on Starbucks – OUCH – I decided to “scale back” on my coffee habit by only purchasing Maxwell House and Starbucks from the grocery store. I still completely indulged into coffee and the lifestyle, yet had never been truly educated about the beauty and history of it. I just knew that decent coffee came from my mother’s kitchen and that Starbucks coffee *at the time* gave me warm fuzzy feelings. I had a great supporter, who one day in passing told me that the greatest coffee experience I could have was to taste fresh roasted coffee. I thought about it and at first took it a bit lightly…until about 5 years ago when I cheated on Starbucks with Peets . Instead of shipping some of my friends marketing/brochure samples, Peets accidentally shipped an oversupply of coffee. EXACTLY. This opened up a whole new discussion of what “good coffee” actually is, and ever since, I have purposed in my heart to embrace coffee’s history and to educate others about what coffee actually is…and I vowed to never return to Starbucks…
Since then, I’ve become a home coffee roaster, launched a coffee club, have been researching coffee’s history, influenced my friends to only get coffee from me, and have found my Signature Blend (for purposes of protecting the writer, the name/blend qualities will not be revealed J). It has been an incredible journey that anticipates the rebirth of the coffee house and the education of the general coffee consumer. As every true coffee man or coffee roaster has their own internal (and external) battle with SBUX vs local coffee shop vs fresh roasted coffee, we may occasionally visit SBUX and get busted in the act.
I recently attended a local art gallery opening. They had the usual hodge podge of food: a few dips here and there, some healthy stuff to quiet the health freaks, and of course, coffee. I watched as everyone hovered around the coffee bar, one guy nervously spilling it all over the counter top. I approached the bar, poured a little coffee for myself, and waited for it to cool down. When I finally got the chance to drink some, the only thought in my mind was that it tasted like brewed cardboard water. Everyone else was seemingly enjoying it, constantly revisiting the coffee bar for a warm up. I pretended to sip on so as not to “be rude,” and as my eyes wandered the room, I caught a glimpse of a woman in a gold party dress that was over-adorned with sequins and glitter – way too much for her petite frame. At that moment, I thought to myself: “Is this what coffee has become? Over-adorned with a mess of ‘stuff’ we think looks good, but actually tarnishes the beauty of what’s underneath?”
This brought me to a question, which has been toiled over for years: What constitutes good coffee? Is it good for only satisfying our morning jolt? Or is it only good for awakening us to break us from the afternoon’s robotic work patterns?
We yearn for good food, to be cultured, artistic, entertained, and to be “in the know…” But has our taste for good coffee fallen by the wayside? Why do we even drink it? To socialize with friends? To talk about how many espresso shots we had stuffed into one drink (that ended up giving us the jitters for the next two days straight)?
Or is it only good by a coffee connoisseur’s suggestive dialogue? Terminology and recommendations forced upon us, and like human nature we rebel and do exactly what we want anyway, too afraid to try something new.
Coffee doesn’t have to be crammed with unnatural flavor for it to be enjoyed; and it doesn’t have to be sans milk and sugar or “under-brewed” either. But shouldn’t it have its own character and elegant flavor, not something we’ve forced it to be? Example – Ethiopia: Naturally sweet coffee, it can have honeyed tastes, chocolate undertones, and may even be loaded with berries. Sometimes I take it black, sometimes with a little sugar. Example – Café au lait: historically prepared with steamed milk, mostly tastes like toasted nuts, the coffee most likely from Brazil or Nicaragua, somewhere conducive of a great espresso blend. Genuinely good stuff.
We are feel good people and some brands of coffee know how to tap into that human element. SBUX… As people, we have always demanded better coffee, but without knowing the true element of “better coffee,” it was defined for us and excited us enough to buy fancy machines and syrups, host parties, collect art, all in good efforts to make it good just like SBUX taught us. Coffee can still induce good friendships, family, conversations, fun… The cup itself can truly be a lively experience that compliments our relationships, conversations and friends, but it doesn’t have to be completely empty or over-adorned with postiche beauty.
And while Starbucks isn’t exactly the devil, we as consumers have managed to demand a beautifully wrapped package. Starbucks has answered the call and has assessed our aesthetic needs by dazzling us with tasty syrups and whipped cream. We’ve allowed ourselves to become drawn to the package without appreciating the beauty of the cup underneath all the wrapping…
Black Is Beautiful…
Am I addicted to coffee? I like to call it passionate. Here I am, no coffee, constantly thinking of it…My body already going through sleepy spells and body aches – Am I REALLY addicted to caffeine, NOT coffee?? Constantly fiddling and knocking things over like a helpless drunk, going cold turkey is NOT how to pull yourself off of the coffee habit. Actually, I don’t intend to stop at all, I JUST ACCIDENTALLY LEFT MY COFFEE HOME, and I REFUSE to drink “office coffee.” So for the next hour and a half I will just keep up with the random arm scratches, neck twitches, back spasms, and completely crazy daydreams that remind me I’ve slipped into a work coma until I make it to my front door, and the hero’s theme music begins to play. Yes I will sprint to my kitchen cupboards (read below), rip the package of coffee open, and relentlessly chew those coffee beans! Yes I said chew, no time for brewing.
I am not addicted…I am passionately crazy about coffee.
In quest of chicory coffee, history’s infamous coffee substitute, I set out to find South Tampa’s Nola Café. I had never tasted chicory coffee before (or at least knowingly), and was surprised that my café au lait didn’t taste any different than it should have. Historically, when coffee became unavailable, when prices were much to high for our ancestors’ pocketbooks, or when lawmakers thought coffee was an evil influence on the soul, chicory was used as a substitute to get the same taste without the addictive caffeine and at a much lower cost. As time went on New Orleans continued the tradition of chicory coffee, and Nola Café carries that tradition of a graceful combination of chicory and coffee, right here in Tampa, Florida.
Here’s my rating on a scale of 1 to 10:
Coffee: 10 – Made to perfection. Slightly toasty taste.
Style: 9 – Coffeehouse with NOALANS (New Orleans) flair. Beads, masks, chicory coffee…Mardi Gras at Nola Café!
Atmosphere: 8 – Friendly, immediate service. Sounds of Billie Holiday and Joss Stone fill the air. Customers began filling the café to enjoy a late afternoon meal and a cup of coffee.
Cleanliness: 10 – Just in time for spring cleaning!
Prices: 10 – Low to moderate
Nola Café captures the true essence of culture, art, and great coffee. Put it on your local weekend travel guide, and let your out of town friends know what a great coffeehouse it is for their “Things to do in Tampa” lists . Oh yeah, I heard the Oyster Po’Boy is smashing!
In the cozy Davis Island community, you’ll find a quaint dog-friendly café called Java & Cream. The first thing I noticed upon entering the shop was their daily special plastered on a rendition of a steaming coffee mug. Topping the list: Tanzanian Peaberry. I was originally determined to taste only their regular brewed coffee and finish with a shot of espresso, but knowing the friendly and fruity characteristics of a peaberry, I jumped at it. Realizing their menu touted that their coffee beans are roasted fresh, I asked if they roast their beans on-site. Unfortunately, they don’t; they get it from a local roastery – “a guy named Roger.” I ordered two 12oz Tanzanian Peaberries; leave one with room for cream and sugar (my sidekick’s), one filled to the brim (mine).
Here are my ratings on a scale of 1 to 10:
Coffee: 6 – Light honey throughout and through to the aftertaste. Peach aroma; however, I think it may have been sitting on the burner a while, which may have distorted its true taste.
Style: 5 – Your average cute-n-cozy café. It is adorned by the pending warm summer breeze and set amongst a row of shoppes and restaurants. Large sidewalks under a covered area make it a great location, even on a rainy day.
Atmosphere: 9 – This café is perfect for both families and friends, or even the lonesome individual looking for somewhere to go on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Don’t forget your pup!
Prices: 10 – Low-priced goodies from an assortment of ice cream and fresh roasted coffee to a variety of sandwiches and wraps.
I was a bit more pleased with the atmosphere than with the coffee, but my recommendation: if you’re in Davis Island, stop by for a visit.
Just steps away from Java & Cream is Kuba Cigars. Doused with immaculate art, the four walls of Kuba Cigars feature a large walk in humidor, a lounge area, and an elegant list of fine wine. The dynamics of the shop combines a “love for cigars” with weekly entertainment, wine, and a “tidy list of popular beers.” If you’re looking for a good smoke somewhere other than Ybor, visit this shop someday soon.
So as promised, my big “Kaffa Exploration” day has come along. First stop: Breakfast at Nicko’s.
Seating: The Infamous Elvis Booth, of course
So I walk in, and I am greeted by Stephanie. After a while I ask the question that’s been burning inside of me for quite some time: “Who is your coffee by?” And Stephanie replies: “Joffrey’s” I could hardly believe my ears – “REALLY?? REALLY??” For so long I’ve shunned Joffrey’s coffee, loved by others; however not my cup-o-café. I must admit, AND remain unbiased, that I enjoyed it, as I always do at Nicko’s. Stephanie calmed my hyped up repetitive one-worded questions with “We always brew our own, and it always stays so fresh.” Glad to know that! So here’s what I think (on a scale of 1-10):
Coffee: 8 – Genuinely good coffee. Cinnamon-toasted spice flavor.
Style: 9 – Nicko’s has such an artistic flair, partly because the restaurant itself has been around for some time. Preserved almost in its original form, it has created its own little niche and has come into its own with true retro charm.
Atmosphere: 10 – Service with a smile. Relationships formed with the customers as overhead sounds of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” fill the air.
Cleanliness: We’ll give it an 8 – Only because it’s a bit dated. But we like it that way.
Food: 9 – Has an elegant variety of Greek and American food. From breakfast to burgers to salads to sandwiches. What I ate? Classic ham, egg, cheese, and bacon omelet with a side toast and home fries (I’m from down south; I should have also gotten a side of grits, lol). What my sidekick ate? Greek Omelet filled with onions, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and mushrooms with a side of cuban toast. His rating: 24, and he’s an incredible chef!
Prices: 10 – Low to moderately priced good cookin’
Tucked away in historical Seminole Heights, Nicko’s has become a neighborhood favorite. The diner is filled with happy faces and warmed bellies-from first timers to regular patrons, and from take out customers to the usual fella who comes to sit at the counter and stay a while just to enjoy a friendly conversation over a cuppa Joe. And with all of life’s modern conveniences, wouldn’t we all love it if they started accepting a little plastic? I vote NO. Charm changes for no one: CASH ONLY.
So tomorrow morning, I set out on my “Kaffa Exploration,” in a quest to find good coffee in Sunny Tampa Bay. First, since I absolutely love food, we are headed to breakfast at Nicko’s, a Greek diner in the heart of Seminole Heights. It’s stuck in the 50s; however it’s a beautiful expression of art-or so I interpret it to be. They even have a booth dedicated to Elvis, where he once sat while visiting Tampa and where I manage to sit every single time I go. And if I don’t get my beloved booth, I whine like a baby…
While I have absolutely no idea where their coffee comes from it’s always something amazing; maybe it’s just the retro feel – it all feels quite right so the coffee MUST be right, right?
Anyways, from Nicko’s we are headed to Java and Cream in South Tampa, then on to Nola Café to sample one of history’s infamous substitutions and early traditions…Chicory coffee. I must admit, I’ve never tasted it. But I will let you know…
And so our journey begins…