Monday, July 14, 2014

Barnie's Colombian La Tolva

It has been quite a while since I've had Barnie coffee. Ever since Trader Joe's opened up that's been my go-to coffee place. Barnie's is a little further across town and more expensive. The more expensive is an understatement. Well over a year ago they took out the loose beans and only sell pre-sealed bags. Generally loose coffee was $9-$15/pound (except for expensive stuff). The bags are still around $9-$15 each, but are only 10 ounces! Six ounces less for the same price. Thanks, but no thanks! Anyway, I splurged and got some for old time sake.

The Barnie's Colombian La Tolva beans are clean looking medium roast. Good aroma to them, maybe a little on the strong side, forecasting what's to come. The aroma isn't as complex as I like to get from some other coffees. Packaging is the standard Barnie's foil wrapped bags, 10 ounces in case you forgot.

As I just hinted, this is STRONG coffee. In fact after taking the first sip I texted a friend to share how strong it was. I'm generally not much of a fan of strong coffee, but this is a good strong coffee. There's a consistent flavor from sip to finish, with that constant reminder that it's a STRONG coffee. What was pleasant about it was that there is not a harsh acidic aftertaste that can occur with some dark roast or strong coffees. If you like STRONG coffee, and have a good sized coffee budget, I'd recommend Barnie's Colombian La Tolva. If you're not fully committed to both of these, move on to something else.

Bottom Line Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tree City Coffee Roasters

I should lead off this post by admitting I am a terrible blogger. No, not because I'm not having regular updates. Yes, I drink coffee regularly, but honestly the drinking part is much more fun than writing about it. Not because I failed to respond to comments. The few I get, hint hint keep more coming, I do respond with at least a "thanks!" My faux pas is that I did not record the type of Tree City coffee I was buying!

I was in the local Ward's Supermarket, nothing really super in size about it, but great produce prices and locally family owned. I was there to buy some Sweetwater Coffee. They had so many varieties of the Sweetwater coffee that I was just getting plain frustrated. As I was about to fill up a bag I noticed a lone dispenser with Tree City Coffee Roasters. Noticing that it was locally roasted I had to get some! It literally is a mom and pop operation without any store front. They sell online and in three local supermarkets/food stores here in Gainesville, FL.

I'd describe it as a medium to medium dark roast, possibly their breakfast blend? The beans have a great aroma, not too oily and have a warm rich aroma after grinding. The coffee itself is fantastic. There's a certain smoothness to each sip, yet complex flavors that dance across your taste buds. Not acidic and a warm aftertaste that makes you want to sip over and over.

Packaging is uneventful, but to me that's of no real concern. Coffee doesn't last too long in my house and as long as I can keep it fresh for the short week or two it sits around I'm happy. The packaging is a simple brown bag with a single sticker on the front. In hind sight I wish I had written the type on the bag! Prices are $10/lb on their website with free shipping 5+ pounds and free shipping in Gainesville!

This is a great coffee that I will definitely revisit, if only to figure out what I was drinking! If you're in town or want to place an online order I would highly recommend it.

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 16, 2014

Trader Joe's Kenya Peaberry

I'm back to drinking my go-to brand, Trader Joe's. On the latest trip I picked up another package of Kenya AA as well as the Trader Joe's Kenya Peaberry. The beans look like a typical peaberry and have a dark roast appearance with an oily texture. Note: The package lists this as a medium roast.

After having a few cups and exploring the flavor over a few days I can say this is a good strong earthy cup of coffee. Definitely toward the darker side of a medium roast. It's a very consistent flavor starting from the scent of the beans through the aftertaste. While this makes a very predictable cup of coffee, which can be good,  I like when coffee has some complexity to it. Something that makes you stop and think. I found myself drinking this sip after sip just going through the motions. Yes, it was good, but nothing slowed me down and made me say, wow!

In typical Trader Joe's fashion, this is another 'Limited Edition' product. The coffee is good, but when it goes bye-bye I won't necessarily miss it. There's plenty of other as-good or better coffee out there to take its place.

This is still a good cup of coffee and if you like a straight forward coffee you'll love it. But if you long for inspiration and pizazz with a mosaic of flavors in your caffeinated indulgence, just pass this one by.

Bottom Line Rating:3.5/5

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kicking Horse Z-Wrangler

No, my spring travels did not take me into Canada. I stumbled across Kicking Horse coffee shopping on Amazon looking for items to pad an order to get free shipping. Instead of buying a junk item or book that I don't really need, buy coffee! Kicking Horse seemed intriguing. Perusing their website seems to suggest they only make STRONG coffee. Their 'Kick Ass' coffee was tempting, but I wasn't ready to jump right into their extreme bold coffee, as they put it.

The beans in this coffee look like a blend of a medium and dark roast. You can see in the picture that the beans are different shades. Nothing on the packaging seems to indicate this, but it sure looks like it. There's a nice coffee aroma from the bag and a definite oiliness to the beans.

All of the Kicking Horse coffee is listed as organic and fair trade, which seems to be what I've been leaning toward recently. The website describes Z-Wrangler as, "sweet and smooth with intense body and brightness." Smooth? Wow! They must LOVE strong coffee calling this smooth. Don't get me wrong, there's certainly a smoothness to this coffee without bitterness, but if you listen carefully when tipping your mug you can hear the beans shrieking COFFEE! Z-Wrangler is a good reminder of what a strong cup of coffee tastes like. Not exactly the kind of coffee you can drink all day, unless you want a constant caffeine buzz. It's worth it; the next time I need to pad an Amazon order I might grab another bag. Their cafe in British Columbia seems like fun. Hopefully I'll get a chance to visit at some point.

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 2, 2014

Riverwalk Coffee Roasters Peru La Florida

Next up on my spring travel coffee list is Riverwalk Coffee Roasters in Nashua, NH. My extended weekend primarily brought me to Concord, NH for a conference, but I flew into Boston, took a train to NYC and another train to NJ before flying back to Florida. On my travel from NH to Boston South Station, I hunted down coffee places along the route. The website looked intriguing and reviews seemed positive. I was particularly intrigued that they roast their own coffee in house. Organic and Fair Trade is a nice bonus too.

Here is their new website:
Here's their old website (Not sure how long that will work): 

The inside has a coffee cafe feel, but not the snooty hipster crowd that frequents Starbucks or other cafes. Most of the people inside seemed like working class New Englanders, definitely regulars as there was a "Cheers: NORM!" feel to the place. I drank a cup of coffee there and had a muffin. The coffee was fantastic! I don't remember much about the muffin. It was good, but then again baked good anywhere but Florida are good.

They have several roasts available. Peru La Florida brewing when I arrived. It also caught my eye because a good friend of my wife and I is from Peru, plus we live in Florida. Perfect! I would later learn that getting only one bag was a poor decision. Once I brought it home and experimented with the beans/water ratio I discovered how good this coffee was. I should have bought WAY more than one bag! The beans look rather unimpressive and resemble house coffee of moderate to poor flavor, but that it so far from reality.

All of their coffee was in brown paper bags like this. It looks like each one was hand stamped. Coffee types were written in black sharpie by someone with much better handwriting than me. The back was plain with no stories or other information.


I enjoyed it so much that I barely had enough beans left for a photo. It has a solid coffee flavor and aftertaste, but is comforting. It is a wonderfully smooth yet complex coffee. It's the kind of coffee that you just want to keep drinking all day. This is by far one of the best coffees I've review thus far and is just barely shy of that 5/5 rating. Yes, I would go as far to say that it is wicked awesome! If you're anywhere near the Nashua, NH area or can reasonably drive there, do it, just make sure you buy some for me!

Bottom Line Rating: 4.75/5

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coffee District Colombian Something

I've had some spring travels on several ends of the east coast. Inside of a week I was in Miami then walked to Maine. No, really I was in New Hampshire and walked across a bridge into Maine. I'm pretty sure that was the my first visit to a state via walking. My trips were business, but I made to sure design some pleasure into them.

First up was my Miami visit. I was only in Miami briefly, spending most of the time in Boca Raton. After searching out coffee places in and around Boca I settled on Coffee District in Delray Beach. It seemed like an intriguing place. Somewhat coffee bar, cafe, and craft beer bar. Combining coffee and beer? A+!!! I didn't have any of their beer offerings, but tried a cup and bought a bag. When I asked what kind of beans they were I got "Uhh.... It's Colombian Something." The cup I had was good, so I'm down for some Colombian Something!

Here's the outside of the place. There's a small parking lot in the back. Coffee District is located in the Pineapple Grove Arts District, that may help some. Google Maps brought me right to their front door using their address, so you shouldn't have any problem.

The coffee was decent at the location and despite the lackluster description of "Columbian Something" The gentleman at the counter described it as a medium roast. Looking at it and the taste puts it much closer to a dark roast. The bag was white paper, no writing whatsoever, which is why there's no picture.

The coffee was had a pleasantly strong flavor. Definitely a coffee aftertaste, not overwhelming. A good cup if you enjoy that hearty coffee taste. If you're in the Delray Beach area it's worth a trip every so often. Maybe even to check out some of their beer!

Bottom Line Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Trader Joe's Kenya AA

I'm a few reviews behind, but will be getting several up within the next few weeks. I am probably behind because the three that are in holding are FANTASTIC! This one is no exception.

Trader Joe's Kenya AA is a wonderful coffee. It's labeled a medium roast, but the look and flavor is much closer to a dark roast. I've been leaning toward the darker roasts recently, so I'm glad this is more on the dark side than medium. There's a visible oiliness to the beans, common with the darker roasts. The aroma is enticing you to brew a cup, or several.

The beans seemed flexible with the water/bean ratio, but adding a touch more of the beans really darkens up the flavor. It is a very strong COFFEE flavor, but in a way that is truly impressive. I haven't tried, but I would guess this would make a fantastic iced coffee. As the summer months are approaching I should try!

Probably the best indicator of how much I liked this coffee is the fact that I just bought another package. I've had a few others in between when I first got this and as of this writing, but within a month or so to return to the same coffee is a very high recommendation. Especially since I love trying new coffee. If you've got a Trader Joe's near you, you MUST try this coffee!

Bottom Line Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Trader Joe's Breakfast Blend

I generally find that breakfast blend coffee tends to be mellowed down 'safe' varieties of a brands better offering. Trader Joe's Breakfast Blend fits that description, but not in a bad way. It is much more mellow than their other medium roast offerings with minimal after taste and not much bite. With that said, it is still a good cup of coffee!

The beans have a good aroma consistent with their other medium roast varieties. Varying the amount of water and beans doesn't seem to have a profound effect upon the brew, probably since it is already more mellow. It is a pleasant coffee to enjoy and would recommend it particularly for those that do not like a bitter taste.

Bottom Line Rating: 3/5

Friday, March 21, 2014

Recommended coffee shops

I've got two trips coming up soon and am looking for recommendations for places to enjoy a cup (and buy some beans.) Here's a few places I've found so far (directly or indirectly coffee related). Can anyone recommend others

Boca Raton, FL
4th Generation Organic Market & Cafe
Tin Muffin Cafe
Saquella Cafe

New Hampshire (generally between Concord and Boston)
Barrington Coffee (Boston)
The Works Bakery Cafe (Concord)
Riverwalk Coffee (Nashua)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fairway Brazilian Arabica

I continue with reviews of more Fairway Market coffee. If any coffee I've had so far is close to a 5/5 this is it. Fairway Brazilian Arabica is a dark-ish roast (my description, not theirs). I'm not sure how much I can rave about this coffee. It has a strong coffee flavor that seeps into your soul, yet gently hugs your taste buds with every drip. Yes, it's that good. The coffee flavor is so strong I expected a harsh aftertaste, but no! The culinary delight continues! The delicate flavors left behind do nothing short of saying, coffee... coffee... coffee... in a warm and inviting way begging you to take another sip.

Without a doubt I recommend this coffee! I only wish I lived closer than 1,000 miles to the nearest Fairway. I'll be done with this bag very soon and am counting down the days until I'm back in the NYC area to pick up another bag or few. 

Bottom Line Rating:4.75/5

Yes, it is fantastic, but I'm STILL waiting for that total knock it out of the park 5/5. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fairway Tanzania Peaberry

I have tried two other peaberry coffee's: Trader Joe's Ethiopia Peaberry and Trader Joe's Columbia Peaberry. I rated both quite high, with the Ethiopian peaberry taking a slight edge. When I was recently in Fairway and saw they had a peaberry I jumped at the chance to try some!

As expected, itsy bitsy peaberry beans. They appear to be a medium dark roast with a good aroma out of the bag. Speaking of the bag, it's uneventful. No fancy prepackaged items like Trader Joe's.

The coffee itself is very good, but not much beyond that. It's up there with the other two peaberry coffee's mentioned above, but the  Trader Joe's Ethiopia Peaberry probably takes the edge. It's a good well rounded coffee with a nice start, taste, and finish. It's worth exploring, but nothing exemplary that you should make a special trip just for this coffee. But being that Fairway Market has a HUGE selection of coffee that alone is worth a special trip!

Bottom Line Rating:4/5

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Trader Joe's Five Country Espresso Blend

I'm continuing, as usual, with a parade of Trader Joe's coffee. I will have two reviews of some Fairway coffee in the coming weeks though! I am not an espresso drinker, either at home or on the go. On the rare occasion, on the go, I may have a cappuccino or a sugar-ed up Starbucks concoction, but espresso itself is quite rare for me, likely no more often than once a year. Despite this I figured I would go for some espresso beans and grind them with my regular equipment for some plain old coffee.

Being a dark roast, the beans are quite oily and have a delicious odor that dances across your senses, yes even with just sniffing the beans! The beans are quite dark and TJ lists it as an organic and fair trade coffee. Which is a nice bonus in my book.

Packaging is the usual Trader Joe's with fancy graphics and some details about the coffee on the back. I kind of like the stiff cardboard packaging instead of the foil/paper bags. When I build up a few in the pantry it's a little easier to stack these.

I was rather surprised at how sensitive the beans were to a more/less water ratio. Just slightly more water seemed to brew an extremely watered down cup. In contrast slightly less water significantly boosted the punch of the coffee. The upside is that punch was a loving punch of flavor! I really enjoyed this coffee with it's strong and hearty taste and finish. The difficulty in finding a good ratio of beans and water is the reason why the rating was knocked down a bit. If I didn't take the time to find a good blend I probably would have rated this coffee very poorly. Plus I'm still waiting for that elusive 5/5 coffee!

This really was a great coffee that I would love to revisit. My hope is that Trader Joe's doesn't push it off the shelf too quickly, which tends to happen with some of their products. Luckily for me it's not labeled as 'limited edition,' so there's a slightly better chance of it lasting at least a few months. 

Bottom Line Rating:4/5