G&B Coffee Pops Up in LA

10.05

Three months ago, I shared an article from Eater which broke the news of Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski’s plans for the future—a shop of their own in LA that prepares delicious coffee and uses minimal disposables. Kyle, the 2008 US Barista Champion, and Charles, this year’s 2nd place USBC finalist, both left Intelligentsia Coffee this summer and have finally opened doors to their own coffee bar this week.

This new space is somewhat temporary while they look for a permanent home, but it gives them a way to try out ideas with customers while further shaping their concept for the perfect shop. G&B have partnered with Jessica Koslow who runs SQIRL, a confiture kitchen that specializes in deliciously named organic jams made from local produce. The unique partnership is sure to offer some of the best coffee, tea and toast in LA.

The starting line-up of roasters would excite any coffee lover, offering a variety from 49th Parallel, Heart, Intelligentsia and Ritual. For those wanting something cold in the SoCal sun, G&B have also bottled cold brewed coffee and teas to complete their menu.

Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kyle and Charles to develop their brand  and it’s exciting to finally see parts of it alive in the world. I look forward to its evolution as all the details are refined and it expands in the future.

Kyle and Charles both have a great vision and talent for service and exceptional coffee experiences, so if you have the opportunity to stop by for a coffee and some toast—I highly suggest it. Follow G&B on twitter for daily offerings and updates.

G&B Coffee
720 N. Virgil Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029

All photos courtesy of Amparo Rios of R.E. Photography. Check out more of her amazing photos of great coffee shops around the world on Flickr

posted by on 10.05.2012, under Coffee Touring, Design

Coffee Touring: Democratic in Copenhagen

07.26

While visiting Copenhagen, there are several places to have great coffee and try a delightful sampling of Scandinavia’s finest roasters. By walking (or biking) a straight line northwest from the city center, there are opportunities to taste coffee roasted by Solberg & Hansen, Koppi and the Coffee Collective—quite a Nordic trifecta.

Democratic Coffee Bar is one of those stops and has become one of my favorite places to visit while in Copenhagen. Opening last October in the city’s newly renovated Hovedbibliotek, Democratic takes the award for greatest café in a public library and are currently the only shop in Denmark using coffee from Sweden-based Koppi.

The space is separate enough from the library that it feels like its own space, but until their own door is installed, you currently enter through the library’s main door. The front wall opposite the bar, is made of floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with natural light and provide ample bar space for guests to watch the world pass outside.

The wood bar is elegant and sparse providing a natural bridge between the heavy black shelving at one end and the warm glow of the kitchen’s luminescent orange tile at the other. Each morning, Oliver, the shop’s owner, bakes fresh croissant’s and cookies on site that perfectly compliment the coffee (if they haven’t sold out).

If you’re not interested in sitting at a bar, you can take your coffee into the library’s lounge and sit among a diverse array of library guests enjoying free magazines and internet at designer tables flanked by Eames chairs. For the love of Scandinavia.

Democratic Coffee Bar
Krystalgade 15
1172 Copenhagen
Denmark


View Copenhagen Coffee in a larger map

posted by on 07.26.2012, under Coffee Touring, Recommended Roasters

Coffee Touring: LaMill Four Seasons in Baltimore

07.04

In April I had the pleasure of touring some of Baltimore’s finest coffee establishments, including the city’s newest addition, LaMill—a transplant from LA. This sparkling new shop opened last November by the water’s edge at the Four Seasons in Harbor East.

As I approached, there were plenty of suits passing by as well as an Audi R8 parked out front—environmental features you rarely find in the neighborhoods of most independent coffee shops, but a good sign of the specialty coffee market’s growth.

The open space greets you with a standard bar layout, a pour over stand  up front, alongside a custom painted La Marzocco Strada and several Mazzer Robur grinders. I ordered an espresso and a syphon of Guatemala at the bar to share with my companions and was handed a number for my table.

The coffee was delivered to my table by the barista along with a heavy cloth napkin, which added a simple but incredibly valuable detail to the experience. The espresso itself had an earthy Italian profile and was roasted a bit dark for my preference, but the Guatemala from the syphon was sweet, clean and quite enjoyable.

While I was admiring the space, Kris Fulton (manager) came out with a plate of the shop’s other specialty—fresh cut beignets from Michael Mina. Kris admitted to recognizing me and wanted to be sure we didn’t leave without trying them.

The plate was decorated with an assortment of sauces including a meyer lemon curd, Valrhona chocolate and a luscious butterscotch made with Macallan whiskey. They were the perfect compliment to our coffee and may have even outshone it.

Kris was fantastic as he spoke with us about LaMill and the business relationships that brought them to Baltimore to help develop this Four Seasons location. He also talked about their Saturday morning coffee clinics that teach customers about coffee brewing and appreciation in a comfortable atmosphere—pastries included.

The space is connected with two other restaurants (Wit & Wisdom and Pabu) in the sprawling rear lobby of the hotel which blend together nicely while maintaining their individual character. LaMill is clean-lined and modern, while providing a warm atmosphere through it’s unique lighting and dark wood textures.

If you’re visiting Baltimore, you don’t have to be staying in the Four Seasons to stop by this beautiful shop for a treat. There’s outdoor seating in the summer and it’s a great starting point to walk along the harbor and take in one of the city’s nicer views. LaMill is a welcome addition to the Baltimore coffee scene, which currently includes staples Spro and Woodberry Kitchen—and soon to be joined by Artifact Coffee.

LaMill, Four Seasons
200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 576-5800

posted by on 07.04.2012, under Coffee Touring, Misc., Recommended Roasters

Sneak Peek: Coffee Collective Frederiksberg

06.08

Three weeks ago, I shared the announcement of Coffee Collective’s new roastery and coffee bar opening this summer in Copenhagen. Since then, I’ve been down to Denmark to meet with Klaus and tour their beautiful new flagship in Frederiksberg.

The new roaster is warming up, the Über’s been installed and a lovely row of stools are lined up at the brew bar waiting for customers to wear them in. As soon as the final permits are received, this incredible new space will be open—for what I imagine will be the most unique coffee experience in the city. Stay tuned.

The Coffee Collective

posted by on 06.08.2012, under Coffee Touring, Recommended Roasters

Coffee Touring: Bogota’s Amor Perfecto

05.22

On my 4th day in Colombia, I spent the morning in Bogotá before catching an afternoon flight to the northern coast. Once all of my official business was done for the day, I had time to visit Amor Perfecto, a local specialty roaster who recently opened up a showcase coffee bar and education lab in the city.

Amor Perfecto, owned by Luis Fernando Velez and Jaime Raul Duque, is also the home of Ever Bernal, the current Colombian Barista Champion and was the first coffee company in Colombia to have someone compete in the World Championship. The Amor Perfecto roastery, which is just a few blocks from the café, is also home to Colombia’s first Loring SmartRoast.

The shop only features coffee grown in Colombia, but it offers a rotating selection from regions around the country. The first coffee I had was an AeroPress of the Boyacá, which is a fairly unknown coffee growing region just a few hours northeast of Bogotá. It has a very spicy chocolate taste profile that I don’t normally prefer, but it was really unique compared with the other coffees I’d been drinking all week.

I sat down with Luis and Jaime who told me about all the classes they provide to customers, from basic cupping to learning how to roast their own batch of coffee. Their goal is to provide an environment and experience where someone can come have a nice cup of coffee and relax, or if they choose learn everything they want about the process.

Along with their selection of coffee and a small assortment of baked goods, Amor Perfecto also offers single malt whiskey pairings with their coffee—an incredible dream come true. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stay and experience the pairing, but I look forward to doing so in the future. Unique pairings like this are something I’d really like to see and experience more of in the world of coffee.

The coffee shop and lab are on the ground floor of an old two-story home that’s been renovated to contrast a history of textures, modern lines and delicate woods. The modern furniture is illuminated by the natural light that washes through the front windows, the enclosed courtyard and translucent ceiling above the lab.

Upstairs are several rooms that include a dedicated training lab and classroom for teaching employees and friends in the industry. Everything about Amor Perfecto is considered and focused on growing the knowledge and capabilities of the baristas, roasters and interested customers engaged with the company.

If you happen to live in Bogotá or are visting Colombia for an extended time and need any kind of coffee gear, this shop is probably your best bet. Along with their coffee bar and coffee roasting duties, they are Colombia’s official distributors of AeroPress, Bodum and Nuova Simonelli espresso machines.

Amor Perfecto is a great example of how passion for coffee goes far beyond serving it. Because of their passion, the customers and baristas in Colombia will benefit greatly from the energy and quality brought to the city. Since the World Barista Championships took place in Bogotá last year, there has been a new found interest in discovering what coffee can be to Colombia besides just an export. It was great to meet the people at Amor Perfecto who are helping lead the way.

Amor Perfecto
Cra 5 No. 70ª-60
Bogotá, Colombia

posted by on 05.22.2012, under Coffee Touring, Misc., Recommended Roasters

The Coffee Collective Expansion Project

05.17

For months now, there have been rumors that Denmark’s darling specialty coffee roaster, Coffee Collective, was expanding—as well as their interest in a Loring Smart Roaster. Less than a year after opening a new shop at Torvhallerne, those whispers have been confirmed with more details and an exclusive first look inside the new space.

4 ½ years ago The Coffee Collective opened their microroastery and coffee shop in a small basement in the at the time dodgy street ”Jægersborggade”. Since then the collective have opened another coffee shop at the food market Torvehallerne and is supplying coffee to shops all over Denmark. Now the time has come to get more space for roasting amazing coffees and at the same time try out yet another kind of coffee shop experience.

For the past few months the collective have been renovating an old factory building in the picturesque Frederiksberg. It will house a larger roastery with a 35 kg Loring Smart Roast, a larger office space and a coffee bar unlike any other in Denmark. Here The Coffee Collective wishes to focus more on the flavours in coffee rather than brew methods, and show just how different coffees can taste.

There will be a changing menu of brewed coffees, signature drinks and even a cupping session will be on the menu. The goal is both to get more people to focus on what they can taste in coffee as well as experience some of the amazing drinks from the barista competitions.

The roastery will be visible through a large glass wall, so you can see how the green coffee is transformed into brown, roasted beans. And all along you can relax in the shop while sipping the same coffee. Transparency is key, both in the coffee shop, the roastery and the way we do business. -Coffee Collective

While an opening date hasn’t been confirmed, I’d guess if you’re coming to the Nordic Barista Cup, you’ll have a chance to visit. Congratulations to Klaus and the crew as they continue to expand. Looking forward to walking across those liquid glass floors.

posted by on 05.17.2012, under Coffee Touring, Recommended Roasters

Journey to Origin: Day 1 in Colombia

05.01

I finally arrived in Colombia yesterday and my week long trip to origin has begun. I hope to make up for the lack of recent posts with some great content this week as I learn about and explore Colombian coffee at its source. I just wrapped up my first day and it was incredible as well as exhausting. I’ve posted a few photos from the day here, but there will more content and videos of the week over on the Colombian Coffee Hub.


After waking up at 4:30 this morning, our team took a flight from Bogota to Armenia where we loaded into a van and stopped at a nearby café for breakfast (huevos rancheros & lulo jugo). With full bellies and acquaintances made we headed to our first destination, Café San Alberto in Buenavista.

San Alberto was the largest farm we visited today and was very well groomed with a refined infrastructure in place. There was a beautiful terrace and coffee bar with a full-time barista to look after visitors and provide us with the farm’s finest coffee.

Francini prepared lovely examples of both Caturra and Castillo varieties of coffee for us in a press pot and Chemex, which were enjoyed along with the breathtaking view.

Afterwards, we toured the farm and visited the nursery where I got a close look at seedlings in various stages. The first 60 days of the coffee plant are surprisingly slow growth, followed by a fairly rapid increase in size over the next 6 months.

Next we visited two smaller farms, El Reposo and Jalisco. El Reposo, was purchased 12 years ago by Gloria and her husband after coming to the area to visit family. They enjoyed their visit so much, they purchased a couple hectacres and moved from the city to take on the life of coffee growers.

El Reposo was also visited by competitors from the 2011 World Barista Championship, who each planted a tree to be named after them. It was great strolling through the rows to find familiar names beside plants overflowing with cherries about to ripen.

At Jalisco, I visited the rooftop patio and it’s rolling roof, a contrast to Gloria’s raised beds inside a covered shelter, as well as a quirky veranda with table sets made from stump wood—the trimmings of cultivated coffee trees.

When our afternoon at the coffee farms came to an end, I rode on the back of an old Jeep Willy with a few sacks of coffee to be sold in Pijao. At the selling point, I learned how the coffee is weighed, checked for quality, and its final price calculated for the farmer. This particular lot received a bonus for being extra high quality—a way to incentivize continued progress and education among farmers.

The evening ride back to Armenia was dampened by rain and the grey evening light made it hard to stay awake as the sights of small Colombian towns passed by the window. Upon arriving to our lovely hotel, I relaxed with Camilo and the rest of the team as we talked about our day—I can’t believe it’s only the first.

Learn more about my trip on Colombian Coffee Hub and watch the videos here.

++
Journey to Origin: Day 1
Journey to Origin: Day 2
Journey to Origin: Day 3
Journey to Origin: Day 4
Journey to Origin: Day 5
Journey to Origin: Summary

posted by on 05.01.2012, under A Journey to Origin, Coffee 101, Coffee Touring

Coffee Touring: A Handsome Pilgrimage

03.07

Last week I had the pleasure of walking through the doors of Handsome Coffee Roasters to finally congratulate two of the three Handsome boys in person. Almost ten months to the day since first announcing Handsome Coffee, Tyler, Chris and Michael opened their doors to an eager public who have been teased non-stop for the past year.

The attention they’ve received is unprecedented, heavily driven by Twitter and blogs (guilty), and the endless media coverage has set the bar very high. Every step of their journey has been watched with excitement, curiosity, and envy. They’ve used several creative tactics to keep the conversation about them alive as they built their shop—making it seem like the chance to visit were always just around the corner.

One of these strategies was the “First Forty” club, which offered a social media savvy audience to be among the first to sample test roasts each month before they began selling their coffee to the public. This made sure there was a continuous buzz regarding a product that no one else could even buy. It garnered interest and bought time while everything else was being put into place—not only in LA, but also New York.

The Handsome coffee bar and roastery sits on the corner of Mateo and Willow Street, surrounded by warehouses in the Arts District of Los Angeles. It’s only about a mile from Union Station, but I doubt I could have found it without a GPS. When I arrived, there was a line out the door and several people enjoying the sunshine out front.

I showed up with a van of Coffee Common baristas, and we were greeted at the door by Tyler and Chris with welcoming hugs, coffee and a tour of their new home.

I ordered an espresso and a cup of their new Rwanda (Abakundakawa)—which to my surprise was only available as a batch brew, which Tyler proudly defended as a great, consistent way to serve it. To be honest, if no one had told me, I wouldn’t have have been able to tell. It was a damn good cup of coffee. The espresso was bright, but balanced with a creamy finish, pulled on a La Marzocco Linea.

As my filter coffee cooled, I wandered around the space and talked with Chris and Anne about his new roasting “theater” which had a fair number of people passing through and watching him work through the windows.

As I walked around, the details of the shop are really quite remarkable. From the floor to (high) ceiling subway tiles, to the copper drop awning that mirrors the copper wrapped bar, and the hallway of etched wooden tiles with a texture so smooth you just want to run your hand across them all the way to the restrooms (where you hopefully wash them).

There are several types of seating to accomodate various types of customers—around the bar, at the window, outside, communally in the back, or perched against the glass wall watching the roaster in action. But where ever you are in the space, the baristas and the bar remain front and center of the experience.

Even though the location seems a bit out of the way (everything in LA seems that way to me) the shop remained busy throughout my visit—if business stays that way, there should be no problem keeping on the lights. As the coffee scene in Los Angeles continues to grow, Handsome has placed itself high on the list of must visit shops from the day they opened their doors, no matter where it’s located.

As the company grows along with the owners, I look forward to seeing and tasting their progress. I’d also love to eventually see Handsome/farmer relationships and more unique coffees coming from them, rather than green importers. There’s a lot of light shining on them and I would love to see some of it illuminate issues regarding coffee buying and quality—but so far none of that seems to be a part of their story.

While some may tire of hearing about Handsome, I can only think of the new people in LA their media circus will help introduce to better coffee, which ultimately helps everyone trying to do the same.

I’m glad I was able to stop by Handsome with good friends in tow. Thanks to Tyler and Chris for showing us around and I wish Mike could have been there as well. Hopefully he heals up quick and gets back behind that lovely bar soon enough.

Handsome Coffee Roasters
582 Mateo Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

 

posted by on 03.07.2012, under Coffee Touring, Recommended Roasters

London’s Independent Coffee Book

02.17

There’s a new coffee guide out—and for those who enjoy the smell of fresh ink and the feeling of paper between your fingers, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not a smart phone app. This here is a genuine book with pages that turn!

I mentioned the release party of The Independent Coffee Book (London Edition) back in December and recently got ahold of one from Vespertine Press to review. From the photos I’d previously seen I thought the book was larger, but thankfully the photos were misleading. It’s nearly pocketable, measuring just 4.75″x6″ with a pleasant satin feel.

The book’s café listings are organized into 5 sections of London: The City, West End, East, North and South. There are 36 coffee shops featured with several more listed at the end of each chapter. I’ve been to about 10 of those mentioned in the book and had more than half of them on my own list of recommended locations. It’s nice to learn of a few new spots in London and it makes me anxious to return and try some of them out.

Each featured location includes a nicely written summary of them along with the accessibility of WiFi, outdoor seating and bathrooms. There are also icons that signify whether the location is a roastery, coffee cart, or KeepCup reseller.

Underneath the general information, there are stats that indicate what machines, brew methods and coffee beans are used at each location. While I appreciate this information and the effort that went into acquiring it, there are certain benefits of a digital app that would better serve this level of detail. Cafés can change their beans and equipment fairly easily, which could make the book out of date prematurely. It may have been better to leave this type of information out or include with some kind of online integration.

What I love most about this book, and what I think adds the most value, is the “coffee compendium.” This transforms the guide from a list of coffee shops for coffee nerds, to an awesome gift for the coffee curious. It not only gives the reader a nice introduction to coffee, but shows them where they can taste and learn more about great coffee.

The compendium includes a brief history of London coffee shops, maps of coffee production and consumption, articles on roasting, sourcing ethics, brew method summaries and a small glossary of coffee drinks and terms.

The design is nicely considered and well produced, with my biggest critiques being those of a typography nerd—don’t double-space after periods! The gaping rivers in some paragraphs that are created by unmanaged justified type also served as a distraction for me (although most people will never notice these sort of things). The system throughout the book is consistent and the photographs are fantastic.

The back cover folds out to reveal maps of each section, highlighting the featured locations and the nearest Underground stations. This is infinitely helpful if you’re visiting and don’t want to pay data roaming fees to use the map on your phone and have pledged to navigate your entire trip through analog means.

I generally prefer to have things like this in a digital format, to reduce the amount of things I own and the ensuing clutter it creates. But when designed well, it becomes a useful, beautiful object that won’t run out of batteries and can easily be loaned or given to friends once you’re done using it. I’m already planning a trip to London in March and look forward to putting this book through the trials of urban exploration.

For £10, it’s priced similar to other travel guides, but with a more specific focus. However, if you’ve read my thoughts on coffee touring—this book is all you need.

Order yours from Vespertine Press

 

posted by on 02.17.2012, under Coffee Touring, Design, Misc., Products

Coffee Touring: A Weekend With Koppi

02.14

On the train ride between Gothenburg and Copenhagen, there’s a small  but lovely town on the coast of Sweden called Helsingborg. Aside from being home to Ikea’s corporate headquarters and a Nicorette manufacturing plant, it’s home to Koppi Kaffe & Roasteri—one of Sweden’s finest. Last month I posted this great video of Koppi in action and knew that I could no longer put off visiting. There is very little I love more than being around great people doing what they love and doing it so well.

At Koppi’s helm are Anne Lunell and partner Charles Nystrand who have a taste for both great coffee and design that’s reflected in their gorgeous downtown café and roastery. Natural light floods in on two sides making the space feel warm and vibrant even in the heart of Swedish winter. There’s a La Marzocco on the bar, a daily brew in the airpot and a slow bar where you can try coffee from an AeroPress, Chemex, or V60.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Anne and Charles last summer at Coffee Common in Edinburgh and catch up with them occasionally when they pass through Gothenburg. They continue to be one of my favorite Nordic roasters and consistently offer delicious and surprising coffees. For being such a small company they work extremely hard to build direct relationships with farmers and travel to origin as often as possible.

Anne has been on the Swedish national team at the Nordic Barista Cup four times and she won the Swedish Barista Championship in 2006 —finishing 4th at the World Barista Championship that year. Charles, who was crowned Swedish Barista Champion in 2005, is in charge of Koppi’s roasting and has the best facial hair between the two.

While quite small, they’re coffee is still finding its way beyond the shores of Sweden, with wholesale accounts in Copenhagen and possibly the UK in the near future. They also recently launched a webshop that will ship internationally for free with an order of 6 bags or more. So if you don’t have the pleasure of living in or visiting Sweden anytime soon, gather some friends and order some of the finest coffee Sverige has to offer.

Coincidentally, Koppi is the cover story in this month’s Barista Magazine, where you can read much more about their journey in Sarah Allen’s great interview with Anne. Check it out to further inspire a future trip to Sweden.

Koppi Kaffe & Roasteri
Norra Storgatan 16. Helsingborg, Sweden

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posted by on 02.14.2012, under Coffee Touring, Recommended Roasters