Monday, August 10, 2015

Coffee Roundup - Madison, WI

This past weekend my mom and I took advantage of some spare time to jet-set to the energetic, soulful, welcoming little town of Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is famous for its picturesque State Capitol building, being the home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and for fried cheese curds(gross!) 
Dane County Farmers Market
BierGarten at The Great Dane

I took advantage of the wealth of local love to explore the coffee scene . I discovered 3 coffee shops in the 1 ½ days.
The State Capitol building

Lakeside Street Coffee Shop 
I loved the small-town vibe of this place, located just off the shore of Lake Monona. After entering through the rustic front door, I was surprised at how big of a coffee shop could fit into such a seemingly small building. There’s a front parlor stuffed with games, books, and magazines. Crossing through the parlor to the back of the shop, the building opens up to a great room where the espresso bar is located. A meeting was taking place on the lower level and the shop posted signs that a wedding reception was taking place that night which makes me think it’s quite popular. And understandably so, with the rear wall of windows that offer a view of Monona Bay, complemented by wooden floors, and colorful artwork. All of this lending to the perfect ambiance for a chilly day, some hot lattes, and a board game provided your company is as good as mine was. Thanks mom!
Bananagrams at Lakeside

The Chocolaterian Café
After a delicious brunch at the Blue Plate Café, we strolled down Atwood Ave and happened upon The Chocolaterian Café . I opted for a sample of the Sassy Cow Ice Cream, a local favorite of Madison, and a dark roast drip coffee. It was magnificently smooth, dark, and complex. The aroma of chocolate paired perfectly with my coffee.
The store itself is really beautiful inside, reminiscent of Café Intermezzo with a more casual feel. Perfect afternoon/night as they also offer wine and a selection of local Madison beers.  Come ready to be tempted by the chocolates and desserts, but then again, what do you expect with a name like The Chocolaterian Café?

Ancora Coffee and Tea
While we only stopped here during our flight delay at the airport, I have to say I was impressed with the selection and flavor of their coffee (usually airport food/drink is a bit underwhelming).  My delight in their product was probably because Ancora is a local company, using small batch, fair-trade coffee, and roasting its beans only a few miles away from where their coffee is poured. The freshness was evident in the Black and Tan blend coffee I ordered which was a really balanced dark roast. The barista was helpful and friendly and the store had a cute look to it. I would love to try out their other store locations in the city on my next visit to Madison.
Ancora coffees before we took off

Monday, March 23, 2015

High Five Coffee Bar- Asheville, NC

Spending this past weekend on a lake outside of Asheville, NC reminded me of an excellent coffee spot I visited last fall while I was in Asheville. I had experienced the beer scene in the city and loved it, but before leaving I was determined to find a good coffee spot to share with all my readers, just in case one of you should find yourself on a long weekend in this eclectic mountain town. I struck gold with High Five Coffee Bar. The spot was recommended on a local Asheville blog and was located just a few blocks from the Hill House B&B where I was staying.
The Hill House B&B
Atmosphere: High Five has a great space. There are large windows looking out onto Broadway St., which allowed for a nice view of the rainy and gray, yet romantic weather. The retro red espresso machine added a burst of contrasting color. The seating is plentiful and varied with high-top tables, cafe tables, patio options, and these wooden tables, propped up on elevated cushions (very hard to explain, but cozy none-the-less). The café was adorned with some tasteful art and soft music played in the background providing just enough sound to blur all of the individual conversations going on. This is definitely a great place for all occasions: reading, meeting, date, morning coffee break, afternoon happy hour, late night study session, and so on.
Coffee: H5 serves Counter Culture Coffee, which both makes sense and I appreciate since CC is based out of North Carolina.  The cold brewed coffee was promoted on their menu so I asked what the big deal was. Along with a sample, the barista informed me that cold brew is made by letting the coffee steep overnight. In the morning the grounds are strained out and the coffee is chilled. This creates a drastically different taste than the traditional iced coffee preparation method, and the difference was clear. The cold brew coffee was smoother and naturally sweeter in comparison.
If you’re not in the mood for coffee, this is still a great place to visit as they have a rich menu of healthy smoothies blended “up-high” and “down-low” to go along with the name. The smoothies sounded delicious with ingredients such as flaxseed, almond butter, and soy milk. Other breakfast options included bagels and lox, granola, and the traditional pastries. Lunch begins around 10am with options such as a hummus plate. There was also a small selection of beers, comprised mostly of an Asheville selection.
Service: Even though the shop was really busy, the barista still took the time to go through the cold brew method with me and even provide a sample, while making drinks. The café, other than a slightly messy pastry case, was really well maintained despite the volume.

Location: Not exactly in downtown Asheville, but close enough which I think is preferable because this way one could access the coffee shop on foot or park nearby for free.  
Legitimacy: On a Wednesday morning around 10am the place was packed out with atleast 25 people inside and a few on the patio outside. This is the only location (that I know of), they have a proud social media presence (follow them on Instagram @highfivecoffee for beautiful coffee photography), and they serve a quality brand. I could also tell that there is a loyal customer base here, most likely due to the personable staff.
Grove Park Inn, Asheville
Overall Rating - 4 stars
+Vibe, Coffee and Food
- Being located so far away from me, cleanliness
:: by Jaclyn Overall
High Five Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 19, 2015

News - Find me on Eater!

While I will still be reviewing on Atl Coffee Scene, I'm very excited to announce a new venture that has come my way. I have begun sharing some of my work with Eater Atlanta. Check out my first published article "15 Essential Coffee shops in Atlanta" and stay tuned for monthly interviews that I will be conducting with coffee shops in the area.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bishops Coffee and Tea

Bishops Coffee and Tea opened up fairly recently(a little over a year ago) in my old neighborhood of Ansley Park. I've had this cafe on my list of places to check out for quite a while now so I decided to begin my Saturday with yoga with a friend followed by coffee at this spot. If you haven't noticed this is my favorite way to kick-off the weekend so my level of enthusiasm was pretty high.   
Atmosphere: ... and that’s when my level of enthusiasm plummets. Upon walking inside I knew we wouldn't end up staying too long. We were the only people in the cafe and the seating was limited a few chairs and an awkward couch facing a wall in the back. The walls were white, the music was all wrong, the lighting was awful (fluorescents  - eww) and the menu displayed largely on the wall looked bare. I took a peak around back and noticed an apartment-like kitchen which made me think the shop was previously someone's home. Altogether, it wasn't comfortable and it wasn't inviting.
Coffee: This is the category where Bishops' makes up some points (its only point in my book). I was impressed that they offered pour-over coffee, and two unique variations of the 'shot in the dark' drink. The descriptions of these two coffee + espresso mixes were magical and the taste held up to what the name promised. Oh yeah, and the cups were cute!

Service: Normal - slow.

Legitimacy: An environmentally friendly roaster (according to their website).
Location: Placed in a fairly walkable part of the Ansley Park neighborhood. It's very close to Piedmont Park, and offers plenty of free parking. But there is a catch --the shop can be tricky to find. When we pulled into the lot that advertises Bishop's Coffee and Tea it took us an entire lap before we noticed the sign pointing us to the shop. Bishops is tucked away underneath another shop and shares a building with Varuni Napoli. Hope that helps!

Overall Rating - 1 Star
Is this place really trying to be a cafe or is it just a store for selling coffee and tea by the bag? I couldn't tell, but either way I won't be stopping in again. There are too many great coffee places in the area that are actually putting in some effort.
:: by Jaclyn Overall
+ Taste and Quality of Coffee
- Atmosphere, Service
Bishops Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon