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

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cool Beans Coffee Roasters

Now that I live in Vinings the reach of Atlanta Coffee Scene reviews is broadening. Looking back, I knocked out most of the Eastside places when I lived in Decatur, a medley of the midtown and Highlands shops when I lived in Ansley Park, and now with Vinings and my close location to the highway, I’m tackling the periphery ones. That being said, this week I would like to introduce you to a coffee shop in Marietta Square called Cool Beans CoffeeRoasters.
Atmosphere- I stopped into Cool Beans on a Sunday evening and the place was buzzing with noise and people. The shop is on the smaller side and is made of mainly café tables and chairs, with a few added cozy, cushiony chairs that when used, places you right in the middle of the ordering line...awkward. There were some older couples, a group of friends playing a card game, lots of teenagers, and some college kids studying in a corner nook decorated with a mural of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The baristas were scurrying around behind the espresso bar and yelling out drinks over the loud rock music that was playing.  The card-playing group kept spontaneously yelling out “BS!” to go along with their game. People were coming and going, carefully maneuvering around each other and furniture in the slightly-cramped space. The atmosphere was all-too rambunctious to concentrate on my book and the outdoor patio seating wasn't an option due to the freezing January temperature, so I just sat back and enjoyed my drink and the art for sale adorning the walls. Overall, the shop was a little too hectic and hippy/grungy for my taste.
 Coffee- I was feeling something sweet and went for the Mexican Hot Chocolate in lieu of my usually drip, and I’ll never look back because it was cinnamony and delicious! You must order this when you visit, and you will visit, right ;)? The drip coffee they brew is extremely fresh as it’s roasted in-house. I can’t make a judgement on taste because I didn’t try, but I promise to test it out on my next visit. Cool Beans posts a list of what the daily brews are on their website, although I have my doubts as to whether this list is updated often or not (track it for yourself here). If I were more tech-savvy I could probably figure it out, but that’s definitely not the case. Anyways,  I wish I was writing this review from their shop today because I would have loved to try out their Kenyan.

Service- I have to give them a big thumbs-down on this one. I ordered my drink and 5 minutes later the barista sort of rudely told me to wait for my drink on the other side of the bar so she could help other customers. I was simply waiting to pay, but I assume she forgot in the midst of all the racket going on behind the bar.

Location- This shop is situated directly in Historic Marietta Square. Other than the Starbucks located right outside the square there’s no other known coffee shops. Cool Beans conveniently meets every Marietta Square visitor’s caffeine needs. Also know that there is plenty of parking down the street, but a short walk is involved. 
Legitimacy- Cool Beans is independently owned and roasts their own beans. Judging on the crowd that was there on the occasion that I visited I would assess that there is a loyal customer base. The shop has a Mellow-Mushroomy vibe which I can only say the same about one other coffee shop that I've visited – Kavarna in Oakhurst.    
Overall Rating - 2 ½ Stars
I'll call this a tentative score because I didn't try the coffee. So, Cool Beans, that means I'm coming back!
::by Jaclyn Overall
+location, coffee, legitimacy
-comfort, space, and service                                   
Cool Beans Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon