Coffee shops

Cappuccino Deconstructed

We vacationed in Seattle in early June.  I was there to run a race and visit in-laws, but I did drag people to a few coffee places.  One of the more remarkable locations we visited was Slate Coffee Bar

We ordered Cappuccino Deconstructed.  Turns out a Capp is made of milk and espresso so the deconstruction wasn’t that exciting  🙂  The brilliance of the drink was the use of stemware.

Small capps don’t need to be kept crazy hot, especially since the drinks were appropriately sized and not some venti-trenti whatever sized bucket of milk.  The stemware was a fun elegant touch that I hadn’t considered doing at home.

Contrary to Yelp reviews, the site does have chocolate drinks.  We ordered a hot chocolate for one of my kids.  Keeping with the fancy schmancy coffee bar style, it is a nice single origin chocolate bean. I liked the depth of the chocolate, although my kids prefer a more traditional kid flavored chocolate (aka Nesquick).


Hot Chocolate

Enhancing the effect of caffeine

Enhancing the effect of caffeine

I’m not only about coffee. I also run. Like coffee, I try to take running to the extreme. I’m either all in or I’m not. I ran the 2013 Mt Taylor 50k race in Grants New Mexico -ok I didn’t really “run” the whole race, that mountain was really really tall, you try and run up that. I came across a interesting concept that I tried leading up to this race. I wanted to maximize the sports benefits of caffeine.

To do this, I decided I would limit my caffeine intake about a month or so leading up to the race. In theory, on race day
caffeine would be more effective. On paper the concept seemed sound but my routines are all centered around coffee. While pondering the problem, I realized the solution… The answer might be obvious to you, it was sacrilegious to me. Could I really do it? It would be embarrassing.

I didn’t do this at home. I didn’t have the beans, but I did do it when I went to Starbucks. For about a month I had to walk up to the counter and order decaf. I know what you are thinking, what is the point of decaf coffee? I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I drink coffee because I like the routine and ritual. Getting decaf was a whole lot better than messing with my routine.

But I discovered something interesting. Starbucks doesn’t sell a lot of decaf so many locations don’t brew it after a certain time. When I ordered, they made me a single cup by using a pour over funnel. Decaf brewed that way tastes richer and fresher than regular coffee in the urn. I’m sure Starbucks will brew you regular coffee in a pour over, but I don’t want to be “that customer”. By ordering decaf I got tastier coffee without making a “special” request.

One of the things I like about endurance sports is the planning and logistics. Ultimately my decaf plan failed horribly. It was a failure of logistics. Free travel tip for you: The people in Grants are very friendly. But if you ever visit, bring your own coffee. I wasn’t able to find decent coffee at 3-4am. I stopped at a convenience store en route to the starting line to end my caffeine fast – I should have gotten a Red Bull because the coffee wasn’t very tasty.

I’m planning my 2014 race schedule and I’ll try the caffeine “fast” again. This time I have decaf green beans so I can roast my own. I’m wondering if I should switch my house to decaf without telling my wife. Maybe that will be too dangerous.


Dirty cafés

There is something about coffee cafés. I like exploring and discovering cafés while I travel. You usually can walk in and “know” before you even order if the coffee is going to be good. But even “good” cafés have a tendency to fall into a trap.

Cafe owners seem to relish creating run down dirty places. Not all of them do that, I’ve been into some spotless cafés when I travel and those are always a treat. Say what you want about Starbucks, but at least they invest in their facilities.

My family and I recently visited the “best” coffee shop in a town while on vacation. The coffee was great. I ordered some sort of fru-fru Capp/mocha drink (don’t mock me, I’m on vacation) and my wife ordered a special mocha drink. The drink was great, really good micro-foam, everything about the drink prep was great. We sat next to the roaster and I spent time trying to convince my kids that this was a roaster-they must have thought all roasters looked like my BBQ drum.

So the shop knows espresso. They care about quality ingredients. They can have lines that go out the door. But the place was a dump. I don’t mind the bohemian look, but you know, fix the stuff.

I continue to gravitate towards Starbucks. The coffee and drinks there are consistent. The facilities always are kept up. And the wifi almost always works.