Urban Coffee Lounge

I would like to confirm in my blog records that today is the day that I finished my Disloyalty Card at Urban Coffee Lounge in Kirkland. Yes, I made the trek all the way to Kirkland but it was necessary for me to finish this card that has been sitting in my pocket for the longest time, just waiting to be complete. The name itself speaks for the décor and ambience of the shop itself with urban artwork adorning the walls with an overall coffee theme like a circle made entirely out of coffee mugs. Maybe you have to see it to appreciate it but I digress. There are subtle touches to the decorations of this place that make it feel somewhat urban but for the most part it is a aristocratic type of coffee shop. What I mean by that is that the crowd pouring in through the doors are upper middle Kirklandites, wine a prominent beverage on their menu, and most of the decorations are plush, leather chairs and expensive looking tables. There is even a modern looking fireplace that just screams classiness. But as I was saying before, it does have urban touches such as tagged lighting fixtures and concrete slaps for countertops.

This is definitely a cool shop but what would make me want to come here again is the coffee. I started off with my typical drip but instantly notice that they brew Stumptown Coffee beans. And to top it off, they were brewing the Holler Mountain Blend, a blend that I have wanted to try for a long time. The brew had a heavy body and defining notes of toffee and tobacco. Along with the tobacco came this smokiness that I have only experienced a few times before in coffee but it was refreshing and smooth. It brought me back to the times when I would smell the lingering scent of cigarette smoke on my uncle as a child, sniffing his jacket to experience that small high from second hand smoke. After I downed the delicious cup of joe I moved on to my next favorite drink, a macchiato. The macchiato had a salty caramel taste to it with another type of spice that I cannot identify. In my humble opinion, it was not the best macchiato I have had but it was good in the fact that I could identify certain notes within the cup. I guess the final question is whether I would come here again? Well, I’ll let the ratings answer that.

Café Rating: 8 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 7 shots of espresso


Stumptown Coffee

I would like to know if there is a better way to spend your morning than with a friend, sitting in a coffee shop, drinking a nice brew? If there is, let me know. This particular morning I am with my friend, Sarah Baggs, from Portland, Oregon. Being from Portland, we decided to go to a Portland staple that has moved up to the great city of Seattle, Stumptown Coffee. I have many friends who have told me that Stumptown has revolutionized the coffee business with its Fair Trade and Direct Trade practices and the emphasis they put on the flavor of coffee. Well, it’s time I had some directly from the source. When we first walked in the doors you could sense the urban ambience Stumptown tries to create at their 12th Avenue location. Wood beams, fantastical hanging lamps, and metal comprise the décor of this café, a refreshing change of pace from the local artistry that normally decorates coffee shop walls. I only wish that it was slightly bigger to accommodate the crowd that now occupies the space. Amidst the chatter and jazz that occupies the space is a constant humming of the roaster downstairs.

It may be the most beautiful sound in the world and I close my eyes, listening to its symphony of sounds that fills the room. Maybe this is the lesson I am supposed to learn from Stumptown; that the sounds of a coffee shop are just as important as the decoration.

Well, I will stop boring you with my fascination of the acoustic qualities of this café and move onto the coffee. I will admit that my expectations are high for their coffee not only from what I’ve heard but also from the fact that a large number of coffee shops in Seattle use Stumptown beans. Today they feature their Costa Rica Montes de Oro made in a French Press, like Neptune and many other cafés. It probably is one of the sweetest coffees I have tasted on my journey thus far. The cup prominently showcases honey along with a sweetness developed from a lighter citrusy flavor that I am told is a tangerine. It is also has a surprisingly light body for a French Press. For my next beverage, I decide to go with a macchiato, something that I have found to be an acceptable compromise between a latte and a straight up shot. Although the artistry was not as impressive as I had hoped (not that I am a latte art fiend), the cup itself was most excellent. It had just enough cream to offset the acidity of the espresso, which in itself was also sweet but also had this smoky flavor so smooth and delectable, that I cannot even comprehend it. If I could order another, I most certainly would but I will restrain myself for the sake of my cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.

Café Rating: 9 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 10 shots of espresso

Tougo Coffee

For my next trick, I present to you another fabulous coffee shop filled with… coffee. I ventured to yet another coffee shop featured on my Disloyalty Card and wound up at Tougo Coffee in Capitol Hill. When I first walked in, I felt at peace. There are no decorations that make it extraordinary but the café has the classic tables, couches, and paintings any other coffee shop would have. Maybe it’s the wood paneling in the ceiling or the church pews on either side (they are quite comfortable by the way). A brick wall adorns the back of the establishment and Japanese paneling covers a short portion of the back room. I don’t know what it is because it is not the fanciest of cafés or the dingiest but for some reason it is inviting. There are so many elements of this place that I feel in place. One of the coolest features of this coffee shop in a TV that customers can share pictures, comments, and links on. After seeing this feature, I quickly pulled out my computer, logged on, and posted the link to my blog. If you are at Tougo right now, welcome to my blog. The only downside I can see to this café is that there is little ventilation and on a hot summer day like this, it makes coffee consumption difficult but I will endure the pain to review their coffee.

At first sip I could tell that they brew their coffee in either a French Press or some other device that the typical drip brewing system. It has a nice sweet flavor, more of medium roast, and had light notes of sage and cranberry. The drink was quite delicious and the lightness was definitely a change of pace but enjoyable. I’ve noticed a lot of places serve darker roasts or heavier drips which is fine but every once in a while, you run into a coffee shop that serves a lighter drip. It either has to be really good or it will be judged for its divergence from the normal darker, bolder coffees. Tougo is the exception and much enjoyed their coffee. As usual, I went to have the next caffeinated selection and because of this espresso craze I have been having, I decided to go for a shot. I went to smell the shot before I sipped and it almost knocked me off my feet. The smell itself was like smelling wasabi but imagine that wasabi burning sensation in your nostrils was actually coffee. I started sipping and was delighted by the herbal taste and roundness of the shot but it was just a tad too acidic for me. But I’m sure that they have some delicious lattes as the guy next to certainly seemed to enjoy his. Thinking back on my decision, I probably should have chose an iced beverage because the shot combined with the drip and the warm weather is making for a slightly sweaty coffee reviewer. Oh well, the sacrifice to find a good cup of joe.

Café Rating: 9 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 8 shots of espresso

On other news: I am down to the last coffee shop on my Disloyalty Card. The only problem is that it is all the way out in Kirkland. Is it worth it? Most definitely.

Porchlight Coffee

I got off of work early today so I thought to myself, “What better way is there to celebrate getting off of work early?” Coffee! I truly enjoy the sweet pleasure of going to a coffee shop, sitting down with a cup of drip, and enjoying my time spent typing and reading. Today I ventured over to Capitol Hill to a little place called Porchlight Coffee. This café is tucked away and I would have missed it had it not been for a kind gentleman on the Broadway who gave me the most colorful directions an elderly man has ever given me (And when I say colorful, well… you should know what that means). The shop itself does not possess any outstanding decorations and it has the basic coffee shop feel of one toned wall paint, local paintings, and wooden furniture. They do have one couch but a couple is currently occupying its comfortableness (and yes, this is a word). The coolest feature of this establishment is its decent record collection organized by genre filled with classics and newer albums. I was tempted to buy the newest Queen album but realized I didn’t know any of the songs and I would only purchase the album because of its masterfully designed cover.

Now to what I came here for in the first place, a good cup of joe. I ordered my regular 8 ouncer and sipped away. The cup had a nice mellow taste of caramel and was nice and round. Nothing stupendous was experienced today but a cup I enjoyed and at this point, wouldn’t mind trying again. But I was disappointed when the barista told me it was the last cup they had. Fortunately for me and my ever increasing caffeine intake, I refrained from waiting for more drip coffee and went straight to the espresso. This was actually an extremely delicious espresso shot. It definitely had chocolate notes and had a tartness of dark berry of some sort, I am not exactly sure of what. It also was very smooth and I almost drank it like water but restrained myself from experiencing a powerful caffeine jolt. My only side note is to bring cash. They do accept credit cards but only if the purchase is over five dollars. Actually, just plan on bringing cash to any coffee shop you go to in Seattle to avoid the possible embarrassment of not being able to pay for your drinks. I was in that unfortunate situation myself at this café but remedied it by purchasing a blueberry tart from Mini Empire. It was a scrumptious way to end my Porchlight Coffee visit.

Café Rating: 7 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 8 shots of espresso

Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Company

So far with my coffee adventures, the weather has closely resembled the weather conditions of the school year, which is a poor testament to the Seattle weather but has also given me perfect conditions to review these coffee shops. Today is another grey day but it is also beautiful because of the presence of a wonderful friend, Jennah Harper. She has been raving about this one coffee shop called Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Company and so I decided to try it with her. When I first walked in I was reminded of my first coffee shop experience in Seattle. Dark wood walls, artisan lights, and plenty of customers reading and surfing the internet. That was what I first noticed about coffee shops in Seattle when I first visited this magnificent city.

A bunch of students, hipsters, and professionals grapping their favorite caffeinated drink and getting something done whether it be studying, work, or catching up on their favorite book. That’s what a coffee shop looks like and that is definitely what this establishment offers. It is an ideal location to get some studying accomplished and the atmosphere allows you to do just that. This café also has several photos of the coffee bean process starting from the berries all the way to a perfectly designed latte. So to say it briefly, the shop itself is completely and utterly awesome.

However, to every good coffee shop there must be a good cup of coffee and that is why I came here today. As always, I tried their drip and was pleased by the flavor of it. The cup took me back to a traditional drip coffee with a nice acidity that wasn’t too harsh to taste but just enough to remind me of the coffee flavors of my earliest drip coffees. The cup did not have any string notes of berries, chocolates, or other strong flavors but was subtle and smooth enough to be an enjoyable cup of coffee. Others have told me about their other blends and I will be sure to try them in the future but I do have to say this cup was delightful. Now onto an espresso drink. I thought that I should go more espresso this time and less milky (or soy milky) so I went with a macchiato. The roast and flavor was very present in the cup yet not too overpowering to the palate. If it were not for the excessive amount of caffeine that I would consume from this drink, I would probably have ordered a couple of more cups. I highly recommend this macchiato for those of you looking to try something other than your regular drip or latte. All in all the coffee was memorable although the drip didn’t blow me away. I would recommend coming here with some homework or a good book, and sitting down to drink your favorite drink in true Seattle fashion.

Cafe Rating: 10 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 8 shots of espresso

Equal Exchange Espresso

Another morning, another cup of coffee. On this particular morning, I decided to venture to a place I have always seen but had never been before, The Ballard Market. Connected to the Ballard Market is a little fair trade coffee shop called Equal Exchange Espresso and yet another shop on my Disloyalty Card.

Honestly, the café itself is smaller than most and seating is limited inside the establishment, which is an issue since it can get crowded in a jiffy. There is seating located outside which would be perfect for a sunny day but Seattle decided to withhold its sunshine from me for today. So here I am, sitting in here with my wonderful roommate Danny Guttridge, looking at the older looking wood panels, a variety of potted plants, and other decorations promoting global awareness and fair trade coffee. I am also a huge fan of the location because it is connected directly to the Ballard Market so if you are looking to do some grocery shopping and you need the delectable drink known as coffee, you can stop in this little café to get your caffeine fix.

The coffee is great but before I get to that, I just have to say the to-go cups are probably the coolest to-go cups I have seen so far. They really make sure to present their mission and purpose of fair trade coffee, even through their cup designs, which has a farmer, the café’s logo, and just an overall cool design. Now, I started off with my normal drip and the interesting thing was I got to pick out my drip from containers off to the side. This almost turned me off to the coffee because it reminded me of the way my school’s coffee shop presents their coffee and their coffee is just terrible. But I was surprised and Equal Exchange’s coffee had subtle flavors including citrus notes and somewhat off a milk chocolate aftertaste. It was also sharp on the tongue but the aftertaste was smooth and delicious. Overall, it didn’t impress me but it was still a tasty cup of joe. Danny was trying their mocha and after seeing his facial expressions, I decided to try it for myself. It was a great decision and I thoroughly enjoyed the marshmallowly whipped cream on top of a vibrant mocha. The espresso in the drink was a little overpowering but being a guy who likes the taste of espresso, I didn’t mind it all that much.

Addendum: So my friend suggested I give Equal Exchange another try with their espresso. I will say that I am partial to brewed coffee but I was more than willing to give it another try. We ordered a double shot and my was it delicious. It definitely had a lemony flavor to it with hints of dates in it. The shot was also very smooth and was just the right acidity to expose the full flavor of the shot. I stand corrected and I now have a better appreciation for coffee shops and the variety of drinks they offer.

Cafe Rating: 7 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 9 shots of espresso

Makeda Coffee

I’ve decided to start this blog out with a haiku:

At day or at night

I crave and consume coffee

Till I’m satisfied

Maybe I’ll stick with the blogging because that was a horrible poem even though I tried to squeeze in that alliteration. As my sister and I drove up Greenwood Avenue, I noticed all the coffee shops that reside here including Neptune, Herkimer, and others including Diva Espresso and other smaller cafés. When we arrived at Makeda Coffee, it looked like just another small coffee shop but sometimes those are the ones that are the best. So with an open mind, I walked in and ordered my usual drip coffee. The décor of the establishment was actually surprising and refreshing. It was nowhere compared to the outlandish decorations of Bedlam but had hints of it with sprinkles of sophistication. Paper cut flowers strung by the heater, Hindu gods next to the speakers, and more eclectic artwork on the walls instead of the usual paintings or black and white photos. But those are just little details to an otherwise typical coffee shop setting.

This establishment has all the usual drink offerings and also has a mini bar on the other side of the espresso machine where one lady is currently spilling the contents of her day to the barista over a glass of wine. I sit down with my drip and am content but not blown away. I mean, they have all the tools and techniques of experienced coffee shops including pour over and cold brew systems. But the coffee was flat and my palate searched for some sort of aftertaste but none was found. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t bad but nothing that I would crave early in the morning after a long night of studying. Nonetheless, I give them the benefit of the doubt of a possible bad and decide to try an espresso drink. Since it is getting late into the evening, I cap the night off with a cappuccino. The foam on top was pretty and was not bad at all. A good acidity and the taste of the espresso was light to drink but strong to taste. I thoroughly enjoyed ending my evening with that drink. If I could write another poem about it I would but I will save all of you from another horrid haiku.

Cafe Rating: 7 shots of espresso

Coffee Rating: 7 shots of espresso