Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Coffee for the Journey

A Coffee Maven Contemplation

My introduction to coffee was simply as fuel for my job at a university fundraising phone bank during my freshman year at University of Maryland. We cold-called alumni across all  time zones, so the perfectly terrible coffee provided to us was perfectly fine. Throughout my undergraduate days, my friend Karl and I would share what he called "mud" -- overly strong instant coffee that I would eventually call "No Es Cafe." And in graduate school, my wife Pam and I willingly participated in an experiment that ushered in the dreaded flavored creamers that would make the world safe for bad coffee.
Photo: Jane Ng for National Geographic Traveler
I actually have one of these, though I do not use it often!
The transition to Coffee Maven came much later, and grew out of my education as a Latin Americanist geographer -- that is, a geographer specializing in Latin America. I was gradually becoming aware of the importance of conventional trading relationships in coffee as an economic and human-rights problem. In 1999, I invited Equal Exchange coffee buyer Rodney North to my class to talk about his experiences as a visitor to Central America and about the importance of fair trade as an alternative to the deleterious effects of "free" trade.

Within a few years, the social, economic, and environmental aspects of coffee were becoming an increasingly important part of my teaching. At some point I decided that if coffee was going to be part of my teaching, I should learn something about it as a beverage, and soon found myself in a class led by Rodney North (whose expertise had been expanding) and in a private tutorial with the lead coffee expert at Lavazza's U.S. division in New York City.

Rodney's class was quite interesting -- a Saturday adult-education course in downtown Boston that began with a room full of groggy foodies who became steadily more caffeinated throughout the morning. It was in the frenetic chatter at the end of the morning that I first heard of something called a vacuum press (pictured above). These experiences led me to a growing interest in Coffee Care, a term that I use to justify a bit of snobbery as a means of respecting the full potential of carefully cultivated coffee. In fact, I now own one of those vacuum-press contraptions!

All of this is by way of introducing a nice article about the third leg of the proverbial coffee stool -- if the places of origin and the beverage itself are the other two. That third leg is the coffee shop itself -- an institution that emerged in Mecca some thousand years ago, and that proliferated in each country of Europe within a few years of the first bean being introduced country-by-country in the seventeenth century.

In Travel's Secret Agent: Coffee (National Geographic Traveler, Feb/Mar 2013), Daisann McLane begins her tale in an odd place -- a yoga retreat in which coffee is strictly forbidden. When she broaches the subject with the yogi who directs the retreat, she does not address coffee itself, but rather the coffee break and the temporary community of cafes. Read the article both to appreciate all of the ways in which McLane experiences cafes as an essential part of the places she visits and to find out how Swami Devadas responds to her pleas.

Feel free to explore this blog -- and its maps -- for dozens of cafe examples that my students have found. And please visit for the rest of the story of my own coffee journeys.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rocket Bean Rostery

On a recent trip to Riga, Latvia, my family wound up having lunch in the very unassuming Rocket Bean Roastery. Located in an old sock factory, in one of the capital city's 'hipster' neighborhoods, Rocket Bean is known locally for its strong coffees, craft beers, and creative menu. To be honest, what actually drew us in were the bags of espresso and t-shirts in the window emblazoned with the "Magic Pussy Espresso" logo. 

Made on a custom neon backlit La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, my wife had a cappuccino and I enjoyed a latte. I made the mistake of giving Saul, our 14-month-old son, some of the foam from my latte. He loved it, and immediately asked for more. In addition to providing drinks made on the La Marzocco Strada, roastery guests can have their pick of coffees brewed in a Chemex, V60, Syphon or Aeropress. 

While we waited for our meals (we ordered steak, and we're vegetarians) Saul and I walked around the roastery to explore. There was a large retail space that sold coffee, brewing supplies, and yes, Magic Pussy Espresso t-shirts and glass panels divide the roasting space from the rest of the cafe, allowing customers to watch staff as they roast green coffee beans. Similarly, a glass wall with a high-top bar, give patrons a view of the kitchen. Saul particularly liked waiving to the chefs as they prepared our lunch. 

When our plates arrived, it was clear that chef Arturs Taskans had worked and trained in Michelin starred kitchens. The presentation, texture and taste of our meals was unlike anything we had ever tasted before. 

If you find yourself in Riga, Latvia, find your way to Rocket Bean Roastery. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Coastal Roasters, Tiverton, RI

1791 Main Rd, Tiverton, RI 02878


Hours: 6AM-5PM Daily

Coastal Roasters is the most popular coffee shop in Tiverton, Rhode Island. It outshines the nearby Dunkin Donuts by providing its customers with a positive environment and great coffee that keeps everyone coming back for more. The shop is right on Main Rd, which is the busiest road in town. There is constant traffic in the area and many people stop in and get their daily coffee. It has convenient hours, which attracts people from all walks of life. This shop is busy from open to close with a consistent wave of people coming and going. They have many customers stay while many also do take-out. This small shop is very successful and I believe it will stay this way for a very long time.

The shop's beautiful location makes it an even more attractive spot. It is located along the Sakonnet River, offering a great atmosphere for those who enjoy drinking their coffee at the waterfront. 

Coffee Shop & Roaster

Coastal Roasters doubles as a coffee shop as roasting company. They roast their own coffee while providing their roasting services to other coffee shops in the area as well. This makes the already busy coffee shop even busier!

Small Business Support

This coffee shop buys goods from other small businesses in the area and then sells them in the shop. These good are mostly cookies, muffins, and other snack foods. This helps local businesses in the area get recognized for the great work they are doing in their own business. Coastal Roasters loves their community and it shows!

Distance to the nearest Dunkin Donuts


Coastal Roasters is a great place to go if you enjoy a comfortable and friendly atmosphere along with a great cup of coffee. They have a good variety of coffee, and are very serious about what they do. I highly recommend this coffee shop and will definitely be back again!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Hot Chocolate Sparrow , Orleans, MA

The Hot Chocolate Sparrow

The Hot Chocolate Sparrow is a part of a family owned business off of Main Street in Orleans, MA .Most commonly referred to as just " Chocolate Sparrow" it is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Its is open year round every single day with the only exception being Christmas !
It has very lengthy hours allowing lots of opportunity to indulge in their amazing variety of drinks, sweets and lunch Their hours are as follows
Sunday-Thursday - 6:30 AM- 9:00 PM
Friday & Sunday - 6:30 AM- 11:00 PM

click here to see location on map

The Chocolate Sparrow originated in North Eastham in 1989 as a candy shop specializing in fine hand made chocolates. It has now developed to a very popular coffee spot with locations in Welfleet, Orleans and North Eastham.
Although the location in Orleans is across the street from another coffee shop and a few hundred yards away from a Dunkin Donuts, it is not effected at all and is continuously busy
The coffee shop is Handicap accessible from the back entrance. As pictured here. It has a great variety of handmade specialty candies and chocolates, bakery items, desserts, frozen and hot drinks, sandwiches ( hot and cold),and soups . There is pretty much something for everyone,

I visited the shop on a Monday around 1 pm. It was fairly busy with clients in and out constantly. As tourist season is not in full swing yet it was still manageable to get my order without having to wait too long in the line .
Generally due to a lack of available seating, and no drive through, many customers get their orders to go. Many were seated in the chairs that were available but did not stick around much longer then it took them to eat their meal.  The variety of customers is wide, there are couples, families, friends, young and old. It is a fast paced environment with a constant flow of customers .

The Hot Chocolate Sparrow is very well known for its variety of available teas and coffees. It stocks teas and coffees from around the world available for purchase in bulk as well as a serving. Customers may buy coffee beans in bags and have the option of whole bean or you make request that they grind them for you. Many of their coffees are shade grown, and all seem to be advertised as organic. Their buying practices are stated as follows on their company website : "Our Coffees are either certified fair trade or sourced ethically by our family owned roaster who visits the farms to ensure fair treatment of people and land and fair wages." They also make a conscientious environmental efforts such as biodegradable house made tea bags, coffee bags, and a water fountain looking station by the trash for people to dump and rinse their cups for easier and cleaner recycling,

Over all its was a very good experience. I was a little overwhelmed by the variety of options available to choose from. I ended up ordering a grilled cheese with ham and a latte . The coffee was very flavorful and just the right temperature as some places many times the lattes seem to come colder than desired. The ingredients were fresh and the sandwich was very good. In the back wall of the coffee shop there is a section with trinkets and merchandise that will appeal to non locals like the tacky Cape Cod kick knacks. As good as the place is i do feel like over time it is increasingly becoming more commercialized and appealing more to the tourists and the locals. The prices are not outrageous but seemed a little high for a " family owned coffee shop." The staff was not the friendliest , Although I suspect that being busy all day long can become very stressful to the staff. I would recommend this shop to anyone who is in the area on the account that the food is good, the choices are unlimited and the coffee is very good as well. If you come during summer months allow yourself time from the elevated foot traffic from the tourist population.

Thinking Cup Boston

-- by Dylan Moretti 

Adress: 236 Hanover St Boston, Ma

Inside View
Thinking Cup Coffee has three shops located in Boston. There is one located on Hanover st, one on Tremont st, and one on Newbury st. Thinking Cup is the first coffee shop in Downtown Boston to serve Stumptown Coffee and Third Wave Coffee products exclusively. Stumptown, originating in Portland, Oregon, was named "best coffee in the world" by NPR, The New York Times and USA Today. This is great because you know exactly where you are getting your coffee from. 

Outside View

Since the shops are located in Boston close to many colleges there are always students coming and going whether they are staying there to get some caffeine and study or they are grabbing a cup on their way to class. The Thinking Cup can get very busy sometimes and it is very difficult to find seating depending on when you go, however, the staff is very good and keeps things moving quickly. 

The Thinking Cup does not only serve delicious coffee and what some people say are the best cappuccinos in New England but they have a wide variety of Breakfast and Lunch Sandwiches as well as an option for gluten and dairy free products. If you are ever in Boston I suggest you stop by any of the Thinking Cups and grab a coffee and a bite to eat, it is a very cozy atmosphere and you will never be let down.  

Extradordinary Service in an Ordinary Cafe

A Coffee Maven Plaudit

As readers of this blog know, the entire enterprise is a celebration of local, independent coffee shops (and to some extent diners of the same ilk). Most of the reviews are by students in my Secret Life of Coffee seminar, who are prohibited from reviewing chain shops for their class assignments.

This is because -- to a significant degree -- each chain is an archipelago of uniformity. In order to buy coffee in large volumes, the bigger chains develop very rigorous taste profiles that can be met by varying the relative proportions of different coffees each crop year. In order to reinforce their brand identity, the chains enforce -- again, to varying degrees -- uniform standards for decor and uniform protocols for customer interaction.

I find that most students have had little experience in non-chain cafes, and tend to gain a lot from the experience of visiting one for the purpose of a classroom presentation and online review. I do not wish to imply, however, that the chain stores are necessarily devoid of humanity or placedness. After all, they are staffed by humans (the best efforts of upper management notwithstanding and operate in specific places.

A reminder that even global companies have local stories comes from Leesburg, Virginia -- a town where I spent a lot of my childhood exploring my great-aunt's farm -- decades before I ever heard of Starbucks. But it was a Leesburg Starbucks that barista Krystal Payne provided extraordinary customer service in a unique way.
Even chain stores have regular customers, and Payne had noticed that Ibby Paracha communicated his orders entirely through hand-written notes. Parcha was taken aback -- in a good way -- when Payne addressed him in American Sign Language, which she had learned specifically to make him feel more welcome in the shop. All the more surprising, Payne was a new employee who embarked on this learning after serving coffee to Paracha just one time.

The article has a Leesburg dateline, but is vague about the exact location of the shop; at this writing a quick search reveals three shops in Leesburg itself and more than a dozen within a short drive.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Kiskadee Coffee Co.

For my cafe visit I went to the glorious town of Plymouth, MA and went down by the waterfront to Kiskadee coffee company. I went to visit the coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon on a bit of a dreary day. I went with friends from my work who are also fellow coffee enthusiasts. The coffee shop is a two minute walk to the water and located right in the heart of Plymouth. This is a very busy area and on a day when the weather is just right, it can be tough to find a spot to park, however this was not the case on this day. The building itself is quite contemporary and has an inviting appearance.

18 Main St, Plymouth, MA 02360





The shop had a steady flow of customers throughout the duration that I was there which was about two hours. The shop was very well laid out and had good balance in it; there was tables and chairs to sit and have a large group and also an area with rugs and comfy chairs to sit quietly and get some work done. The demographic of the customers varied, but most of the people I spotted during my time there were college age students and working professionals either spending time with friends or catching up on a bit weekend work.
 Although they are on the coast and right by the water the shop has a very original, earthy feel. Upon entering, I noticed the wood floors, quaint music playing and felt as though I had stepped into a shop along a side road in Maine. This to me was the perfect atmosphere because the shop holds an atmospheric value regardless of the season; it does not have to be a bright sunny spring day for one to want to stop in and grab a cup of Joe.


The menu that Kiskadee offered was quite extensive, and just by looking at it for a few minutes it is quite clear that coffee is the main emphasis here. They offer numerous kinds of frozen coffee's, cappuccinos, espresso's, and everything in between. The group I was with and myself tried a good portion of the menu and we all liked almost everything we got our hands on. Myself, I had a Brazilian  Machado which was a special of the day. It was a medium roast that honestly I very much liked and was just the type of coffee I prefer, bold but smooth. We also tried the house blend, a few espresso's (pictured below), a frozen coffee, and sampled some of the sandwiches and cookie's which all were quite good.

Double Espresso


The service at Kiskadee was pretty good, everything we ordered came out to us in a timely fashion and the employees were polite and helpful. The first one that I attempted to get some information from about the coffee and the business itself was not that knowledgeable as she had only been working there a few months. However, she did refer me to the other woman who she was working with who was more knowledgeable. She informed me that Kiskadee is owned by two brothers, one who deals with the front end of the business and is there quite often (just not the weekend afternoon) and the other deals with the coffee aspect; this means acquiring the beans, machines and dealing with the roasters. All of their coffee is from Speedwell roasters in Plymouth that is actually right down the street from the shop. Most of their coffee is fair trade but not all of it, coming from areas allover such as Ethiopia, Brazil, Guatemala etc. Speedwell roasters is actually run in part by one of the brothers who is involved with Kiskadee which was quite interesting. All in all, this coffee shop was definitely a gem and a place I will be back too in the near future I am sure. I would recommend anyone who visits the area that "will not be seen until they have their caffeine", like the sign at the counter said, to go and check it out for themselves.

Me with my Guatemalan house blend

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Cafe on the Commons Waltham

Cafe on the Commons Waltham 

Address: 677 Main St, Waltham, MA 02451

Outside view

Cafe on the Commons Waltham is a 45 minute drive from the university and is situated on a main street with little to no major corporate competition. Also, the shop is located close to Brandeis University making it a lovely stop for workers, students and their visiting family. The environment inside is just so lively and friendly it is practically impossible to not strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Inside view
  The shop has magnificent tasting pastries, delicious meals and amazing coffee, lattes and espressos. The shop is a proud member of the fair trade movement and gets its coffee from Dean's Beans. Dean's Bans is a local beanery located in Orange, MA. 

       The coffee I received was the Aztec Two-Step from Mexico. It had a smooth and nutty flavor with a long after taste. I would describe the coffee as a blend of light and dark roast of Mexican Chipas coffee,

Cilla's Coffee House

5 Liberty Lane, Norfolk MA
Review by Theresa Dustin

Located near the Norfolk train station, Cilla's is the perfect location to grab a coffee or some breakfast to begin your day, before heading on the train. Or if you are in the area, stopping by Cilla's Coffeehouse is definitely worth it. 

When you arrive at 5 Liberty Lane, you will see Cilla's Coffeehouse, next to a Physical Therapy business. Cilla's has been in business for about a year now. 

As you enter into Cilla's, it is a comfortable, relaxing, and welcoming environment. There is no drive thru, but the line is not too bad, at least on a Sunday morning. The atmosphere makes you feel like you are at home, with the fire place and television. It is the perfect place to bring your family and have a conversation over a cup of coffee or some of the breakfast foods served. All age groups seemed to be enjoying it, as parents walked in with their young children, there were some elderly couples, and a few teenagers, but not many. Although most people were simply enjoying each other's company, there is Wi-Fi available, as well. 


The Guatemalan coffee taste just right and is brewed to perfection. Need some flavor? Perfect there are all sorts of flavors to add, which are seen in the pictures above. However, it taste just right as black coffee, as well.

If you are interested in stopping by and grabbing coffee or some breakfast the open hours are as followed:


Also, if you like their page on Facebook you get 10% off your order, so go ahead and like Cilla's Coffeehouse on Facebook before stopping in!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Bridgewater Bagels and Coffee

Bridgewater Bagels and Coffee is a small, local coffee shop who receives their coffee all the way from South America. Employees were friendly and approachable. The establishment was very clean, so no remnants of food or waste were lying around. They owe their success to their distributor, S&D. The establishment itself is rather busy, especially towards the late hours of the morning ( 9:00 am ). Employees say that their success also comes from the following: They don't use generic syrups to make their coffee, they have better parking, and have more space than the Mary Lou's across the street. I would highly recommend this coffee shop if you're a fan of iced coffee, or if you like the clean and friendly environment the store creates.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Jack Mannion
April 13, 2016
Reflection: Coffee Corner
       Coffee  Corner in Hingham is a very successful small coffee shop by Hingham Harbor.  It is owned by Alicia Harkness who works single-handedly almost every day behind the counter.  She opened the shop about five years ago in a small space where not too many stores or companies have lasted too long.  However, this shop has blossomed.
       It is in a great spot for the purpose it serves, as it is near a bus stop, a shipyard, a train station, and it is within five minutes of Hingham High.  It is not much of a sit down restaurant as there are only a few tables, but it is great for workers that take public transportation or students going off to school.  People in these fields are able to stop in quickly and grab a coffee or something to eat and take it for the road.  The shop is predominantly known for it’s coffee but it also serves things such as bagels, muffins, and breakfast sandwiches. 
       The store is open from 6:00 until noon, but the attendance is usually highest from 7-9, as most people are going to work or school at that time.  It can get very busy around that time but it is often sporadic for the rest of the day.  The customers tend to be the same people, and many of them come almost daily.  Some customers sit and read the paper every day, as these are the rare ones who do tend to have a sit down breakfast.  These are often construction workers or retired elderly people who are Coffee Corner regulars. 

       I am not a coffee drinker but I still find this shop to be one of my favorite breakfast places in town.  As a family friend of the owner, I am happy to see the success of the shop to this point.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone living in or visting the south shore.