Friday, March 11, 2005


The boy officially turned two. The party ran smoothly with no injuries. I call that a success. The cafe got a good workout as master barista chuck Y luv cranked out the drinks. The guests strongly prefer the Stumptown Hairbender over Espresso Vivace's Dolce. I had an espresso from our friends in Seattle and it kills me to admit this... There is no better shot than what they created. To be fair, it was called a sugar shot with sugar added before the espresso. It is meant to be consumed inside of 30 seconds from creation. Sip, sip, swirl, finish. If you haven't had an espresso from these guys then you probably don't know what espresso should taste like. The sweetness of honey, the tones of chocolate, and the essence of fruit without even a HINT of bitterness.

Here's the thing. Think of a perfectly built espresso as a house of cards built racing the clock. Everything has to be placed and balanced in a certain order and with great precision. Get any one of dozens of variables wrong and the whole thing falls down. Given that, it's safe to say most people don't have any idea that there's such a thing as a non bitter 1 to 2 ounce magic coffee drink.

A moment to rant about Starbucks. We owe them for helping educate people (for the record, I was frequenting Misha's Coffee in Alexandria VA prior to this whole starfish thing.) on the existence of something beyond folgers. For that, thanks. But for the homogenation of so many places we say with great sarcasm, thanks. Today's starfish from a drink quality perspective sucks. It's the lowest common denominator for a $3-$4 coffee drink. Their espresso quality is so far away from the experience at Vivace or Stumptown that it really needs a different category. The interesting bit is that the prices are basically the same. When on business in a foreign town for a laugh I order different drinks from them: cappucino, macchiato, latte... and no matter what I say, I receive the same drink: a milky sedate latte. The reason is more than barista ignorance in my estimation. It's that they're masking the crappy shots with enough milk so that it won't matter (enough) to be noticed by the average java jacket paper cup sippin' 'bux customer.

But enough negativity... I made a shot with the same Vivace beans that they use for espresso and generated a shot that wasn't marked with the same perfection as the in-shop experience but it was fantastic just the same. Most people do not realize that there's real human talent and mechanical precision involved in crafting an excellent espresso or cappucino. I've traveled some distance down that road but the end is far away. There is no end but I'm still pushing on. People that visit the cafe are happy to enjoy the ride.

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