The weekly roundup of my ESPN content from the past seven days:
* The top 25 MLB players under age 25. The comments are a cesspool of no-one-ever-reads-the-intro ignorance, too.
* Scouting notes on Lakewood and Charleston prospects, including Aaron Judge and J.P. Crawford.
* Draft blog post on Virginia prep RHP Jake Bukauskus, who is graduating a year early and will likely go in the first round.
* This week’s Klawchat.
The original purpose of the Saturday five post was to include a list of five somethings that had caught my eye or ear recently, like songs, but eventually I just stripped it down to five links per week so that I could post more regularly with a little less pressure on myself. I’m bringing that old format back this week to talk about one of my newest obsessions – coffee. Here are five small roasters, some pretty well-known, whose coffees I’ve enjoyed both at home (with one exception) and on the road.
* Four Barrel. A San Francisco-based roaster focused on single-origins from around the world, and whose coffees I first tried at Phoenix’s wonderful Giant Coffee bar on First Street, not far from Matt’s Big Breakfast (owned by the same guy). A reader who works at Four Barrel was kind enough to send me some of their offerings from this spring, and the Rwandan Musabiymana beans made the best espresso shot I’ve ever pulled at home, with blackberry and blood orange notes and just the right amount of acidity for my particular tastes. I also recommend their Friendo Blendo blend.
* Intelligentsia. One of the biggest of the small guys, Intelligentsia has made huge inroads into the restaurant side of the business as well as opening a handful of high-end artisan shops where the coffee is just part of a larger experience. Their roasts are very light, at least relative to what I think American coffee drinkers expect (Starbucks, Peet’s), and like Four Barrel they specialize in single-origins, engaging in direct trade with farmers around the world. Their Ljulu Lipati beans from Zambia are the only ones from that country I’ve ever tried, and they have a little less acidity and citrus notes than other East African beans I’ve had, with cherry and honey notes making a more balanced cup. Their Black Cat espresso makes a well-rounded shot with great body and the sweetness you’d expect from a blend of South American beans. Intelligentsia has multiple coffee bars in LA and Chicago, plus a new one in the High Line Hotel in New York City.
* heart coffee. A friend of mine at Intelligentsia first introduced me to heart as well, and I’ve since found their beans at Crepe Bar in Tempe and at Culture Espresso in Manhattan. They’re smaller than the preceding two roasters so their options are fewer, but they seem to always have choices from Central/South America as well as Africa, along with a seasonal blend. I particularly liked the Colombian La Pradera beans, which had enough vanilla notes to give it a sweet veneer over richer fruit notes – their website suggests cantaloupe, which I didn’t pick up at all, as well as “nougat,” which I can’t even imagine what that means in a coffee.
* Counter Culture. This is the one on the list I haven’t tried at home yet, but I’ve had them all over the south, including at Joule in Raleigh last month. Hugh Acheson also swears by these guys, and that’s a pretty good recommendation as he’s become a dedicated coffeehound recently. (He’s a good follow on Twitter/Instagram for his coffee meanderings, along with snark and the occasional baseball and hockey commentary.) My favorite so far is La Golondrina, sourced direct from the farm in Colombia, with cocoa, caramel, and bourbon (the drink, not the coffee cultivar) notes.
* Downtown Coffee. This Honolulu micro-roaster and cafe offers a rare opportunity to buy American, if you’re so inclined – Hawai’i is the only U.S. state with the proper climate for coffee cultivation, and Downtown Coffee roasts beans from four of the islands in the chain, both as single-origins and in blends. We visited the shop on our family vacation to Hawai’i in 2012, and loved their coffee and the homemade Japanese pastries they sell, including a fantastic matcha torte that I’ve never had anywhere else. I just ordered beans from them a few weeks ago and have been tearing through their Spring Blend, a medium roast offering with beans from Maui and Waialua (Oahu); its espresso shots have great body and more of the cocoa notes I love in espresso. If you visit the shop, ask for Fred or Fumiko to give you a “tour” of all of the local beans they offer – they’re very knowledgeable, since everything is roasted on-site, and walked me through the differences between beans from each island.
And now, for the Saturday links…
- A new Tennessee law favors Jack Daniels over craft distillers. Color me shocked that big business got a law passed to stick it to smaller competitors.
- NPR looks at – no joke – artisanal toast. This link brought to you by the Toast Marketing Board.
- BP would like you to not read this link about how the Deepwater Horizon disaster decimated the bluefin tuna population, and they certainly don’t want to pay for it.
- I admit I’m not quite sure how I feel about net neutrality, but I do get a queasy feeling reading that the FCC wants to destroy it. And that’s under what should ostensibly be a more pro-consumer, less pro-business Adminstration.
- A fun read as professional bartenders give tips for the home mixologist, although the current lime shortage may make some of those suggestions difficult.