Local Coffee

4 10 2012

For all you coffee snobs out there: if you have not visited Local Coffee – shame on you! I strip thee of thy self-appointed “snob” appellation.

Our American culture has forced every industry to meet our “give-it-to-me-now” expectations, including our morning coffee. To be sure, Starbucks has stepped in to fill that need to the point of saturating every market available. Starbucks will always have its staunch apostles, and vociferous critics. Regardless of your position, its dominance around the U.S. has established that cup of nasty and bitter Pike’s Peak as the standard.

I’m here to tell you that Local Coffee stands above and beyond any coffee house I have ever been to because of their dedication to a quality product, brewed with precision, and presented in an artistic fashion.

It all starts out with Cuvee coffee from a roaster just outside of Austin (you can read more about the roaster by clicking the link to their website). First of all, the coffee is directly sourced from their farmer-partners with a focus on specialty coffee. But that is just the beginning. Cuvee is so committed to providing a quality experience that they even provide barista training to ensure that the high quality extends all the way down to the cup of coffee.

Just about everything here is made through a French Press (press pot). Although there is an espresso machine on hand, it is rarely in use to actually brew the coffee. According to Robby Grubbs, the owner, nothing goes through a drip machine or any paper filters to ensure that all the flavors from the essential oils are captured. The barista’s attention to detail allows them to develop a “microfoam” from their milk. The precise angle and depth at which the steam wand is inserted into the milk draws out its naturally sweet flavor. If you think I’m joking here, wait until you try it and you will be a believer.

Like yourself (surely), I’ve had a lot of coffee from many different places. But it is rare (like never) that I am really surprised. Local Coffee does that. The flavor of the coffee itself has a natural sweetness to it, and the mouth feel of the foam is smooth and creamy, adding another layer of sweetness from its lactose lusciousness (sorry, had to do that). The only problem I have with the coffee here is that I finish it too damn quickly and that I want more!

Now, don’t expect to wiz through one morning for your regular 20oz. cappuccino. They only serve traditional capps here – so 8oz. only (one part espresso, two parts milk). My favorite? The latte is served in a 16oz. portion with your very own latte foam art (typically a flower or heart). So delicious its almost a shame to adulterate it with sugar.

The decor at both locations (Stone Oak and Alamo Heights) is decidedly industrial constructed from “green” materials with unique detailing throughout. Expect to find either location fairly busy, even during the middle of the day, filled with a wide demographic of people. Baked goods are available as are micro-brews and wines, which makes this coffee house a unique and attractive place to visit.

Trust me on this one.

Will Starbucks get its soul back?

31 01 2008

starbucksA couple of days ago an article came through on the AP wire regarding a memo issued by Starbucks Chariman Howard Schultz. This memo, delivered to Starbucks top executives about a year ago bemoaned the “watering down of the Starbucks experience. He complained that the company’s unbridled growth had sapped the soul out of the company. In this memo he pointed to the fact that many people find the stores “sterile” and “cookie cutter.”

How often do you see or hear about someone in a position such as Schulz’s being so candid about the company they run? Admitting there is a problem is the first step towards recovery, and Schultz hit the problem right on the head. As Starbucks saturates the market, the funky and cozy coffee houses (remember when they were called that?) have gone by the wayside. People are driven by convenience and efficiency, and its so much easier to pull up to the Starbucks drive-thru to pick up the morning java than to stop at a favorite coffee house and drink inside out of a ceramic cup. The original intent and philosophy behind the coffee house has waned, and in some areas, disappeared. In fact, after Starbucks switched to the fully automated machines, the pungent coffee aroma that used to permeate the air almost completely disappeared as well. Likewise, the craft of “pulling” a great cup of coffee or espresso is non-existent.

Here in San Antonio, I can only think of one coffee house that has retained this eclectic charm and that also serves good coffee. I only know about it because I stumbled upon it. On the other hand, Starbucks has become so ubiquitous through their marketing that even cartoons mimic and parody their logo.

However, hope may be in sight. Schultz is taking steps to bring the soul back to the stores. Different ideas have been tossed around to accomplish this, (like firing the CEO) but their success remains to be seen. I will be waiting in anticipation as I sip an espresso made from my Jura Capresso at home.

Jupiter Java & Jazz [CLOSED]

12 12 2007

To be honest, I like going to Starbucks. Not because of the coffee – I make a much better cup at home on my Capresso – but because of the atmosphere. The individually owned coffee shops are slowly disappearing, not only here in San Antonio, but across the nation. Gone are all the adjectives we used to associate with coffee houses (remember when they were called that?): quaint; peculiar; funky; offbeat; eccentric; cool; hip. Only to be replaced by what can aptly be described as sophisticated monotony. I can go into any Starbucks and expect about the same thing. The same earth tones, the same furniture, the same music, the same green aprons, etc.

That’s why it was a pleasant surprise to discover Jupiter as I was walking down S. Alamo in the historic Southtown. It was night time and the neon sign attracted my attention to the electric purple and bright red colors of the walls and furniture. I was determined to return when I finished eating dinner.

Its a small place with adequate seating with a modern look to the furnishings (Ikea rocks), lighting, and artwork. Everything is neat, organized, clean, and yet comfortable. The place is owned and operated by a husband and wife team who make you feel welcome, and who still believe in serving your coffee in a cup and saucer.

My wife and I ordered a simple cup of coffee. If you can make that right, everything else should just fall in place. The Baristas handle the two-group Faema with skill to pull great tasting cups of coffee. They support the Southtown Mainstreet Alliance when you buy the “Southtown Blend” and they carry about 17 blends of Fair Trade Coffee.

In my opinion, this is what the coffee house is about: good coffee, good atmosphere, and good people. Swing by sometime and support an institution that is fading quickly from our culinary culture.

Amy’s – goths throwing ice cream

27 11 2007

There are many ice cream franchises around, each with their own gimmick or advertising ploy to drag you in for over-priced ice cream. However, in my mind, there is a standout in the ice cream industry that regards quality so dearly that it refuses to franchise, and that is Amy’s Ice Creams.

Amy’s is an Austin staple that started back in 1984 by Amy Miller (yes, there is a face behind the name). Most of the stores are in Austin with a couple in Houston and one in San Antonio (thanks, Amy). There are two things you can expect when you go to Amy’s: excellent ice cream and an interesting (for lack of a better word) staff. Let’s start with the ice cream.

To qualify as a bona fide ice cream, a product needs to have at least 10% butterfat. Amy’s recipes have 14% butterfat Read the rest of this entry »