Coffee Travels: Axum Coffee & Roastery

If you’ve read My Coffee History, you might already be aware of Axum Coffee and the role they played introducing me to pour-over. Until I discovered their shop in downtown Winter Garden, I only drank lattes and other espresso-based drinks. Axum was my gateway into brewed coffee.

Where my journey into brewed coffee bloomed…

This was many years ago, and I had stopped visiting Winter Garden for coffee, favoring shorter drives to Tampa instead. Since then, Axum has grown to three cafes and a roastery. They’ve been roasting for two years now on a beautiful Probat, and I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to check it out.

One of my goals with Coffee Travels is to spend time in cafes with friends and family, enjoy a good fika together with excellent coffee and conversation. My wife’s cousin was in Orlando for one day, so we used that as an excuse to cart her over to Winter Garden for lunch and coffee.

We started our visit at the main cafe on Plant Street, catching a relatively quiet moment after the lunch rush. I tried their cold brew, opting for still coffee over ice, and it was just what I needed after a hot lunch on a hot day. My wife’s cousin went for an iced americano, while my wife sipped one of their sweet lattes.

The pastry case was stocked with all sorts of delicious goodies, and we picked out a couple mini-cheesecake bites to share. No photos, however, since they didn’t last long enough for me to get out the camera!

Spending quality time in a coffee shop can be challenging when you have two young boys. I spent half the time playing with our 3-year-old in the cute kid’s area: a small table with a toy espresso machine and other cafe-related toys.

The other half of our visit had me carrying our 10-month-old in and out of the shop trying to keep him occupied so that my wife could have a nice visit with her cousin. That’s life with little ones, of course, and all you can do is take turns.

I didn’t mind giving up my time in the cafe, knowing that I would soon get my time at the roastery…

Axum Roastery, 426 W. Plant St. Winter Garden, FL 34787

Axum Coffee‘s roastery is a few blocks down the street from their main cafe, tucked inside the Plant Street Market, an indoor market filled with artisan vendors. Imagine an indoor farmers market featuring all the best local, organic and craft businesses, with a coffee roaster on one end and a brewery on the other.

I love the smart use of limited space, a compact cafe built around the roaster itself. If I didn’t have family waiting, I could easily spend an hour hanging out at the bar, talking coffee and watching the Probat crank out batch after batch.

For old times sake, I ordered a pour-over of their Ethiopia Guji (along with a bag of beans to take home) and enjoyed the tea-like aroma of apricot and white grape. It was a nice coffee, a bit lighter in flavor than most of the Ethiopian coffees I brew at home.

It was nice getting back to Axum after so many years away, and it gave me a great place to start this revamped Coffee Travels series. I’m looking forward to many more cafe visits in the near future, wondering where I’ll go next…

Coffee Travels:
Foundation Coffee Co. – Tampa

During my periodic absences from the coffee scene, the growth of specialty coffee has been astounding. The list of shops I want to visit continues to grow, yet I have less and less time to go coffee-touring.

Well a few months ago, before my most recent blog-departure, my wife and I spent a weekend in Tampa, and I finally made it to Foundation Coffee Co.

I had been to Foundation’s original Riverview shop nearly two years ago for a throwdown, back when I was trying to build my latte art skills. They opened their second location in Tampa last year, and I’ve been drooling over their photos ever since.

Foundation’s Tampa Heights shop is a coffee nerd’s dream, from the retail shelf full of high-end coffee gear, to the beautiful black Linea PB, to the rack of Yama towers rigged on a pully that travels up and down the 2-story interior brick wall.

The menu is fantastic, of course, just what you’d expect from a third-wave shop fueled by passionate people. I enjoyed a generous pour-over (Colombia, brewed in a GINO dripper) along with a gluten-free chocolate donut that didn’t last long enough for a photo, and we took some cold brew back to our hotel to enjoy the next morning.

Although I had seen many Instagram shots of their interior (and exterior) design, spending some time in that space made me appreciate it even more. Natural elements such as plants, rocks, and water features encourage a feeling more akin to a Japanese garden than a big city coffee shop.

The best part of our visit, however, was time spent with our friend Marie, whom we hadn’t caught up with since she and Dawn sold The Library Coffeehouse a few months earlier. I enjoyed spending an hour or more just sitting and talking about life and coffee, and it left me wishing I could spend more time drinking coffee outside the house, sharing it with friends and experiencing more of the unique atmosphere that every good coffee shop creates.

I may give that some more thought soon, and hopefully I’ll get back to Tampa for another stop at Foundation.

Coffee Travels: New Year 2017 I-10 Road Trip

It’s a long way from central Florida to the far west side of Houston, Texas, even longer when you have a 5-month-old and a 2.5 year old along for the journey. So when it came time to plan our Lunar New Year trip to visit my wife’s family, I split the drive into as many stops as possible.

Or maybe it was just an excuse to visit coffee shops that weren’t right off the interstate…

New Orleans, Louisiana

On the way out, we spent two nights in New Orleans so that we could spend a full day exploring. Our hotel was just a few blocks down from Revelator, and Stumptown was also in walking distance. We didn’t get to any of the more unique New Orleans cafes, sadly, due to the logistical challenges of pushing a stroller around a busy city, but it was nice to visit a couple big names we don’t have back home.

Revelator Coffee Company was our first and easiest stop, thanks to a sleepy infant content in his stroller. The interior was sleek and industrial/modern, typical of other Revelator shops I’ve seen (Atlanta being the only other one I’ve visited in person), and I was able to take a few photos since the kids didn’t demand much attention.

A delicious hot chocolate kept our toddler happy while I sipped a pour-over, though at this point I’ve forgotten which coffee I had. This was our second visit to a Revelator cafe, and I always go in with really high expectations thanks to that one amazing coffee I picked up during my visit to Coffee Fest Atlanta a couple years ago.

Our other New Orleans stop was several blocks in a different direction, Stumptown Coffee Roasters. By that point in the day, the kids were tired, so I barely snapped a photo of the sign and didn’t take the camera out once inside. It was a bit late for hot coffee, but I got a free batch brew with the beans we purchased to take to family, and we indulged in a RTD (ready-to-drink) cold brew we hadn’t previously seen: coconut milk!

The interior was typical Stumptown, all warm and inviting, part of the ground floor of the Ace Hotel. Their pastry case had some delicious homemade granola bars and other savory goodies, and I wish I could have tried more of their cold brew options, as it is a cold brew focused cafe. One more reason to return to New Orleans for a proper coffee tour once the kids are a bit older.

Slidell, Louisiana

On our return trip, we skipped New Orleans and spent our first night in Slidell. Starbucks was our interstate coffee of choice (breakfast, too, most of the time) and I spotted this beauty in this otherwise unknown corner of Louisiana. I knew that Starbucks bought the Clover, but I had never seen one in a cafe. I had already ordered prior to noticing the single origin menu, but I learned to pay more attention in the future. (More on the Clover later, as I did get to try one in Tampa after this trip.)

Fortunately there was good coffee waiting for us at our next stop…

Tallahassee, Florida

Another brief stop on our way out of town, this was our second visit to Journeyman Coffee, but the first in which I took photos. Jason has a great setup, sharing space with the Miccosukee Root Cellar, and it’s worth a visit for good coffee and conversation. They were slammed when I popped in that Saturday, so I grabbed a Chemex to go and an iced mocha for Jamie.

I always enjoy seeing a tight bar setup, and the Journeyman crew brew some excellent Counter Culture coffee in an efficient space. One of my favorite things on their menu, is the friendly invitation to discuss your coffee wants and needs:

That wraps up our New Year road trip. It’s really just a small bit of coffee thrown in an otherwise crazy family travel schedule, but it was fun nonetheless. Despite my lackluster photography and total lack of notes (did I get the Nicaragua or the Colombia? Hm…) this exercise got me excited to go coffee touring again. There’s so much good coffee out there, we just have to find it.

La Marzocco USA
Headquarters & Cafe

One of my favorite things about coffee touring is the excitement of discovery, stumbling into an awesome cafe without previously looking it up and planning a visit. It doesn’t happen all that often, mostly because I like to plan ahead, but that is exactly what hit me when we turned the corner past a warehouse in Ballard sporting a huge La Marzocco sign.

It was our final day in Seattle, and we had just enjoyed an amazing brunch at Portage Bay, followed by a stroll around the locks so our toddler could watch them raise and lower the boats. Our day complete, we were heading toward a road that would take us south, when I jumped out of my seat like a kid who just spotted a toy store. Without any prior expectation, I found myself walking into the Seattle headquarters of La Marzocco, possibly the most famous espresso machine manufacturer in the world.

We were greeted with a friendly smile and welcomed inside for a tour, which took us through their welcome area showcasing the current lineup, a lab where training was currently underway, and the wall of history. Our host Carolyn walked us through the company history, highlighting many of the key moments in espresso technology over the past 80+ years and how La Marzocco came to Seattle. (Did you know that Starbucks originally brewed on the Linea Classic? The importers responsible for bringing La Marzocco machines to North America had to convince the company to manufacture the Linea in Seattle, just to keep up with demand during the huge Starbucks expansion.)

Once Starbucks shifted to fully automatic machines, manufacturing returned to Florence, and Ballard became the hub for all machines sold in North America. I enjoyed seeing firsthand the workbenches where technicians were unpacking and testing every machine by hand, and the rows of bins filled with parts was pretty impressive.  Here are a few more highlights from our tour:

Surprisingly, I didn’t walk out with a new espresso machine for the coffee room, but we did leave with directions to the brand new La Marzocco Cafe

Located in the KEXP Radio building near the Seattle Center, the La Marzocco Cafe & Showroom is a new concept built to showcase the diversity of specialty coffee by featuring a different roaster each month. But it’s more than just the coffee! Each “roaster in residence” has the opportunity to rearrange the bar, retrain the staff, create a new experience and an expression of their approach to cafe culture. Pretty cool!

During our visit, the cafe was serving G&B Coffee, and they followed the “order anywhere” philosophy consistent with the iconic LA coffee company. I was excited to try their almond macadamia iced latte, after hearing about it via the Cat & Cloud coffee podcast, and my wife went for the turmeric tea, which I kept calling the “Turmeric Situation”.

La Marzocco Cafe

For the curious consumer or would-be home barista, the showroom includes a home espresso lab, where visitors can get a close up look at each of La Marzocco‘s home machines. They offer classes and demos as well, and I regret being too shy to ask the baristas if I could try one out.

La Marzocco Cafe

Our time at the cafe was brief, and I only wish we could visit month after month to see what each new roaster does with the space. It’s definitely a must-see for any coffee lover making a pilgrimage to the Pacific northwest.

La Marzocco Cafe & Showroom
472, 1st Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

La Marzocco Cafe

That wraps up our visit to Seattle! Three days wasn’t nearly enough time, and I only got to visit each shop once, but I’m thankful that my family enjoys coffee touring with me. I hope to make it back in a few years when the kids are older and can enjoy the cafe culture with us. Until next time, Seattle. Until next time…

Coffee Travels: Seattle

I’d been wanting to get back to Seattle ever since I got into specialty coffee. Our 2010 vacation played a big part in my initial coffee journey, but I had never experienced the non-sugary-latte side of their expansive coffee scene. So last week my family spent a few days in the Emerald City, making our way through a wish-list of shops to visit while trying to find plenty of exciting things for our 2 year old to enjoy.

We didn’t hit every shop on my list, but I was able to enjoy a few awesome places, so long as our son was content to munch on a Rip van Wafel. I also enjoyed a visit to Bean Box and a tour of La Marzocco, but today I’m going to focus on our cafe experiences, starting with the home of the 2014 US Barista Champion, Cherry Street Coffee.

Just off the light rail that took us downtown every day, Cherry Street on Olive Way was an excellent spot to start our coffee tour. The people were friendly, the atmosphere lively, and the drinks were on point. I had a one & one, which is a single shot of espresso served alongside a macchiato, and I stole a few sips of my mom’s cold brew as well.

Cherry Street

We didn’t make it to any of Cherry Street’s other locations around town, but based on this experience I am sure they would not disappoint. They also had awesome granola, which helped our toddler stay occupied during stroller rides around town. And during his naptime one afternoon, I slipped away to visit another well known Seattle establishment…

Caffe Ladro

Just up the road from our hotel, Caffe Ladro at 400 Fairview Ave North had one of the coolest interiors I saw during this trip. Ladro Roasting was on my short list, as I’ve enjoyed some excellent coffees from them via Bean Box, and this bar was on the corner of a large building with a rather industrial design.

I enjoyed a washed Ethiopia Worka on drip, very clean and delicate, then moved on to a shakerato: their Fremont espresso blend brewed over sugar, then shaken with ice and poured into a clean glass with a thick foam on top. It was immensely refreshing on a hot afternoon!

Caffe Ladro

I wish I could have spent hours at that bar, trying every coffee they had. Ladro roasts some excellent coffee, and the cool interior begged me to stick around just to absorb all the good vibes, but I had to get back to family duties. Fortunately we were able to take the little guy cafe hopping the next day, so I decided to hit another Bean Box favorite: Herkimer Coffee.

Herkimer Coffee

Another short walk from the hotel, just around the other side of Lake Union, Herkimer Coffee hit me with another beautiful cafe space, and the coffee was delicious as well. I picked up a growler for our collection, and my wife and I shared a cold brew Colombia and an americano. The barista recently moved from Florida to Seattle for school, so we enjoyed the chance meeting of a fellow Floridian on the opposite corner of the country.

Slate Coffee

On our last day in town, we finally made the trek up to Ballard to check out Slate, a name nearly famous in specialty coffee circles. I had heard a lot about Slate ever since they burst on the scene just 3 years ago, and I was lucky enough to sample some of their coffee via Bean Box, so stepping into their minimalist coffee bar I thought to myself, “finally.”

From the casual table-style service featuring a simple drink menu, to the design of their bar with a cut out showcasing the beautiful 2-group Slayer, there was strong attention to detail in every corner. I had a pour-over Ethiopia, smooth and complex, followed by a 4oz espresso and milk served in a delicate wine glass.

Slate Coffee

I dig how their menu classifies drinks as “espresso and milk” in various sizes, rather than listing them as latte, cappuccino, etc. Wanting the deepest espresso flavor, I went with the smallest option, and it was rich and velvety, really highlighting the Slayer’s signature long extraction. I also stole a few sips from my wife’s iced coffee, prepared in the Japanese iced coffee method before being shaken over ice for an elegant presentation.

Slate Coffee

And that was about it for our Seattle coffee tour, just a handful of quality shops when time would allow. Check back next week for a detailed look at my visit to Bean Box, followed by our other big coffee stop: La Marzocco!

Coffee Travels: The Lab Tampa

I’ll admit, it was my wife’s idea.

As I got deeper into my coffee hobby, I focused so much on home brewing that I stopped going out and visiting the awesome shops in our own backyard. With another baby on the way, my wife wanted to get out of the house “while we still can” and coffee-touring is one of our favorite things to do together. After enjoying a private cupping at Zeal Coffee Roasters last month (my reward for supporting their previous crowd-funding effort), not only was I pumped to start writing again, I couldn’t wait to check out their new project: The Lab Tampa.

The Lab Tampa

Located just a stone’s throw from downtown in the North Hyde Park neighborhood, The Lab is a collaboration between Zeal Coffee Roasters and Blind Tiger Cafe, and I loved it from the moment I spotted their logo on the huge barn door. The interior is setup as a spacious open concept. I was greeted by a sleek espresso and pour-over bar up front, with the back half of the space holding the 5 kilo Ambex and sacks of green coffee.

The Lab Tampa

We stopped by during their soft opening, and I believe they are aiming for this weekend as the official grand opening. The concept is pretty cool, with two roasters sharing the workspace, plenty of room for classes and workshops, and a slimmed down cafe menu focused on quality. It really hit my sweet spot, putting so much focus on the coffee itself. They’ve even shifted to smaller drink sizes to really hone the customer’s senses on what matters most. (This is for glass and ceramic, at least. I think they still offer larger to-go cups for those who want a lot more milk in their lattes.)

The Lab Tampa The Lab Tampa

Visiting late on a Sunday afternoon before the public really knows they’re open, I was able to chat for awhile with Peter, the owner and roaster at Zeal. He and his wholesale account manager, Jason, did most of the build out themselves, so it’s been a crazy couple months of sweat and hard labor fueled by a passion to bring people the best coffee possible.

I started with an Ethiopia Sidamo grade 3, which smelled like blueberry muffins during the cupping, but hit me with all kinds of complexity when served as an espresso. Then my wife and I both enjoyed a cortado using a blend Peter’s been working on. It was well balanced and reminded me how much I love a good cortado, with all that great coffee presence compared to a larger drink. We picked up some beans from their retail shelf, and I’ll definitely be back for a growler of cold brew next time I’m in Tampa.

The Lab Tampa

Watch for their grand opening soon, and stop by for some excellent coffee and cool atmosphere.

The Lab Tampa
1703 West State Street
Tampa, FL 33606
Open Monday-Friday 7:00am-2:00pm & Saturday-Sunday 8:00am-3:00pm

Commune + Co. – Ybor City, Tampa, Florida

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own practice, home roasting and home brewing and latte art and so on, that I don’t see the awesome things happening in my own backyard.

Commune + Co. is one of those awesome things.

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Lately I’ve been talking a lot about the Florida Aeropress Competition (now only two weeks away!) but I have yet to give a shout out to the organizers. Shame on me! The truth is that until Marie from The Library Coffeehouse told me about the competition, I had no idea there was a cold brew coffee cart operating in Tampa.

I just don’t get out to wander around nearly enough these days, and other than walking around Ikea, I never really stop in Ybor City. My Tampa visits always take me directly to the few key areas I know well. I was surprised and thrilled to learn about Commune + Co. earlier this month, and when I caught news of their 1-year anniversary celebration, I took it as an excuse to drive over and check it out.

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We adore cold brew in this family, but I believe this is my first time tasting pressure brewed iced coffee, Joel’s signature brew method. I had a cup pullled straight from the nitro tap on his coffee cart, and it came out deliciously frothy before cascading into a beautiful dark coffee with a rich head. The brew on tap was a Colombian from Madcap Coffee, and it had a lucious mouthfeel with a round sweetness that I could drink for days.

Commune + Co. is all about sharing the great moments in life, coffee being one of the greatest in my opinion, and I’m only sorry I couldn’t stick around to chat more with Joel about his business and share our coffee stories. Family duties called, and I could hear my wife back in Lakeland wondering if I was really serious when I said I was a “father first, coffee-lover second”.

Fortunately, Ybor City is just a short drive away, so I look forward to visiting Commune + Co. in the near future. I’ll be sure to bring an empty growler, though I don’t promise it will make it all the way home!

Congrats to Joel on his first year with Commune + Co. Here are a few more photos I grabbed while he was busy pouring coffee and chatting:

Coffee Travels: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend a day trekking around Old San Juan in search of local coffee. We planned this trip so long ago, at the time I was barely discovering specialty coffee, and our 6-month-old son wasn’t even a thought in my brain. All I knew for certain was that my parents had previously visited Old San Juan on a cruise, found a great local coffee shop, and came home with a fun story.

Their table-mates (the couple they shared a table with at dinner on the ship) claimed to be real coffee fiends, and were not impressed with the cafe available on the ship. After visiting Puerto Rico, my dad was enthusiastic to tell them about the amazing local shop he found, but they couldn’t even fathom such a thing. They had found a Starbucks near the port, and they thought that was as good as it gets.

Now that I’ve been there myself, I wholeheartedly agree with my dad: they missed out on real Puerto Rican coffee!

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Our first stop was Finca Cialitos, the same shop my folks had found on their previous visit. This is definitely a local favorite, as one after another we watched people come in to enjoy their macchiato or flat white. I was impressed with the barista’s skill in both drink preparation and customer service. While we were still deciding what to order, I suggested he help the lady behind us, who had just walked in, but he was already making her drink. He knew his regulars and their drink orders, which is the mark of a good barista in a shop with a lot of regular visitors.

Finca Cialitos prides itself on serving the freshest coffee. They have a farm in the center of the island, and they roast their own beans in the back room on an Ambex roaster. The beans they were brewing were from this year’s harvest. From the farm to the roaster to the espresso bar, this is the ultimate definition of single origin.

I had a great time chatting with Armando, the barista working that morning. He shared the story of the farm, showed me the back room where they were sorting beans to roast, and a tray of beans that had just finished drying. He commented on my SCAA shirt, and gave us some great recommendations of other shops to visit around town.

I enjoyed my morning latte, though I was wishing they offered regular coffee and not only espresso. It seems Puerto Rico is very much an espresso and milk culture, based on the drinks I watched the locals order. Fortunately, our next stop offered a greater variety of brew methods…

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Don Ruiz was hidden away in a large, unique building not far from the northwest tip of Old San Juan and the San Felipe del Morro Fort. I was happy to see a variety of pour-over methods on the bar, as well as a siphon, french press, and of course a beautiful La Marzocco FB/80. Much like our first stop, their coffee comes from a farm in the center of the island. They currently roast off site, but have installed a new Joper on a platform across from the bar where they will soon begin roasting small batches to show more of the process to their customers.

I chatted with Josue, another coffee lover, who shared some of their latest news. He told me that a group from Don Ruiz attended the SCAA event earlier this year, and their coffee was judged in the top 4 from Puerto Rico. They focus on a medium dark roast, and in my pour-over I found hints of chocolate and a dark nuttiness. It was quite a shift from the light-roasted Yirgacheffes I’ve been drinking at home, but I found a touch of milk balanced the coffee nicely.

Another highlight, I spotted a stack of trade magazines on a shelf in their sitting area, including Roast Magazine, one of my personal favorites. I’m always happy when I see any such industry magazines in a cafe, because it means someone reads them, whether it’s the baristas or just the owner. At least one person there is excited not simply to work in coffee, but to learn about it as well.

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Our third and final stop for the day was a packed house when we first walked in. Much closer to the pier, and thus filled with not just local traffic but tons of tourists, Cuatro Sombras proved to be a popular lunch spot even toward the middle of the afternoon. I did not get nearly as many photos due to the crowd, but we were able to snag a table on their upper level, right behind the roaster, a Has Garanti from Turkey, and one roaster manufacturer I definitely had not seen before.

This was our lunch stop, but that didn’t stop us from ordering a few more espresso drinks. I watched some impressive latte art pass over their bar as a crew of baristas cranked out a never-ending procession of lattes and macchiatos. I didn’t get to chat with anyone, partially because they were so busy, but also because we were more focused on lunch and I was really getting tired from a hot day spent walking the hills of the city. Their sandwiches were delicious, drinks were good, and their homemade lemonade was a welcome end to a day in the tropics.

All in all, it was a fun day touring the city in search of good coffee. I could easily spend a week, just to see more of the coffee culture in Old San Juan, and that’s just barely touching a tiny corner of Puerto Rico. Hopefully if we ever make it back, it will be more than just a day and I’ll get to see the interior of the island, maybe even visit some coffee farms. This was definitely a different kind of coffee culture than I’m used to, but if it’s this hot in the middle of December, I don’t want to be there in the summer!

Coffee Travels: Richmond, Virginia

As you might expect, I enjoyed a rather coffee-filled Thanksgiving trip last week. Starting with a delicious pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Kochere from Lineage Coffee Roasting at home on the morning we left, and ending with a stop at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters in Jacksonville on the way home, the week just flew by, and now it’s back to everyday life for awhile. Fortunately, there are always photos and memories of good times and good coffee, so here’s a quick look at our coffee experience in Richmond.

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I first heard about Lamplighter Coffee Roasting Company from my cousin, who graciously sent me a bag of fresh beans after visiting early this year and seeing how crazy I was for good coffee. When we met up for a tour of the city, Lamplighter was first on our list of places to visit, and although they have two other retail cafes in downtown, I insisted on visiting the roastery on Summit Avenue. It was in an interesting part of town, mostly industrial spaces in the process of being converted to urban-style lofts and unique retail shops.

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I loved the interior design, all wood and metal, with white brick behind the bar. It really pulled from the surrounding neighborhood, and kept the focus on the coffee itself. Even the shiny stainless steel GB/5 sitting proudly on the angled bar only added to the industrial feel, and with an open view to the roasting area in the back, sitting here really felt like being part of the whole roasting and brewing process.

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Our group enjoyed several cortados, tested their homemade mocha sauce (of course!) and I enjoyed a pour-over from Guatemala. I had a nice chat with barista Andrew about Lamplighter and specialty coffee in general. He told me that although Lamplighter was founded in 2009, their owner had been roasting coffee for nearly 20 years, and it shows in the cup. Everything I drank was delicious, and I got several local family members hooked on their cortado. It’s always nice to introduce someone to an espresso beverage beyond the well-known lattes and mochas.

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I brought home a bag of their Ethiopian Sidamo, along with a diner mug showing their awesome bicycle logo (which I apparently didn’t take a photo of while I was there? for shame!) and look forward to cupping and brewing it alongside other coffees collected during our travels. Sadly I never made it to either of their other cafes, but that’s just something to look forward to next time we’re in Richmond. I had hoped for a long day of coffee-crawling around the city, but traffic and weather kept our time in town limited, and I only made it to one more shop…

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The Lab by Alchemy Coffee is a coffee-techie’s dream, with some really high-end equipment and top-notch coffees. This is a multi-roaster shop, and during our visit they were offering two coffees each from Ceremony and Counter Culture. I was eager to try Ceremony’s coffee after seeing them take first place in the Best Espresso Competition at Coffee Fest New York early this year. I tried a pour-over of both offerings, a Kenya Gondo that was very complex, and an Ethiopia Sasaba that was bright and floral.

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Alchemy was impressive, with a Strada, EK43, every pour-over cone available, even a Yama tower. The cold brew from the tower was quite good, and both the pour-overs and the lattes we sampled were excellent. But something was missing in the experience. I blame the location, surrounded by the local university with an obvious clientele that is primarily college students. It was only days before Thanksgiving, and the baristas working the shop weren’t nearly as friendly as I’d expect, nor were our drinks prepared as expertly as the tools on hand would suggest.

I blame the holiday, baristas on their last shift perhaps, their minds elsewhere, but don’t get me wrong, I’d still go back, and if I could spend more time there I’m sure I would find some staff members who are more excited to serve such wonderful coffees every day. Overall, I had a great time in Richmond and I only just skimmed the surface of their specialty coffee scene. I hope to visit again and see everything I missed.

Coffee Travels: Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s within reasonable driving distance of central Florida, downtown is vastly walkable, and the food culture is huge with endless variety of delicious restaurants. Granted, it gets unbearably hot in the summer, but winter is a wonderful time to stay downtown, so I’m glad we treat it as a halfway-point on our annual Thanksgiving road trip. And no trip to or through Savannah would be complete without a stop at my favorite specialty coffee shop: Foxy Loxy.

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I discovered Foxy Loxy on our first trip to Savannah a few years ago, when Jamie and I walked the city trying every shop we could find on Yelp. After a few good finds, shops that were decent but not amazing, we were completely blown away by this converted house south of famous Forsyth Park. The environment is welcoming, yet eclectic, and the staff was friendly. I remember falling in love at first sip, remarking to the baristas that this was the best espresso drink I had tasted outside of Seattle.

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They only serve things they make from scratch, including latte syrups, so no generic flavored lattes here. To this day, they still have one of the best homemade mocha sauces I’ve tasted, and we rarely visit without getting at least one iced mocha to go. Their coffee is from local roaster PERC, so everything is fresh and delicious. Baked goods are outstanding, from bacon and cheese filled kolaches to quiche to Foxy brownies, a heavenly fudge brownie with espresso.

But the good food doesn’t stop at the pastry case. They make tacos. Really, really, REALLY good tacos. I never expected to eat lunch when we first walked in, but it happened to be close to lunch time, and after watching a constant line of customers ordering tacos, I just had to give it a try. We tried a few different fillings, chipotle chicken, beef & chorizo, even the vegetarian medley, and I loved every one of them. Fresh corn tortillas, Mexican crumbly cheese, salsa verde, what’s not to love?

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On our visit this week, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of burritos, yogurt and homemade granola, and a variety of coffee drinks. The shop was busy on the Monday before Thanksgiving, with baristas cranking out drinks and the kitchen struggling to keep up with a constant demand for more kolaches. There is no better way to start the day in Savannah, though if you’re further downtown, you can always stop by The Coffee Fox, their second location/sister store.

I should mention that Foxy Loxy also has some great weekly events such as Acoustic Tuesdays or Fire & Wine every Friday. I’ve never been in town long enough to hang out in the evening, so I haven’t experienced any of their events or specials first hand, but it always sounds awesome.

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Foxy Loxy
1919 Bull Street
Savannah GA, 31401
Monday-Saturday: 7 am – 11 pm
Sunday: 8 am – 6 pm

The Coffee Fox
102 West Broughton Street
Savannah, GA 31401
Monday–Saturday: 7 am – 11 pm
Sunday 8 am – 6 pm

Both Foxy Loxy and The Coffee Fox are a must for any coffee lover passing through Savannah, and I look forward to another stop on the way back to Florida later this week. Check back Friday for a report of my visit to Savannah’s specialty coffee roaster, PERC Coffee.