Victor’s Celtic Coffee Co. & Roasters

Victor’s Celtic Coffee Co. & RoastersRedmond, WA – 2 out of 5 wheel rating

July 22, 2012

It was four days prior to The Cycle Cafe embarking on our first RAMROD cycle rally that traverses 150 miles around Mt. Rainier in one day and climbs 10,000 feet over 3 mountain passes.  We decided to take one last training ride to Sammamish Valley Cycle in Redmond, Washington.  They were hosting the pre ride registration packet pick up and BBQ.  Redmond is best known as the home of Microsoft and Nintendo of America.  It is also know to be a proponent of cycling and has Washington State’s only velodrome.

Following the packet pick-up and to counter balance the effects of the BBQ we made an destination espresso stop at Victor’s Celtic Coffee Co., which was just a few blocks down the road.  It helped to jump start our legs for the return ride to home.

As suggested in it’s name Victor’s has a somewhat celtic tone to the interior; hosting an eclectic array of natural wood finishes to make up the decor.  Above a wall display of roasted beans is a collection of older coffee related paraphernalia. The cafe also acts as a gallery displaying the works of a monthly featured artist.  Fronting the building is a small deck with a long natural timber bench to enjoy a coffee outdoors on. Victor’s blends and roasts their own coffee and has a wide selection of freshly roasted beans for purchase.  They have a good offering of pastries and make breakfast sandwiches to order.  The seating capacity is ample.

It was relatively quiet when we arrived and it appeared that they were recovering from the late morning and early afternoon onslaught of customers.  The staff was cheerful, upbeat and appeared to be enjoying what they were doing.   They took on the business of making the espresso with delight.  Our espresso was served lonely, offered in a cup and saucer with no other accompaniments, not even a spoon.  The appearance was on the sloppy side with coffee splatter on the rim and exterior of the cup.  The crema had a consistent texture, a thin stamina, and a light carmel coloration.  The aroma was pleasant but fragile.  The flavor matched characteristics with the aroma and stamina and had an agreeable sweet finish.

Overall we enjoyed the ambience, character and friendly staff of Victor’s and recommend it as a place to visit for coffee when in Redmond.  The espresso quality receives a 2 out of 5 wheel rating for deficient presentation, and slightness of crema, aroma and flavor.  Victor’s, with only a few improvements, your espresso quality can be raised to enhance the pleasure of your customers enjoying the taste of the freshly roasted beans your wonderful establishment has to offer.  We would like to see more care in the presentation and more coffee flavor extracted in the shots your team pulls.  Visit our Rating Guide page to understand more of what we look for in an espresso.  We look forward to returning in the future.

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Note the large mug in the background. The remaining espresso mugs were in the dishwasher so it was served grande style.

Note the long timber bench

Board and Beans – note coffee paraphrenalia above.

Wall of beans

Victor’s Pastries and Coffee

Victor’s Barista and Cashier

Victor’s Espresso note the light carmel color and messy pour.



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Snohomish Bakery

Snohomish BakerySnohomish, WAThree Wheel Rating

June 9, 2012

The Cycle Cafe took an 85 mile round trip tour in June to the small city of Snohomish Washington which was founded sometime around1858 and was strategically located on  the path of a proposed military road set to cross the Snohomish River.  The unbuilt road was planned inland to be safe from the threat of British naval attack in the wake of the obscure Pig War.   We stopped in the historic district which was established In 1974 and is recognized in the Historic Register of Places.   This was a good move for Snohomish because the old town center is a charming preservation of americana that has a wonderful pedestrian and cycling friendly character.  The city is scenically set on the banks of the Snohomish River.

We stopped at the Snohomish Bakery for a mid-ride refueling and we are glad we did.  They are a small artisan bakery cafe specializing in hand-made breads, french-style pastries and much more.  They have a wide variety of delicious items on the menu and serve breakfast all day.   We opted for the made to order deli sandwiches.  They were hopping busy with soccer tournament families and the Flying Wheels Summer Century bike riders passing through.

An espresso was ordered and the barista was working furiously due to the volume of business that had descended upon them.  The espresso was called up, and after  a number of seconds of scanning around trying to locate the little cup filled with coffee nectar, the barista pointed to the large green coffee mug looming ominously on the bar.  The mug was hoisted laboriously down with an internal chuckle and outward smile.  We played on with our ritual uninhibited.  The crema color was difficult to discern but with the eyes and adventurous spirit of a spelunker we discovered it within the cavernous depths of the great green chamber; it looked green.  Remarkably it sustained itself over the great expanse and volume of its receptacle.  From the depths the aroma pleasantly wafted skyward; it was rich and full.  We tipped the container and the espresso flowed toward us like industrial steel from a massive crucible.  The flavor matched the aroma wonderfully; it was rich and robust with a sweet finish.  Our casquette tipped to the barista for exceptional effort.  Snohomish Bakery you are definitely a recommended destination for food, pastries and baked goods as well as espresso based beverages.   Our suggestion is to invest in at least one or two espresso serving sets to properly accommodate the occasions when a straight espresso is ordered at your fine establishment.  We gave you three out of five wheels for the lack of presentation, accoutrements and ceremony, but do acknowledge the fine flavor of the espresso served.

We look forward to returning again with the hope of boosting your rating to five wheels.

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Snohomish Big Green Mug

Bakery Entrance

Outdoor Seating

One for the latte lovers

 

 

 

 

Saugatuck & Douglas Espresso Showdown

The Cycle Cafe recently enjoyed a trip to Saugatuck “The Art Coast™ of Michigan”.   Saugatuck and neighboring town Douglas appear to be headed towards incorporating together sometime in the near future.   Some may resist this move but it seems to make sense to help reduce municipal costs.  They are delightful harbor villages with access directly to Lake Michigan and the magnificent dunes.  Both towns are bicycle and pedestrian friendly and filled with a variety of shops and amenities.   We decided to do an espresso showdown between cafe Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck and cafe Respite in Douglas.  Uncommon Grounds is reviewed first followed by Respite with the results at the end of the post.

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Uncommon Grounds – 127 Hoffman St. , Saugatuck, MI

1 Wheel rating for the Espresso quality

Uncommon Grounds roasts their own coffee in small batches to ensure freshness and quality.  They offer some organic roasts and have an admirable social mission of buying source “partnership” coffee.  They visit and inspect the conditions where the coffee is grown and processed.  More detail can be found on their website.

The cafe has a wonderful homey atmosphere with seating options indoors and outdoors.  Spending time in here chatting with friends, reading a good book, or getting some work done are all possibilities.  A tall display hosting multiple varieties of coffee roasts greets one upon entering.  Unfortunately we did not buy an espresso blend to take home.  Fresh pastries lure you to indulge your weakness; the selection was excellent.

An espresso was ordered, making sure to specify that it was for here as it appeared most everything was being dispensed in to go cups.  The espresso, unfortunately, did not live up to the rest of the cafe experience.  It was served with only a saucer and without any passion.  A little passion when serving the espresso goes a long way toward enjoying it.  The aroma was on the weak side.  The crema was very light whitish brown, quite thin, and  with weak stamina.  We dared not to blink for fear of it vanishing.  The espresso was watery and the flavor was on the sour side without a good finish.  Our sense is that the shots were being pulled too quickly and this is compromising the flavor and quality.

Uncommon Grounds, you have a good thing going with your cafe and roasting set up.  It would be even better with a higher level of espresso craft and care woven into it.  We are prescribing a dose of David Schomer’s publications “Techniques of the Barista” and “Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques”.  They are excellent resources for refining the quality of the espresso.   David Schomer is a recognized world expert in espresso craft.  Read The Cycle Cafe’s Rating Guide to gain an idea of what we look for and see at the best espresso bars then add a personal touch of your own. We hope to be back in the future to give it another try and to buy a bag of beans to go.

Uncommon Grounds Espresso

 

Uncommon Grounds Roaster

 

 

 

 

 

Uncommon Grounds Barista at work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncommon Grounds Counter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respite Cappuccino Court, 48 Center St., Douglas, MI.

1 Wheel Rating for the Espresso Quality

Our hopes were high that Respite would be able to deliver.  The subtitle of Cappuccino Court was very enticing.  The exterior was charming and inviting with outdoor seating at the front and on the side court; providing options of sun or shade for seating.  Inside had a good selection of cafe tables to sit at without being too cramped. The chairs were cleverly backed with coffee bean burlap shipping bags. The baristas were very pleasant and engaging, working quickly to keep the line moving while being personable to the customers.   The quality of light coming through the large storefront window helped to create an inviting interior atmosphere.

Simpatico coffee was being used.  It is a low acid shade grown coffee. See more on Respite’s website.  A good variety of breakfast selections filled the menu to offset the limited pastry offerings.   The microscopic font used for the menu board made for difficult reading if one was over the age of 40 or more than a foot distant from it.

An espresso was ordered and specifically requested to be served for here as most drinks were being dispensed to go and it appeared the espresso was headed that way too if it were not for our intervention.  The barista got to work and our expectations were high.  She pleasantly delivered the espresso.  It was quite lonely, not even a saucer to support it.  The crema was white and extremely thin.  It may have disappeared entirely had we waited a second longer before consuming it.   The aroma was faint and the water content of the shot was copious making for a very weak characterless flavor.

Respite Cappuccino Court, your cafe is charming and has all the right elements to be a bonafide espresso destination.  Put some effort into learning the art of pulling a truly good espresso and the quality of all of your espresso drinks will increase significantly. Conquer this challenge and you will be able to serve an espresso knowing that you have mastered the craft; until then your espresso receives a one wheel rating.  We prescribe a dose of David Schomer’s publications “Techniques of the Barista” and “Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques”.  They are excellent resources for refining the quality of espresso.   David Schomer is a recognized world expert in espresso craft.  Read The Cycle Cafe’s Rating Guide to gain an idea of what we look for and see at the best espresso bars then add a personal touch of your own.

We look forward to a return trip to Respite to sample the fruits of your labor with high hopes of improvement.

Respite Espresso

 

Respite barista at work poised to use a to go cup

 

 

 

 

Note the tiny font of the wall boards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respite exterior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who won the showdown?

We can honestly say that we enjoyed the atmosphere of the cafes but were disappointed in the quality of the espresso at both locations.  It was a tie in overall rating.  Respite had better staff engagement and passion while Uncommon Grounds had a slightly better espresso, however, neither served what would be considered a respectable espresso.  We hope that both cafes take our advice to dial in on what it takes to prepare and serve a proper espresso shot.  There will be a noticeable improvement in quality of all the espresso drinks served if they do.  People of Saugatuck and Douglas you deserve it.  The shots you are receiving are not reaping the full benefit of the bean.

This is a good quality espresso.  The crema had a lush reddish brown hue with depth and stamina. It had robust aroma and flavor with a sweet finish.

Notice the difference in the color and quality of the crema between the photo above and the photos below.  The accompanying seltzer was served prior to the espresso to cleanse the palette.  The seltzer, sugar, saucer, spoon, and doily are all part of the thoughtful presentation.  Some places will serve a small espresso biscuit or chocolate.

Respite Espresso

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncommon Grounds Espresso

The Hardware Store Restaurant

The Hardware Store Restaurant – Vashon Island, WA – One Wheel Rating

July 7, 2012

We stopped at the Hardware Store Restaurant at the end of our ride around Vashon Island for a cup of espresso.  It was a very interesting place inhabiting the oldest commercial building on Vashon Island.  Built around 1891 It is listed on the Historical Register of Places.  The menu looks promising and has quite a variety of selections.  They also have a gallery where art is displayed.  On to the espresso review…

A delightful experience all in all to cap off our ride around the island.    Mistakenly entering the front door we were graciously received by the hostess who was not sure what to make of three beleaguered looking guys in cycle wear.  Thirsty for an espresso we asked where the coffee bar was and she directed us to the back of the restaurant.  We were pleasantly greeted by the barista who eagerly took our orders and made us feel welcome. The coffee bar is accessed via a side entrance on the north side of the building.

The espresso was served lonely just in a cup.  It may have been requested that way by mistake so we are uncertain if it would have been served as such otherwise.  The roast was from the Vashon Island Roasterie.  The creme had stamina with a good consistency but with some bubbles.  It tended to the light side of brown for color.   The aroma was pleasant, however, the taste was a bit on the sour side.  All in all still an enjoyable espresso which powered us back to the ferry just in time.  To read the story of the ride visit the Vashon Island link on the Rides page.

The Hardware Store Restaurant receives a 1 wheel rating for the espresso.  IReturning to  to try the food is on our list.

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Espresso at The Hardware Store Restaurant

 

The Hardware Store Restaurant

The Hardware Store Restaurant

 

The Hardware Store Restaurant