I’m a coffee snob.
Yeah, I’m not afraid to say it. I know it. When people say “it’s just coffee”, I take a deep breath and use sheer willpower to stop my hands from clasping around their necks. It’s NOT just coffee.
Coffee is a rich and deep beverage with flavors ranging from mild to sharp to even sour. Depending on the beans, the roast, the height on which they were growing, how much light they had and where in the world they come from, they can taste like cinnamon, tamarind, orange, chocolate, or even strawberries (I am very much in search of that legendary strawberry-tasting coffee!).
Coffee is an opportunity to sit down with my friends and talk about our lives and share our thoughts, uninterrupted.
And yes, those flavor notes are really there, you just have to give yourself a chance to notice them, instead of killing the flavor potential with cream, milk, sugar and syrups. Unless, that is, you’re drinking poor quality coffee, like Starbucks. Yes, even if you get their americano (which is a shot of espresso plus 6-8 oz of water), it just tastes like coffee. Pretty bad coffee, too.
Before all you Starbucks lovers start getting offended, let me explain one thing: I’m not saying you should never go there. I’m just saying that their coffee isn’t one for gourmets. Don’t get me wrong, their cappuccinos, lattes and God knows what else are very tasty! And very bad for you, but that’s besides the point – yummy sweet things usually are. I like to think of their drinks not as coffee, but as coffee-flavored beverages. Because that’s what they are. You just need to understand that Starbucks is the fast food of coffee, just like McDonald’s is the fast food of burgers.
That’s why I, together with my friend Jessica, went on a coffeehouse adventure. We’re in search of good, locally owned (or simply not franchised) coffee shops, which have quality coffee and fantastic pastries. Because that’s another important part of the coffee experience to me – the coffeehouse pastries! They tend to be expensive and absolutely fantastic. And, by the by, this is another field where Starbucks falls short.
I am learning how to describe the coffee and taste it like an expert, and this will be my exercise in just this – but I’m still new to this analyzing coffee thing! I am a coffee snob in terms of discerning between good and bad coffee and its basic flavor notes, but it requires much more experience to tell more than that, so I am very much looking forward to the learning process.
I asked for a stronger americano.
Jessica said to the barista, “surprise me” – and this is what she got. Looks like an awfully pleasant surprise to me!
My coffee was pretty good. Not my favorite kind, but that’s an entirely personal preference. It was slightly sour, with hints of citrus and fruit. The aftertaste is somewhat tangy.
I visited again, this time with my husband, and ordered an espresso and a pastry. The coffee was obviously the same one as I had before, just without the extra water. Because it wasn’t watered down the way my previous americano was, I could fully embrace the flavors. I could still taste the sourness and the citrus, but it seemed more fruity this time. So interesting! However, the shot itself was quite thick for an espresso – they probably use more ground coffee than in the traditional formula. Every time I took a sip, my taste buds were brutally bombarded by the acidity. It did give way to the pleasant and interesting fruity tones quickly, but the initial sour punch was almost unbearable. Then again, I’m a fan of slightly milder-tasting coffee, so some of this is my personal preference. But I definitely can’t imagine an average coffee drinker enjoying this.
Oh and don’t pay too much attention to the way the crema (it’s the foam that’s supposed to appear on top of every good espresso) looks in my photos – I actually took a sip before I remembered to pull out my camera! But the crema was there and it was rather uniform.
I’m guessing this was their Martinez blend. They have other coffee blends, such as organic, mocha, Brazilian, and Colombian – you can even get your own bag of coffee beans.
Both beverages came with a small cookie, which is always a very nice gesture. Most coffee shops offer them only with an espresso, so I definitely appreciate the extra crunch with every occasion! It was surprisingly delicious and buttery and flavorful, even though it was so small. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t actually very crunchy (= dry). It was the perfect balance of crunchy and chewy. I’m used to these being somewhat forgettable, but Cafe Martinez did a great job of making them something actually worth mentioning!
When I came back the second time, I ordered a Danish pastry with blueberries. It was very yummy. The barista had asked me whether I wanted it heated up – I had no idea that was a thing, but I said yes! It was great. Very tasty, though the outside was a little too crunchy, but that might have been exacerbated by the warming up. This was my breakfast and I was actually very happy with it. Reminded me of a traditional French or Italian breakfast, which is always something sweet – usually a croissant – and a cup of coffee or, in Italy – espresso.
The interior of the cafe is very modern and rather minimalistic, with an industrial feel.
There’s a big table in the middle of the main area, which reminds me of the way Italian cafes are designed – with a bar at which you’re supposed to stand, drink your espresso and be on your way. The lamps hanging above it are my favorite accent in this interior.
It seems like a perfect cafe to take your laptop to and work without distractions, if working from cafes if your thing. They even have WiFi! It was pretty robust, I didn’t notice any delays while loading various websites and using apps. However, that was during less busy hours, so I don’t know how well the connection handles itself during peak times.
Overall, it’s a nice little cafe with bold coffee and decadent pastries. I definitely recommend it if you are looking for a different experience than the usual Starbucks. However, if you’re not a fan of very strong and bold coffees, but still want it black, I’d say ask for the Brazilian blend. Their regular espresso blend might be too much for you. And definitely try the sweet pastries and cakes. They’re awesome – so up to coffee shop standard.
Now, tell me! What are your favorite coffee shops in your area? Do you drink coffee at all and if so, how do you feel about it – is it just a source of caffeine to you or more of an experience? Do let me know in the comments, I’ll read them all!