Wednesday, September 22, 2010

some joe, a cuppa, the daily grind

Last Saturday was rainy, again.  You know the kind - cozy, cloudy, makes you just want to curl up on a big chair with a mug of coffee.

While this would have been nice and all, I decided I could do one better.  Jordan and I scoped out four independent coffee shops in the Milwaukee area and decided to run our own taste testing.

The verdict?  It was one awesome, romantic and jittery Saturday!

(Before I begin, please note that this is not a true taste test.  If it was, I would have ordered the same thing at every place, but I ordered whatever I was in the mood for, bah-phooey on controls and variables within experiments!)

First stopStone Creek Coffee, 2266 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

South Kinnickinnic (KK) is THE place to go if you want independent coffee shops - our first three stops were along KK!  (Which made traveling a breeze, for sure.)

I got a cardamom spice latte.  It was good, the combination of spices and sweet was nice, but it got overpowering at the end.
Jordan got an iced caramel frappe.  I liked his drink much more than mine - it was sweet, but not overpowering so.  And the caramel tasted genuine, not like a syrup.
Their roast was smooth, and not too bitter, just the way I like it.
The atmosphere was the most like a standard coffee shop of all the places we went to.  It wasn't overly cozy, but very neat and non-cluttered.  The barista was wearing a tie and a vest, which was a nice touch.

Ranking:  2nd 

Second stopSven's Cafe, 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

The Bay View Bash was happening right outside of Sven's, so I thought the place was going to be packed.  Luckily, it was about 4 pm, not exactly prime eating/drinking coffee hours, so it wasn't too full.

Jordan and I shared a small flavored coffee (chocolate raspberry).  To be blunt - it was terrible.  There was very little chocolate flavoring, it was bitter, and tasted like gas station coffee.
Their roast was weak, like they used too much water and too little grounds.
The atmosphere was, as Jordan so perfectly put it, "like eating inside a Goodwill".  It went overboard with the "cozy", and made it feel crowded and claustrophobic.  And it kind of smelled weird inside.
It's only saving point was Jordan's sandwich.  (Since we didn't eat at every place, we didn't include food in the equation.)  It was delicious, and again, as he put it, he could "eat it everyday".  But then again, my sandwich sucked.

Ranking:  4th 

(Intermission, to walk off the caffeine browse through thrift stores)

Third stopAnodyne, 2924 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

The caffeine was definitely kicking in at this point - I am sorely affected by caffeine, and Jordan didn't know about this little adventure, so he had been drinking coffee since 9 am - so I chickened out and got a decaf cappuccino.  It was served in a mug, which gave Anodyne immediate bonus points.  The cappuccino had just the right amount of foam; the only downside was that it cooled rather quickly.
Jordan got a honey bee latte.  He said his was "the best coffee he had all day", and it was mixed well.
The roast was interesting.  The flavor was intense right at the beginning, and I got worried it was going to turn bitter in my mouth, but it finished very smooth.  It took most of my drink to get used to it, which made for a fun time for my taste buds.
The atmosphere was awesome.  They had a coffee bar opposite the register, plenty of open space, simple tables with clean lines.  They had some roasting equipment on the far end of the store.  It was a great combination of modern and comforting.

Ranking:  1st

Fourth stopRochambo, 1317 E. Brady St.

After stopping to pick up a few friends, to share in our coffee-induced high, we made it to our final stop of the night.  Rochambo was the only place we visited who did not roast their own coffee; they carry coffee roasted by Valentine Coffee Co.

Rochambo claims to have the best Irish coffee in town, so by golly, I had to test it.  For $6.00 a pint... well, let's just say I got my money's worth in whiskey, but not necessarily in coffee.  And while the whipped cream on top was homemade, it was also, oddly enough, not sweetened.  A disappointment there.
Jordan got a concoction called Summer Sun, which offset my cost; for $4.00 a pint, it was very reasonable.
The roast was smooth and rich, but nothing earth-shattering.
The atmosphere kind of felt like being in a college frat boy's house.  It was a little shabby, a little arty (but not classy arty, more like art for art's sake), a little slap-dash.  Not the worst thing for a coffee shop, but if this experience has taught Jordan and I anything, it's that we like our coffee places simple and tidy.

(It also taught us that 8 hours is too short a time span to visit 4 coffee places.  Oh my goodness, the jitters!)

Ranking:  3rd

Jordan and I loved our coffee extravaganza.  We want do it again soon, maybe hit up Madison and Chicago for some fresh blood.  If you're a like-minded espresso fiend, try it out in your own town.  Believe me, there are worst ways to spend a Saturday afternoon... Cheers!

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  1. that sounds like the funnest way to spend a saturday!

  2. Coffee shops are so lovely, and I enjoy reading about your adventures in them!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful day! We do something similar, but hubby makes it all at home - cheaper. ;-) I was all over the cardamom spice latte, until you said it got overpowering at the end. Once I thought about it, I could totally see how that would happen. Cardamom can get quite strong. Anyway, lots of fun to read about your coffee adventures!

  4. sounds like a fun time! Jordan said he was out shortly after getting home.

    And I noticed you updated your baby guesser tracker on the side, with a 50% success rate! way to go! :-)

  5. what an awesome idea! someday my boyfriend and i will have to do this! unfortunately, there are only 2 coffee places in my city...

  6. Agh! What a great adventure!

    You two seem way fun-- I like reading this sort of post from you, it's really inspiring and it just plain makes me happy. I love that you guys enjoy being creative together. Can't wait for more day dates! :)

  7. What a great day & post! I was wondering whether we could do a Milwaukee meet-up soon . . . you had me at "tour of coffee shops," but hooked me at thrifting.

  8. Great! Date! Idea!
    We're most definitely going to borrow this idea. As usual I'm just a big ol' follower.

  9. andrea - do it anyway! 2 isn't too few, and you can offset it with a "control", such as, dare I say, Starbucks.

    Cydney - a meet-up? yes please! I could take you to quite a few cute places in the Milwaukee area... and then you could return the favor in Madison. :)

    Molly - please do steal the idea! That's why I posted it!

  10. sounds like fun. =) i'd love to suggest places in madison for you to try, because i know that there are some excellent ones, but not being a coffee drinker i really don't know where to start. =/ there's a fair number of coffee shops on state street -- michaelangelo's got most of my business, since it was right across from my apartment -- and if the journey ever gets their coffee shop open, i promise it will be a lovely environment. christy is in charge of the decor and design. =)