Posts Tagged ‘Really good coffee’

Really Good Coffee at Big E’s Sweets & Gourmet Coffee in Sarasota

Big E’s Sweets & Gourmet Coffee is a real college coffeehouse hangout in Sarasota, Florida.

Internet, food, friends, and of course, lots of conversation for the homesick art students at the Ringling School of Art which is right across the street.  Late hours, large round tables that you can pile books on, and great coffee for the college crowd palate. Perfect. 

orange_coffee_cupBig E aka Eric – is like the Godfather of the neighborhood in the nicest of ways because he makes sure the students eat egg sandwiches and milk often enough that he knows they are getting their nutrition while in his care. Eric would never let a student starve. It just isn’t in him and everyone loves the guy. Eric carries a great selection of homemade sandwiches, soup, pizza, and other healthy food made fresh for starving students. It’s much better than Micky D’s. 

A good selection of gourmet coffee and tea provides something for every palate. Cold drinks and milk are very popular along with hot pie a la mode. No smoking and no drinking permitted on the premises. Eric and staff run a clean shop and we would never have spent so much time there if that were not true. 

Big E’s Can Use Some More Used PC’s…

WIFI is available. Bring your laptop and your appetite.  Big E’s only has two personal computers available to use in his unique cyber cafe and Eric does not charge for the use. That is a rarity!  If you know anyone with a better than average and relatively new computer to donate; I am sure he would be glad to have it.  Students are always waiting to get on and check email from home, do research, or see what’s going on for the weekend. Many students have laptops but actually lots don’t have them and the computers are always in demand.

Wouldn’t it be great to see a flurry of donations from someone who really understands how crucial it is and how much it would help to have a few more? I remember how good it felt to get out of a dorm to work sometimes.

There is lots of parking at Big E’s and the lot in back is large and safe. Actually, the entire area is safe and there are kids walking back and forth constantly.  Food takeout is a frequent demand…what are they feeding those poor kinds across the street??  They are always hungry when they come in.  Last summer Eric started making his own pizza’s with a little help from the students who surely all want to be coffeehouse entrepreneurs when they finish art school and deck their own walls!  Naturally, the walls at Big E’s are covered in art renderings of all kinds. More than anything else, Big E’s is about comfort and camaraderie.

Last summer, on Sundays, Michael and Alexandra did a morning meditation for the students and some of them actually got up and came out every Sunday. True, that all they had to do was walk across the street but they did. They got up and came. We really enjoyed leading the meditation, and it gave purpose to our coffee hour on Sunday mornings.  Eric is off on Sunday but his staff of young art students were helpful and interested in knowing more about how to meditate. We described it as ignoring the mind chatter and listening for God.  It is a worthwhile reason to get up on Sundays.  Even some of the local adults came to meditate with us.

Big E’s was Eric’s dream when he came to Sarasota from a corporate layoff in Michigan or Ohio, I forget which, but he found a purpose and a family of students who really appreciate the comfort and ambiance of Big E’s, their home away from home. 

Large umbrellas and tables are in front of the store and you can almost always see a collection of bikes chained up while the owners get their fix on some hot caffeine to boost the mind between classes. It is a healthy, clean place where students can really relax and be themselves.  Parents can even send money to bank a tab for food when their students are broke. The place is clean and the crowd is intelligent. Students exchange info about local house-shares and rentals, yoga classes, music, art-art-art, and love. There is a lot of creativity happening at Big E’s and the laughs relax everyone. It is exactly the kind of place I’d like my daughter to hang at while going to school away from home.  We appreciate the way Eric looks out for everyone.

Stop in an grab a hot cup of French Roast or Colombian and check it out.

Big E’s

2805 N. Tamiami Trail

Sarasota, FL 34234

941-355-4432

P.S. They will even put some water outside for the dog!

I AM Alexandra Barrett

Really Good Coffee at Big E’s Sweets & Gourmet Coffee in Sarasota

Big E’s Sweets & Gourmet Coffee is a real college coffeehouse hangout in Sarasota, Florida.

Internet, food, friends, and of course, lots of conversation for the homesick art students at the Ringling School of Art which is right across the street.  Late hours, large round tables that you can pile books on, and great coffee for the college crowd palate. Perfect. 

orange_coffee_cupBig E aka Eric – is like the Godfather of the neighborhood in the nicest of ways because he makes sure the students eat egg sandwiches and milk often enough that he knows they are getting their nutrition while in his care. Eric would never let a student starve. It just isn’t in him and everyone loves the guy. Eric carries a great selection of homemade sandwiches, soup, pizza, and other healthy food made fresh for starving students. It’s much better than Micky D’s. 

A good selection of gourmet coffee and tea provides something for every palate. Cold drinks and milk are very popular along with hot pie a la mode. No smoking and no drinking permitted on the premises. Eric and staff run a clean shop and we would never have spent so much time there if that were not true. 

Big E’s Can Use Some More Used PC’s…

WIFI is available. Bring your laptop and your appetite.  Big E’s only has two personal computers available to use in his unique cyber cafe and Eric does not charge for the use. That is a rarity!  If you know anyone with a better than average and relatively new computer to donate; I am sure he would be glad to have it.  Students are always waiting to get on and check email from home, do research, or see what’s going on for the weekend. Many students have laptops but actually lots don’t have them and the computers are always in demand.

Wouldn’t it be great to see a flurry of donations from someone who really understands how crucial it is and how much it would help to have a few more? I remember how good it felt to get out of a dorm to work sometimes.

There is lots of parking at Big E’s and the lot in back is large and safe. Actually, the entire area is safe and there are kids walking back and forth constantly.  Food takeout is a frequent demand…what are they feeding those poor kinds across the street??  They are always hungry when they come in.  Last summer Eric started making his own pizza’s with a little help from the students who surely all want to be coffeehouse entrepreneurs when they finish art school and deck their own walls!  Naturally, the walls at Big E’s are covered in art renderings of all kinds. More than anything else, Big E’s is about comfort and camaraderie.

Last summer, on Sundays, Michael and Alexandra did a morning meditation for the students and some of them actually got up and came out every Sunday. True, that all they had to do was walk across the street but they did. They got up and came. We really enjoyed leading the meditation, and it gave purpose to our coffee hour on Sunday mornings.  Eric is off on Sunday but his staff of young art students were helpful and interested in knowing more about how to meditate. We described it as ignoring the mind chatter and listening for God.  It is a worthwhile reason to get up on Sundays.  Even some of the local adults came to meditate with us.

Big E’s was Eric’s dream when he came to Sarasota from a corporate layoff in Michigan or Ohio, I forget which, but he found a purpose and a family of students who really appreciate the comfort and ambiance of Big E’s, their home away from home. 

Large umbrellas and tables are in front of the store and you can almost always see a collection of bikes chained up while the owners get their fix on some hot caffeine to boost the mind between classes. It is a healthy, clean place where students can really relax and be themselves.  Parents can even send money to bank a tab for food when their students are broke. The place is clean and the crowd is intelligent. Students exchange info about local house-shares and rentals, yoga classes, music, art-art-art, and love. There is a lot of creativity happening at Big E’s and the laughs relax everyone. It is exactly the kind of place I’d like my daughter to hang at while going to school away from home.  We appreciate the way Eric looks out for everyone.

Stop in an grab a hot cup of French Roast or Colombian and check it out.

Big E’s

2805 N. Tamiami Trail

Sarasota, FL 34234

941-355-4432

P.S. They will even put some water outside for the dog!

I AM Alexandra Barrett

Really Good Coffee at Northern Light Espresso in Scranton, Pennsylvania…

Who would have thought – really good coffee in Scranton?  Go figure….Northern Light Espresso is awesome.My wife – Alexandra – my closest and most diligent coffee apprentice – found Northern Light and took me there last weekend. She gets the prize this week.A blue ribbon…Here’s a view from the loft – looking down on Mandy Doria – a barista at Northern Light Espresso.Northern Light Espresso upstairsIf the ‘coffee snobs’ I know were going to talk about places to get really good coffee, more than likely they wouldn’t talk about  Scranton, Pennsylvania.But they would be wrong – and I know this because that was my impression too – and I stand corrected.By the way, when I use the term coffee snobs, I am using poetic license – kind of tongue in cheek. If you’re not familiar with real coffee snobs this is my definition:

A “real” coffee snob has a palate that is more developed than the average coffee drinker. In spite of  a more complete understanding and more experience, they do not belittle people who have less coffee knowledge. They just move on quietly to a better cup elsewhere, without saying anything about it. An intolerant or unkind coffee snob is not a true coffee snob. People like that are just wanna-be coffee snobs.

alexandra_upstairs300x338.jpgHere’s a picture of Alexandra – upstairs at Northern Light.First, the ambiance…The place has an eclectic sense to it – kind of reminiscent of a campus coffee house in Berkeley in the 60’s. But it also has a modern flare with a  well designed use of space, light and color. Nice coffee house. If you want to tuck away quietly upstairs with your laptop or watch unnoticed from above you can.The staff…is young but well schooled in the art of espresso. They are attentive first and foremost to quality not speed – and they are meticulous in the preparation with an unusual mechanical set up.Here’s a picture of Alexandra and Mandy.Mandy_and_Alexandra2.jpgPositioned in front of the Mazzer grinder – on the counter – is a circular machined piece of white plastic.There is some type of a locating pin recessed in the counter to keep this plastic from moving. Michael and MandyHere’s a picture of me and Mandy.It’s function is to hold the portafilter while the barista tamps the freshly ground espresso prior to extraction. I like the concept because it stabalizes the portafilter to get a really consistent and even tamp without requiring a lot of strength or force. My guess is that it also provides for consistency in the extraction. Cool idea I haven’t seen before.Whomever thought that one up really knew what they were doing.The counter is designed for flow and easy positioning for the staff. The espresso machine is a Mirage 2 Group Semi-automatic. To quote www.visionsespresso.com:

The absence of group-solenoids, pump and most electronic controls makes this a very reliable and easy to service espresso machine.

I was a Visions customer for several years and they have been in the espresso machine game for a long time. This is further evidence to me that the owner who set up the Northern Light coffee bar really knew what they were doing. The key here is not high volume – more like medium volume with a high quality focus.

The coffee…

Yummo.Northern Light gets their coffee from Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, NY and they use the Levitation Blend. I don’t know Gimme Coffee, but they are awesome roasters. Here is a description of their blend from their packaging and Alexandra (who says – “her favorite”):

  • deep cherry aroma
  • fully developed ripest cherry taste
  • buttery smooth body
  • sweet tobacco aftertaste

To me, the flavor is rich, sweet and complex – with a delightful and lingering aftertaste.The Extraction…The standard extraction is a a “triple ristretto”. The grind is calibrated to pull a 36 second shot.This a full bodied medium dark roast, similar to a “full city roast” in Seattle.Personally, I am not a latte drinker – I prefer doppios. However, I have to say that the dark extraction and the rich, deep blend is absolutely perfectly fomulated and extracted for lattes. I think that is one of the finest lattes I have ever tasted.And I have had a few over forty years.I loved the straight espresso too. Very thick and full of body. Excellent actually.If I were working the bar – at Northern Light – I would modify the grind for straight espresso so that it poured about 25 seconds – a bit lighter, to tweak the tastebuds a bit more for my own taste preference.But in all fairness, this espresso shop is a quality operation and they produce a quality product.If you ever get to Scranton, you have to stop and have a latte. And if you do, tell them we sent you.See you next time.

I AM Michael Barrett

Really Good Coffee at Northern Light Espresso in Scranton, Pennsylvania…

Who would have thought – really good coffee in Scranton?  Go figure….Northern Light Espresso is awesome.My wife – Alexandra – my closest and most diligent coffee apprentice – found Northern Light and took me there last weekend. She gets the prize this week.A blue ribbon…Here’s a view from the loft – looking down on Mandy Doria – a barista at Northern Light Espresso.Northern Light Espresso upstairsIf the ‘coffee snobs’ I know were going to talk about places to get really good coffee, more than likely they wouldn’t talk about  Scranton, Pennsylvania.But they would be wrong – and I know this because that was my impression too – and I stand corrected.By the way, when I use the term coffee snobs, I am using poetic license – kind of tongue in cheek. If you’re not familiar with real coffee snobs this is my definition:

A “real” coffee snob has a palate that is more developed than the average coffee drinker. In spite of  a more complete understanding and more experience, they do not belittle people who have less coffee knowledge. They just move on quietly to a better cup elsewhere, without saying anything about it. An intolerant or unkind coffee snob is not a true coffee snob. People like that are just wanna-be coffee snobs.

alexandra_upstairs300x338.jpgHere’s a picture of Alexandra – upstairs at Northern Light.First, the ambiance…The place has an eclectic sense to it – kind of reminiscent of a campus coffee house in Berkeley in the 60’s. But it also has a modern flare with a  well designed use of space, light and color. Nice coffee house. If you want to tuck away quietly upstairs with your laptop or watch unnoticed from above you can.The staff…is young but well schooled in the art of espresso. They are attentive first and foremost to quality not speed – and they are meticulous in the preparation with an unusual mechanical set up.Here’s a picture of Alexandra and Mandy.Mandy_and_Alexandra2.jpgPositioned in front of the Mazzer grinder – on the counter – is a circular machined piece of white plastic.There is some type of a locating pin recessed in the counter to keep this plastic from moving. Michael and MandyHere’s a picture of me and Mandy.It’s function is to hold the portafilter while the barista tamps the freshly ground espresso prior to extraction. I like the concept because it stabalizes the portafilter to get a really consistent and even tamp without requiring a lot of strength or force. My guess is that it also provides for consistency in the extraction. Cool idea I haven’t seen before.Whomever thought that one up really knew what they were doing.The counter is designed for flow and easy positioning for the staff. The espresso machine is a Mirage 2 Group Semi-automatic. To quote www.visionsespresso.com:

The absence of group-solenoids, pump and most electronic controls makes this a very reliable and easy to service espresso machine.

I was a Visions customer for several years and they have been in the espresso machine game for a long time. This is further evidence to me that the owner who set up the Northern Light coffee bar really knew what they were doing. The key here is not high volume – more like medium volume with a high quality focus.

The coffee…

Yummo.Northern Light gets their coffee from Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, NY and they use the Levitation Blend. I don’t know Gimme Coffee, but they are awesome roasters. Here is a description of their blend from their packaging and Alexandra (who says – “her favorite”):

  • deep cherry aroma
  • fully developed ripest cherry taste
  • buttery smooth body
  • sweet tobacco aftertaste

To me, the flavor is rich, sweet and complex – with a delightful and lingering aftertaste.The Extraction…The standard extraction is a a “triple ristretto”. The grind is calibrated to pull a 36 second shot.This a full bodied medium dark roast, similar to a “full city roast” in Seattle.Personally, I am not a latte drinker – I prefer doppios. However, I have to say that the dark extraction and the rich, deep blend is absolutely perfectly fomulated and extracted for lattes. I think that is one of the finest lattes I have ever tasted.And I have had a few over forty years.I loved the straight espresso too. Very thick and full of body. Excellent actually.If I were working the bar – at Northern Light – I would modify the grind for straight espresso so that it poured about 25 seconds – a bit lighter, to tweak the tastebuds a bit more for my own taste preference.But in all fairness, this espresso shop is a quality operation and they produce a quality product.If you ever get to Scranton, you have to stop and have a latte. And if you do, tell them we sent you.See you next time.

I AM Michael Barrett

Where Do You Go For Really Good Coffee

Where Do You Go For Really Good Coffee…

I came across a blog today that I thought was cool – written by a guy raised in Southern California.

He’s asking people where they get really good coffee in Japan…Where Do You Go For Your Cup Of Jo? (Sorry had to remove this link – original reference blog no longer exists)Moreover, having lived in the Pacific Northwest in the US for 8 years before coming to Japan, I’ve become a bit of a coffee snob so I figured, before coming here, that I’d have to learn to live without really good coffee. …

Being raised in northern California, having my first cup of Peets at age 14, then living 9 years in Montana and 15 in Seattle (where I got in to the business of really good coffee); thought there might be some similarities in our appreciation of coffee.

Kinda weird seeing a picture of a great bigStarbucks in Japanthat he describes as possibly the busiest Starbucks location in the world.

And here’s a site that provides all the supplies, instructions and table top equipment needed for roasting small batches of your own really good coffee…

Roast your own coffee at home

Nice idea. This is a neat site. I’m kind of spoiled by the rich flavor of dark roast Melita drip or pungently luscious freshly extracted doppios. Personally I prefer the complexity and flavor profiles of drum roasted blends in small batches.And one of the thing I really like about home roasted coffee is how fresh it is.And this blog shows a map and the picture of a storefront of The Coffee Plant to get really good coffee…

Funny thing is they don’t give an address:Let’s assume it’s great coffee, try really good coffee at Coffee Plant if you can find it.

If you’re in the Portland area, head out to:

Longbottom Coffee in Hillsboro for my very favorite – really smooth – air roasted coffees .You can also check out Michael Baccellieri’s blog here The Coffee Mariner

In Seattle… be sure to find this little place on the south end of Phinney Ridge not to far up the hill from the Fremont district…

Great doppios and excellent roasted – on site – espresso and lattes…Lighthouse Roasters

If you have other suggestions – for great coffee haunts in your town, let us know and we’ll stop in and check them out when we’re in your neck of the woods.That’s it for today.Where Do You Go for Really Good Coffee?

Where Do You Go For Really Good Coffee…

Where Do You Go For Really Good Coffee…

I came across a blog today that I thought was cool – written by a guy raised in Southern California.

He’s asking people where they get really good coffee in Japan…Where Do You Go For Your Cup Of Jo? (Sorry had to remove this link – original reference blog no longer exists)Moreover, having lived in the Pacific Northwest in the US for 8 years before coming to Japan, I’ve become a bit of a coffee snob so I figured, before coming here, that I’d have to learn to live without really good coffee. …

Being raised in northern California, having my first cup of Peets at age 14, then living 9 years in Montana and 15 in Seattle (where I got in to the business of really good coffee); thought there might be some similarities in our appreciation of coffee.

Kinda weird seeing a picture of a great bigStarbucks in Japanthat he describes as possibly the busiest Starbucks location in the world.

And here’s a site that provides all the supplies, instructions and table top equipment needed for roasting small batches of your own really good coffee…

Roast your own coffee at home

Nice idea. This is a neat site. I’m kind of spoiled by the rich flavor of dark roast Melita drip or pungently luscious freshly extracted doppios. Personally I prefer the complexity and flavor profiles of drum roasted blends in small batches.And one of the thing I really like about home roasted coffee is how fresh it is.And this blog shows a map and the picture of a storefront of The Coffee Plant to get really good coffee…

Funny thing is they don’t give an address:Let’s assume it’s great coffee, try really good coffee at Coffee Plant if you can find it.

If you’re in the Portland area, head out to:

Longbottom Coffee in Hillsboro for my very favorite – really smooth – air roasted coffees .You can also check out Michael Baccellieri’s blog here The Coffee Mariner

In Seattle… be sure to find this little place on the south end of Phinney Ridge not to far up the hill from the Fremont district…

Great doppios and excellent roasted – on site – espresso and lattes…Lighthouse Roasters

If you have other suggestions – for great coffee haunts in your town, let us know and we’ll stop in and check them out when we’re in your neck of the woods.That’s it for today.Where Do You Go for Really Good Coffee?

Really Good Coffee Fast – Starbucks!

Really good coffee fast – Starbucks The first time I ever saw a Starbucks label in the mid 90’s I was intrigued.  I was on the road driving to Florida with my daughter and I wanted coffee but not hot coffee.  I stopped into a convenient store somewhere on the east coast-maybe North Carolina and there was a Starbucks Frappuccino.   Honestly, I didn’t know what a  Frappuccino was but I did know what a cappuccino was and I love cappuccino so I bought it.  Thus began my passion for Starbucks.My first impression when I saw the Starbucks label and drank my first Frappuccino, was that this company was going to soar.  I immediately began to look for Starbucks.  I didn’t always find it and I remember being dissappointed.When the first Starbucks opened in Manhattan sometime in the early to mid nineties I was elated. I was working in Manhattan and hated convenient store coffee and I was not about to carry a thermos to work with me even though I was drinking Gevalia coffee at home and really liked it.  Starbucks fast became my favorite whenever I could get it.Of course, I knew nothing about Pike Place Market in Seattle or the fact that Alfred Peet had begun a roasting operation in California.  I had no idea what was happening in the world of coffee which was exploding on the west coast.  All I knew was what tasted good to me and that I wanted more Starbucks.  I had no idea what was coming….Now a lot of people out there who know really good coffee; they know good beans, they know stale, they know the crema and the finer elements of a primo cup of espresso; some of those people say Starbucks is not what it was and that it is becoming the McDonalds of coffeehouses.   That may all be true.  But, depending on your scale of comparison, I’d say that Starbucks is still the best cup of coffee, latte, espresso or cold blended coffees you can find anywhere in a hurry on the highway or almost anywhere you go.  When I see a Starbucks sign, I know I am getting a good tasting latte and that if I don’t like it they will make me another or use a different coffee to make me happy.  I know that.Since my first Frappuccino in the mid 90’s I have become much more of a coffee connoiseur and I have made a point of looking for and drinking the best coffee I can find in my travels across America.  Frequently, without fail, when there is nothing else but convenient store or diner coffee around, there is a huge green star and Starbucks is welcoming me for a break from driving, a clean and comfortable place to relax and refresh, and a feeling of home no matter what state I am in.  I love that, and further more, I count on that.It didn’t take long for me to replace Frappuccino’s with Starbucks Doubleshots.  The Doubleshots in the can were convenient for traveling with and I could pack half a dozen cans to take with me in the days when Starbucks locations were harder to come by. I still like to have a supply for traveling. First thing in the morning in a strange city where I haven’t yet had time to look around the Doubleshot takes care of my coffee needs.  I just don’t drink hotel coffee anymore unless it is Starbucks. Most of the time I really do prefer it hot.Since the nineties I have come to enjoy French Roast, Kona, and Kenya coffee beans.  I like it fresh ground and fresh period. I like my coffee strong but not bitter.  Personally,I prefer latte because it is easier on my stomach than black or espresso.  My guy loves a Dopio or Americano and after all he was a barista and  he says he can’t really enjoy the finer flavors of the crema when he adds cream.The Starbucks EnvironmentIn my opinion Starbucks has raised the standard for coffee houses and coffee stores in America in all ways.  Since Starbucks came on the scene I have become very spoiled.  When I walk into a Starbucks I expect to find beautiful leather chairs and wood tables and cozy little tables for two or three with coffee art from around the world and beautiful ceramic coffee cups along with other supplies for the at home barista.When I walk into the occasional-very occasional- Starbucks which is worn and not so clean and inviting; it feels strange and weird and wrong to me. I notice it  immediately and wonder what is wrong that this should have occurred. In other words, it is completely out of the norm.   That is when I find myself wanting to travel the country for Starbucks making sure that the standard they have established is maintained in all their stores.That folks, is what happens when you set the standard.  People get it and they expect it.  Nationally, there is no doubt that Starbucks did create a standard for coffee stores that taught us what we could have and expect.  Even though others have followed that model really well and in some cases even outdone it, Starbucks does it largely and consistently. They make it look easy but it isn’t.Starbucks Commitment to ExcellenceAnother aspect of Starbucks that makes them a leader in American business and in the coffee specialty business is their customer service. I am actually a customer service corporate trainer and I specifically pay attention to customer service when I travel.  After having been in hundreds of Starbucks stores I can honestly say they have consistently the best customer service of any large retail chain of any kind that Ihave ever been in. And no, I did not do their customer service training. They do it extremely well.Starbucks employees are clearly well trained to make customers priority one.  They consistently greet and smile and welcome their customers in a way that feels authentic and good to the customer rushing through the door in their busy morning, afternoon, or evening.  Only a couple of times-out of hundreds-have I ever found Starbucks employees too busy gossiping to really pay attention to me and my order in the usual manner.  That is such rare behavior that I even remember the store.   Starbucks employees are exceptionally well trained and I believe that they genuinely love their work.  You can’t fake that kind of authenticity 99% of the time.Starbucks is one of the top 100 corporations in America to work for out of hundreds of thousands.  That is no accident.  It takes a strong commitment to excellence to be in the top 100 companies in American business to work for. I don’t know about you but that impresses me.As you can see my enthusiasm for Starbucks and what they have created across the country is unwavering.  As a road warrior, I expect to stop at a Starbucks and be able to count on relaxing in a comfortable, homey chair, with great tunes playing in a clean environment and to enjoy a great cup of really good coffee or in my case a delicious latte breveThat is how I relax on the road. Like most road warriors, I am always glad to see a Starbucks sign wherever I go, to get Really Good Coffee Fast – Starbucks!

Really Good Coffee Fast – Starbucks!

Really good coffee fast – Starbucks The first time I ever saw a Starbucks label in the mid 90’s I was intrigued.  I was on the road driving to Florida with my daughter and I wanted coffee but not hot coffee.  I stopped into a convenient store somewhere on the east coast-maybe North Carolina and there was a Starbucks Frappuccino.   Honestly, I didn’t know what a  Frappuccino was but I did know what a cappuccino was and I love cappuccino so I bought it.  Thus began my passion for Starbucks.My first impression when I saw the Starbucks label and drank my first Frappuccino, was that this company was going to soar.  I immediately began to look for Starbucks.  I didn’t always find it and I remember being dissappointed.When the first Starbucks opened in Manhattan sometime in the early to mid nineties I was elated. I was working in Manhattan and hated convenient store coffee and I was not about to carry a thermos to work with me even though I was drinking Gevalia coffee at home and really liked it.  Starbucks fast became my favorite whenever I could get it.Of course, I knew nothing about Pike Place Market in Seattle or the fact that Alfred Peet had begun a roasting operation in California.  I had no idea what was happening in the world of coffee which was exploding on the west coast.  All I knew was what tasted good to me and that I wanted more Starbucks.  I had no idea what was coming….Now a lot of people out there who know really good coffee; they know good beans, they know stale, they know the crema and the finer elements of a primo cup of espresso; some of those people say Starbucks is not what it was and that it is becoming the McDonalds of coffeehouses.   That may all be true.  But, depending on your scale of comparison, I’d say that Starbucks is still the best cup of coffee, latte, espresso or cold blended coffees you can find anywhere in a hurry on the highway or almost anywhere you go.  When I see a Starbucks sign, I know I am getting a good tasting latte and that if I don’t like it they will make me another or use a different coffee to make me happy.  I know that.Since my first Frappuccino in the mid 90’s I have become much more of a coffee connoiseur and I have made a point of looking for and drinking the best coffee I can find in my travels across America.  Frequently, without fail, when there is nothing else but convenient store or diner coffee around, there is a huge green star and Starbucks is welcoming me for a break from driving, a clean and comfortable place to relax and refresh, and a feeling of home no matter what state I am in.  I love that, and further more, I count on that.It didn’t take long for me to replace Frappuccino’s with Starbucks Doubleshots.  The Doubleshots in the can were convenient for traveling with and I could pack half a dozen cans to take with me in the days when Starbucks locations were harder to come by. I still like to have a supply for traveling. First thing in the morning in a strange city where I haven’t yet had time to look around the Doubleshot takes care of my coffee needs.  I just don’t drink hotel coffee anymore unless it is Starbucks. Most of the time I really do prefer it hot.Since the nineties I have come to enjoy French Roast, Kona, and Kenya coffee beans.  I like it fresh ground and fresh period. I like my coffee strong but not bitter.  Personally,I prefer latte because it is easier on my stomach than black or espresso.  My guy loves a Dopio or Americano and after all he was a barista and  he says he can’t really enjoy the finer flavors of the crema when he adds cream.The Starbucks EnvironmentIn my opinion Starbucks has raised the standard for coffee houses and coffee stores in America in all ways.  Since Starbucks came on the scene I have become very spoiled.  When I walk into a Starbucks I expect to find beautiful leather chairs and wood tables and cozy little tables for two or three with coffee art from around the world and beautiful ceramic coffee cups along with other supplies for the at home barista.When I walk into the occasional-very occasional- Starbucks which is worn and not so clean and inviting; it feels strange and weird and wrong to me. I notice it  immediately and wonder what is wrong that this should have occurred. In other words, it is completely out of the norm.   That is when I find myself wanting to travel the country for Starbucks making sure that the standard they have established is maintained in all their stores.That folks, is what happens when you set the standard.  People get it and they expect it.  Nationally, there is no doubt that Starbucks did create a standard for coffee stores that taught us what we could have and expect.  Even though others have followed that model really well and in some cases even outdone it, Starbucks does it largely and consistently. They make it look easy but it isn’t.Starbucks Commitment to ExcellenceAnother aspect of Starbucks that makes them a leader in American business and in the coffee specialty business is their customer service. I am actually a customer service corporate trainer and I specifically pay attention to customer service when I travel.  After having been in hundreds of Starbucks stores I can honestly say they have consistently the best customer service of any large retail chain of any kind that Ihave ever been in. And no, I did not do their customer service training. They do it extremely well.Starbucks employees are clearly well trained to make customers priority one.  They consistently greet and smile and welcome their customers in a way that feels authentic and good to the customer rushing through the door in their busy morning, afternoon, or evening.  Only a couple of times-out of hundreds-have I ever found Starbucks employees too busy gossiping to really pay attention to me and my order in the usual manner.  That is such rare behavior that I even remember the store.   Starbucks employees are exceptionally well trained and I believe that they genuinely love their work.  You can’t fake that kind of authenticity 99% of the time.Starbucks is one of the top 100 corporations in America to work for out of hundreds of thousands.  That is no accident.  It takes a strong commitment to excellence to be in the top 100 companies in American business to work for. I don’t know about you but that impresses me.As you can see my enthusiasm for Starbucks and what they have created across the country is unwavering.  As a road warrior, I expect to stop at a Starbucks and be able to count on relaxing in a comfortable, homey chair, with great tunes playing in a clean environment and to enjoy a great cup of really good coffee or in my case a delicious latte breveThat is how I relax on the road. Like most road warriors, I am always glad to see a Starbucks sign wherever I go, to get Really Good Coffee Fast – Starbucks!

Latte Art Videos At Really Good Coffee

Around the world baristas are pouring cup after cup of latte as they practice the art of latte art techniques.

Really Good Coffee co-author Alexandra, has been using the some videos she found in an attempt to surprise her (former barista) partner with the perfect and beautifully artistic latte.  I think you will actually enjoy some of these videos if you are a latte lover and especially if you have an espresso with steam machine at home. 

I think it would be a great idea to create your own video and show us your technique.  Of course after one such session I did end up staying up all night with caffeine jitters and a "wired" brain but I got a lot done and it was fun for this boomer gal who doesn’t normally stay up all night (anymore ;-)).  Yep, those days are pretty much over, but I really did have fun and I got a lot of writing done too when I couldn’t drink anymore latte.  LOL!!

Here are some of the great videos I found at YouTube!

 

Chasing Hearts Alfredo
Zebra Alfredo

 

 

Heart Alfredo

Hopefully, with VALENTINES DAY coming up you can create a beautiful heart full of latte love for your sweetie. 

Have fun and maybe this actually would be a great time to stay up all night!!!   How romantically immature…;-)

Last but not least is this one

 

Melting Heart Latte Art

Another really outrageous romantic idea, if you’d like to do something latte related that costs a bit more than a homemade latte heart, you could buy tickets for two and fly your "Angelove" to Australia for the Gourmet Coffee Institutes Barista Latte Art Workshop.   Now we’re talking Lover!

 

Latte Art Videos At Really Good Coffee

Around the world baristas are pouring cup after cup of latte as they practice the art of latte art techniques.

Really Good Coffee co-author Alexandra, has been using the some videos she found in an attempt to surprise her (former barista) partner with the perfect and beautifully artistic latte.  I think you will actually enjoy some of these videos if you are a latte lover and especially if you have an espresso with steam machine at home. 

I think it would be a great idea to create your own video and show us your technique.  Of course after one such session I did end up staying up all night with caffeine jitters and a "wired" brain but I got a lot done and it was fun for this boomer gal who doesn’t normally stay up all night (anymore ;-)).  Yep, those days are pretty much over, but I really did have fun and I got a lot of writing done too when I couldn’t drink anymore latte.  LOL!!

Here are some of the great videos I found at YouTube!

 

Chasing Hearts Alfredo
Zebra Alfredo

 

 

Heart Alfredo

Hopefully, with VALENTINES DAY coming up you can create a beautiful heart full of latte love for your sweetie. 

Have fun and maybe this actually would be a great time to stay up all night!!!   How romantically immature…;-)

Last but not least is this one

 

Melting Heart Latte Art

Another really outrageous romantic idea, if you’d like to do something latte related that costs a bit more than a homemade latte heart, you could buy tickets for two and fly your "Angelove" to Australia for the Gourmet Coffee Institutes Barista Latte Art Workshop.   Now we’re talking Lover!

 

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