Tag Archives: coffee

Coffee for hard times in Italy: Caffè d’orzo

Enjoying caffè d’orzo and cornetti in Bologna

Italians had to make do with less – or no – coffee during and after World War II, so they developed an alternative, orzo, roasted barley prepared in the same manner as coffee, in an espresso machine, known as Caffè d’orzo. Orzo means “barley” in Italian, and is also the origin of the small, grain-shaped pasta’s name. Similarly, in the US and elsewhere, chicory became popular as a coffee substitute in lean times, and is still popular in places like at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Though, of course, coffee roared back in Italy in the decades after the war, orzo is still hanging on, too, and you can find it in some traditional cafes throughout Italy. The barley imparts a lovely malted, roasty flavor, though no one would mistake it for coffee. I was looking for decaf options in Italy, and both M and I really enjoyed trying orzo with our morning pastries, usually cornetti (croissant-like pastries with various fillings). If you are particularly dedicated to orzo coffee, you can even by a special orzo maker, similar to a Bialetti Moka, an orziera.

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La Monarca: Pan dulce meets coffee in LA

One of the main things we miss since we move away from Chicago was its proliferation of amazing Mexican pandarias and their huge assortment of pan dulce – Mexican sweet breads and cookies. When we went to LA we knew we would be able to get our fix. One of our friends tipped us off to a place in particular – La Monarca, which is an upscale pan dulce (traditional Mexican sweet breads and pastries) shop with espresso drinks and light bites.  La Monarca is a small but flourishing chain of cafes with about a dozen locations in the LA Metro area – think Mexican-tinged Starbucks, but with better everything. We visited the Santa Monica location (1300 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403). The cafe was bright and airy, and was filled with a combination of people on their laptops, students and patrons grabbing a quick coffee and pastry before work.

Once you enter, on the left is the traditional case of pan dulce – you grab a tray and a set of tongs and load up the tray with whatever you want. Of course there are conchas, orejas (palmiers) and puerquitos, but also a few more unusual options like cuernitos (croissants) filled with dulce de leche, chocolate, cream cheese or guava and dulce de leche bread pudding. You can also go a bit more savory with bollilo bread rolls, baguettes or cornbread. We selected a mini cinnamon sugar concha, a puerquito and a a dulce de leche croissant, which had been particularly recommended to us. Of course we had our eye on the drink menu, which boasted single-origin Oaxacan coffee alongside cafe de olla (hot or cold coffee brewed with brown sugar and cinnamon), Mexican hot chocolate and champurrado (a sweetened chocolate elote drink). We get champurrado whenever we can find it, so we were extremely excited!

The refrigerated case is also full of other tempting looking cakes including tres leches, flan, dulce de leche and tiramisu. For heartier appetites they have salads,  quiches, molletes (open faced sandwiches), and breakfast tacos, all with a Mexican twist including options with chorizo, huevos rancheros, chicken mole and salsa verde. We snagged an extra yogurt parfait for some protein. Everything at La Monarca was delicious (if a little pricey), and we enjoyed their modern twist on the traditional Mexican panaderia. We could definitely see ourselves becoming regulars if we lived closer!

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Copenhagen Coffee Lab: Third Wave Coffee in Lisbon

The call is coming from inside the house! This may be the first time that I have written a post about a place from inside the place itself, so here I am sitting in Copenhagen Coffee Lab (R. Nova da Piedade 10, 1200-298 Lisboa) writing this post! The coffee scene in Lisbon is very particular. The coffee is very strong, comes from only a few national producers, and is usually taken in tiny shots like espresso standing up at a bar. Barring that, you can get various dilutions with milk and sugar. When espresso exists it is often in the form of Nespresso pods, which seem to have taken the entire city by storm. All of this is fine, but sometimes you just want some really good coffee. Thankfully, Copenhagen Coffee Lab, a new third wave coffee shop, has opened in the cute neighborhood of São Bento.
In Scandinavia coffee is king. While in Copenhagen we tried what was purported to be the best coffee in the world. Copenhagen Coffee Lab makes no such bombastic claims, but I can definitely say that this is the best coffee I have had in Lisbon. And, this place is actually run by two Danes, and imports all of their coffee from the Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Copenhagen, making it sort of a cross-country mini-chain. At Copenhagen Coffee Lab (Lisbon) you can get your full range of espresso-based drinks, from a single shot to a flat white to iced coffee, a dirty chai latte and beyond. For those with more refined tastes you can also get filter coffee made in a V60 (4€), Aeropress (4€) or French Press( 6/10€).

For the non-coffee drinker there are hot teas, chais and house-made iced teas (a rarity here). They get their Chais from David Rio in San Francisco, and they are very tasty, though sometimes they will run out for a week when more is being ordered from San Fran. Along with the full coffee, there is a nice selection of foods and snacks including Swedish style kanellebullar cinnamon rolls, muffins, knækbrød flatbread with spreads, yogurt, oatmeal and creative salads for lunch. This is the perfect place for vegans or vegetarians, or anyone who wants a laid-back brunch with great coffee.

Moreover, what drew us to Copenhagen Coffee Lab is that it is also a great place to study and work, which is no secret because the place is full of people with laptops on most days. True, this may also be a little off putting (and we are contributing to the problem) but there are still plenty of people just chatting. There is also a larger communal table in back where those working tend to congregate. The crowd seemed to mostly be foreigners, and my hunch is that Lisboetas have not quite embraced this type of third wave coffee that deviates so far from their traditions (and there are no pasteis de nata sold here). Whether you are looking to use the free Wifi or not, Copenhagen Coffee Lab is a must for any coffee fiend in Lisbon.


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How to brew pour-over coffee: a step-by-step guide

I just realized after all this time that though I had posted a tutorial on how to use a Bialetti stove-top espresso maker, I never did the same for pour-over coffee! This is ironic, since using a Chemex was the way I used to brew my coffee before I discovered Bialetti (actually out of lack of choice) when we were living in Portugal. The Pour-over style is cited sometimes as a fancy third-wave way to brew coffee, but it actually pretty historic – and easy! The coffeemaker I use for my pour-over coffee is a Chemex, a design classic invented in 1941 by scientist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, and its design is now in MOMA’s permanent collection. In order to brew in a Chemex, you will need filters (either paper or reusable – each has pros and cons), and some medium-ground coffee (about the consistency of kosher salt). Below you will see my Chemex setup – I have the 6-cup Chemex model, and I use a kitchen scale to measure the coffee and water.


The basic steps to making pour-over coffee are:

  1. First, wet the filter after placing in it in the Chemex, so it adheres to the sides of the coffeemaker. Then discard this water. This step is not necessary if you are using a metal filter.
  2. Boil your water – the amount will vary depending on how much coffee you want to make. You will begin pouring the water just after it has boiled (about 200 F).
  3. Add the coffee grounds to the filter. The rule of thumb we use is 2 grams of coffee per oz of water, and the Chemex guide itself recommends “1 rounded Tablespoon for 5 oz of coffee.” We use a kitchen scale to measure this out.
  4. Slowly pour a small amount of water over the ground coffee, just enough to cover it, this is to make the coffee “bloom.”
  5. Once this amount of water has siphoned through, begin pouring the rest of the hot water over the grounds slowly in a circular fashion. The key is to pour slowly, and taking care to avoid pouring the water directly on the sides of the glass.

All in all, this process should only take about 4 minutes. It may take some tweaking to get the perfect coffee to water ratio, depending on the size of the coffee grind, and how strong you like your coffee. You can look at step-by-step photos at Stumptown and Blue Bottle. There is no perfect ratio, so play around with it, and there are other types of pour-over coffee pots to explore. Pour-over coffee may seem intimidating, but it really isn’t!

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Our Favorite Cafe in Salvador, Bahia: Cafe Terrasse

brazilToday is Brazilian Independence Day, which is making us nostalgic for our time in Brazil. If there is one place we miss most from our time in Salvador, it is Café Terrasse (Ladeira da Barra, 401, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil). We can not think of a better place to enjoy a cup of coffee, in all of Brazil (or anywhere else for that matter). Check out the view below and you’ll know why we’re having saudades. Cafe Terrasse is located inside the Aliança Francesa da Bahia in the Barra neighborhood of Salvador. We did not even know it existed on our first visit to Salvador, and it definitely made our second trip infinitely better (we visited at least once a week).cafeview2

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Pastry Post-Doc: Yemeni Hawaij coffee spice

flag-of-yemenIn Yemen, there are two famous spice blends called Hawaij (We thought it said Hawaii at first glance, too!): one sweet (for coffee) and one savory (for soup). We are familiar with other Middle Eastern savory spice blends like Za’atar or Ras-al-Hanout, but a formula for a sweet spice blend was something new to us, so we were totally intrigued. Hawaij coffee spice consists of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and clove (which I am betting smells amazing), and is typically incorporated into coffee as a flavoring. You can make your own spice blend with a recipe from A for Lifestyle or My Name is Yeh. We came across a lot of interesting non-traditional recipes incorporating Hawaij, including donuts, chocolate pots-de-cremesnickerdoodles and ice cream tarts.


Hawaij Coffee Donuts from My Name is Yeh




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Japanese Coffee Culture at Sawada

JapanWe are serious about our coffee (well at least one of the two of us is) so we were extremely excited to hear about the opening of Sawada Coffee (112 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607). The small coffee bar, which is actually located inside of the BBQ spot Green Street Smoked Meats, is a collaboration between restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff and master Japanese coffee impresario Hiroshi. Sawada founded Streamer Coffee Co., a darling of the Tokyo coffee scene, and is also a world latte art champion. With a pedigree like that you have to figure the coffee is probably going to be pretty serious.


The selection of drinks at Sawada is relatively small, but there are some notable choice like boozy steamers, and the signature drink of Sawada, the Military Latte. The Military Latte, which just may be one of the most photographed drinks in all of Chicago (which we are contributing to, of course), is basically a mashup of a mocha, a matcha green tea latte and a shot of espresso. It sounds kind of bizarre, but tasted divine, and looks even better.  The more standard coffee drinks like cortado and cappuccino at Sawada are also crafted with care, and the knowledgeable baristas are friendly. There are few seats around the window by the coffee bar (and at the ping pong table) but the traffic also seems to overflow into the Green Street Smoked Meats area, so there is a bit more room. If you are feeling peckish they even offer Doughnut Vault doughnuts.



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12 hours of Eating like a local in Copenhagen

denmark_flagWe arrived in Denmark with a near-complete ignorance of Danish food. Not on purpose of course, but knowing no Danish people or restaurants in Chicago, we only have our perusal of the Nordic Food Labs Twitter account to go on. On our way back to Chicago from Europe, we happened (well, opted) to have a 12 hour layover in Copenhagen. Even though we had very little time, we were determined to make the most of it. We got up early, and set out to the center of town on the weird little operator-less, futuristic monorail from our airport hotel. We do know the country is purported to have some of the best coffee in the world, so we made that a priority.
CoffeeCollective2 The purported best coffee in the world is served at Coffee Collective (Vendersgade 6D 1363 Copenhagen K) which now has a mini empire of shops in Copenhagen. We visited the location in Torvehallerne, an interesting place to visit in its own right, because it boasts over 60 vendors under one roof.


At Coffee Collective, there were two varieties of single origin coffee: Kenyan and Guatemalan. We ordered a cortado and hot chocolate from a pleasant barista with accentless English (like most Danes seemed to have). Both drinks were good, but the coffee was a little steep at about $8 USD. We think you may have to try for yourself to see if this is indeed the best coffee in the world, though M thought the hot chocolate was excellent.
LaurasAfter coffee, we wandered around the Torvehallerne a bit more to check out the other stores, which included cafes, greengrocers and bakeries. We supplemented our coffee with cardamom and cinnamon rolls from Laura’s Bakery in the same market (20 K apiece), which were quite good. We were pretty excited to see that they are actually called “Cinnabuns” in Danish, too. We took our breakfast to eat on the wooden tables flanking the market, and as you can see from the photo below there are truly bikes everywhere!


We wandered the pleasant and orderly streets until we found a lunch place that seemed to strike our fancy. We happened upon the cute and trendy Ricco’s Kaffebar (Strandboulevarden 98, 2100 Copenhagen) and we knew it fit the bill. In addition to coffee and baked goods, Ricco’s had a selection of traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches, Smørrebrød. We ordered a caramelized potato open-faced sandwich with Brunede Kartofler, or caramelized potatoes, and a goat cheese sandwich on rye. Both were tasty and surprisingly filling.


Despite being a relatively chilly country, Danes are also big on ice cream. You will see ice cream shops everywhere, including this classic shop by the water boasting a giant cone statue – Vaffelbageren (Nyhavn 49, 1051 Copenhagen). Other top choices for ice cream in Copenhagen that are more unique are Siciliansk Is (Skydebanegade 3, Copenhagen 1709) and Ismageriet (Kongelundsvej 116, Copenhagen 2300). Siciliansk Is specializes in authentic Italian gelato, and Ismageriet specializes in local, seasonal Danish flavors.


Though we were only able to visit Copenhagen for a short time, it was enough to make us want to come back for more. Copenhagen is one of the top foodie destinations in Europe, and there are enough places to fill weeks of eating adventures.



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Late night bites at Kaffeehaus in Lisbon

austriaThere are Austrian cafes dotting Lisbon, including one of our Lisbon favorites, Pois, café. We had heard there was another Austrian coffeehouse in town, Kaffeehaus (Rua Anchieta 3, 1200-023 Lisboa, Portugal) and after a late night exploring Chiado we decided to stop in. We were not sure what to make of Kaffeehaus, it is part restaurant part bar and part cafe, and we saw people enjoying it for all of these purposes when we popped in at about 9 PM. We kind of like the multipurpose bar/cafe/hangout aspect, something more uncommon in the USA, I think. It is even dog friendly!


The beverage menu was quite prolific, featuring Austrian coffee drinks and custom lemonades as well as a large beer and wine list. We appreciate the large and unique selection of nonalcoholic beverages including tea, special Austrian carbonated juices and fresh lemonade. M ordered a unique hot chocolate drink from Austria which came with a bar of chocolate and a cup of hot milk which you have to mix in using a little frother. L ordered a fizzy ginger lemonade (one among many homemade lemonade varieties).


There was also a case with about a half dozen attractive looking cakes included strudels, fruit tarts and the popular-in-Lisbon meringues. Though we were almost tempted away by Apfelstrüdel, we went with the classic chocolate Linzertorte and the Austrian cheesecake, Käsekuche. The Linzertorte was good and chocolatey but the kasekuche was a real standout, with a totally unique texture that was more like bread or cake than a creamy New York style cheesecake. If you are feeling munchies, there is also full lunch and dinner menu with Austrian favorites like Spätzle, and brunch on the weekends. Kaffeehaus is a great place to relax at any time of the day, no matter what mood you are in, and you can even bring your dog.


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A Taste of Rhode Island: Coffee Milk and Coffee Syrup

coffee syrup

Coffee syrup spotted in the wild (Crate and Barrel)

When I recently visited a Chicagoland Crate and Barrel, I was very surprised to see something that I didn’t think existed outside of Rhode Island: Coffee syrup (see context photo above). Namely, this was Dave’s Coffee Syrup, a local brand we encountered in Providence. Coffee syrup is basically coffee concentrate mixed with sweetener. Much like chocolate syrup, coffee syrup can be added to pretty much anything, but it is most popularly mixed with milk to create…wait for it… Coffee Milk! Yes, this drink is exactly what you think it would be. Coffee Milk, aside from being tasty, is in fact the state drink of Rhode Island, as of 1993. One of the most popular coffee syrup brands is Autocrat, keeping Rhode Islanders in coffee milk for decades, though others like Dave’s are starting to carve out a niche for the artisanal coffee syrup market. Visit quahog.org if you are looking for a definitive history of coffee syrup and milk, including its Italian-American origins.

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The flat white coffee experience in London

New Zealand FlagIn my years of coffee drinking, it is rare that I come across a wholly new espresso drink, however when I heard of a flat white about a year ago, I was intrigued. A flat white is like a latte, however made with two shots and “velvety” milk that is prepared with a micro-foaming technique. The flat white hails from New Zealand, but it has made quite the impression in London, where it is on almost every coffee shop menu, and has even infiltrated Starbucks. We also noticed a smattering of cafes billed as “New Zealand-style.”??????????????????????????????? I decided to go to the pioneer of flat white coffee while in London, the aptly named Flat White cafe in Soho (17 Berwick St, London W1F 0PT). The menu is very simple, consisting of only a few coffee drinks and a pastry or two with a special focus on the eponymous drink. There were expats behind the counter and filling the shop, one particularly pleased grandmum expressed her pleasure at being able to get a proper flat white. The cafe is quite small, and many just pop in for a flat white to-go cup. I placed my order and waited at a small table inside.


After a bit of a wait, the cup was slammed down on my table by a brusque barista. With some expert latte art on top, it looked the part. The flat white was quite good, stronger and smaller than a typical latte. True to advertising, it was topped with particularly “velvety” and smooth milk as opposed to the stiffer foam on a cappuccino. I could definitely tell the difference, though I don’t think it will change my routines. So there you have it – the full flat white experience from the original London pioneers. Maybe this drink will cross the Atlantic (or Pacific) to reach the US soon.

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Brazil: All About the Cafezinho

brazilWith the important World Cup match-up between Brazil and Mexico today, it seems appropriate to talk about a topic near and dear to both country’s hearts. Coffee-time is something of a ritual in Brazil, where people have their daily cafezinhos. Coffee in Brazil does not simply mean drip coffee, as we are accustomed to having in the US. Instead, you brew a cafezinho through a cloth filter with boiling water, at least if you are doing it traditionally. A cafezinho in Brazil, no matter where you get it, tends to be sweet and strong and served in absolutely tiny cups (typically plastic). People often drink it at a counter standing up in the morning, as a welcoming gesture for guests, or after meals (sometimes it is free, sometimes it is not…). Flavors of Brazil has a guide on how to Order Coffee in Brazil, you can get a wide variety of permutations, but be prepared – everything comes with sugar! Though the traditional cafezinho reigns supreme, cafes with Italian espresso style coffee and drinks are getting more popular, definitely in São Paulo, which has always had an Italian heritage, and in Rio, too.


Cafezinho by Erica Pallo

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Fika – a Swedish coffee break in NYC

(Several locations)
41 W. 58th St.
New York City

sweden_flagWe wrote several years ago about the iconic Swedish coffee and snack break – the fika – including a mention for the Fika coffee shop in NYC. The post got us really hoping to visit Sweden to enjoy an authentic fika. A few weeks ago, we were excited to visit Fika and experience a tiny bit of Swedish coffee culture right here in the US. NYC’s Fika cafe is just how we would imagine a Swedish coffeehouse to be: tiny and immaculate with only room for about 10 people at tall tables inside (if you are lucky enough to get a seat). Compared to US coffeehouse, Fika had a rather small menu of coffees. The coffee served here is actually roasted in NYC, but in the Swedish style. L ordered a cappuccino and the caffeine-averse M ordered hot chocolate. The coffee was light and flavorful and the hot chocolate was pleasingly rich.???????????????????????????????

Even better, there is a very nice selection of pastries and chocolate, including a wide variety of truffles and chocolates. In fact, Fika has its own chocolatier and several pastry chefs, giving the shop a constant supply of tempting sweets. We got a Cardamom bun, one of the most popular items, which was a rose-shaped croissant with a heavy helping of one of Sweden’s favored spices (there were also cinnamon and vanilla versions for non-cardamom fans). Of the chocolates, we tried truffles with goat milk, which was surprisingly delicate.???????????????????????????????

However, the showstopper was the Prinsesstårta, aka Princess cake. On their website, Fika even advertises that they are the “home of the Princess Cake,” which is no small feat. We have written about the painfully complex Prinsesstårta before (to date it is the the only cake we have seen that requires a diagram to explain) but we have never actually tried it until now. The version at Fika had all the requisite layers: sponge cake, whipped cream, jam and green marzipan. It was really enjoyable, and a lot more filling than we expected.???????????????????????????????

We are so happy to have found Fika, a little taste of Sweden in the US. Incidentally, when we went on a weekday morning, the cafe was full of Swedes! If you are feeling especially nostalgic, you can also bring home boxes of the stores coffee, tea, and Swedish berry preserves for your own little fika at home.


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Oslo Coffee in Brooklyn

norwayTogether with Fika (review coming soon), Oslo Coffee represented our foray into Scandinavian coffee culture while in NYC. Oslo Coffee (328 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) is super tiny, consisting of only a few tables, two benches outside and not even a public bathroom (we asked). The menu consists primarily of coffee or tea, and most people get it to go, though it seems like the other locations are a bit bigger and have more seating. However, despite the tiny size, the store is cute and welcoming. There are also some pastries on offer if you are feeling peckish. The coffee is specially roasted by the owners in New York City, but in the Norwegian Style, home of arguably the world’s most exacting coffee culture. There are 3 house coffee blends named after Norse gods: Odin (Espresso), Freya (Dark Roast) and Thor (house blend). We ordered an iced coffee made with Odin, and it was surprisingly smooth and mellow, and perfect for one of the first iced-coffee appropriate days of the year. They don’t take credit cards though, so remember your cash.

Oslo Coffee Company

Bedford Ave. location of Oslo Coffee Company by Protographer23


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Pasion del Cielo, coffee from around the Americas

So we caught a bit of a coffee bug in Miami. Our favorite place for a classic cortadito is still Versailles, but if you are in the mood for a little something else, Pasión del Cielo (we went to 100 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables, FL, though there are other locations) is a great place to enjoy a latte with a twist. In addition to a variety of iced coffees, frappes and lattes, the key feature that sets Pasión apart is that you get to choose what kind of coffee you get in your drink, and they have 12 varieties to choose from. Pasión has coffees from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru, each with their own distinct qualities. It is the same price to order any of the coffees, except the rare Jamaican blue mountain, which is $2 more. When I went there, the full-bodied Brazilian coffee seemed to be a particularly popular choice, and given our affinity for Brazil, we were pretty excited. The coffee was great, flavorful and robust, and I liked the ability to customize. Another clever detail is that the coffee drinks all come with drink art. I really wish they had one of these shops in Chicago.


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The state of the coffee scene in France

franceWhile we consumed macarons and mimolette gleefully in France, we never really sought out French coffee… and I guess we weren’t the only ones. Turns out France has never been big on coffee, cafe culture yes, but the actual coffee, not so much. We greatly enjoyed Roads and Kingdoms’ essay, “Why is Coffee in France La Merde?” which discusses the history of coffee in France, and how there has been recent push for more craft roasters and coffee-centric cafes.

Holybelly, part of the new coffee scene in Paris, by Roads and Kingdoms.

Holybelly, part of the new coffee scene in Paris, by Roads and Kingdoms.

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Coffee Culture in Miami

cubaWe were in Miami for a friend’s wedding and we had a fabulous time taking in the local cuisine. One thing L especially loved was the coffee culture in Miami, where delicious espresso was found on every corner. Our Miami-native friend Fredo assured us that Miami’s coffee culture was the greatest in the US, so we were pretty excited to get drinking. Fredo was definitely right, people in Miami are truly passionate about coffee, and we got a ton of suggestions for where to get the best coffee from our Miami-local friends. However, no matter where you go, there are a few major types of Cuban coffee that you will commonly find offered:

Cortadito at Panther Coffee in Wynwood

Cortadito at Panther Coffee in the Wynwood Art District

Cafecito / Cafe Cubano – very similar to the Brazilian cafezinho, a strong shot of espresso, with a healthy amount of sugar. The drink is not sweetened after, but rather the sugar is added during the brewing process. This drink is ubiquitous, and will run you less than a dollar. We warn, though, you’d better like your coffee strong.

Cortadito – My favorite, a cafecito with some milk added. This drink is often offered to “beginners” who may think a Cafecito is too strong, but I like it anyway!

Cafe con Leche – Typically for breakfast, a shot of Cafecito with a generous amount of steamed milk

Colada – A quadruple shot of espresso with four (usually Styrofoam) shot glasses. Under no circumstances are you supposed to drink all four shots alone, but rather you are supposed to share with friends. Usually this ends up being a pretty good deal.

Another unique aspect of coffee culture in Miami is the fact that coffee counters abound, and are still the most popular way to enjoy a cup. This reminded us of Brazil, where people would enjoy their cafezinhos standing up at small counters. While you can get your cafe to go, many places also have small areas to sit down. You can find Cuban coffee all over Miami, but many of the most famous places are in Little Havana all along Calle Ocho.

Interior of Versailles, at the western end of Little Havana / Calle Ocho

Interior of Versailles, at the western end of Little Havana / Calle Ocho

Versailles (3555 SW 8th St.) is one of the more famous Cuban restaurants in Miami, and a solid bet for both Cuban food and coffee. There is a full restaurant, which is a favorite among visitors and locals alike (we were actually there about 1 hour before Beyoncé and Jay Z), but there is also a smaller cafe with a coffee counter attached. Along with coffee, you can also get a wide variety of tarts and pastels and while away the time. We enjoyed a Guava pastry and an apple and citrus Torta de Santiago. The coffee and pastries together reminded us a little of our favorite pastelaria in Lisbon, also called Versailles, though the Miami setting was not as opulent. Another good choice in the area is El Pub, with a more minimalist counter (1548 SW 8th St.).

Cortadito, a pastel de guayaba, and a torta de Santiago at Versailles

Cortadito, a Pastel de Guayaba, and a Torta de Santiago at Versailles

Offering a more modern take on the cafecito is Panther Coffee (2390 NW 2nd Ave.). Panther is reminiscent of a NYC or Chicago coffee shop, with a wide menu of small-batch coffee varieties, and even a menu of alcoholic drinks. Located in the artsy Wynwood district, Panther draws a young crowd that looks like they would be more at home in Wicker Park. Even if you are hipster-averse, the coffee is great.

Panther Coffee in Wynwood

Panther Coffee in Wynwood

This list only is the tip of the iceberg, and you can find Cafe Cubano on every corner of Miami. We are excited to try out more spots when we return there in February. In the meantime, maybe we should pick up some Bustelo Coffee at the supermarket.

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Ugandan Coffee for Peace

uganda_flagA recent episode of one of our favorite podcasts, Afropop worldwide, talked about Mirembe Kawomera, a coffee collective in Uganda dedicated to interfaith communication and reconciliation between local Muslims, Christians and Jews. Mirembe Kawomera, which means, “Delicious Peace” in the Luganda language, was founded in 2003 by local coffee farmer JJ Keki. In addition to the coffee co-op, those involved in the collective have also recorded an album,  “Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda,” which was featured on Afropop and in the Smithsonian Folkways video above. You can buy the Mirembe Kawomera coffee online from Thanksgiving Coffee company.

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Hoosier Mama Pie Company Comes to Evanston

This past Saturday, Nov 9th, the Hoosier Mama Pie Company opened a second outpost in Evanston (1618 Chicago Ave). M and I had been anticipating the store’s opening for months, as we watched the construction progress in the brand spanking new Amli building. I mean, the sign in the window announced, “Pie and Coffee,” so how could we not be intrigued!? When we arrived at HMPC on opening day, there was a small line, but the staff seemed to be holding down the fort pretty well for a grand opening.


Along with pies, there is a full coffee menu by Dollop. To complement our pie we ordered a Mexican hot chocolate and a honey cinnamon latte (made with Metropolis coffee) – both of which were delicious. There are also savory food options including some hearty sandwiches and soups if you need something BEFORE your pie (we usually don’t). The space is bright and airy, with a very high ceiling, but the seating area itself is not that large. Instead, most of the space is given over to the massive pie-producing kitchen. The kitchen is a huge expansion from their original Ukrainian Village outpost. I think you could fit several of the UK Village stores in the kitchen alone.

At HMPC you can get whole small of large full pies, and also pies by the slice ($5 for a slice of sweet pie and $6 for a savory pie). At this time people were already pre-ordering for Thanksgiving, so you’d better get a jump on it if you want a full pie for a special day. There were a huge number of pies available, including: Chocolate chess, lemon meringue, key lime, pumpkin, sugar and more (though some were already sold out). Having a sweet tooth, we ordered a slice of chocolate chess pie and a slice of key lime. One thing that sets HM apart is their dedication to savory pies as well, and at least half of the menu was given over to meaty options.


The chocolate chess pie was basically a brownie in a pie shell. No one is quite sure where it gets the moniker “chess”, but it is perfect for those among us who have a major sweet tooth. The key lime pie was creamy and perfectly tart, with a very delicate meringue topping. Nothing sickly sweet here. We very much enjoyed our Hoosier Mama pies, and we are excited to live so close to a legitimate pie store. We certainly will be back to sample even more flavors.

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“Bean Everywhere”: A video ode to Scandinavian and Turkish Coffee

denmark_flagsweden_flagturkeynorwayWe recently wrote about the vibrant coffee culture in Scandinavia, particularly Norway. Adding credence the near-mythic status of Scandinavian coffee is “Bean Everywhere” a wordless video tribute to Scandinavian coffee by the South African Coffee publication, The Coffee Mag, with the much different Turkish coffee in the mix as well. If you are a coffee lover it is definitely worth a watch.

Shops featured in the video:


September 5, 2013 · 8:25 AM