Caffeine Crawl kicked off at InterAmerican's offices in the historic wheel works building formerly owned by the late Pannikin Founder Bob Sinclair. At this first stop of 4 Routes, Crawlers tasted hand crafted cold brews by The WestBean and hand crafted espresso by James Coffee Co.Saturday, January 25th,
InterAmerican, San Diego's green coffee importer talked about its history and its function as a trader of organic and fair trade coffees. Their q-graders test roast and taste the thousands of pounds of green coffee beans that their traders source at origin through their relationships with coffee farms and cooperatives. They look for quality beans for their clients that range from large corporate accounts to small batch roasters operating locally in San Diego. In addition, Jason Burton and Emily McIntyre, of The Lab team organizing Caffeine Crawls across the US, said a few words of welcome before crawlers moved on to their next stops on their respective routes.
I had volunteered to lead Route 2. Next stop: Cafe Moto for a tasting and history lesson on San Diego Coffee. Torrey Lee, the owner, met with the group in their impressive roasting room located behind their cafe and coffee supply store in Barrio Logan. He talked about his family's coffee history that reaches as far back as 1968, with the creation of Pannikin Coffee Houses. Eventually, with a focus on wholesale, green and fairly traded coffees, Lee spun off as Cafe Moto in 1998. You may recognize where their coffees and teas are served locally by their distinctive black and gold logo. It was a great beginning to our journey from the roots of San Diego's coffee history and beyond.
Next stop: East Village. Cafe Virtuoso is located just down the street from the San Diego Public Market. There, crawlers sipped complimentary Cortados, a signature Spanish style espresso offered on their menu. We learned that Cafe Virtuoso is an organic coffee roaster committed to the principles of Fair Trade, Sustainability and Quality Coffee from sourcing to roasting and ultimately delivery. Mmm Cor-taaa-do. I was told that another group nearly cleaned them out by lining up for seconds. Cafe Moto holds regular weekly and monthly cuppings by rsvp, and recently hosted a San Diego Coffee Network Thursday Night Throwdown (SDTNT) back in December (click to view short video recap).
From Cafe Virtuoso we hopped on the 94 East to the 805 North exiting West on El Cajon Blvd. toward our next destination nestled between North Park's Digital Gym and The Homebrewer. Coffee & Tea Collective is a minimalist Third Wave coffee house with a huge heart for community. Most recently being the first to host an SDTNT back in October of 2013 (see the short video recap). Daniel Holcomb, the owner, and crew were prepared with a demo on burr grinders v. blade grinders. They demostrated the difference by using the coffee beans and brew method as controls. The two variables were the grinding aparatus. This allowed crawlers to see both grinding methods side by side and taste the result. At least one person on my route purchased a burr grinder and one of the fancy electric bonavita kettles Holcomb used in his demo on the spot. I went back and picked mine up later.
Then it was up 30th Street to Adams Ave. in Normal Heights to Dark Horse Roasters, where we met Daniel Charlson, the owner, and a smiling crew pouring cold brew Guatamala that exploded with cool clean chocolate notes in your mouth. Amazing. They also had a cold brewed Cascara tea on tap. It was light and peppery made from the coffee cherry that holds the seed, or bean, that is roasted into what we call coffee. It was a definite first, but I settled for a complimentary iced Guatamala. The chocolate notes were so strong I couldn't imagine adding anything to it. It was iced cold brew perfection on a warm day's crawl. Please note that Dark Horse Roasters does not serve espresso. They specialize in roasting whole beans to take home and brew as well as providing quality pourover, french press and cold brew coffee.
Super amped on caffeine and feeling a bit like Wiley Cayote on earthquake pills, we raced down the 8 West toward Bay Park Coffee on Napier Street, the last destination on our route. This was the first stop that was truly a first for me. And what a charming little gem. Bay Park Coffee owner, Ericka Adams, focused her presentation on loose leaf teas and brewing best practices. It was a warm day in January, so the cold, fragrant teas were a refreshing twist to a caffeinated crawl. Complimentary tea to take home and brew as well as a coupon for a complimentary espresso awaited each crawler. At the espresso bar a Bay Park Barista demonstrated a pour over using the Hario V60. Bay Park Coffee uses locally roasted coffee from 2012 Micro Roaster of the Year, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. In addition, they go out of their way to source everything in their cafe locally from chocolate to pastries to syrups and tea.
After running my hubs home, who was being a sport, but still nursing a cold, I met back up with a few of my fellow crawlers and most of the crawl crew at Bird Rock Coffee in La Jolla for the Caffeine Crawl after party. They opened their back lot where crawlers could fill their bellies with local grub and cold brews from St. Archer. Chuck Patton, the owner, was sadly not able to attend as he had just returned from a sourcing trip to Kenya with a nasty flu-bug. His wife and partner, Elke Patton, took over the mic to address the crowd in welcome and then turned it over to their General Manager, Jocylynn Breeland to talk about her recent travels and debut as an international cup of excellence judge. Cupping 90 coffees a day takes more than a discerning pallet, it takes stamina and a solid constitution. No matter how much you spit, you're gonna get one heck of a buzz.
After words from our host, there was a short break before the Brew-Off, which I learned, I would be judging along with Emily McIntyre of Caffeine Crawl and Heather Brisson of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Secretly I was wondering whose bright idea this was (Chuck, you have some "esplaining" to do) as I'd had no experience judging such an event and by this time of day loaded on caffeine, I had very little capacity to do much more than point, clap and giggle. Adding up points would mean counting on my fingers in front of a crowd of people. Jocylynn Breeland, the MC, came to my rescue. The other judges snickered at the fact that I use to work in banking. During which time, I was quick to note, we ALWAYS used calculators. That's right kids. In the real world, they use calculators. I'm quite useless without one, but I digress.
The Brew-Off was a lot of fun. I have to admit I felt more like a spectator than a judge. Each team came in, chose their brew method and dialed in on the grind and decided the recipe and technique they would use carefully measuring water to coffee ratios. One team carefully pouring from the center with the Hario V60 ceramic pourover with paper filter, and then another team systematically pouring every fifteen seconds using the chemex with a stainless steel filter. Timing was crucial, and in some cases finessing the judges with music and flare were added for effect. Scores were written on the glass of the brewing room chamber as we turned in our sheets. In the end
It was a fun, sun filled day to caffeine crawl. Fret not if you missed out this year, because Jason Burton and his team at The Lab, have said they will be back in 2015! In the meantime, we'd invite you to check out what is going on local coffee via our events calendar. Happy Coffee-ing!