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Bean Bar

Kees and Me: A Coffee Date

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Kees and Me: A Coffee Date

By Pablo Lara, Assistant Editor. Photos by Julie Rings, Contributor.

I was at the East Village, feeling nervous for my date. The City Library towered over the new apartment buildings, giving me serenity as it shadowed the urban space. 

I had a date. This called for a romantic meeting place, somewhere beautiful yet relaxed.  The Bean Bar met my qualifications.  

Nothing relaxes me like a fragrant and flavorful shot of espresso, and the word on the street is Bean Bar has it.  Arriving before my date, I found myself immediately distracted. My gaze drifted  across the espresso machine with curiousity. Her name, Kees van der Westen. She was a unique beauty. Reminiscent of art deco. I could barely look away.

She was a Dutch gal, dressed in Retro lines but with a modern core. I strategically chose a table near her. My date ordered a pour-over bringing a silky sweet cup of La Colmena Honduras to our table.

While we wondered who roasted the complex light roasts served here, Sandra, Bean Bar co-owner, came to check on our experience. Feeling comfortable and welcomed, I asked who roasted their coffee. 

With a huge smile, Sandra delivered an inspiring narrative of her encounter with 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters of Vancouver, British Columbia. The story began with Sandra and her business partner, Jason. Having solidified a business plan for a coffee shop in San Diego, these avid travelers and coffee lovers began the search for an outstanding roaster.

Traveling up the west coast, they had reached Vancouver. Here, after a long coffee-fueled journey, they stumbled upon the headquarters and roasting facility of 49th Parallel. The passion and charisma of the team there made a great impression on them.  They were invited to a cupping, where great coffees and conversations blew them away. 

Laura Perry, green coffee buyer for the company, arrived as Sandra and Jason finished cupping. Having just returned from a sourcing trip, she shared stories, projects and pictures with them. Such a sincere devotion of time, and the great coffee won over the soon to be business owners.

I walked to the counter and noticed a scrumptious selection of pastries made by Sugar and Scribe, a local baking company based in Pacific Beach. But I had one thing on my mind: espresso. Jason meticulously pulled me a shot of an Ethiopia Tencho. The orange blossom aromas were rich  and perfectly complemented by flavor notes of chocolate, berries and a vibrant acidity.

While my date talked about her day I began daydreaming. I imagined myself behind the espresso bar, extracting and steaming with "Kees". She was no longer a mere machine, but something alive, begging to be called by name. 

Adorning the bar was a beautiful tamper. The perfect accessory for my lovely Kees. My acute distraction assured that my date just wasn't working out. By this time my date had already left, but not without first purchasing a bag of Guatemala San Juan. 

I left Bean Bar with delicious memories of Kees on my mind. Discovering that the Library was still open, I made my way to the Relationship & Self-Help section, looking for the most recent edition of Dating for Dummies.

If you want to grab an amazing cup of coffee, and witness the beautiful Kees in action, visit the Bean Bar. Open Monday-Saturday from 7am to 5pm, and Sundays from 8am to 5pm. 


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Caffeine Crawl Returns to San Diego

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Caffeine Crawl Returns to San Diego

Written by Pablo Lara, Assistant Editor. Photos by Jared Armijo-Wardle, Creative Director. 

Caffeine Crawl, produced by TheLab, returned to our sunny city for a second round of caffeinated explorations this past January. The Kansas City based organization puts together guided routes around the country featuring exemplary businesses that focus on craft coffee, chocolate or tea products. Each location hosting event-goers prepares tastings and presentations, thus making the Crawl a delicious and educational activity. The tremendous expansion of the San Diego coffee community was reflected in the multiple routes offered by the program. This year's crawl featured 2 additional routes; a biking route on Saturday and the introduction of a North Coastal Crawl, which kicked off Friday afternoon. From the well established to the start-ups, the routes represented the rich variety of coffee interpretations our city has to offer. 

InterAmerican: Green Coffee Importers

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I took on route two as a caffeinated challenge; I was going to drink as much coffee as sanity permits. We started our morning visiting the beautiful office spaces of InterAmerican Coffee, a green coffee importer who distributes to multiple roasters in the San Diego-LA region. Representatives Dana, Sheridan, Krista and Fernanda welcomed us with an enriching discussion on the role of the green coffee importer. Dana talked about the logistics pertaining to quality control, sourcing and transportation.  

To enrich our experience, InterAmerican prepared a sensory exercise that helped us become familiar with the distinct fragrances of differently processed coffees. In one of their cupping rooms we were able to smell a freshly ground natural Ethiopia, with pronounced black-berry notes; a washed Colombia that was both savory and sweet and an Indonesian that was deep and leathery.  The information that we grasped here allowed us to better analyze the complexities of coffees that followed in our route. 

Bean Bar: Caffeinating the East Village

Our route now directed us to the Bean Bar, just a short stroll from InterAmerican in the up and coming East Village. Co-owner Sandra welcomed us with her contagious smile and a refreshing cold-brew, a necessary complement to the scorching San Diego winter. This beautiful coffee bar is simple yet full of personality. The iridescent light-blue and white walls create a harmonizing environment, perfect for enjoying a morning cup of coffee.

While sipping on the smooth cold-brew, rich with chocolate notes and pleasant brightness, we learned that Sandra, and her business partner Jason, decided to carry 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters when they visited the roastery in their travels up the west coast. They became fascinated with the dedication in direct-trade sourcing and seasonal offerings of the Vancouver based roaster. With delicate care Sandra made us a pour-over with a La Colmena, Honduras. The cup was filled with notes of apricot, honey and a clean finish. We were sad to say goodbye to their stunning Kees van der Westen espresso machine but happy to have met the passionate team at Bean Bar. 

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters: New Expansion in Little Italy

Chuck Patton, owner of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, greeted us at his delightful new café in Little Italy. Just having returned from a sourcing trip in El Salvador, he gave an energetic and informative presentation on his company’s focus on direct trade and seasonal roasting. We learned plenty of interesting facts. For Chuck, a successful sourcing trip represents buying around 132 to 150 pounds of green coffee, choosing the exceptional 1% by cupping anywhere from 50 to 200 cups a day. Another crucial factor for these sourcing trips is a first-hand assessment of sound farming methods; this includes clean and organized installations and the absence of child labor. 

We were then invited to taste a cold-brew made with a natural-processed Panama Geisha from the famed Esmeralda Estate, delighting our palates with intricate notes of peach, bakers chocolate and black berries. Complementing the rich brew were samples of chocolate from David Bacco, an award winning chocolatier who makes the mocha base, vanilla and caramel syrups for both Bird Rock locations. 

The WestBean Coffee Roasters: Soft Open

We had the pleasure to be present during the soft opening of Westbean Coffee Roasters’ first storefront. Centrally located in the heart of Downtown, right in front of Horton Plaza shopping mall, with a handsome Synesso Hydra in matted black dominating the space.

Upon our entrance we were given samples of cold-brew served out of a keg, steeped for 24 hours making the brew rich and chocolatey. Also out of a keg was a “tea cold” made with chamomile sourced by Mad Monk, an O.B. based tea buyer and distributor. The refreshing tea cold was surprisingly complex, with warm floral notes such as honeysuckle, curiously missing the grassiness associated with chamomile. 

The tasting ended with an amazing pour-over made by Paul Reizen, who displayed tremendous energy seeing his project realized while surrounded by his great team. He served us a Yirgacheffe Lomi Tash, sourced by Orange County based green coffee importers Bodhi Leaf. I was immediately hit by a jasmine aroma, and the flavor was rich in mandarin citrus, chocolate, florals with a clean finish.  Three more stops to go and I was buzzing from both the experiences and the obvious: caffeine.

Ladies and Gentlemen: A Coffee Journey

I was thrilled when I found out that Ladies and Gentlemen Coffee Roasters was taking part in this year’s Crawl. Simply by watching the elegant pours of Joshua Bonner throughout the TNT’s one can be excited for the future of his business project. He received us with a big smile in his kyosk on Market Street. As he brewed a V60 of a Cup of Exelence Guatemala Chalabal, ranked number 10 in the country’s harvest, Joshua gave us a taste of his coffee journey. While growing up in Peru he spent a lot of time in coffee shops, and found inspiration in Lima’s Café Verde. Back in the U.S he worked for Blue Bottle and Stanza in the Bay Area.

Asides from roasting and continued construction on his roastery and café, Bonner plans to teach brewing courses. So San Diego keep your eyes open on March for their much anticipated grand opening. And once this Brewers Cup competitor starts those classes, you know I’ll be siging up! 

Cafe Moto: Sustainability and Community

Our last stop was Café Moto, taking us to the developing Barrio Logan neighborhood. Down the hall and into their production area, the enthusiastic team of Café Moto had prepared a sensational gathering for us. Adriana, café manager at Moto, introduced  the history of this San Diego establishment. Moto began roasting in 1994, coming out of the tradition of Pannikin Coffee Roasters.

We then viewed a film based on the Lets Talk Roya initiative, of which Moto is a great supporter. The project seeks to bring solutions to the many issues facing coffee growing countries and regions suffering from Roya. This fungus affects the leafs of coffee trees in Central and South America. And has already displaced over 100,000 coffee workers. After the film, we enjoyed pour-overs made with beans from Las Hermanas, a women's coffee cooperative in Nicaragua. I had the opportunity to ask Adriana a couple of brewing questions and she  sold me on buying my own Acaia scale and un-bleached Chemex filters. The after-party awaited us, making the switch from Barrio Logan to Little Italy. 

After Party at James Coffee Co. 

We finalized our Crawl at James Coffee, who  hosted a reunion of all the routes. We saw familiar faces, the ladies of InterAmerican, the team of Café Moto and friends who had tickets on different routes. We shared our experiences while enjoying delicious tacos, freshly made by the San Diego Taco Company. The entire experience filled me with an authentic admiration for our San Diego coffee community. It has grown tremendously and we are all closely connected: sharing loving customers, providers and most importantly, passion.

If you missed this year's Caffeine Crawl, do not fret! Caffeine Crawl will return in 2016! If you'd like to see where The Lab team will be crawling to next, take a look at their 2015 schedule (here). In the meantime, stay tuned via our events calendar for tasting opportunities and events. And remember to "Drink Local, Drink Often" San Diego!

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San Diego Unites Again: Thursday Night Throwdown at James Coffee

Written by Pablo Lara, SDCN Assistant Editor | Photos by Jared Armijo-Wardle

By 7 pm the San Diego winter had obscured the sky, but the magnetic power of coffee attracted the multitude to James Coffee Co illuminating the young night.  With the New Year comes a new season of TNT’s, making this the third organized by the San Diego Coffee Network. A quick glance inside the event and one could easily tell that our community is unified and talent is emerging. An outstanding 61 Baristas entered the competition, making for a prolonged but certainly fun night. 

The Night's Bracket Consisting of 61 Participants!

The Night's Bracket Consisting of 61 Participants!

 

The chic neighborhood of Little Italy houses a peculiar warehouse, one that’s quickly becoming San Diego’s ultimate man cave. We are talking about James Coffee, a handsome space consisting of white walls, dark steel, industrial ceilings and dark wood details.  The newly re-vamped location proved to be a provocative enclosure for our industry gathering.

James Coffee's Façade, With it's Signature Owl Welcoming the Crowd.

James Coffee's Façade, With it's Signature Owl Welcoming the Crowd.

 

David Kennedy, Founder of James Coffee with his Brother and Father, decided to relocate the production facility to the warehouse where his coffee bar was located. Roasting and packaging are now visible and the coffee bar welcomes people as they arrive. The space is impressive, now offering a rich selection of business, all exuding aesthetic and trend. Grab a pour over and shop over at Ajax Shoppe, Turquoise, Specks and the coming soon Homesteez and Urban Shave.

David Kennedy (Wearing Baseball Cap), Co-owner of James Coffee. Dylan Barista at James Coffee.

David Kennedy (Wearing Baseball Cap), Co-owner of James Coffee. Dylan Barista at James Coffee.

Judging the pours were Sheridan Owings, Trader for InterAmerican Coffee; Rigo Hernandez, Sales Manager for Cafe Virtuoso and Shad Baiz, owner of Solutions Espresso Service. And by now this group has become familiar with the style of each returning competitor, especially of those who’s noteworthy pours have graced the judge’s table.

From left to right: Rigo Hernandez, Sheridan Owings and Shad Baiz. 

From left to right: Rigo Hernandez, Sheridan Owings and Shad Baiz. 

Let’s talk Brew Bar! Deligthing our palates for the night was an outstanding selection of pour-overs and cold-brews from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Swell Café and James Coffee.  Mark from Bird Rock brewed an earthy and sweet Tano Batak and a refreshing cold-brew made with their Panama La Esmeralda Leon Geisha, natural processed with hints of peach and jasmine. Sarah from James Coffee brewed a Kenya AA Plus Nguvu, with notes of sweet molasses, complex acidity and clove aromatics. Mari from Swell Café brewed a washed Custapec Chiapas, a sweet brew with hints of citrus and bakers chocolate. A stop at the Brew Bar can lead to great conversations, allowing you to learn about these local roasters. 

Jacob of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters and James Coffee's Linea  La Marzocco .

Jacob of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters and James Coffee's Linea La Marzocco.

The battle started with the heart pours, a simple yet underestimated pour. In this round we saw 61 different hearts, each shedding light on the particular styles of each participant. The winning hearts had even contrast and elaborated ripples, even the most similar pours were differentiated by the slightest embellishment. 

It was time for the rosettas to take the stage. James Coffee’s espresso machine, a Linea by La Marzocco, became more familiar for the remaining latte artists. They were able to achieve detailed rosettas that harmonized with the simple yet sexy notNeutral black handless cups used at James Coffee.  

 

All the teams and individuals that attended the event enriched the community. We were delighted to have in our crowd the team from Augie's Coffee Roasters, Joshua Bonner of Ladies and Gentlemen, Swell Cafe, the peeps from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, the lovely ladies from Café Virtuoso, talented baristas from Caffe Calabria, the smiling faces of the Café Moto team, Lofty Coffee, baristas from Muir Woods Café, Peets, Young Hickory, the charming gals of InterAmerican, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Coffee and Tea Collective and new establishments such as Heartwork Coffee Bar and Bean Bar. From Tijuana we had participants from the new Electric Coffee Roasters, the newly expanded Dinastia 12 and longtime supporters from Das Cortez.

The tulip round brought certain intensity to the game. Crafting contrasting and even layers under pressure commands focus. Excelling in this category and making it to the top eight were Austin of Augie's, James of ChocXO, Jacob of Bird Rock, Marco of Elixir, Max, Jonathan of Calabria, Savannah of Virtuoso and Mike of Lofty.  

The Elite Eight, coined by Matthew Barahura, SDCN Founder and SDTNT M.C., would now be asked to demonstrate their free pour ability. For this round Jacob made a five-layered tulip and a six-layered tulip, saving him a spot in the top four. Austin poured three four-layered tulips, all with perfect hearts at their cusp. Jonathan crafted two rosettas and a three-layered tulip in a shot glass that unfortunately spilled.  Max created a beautiful swan, reminiscent of a paisley. Jacob eliminated Marco’s five-layered tulip and Jonathan knocked out Savannah’s intricate heart pour.

 

In the end, Jacob of Bird Rock and Max found themselves in a dual for first. With the Final Countdown playing in the background and much concentration, both opponents enchanted the crowd with two elegant pours. Jacob made a perfectly structured seven-layered tulip and Max created a whimsical ribboned heart. In the final "Three-two-one!" call by the evening's M.C., Jacob White of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters took first place!

 

The night came to a close and Jacob was not the only one to take home a prize. The raffle winners took prizes donated by local business such as Bean Bar, The Cheese Store of San Diego, Ajax Shoppe and Specs. We thank all our collaborators ( especially Carli Mitchell for pulling shots all night), and our gracious hosts from James Coffee. We opened the third season of San Diego’s Thursday Night Throwdowns with great energy and a broadened community. Next time you are in Little Italy get a drink made by the champ, Jacob White, at the new Bird Rock on the corner of Kettner & Juniper. Our next TNT will be hosted by the Bean Bar in East Village, see you then! 

Jacob White Winner of Round One of Season Three SDTNT!

Jacob White Winner of Round One of Season Three SDTNT!

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