‘Sounds like Coffee’ Sounds Good

Sounds Like Coffee Bulletin Board
Sounds Like Coffee Bulletin Board, originally uploaded by andai.

Sounds like Coffee is a small interesting coffee shop I checked out yesterday morning. I had seen the shop a couple of days earlier and had planned to visit the place on my last morning in Victoria.
The first thing I noticed about the place was that the each of the three cup sizes, the tall, the grande and the venti each has a different design stamped onto the cup. I liked the design on the tall size the best which was some alien looking avatar listening to music on headphones.

The service there was great and everyone was pretty friendly. I noticed that a number of the people coming in for their coffee were pretty familiar with the baristas. The barista who made my coffee was from England and had a really cool English accent.

My latte was rather decent, coffee was strong and the roast was ok. I am not sure who roasts their beans and I would be interested in finding out.

Some of the interesting tidbits I found out about the store, the founder and his son trained at Portland’s Bellissimo. I was chatting with the other two baristas who told me about the coffee con they attended last year in Seattle… these baristas obviously love coffee and coffee culture. I think ‘Sounds Like Coffee’ has great potential and will be going places. I have high hopes for this place and next time I am in Victoria, I will have to check them out again…

Dolce Vita Coffee Art… Well Not Quite

Dolce Vita Coffee Art
Dolce Vita Coffee Art, originally uploaded by andai.

Updated to change the tone of the language…

I was on my way back from having high tea at the White Heather Tea Room when I drove by Dolce Vita Coffee Art. Even though I had drunk quite a bit of caffeine today, I decided to stop by and get a cup for two main reasons. First, I really liked their name and their logo colors and I was thinking, this seems like it must be great coffee. Second, I didn’t think that I would pass by that route again so now was the time to try the place. Besides, I have already planned to stop by ‘Sounds Like Coffee’ coffee shop the next morning on my way out of Victoria BC so I was unlikely to have room for an additional 12 oz. So stop I did.

To be honest, this was not one of my best Victoria BC coffee sampling experience. Not because it was the worst latte I tasted here in Victoria, but simply because I had such high hopes for what I was going to get. Although the barista did a decent job with pulling the coffee and all that, I really didn’t like my latte. First the latte was a little ‘hard’… a term I use to describe lattes that have been made with 2% or skim (or fat free) milk and I personally prefer my lattes with whole milk. But the other part of it I think was the particular roast they used did not really have great flavor. What was even more odd was that the more I drunk the coffee, the less I liked it.

I talked to be barista before I left the store and asked her what beans they use. She told me they use Intelligentsia beans from Chicago. Now I don’t know if she meant that the beans actually did come from Intelligentsia’s roasting plant in Chicago or whether Intelligentsia is headquartered in Chicago. I must say I have had decent lattes in Seattle that was made with Intelligentsia beans and so I don’t believe that using Intelligentsia beans was necessarily the problem here. I think it was simply have been the type of roast they they used.

One other issue I think Dolce Vita Coffee Art suffers from is that they are a franchise shop. So it could be that some of the other stores could actually be making great lattes and the store I happened upon was not a great store.

My suggestion for this store is first and foremost change their roast. I think this will make a big difference. And with a name like Dolce Vita, one would naturally expect to find Italian style espresso roasts there. I would suggest that they source their beans from Caffe Umbria in Seattle. An alternative but great source for beans would be Caffé Vita or Caffe D’arte (Caffe Darte) also in Seattle.

Anyway I wouldn’t want to go back to Dolce Vita Coffee Art for another latte… at least not if the experience would be the same… next time I am in Victoria, I will go back and try another espresso from the same shop… hoping that this was simply a one off experience…

Salt Spring Coffee Company Stands Out

Salt Spring Coffee Cup
Salt Spring Coffee Cup, originally uploaded by andai.

This past Sunday, while I was on my way to Victoria BC I was hanging out at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal waiting for the next ferry to come in so I popped into the Tsawwassen Quay Market complex area. There I discovered Sea Spring Coffee kiosk. The place looked nice enough so of course I had to get my usual.

While I was in line waiting to place my order for a double tall latte, the gentleman ahead of me heard me discussing this coffeehouse and he told us a little about Salt Spring Coffee Company, how great the company was and also a little about the owner whom he knew.

Salt Spring Coffee Roasting Company comes out of Salt Spring Island in British Columbia and they are actually pretty progressive. They serve 100% certified fair trade and organic coffee and are pretty active in environmentalism matters. Read more about their activities in their News section on their website.

Anyway, I got my latte, added my usual four packs of sugar and took a couple of sips. I think my latte was not too bad at all. They served a good strong cup and the roast was pretty decent. As I write this post now, I am actually on the Ferry coming back from Victoria and looking back now and comparing to some of the other coffee shops I sampled, I think Salt Spring turns out to be one of my favorites. There were a couple of places in Victoria that served the Salt Spring roast but if you want to check out the actual Salt Spring coffee shop locations, you can find them on their website.

What do I think about Salt Sea in general? I think it’s pretty decent and I would certainly go back and have their coffee again.

Super Alert and All Caffeined Out

I am sitting here completely alert and buzzing after having drunk more than my daily share of caffeine for the day.

It started out with breakfast where I had, in addition to my breakfast, a good cup of English breakfast tea. From there, my wife and I went downtown Victoria to a Japanese restaurant called Konpira where I drunk some great ocha (or green tea in Japanese). By the way, I have had great sushi in all sorts of places including great restaurants in Seattle WA, Vancouver BC, Tokyo, Kobe and Kochi Japan. I can honestly tell you, Konpira has the freshest and best sushi I have ever had! Anyway, after lunch we then proceeded to Murchies to try out their coffee which I though was rather interesting! From there, we then headed on over to White Heather Tea Room for a great high tea. There I specifically asked for an extra strong pot of their house special blend of breakfast tea. The tea was great and so I proceeded to finish the whole pot. After that, I drove back to downtown Victoria, stopping on the way at a coffee house called Dolce Vita. There I ordered another 12 oz latte. With this on hand, we then did a little drive round the south/southwest part of Victoria before coming back to our bed and breakfast.

Now I am sitting here relaxing… what ever that means in light of the fact that I am completely alert and full of caffeine. Gosh! The things I do for this blog!

Super Alert and All Caffeined Out

Coffee at the Murchies Tea Salon
Coffee at the Murchies Tea Salon, originally uploaded by andai.

I am sitting here completely alert and buzzing after having drunk more than my daily share of caffeine for the day.

It started out with breakfast where I had, in addition to my breakfast, a good cup of English breakfast tea. From there, my wife and I went downtown Victoria to a Japanese restaurant called Konpira where I drunk some great ocha (or green tea in Japanese). By the way, I have had great sushi in all sorts of places including great restaurants in Seattle WA, Vancouver BC, Tokyo, Kobe and Kochi Japan. I can honestly tell you, Konpira has the freshest and best sushi I have ever had! Anyway, after lunch we then proceeded to Murchies to try out their coffee which I though was rather interesting! From there, we then headed on over to White Heather Tea Room for a great high tea. There I specifically asked for an extra strong pot of their house special blend of breakfast tea. The tea was great and so I proceeded to finish the whole pot. After that, I drove back to downtown Victoria, stopping on the way at a coffee house called Dolce Vita. There I ordered another 12 oz latte. With this on hand, we then did a little drive round the south/southwest part of Victoria before coming back to our bed and breakfast.

Now I am sitting here relaxing… what ever that means in light of the fact that I am completely alert and full of caffeine. Gosh! The things I do for this blog!

Serious Coffee in Victoria BC

Serious Coffee Sign
Serious Coffee Sign, originally uploaded by andai.

I stopped by Serious Coffee this morning to get a latte while en route to Butchart Gardens. I remember seeing their sign the night before as we were coming into Victoria BC and at that time I was a little skeptical. My feeling was that a coffee shop with a name like Serious Coffee probably may not have great tasting espresso but since I happened to be driving right past them, I decided why not try them out. Besides, they may actually have some interesting paper cup design.

So I did my usual, ask for a double tall latte, an extra cup and an extra sleeve. What I didn’t do was ask if they use whole milk which is what I prefer in my latte. The other reason why this is important for me is that lattes will taste different when made with whole milk vs 2% vs non-fat. For me, all things being equal, the less fat, the less creamy and the more ‘harder’ the latte tastes.

This is what my latte tasted like, more on the harder side whereas I prefer the creamier taste. I am not sure is it because they didn’t use whole milk, or whether they had a lot of water from the steaming process dilute the milk somewhat. One good thing about the latte though is it was nice strong brew and that I really like.

Overall, I would go back and buy another latte from there even though I still think that they certainly have room for improvement. And the staff were pretty friendly and helpful and that to me is always a big plus.

The Children of Torrefazione



Torrefazione Coffee, originally uploaded by andai.

One of the best business decisions Starbucks made a couple of years back was to buy Torrefazione, Seattle’s gourmet coffee chain. Right after this, the company then turned around and made one of the worst business moves… shutting down the Torrefazione stores. I was not excited when I heard that Starbucks has bought Torrefazione, but I was pretty disgusted when I found out that Starbucks was shutting down all the stores. What on earth where they thinking?

Although Starbucks like to think of themselves as the purveyor of fine coffee, I think of Starbucks as the Wal-Mart of coffee. Whether they like it or not, Starbucks is turning espresso into a commodity. Starbuck’s coffee has become an expensive commodity but a commodity nonetheless. In other words, there is nothing special about Starbucks with its myriad of lookalike stores and automated espresso drinks. I think this has deep implications for Starbucks and its business including opportunity for new entrants, but this is a discussion for another day, another blog.

So what happened to the Torrefazione brand or better yet its essence?

I am happy to say that a number of the folks who used to work there actually struck out on their own and opened up coffee shops here in Seattle, in Portland and in Vancouver B.C. There may be others in other cities in the US and Canada, I’ll have to find out.

The following are what I call the children of Torrefazione

  1. Caffè Umbria (Seattle)
  2. Caffè Migliore (Seattle)
  3. Caffè Senso Unico (Seattle)
  4. Sciuè (Vancouver B.C.)

Click on those that are links above to read the blog posts on what I thought about their coffee and coffee shops…

The Essential Espresso



Essential Bakery Coffee Cup, originally uploaded by andai.

The Essential Bakery store on Madison is one of the coffee shops I tend to frequent. In part because it is on my way to work so this turns out to be rather convenient. I am not implying that the coffee is not great and the only reason I visit the place is due to ease of access. Granted, there are a few other coffee shops I would probably go to instead all things being equal. I think my main issue with Essential is that of consistency.

There are some baristas you will find who make a really great latte, but then there a couple whose barista skills are nothing to write home about. One lady in particular, who is really nice, but only made a so-so latte stood out to me. What I first saw her she was being trained and it so happened that every time I got my latte, she is the one who pulled the espresso.

Fast forward about 4 weeks, I was at the shop for my usual after an absence of a while (I had stopped drinking coffee and was making proper tea in the office kitchen instead) and she was on hand to make my latte. Once again I am standing there dreading, but to my surprise, she actually made a good latte. Finally, the weeks of practice actually paid-off.

To be honest, I think they generally tend to make decent lattes. There is one chap who makes excellent lattes but I haven’t seen him in a while so I don’t know whether he is on a later shift or whether he left the bakery. Overall, I would say you cannot go wrong with Essential Bakery.

If you do like munchies with your coffee, the bakery has a ton of baked goods and bread. They also make crepes but I haven’t tried those yet.

The Lighter Side of Life…

As the song that goes, always look on the bright side of life… I feel like this blog is becoming such a ‘debbie downer’… I think its about time that I started doing posts what were a little light hearted and uplifting…

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