paindecampagne

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Archive for the tag “espresso”

The Princeton: Ginger, lemon, and honey cappuccino, Little Amps, Harrisburg

It is a coffee that I’ve been waiting since August to taste — since I left Harrisburg for a semester in Pittsburgh and only came back on the weekends.

Known as the Princeton, this drink is the downtown cousin (only available on weekdays) to the Uptown Ginger Brown at Little Amps, Green Street.

It’s a cappuccino featuring a shot of espresso pulled into honey then graced with lemon zest and ginger. (The Uptown Ginger Brown swaps in brown sugar and orange zest).

On this December day, the bright citrus dances through the foamed milk and rich espresso, more reminiscent of ocean shores than snowdrifts on Second Street. Well worth a semester’s wait.

The Princeton, Little Amps, Harrisburg

The Princeton, Little Amps, Harrisburg

Downtown:
133 State Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
(717) 635-9870
Mon–Thu 6:45am–5:30pm
Fri: 6:45–9pm
Olde Uptown:
1836 Green Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 695-4882Mon–Fri: 7am–2pm
Sat: 8am–9pm
Sun: 8am–2pm

Confessions of a Barista: What’s life like for the person making your pourover?

Allie Schuh, Little Amps, 2013

Allie Schuh, Little Amps, 2013

Little Amps Coffee Roasters is humming smoothly as I push open the door. Two men are bent over a single laptop, each cradling a cup of French press. Another customer is digging through the collection of for-sale vinyls and occasionally sipping a cold jar—the shop’s famed shot of espresso poured over ice and shaken vigorously with brown sugar until frothy.

A brightly colored mural of a Mediterranean villa graces one exposed brick wall, and light from the wide windows pours over the polished tables and wooden floorboards at the Olde Uptown location on Green Street. The high, tinny grind of the espresso machine rises above the murmur of voices, and, from behind the bar, barista Allie Schuh waves at me and says, “I’ll be with you in just a second.”

A connoisseur of cozy spaces, I am familiar with this lifestyle, but Allie has promised to show me the side of the coffee trend that I don’t know about—that of the world behind the bar.

According to author Merry “Corky” White, American coffee culture has experienced three major waves: one post-World War II with the introduction of instant coffee, another with the rise of Starbucks and its emphasis on coffee origin and brewing technique and the third with the “refinement of coffee culture” that emphasizes detail and ceremony. With such a refinement, coffee has emerged into the American conscience as a beverage that is both private and public, cult and caffeine. But that is only the story from the front side of the bar.

Allie detaches herself from the espresso machine long enough to give me a hug. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asks, handing me a cup of today’s roast: a sweet, fruity Honduras E.V. Perez with flavors that remind me of blueberry and peach.

Allie’s smile is contagious, as is her expertise. Her personal interest in coffee began as a passion for meeting people in intimate spaces. It transformed into a profession when she graduated from college and found that many traditional businesses are currently unable to invest in young people, but coffee shops are.

She has been a barista for nearly two years, beginning in a small coffeehouse in San Francisco and then working at Midtown Scholar Bookstore when she moved to Harrisburg. She joined Little Amps in 2012. “A good barista is worth his weight in gold,” Allie says. “The profession of coffee is filling a niche for young people.”

Allie smiles at a client over my shoulder, and I’m reminded she’s still on the clock. “For you, Nevin?” she asks and drifts away.

I trail behind her and enter the space behind the bar, a chest-high hallway narrower than a church aisle. Tucked out of the sight of clients are plastic bins of freshly roasted coffee lined in neat rows, brown paper bags, an array of spices for specialty drinks, a digital scale and glassware. Mason jars are being chilled in the fridge for the cold jars. A red step stool is just behind the counter so that one can stand at the proper height to execute a pour-over—a style of coffee made from pouring a thin stream of water in a circular motion over a filter of precisely measured grounds. Everything is so organized that I’m afraid to touch anything.

Allie offers to show me how to pull an espresso, and I eagerly step forward. The act of standing before a massive machine and coaxing out a tiny cup of black liquid has always seemed so magical that I can’t decide if it will be harder or easier than it looks.

It’s both. Allie’s lesson comes with a list of warnings: tamp too hard and you’ll break the grounds, making it more difficult for water to seep through. Pull a shot too short, and it will be bland. Pull a shot too long, and it will be bitter, like over-steeped tea. Allie rinses the heavy port-a-filter with hot water and holds it out to me. “Ready?” she asks.

She shows me once, and then I try to imitate: grinding the espresso into the port-a-filter while rotating it to get an even fill; leveling the grounds with my finger and tapping the filter once to settle them. I gently nestle the tamp into the grounds to evenly distribute its weight; then I press down with my best guess of what 30 pounds of pressure should feel like. Finally, we lock the filter into the espresso machine.

“Go ahead and pull the lever,” Allie says, and I yank down with the same amount of upper body strength that I’d use for an exercise at the gym. The lever reluctantly gives way, and, for nearly half a minute, it releases as espresso pours in delicately colored streams into a waiting cup below: a dark body, a light crema.

I’m staring at the cup reverently when a wave of customers appears before us, and Allie sets my espresso aside. By the time I finish fudging my way through a French press, it’s been a few minutes, and Allie informs me that my espresso is too old to give a clear indication of my failure or my success.

*

Andrea Musselman, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, 2013

Andrea Musselman, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, 2013

Outside of Harrisburg, in Linglestown, the lunch rush is just beginning, and the line for coffee is nearly out the door at St. Thomas Roasters. Barista Andrea Musselman is standing at the front counter with her curly auburn hair held back with a bandanna and her fingers poised over the register keys as she takes a customer’s order.

Beside her, owner Geof Smith is singing “one is the loneliest number” and greeting every customer by name. Laughter mingles with the sound of grinding espresso. Past the serve counter is St. Thomas’ Diedrich roaster, surrounded by canvas bags of coffee and white buckets of freshly roasted beans. Nearly 20 loose-leaf teas and 20 in-house roasted coffees are available for bulk purchase, and the aroma of the coffee lingers everywhere: in the coffeehouse’s dark green walls, the well-loved sofa next to the back entrance and local artwork that adds to the room’s intimacy.

By the time the crowd dies down, Andrea has already served me two house blend espressos: one straight and another poured over ice then strained back out so that I can taste the difference that the temperature makes. She is knowledgeable and moves fast—stepping purposefully to keep up with the speed of the orders.

Her life’s first coffee was a Sheetz cappuccino that her father allowed her to sip. “It was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted,” she says. “I drank it all, but I don’t think I was supposed to.” After college, she took a job at Panera Bread that helped her realize that her interest did not just lie in drinking coffee but also in preparing it.

From her standpoint, the modern hype over coffee is not just a fad—it’s valid.

“There are 130 flavor components in coffee,” Andrea explains. “So much of a flavor depends on the complexity of the soil the coffee was grown in, how the coffee was processed, if there was a bug on a bean that fermented or how the coffee has been roasted. The product itself is really exciting and always changing.”

She is drying glasses as she speaks and deftly moves to stir flavor syrups into buckets of fresh beans: hazelnut, vanilla, cinnamon sticky bun. Behind her, Geof has begun the day’s roast, and the bitter aroma breaks into the air with the popping sound of cooling coffee.

Being a barista seems to be equal parts science, art, people and sheer physical labor, but at least, according to Andrea, all the days are different. “It’s paninis today,” she notes, then she laughs. “I sometimes try to predict a busy day. If it’s sunny out, you’d think everyone would be out getting coffee, but that sometimes means everyone’s doing something else.”

Andrea records the date of flavored beans on a clipboard in neat little figures then turns back to me. “Have you ever made a latte?”

I want to impress Andrea with my espresso skills, but this machine is different, and I do not know which buttons to push. Instead, she grinds an espresso and tamps it with a crisp tamp, tap, tamp, tap—and pulls the espresso into a cream-colored mug with green stripes. “To steam milk,” she says, handing a cupful of 2 percent to me, “you have to hold the cup a bit to the side with the steam wand inside, like this, so the milk will swirl.”

With the sound of a long, tight slurp, my milk spins in a vortex and rapidly jumps to 160 degrees: too high. “Now drop the cup down to get some foam,” Andrea instructs. I follow, but I drop too far, and the milk coughs out. I quickly take it off the heat.

To make latte art, Andrea tells me to pour the steamed milk slowly into the espresso, beginning high above the cup then dropping closer while swinging the stream gently from side to side. This technique results in a mug that looks like it’s been topped with a white, coffee-rimmed blob.

I’m staring at it, thinking mud puddle, when Andrea’s co-worker Jessica Janze walks by and cheerfully congratulates me on making a sun.

I’m further behind on my coffee career than I thought.

*

For both Allie and Andrea, both sides of the bar—that of the barista and that of the customer—have their merits.

“The best part of [my job] is really getting to talk about coffee and connect with people,” Andrea says. “When someone comes back in and says, ‘the coffee you recommended was perfect,’ that’s really satisfying.”

Allie would agree. “As a barista, you really get to know the customers you serve. Even though you’re interacting with people just minutes every day, there’s still time to invest in relationships.”

But the other side of the bar is equally satisfying. “In a coffee shop, you get to know your community, meet your significant other here, make friendships,” Allie says. “I’m a barista, and I still enjoy going to a coffee shop after work. This is where it all happens.”

She chuckles. “And on that side of the bar, my feet don’t hurt as much.”

Little Amps Coffee Roasters
1836 Green St., Harrisburg
(717) 695-4882
133 State Street, Harrisburg
(717) 635-9870
littleampscoffee.com

St. Thomas Roasters
5951 Linglestown Rd., Linglestown
(717) 526-4171
stthomasroaster.com

A version of this article first appeared in theburgnews.com on October 29, 2013, and in print in TheBurg, November 2013.

Friday Photo: Americano, like rust, Tazza d’oro, Pittsburgh

Americano, like rust

Americano, like rust, Tazza d’oro, Pittsburgh

I’ve already claimed that this café near Highland Park has some of the most nuanced espresso I’ve found in Pittsburgh. This Friday Photo is dedicated to the beauty of their americano, gold-tinged, bubbled, haphazard – beauty.

Tazza d’Oro
1125 North Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3676

Monday-Friday, 7 AM-10 PM
Saturday-Sunday, 8 AM-10 PM

Carnegie Mellon
Gates Center 3rd Floor
Computer Science Building
Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Monday-Friday 7 AM-7PM
Closed Saturday-Sunday

Caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, Linglestown

Hand-crafted caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, October 2012

Hand-crafted caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, October 2012

If you want to celebrate fall but are sick of pumpkin beer, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin wing sauce, try the classic caramel apple latte at St. Thomas Coffee Roasters in Linglestown as reported by The Patriot-News in late September 2012.

“In my opinion, apple is more of a fall flavor than pumpkin is,” says barista Andrea Musselman. “What we think of pumpkin is usually just a particular spice blend.”

In this drink, two espresso shots are blended with caramel and apple syrups, topped with steamed 2% milk, whipped cream, and a delicate caramel drizzle, creating a drink that’s like a caramel apple without the crunch. The in-house roasted espresso blend keeps this decadent latte from becoming too sweet.

Sip while looking out the large windows of this historic coffee shop in downtown Linglestown to truly drink in the beauty of fall, and pick up a pound or two of in-house roasted coffee or gourmet tea to take home.

St. Thomas Coffee Roasters
5951 Linglestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112
(717) 526-4171
http://www.stthomasroaster.com/

Monday-Thursday: 7am-8pm
Friday-Saturday: 7am-10pm
Sunday: 9am-4pm

Friday coffee cupping at Tazza d’Oro, Pittsburgh

Director of coffee Kirke Campbell, September 2012

Director of coffee Kirke Campbell, September 2012

Tazza d’Oro’s website claims that it has been brewing cups of gold in Pittsburgh since 1999, and I would agree. While I’ve not been in Pittsburgh since 1999, I can at least attest that this coffeeshop serves some of the most nuanced espresso I’ve ever tasted, a fact that the website attributes to Tazza d’Oro’s rigorously-trained baristas (I overheard one potential barista set up a time to take his “written coffee test” during one of my visits) and their careful attention to the act of purchasing and preparing coffee.

On Fridays at 10 AM, patrons can now learn how to better appreciate coffee both as a bean and a beverage during a free cupping held at the Tazza d’Oro on Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh. According to the authors of a Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Cupping, “cupping” is the term used to describe the professional process of evaluating different coffees to better understand their specific characteristics. Coffee traits often vary depending on regions of growth, roasting, and processing, and evaluating these qualities — especially in the form of a formal cupping — is an act usually done to ensure a good brew, as one would formally taste and evaluate a wine or a good beer.

At Tazza d’Oro, the 45-minute, hands-on, and in-depth presentation is lead by Kirke Campbell, the coffeeshop’s director of coffee purchasing and quality control. He first begins with a discussion on the origin and processing of three different coffees; then he leads into a fragrance comparison of the coffees’ dry grounds and the same grounds when poured over with hot water. Next, participants are given time to taste the coffees and talk extensively about the coffee’s flavor, acidity, body, and finish.

The coffees I tasted were from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. from Olympia, WA, and included “La Gloria,” a washed-processed coffee from El Salvador; CODECH Tesoro de Concepcion, a washed-processed coffee from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala; and Gedeo Worka, a natural-processed coffee from the Geodeo zone of Ethiopia. Aromas and flavors — which varied per coffee during each stage of the cupping — ranged from deep chocolate and citrus to woodsy blueberry and tart pomegranate.

After you finish the cupping, hang around at Tazza d’Oro for your own cup of coffee to sip with that dog-eared novel you’ve been wanting to read. Whether you doctor up your coffee with milk, cream, and sugar is up to you, but the flavor you find just may astound you.

Tazza d’Oro
1125 North Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3676

Monday-Friday, 7 AM-10 PM
Saturday-Sunday, 8 AM-10 PM

Carnegie Mellon
Gates Center 3rd Floor
Computer Science Building
Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Monday-Friday 7 AM-7PM
Closed Saturday-Sunday

www.tazzadoro.net

Friday Photo: Café con Piernas, Santiago, Chile

Cafe Haiti, June 2011

Cafe Haiti, June 2011

The following is based from my journal from when I was visiting a friend in Santiago, Chile, on a June Friday in 2011. A version of this excerpt was emailed to my boyfriend Jon on Friday, June 24, 2011.

I searched for café con piernas today. Café con piernas, or “coffee with legs,” is a coffeehouse where patrons stand around a bar with no seats to order espressos made by baristas in push-up bras, skin-tight dresses that barely cover their tushes, and stiletto heels. Some of these cafes are skanky, say the guidebooks, but others are frequented by women as well as men — at least according to Anthony Bourdain. So this afternoon, between wondering about Chile’s surplus of hot dog vendors and visiting Santiago’s Memory and Human Rights Museum, I needed a coffee and ventured out to find one. And I did. I found the well-known café con piernas Cafe Haiti on the Paseo Ahumada near the Plaza de Armas. I stared at the entrance nervously for awhile (taking the picture above while I deliberated), weighing the general disadvantages of committing a social faux-pas while abroad (being socially insensitive, being laughed at and publicly ridiculed) with its benefits (not understanding enough Spanish to know if I was actually being laughed at and publicly ridiculed).  The crowd emptied out of the building all at once, and I walked in before I could stop myself.

Inside was a small room completely walled with mirrors (for extra staring?). Dividing the baristas and the patrons curved a counter mounted on stainless steel poles, elevated so you could also see underneath it.  On top of the counter were enormous, diner-strength canisters of pour-top sugar.  On the patrons’ side of the room, there were freestanding ash trays and nothing else except an empty room and my reflection in six directions. Behind the counter were the espresso machines and two women who were not necessarily classy or pretty but who were effectively enhanced by their clothing.

I walked directly up to one of them, exuding confidence, not unlike a pre-teen boy at his first high school dance.  (Okay, an international pre-teen boy who couldn’t speak the language at his first high school dance.) “Café, por favor?”

Rapidly, I was denied like a pre-teen boy at a high school dance and redirected to a woman in the corner of the room who sat at a small desk with a price list, ticket stubs, and cash register.  Apparently in Chile, one does not simply pay/tip/order/flourish at any bar but does one’s underhanded dealings with a similar woman in the corner. That’s intelligent under some circumstances, but as I scanned my eye down the list of drinks, I felt somewhat like I was visiting the principal to explain my behavior at said high school dance.  The woman scowled.

“Buenos tardes, senora…. espresso, por favor, gracias?” My voice rose at the end, and the woman’s frown deepened. I eyed the list again and pounced on the only drink I did not know.  “No, no, frappa crema. Por favor.” The woman scribbled something on a pad and tapped a few numbers into her keyboard, giving me the total and handing me a ticket stub.

“Gracias,” I said firmly.  I waltzed over to the espresso bar where the curvier, skankier, and somehow prettier barista snatched my stub away. She sighed as if to call me out — you found us on page 245 of the guide book, didn’t you.  I met her eyes.

Freo o caliente?” she asked — hot or cold.

“Um… freo,” I said.

Con vainilla, chocolate, frambuesa...” she continued, and the second barista waved her hand as if to say, “Don’t bother, she doesn’t understand.” But I had already heard the word for “vanilla,” so I blurted it out in her pronunciation:

“Vah-KNEE-yah.”

Van-KNEE-yah?”

“Si. Por favor.”

She turned her back to me and began making my drink. I slid down the counter near the wall and realized I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. I always watch the barista make my drinks at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, but if I watched my barista here, was it assumed I was checking her out? Or was that the point? In the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, I looked at my reflection: my sideways Grove mouth, the freckles intensified by Chile’s thin ozone layer, my warm scarf for the Chilean winter.  I looked at the floor — cream-colored tile, like a diner from the 1960s.  I looked at the woman: dark-haired, solidly built, generously curved.  I looked at myself again: the antithesis of dark-haired, solidly built, and generously curved.

An old, well-dressed man and woman entered the room and ordered espressos, and suddenly my frappa crema was slammed down with a clatter before me.  It was a frothy, milked, vanilla-hinted, cold (not iced) coffee with a mile of whipped cream on top, dusted with a blend of sugar and cocoa powder. It even came with a little glass of agua con gas (carbonated water). Finally, I thought, a sense of normalcy.  I personally believe that water should be complimentary and served without question when you order a coffee — I get too dehydrated otherwise. In America, I’m always the only person I know who orders one espresso and ends up carrying two cups of liquid to my table.  The Cafe Haiti got it right.

I drank the frappa crema slowly, standing by the wall and leaning on the elevated counter, playing with my whipped cream, and eying the patrons who eventually joined the old couple and me: a man with unwashed hair, a businessman in a suit, a worker wearing a hard hat who suspiciously eyed my auburn hair.  By the time I pushed back the dregs of my coffee and left, calling out “gracias” without pronouncing the “s” because no Chilean does, the cafe was rather full with a sense of daily life, and the beautifully-clad women were tamping espressos at full speed.

I walked blindly into the bright street with the confidence of someone who hadn’t a clue what she was doing, but I realized I’d liked it.  It had been damn good coffee, and I’d survived my Spanish. I’d do it again.

— Thursday, June 23, 2011

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