First Crack 98. I Drink Coffee From a Cat’s Butt

“It really does taste different: musty, heavy, rich, strangely complex. Hints of chocolate, old wood, hazelnut. Fresh out of the roaster, it smelled a bit like a newborn baby’s urine.” – Sam Buchanan

On the first nice Saturday of the year, Sam Buchanan and I met at Coffee and Tea Ltd for a $10 cup of coffee that came from the backside of the Asian Palm Civet (not something that happens in the wine world).

Listen to Sam and I taste the Kopi Luwak coffee [8 min].

Starbucks Tomorrow: McDonalds or Neighborhood Roaster?

When I’m on the road, Starbucks is where I get my internet access.

My taste for their coffee has gone from dislike to barely tolerable. These days, I spend $1.57 there on a small decaf that I sip for my 2 hours of laptop battery life.

“Put another way, there are two markets for coffee drinkers: those who love coffee, and everyone else. Can Starbucks really continue to try to serve both” – Peter Meehan

That’s the question. Doc says they should go back to their roots.

4) Give your employees better training around what makes great espressos and cappuchinos. (Lattes are too milked-down to serve as a reference point.) Don’t hire them if they don’t grok the basics.

5) Get more involved in local communities. Peets puts on workshops that educate customers on great coffee drinks. That’s a good model. Do the same.

Starbucks – Community Building in Small Communities

I’ve talked about the value of places like Starbucks in places like…Wausau…before.

That was from a city-mouse in the smaller city perspective. Now that I’ve been in Wausau for a few days – popping to Starbucks for internet access – not coffee. I’m aghast.

The place is packed. Filled with an amazing cross-section of the community. Reading the paper, catching up, working. So packed, that friendly people are sitting on each other’s laps.

Here, I’m pleased to say, the Starbucks – just of the highway – is a functioning 3rd place.

On a related note – the locally-owned coffee/wine/martini bar in downtown Wausau is no longer.

Why I’m Rarely Sad When Coffee Shops Close

On my daily walk this evening, I noticed a coffee shop here in St. Anthony Village was no longer. Based on the emptiness on the other side of the windows, it’s been a while since they left. While it’s always sad to see small, local, non-franchise, non-chain, coffee shops close – it’s also sad to see places with bad coffee and uncomfortable vibes stay open.

I remember a small local shop back in Evanston that always felt uncomfortable, had bad coffee, and finally used a Starbucks opening a couple blocks away as their excuse for closing. When in fact, any competition would have overtaken them.

On a related note, Marysburg Books and Coffee, in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District, where I recorded many of the First Crack Podcasts is also no longer. It appears they’ve succumbed to the new Dunn Bros across the street and the fantastically renovated Moose and Sadie’s.

Mostly unrelated, I received a brand new shipment of Indian Monsooned from Sweet Marias last week (can’t believe it’s been a week already). Just the smell of the raw, green beans, has powered me through this week. Can’t wait till I get a chance to roast them. It’s been so hot these past few days, I fear if I take them outside, they’ll roast on their own.

Lastly, the Giz Wiz Biz featured the Capresso CofeeTEAM Therm a couple days back (behold, the power of podcasting) which you can thank for inspiring this post.

Here’s the write-up from last December WCCO did on the issue. As much as I dislike Caribou’s coffee, I can’t see them setting out to kill “the dream”.

First Crack 70. Ted Lowell from the Acadia Cafe on Being an Original Venue

Last year, PodcastMN got it’s start over drinks at the Acadia Cafe. This week, I sat down with Ted Lowell – one of the owners.

We talk about:

  • The history of the Acadia Cafe.
  • The decision to be an all original music venue.
  • What it’s like having a Starbucks across the street.
  • Riding the 75-cent pony.
  • Having one of the best beer selections in all of the Twin Cities.

Listen to Ted Lowell from the Acadia Cafe on Being An Original Venue [23 min]

Moose and Sadies Almost Best Coffee Shop in Warehouse District

A couple years back I spent a good chunk of time in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District. Aside from convenience (it’s right between downtown and NE) it’s got a nice comfortable, creative vibe to it. Unfortunately, there’s not a hands down winner for a good cup of coffee.

If you prefer coffee mixed with single speed bikes – the Go Coffee inside the 1 on 1 bike studio has free wifi, great service, great people, and decent espresso.

If you’re looking for a quieter place with plush seats and perhaps a glass of wine instead of their on average coffee, then walk across the street to Marysburg Books.

Then, a block north, there’s Moose and Sadies. My memories of it are dark, cave of a place emanating 50 years of cigarette smoke and stale pastries. When I needed a hit of second-hand smoke, I’d pop in there.

Not anymore.

They’ve completely remodeled the place. Today, it’s bright, sunny, place that’s easy to move around, with a good looking breakfast menu. I was stunned. Impressed. Amazed at the transformation. The coffee even tastes better. Still not free wifi though.

UPDATE 28 Friday 2006:
There’s a Dunn Bros in that neighborhood now – 228 Washington Ave North specifically. So, the race for best coffee shop is fully on.