have I become obsessed?

broadway cafe's macchiato

broadway cafe's latte

I ask myself this question because I have found that lately I have been completely discounting any latte that does not have latte art. I know that sounds crazy and obsessed...hints the title of the post. But even now writing this, I feel that I may have stumbled upon some sort of visual criterion to judge a coffee drink, or perhaps the creator of said drink, before the first sip. For example, I have been making a real effort to try other coffee shops in the Kansas City area. I have been doing this for two reasons. One, I am always in search of good coffee and nice shops to spend some time. Two, to continue to prove to myself that my statements about the Broadway Cafe having the best coffee in town are valid (which they are).
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I found ourselves in a part of town we don't frequent to often. It is close to our house but in the opposite direction of our typical travel. I had heard from a couple of people that I needed to try this coffee house (omitting the name...for now) next time I was there. We stopped in after dinner and each had a macchiato. I love using the macchiato as a drink to judge a coffee shop by because there is little enough milk to really get a grasp on the 'spro being pulled, at the same time it allowes you to see how the barista will handle what little milk there is. This brings me to my theory. When you watch a barista at work and he/she is careless on how they load the basket (grind, dose, distribute, tamp) you can bet that the shot will reflect the carelessness. That same holds true for how the milk is treated. When you see the barista simply poor the milk in the pitcher and then set the wand in and let the milk sit there for 20 seconds with the steam running, you can assume the milk will not achieve that microfoamy goodness that makes milk based espresso drinks so dreamy. This was exactly the case for this drink. The espresso itself was not that bad but the little bit of milk froth that was added was big, bubbly, airy and just set on top. I could tell before my first sip that this was going to be a disappointment.
I had a similar experience this morning. A new coffee shop just opened up about a block from where I work and I have been meaning to stop in for a cup. This morning I found the time. I walked in and asked for a 12 oz. latte and was immediately turned off when they asked what kind of milk I want. I know I will not get a lot of people agreeing with me on this one but I hate it when they ask me that. In my mind, if I didn't specify, it is up to the barista. Which ever he/she likes to pour. Anyway, I watched this young man tentatively load the basket and then very flaccidly steam the milk. I was getting more and more apprehensive by the second. Then the pour...he used the spoon to hold back the froth while he poured the milk in the espresso and then spooned two big airy scoops of froth on top. I was devastated.
I am almost convinced that the lack of latte art is a tale tell sign of a poor latte. This art can only be achieved when great care has gone into the entire latte making process. Assuming the espresso itself was extracted well, when you see latte art you can bet that the drink will be deliciously creamy and everything you were hoping for. Plus, it seems to be a common denominator that baristas interested in making really good coffee are also those same baristas interested in making latte art. This is not a constant...but it seems to be a pretty accurate observation.


If you are not familiar with the logo above, it is the logo of what some people are calling the best single serve coffee maker in the world. The Clover machine has generated a lot of attention over the past couple of months. The machine, from what I understand works generally like a french press. The difference is that the french press relies almost 100% on the person making the coffee to be precise and consistent while the clover takes care of that for you. It is a well worked, precise piece of coffee machinery. Still, the barista is required to grind and dose the coffee before turning it over to the clover, so it is not infallible.

That all being said, Starbucks (the corporate giant sucking every ounce of Romanticism out of coffee) has just purchased the same machine that a lot of independent coffee shops have recently purchased in an effort to distance themselves from the big bad mermaid. Starbucks also has said that they don't plan on continuing the sale of the machine to shops outside of the Starbucks corporation. So, now the independent shops that dropped the 11 grand ...ya that is right $11,000.00 dollars to separate themselves from Starbucks now have to pay Starbucks when service time on their machine comes around.

I understand that coffee in the United States probably wouldn't be where it is at right now if it where not for Starbucks. I also understand the Starbucks is a business and that buying Clover was probably the best move they could have made to keep making absurd amounts of money. The issue I have is that, in Starbucks' quest for more money and more efficiency, the quality of their product has suffered...big time. Try going into a Starbucks and just say "can I please have a macchiato". See what happens, the little 17 year old girl behind the push button espresso machine will ask you what size and if you want caramel on top. They have a lot of people fooled into believing that this is good coffee. This is not good coffee!! Not to mention the fact they are purposefully putting the shops that do make good coffee out of business in the meantime. Bringing me back around to my original point of the post. Because Starbucks has been suffering as of late, instead of fixing the root of problem...making bad coffee, they decided to go out and take away other peoples opportunity to increase their efficiency of making good coffee and increase profit.

They are the Wal-Mart of the coffee world.


Friday night's dish:

Pizza with yellow squash, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, wilted spinach, garlic, tomatoes, and fresh mozz. on a whole grain wheat crust.

Pizza with italian sausage, fresh rosemary, wilted spinach, tomatoes, and fresh mozz. on a whole grain wheat crust.

Sunday night's dish:

Fish tacos with a fresh cilantro lime sauce served with mexican style rice and refried beans.

Tuesday morning's pour: