First and foremost, I wish I'd worn socks today. Seattle has been sneak-attacking its citizens with weather for the past few weeks, and my wardrobe is confused. I refuse to conform to the Northwest stereotype of wearing sandals and socks, and I don't even own a pair of Birkenstocks so it really wouldn't work out for me anyhow. My Seattle Spring (which I hereby rename, "Sumwinter") Compromise is usually a semi-trendy pair of ballet flats that are technically shoes, but don't allow for proper socks. As long as it is summer, it's great. But today, it was only summer for a few minutes (the ones while I was choosing my outfit), and it's been edging back toward winter ever since, and my feet have no appreciation for how cute my shoes are. They are cold.
Secondly, and considerably more apropos, I wish I could drink more coffee. For those who do not know me: most ingestible substances and I keep a complicated relationship status. I am technically allergic or "sensitive" to the bulk of normal ingredients, from whathaveyou to thattoo. Coffee falls into this mix, creating a passionate sentiment between it and myself somewhere on the order of Dominick Argento's song cycle, "I Hate and I Love." I adore coffee, but am unquestionably confined to single shot beverages. One per day. And some days, fewer.
This makes coffee blogging fun. Tricky, but fun. I look forward to a coffee adventure most of the day when I know I'm going to go out, get a cup of joe, and enjoy coffee shop culture while I slog my way through whatever I happen to be reading or writing about that day. Unfortunately, it also makes me easy to disappoint, and a single americano that lacks crema results in a crestfallen Rose. It can be a challenge to recover, contemplate, and consider the rest of the situation, unless the environment is really doing well for itself. Or unless a conversation with a roaster leads to free samples of other coffee. Then I will drink more than my allotted single shot, forgive almost anything... and the next day, regret my very existence.
Today, I am at Neptune Coffee in Greenwood. Neptune is fun. Entertaining art, smart use of space, great sense of humor and community... and creatively serving "vintage" pastries where most would serve "day old." It's an ideal location for studying, with lots of light, good music selection, and the appropriate spacing between tables to allow you to sit down next to a stranger without sitting with or on them. It's open, with breezy, calming colors. And the coffee's alright.
I've been here for four hours, and think the baristas (so far, three) are a little hit and miss in terms of their friendliness and willingness to talk about coffee. Their website doesn't list a lot of information, and the barista who floated a shot in water for my americano didn't want to be chatty, so it took a lot of fruitless wondering as to why the espresso was such an intriguingly dark and one-dimensional color before I found the needed informational source in owner Dan Baumfeld. Frustrating, because it means I can only sound as knowledgeable as I am, and say "Um, it tastes lighter than it looks?" But one short conversation later, I can hold forth about how the espresso blend is Guatemalan, Brazilian, Honduran, and Sumatran, and start putting my own opinion to work.
Blanketly speaking, Latin American coffees are considered more mild in flavor (by comparison, say, to an African coffee) and Indonesian coffees trend toward descriptors such as "nutty" or "herbal." The Honduras is a younger, less common coffee producing region than many others, and has a distinct flavor that I have yet to develop a good vocabulary for, frequently hearing described unhelpfully as "really different." In my limited experience, I am not a fan of either Sumatran or Honduran coffee, and since both are strong flavor components, I don't especially love the Neptune Espresso blend.
On the other hand, however, is the single origin Sulawesi shot I was given to taste. It was incredibly familiar, but unidentifiable. Until I left, and, in walking up the street, spied the Chocolati Cafe. "Oh hey! I know what it is!" I thought to myself, and, taking that excuse (as I will take any excuse) to buy a truffle, I ducked into the cafe and purchased a dark chocolate Grand Marnier truffle. Cognac. Cognac, and chocolate. Hello, Sulawesi. Rich, bright, and forward to the taste, with an exceptionally long finish. Long enough to walk down the street and buy comparison chocolate.
Back to the topic: I've enjoyed my stay at Neptune; if I weren't allergic to sandwiches I would be ecstatic about their sandwich menu, which looks phenomenal. They do serve Pear Cider alongside their selection of beer, so next time I'm out at a coffee shop looking for alcohol (less sarcastic than it sounds when you're a frustrated grad student), I just might give that a go.
Honestly, I have to say that I wouldn't come back for the coffee alone. I would come back for the atmosphere. And probably for the owner, who is currently playing air-piano behind the bar, and shooting the breeze with anyone and everyone who gets within conversational range.
But you know, in sitting and staring up at their menu board, I have to say that the thing I will most definitely be returning for, as soon as Sumwinter makes up its mind which way to go, will be the ice cream. Three words: Molly Moon, Affogato. Enough said.
Meanwhile, if you, like me, have had too much coffee for your day, I suggest stopping in at Chocolati for some hot cocoa. You'll be hard pressed to find a better selection anywhere around town.