… [Pulin] has three things she wants her baristas to exude. They are:

1. Openness, to the customer and to try new things; 2. Happiness, for the barista and for the customer alike, and; 3. Total obsession with coffee. The entire staff had all these qualities, and it felt so refreshing. I don’t care where you’re doing business, in Shanghai or Seattle or Schenectady, because if your staff holds true to these tenants, you’re going to make awesome coffee.

via Sprudge, visit to a Shanghai coffee bar — they get it in China.

In China.


There’s a New Playa in Town

By “town,” I mean the state of North Dakota. And by “playa,” I mean a brand-spanking new independent coffee bar in Jamestown, one that could be hipster without even trying.

(We don’t know that term around here, yet. So the potential is there but certainly not the negative connotations.)

Plantation Coffee Bar opened mid-June, and to be honest I nearly missed it as I toodled around town running errands. But what caught my eye? Look closely at their logo… there are coffee cherries. Wut? In North Dakota?

Opening the door was like walking into Santa’s Workshop (for me). I’m afraid I scared the barista on duty with all my fangirly squees (“Pourovers? A Nuovo Simonelli?? AN UBER???”), but seriously I was that excited to find someone/someplace in the state that’s taking coffee to another level.

And it’s not too far from me! (Relatively speaking, this is still North Dakota.)

The space is small, but appropriate to a coffee “bar” as opposed to a shop. Maybe five or six two-person tables with two more outside. A drive-thru is coming soon. The newly-minted barista (one of two, plus the owner) was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and I think she’ll enjoy getting to know craft/specialty coffee a lot better. They keep a single-origin on offer every month, highlighting a different region or country through rotation, and are using Ritual Grounds roasters out of California (not to be confused with Ritual Coffee, also CA), and have beans for sale (addition of an actual roast date would be a big plus for me. Hipster, right?)

Now the squee-worthy stuff for my fellow geeks: three group Nuovo Simonelli (serviced out of South Dakota — who knew?), Chemex, Siphon (!!), AN UBER BOILER POUROVER SYSTEM, and a really cool set up I haven’t seen because I don’t get out much — three Yama Cold Brew (video) towers omg.

Bottom line: how’s the coffee?

I had a shot of espresso first off, which was pretty decent and eminently drinkable. Then went with a cold brew — again, hitting the spot on a warm day. I’m happily impressed that they only offer one size of cappuccino, although I’m reserving judgment for my next visit. The capp we got was very pretty but, unless they are three ounces on the West Coast now and I haven’t gotten the message yet, I do believe there’s a bit of confusion on proper size. I’m not worried, though, it’s been less than three weeks — and this IS North Dakota, and anything outside of a gas station capp is looked at askance the first time it’s presented.

I’m really looking forward to returning to Plantation in a couple of weeks, where I’ll get better pictures and maybe more info about how this all came about to be in Jamestown, ND — please put it on your list of Coffee Stops between Minneapolis and Seattle!

Vegetarian, Healthy and Happy.: How to Treat Your Barista

Keeping with the whole “let’s treat each other as human beings no matter what kind of cruddy day you’re having on either side of the counter” theme lately. Very good!


Now, I don’t know why anyone would mess with the people that control their caffeine. However, having worked in various cafes, restaurants, etcetera, I noticed some things which you, the customer, seem to think are okay. Let’s debunk those.

1. Don’t be on the phone.
If you need to finish a…

Vegetarian, Healthy and Happy.: How to Treat Your Barista

Little Coffee Cup on the Prairie: 13 signs you’re in a coffee place that doesn’t give a damn



(Yes, it’s a riff off of this piece. Because sadly, you’ve all been here.)

Espresso (Seattle, Washington)

1. The lone barista/employee doesn’t look up when you come in. For at least 30 seconds. Even though you’re the only one in the place. And the bell on the entry jingled. They’re too busy closing up for the day…

I’ll admit, as a barista you had a pretty shit experience. I’m sorry it happened to you. 

However, there are two things I’m going to dispute. The first is closing. I don’t know about other places, but I close by myself. It’s a lot more work then you think. More then just cleaning off the tables and turning off the lights. Yes. I cleaned the milk pitchers. I generally make sure I ask if you need milk when I hand you a coffee. I never have pre-made espresso. That’s disgusting. However, some days we do need to leave on time and I will (very rarely) clean the machine. That wont stop me from pulling your shot. But cleaning before close does not mean I don’t give a damn. Second off, we don’t carry whole milk. We just don’t. I don’t know why. Sorry to inconvenience your snooty ass but I’ll bet you a dollar you can’t tell the difference anyways. Sit there and be a self proclaimed coffee snob, but don’t be an ass. We’re people too. We have long, hard days too. There’s no reason to get pissed and say we don’t care because were trying to clean. An hour is far less time then you think. 

Point taken. I’m far from snooty, and I’ve worked in food service for more years than I care to think about. 😉

I don’t mind that they didn’t have whole milk. I do mind the yes, snooty, attitude I got from the worker as if she didn’t even care to know what I was asking about.

I’m very considerate of baristas and other workers. I bring up my dishes, toss my trash, and clean off my table. It’s extremely hard work, and I’ll be doing it again in my lifetime. But I’ll be darned if I’m going to patronize a place that really doesn’t want my business and just wants to get the heck out of there — even McDonald’s.

ETA: And yes, actually, I can tell the difference between whole milk and 2 percent and skim, especially when I’m in a shop that scalds the milk and hasn’t trained their people to aerate and stretch. Even just warmed up, there’s a distinct richness. I’m looking for properly steamed milk — not easy to do — not something I could get from a microwave.

And thank you for caring about your job. Seriously.

Little Coffee Cup on the Prairie: 13 signs you’re in a coffee place that doesn’t give a damn

13 signs you’re in a coffee place that doesn’t give a damn

(Yes, it’s a riff off of this piece. Because sadly, you’ve all been here.)

Espresso (Seattle, Washington)

1. The lone barista/employee doesn’t look up when you come in. For at least 30 seconds. Even though you’re the only one in the place. And the bell on the entry jingled. They’re too busy closing up for the day an hour ahead of the time posted to be interested in helping you.

2. You give your order from twenty feet away. Because now that they’ve acknowledged your presence, they stay rooted to the spot like a deer on the side of a section road, unsure of which direction to sprint. They also don’t sound particularly interested in your desires.

3. The hip slouch. Oh god. Yes, you know the move, going from a full upright position to body language that can only be one step away from them muttering the “Really?” that is so obviously flittering through their head. Yes, really, I said “cappuccino.” Deal with it, it’s a drink. With espresso.

4. They reflexively look up at the menu board over their shoulder. Because it’s not on their mental list of popular beverages … why? Why, oh why? so they have to see if it comes in more than one size. (Which… it shouldn’t, but that’s a story for another day that’s more suited to actually being a self-proclaimed coffee snob.)

5. When asked if they have whole milk, they reply, “Well, 2%.” I do not think that means what you think it means. Two percent will have to do, thank you.

6. “That’s the one with foam, right?” The question is offered indifferently. It’s very difficult to not roll the eyes at this point, because frankly, a cappuccino is a more basic coffee house drink than any frappawhoziewhatsis or chocolate swizzle sweetiepie latte could ever hope to be. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those.) It’s espresso, and milk. But a lot harder to make right, when you care. That doesn’t seem to be an issue here.

7. The, shall we say, “barista” immediately begins steaming the milk. Well, warming it up, trying to stretch it, I guess. The motions are there, but the sounds of microsteaming milk are muffled by the repeating piano elevator music adult contemporary CD wafting around the store. Quite likely the massive amounts of big-bubbled foam is drowning it all out, because Noise.

8. When asking about the availability of sweetener (don’t judge my husband, he’s not a snob), am told that they have white chocolate. I’ll just leave this here.

9. “Barista” has to search for the sugar packets on the counter. Pretty basic stuff for non-coffee snobs, but the inability to understand the words “Splenda” or even “Sweet and Low” makes the probability of an actual “cappuccino” drop significantly.

10. No actual shot of espresso is pulled. No grinding, no tamping, no lovely tiger striping. Just… a metal pitcher of, I guess, espresso. It is, after all, an hour before closing time. We wouldn’t want to dirty up the portafilter for the only customer in the place. And fresh only counts with the lettuce on a pannini, one would hope.

11. Pouring the shot into the milk. Perhaps it’s a try at reverse latte art… but it doesn’t work. The big-bubbled foam just won’t hold up the mean old espresso.

12. Sleeveless to-go cups are set on the counter. Because when I say it’s “for here,” what I mean is I want to pay for a temporary experience that I can have in the comfort of my car as well. I guess when you only have a hammer, every drink is a nail.

13. “Barista” glances at the sugar packets on the counter and sez as an afterthought: “Oh. I guess you can put that in.” Okay then.

See, you don’t have to be a coffee snob to know what’s wrong with this (composite) picture. Aside from the given of basic customer service skills, when you patronize a coffee house/shop/spot, one that goes to the expense of actually buying a commercial espresso machine as opposed to anything made by Keurig, you have expectations of being able to get a decent drink, at the very least.

Instead, it’s frustrating to measure your experiences at many small town — or not-so-small-town — coffee places by interpersonal interactions first, and the quality of the beverages last. No wonder this particular culture is creeping into North Dakota at a snail’s pace.

We can do better. And some places do. We *heart* them.

(The capp? Chalky, thin, and without any coffee flavor whatsoever. But in this case, I digress.)

As a followup to Christmas, I thought I’d post a few pictures from our excursion to the Dogwood Roasterie in Minneapolis last April. Not only did they have the Toarco just sitting around in a carafe, but we got to play around on their fabulous four-group Nuova Simonelli there are some perks to having a barista for an offspring.

Beautiful space, got to watch the roasting as it happened. Lovely people!

I know there are roasters based in North Dakota. I’ve visited a couple, and I’d love to do future feature posts on them. Suggestions welcome!


Picked up some Neon Espresso and a Toarco AA from Sulawesi, Indonesia from Dogwood Coffee (Minneapolis) omgomgomg it finally arrived, said all coffee geeks who buy online ever — the Toarco had been featured in May’s Craft Coffee box, and it is positively outstanding!

I see much espresso in my future three days off.

What are some of your favorite roasters, regional and otherwise?