Weekend Treat: Good Coffee and the News

Latte Art in coffee at Rustica BakeryTo me, there is nothing better than weekend mornings. Why, you may ask? Let me tell you.

I’ve always been a morning person. Ever since I was small, while the rest of the world was too preoccupied with catching up on their sleep, I was eager to start my day. Besides, that’s when the best cartoons were on. When I was older and participated in high school sports or theater productions, our practices would always take place in the mornings. Moving into college, my habit of rising early persuaded me to sign up for 7:30 a.m. classes.

Waking up before everyone else allowed me to bask in the quiet and actually get some “me time”. What do I like to do when it’s quiet before the night owls decide to start their day? Have a well-brewed cup of coffee and read the news; and, one of my favorite places to do that is Rustica Bakery in St. Louis Park.

My husband and I have been going to Rustica for quite a while since we moved to the cities close to three years ago. We keep coming back because of their dedication to making artisan breads and pastries the old fashioned way: with hard work and good ingredients. Most importantly, I come back because of their amazing coffee, which is sourced Dogwood Coffee Company and brewed to perfection. You really can’t get a bad cup here. This morning, I had a vanilla latte (above) and my husband had a coconut chocolate tart (below).

Coconut Chocolate Tart from Rustica Bakery

I like Rustica because it’s a meeting place for everyone. On a typical Saturday morning, you can find anyone from students doing homework to families enjoying breakfast together and everything in between. Tony and I go for the quiet before things get too busy, grab a copy of The New York Times or StarTribune, and settle in to catch up on the news while sipping on my favorite brew. After this, nothing could have ruined my day.

If you’d like to read about more of my favorite spots to sip on quality coffee, you can read my other posts on Bull Run Coffee Bar and Dogwood Coffee. Also, consider going on a caffeine crawl. This event typically happens in June so stay tuned!


The Caffeine Crawl 2014

bull run coffee co.

A Little Background

After a stellar debut last summer, the caffeine crawl returned to Minneapolis/St. Paul to appease the taste buds of our city’s coffee addicts. Thanks to the beverage enthusiasts of The LAB, participants enjoyed a fantastic cup of coffee, quality tea and one of my personal favorites from last year’s crawl, Gray Duck Chai.

In addition, crawlers had the opportunity to learn more about the quality, technique, and roasting process of the products.  At each stop in the crawl, there was a brief presentation and a selection of free drinks available to attendees only.

Crawl 2014 Participants: Angry Catfish Bicycle + Coffee Bar, Bull Run CoffeeDogwood Coffee, Gray Duck Chai, Groundswell, J&S Bean Factory, Peace Coffee, Rustica Bakery and TeaSource.

(The hyperlinks for Bull Run and Dogwood direct you to posts on Minnesota Munch)

Being a woman that likes plenty of options, I definitely appreciated the option to choose your specific Crawl route. There were six different routes accessible by bike, car or bus ride. Luckily, I chose to drive a route because we had a bit of rainy weather that day. Despite the downpours, that didn’t stop biking teams from completing the crawl. You go! Quality coffee is definitely a good motivator.

To follow the Caffeine Crawl as it makes it’s way across the U.S., connect to their social media.

Facebook: Caffeine Crawl
Twitter: @CaffeineCrawl
Instagram: @LAB5702

First Stop :: J&S Bean Factory

I was actually very excited to stop at J&S Bean Factory because this was a repeat from last year. I was excited to see what they Coffee roasting presentationprepared for the crawlers. When we arrived, they gave us a presentation that specifically highlighted their cold press coffee. For
those of you less addicted to coffee than myself, cold press coffee often has double the potency of regular coffee because it needs to diffuse for a longer period of time. What that really means is that you can get double the caffeine high
while drinking less coffee, thus saving money in your wallet for other things, like Rustica’s pastries. (More on that later).

Cold Press Coffee During their presentation, the baristas also passed around coffee beans that had completed different stages in the roasting process. Then they let us sample the cold press coffee made from those beans. It was awesome to be able to sample cold press brewed from beans that completed different states of the roasting process. I now know that I prefer my cold press brewed with medium roasted beans.

Facebook: J&S Bean Factory
Twitter: @jsbeanfactory

Second Stop :: TeaSource

The next stop was TeaSource, another repeat from last year. I want it to be clear, that I chose to go on a crawl that had repeat TeaSourse in St. Paulcoffee shops because 1. I live in Minneapolis and hardly get over to St. Paul, 2. I wanted to see if they were different from last year, and 3. the rest of my crawl was new. I digress.

TeaSource was actually one of my favorite stops on this crawl. Unlike last year, which focused on a variety of tea from black to green, this year’s presentation was all about how to fully experience a good cup of tea. They first introduced a new Japanese green tea call psy midori. The owner of Tea Source had recently visited a 140 year old family-owned farm in Japan and decided to start selling their tea here in Minnesota. Steeped to perfection, this tea was clean and crisp.

Tea Brewing ProcessThe bulk of their presentation surrounded their Shou Puer tea, which is what they recommend for those willing to replace their morning coffee. A unique characteristic of this tea is that it can be brewed with any amount at any temperature you please. Surprisingly, all temperatures yielded a stellar cup of tea. When sampling the tea, it is important that you smell the tea, slurp it and let the tea settle on your pallet to get a true tasting. They recommend drinking slowly because the taste will change depending on how hot or cold it is.


Facebook: TeaSource
Twitter: @TeaSource

Third Stop :: Angry Catfish Bicycle + Coffee Shop

Angry Catfish Cofee and Bicycle BarI was quite excited to check out Angry Catfish + Bicycle Shop. I hadn’t heard of this place, probably because I need to visit St. Paul more often.

Anyways, in addition to having a casual and hip atmosphere, they gave an awesome presentation demonstrating the proper ways to brew coffee using a French press and a Intelligentsia Coffeesyphon. It was so inciteful to actually taste the difference between the two brewing processes. I was already familiar with velvety taste of French press coffee, but the clean taste of the syphon was…well…surprisingly refreshing.  The process of syphoning looked a little demanding, definitely something you’ll have to practice, but if you want a great cup of coffee, it’s worth the effort. For me? I’ll stick with the seasoned baristas for my coffee.

Facebook: AngryCatfish
Twitter: @angrycatfish

Fourth Stop :: Bull Run Coffee Bar

Bull Run Coffee Bar Cold PressLet me digress, I LOVE Bull Run Coffee Bar. Time after time, their coffee tastes like magic served up caffeinated. The baristas really know how to make excellent coffee from a regular black cup to their specialty drinks. My recommendation is to get over there and order up a “Boone’s Beard.”

Last year, I wasn’t able to make it to their presentation so I was determined to see what they were up to this time around. In keeping with the summer theme of the crawl, they gave a presentation that highlighted their cold press coffee and how to brew your own at home. They were even nice enough to give us a cold press recipe to take home. See, I love this place!

On a side note, I thought the packaging of their cold press was creative. You can buy a pack of four in these glass bottles. Time to stock up.

Facebook: Bull Run Coffee Bar
Twitter: @bullrunbar

Fifth Stop :: Rustica Bakery

Coffee filtering processAnother sweet spot of mine is Rustica Bakery. I stumbled across this place when I first moved to Minneapolis and have continued to visit for a freshly baked pastry. They make all of their baked-goods the same morning they sell it so you know you’re getting something fresh. In fact, they emphasize the quality of the ingredients they use in all of their products. One day, I decided to branch out and buy a loaf of their bread instead of a chocolate croissant. I should have known the bread would be ridiculously delicious as well. Told you I had a thing for their baked goods.

For the crawl, they chose to show Dogwood Coffee’s brewing process. I was able to try Dogwood coffee at their roasting facility last year and, I have to say, Rustica did a fine job of brewing their coffee. The barista was knowledgeable about the filtering process. Here’s a tip, if the coffee grounds don’t all make it to the bottom of the filter, you definitely need to work on your technique. #protip Yes, I did just add a hashtag into my post. I love Twitter. Deal with it.

From their coffee to their breads, Rustica has made it on my list of favorite cafes in the Twin Cities.

Facebook: Rustica Bakery

Last Stop :: Peace Coffee (Wonderland Park)

Peace Coffee tastingI was incredibly thankful that this was our last stop on the Caffeine Crawl. Let it be known, I was not getting bored on the crawl. I probably could have gone to a few more coffee houses, but what made Wonderland Park special was their take on coffee.

Our presentation didn’t focus on black coffee like the rest of the stops (minus TeaSource). Instead, Wonderland Park baristas brewed up a few drinks containing espresso, but with ingredients that would surprise you.

The first drink was espresso with blueberries. Odd combination, right? Wrong! It was actually pretty refreshing for a summer-time drink. The espresso paired wonderfully with this fruit. The last creation we sampled as a delightful blend of espresso, sweetened condensed milk and…wait for it…avocado! That last one through me for a loop too, but it was fantastic! The avocado added a smooth texture to the drink and made it seem like a treat. This is a must stop cafe for summer-inspired beverages.

Facebook: Peace Coffee
Twitter: @Peace_Coffee


Caffeine Crawl – Minneapolis 2013


A little background

This past weekend, the Twin Cities were the host for the first Caffeine Crawl to grace the Upper Midwest.  The Caffeine Crawl was the idea of  The LAB, a group so passionate about quality beverages that they wanted to highlight local businesses that are dedicated to excellence.  At the Caffeine Crawl, participants sampled some pretty amazing coffee and tea.  In addition, the participants had the opportunity to learn more about the quality, technique, and roasting process of the products.  At each stop in the crawl, there was a brief presentation and a selection of free drinks available to attendees only.

Participants: Bull Run Coffee, Cafe Imports, Dogwood Coffee with Gray Duck Chai, J&S Bean Factory, Peace Coffee, Publika, Quixotic Coffee, Sebastian Joe’s and TeaSource.

(The hyperlinks for Bull Run and Dogwood direct you to posts on Minnesota Munch that I’ve written)

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

 My thoughts

Apart from knowing that I would be consuming 10 times my regular caffeine intake, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the first caffeine crawl to hit the Upper Midwest.  Were we only going to be drinking coffee all day?  Absolutely not!  I have to give a shout-out to The LAB and all of the many sponsors of this crawl.  Not only did the participants get to sample AMAZING specialty coffees, chais, and teas, but we also had the opportunity to learn a thing (or two) about the sourcing, production, distribution, and preparation techniques of our favorite beverages.

There were two routes to choose from for this crawl.  One route covered many specialty coffee and tea cafes in St. Paul and the other had more stops in Minneapolis.  I was excited that my ticket took me on the St. Paul route because, as you could probably tell from my previous posts, I haven’t had the opportunity to write much about our state’s capital.  Not only was I shocked that I was missing so many great places, but I was ecstatic to meet the passionate people who bring Minneapolis/St. Paul residents something of quality and something that should be enjoyed.  I definitely want to share these places we toured with anyone who is willing/excited to explore a new place.  You won’t be disappointed.  Now, on to my route for the Caffeine Crawl.

First Stop

All of the participants met at Peace Coffee Roasting Facility where we were greeted by their staff and Jason Burton from The LAB.  We were given a detailed tour of Peace Coffee Roasting Facility that included the history of their company, a look at their roasting techniques, and information about the growth and sourcing of their coffee beans.  Towards the end of our tour, one of their baristas from Wonderland Park prepared a cold press coffee drink inspired by southern mint juleps.  What a great way to start our crawl!

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

mint julep

Second Stop

We made the 12 minute trek from Peace Coffee to J&S Bean Factory in St. Paul for our second stop.  The Bean Factory, established in 2001, is an independently owned, local coffee shop and roastery.  Here, we were able to enjoy a sample of their cold press coffee and a bag of cinnamon twists from a local producer.  While enjoying their cold press and lounging in their spacious outdoor patio, we watched a coffee bean roasting demonstration.  The unique part of this demonstration was that they were using an original roaster from San Francisco.  It’s so old, that it’s serial number is literally all zeros.  That’s pretty cool.  Here, the cold press was a combination of a French Guatemala roast, an Ethiopian roast, and java.  Luckily, at this point, I was pacing myself and didn’t feel the affects of caffeine yet.  I would definitely come back here.  The baristas were very knowledgeable of their brewing and roasting techniques in addition to having a humor-filled personality.

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

j&s bean factory

Their roaster
Their roaster

Third Stop

Not too far from the J&S Bean Factory was our next stop, Tea Source.  This was actually one of my favorite stops.  While I’ve always enjoyed a good cup of tea both full-leaf and teabagged, I never really bothered to research tea production and the differences amongst each variety.  Thanks to Tea Source, I now have a little more knowledge of tea varieties and tea growing than the average person.  Here, the staff at Tea Source gave us a thorough presentation on six different types of teas from Asia.  The first tea was a green tea from Japan that had an ocean-like taste.  One good tip I’ve learned about green tea is that you don’t boil the water when preparing it!  Next was a florally oolong from Taiwan followed by a Big Red Robe oolong from China.  The last two were black teas from China.  One was called Golden Dragon and this one was my favorite.  It had a nice, smooth taste and wasn’t too strong.  The last black tea was from the Yunnan province and had a very strong, earthy taste.  Definitely check this place out!  They have over 230 teas to try and a very knowledgeable, passionate staff!

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

tea source

Fourth Stop

Quixotic Coffee was literally right across the street from Tea Source, which made getting to the next location on the crawl a snap!  By the time my group arrived here, it was around lunchtime.  We needed something quick to not only fight off hunger, but also to absorb the intense amount of coffee and tea we had been downing all morning.  Thank you Quixotic for your ridiculously good strawberry pastry with pistachios.  Yes, I did just say I had a pastry for lunch, but look at the picture below.  Can you blame me?

Getting back to the coffee again, they didn’t disappoint here.  The baristas at Quixotic gave a unique presentation on brewing the perfect cup of potato coffee.  I’m not kidding, the barista prepared potato defect for us to sample.  I’ve never heard of this before and was pumped to try it out!  FYI, it smells to high heaven when they brew it.  Don’t get discouraged by this because it actually doesn’t taste half bad when it’s hot and ready.  This particular defect had a mixture of Rwandan and Burundi coffee.  Apparently this is a common brew in Africa.  (If anyone else has tried this … and has actually sampled it in Africa, please post! I want to know more!)

After doing a little digging, this blog post had the most information I could find about the potato defect.

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!


quixotic 2

Fifth Stop

By this point I was definitely feeling a caffeine high.  With headaches creeping up and more energy than I could handle, thank goodness the next stop was to Cafe Imports.   Cafe Imports is an importer of specialty coffee beans from 20 countries.  They are considered one of the best distributors and they sell their beans to specialty roasters worldwide.  A few of their clients include Dunn Bros. Coffee, Bull Run (Mpls local), and Dogwood Coffee Company (also Mpls local and the last stop on our crawl).  If you have an opportunity to tour a warehouse, especially one that is filled with 23,000 large bags of coffee, take advantage of it!  Seriously, when are you going to see 23,000 bags of coffee in one place?  Oh, you saw my picture below?  You’re welcome.  For more information, please check out their website in the hyperlink.

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!


Last Stop

This last stop was done in two parts.  There was Gray Duck Chai and there was Dogwood Coffee Company.  First of all, let me say that I love chai.  I really love chai and Gray Duck Chai has now captured my heart as my No. 1 go-to for chai.  Let me begin by saying that they gave a brilliant presentation.  Not only did they make the chai in front of us, but they also presented and discussed the attributes of all the spices and ingredients.  Who knew that cloves have 12 times the amount of antioxidants as the acai berry?  This was just one of the many interesting facts we learned from their presentation.  As for their chai, it was excellent and prepared like masala chais on the of streets of India.  You can’t get more authentic than that.  The authentic masala chais have strong notes of pepper and ginger.  Gray Duck Chai definitely incorporated these two spices to dominate the flavor of their chai.

Gray Duck

Gray Duck 2

Now, I’ve been to Dogwood Coffee Company’s cafe before in Uptown Square and I’ve enjoyed their hot miel coffee.  Dogwood Coffee Company began three years ago and was originally housed near Lake Calhoun in Rustica Bakery.  In 2010, they opened their own cafe in Calhoun Square and have been there since.  At their roasting facility, they chose to highlight their Zamboni Cold Press coffee.  In my opinion, perfect time for summer!  This coffee is a light-medium roast and had a nice, strong flavor.  Currently, they hand-make all their Zamboni batches for wholesale consumers, but they stated that they’re getting ready to produce smaller batches for individual sale.  I’m pretty excited about that announcement!

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

Dogwood Zamboni

After Party

When things were all said and done, all crawlers met up at Common Roots Cafe in the Lowry Hill neighborhood for the after party.  At Common Roots, crawlers were given free samples of Fulton Beer’s collaboration brew, War and Peace.  If it’s being offered for caffeine crawl participants, it’s no surprise that the beer has coffee brewed into it.  In addition to sampling coffee beer, the after crawl included a raffle where proceeds were directly donated to Books For Africa.

Social Media
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

For such a wonderful event, I would like to thank all of the sponsors listed below.  This was truly a fun and informative day!

The LAB, Books for Africa, Peace Coffee, Dogwood Coffee Co., Barista Magazine, Stella di Caffe, yelp, Wholesome Sweeteners, Sleeve a Message, Rip van Wafels, and Baratza.

Dogwood Coffee Company

A little background

open cafeDogwood Coffee Company is a small, specialty coffee roaster in Uptown right off Hennepin Avenue.   They serve their coffee single-cup style; single-cup style means that each espresso is brewed to order and not a minute before.

It’s important give a call-out to Dogwood Coffee Co. because of their dedication to working with producers, exporters, importers, agronomists and educators who focus on sustainable living.  Building relationships with these individuals is clearly important to Dogwood Coffee Co. and this goal is apparent when reading their blog.  Yes, a specialty coffee roaster that blogs!  They post valuable content ranging from their experiences sourcing product to their favorite coffee moments.

Social Media
Blog:  Click here!
Twitter: Click here!
Facebook: Click here!

In addition to their outstanding dedication to providing a quality cup of coffee, they also work with local groups within Minnesota to make their coffees special.  They even go as far as sourcing the milk from local Minnesota producers!  I have to say, I’m very impressed with their dedication, passion, knowledge and involvement in enhancing the coffee experience.

 My thoughts

With a motto of “We work hard so you can have good coffee in your mouth,” it’s no surprise that baristas at Dogwood Coffee Co. know how to whip up a fantastic brew.  To kick off my morning, I decided to step outside my usual (vanilla lattes or chai) and order a café miel.  A café miel has a shot of espresso, steamed milk, cinnamon, and honey.  The name comes from the French word for honey, miel.  While it’s not my usual, I did enjoy it.  I would prefer more of a stronger coffee flavor, but I realize that a café miel is supposed to be a little tamer.  Overall, I would order it again.  My cup had a nice, smooth flavor and definitely gave me the kick I needed to get my morning going.  In addition, the baristas knew what they were doing and served up the perfect ratios of steamed milk to espresso.  A huge plus for me is receiving a cup with coffee art.  Not gonna lie, I’m a huge sucker for awesome coffee art. 🙂

cup with logo

I quickly want to mention their location.  Dogwood Coffee Co. is located in the Calhoun Square Shopping Center.  This place piqued my interest even more when I saw the entire brewing station in an open space!  Literally, a shopper could walk right into the area behind the counter.  What a perfect way for customers to view their brewing technique!  Lastly, there is a seating section that gives you a great view of Hennepin Avenue.

P.S. I’m also a sucker for huge windows that let me look outside when I write.  This place definitely got my creative juices flowing!