"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2008 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
97NOTE: This coffee shop closed it doors in late 2009, so is no longer in business. Beyond the excellent coffee, and if I dare say, the even better hand-made chocolates, my blues group was playing there on Friday evenings, so Bob and Joanna's efforts will be missed here in Chico for many reasons.
A Coffee Shop Visit
Chocolate Mystique Café
A dream for many coffee enthusiasts would probably be to open a coffee shop.. Many have told me I should do just that. No, thank you. Coffee for me is fun, and making a job out of it would suck the fun out of it in a big hurry. For me, a better situation would be for a friend to open one and invite me over, and that just happened to me. An old Internet acquaintance contacted me late in May of 2008 and invited me to drop by the new coffee shop that he and his wife had very recently opened.
Back on Fri, 18 Jul 2003 Bob posted the following on alt.coffee:
So it began. Bob's passion for beer "spilled over" into his new passion for coffee. Later that SL-90 he spoke of in that early alt.coffee post became a Rancilio Silvia (which he still uses at home).
Joann, Bob's wife, had a catering business, and then graduated from the prestigious "Ecole Chocolat" academy. Sharing her chocolates with family and friends led to the founding of "Chocolate Mystique" in June 2005. besides working full time, Bob had a beer business going at about the same time as well. How busy can a couple be? Busier...
Their life was about to take an unexpected turn. Bob lost his job as a satellite engineer for Lockheed in a widespread layoff, so they decided that it was time to get out and begin something that had the potential for a bit more stability. His "retirement" combined with his new-found passion for coffee, Bob and Joann opened a coffee and chocolate shop in Chico, California.
That is where I come in. I got an E-Mail from Bob- one of those "guess who?" and "guess where?" and "come on over and check the place out" sort of things. Handmade chocolate? Espresso from fresh roasted coffee? It didn't take any more effort than to type "yes" and plan a visit. Since our wedding anniversary was coming up, and Val had the day off, we decided what better way to celebrate than coffee and chocolate?
As it turned out it was a perfect day. We got there in the middle of the day when the lunch crowd was finishing off and the four of us were able to enjoy a long, friendly visit.
To begin with, Bob does all the shop's roasting at home. He learned a bit about roasting using his Hottop, but now has moved up and is roasting on his Toper 2.5 Kilo shop roaster, which I believe is the TKM-SX 2.5.
What a great way to start. He has full control over the roasts he wants, and he can guarantee that he only has fresh coffee in the shop— for his own use as well as for sale. He does sell roasted whole bean coffee, but if you want to drop by and purchase some coffee from Bob it is best to contact them ahead of time to be sure he will have stock for you. He purposely keeps the supply low so that there is no stale coffee on the shelves. No "scooped on" or " best if used by" going on in this shop!
The shop is clean and nicely laid out.
The shop itself is about as spotless as you will find. They bought it almost as you see it here. Although it was a Mexican restaurant previously, the tables and floor layout are nearly unchanged, and it works wonderfully for them. They did add a concrete patio with umbrella'd tables out front, and the main counter was moved back about 18 inches to make room for...
If you can't find a chocolate you like here, you just don't like chocolate!
Chocolate Mystique Cafe begins as a chocolate shop, and what a chocolate shop it is! The chocolates, toffies, barks, and fudge are all handmade using all natural ingredients, and like everything else they serve, the chocolates contain no trans fats and no hydrogenated oils.
If you drop by for lunch you can choose from a small selection of hot and cold sandwiches, assorted quiches, and side dishes. There are also pastries and muffins from which to choose.
Should we put in an order for one of our own now?
Bob takes a lot of pride in keeping his La Marzocco GB-5 clean along with the rest of the shop. The counters, floors, drip tray, and even the large expanse of mirror on the wall behind the LM was spotless. Grinders include a commercial grinder for the drip offerings, a Mazzer major for espresso and a Mazzer Mini for decaf espresso.
Our visit started with a taste sample of the Sumatran Bob had brewed, and it was very nice, indeed. After that we had a straight espresso which Bob allowed me to pull on his LM GB-5. It was my first attempt at hands-on LM use so my pull was just a bit over-extracted because of my dosing and tamping. It was a reminder to me that technique has to be adjusted to the grinder, basket, tamper, and machine you are using. I have honed my technique to my VBM and Mazzer Kony to the point that I felt like I was learning how to make espresso again. I was also a bit nervous as the LM costs about three times more than all my gear put together!
Bob then pulled us another straight shot and it was definitely superior to my attempt. Although the crema color is not as dark as I get with my home blend, the Liquid Amber blend was very drinkable as a straight shot with good aroma.
By then it was time for lunch, so Val and I split orders of a veggie sandwich and an artichoke quiche. Both were quite delicious. Val had a mocha with her lunch and I gave it a sip and it was very nice, being made with real chocolate. It was rich and dessert-like without being overly-sweet.
After lunch I had a cappuccino and Val and I shared a sampler plate of Joann's chocolates. There are few food combinations that are better than chocolate and coffee, and when the chocolates are of this quality it is that much better.
We took home a sampler pack as well as some toffee (toffee is one of Val's favorites of all time), and we have been enjoying them a lot! I made cappuccino for us yesterday afternoon and recreated the chocolate-coffee experience from Friday. How delicious!