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The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
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Buckley
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Posted Fri Dec 23, 2011, 9:21pm
Subject: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Tuscan Coffee/Greenway Coffee.  Building 3, Greenway Plaza (Buffalo Speedway and Hywy 59). This place just started to roast their own coffee.  I visited them last year, before they began roasting.  At that time, Ecky pulled me the second-best shot that I have had in my life.  At the time, I wasn't taking tasting notes, so I can't furnish details, but I took a pourover, which was just as good, back to my hotel.  They were using 'guest roasters' before they got serious about roasting their own, and it was Intelligentsia on that day.  Now, a year later, Ecky has been 'kicked upstairs' to become their roaster and Patrick has been pulling some some good shots for me.  The last cup of a Nicaraguan blend (as I recall, again without notes) had great crema and had a berry-and-nutty taste that became toasty in the finish.  They then served me a pourover 'chaser' (I forget the blend) that started out toasty, became slightly salty, then wine-y, bread-y, and finished with hints of lemon and cinnamon.   My opinion places this place best in Houston.  However, when I take their roastings home, my pourover brews are too sharp for me.  I do not know if the mismatch is due to my preference to have my coffee mellower (some might say muted) or if their roasting is still on a learning curve.  The answer will depend on how well accepted their roasts are; their barista skills are already regarded as the highest in town.
One note on the unique location of this place.  It is oddly located in the food court on the ground floor of building three of the Greenway Plaza office-and-hotel complex.  You can park underground (park near building 3, otherwise it is a long walk) and you can get a free parking pass from the baristas.  In another aside, they have decided to change their name to 'Greenway Coffee' but the sign over their counter still says 'Tuscany Coffee' because they have no desire to spend the money on a new sign.

Catalina Coffee 2201 Washington Avenue They were pulling Amaya Roasting Company's Costa Rican Paso de Lavaca.  Again, walking into a very well-reputed coffee house, one expects more from them.  Who wants to frequent an unreliable or spotty cafe?  The espresso had a thick crema and started out with a toasty fragrant taste that followed with peanut overtone, then became a little acidic, then continued with a slight mineral-saltiness.  Subsequent tastings were finished with a dominant brackishness.  If it sounds a little puzzling, that was my impression.  It was good-to-mediocre.  A barista who works at several locations mentioned to me (we were at another coffee shop) that several baristas and regulars have noticed that Catalina's espressos have lately (December 2011) been 'watery'.

I then ordered a pourover because I prefer brewed coffee to espresso.  I was a little surprised to be charged $4 for it.  The barista explained that this was because it was made 'with premium beans' (Ethiopean Tchembe, medium roast).  It was good; it had a good body and started out with a slight, refreshing bitterness, followed by a caramel flavor, a licorice flavor, with a slightly salty finish.  It would have been nice if they had the unusual price of their pourover up on the wall, but they listed pourover among other modalities but not the prices.

Dirk's Coffee 4005 Montrose I visited this place late at night, so could only order a decaf Americano and so I was prepared to be very open minded about the flavor.  That was not necessary.  The barista pulled and poured quite a flavorful cup for me.  Sorry that I did not take good notes.  Dirk's uses Diedrich roasters for their coffee.  The barista did not know which decaf variety that they were using (!) Sumatra or French Roast, but it tasted to me more like Sumatra.  Several other reviews have put this place down for its atmosphere due to the university/alternate lifestyles clientele, but this conservative reviewer has been there twice and felt comfortable both times.  Parking is worth complaining about, however.

Croissant Brioche 2435 Rice Blvd. Although this makes its reputation as a French pastry shop and breakfast destination, all 'French pastry shops' worth their salt need to hold up a good cup of espresso, and so this is fair game for a review.   Their croissants rate a 'B+', which is a good grade.  The espresso was Danesi Coffee espresso blend.  The crema was thin but the body was good.  The flavor started out toasty, then cinnamon-y, then a slightly bitter chocolate, finishing as a powdery dryness.  There was no sharpness or saltiness.  All-in-all a very good cup of espresso – on par with the 'coffee destinations' in Houston.  One warning, their hot chocolate gets made from a bottle of Hershey's syrup, but quite a few otherwise quality places in Houston also do this, I am sorry to say.

These reviews are about new towns visited.  As always, natives of the town are welcome to reply with corrections or to offer cafes worthy of mention.  Time never permits an exhaustive review of all cafes in a particular location, nor an in-depth review of any café in particular.  The best that can be hoped for is to provide a starting point for other visitors to or denizens of Houston to try the local cafes and to submit their own opinions.
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JonR10
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Posted Sat Dec 24, 2011, 4:34am
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Buckley Said:

Tuscan Coffee/Greenway Coffee.  Building 3, Greenway Plaza (Buffalo Speedway and Hywy 59).

Posted December 23, 2011 link

Minor correction :

The foodcourt and Coffeeshop are in Building 5 (Greenway 5).  
If people look for Greenway 3 then they will not find it.

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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takeshi
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takeshi
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Posted Wed Dec 28, 2011, 8:08am
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Buckley Said:

One note on the unique location of this place.  It is oddly located in the food court on the ground floor of building three of the Greenway Plaza office-and-hotel complex.  You can park underground (park near building 3, otherwise it is a long walk) and you can get a free parking pass from the baristas.  In another aside, they have decided to change their name to 'Greenway Coffee' but the sign over their counter still says 'Tuscany Coffee' because they have no desire to spend the money on a new sign.

Posted December 23, 2011 link

I'm hoping that Blacksmith opens up soon though nothing seems to be happening at the former site of Mary's every time I drive by.  I'm familiar enough with Greenway Plaza.  Just not willing to deal with it.
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emradguy
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Posted Mon Jan 2, 2012, 5:22pm
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Yeah, I agree...Greenway Plaza is too much of a PIA to deal with.  I suppose that for the few who work there, it's nice to have good coffee (though it's not something I can vouch for since I've never been there.  Maybe when I go visit my accountant for taxes this year I'll have some time to go over there and try it.  Otherwise, I pretty much find Houston to be an espresso wasteland...especially given my home setup.

French Riviera and Bakery on Chimney Rock (just north of Richmond) makes espresso based drinks well enough for me to drink them, but I still much prefer my own (and so do my family members).  Unfortunately, almost every other place in town serves bad shots mixed with scalded milk and topped with horrible macrofoam.

Funny, I was at a party at Hotel ZaZa last winter and they had hired a barista to serve drinks on demand.  He was very good, much to my surprise.  Sadly though, I never did ask where he works normally.

I'd love to hear about something high quality in town, either in Rice Village, Montrose, Galleria or the like.  Oh, there was one barista who used to work at Whole Foods on Bellaire that was pretty good, but alas, she has moved on...

 
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JonR10
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Posted Tue Jan 3, 2012, 5:27am
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

emradguy Said:

Otherwise, I pretty much find Houston to be an espresso wasteland...especially given my home setup.

Posted January 2, 2012 link

I used to feel that way but now I disagree, because there are some great coffee places that have opened up here in the last few years.  

emradguy Said:

I'd love to hear about something high quality in town, either in Rice Village, Montrose, Galleria or the like.  

Posted January 2, 2012 link

So you'll deal with the Galleria and Montrose, but not Greenway?  At Greenway 5 there is parking right near the door you walk in for the food court where the coffee shop is at, and when I was there last they validated my parking slip so it was free parking.  

Greenway is certainly worth trying.  
And if you haven't been to Revival Market (on Heights) and Catalina Coffee on Washington Ave. then try those as well.

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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emradguy
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emradguy
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Posted Tue Jan 3, 2012, 12:08pm
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Thanks for the added info on Greenway.  Believe it or not, I do try to stay open-minded.  

My aversion has been mainly because I don't know it all that well, and the few times I've been there it's been to the Houston Club for events, Tony's Restaurant, and my accountant's office (literally overlooking Tony's).  With validated parking right next to the coffee house and the recommendations, it sounds worth venturing over.  So, is it on the north or south side of Richmond?

I live in Bellaire and work in the Med Center, so I don't get to the Heights much at all...and I've read very mixed reviews on Catalina.  Where is that in relation to The Counter Burger?

Are there any other places you'd recommend?

 
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JonR10
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JonR10
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Posted Tue Jan 3, 2012, 12:39pm
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

emradguy Said:

Thanks for the added info on Greenway.  Believe it or not, I do try to stay open-minded.  

So, is it on the north or south side of Richmond?

Posted January 3, 2012 link

It is the South side of the street, pull into one of the driveways marked "Greenway Parking" and follow the signs around to Greenway 5.  Park underground (1st level).  I think the entrance is also marked Greenway 5, and the door is probably 200 feet from the coffeeshop counter (at the front of the food court area).  


emradguy Said:

I live in Bellaire and work in the Med Center, so I don't get to the Heights much at all...and I've read very mixed reviews on Catalina.  Where is that in relation to The Counter Burger?

Posted January 3, 2012 link

I don't know Counter Burger, but Catalina is on Washington Ave., maybe 1 or 2 blocks East of Taylor St.

Revival Market is on Heights Blvd just a block or two north of I-10 (and a cool little market really).  They do have a nice coffee bar with the 3-group Faema legend that originally was at Catalina working with a Robur grinder.  The market also sells local produce and custom-butchered meats (lamb sausages anyone?)....the coffee is usually very good but I also suggest trying the Revival Dog if you're hungry (home made dog with house-prepared condiments - it is awesome).

I've had mainly very good experiences at Catalina.  In my opinion, they are a great coffee shop with good people and roasting beans in house under the Amaya name.  They often run 2 different beans for espresso; "guest" espresso tends to be lighter body and fruity/acidic and the Amaya home label espresso blend is nicely balanced and makes very nice machiatto.  


emradguy Said:

Are there any other places you'd recommend?

Posted January 3, 2012 link

There are supposed to be a couple other places but I can't remember the names right now and I haven't been there.  We have a thread running for Houston Coffee shops, it may be worth seeing.  

And of course if you find yourself on the Northwest side, please look me up (my house is near 290 & 6).  I can't promise anything world class but the espresso at my place has been pretty decent lately, this week running a DP Brasil from Sweet Maria's and also the ethiopian Tchembe from 90+ Coffee has been berry berry good  :)

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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emradguy
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emradguy
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Posted Wed Jan 4, 2012, 8:52am
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Jon,

Thanks for the added info and the offer.  Revival sounds like a place I need to go...maybe even the next time I work second shift?  Definitely going to check out the house at Greenway too...probably next time I go to Costco (and getting pretty close to making that run).

I really appreciate the offer to look you up too!  I'd like to say the same, but I'm not nearly as confident in my barista skills (though everyone who comes to visit my house raves about the quality.  I've been wanting to take a trip out to County Line for some beef ribs.

Ron

 
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emradguy
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emradguy
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Posted Wed Jan 11, 2012, 7:41am
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

Well, I haven't made it to any of those places yet, but yesterday I went into The Chocolate Bar for a small sipping chocolate and noticed they have a commercial La Marzocca machine and tampers with the intelligentsia logo on them.  Sounded promising, but I was really set on my hot chocolate, so I asked them to add a shot of spro to it.  Has anyone tried their espresso drinks?

 
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emradguy
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emradguy
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Posted Fri Jan 27, 2012, 12:56pm
Subject: Re: The Java Sojourner - Town 5 - Houston, Texas
 

work is over-rated!

I'm off to Catalina Coffee, then Spec's downtown for lunch and goodies.  

Will report back over the weekend...

 
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