Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blacksheep makes darn near perfect espresso...

I'd heard that one place could hold a candle to Kopplin's so I visited the Blacksheep in South St. Paul. It was quite a hike for me to get there, but it proved to be well worth the drive. I walked in and told the barrista Aaron that I had heard they were supposed to be as good as their competitor and then watched him go to work to prove it. He seemed like a barrista that cares about his craft, in fact even running a test shot of espresso. The espressos came as double ristrettos which always seem to make for the perfect cup of coffee. The first thing I noticed was the way the coffee woke me up after the first smell. It was as if the coffee was leaping into my nose and saying "pay attention!" before I even took the first sip. And I'm glad did because the flavor was smooth, yet perfectly acidic, with some earthy and citrusy (is that a word?) hints that lingered on your tongue long after. Absolutely brilliant espresso! Maybe that should have been the title of this post...

We also spoke about the need to "educate the public" to new and better standards of coffee appreciation. Coffee appreciation in the U.S. needs to follow the same path as wine appreciation, with people exploring outside their comfort zones and discovering the merits of lighter roasts, finer beans and more complex brews than the traditional dark roasts.

Later I met the owner Peter who was in between roasting batches and only had 2 minutes. He spoke about his beans like they were his own children. I was impressed by his passion for what he does and he even offered to educate me at a later date. And an education I do need. The further I dive into this whole espresso experience the more I discover how little I know and just how dense and vast the world of coffee is. It's rather exciting to discover this world and reassuring to know it will take me years to even begin to understand it. Reminds me of a story my karate teacher told me about Ginchin Funakoshi (the founder of modern day karate) and how one day he remarked on his basic forward punch and how after 50 years he was just beginning to understand how to throw it. I feel like I'm on the same journey of discovery with regards to espresso.

Definitely make the trip to the Blacksheep. We need more places that are willing to push the espresso envelope and show people what really great coffee can taste like. We need more people to stand up and say we're not going to take mediocre coffee anymore!

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