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Better coffee and tea at Lakeside?


Kevin K
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I've written about (see link below) getting the most out of the coffees that are available at Lakeside, but have been wondering it it'd be a viable idea to try to either get some sort of informal group together or perhaps persude Café Grano Café or El Arbol in Chapala to carry a small selection of coffee makers and grinders, since the standard drip brewers sold in Mexico don't brew well at altitude and grinders of any sort are almost unknown. Improving quality beyond that would require importing coffee from other countries (e.g. Kenya, Guatemala, Ethiopia) and I doubt there's enough demand. 

Real (whole leaf, not tea bagged) tea is my other great caffeinated love and as there's no tea culture (beyond enjoying chamomile and spearmint at night) in Mexico it has always been something I've had to schlep in in quantity. I'd be curious to know if there are any other fans of such teas at Lakeside and whether some sort of informal "Lake Chapala Coffee & Tea Club" with periodic tastings or classes might be of interest. An obstacle there is that it would be essential to bring in teapots with infusers as there's just nothing available (as far as I know) to brew anything other than a teabag in Mexico. 

Any feedback apprecaited!

(Here's the old but still pretty current writeup on local coffee options: http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.mx/2012/06/buying-brewing-good-coffee-at-lake.html). 

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Costco sells a good coffee maker, Krups, that uses a #4 Melita cone filter. When in the US, I bring some Costco cone filters, 700ct for under $4. There is a nice coffee equipment store on Ave La Paz in Guadalajara, among the 5 or 6 block section of restaurant supply stores that starts about 7 blocks east of Ave Chapultepec. 

As for coffee, everyone has their own personal tastes. For me, I prefer Starbucks darker blends. The really good Mexican beans aren't sold here, they are exported. I tolerate what I can get here, but do not really like any of the coffees sold around here. Costco sells a 1 kg bag of a dark roast (not as dark as French Roast) Guatemala whole bean coffee that is pretty good. Comes in a blue package with a parrot on it and is $183p.

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Thanks all for the replies. 

To your points tomgates, it's true that Mexico, like every other coffee-growing country, exports its best beans and keeps the rest for domestic consumption. In Mexico's case though, the range of quality available isn't anywhere near as broad as it is in, say, Guatemala or El Salvador - meaning that Mexico's "ceiling" of quality and flavor is not much above the "floor" in Guatemala. This has to do with growing altitudes, cultivars and processing. In practical terms, the medium roast Chiapas at Café Grano Café or the whole bean kilos of medium-roast Mexican from Costco, as well as the Punto el Cielo whole bean Chiapas sold at Wal Mart, are about 85-90% as good as the very best Mexican coffees that go to Germany and the U.S. specialty market. 

I discuss coffee makers in my blog post above, but in a nutshell the situation is that the mass-market electric drip brewers, from Black & Decker to Krups and Braun, don't get the water anywhere near hot enough for brewing (needs to be 195-205 F) at sea level, let alone at Lake Chapala's 5000 foot altitude where water boils at 202 instead of 212. They also take too long to brew (4-6 minutes is optimum for drip), so the combination of tepid temps and long brew times = thin and bitter coffee. A plunger pot/French Press is one alternative, a manual pour-over brewer like a Chemex used with water brought to a full rolling boil is another (or my favorite, the Aeropress - see post). All of these however have to either be schlepped down or perhaps bought at a huge price premium from LIverpoos or mercado libre. Thus my question about maybe getting someone to stock them. 

As for tea, the kind I'm talking about is world's removed from the stuff El Granero or Superlake sells. Upton Tea (.com) in the U.S. and (for Canadians) Capital Tea in Toronto offer the single-garden Assams, Darjeelings, Chinese blacks, greens, oolongs etc. beloved by hard-core tea drinkers. I guess I may just have to put on a couple of tastings locally and see if there's any interest. 

Thanks again for all of the thoughtful comments!

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On 2/15/2017 at 11:19 AM, Kevin K said:

I've written about (see link below) getting the most out of the coffees that are available at Lakeside, but have been wondering it it'd be a viable idea to try to either get some sort of informal group together or perhaps persude Café Grano Café or El Arbol in Chapala to carry a small selection of coffee makers and grinders, since the standard drip brewers sold in Mexico don't brew well at altitude and grinders of any sort are almost unknown. Improving quality beyond that would require importing coffee from other countries (e.g. Kenya, Guatemala, Ethiopia) and I doubt there's enough demand. 

Real (whole leaf, not tea bagged) tea is my other great caffeinated love and as there's no tea culture (beyond enjoying chamomile and spearmint at night) in Mexico it has always been something I've had to schlep in in quantity. I'd be curious to know if there are any other fans of such teas at Lakeside and whether some sort of informal "Lake Chapala Coffee & Tea Club" with periodic tastings or classes might be of interest. An obstacle there is that it would be essential to bring in teapots with infusers as there's just nothing available (as far as I know) to brew anything other than a teabag in Mexico. 

Any feedback apprecaited!

(Here's the old but still pretty current writeup on local coffee options: http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.mx/2012/06/buying-brewing-good-coffee-at-lake.html). 

I must agree with you.  I have not found any coffee that I like since we moved here.  They all seem to lack flavor.  I use a coffee press to make my coffee.  I tried Costco, Superlake and the other stores here.

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I would enjoy a coffee club. I don't know much, except what I like and don't like . ;) 

I like tea, as well, but just don't drink it as much. I lived in Japan for over a decade, and I remember going into high end department store food shops in the basements. Probably 50 or more kinds of teas for sale. They would brew a cup for you to taste for free. Such great service and lovely teas. I am partial to Assam tea, and I can remember there were 12 kinds of Assam in one tea boutique !

 

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Just an aside, but if you look at all of Starbuck's blends, none use any of the Mexican beans. Must be a reason...

Also, my first coffee maker was the Melita ceramic 2-piece that you poured boiling (or whatever temp you want) over the freshly ground coffee. That would be a coffee maker to go back to.

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Thanks Zeb, cstone and tomgates for your comments!

About the best you can expect from locally-available Mexican coffee is a nice milk chocolate-like cup with a hint of brightness. To get that flavor you need to buy fresh-roasted beans directly from Café Grano Café (I recommend the medium roast Chiapas) OR the whole beans in a pressurized can from Cafe Punto del Cielo (sold at Wal Mart or the valve-packed whole beans from Costco. All are of roughly equal quality, though there's a wide spread in the price, with the Costco beans being by far the cheapest, Grano still a bargain and the Punto del Cielo fairly expensive though still much less than whole beans at Starbucks or even a U.S. supermarket. I strongly recommend against buying coffee (including Grano Café) at Super Lake or El Torito as it has often been on the shelf for a long time and the packaging technology used doesn't provide good shelf life.

Tom your're right you really can't go wrong with the old pour-over drippers, but in recent years they've been greatly improved. I especially like the Clever dripper which combines the best features of a French Press/plunger pot with the convenience of drip. It's worth looking at the coffee makers on this site run by fanatical friends of mine, though you might end up buying your brewer from Amazon or the like when you or a willing friend are N.O.B. It is the single best source of coffee info on the web:

https://www.sweetmarias.com

cstone regarding teas, Assams are my go-to hearty black tea and Upton Tea (great web site and they do ship to Mexico) has a bevy of first-rate ones in stock. I usually have my carry-on full of tea when I come down to Mexico in the summers, as I can make do with local coffee but can't abide tea bag tea for any length of time. 

I'll look into the feasbility of offering some tastings/classes locally. Thanks again for all of the thoughtful feedback. 

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If you are a coffee afficienado then listen to Willie.   The other I like from the area is Yerbabueno.   But, no not available Lakeside but a great excuse to visit Comala and take in some marvelous sites.   For tea there is a Teavanna in, I think, Gallerias Mall.  Most everything can be found in Guadalajara if you know where to look.

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It wasn't too long ago in Mexico that coffee was always the instant granules type. These required low cost Robusta beans, and Mexico was pleased to produce them, and sell them all over the world. Then the world changed, they now wanted Arabica beans to make fresh brewed. The coffee bean market collapsed in Mexico, then some sort of disease hit the plants. Then in South America they did away with the "shade tree" cultivation and a much more economical production method, lowering the bean prices even further. The Mexican government, to this day, has tried to protect the struggling industry by raising very high import taxes. There have been some breakthroughs with negotiated free trade agreements with Latin American countries - but the European big players/blenders have been shut out for a long time now. The U.S. big players have tried to adapt with Mexican and Latin America blends in the Mexican market. So for the most part, your choice is to drink Mexican coffee, load it with Tequila, and light it on fire, put it out with whipped cream, or sip the imported stuff - all about the same price.

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I would NOT recommend buying from Café Grano. Unless you want to get only 350 grams when they claim to be selling you 500. (The pre-packaged stuff they sell is 454 g -- the bulk coffee they like to screw you.) That being said, if you can't make a great, flavorful cup of coffee from the Chiapas medium roast they sell there, you're doing it wrong. I make the world's best cup of coffee, each morning, with a pourover.

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16 hours ago, mudgirl said:

Blason Espresso from Costco, brewed in my French press, tastes great (if you like a dark roast). Comes already ground, not beans. About 130 p for 1 kilo. Some of my visiting friends like it so much, they buy a bag to bring home NOB with them. 

Are they ground properly for the French Press, which requires a coarse grind?  I have never found anything already ground that was good for a french press as most packaged coffee is intended for a drip coffee maker..

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On 2/20/2017 at 8:38 AM, ficklepie said:

I would NOT recommend buying from Café Grano. Unless you want to get only 350 grams when they claim to be selling you 500. (The pre-packaged stuff they sell is 454 g -- the bulk coffee they like to screw you.) That being said, if you can't make a great, flavorful cup of coffee from the Chiapas medium roast they sell there, you're doing it wrong. I make the world's best cup of coffee, each morning, with a pourover.

You are alleging that the scales in Cafe Grano short you 150 grams per half kilo.  That's a chunk of coffee - you can prove this?  I buy coffee there by the kilo regularly and have  never felt I was being cheated - so prove me wrong please.

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We've been buying at Cafe Grano for many years and have never been cheated, we watch them measure it out every time just out of habit. It's easy to see the scales; they're in plain site right on the counter. How can they be cheating people? Maybe people are confused by the smaller pre-packaged bags they sell at Super Lake?

My only complaint is that their coffee quality has been going downhill the past few years. We used to be hooked on the Oaxaca French roast until it started tasting old and stale. We switched to Veracruz and it was good for a while but the last kilo I bought is stale and bitter. We've changed our water supplier and our coffee maker and nothing seems to help. Once in a while we still get good coffee there so it must just be a matter of inconsistency, just like our restaurants down here.

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The brewing process using the Clever involves steeping all of the grounds for a set time period - also known as "full immersion" - just like a plunger pot, but then you place the brewer over a mug and filter the brew just like with a melitta pour-over. In that way you get the full flavor of french press with the clarity and total lack of grit and sediment of drip. More info at the Sweet Maria's site I mentioned earlier:

https://www.sweetmarias.com/product/clever-coffee-dripper-large

 

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2 hours ago, Kevin K said:

The brewing process using the Clever involves steeping all of the grounds for a set time period - also known as "full immersion" - just like a plunger pot, but then you place the brewer over a mug and filter the brew just like with a melitta pour-over. In that way you get the full flavor of french press with the clarity and total lack of grit and sediment of drip. More info at the Sweet Maria's site I mentioned earlier:

https://www.sweetmarias.com/product/clever-coffee-dripper-large

 

Kevin,

I like my hot beverages, hot.  Really hot.  

I use a Melitta plastic manual drip cup when I travel and have access to a microwave or stove. I start with boiling water, but by the time it finishes dripping, it's not quite as hot as I'd like it.  I brew one really large mug  and realize its size may be increasing my drip time, but I'm really not in the mood that early in the AM to brew two separate cups of coffee.

I like strong coffee, so I've looked at the clever drippers, but figure the longer I let it brew, the cooler it will get.   

If I invest in a porcelain or glass Melitta (or other brand) manual drip cup, will it keep the coffee noticeably hotter?  Of course then I'll have to fret about breakage when I pack it for travel.  Oy, it's always something.  

 

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On 2/16/2017 at 1:21 PM, Willie said:

We love the organic, shade grown coffee from Colima....specifically Cafe Nogueras from Comala.

Excellent!!!  Can't buy it here but they will ship...I usually get 6 kilos and lasts us quite a while.

Very good information, Willie.  Could you provide details on who you are buying from and how you get it shipped here?

Gracias!

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