C&T (Coffee & Tonic)

In addition to my morning cup of Joe, I really like a mid-afternoon coffee. However, it is hard to fathom drinking a hot cup of coffee in the hottest part of the day during the summer in Florida. So, I usually prepare cold brew over the weekend to have for the upcoming week.

I found myself wanting coffee this Sunday afternoon, but I had no cold brew ready to consume. Although I was tempted to go get coffee from one of our many excellent local coffee shops, I really didn’t want to go anywhere. I decided to mix things up a little and make a coffee and tonic instead.

Coffee and Tonic may seem like an odd combination, but the result is light and refreshing. Perfect for a hot afternoon in late summer. It is also very easy to make:

Pack a pint glass full of ice. Pour 3 ounces of freshly brewed, hot coffee over the ice. For this recipe, I suggest a brighter coffee with citrus notes. Top off the coffee off with 4 ounces of tonic water. Add 2 or 3 dashes of bitters and stir with a spoon. I used orange bitters, but you can use whatever bitters you prefer.

 

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Coffee from Seattle

Grinding coffee beans

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from college asked for some thoughts on urbanism. He went to Florida State with me, but now resides in Seattle (you can read about his experiences with walkable living and in Seattle here). So, I sent him two books that I think capture the essence of what’s gone wrong with America’s cities and what we should do to improve our quality of life: Suburban Nation and Walkable City. A few days later, this arrived in my mailbox:

Bag of coffee beans
Coffee Beans

I briefly debated what method to use for brewing the coffee, but quickly decided to use the classic French press. I like this method of brewing because of its simplicity and because of the richness of the coffee it brews.

One of the keys to making great coffee in a French press is coarsely grinding the coffee beans. Use a small, manual ceramic burr grinder to get a medium-coarse grind from the beans. A grind that is too fine will result in coffee sludge.

Grinding coffee beans
Freshly ground coffee

Water temperature is also important. Use an electric kettle to bring water just to a boil. Wait about five seconds and pour some of the hot water (about 1/8 cup) into a 32 oz French press and swirl it around to heat up the glass. Empty the water from the press, add six heaping tablespoons of the coffee, and fill the press with hot water to about an inch from the top. Using a small spatula, gently stir the coffee. Place the plunger assembly on the press pot and wait four minutes. Slowly press the plunger down. This should take about 20-25 seconds. Pour the coffee from the French press (coffee that remains in the press will continue to brew and will become too strong) and enjoy.

Carefully brewed cup of coffee
Carefully brewed cup of coffee

I typically use a standard drip coffeemaker to brew my coffee every morning, but when I get a special gift or splurge on a bag of higher quality beans, I try to take a little extra care in brewing it. I enjoyed my cup of coffee and thought about how I should plan a visit to Seattle one day.

A Taste of Ft. Lauderdale: Brew Urban Cafe

The first morning I was in Ft. Lauderdale, I hit up the hotel breakfast buffet. Not only was the ticket $15.95 for a mediocre selection of breakfast foods, but the coffee was awful. I admit that I am a bit of a coffee snob, but I do not generally make a big deal about it. I will usually drink whatever coffee is at my disposal with little to no complaint. The coffee at the hotel, however, was just not acceptable.

Venturing out with my guide to Ft. Lauderdale, I made my way to Brew Urban Cafe. Located near the riverfront and several parks, this is a pretty awesome coffee shop in a really neat part of the city known as the Himmarshee District.

Brew Urban Cafe
Brew Urban Cafe

With artwork from various bands on the wall and a flat screen television hanging from the ceiling, the interior of the coffee shop is not nearly as sterile as larger chain coffee shops, but also not as hipster as some local coffee shops can often be.

Eclectic music artwork
Interior decorated with eclectic album art
Espresso machine
The espresso machine makes me think of an Italian sports car

Even though I love the ambiance of coffee shops, it is the coffee that I care about the most. My first coffee at Brew Urban Cafe was the “Good Karma,” natural vanilla infused espresso with caramel glaze. If the cliché that “what goes around comes around” is true, I want to send out whatever vibes will bring this coffee back to me. Perhaps the “good karma” was that after drinking this coffee, I actually returned two more times over the next few days for more delicious coffee.

Cup of coffee
A cup of Good Karma

The day after enjoying some Good Karma, I tried the “Electric Shock,” a beverage made with cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, and espresso. Not only was the coffee rich and creamy, the coffee was also beautiful. Kudus to baristas who truly make coffee an art.

Cup of Electric Shock
Cup of Electric Shock

On my last day in Ft. Lauderdale, I went to Brew Urban Cafe one last time. This time I decided to go with a classic coffee beverage — the Cappuccino.

Cappuccino
Cappuccino

If I ever end up in Ft. Lauderdale and need a pick me up, I’ll find my way to Brew Urban Cafe, pull up a chair next to the espresso machine that looks like an Italian sports car, and order up some Good Karma, Electric Shock or a traditional coffee beverage.

Mill Mountain Oatmeal Cookie Coffee

Earlier this spring, I (Jill) had the opportunity to travel to in Roanoke, Virginia for a service learning conference. Kirsten, one of my coworkers who also attended the conference, is from Roanoke. Like me, Kirsten can’t start the day without a cup of coffee. Rather than drink (not very good) conference coffee, she suggested we go to Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea which was located a few blocks from the conference hotel. Kirsten loves Mill Mountain coffee – she even has her mom ship bags of their coffee to Tallahassee. Mill Mountain had the perfect coffee shop atmosphere and a great selection of flavored coffees. The first morning we went, I tried the Oatmeal Cookie flavor and knew that I had to bring a bag back to Artie. What kind of wife would I be if I didn’t bring him a souvenir from my travels?

Mill Mountain Oatmeal Cookie Coffee
Bag of Mill Mountain Oatmeal Cookie Coffee

The coffee was so good that we went back the following morning (and again in the afternoon in preparation for our 12-hour through-the-night drive home…). On the second trip to Mill Mountain, I snagged a second bag of coffee that Kirsten recommended: Pralines and Cream. While Artie typically prefers unflavored coffees, I thought that both Oatmeal Cookie and Pralines and Cream were unique and delicious.

The coffee beans are roasted at the store in Salem, Virginia, a few miles away from Roanoke. I love being able to support local businesses both at home and when I travel.

Oatmeal Cookie Coffee Beans
Oatmeal Cookie Coffee Beans

As the coffee brewed, the kitchen filled with the smell of freshly baked oatmeal cookies. Unlike the candles that are supposed to smell like baked goods, this coffee does not give off an artificial smell. In fact, while the coffee is very good, it is disappointing to walk into the kitchen and realize that there aren’t actually oatmeal cookies baking in the oven.

Brewed oatmeal coffee
Brewed oatmeal coffee

If you are ever find yourself in Roanoke/Salem/Richmond, VA and you are looking for a good cup of coffee, I would highly recommend Mill Mountain. And if you aren’t headed to Virginia anytime soon and still want to try their coffee, I found that you can buy Mill Mountain coffee. Oh, this could be so dangerous…

If you find a great local coffee shop in your travels, especially around Florida or the southeastern US, let us know. We are always on the lookout for the next great local cup of coffee!