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Coffee That’s Off the Chain

By Anne Mitchell · March 9th, 2011 · The Dish

Hey, the Target in Newport has opened. Exciting times for people who want to buy stuff, particularly the stuff that Target sells. Otherwise, hit my yard sale this spring and you can really go crazy.

Kidding aside, this is good news for people in downtown, Mount Adams and surrounding neighborhoods who didn’t like going to the kinda funky K-Mart that’s just a little bit further into town. I actually went to the Target on its opening day to buy a yoga ball (which they didn’t have). On my way to the exit, I noticed there was a Starbucks in the Target. There’s also a Starbucks in the Kroger right next door. And a Starbucks in the little plaza on the way up the hill to Fort Thomas just a stone’s throw away.

Does the nationwide “Starbucks on every corner” phenomenon invading the area make Starbucks less special? I don’t think it’s been special for a while. It’s become the place I stop for coffee on long highway drives, but if I have the option, I prefer a neighborhood coffeeshop every time.

For instance, how about Mammoth Coffee (515 Monmouth St., Newport; 859-291-8875)? Not far from the new Target, Mammoth always has easy parking on the street right out front, a comfy seat inside and homemade things to eat (like a breakfast Panini or a vegetarian sausage and roasted potato wrap) that weren’t trucked in from a factory somewhere and reheated in a microwave.

Downtown, there’s a Starbucks on the corner by my office.

But there’s also Tazza Mia (three downtown locations; addresses at www.tazzamia.com). The friendly baristas there always have something nice to say about the tint in my hair or the tasty new BonBonerie goodies they’re featuring. The windows are full of flyers for local arts activities, cops hang out and warm up there on cold days and they’ve got CityBeat in their newspaper rack.

My favorite coffee spots list also includes Coffee Emporium (110 East Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine; 513-651-5483), Sidewinder (4181 Hamilton Ave., Northside; 513-542-8321) and Reality Tuesday (1518 Dixie Hwy., Park Hills, Ky.; 859-261-4939). All local, all with excellent coffee and all great gathering spots where I always see a friend or two. That seems more special than Starbucks to me.

While I’m on the subject of special coffee, the restaurant Boca (3200 Madison Road, Oakley; 513-542-2022) has a new one-of-a-kind coffee program that sounds exceptional. You’ve heard of “fair trade” coffee, right? Boca’s program uses direct trade beans, a distinction that, according to Boca’s Sebastien Hue, results in better quality coffee and better business practices for growers.

“This program will show a different, artisanal side of coffee,” explains Hue, whose family has been training wine palates at Covington liquor store Cork ’N Bottle for decades. “The beans are served within a week of roasting, measured exactly to the gram. The brewing method allows you to taste more of the fruit palate. It’s improved coffee more than any difference I’ve ever tasted.”

Boca uses beaker-shaped Chemex coffee pots, a preparation method that’s almost ceremonial. It’s labor intensive, since you pour the water over the ground coffee in two steps, the first to allow the coffee to settle and bloom and the second to complete the brew. The technique helps Boca elevate its coffee to the level of its carefully prepared, delicious food, making for a grand finale to a grand meal.

CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: amitchell@citybeat.com



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