featured-image_caffinedMany start their morning in what seems to be a coffee commercial… I know I do. The alarm goes off, I put my slippers on and make my way to the kitchen. The sounds that come from my coffee grinder are as pleasant as gentle rain on a cozy afternoon, and the aroma of my brew is just as enticing. I make sure I use really good organic coffee that fills the air with that wonderful smell of caffeine. After the first few sips (or cups, dependant upon the day) I realize my left slipper is on my right foot, and I begin my day.

Coffee is one of the world’s most consumed drinks. Like your favorite accessory, coffee can evolve and change to fit any mood or season. Icy, blended drinks relieve us from the sweltering and tiring summer months, while seasonal flavored favorites like pumpkin spice, chai and gingerbread gently accompany us into the sweet relief of fall and the magical holiday season (with equally magical flavors.) And always there, never to disappoint, the timeless hot coffee.

When I find myself at the grocery store, staring at rows of different roasts, ready to be grinded, I usually pick a name that resonates, (“Costa Rican,” Oh! I vacationed there!) or a label design that just looks like it tastes good. Darn you, marketing gurus! I will be your victim no longer… that is, unless you also have my favorite coffee. Blonde Roast, Medium Roast, French Roast, Hawaiian Kona? Hm? I grab the bag, and hope for the best.

I consider myself a coffee lover; I have a cup (or three) every day. So, when I realized I was posing as a wine connoisseur drinking from a box, I became curious. After all, coffee and its production is just as complex and historical as another favorite drink of San Joaquin, wine.

The global enjoyment and production of coffee began in the 15th century, making its way to Yemen and Arabia, eventually filling the cups of people all over the world. The International Coffee Organization explains that the first coffee houses, or ‘kaveh kanes,’ mirrored the function and vibe of those we visit today. First opening in Mecca and quickly spreading throughout the Arab world, the coffee shop was a thriving success, as a place where chess was played, gossip was exchanged and singing, dancing and music were enjoyed. Nothing quite like this had existed before: a place where social and business life could be conducted in comfortable surroundings and where – for the price of a cup of coffee – anyone could venture.

The history, function and uniqueness of the original kaveh kanes have imbedded themselves in San Joaquin, with a plethora of coffee houses, all unique in their own way. Join us as we adventure through some of the best, still offering the original perks: a place to gossip, to dance and enjoy music, a place where business and pleasure meet, comfortably.

coffeeHouse of Coffees

*Editor’s Pick: Iced Cap (Sweetened espresso with milk served over ice!)
This family owned and operated coffee shop is bursting with heart. The shop serves muffins, cookies, pastries and snacks throughout the day to accompany their Arabic beans from local Sacramento roasters. In addition to a caffeine-infused menu, the shop also offers smoothies and tea. You’ve got to try their Happy Camper, described as a s’more in a cup, bursting with mocca and toasted marshmellow. Take a bit of House of Coffees home with you, and grab a bag of their whole beans, served by the pound.

For More Information:
239 N. Ham Ln.
Lodi, (209) 368-2611

coffee2Empresso Coffeehouse

*Editor’s Pick: The Mexican Spiced Mocha (Espresso, chocolate laced with coca liquor, vanilla, almond cinnamon and steamed milk!) Located in Stockton, this coffee shop is the perfect spot for a lunch date or a study session. Offering a full breakfast and lunch menu, with options like sandwiches and pizza, in addition to their variety of coffee products, you could spend your entire day here. With a roomy yet cozy vibe, there is plenty of space for a lunch meeting or an afternoon chat with the girls. Empresso also serves local MicroBrews, on tap, with flavors changing every day, adding to their appeal!

For More Information:
1825 Pacific Ave.
Stockton, (209) 941-0072

coffee3Barista’s Coffee House

*Editor’s Pick: Toasted Marshmallow Mocha
A local favorite, Barista’s Coffee House honors their motto “Good Friends, Great Coffee” by offering exceptional coffee, welcoming service and a cozy atmosphere, for nearly ten years. Harish Patel, owner and certified barista can be found with a smile, behind the counter, any day of the week. In addition to their classic favorites, Barista’s has an amazing, ever changing seasonal and holiday menu sure to amplify the joys of spring, summer, fall and winter. To accompany the drinks- a fresh, yummy, menu ranging from scones to toasted gourmet sandwiches.

For More Information:
112 W. 10th St., Tracy, (209) 830-6050

coffee4Tillie’s Fine Food & Coffee Company

*Editor’s Pick: Carmel de Leche (Caramel syrup, white chocolate, espresso and milk) If you like gourmet coffee, this is your place! The atmosphere is great, with quaint outdoor seating for spring and summer, and a zen-infused feeling for those sitting indoors, all in the heart of downtown Lodi. Offering a full menu in addition to their extensive gourmet coffee menu, this location is many local’s go-to shop. Enjoy a creative and fresh menu, offering sandwiches like the Mojo, Baja and Chuck’s Choice (all must-trys!) Their blended drinks are packed full of real espresso, something rare in the world of blended drinks. For those tea lovers out there, Tillie’s offers loose leaf teas sure to impress.

For more Information:
21 W. Pine St.
Lodi, (209) 365-6644

coffee5Bean & Leaf Café:

*Editor’s Pick: Zebra Mocha (A white chocolate and dark chocolate mocha mix!) This locally owned gem has San Joaquin residents buzzing over their extensive menu and delicious drinks. To further the experience the café boasts a creative, artsy atmosphere, leaving anyone involved feeling relaxed and inspired. Stop by for morning coffee and one of Heather’s breakfast sandwichs. Or, cure your 2 o’clock blues with an iced latte and chicken salad sandwich, bursting with flavor and texture with help from fresh, crunchy celery and perfectly seasoned dressing. Bean and Leaf’s house-made cream cheese flavors will put any bagel lover in heaven, and the staff here creates a home-town feel – a true facet to this café.

For More Information:
1254 W. Lathrop Rd.
Manteca, (209) 239-2326

coffee6Java Stop

*Editor’s Pick: Vanilla Breve This coffee house started as a drive-thru in 1999 and has seriously expanded throughout the years. Now, the shop has an in-house, 25-pound roaster, providing freshly roasted beans to its customers, and companies all over the United States. Java Stop offers hot, cold and blended drinks, as well as an array of non-coffee drinks and yummy breakfast snacks. Their coffee is as fresh as it gets, something you’ll be sure of the minute you walk in the door and are greeted by the smell of their roaster. It can’t be beat!

For More Information:
321 S. Hutchins St.
Lodi, (209) 369-9381

Roasting 101

I sat down to talk coffee with Java Stop’s veteran roaster of nine years, Richard Hazard. The Lodi location gets their beans from 10 different countries, including well-known producers like Columbia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Brazil. As Hazard explains, the beans themselves are found inside berries of the Coffea plant. The altitude in which these plants are grown influence the caffeine content of the bean. “Arabic coffee comes from 3,000 feet, while most specialty beans are grown above 3,000 feet; meaning, the higher the altitude, the slower the fruit’s gustation and maturity period. Plants at 3,000 feet generally take 10 months, while lower altitude plant berries are gown in six to eight months, resulting in higher caffeine content,” says Rich.

Rich also informed on a topic I was surely mistaken of: caffeine content and roast. I always assumed different roasts meant different levels of kick- wrong! “The roast itself doesn’t influence caffeine content, only flavor,” he explains. More beans in the roaster means more caffeine, so the smaller the bean the stronger the coffee. (Mental note taken!)

At Java Stop, Rich mans their 25-pound roaster, stationed inside the coffee shop’s dining room. They receive the “green beans” (meaning uncooked) fresh from various countries, and produce their roasts in-house, resulting in some seriously fresh coffee. Rich pours the beans into the roaster’s drum, and watches them spin as they produce differing aromas he describes as ranging from “wet grass, to hay and then bread.” Normal roasts take 13 to 15 minutes at about 455 degrees. “We roast European style, that means we don’t go dark. So we never roast our beans until they are black. Doing so sometimes lessons the flavor, but with European style, you pull the best, quality flavors from that specific bean,” Rich says. Once cooled, the beans are placed in bins and shipped all over the United States, or, ground fresh for you at Java Stop, filling your cup.