A couple of weeks ago, Mitch McMullen, owner of Newhall Coffee Company, issued a challenge. He said that his coffee was better than Intelligentsia. This set off a series of tweets both on his part and on the part of us devoted Intelligentsia fans. There are some of us that actually go all the way to either SilverLake or Venice just to get some Intelligentsia. If you follow my blog or know anything about me, then you know just how loyal I am to Intelligentsia. You also know that I’m a coffee doofus and I only like my coffee iced and shaken with agave, aka an Angeleno from Intelligentsia. I don’t drink coffee on a daily basis, and I don’t even drink that much coffee. Usually every other Sunday or whenever I can get to Intelli, I’ll have an Angeleno.
Since the owner of Newhall Coffee issued the challenge, this became the perfect opportunity for my coffee enthusiast friends to gather and figure out if Mitch’s points were valid. The showdown would take place at Mike’s house, and he would act as a barista. An Evite was created and people started to RSVP. So exciting!
A little background. Mitch’s Java and Jazz at the mall was the hangout spot when I was at Valencia High School. Everyone went there on Friday nights to hang out. I never drank coffee at Java and Jazz though. I always opted for a non-coffee beverage because before my first visit to Intelligentsia SilverLake in 2007, I was not a coffee drinker.
After unsuccessfully searching the SCV for Newhall Coffee espresso beans, Mitch himself offered some for the challenge. Perfect! Yesterday I went to Newhall Coffee headquarters and was surprised to receive a whole box of coffee, books, stickers, and a special espresso blend that was freshly created that morning, just for us. Wow! As for the Intelligentsia Coffee, Mike was able to pick some up from the SilverLake store this past weekend.
Today, at 1:30 we all gathered at Mike’s house, ready for a taste test. Those in attendance were: Carrie, Brian, William, Jason, Scott, Greg, Kendra, and RE. Mike would serve as the coffee preparer and let me clarify that this was a double blind taste test. Mike did not know what brand of coffee he was preparing at any given time since his wife Allison is the one that separated the beans and she was the keeper of the beans. Meaning, only she knew which coffee was in each bag. Newhall’s California Blend and Intelligentsia’s Finca Santuario Columbia Heliconias Bourbon were each separated into two bags: product C and product D.
We were allowed to smell each of the bags as they were passed around the table. We were soon ready to get this party started.
Did I mention there were plenty of desserts on hand? It seems like almost everyone brought a little something! Of course, Mike also baked some goodies for us. Scott’s homemade biscotti (using his grandma’s recipe) was a huge hit!
Round 1: Cold Brew
We were each served a cup of cold brewed coffee and were given paper and a pen to take notes. We weren’t giving scores, rather we were just putting down comments and deciding which one we liked better. Some people took the note taking process more serious than others. At this point we could add half and half, sugar, but had to make sure to write down what we added. I’m a fan of iced coffee, so starting off with the cold brew was nice.
Round 2: French Press – Hot Coffee
Each mug was different so we wouldn’t confuse which one belonged to who.
I got a mug from The View. I totally channeled my inner Star Jones Reynolds.
After tasting the cold brew and the hot brew, we compared notes on which one we liked the most. This is my paper. I did not write a lot, but you can clearly see that for cold coffee I liked D, and for hot coffee I like C.
After some sharing about what we thought of each, the coffees were revealed.
So, for the cold brew, Intelligentsia won 9-2 over Newhall. As you know, I drink my Intelligentsia cold, so I guess my taste buds were spot on for picking them in this round. Phew!
For round 2, the winner was Newhall, 8-1-1.
At this point everything was starting to taste the same to me. Between 2 cups of cold brew and 2 cups of hot coffee? This filled my coffee quota for the year. Luckily, we were all given a water glass in an attempt to cleanse our palates.
Round 3: Newhall Espresso
Intelligentsia Black Cat
Here’s a little behind the scenes look at the effort that went into taking these photos…
As I noted earlier, I did not participate in the espresso tasting for a couple of reasons. Mainly that I don’t drink that much coffee and felt like I had reached my coffee limit for the day. However, I would like to say that Greg was such a trooper when it came to the coffee tasting! Kendra definitely offered a lot of moral support too!