I love coffee. No, I adore coffee. Growing up in the armpit of Texas, i.e. Houston, where the act of stepping outside your house guarantees the need for a shower, I did not drink coffee, or anything hot whatsoever. My love for coffee did not form until much later while living in the Washington, D.C. area, where it was much chillier and coffee drinking was the cool thing to do. But back then, my cup of jo consisted of about one-third coffee, two-thirds milk and enough sugar to send me into a diabetic coma. Coffee took a while to take a hold of me, but once it did, I pretty much wake up every morning looking forward to my morning mug.
I know I’m not the only one around here who loves coffee. So I thought a blog series on finding the best coffee houses in Austin would be a fun one! Plus, it gives me a chance to explore many coffee shops that I have never been to, or even heard of. I wanted to give this research validity by using an uncomplicated, standardized system, so here are the criteria I will be judging:
- Taste/quality of the coffee
The first place I decided to check out is called Texenza Coffee in Tarrytown on Windsor Rd. Nestled in a little strip mall, the store front consists of a row of windows that lets in really nice light. The place is one spacious room with many small cafe tables and a few comfy leather chairs. The first thing I thought of when I walked in was “corporate”. The place reminds me of Starbucks, which isn’t good or bad, but it lacks Austin character. However, there is plenty of seating and wi-fi.
Service with a smile is important and Texenza did deliver on that. However, the service was a little slow since the one barista there was the only employee working and there was quite a line. So I have to give the guy a thumbs up for smiling the whole time while trying to serve us all as quickly as possible. This was the day after Christmas, so maybe most of the employees were still on vacation? I think it was too much for one person and I don’t know if under staffing is the norm for this place.
The most important thing here is, of course, the coffee. I pretty much order one of two things, so that is what I am going to use as the benchmark. The first is a cup of brewed coffee. Texenza Coffee roasts their beans here in Austin and has many different varieties. Fresh roasted beans sounds great, right? Well, I don’t know what happened in between the roaster and the brewer, but that cup had absolutely no flavor. It tasted very watered down and weak, so my suspicion is the water to coffee ground ratio was completely off. Big fail. The second item I drink is a latte. Not the sugared-up-mocha-gingerbread-whatever-other-dessert-we-can-make-into-coffee kind, but a simple latte that takes real skill to make. I once took a one day course in making espresso and, believe me, there is quite a bit that goes into it. So how was Texenza’s latte? Eh. That’s pretty much it, just eh. Not horrible but not great by any stretch – again, not much flavor. I also look at the frothy milk, the cute design you usually see floating on top, which is called latte art. And it really is an art - I made over one hundred espresso drinks in my class that day and still could not get that darn heart to come out right! The reason I pay attention to this is two-fold: a proper art pour shows that the milk is steamed properly. Properly steamed milk really enhances the flavor of the espresso, gives your latte or cappuccino that silky texture and is the only way you are going to be able to pour latte art. Secondly, a barista who takes the time to pour latte art really takes pride in his/her work and I believe it is quality you can taste. So what did the Texenzabarista pour for me? A heart? A rosette? Nope, I got an amorphous blob – or maybe that was supposed to be a melted snowman? The barista was rushed I’m sure since he was the only one working there at the time, but I’d rather wait a few extra seconds for a latte done right.
I wish my latte looked like this
So here’s my report card for Texenza Coffee:
- Ambience: C for lack of character
- Service: B for service with a smile, though they were understaffed
- Quality: D for lack of flavor
I really hate to give them a D for their coffee, but it really was not good. Maybe it was an off day, but this was my experience. Oh well – on to the next cup!