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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Coffee Country – 12

Sip Cafe

Zero Post Office Sq
Boston, MA 02109
Neighborhood: Financial District

Review originally published on Yelp.

Sip Cafe

Some coffee shops thrive off the location, and Sip Cafe is one of those shops. Located right in downtown Boston’s Post Office Square, an adorable park compliments the experience of enjoying a coffee. This shop thrives in the warm season, but thanks to a loyal customer base, they do just fine all year round.

I bought a small (8 oz.) coffee on my first visit. Sometimes a small is 8 oz, I get it, especially when the coffee is quality, which it was. They offer a drip coffee as well as a Daterra Southern Italian espresso, which is pretty, pretty nice. Of course, they have teas and other beverages too, as well as a great selection of tasty edibles if you’re hungry.

Go in, get something nice, and take it outside. Sit in the park and watch the city move and breathe around you. I do that on every occasion, as the indoor scene is hard to adjust to.

Coffee Country – 11

Big Bear Cafe

1700 1st St NW
(between N Florida Ave & N R St)
Washington, DC 20001

Review originally published on Yelp.

Big Bear Cafe

As a tourist to DC, I relied on my friend to show me around, and while there, I made him aware of my fascination with coffee. He said to me, “before you leave here, I’ll take you to a great coffee shop.”

Big Bear Cafe is that shop, and I have to agree with him on that. Every bit of the experience prior to ordering reminded me of other truly organic independent cafes across the country. The place feels warm and old fashioned. The casual, intellectual vibe existed both inside and outside, where we ended up enjoying our cups of direct trade brew. They know how to prepare a good cup of coffee, and they do it with a smile.

The coffee was great – strong, well balanced, a perfect pick-me-up after a morning at the farmer’s market. They get their beans from Counter Culture Coffee, a well-known distributor in the area that prides itself on all things coffee. I take that as a promising sign, and the staff at Big Bear agree.

I felt like a regular sitting outside, drinking and chatting with my friend the day before I took off to continue my cross-country trip. I took a button from them that had they’re adorable “Big Bear” logo on it, a memory distilled, even after several future experiences of coffee consumption.

Next time I visit DC, I plan to revisit this place.

Coffee Country – 10

Stell Coffee & Tea Company

1580 Barton Rd
Redlands, CA 92373

Review originally published on Yelp.

Stell Coffee & Tea Company

This place is what independent coffee shops are all about. They roast locally, and distribute locally. And while I only got a cup of the usual on my brief visit to Redlands, I could taste the quality – strong, aromatic, and full of body. It’s a simple operation they have over there, and they’ve perfected the process.

They roast their beans inside the shop, and it gives the place a hearty coffee smell. It’s an adorably small and welcoming atmosphere, half inside and half outside. Their staff is very friendly. Their edibles are pretty appetizing, especially the chocolate chip cookies and panini sandwiches. They put time and effort into their product, and that’s enough for me to buy a bag before continuing on my cross-country trip.

Coffee Country – 9

Tryst Coffee House Bar & Lounge

2459 18th St NW
(between N Belmont Rd & N Columbia Rd)
Washington, DC 20009

Review originally published on Yelp.

Tryst Coffee House Bar & Lounge

Tryst is one of those coffee shops that feels like home to locals, and hell to tourists. I was a tourist, but I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere. Granted, there’s no pleasure in hunting for a seat at peak hours, but the payoff is in the traditional cafe experience.

Small tables with chairs, couches and coffee tables, places by the fireplace (do they work?) where you can read a book, write a book, or talk with others. I was there to write a book, and enjoy a coffee. Waitstaff bring your orders straight to you, lest you lose your seat, and they don’t mind you camping for hours. Just be sure to tip them.

Their coffee is great, and that’s with options. You can have a house drip or their french-press, whatever your pleasure, and I like that. And, if you want to get drunk, then good news! It’s a bar as well.

Their food menu is really… bohemian. They didn’t serve eggs, which is less than ordinary, but they have black forest ham, and honey, and tasty bagels, among a wide variety of healthy items. I made my own sandwich, and the waiter actually took it down as a possible item to add to their menu. No matter, be prepared to try something different. Their baked goods looked good.

I was well-cared for, and definitely would make that a regular hangout if I lived in DC. My fondest memory of that experience was when I reached the end of my stay. A trio was hovering around me, sensing my departure. One of them was wearing a legitimate sports racing jacket, and when I started to collect my things, he jumped on it like a tiger on it’s prey. Expect that when no other seats are available.

Likeable.com’s Dave Kerpen on Facebook Marketing

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a webinar on Facebook Marketing Strategies, hosted by Dave Kerpen, co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media. Likeable is a social media and word-of-mouth marketing company, and for the last four years, they’ve helped thousands redefine their business marketing strategies through Facebook and other social media platforms. As I began to consider Artifact’s future, I thought it would be helpful to listen in and take notes on what Dave had to say.

A lot of us who use Facebook are familiar with “pages.” Pages can act as a face for businesses. They’re great for distributing news and promotions to the general market. They’re also quite great at destroying a company’s public image if not properly managed. It’s important to consider those implications before creating a Facebook page to represent your business.

Once you enter the social media market, you have to listen to everybody: customers, prospects, competitors, even the customers of competitors. Among that broad audience, people are going to share problems, problems that your business can solve. As Dave put it so eloquently, “Don’t ‘Listen, then sell. Listen, and emphasize.’” Communicate with your customers to build a relationship. Don’t just throw answers at them.

You want to get inside the head of your customers. Simply put, familiarize yourself with the behaviors and habits of your prized fans. In a profit-driven business, that’s essential. For Artifact, it’s different. Blog followers who enjoy reading, art, food, wine, traveling, coffee, and so on. Who likes to read about that stuff? What are they looking for that may drive them to you? Understanding that will help you attract them.

Dave was nice enough to share many reasons why people “like” fan pages on Facebook: to receive discounts, to show support, to get free samples/coupons, for fun, for updates on content, activities, projects, and sales, among other reasons. Depending on the company, some reasons are greater than others. Artifact’s fan page is there to show support, and keep people updated on new content.

Facebook is there to connect people. As a company, you have a responsibility to connect with your customers. You have to be there when a customer’s experience is less than acceptable. It’s the equivalent of addressing a customer in front of a million other customers. Everyone is watching, and it’s up to the company to address any issue as quickly as possible. Of course, the same level of courtesy should be shown to those who endorse your business. The key is to listen and emphasize any comments or concerns.

Share stories with your customers. Dave considers company stories “social currency” and for good reason. Developing a rapport with customers is as easy as sharing your company’s story, or perhaps the stories of satisfied customers. Domino’s Pizza, for example, has taken advantage of this by connecting with customers and sharing stories of how they’ve improved their product and business thanks to their suggestions. Describing times when obstacles were overcome really hits home for current and potential customers. It inspires others to share stories too, which is another great strategy that Facebook can help with. Wall posts get shared with everyone.

Facebook advertisements can really spread awareness beyond normal reach. Without going into too much detail, you can target millions of customers based on several factors, like location, interest, age, and so on. The key ingredient, however, is social. I’m likely to enjoy something my friend enjoys, because I know them, and I trust their judgment. Friends spread the word for you.

Dave was nice enough to end the webinar with a clever little lesson: “get customers to engage without asking them to like you.” He offered a prize: a signed copy of his book, and to win it, people had to write a comment on the “Likeable Media” fan page wall about the webinar. Of course, you had to “like” the fan page to write on the wall, but he didn’t ask us to join it, he asked us to comment in it. Within five minutes, an extra few hundred people joined his page. Just like he mentioned earlier, it’s good to offer something back to people as thanks for joining their page. Making customers feel welcome is the first step in building a loyal fan base on Facebook.

To learn more about Dave Kerpen and Likeable Media, visit Likeable.com

Coffee Country – 8

Kinley’s House Coffee & Tea

2231 N Mesa St
El Paso, TX 79902

Review originally published on Yelp.

Kinley's House Coffee and Tea

Independent coffee shops in El Paso are hard to find. I found myself really searching the local scene for this one, and I was satisfied with the results. Oddly enough, it’s right across the street from a Starbucks, and yet it survives the fierce competition.

Kinley’s House has established itself in the UTEP area for having great coffee, tea, and food. Much like any proper coffee house, their place is open and inviting. They have an outdoor seating area as well, which is great. They have an extensive variety of teas and espresso drinks that are worth trying, but not by me (this time). I got a cup of their fair trade organic roast and relished in the experience by the windows facing North Mesa Street.

The coffee was quality: smooth, bold, and aromatic. I sat there for close to an hour, watching the customers come and go, listening to them talk and ultimately drive back into the sprawling panoramic of El Paso. I left feeling satisfied; I would go there again on my next visit.

Written by Zucker

August 1, 2011 at 12:27 PM

Coffee Country – 7

Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea

53 W Jackson Blvd
(between Wabash Ave & Michigan Ave)
Chicago, IL 60604

Review originally published on Yelp.

Intelligentsia

Coffee lovers can’t tour the country, stop in Chicago, and leave without visiting Intelligentsia. This place is, without a doubt, a premier destination for coffee in Chicago. Known for their diverse variety of robust offerings, Intelligentsia is a luxury brand that few can stack up to.

It’s not surprising that their coffee house in Chicago looks like a modern art gallery. The ambiance is cool and well-distributed with photography and fine art. People sit and conduct work like any other coffee house, but something seems different, more refined. I almost feel unworthy to be there.

A slew of coffee drinks are available, and while espresso seems like caviar, I decided to try a slow-pour cup of coffee, a large (for once), and watched the barista grind the beans and prepare the slow pour with steaming hot water, all the while chatting with me about their beans and technique and the history of the shop. They have it down to a science, and it shows in their product.

Anyone who loves coffee will do good to visit an Intelligentsia coffee house in their lifetime. Experiences like this are not common, and while they do distribute nationally, you simply can’t get the same feeling without visiting the source.

Written by Zucker

July 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM

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